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Start an Organic Backyard Vineyard

Learn how to grow grapes and why an organic backyard vineyard may be right for your home.

| July 2012 Web

  • Vines planted on a trellis system are more productive and easier to care for than those simply planted in the ground with no support.
    Photo Courtesy Timber Press
  • Whether you have 50 square feet or an acre to plant, “The Organic Backyard Vineyard” by expert grower Tom Powers is the straightforward guide you need to successfully grow organic grapes at your backyard vineyard.
    Photo Courtesy Timber Press
  • Carefully managing the canopy—the leaves that grow above the fruiting zone—maximizes the amount of sunlight that reaches the leaf surfaces and ensures the maximum possible amount of photosynthesis. It also allows for better management of mildew and other fungal diseases.
    Illustration By Kate Francis
  • If you want to have a home vineyard, lack of space doesn’t have to stop you. Even a few rows of vines can produce enough grapes to make several hundred bottles of wine every year.
    Photo By Tom Powers
  • Two broad bands that circle the globe are suitable for growing grapes. These temperate regions have sufficient summer high temperatures, winter low temperatures, and a growing season that lasts long enough to ripen grapes. Within these bands are a wide variety of regional differences.
    Photo Courtesy Timber Press

In The Organic Backyard Vineyard (Timber Press, 2012), expert Tom Powers walks the small grower through the entire process of growing grapes. Learn how to design and build a backyard vineyard, select the best grapes for your region, use the latest organic techniques and store the bounty for winemaking. The following excerpt, taken from Chapter 1, “The Organic Vineyard,” answers the question “Why do you need a vineyard?” and explains how to grow grapes for maximum yield and flavor. 

Why Do You Need a Backyard Vineyard?

If you are simply hoping to plant some table grapes to enjoy for home consumption, you do not need a vineyard. You can grow grapevines up an arbor, over a fence, or against a wall. However, if you want to make wine from your grapes—or to sell them to a winemaker—you will need to train your grapevines on a trellis system. Why is this?

Grapevines planted in rows on a trellis work to your advantage in several ways. First, you have a structure on which you can train your vines to grow in a particular way. This structure allows you to observe the growth of your vines and readily spot any problems or pests. The trellis also allows for easy maintenance, and you can customize it to the height of those who will be doing the most work in the vineyard. Finally, straight rows are the ideal layout for using any kind of mechanical equipment in the vineyard, such as a mower or tractor.

It’s not just for your benefit that you need a properly planned and trellised vineyard. Your grapes also benefit. A trellis with an irrigation system makes it possible to provide even and consistent watering and fertilization, which promotes healthy growth. And perhaps most importantly, the vertical trellis is the vehicle that allows the sun to reach the leaves, which is essential for producing good fruit.

Making Wine  

First you probably want to know how much wine you can expect to make from your vineyard. Although it’s true that even a small suburban lot can house a vineyard, there is not much point in going to the trouble and expense of constructing one if it will not produce enough fruit to meet your needs. This Vineyard Yields table provides a basic idea of how much land you will need to produce your own wine. Space requirements will vary depending on your vine spacing and the variety, and the productivity of your vines, but it will give you a good general guide.

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