Vineyard-Orchard User Guide

Planting Planning Guide



The first step to a successful vineyard or orchard planting starts with a plan. Whether you’re planting for commercial purposes or growing food for friends and family clearly defining, at the start of the process, why you are planting and what you want to accomplish will pay dividends.  Take some time to collect the information outlined below and include into a plan to guide your planting project. Doing so will better focus your resources and efforts to “Plant Like You mean It” and make sure your vineyard or orchard planting Survives, Thrives, and Succeeds!

Pre-Planting Season Activities (best accomplished at least a year in advance)

  1. Define primary planting goals and objectives - Identify at the beginning of the planning process well ahead of breaking ground. This process is critical to make sure your physical and financial resources are focused and better-prepares others to help, whether for hire or volunteer service.
    • Purpose for planting the vineyard or orchard
      • Producing food for family and friends
      • Commercial enterprise
        • Direct marketing and on-farm sales
        • Wholesale to commercial outlets
    • What do I want to accomplish?
      • Establish focused direction for the project which, along with specific goals, can help provide benchmarks to gauge future performance to provide direction and benchmarks to gauge future performance
      • Goal setting could benefit from consulting with professional farming consultaant.
    • When do I want to see specific results?
      • Short-term  goals (1-3 years)
      • Mid-term goals (3-5 years)
      • Long-term goals 5-10 years and beyond

  1. Establish a budget to include
    • Site assessment
    • Site preparation
    • Planting equipment and labor
    • Plant materials
    • Trellis materials
    • Irrigation materials
    • Frost protection
    • Grow tubes to get newly planted stock established quickly and safely (Plantra® Jump Start® Vine-Orchard Grow Tubes)
    • Plant training supplies (i.e. Plantra® StretchLock™ tying system)
    • Crop netting (prepare to protect your crop which will be coming soon with AviGard® Bird Nets)
    • Planting aftercare follow-up – specific tasks to promote long-term success of your project (competing vegetation control, plant training, repairs to infrastructure, etc.)
    • Professional fees (i.e. property land survey, tax advice, consulting fees) 

  1. Identify additional project objectives you may be interested in and strategies to achieve benefits associated with them. Examples include:
    • Windbreak/soil retention
    • Water quality
    • Aesthetics/privacy screen
    • Recreation
    • Investment
    • Legacy
    • Other – be specific

  1. Conduct a site assessment – baseline analysis of the property to include:
    • Climate
    • Water – access/cost
    • Weather patterns including precipitations
    • Temperature – historical monthly data for periods during and outside of the growing season to include research on frost and minimum average winter temperatures
    • Soil analysis
    • Pests
      • Diseases
      • Vertebrates including birds, rodents, and browsing animals
      • Toxicity from chemicals naturally produced by certain plant species or delivered airborne or through polluted water sources from nearby farms and industries.
    • Slope, aspect, drainage (air and water)
    • Topographic maps and aerial photos clearly delineating property boundaries and existing vegetation patterns
    • Location logistics
      • Proximity to market if selling output (wholesale and retail outlet potential)
      • Distance to supplies required – especially important for volumes needed to operate commercial enterprise
    • Existing and future plans for adjacent properties if known
    • Utilities – both above and below ground
    • Legal considerations – your state and local jurisdictions along with grower organizations, and professional farming consultants are the best places to start researching requirements in your locale
      • Permits – for land use and sale of produce
      • Zoning/land use restrictions including noise and dust ordinances increasingly common near urban areas
      • Soil erosion control plan – good to have and required in a growing number of jurisdictions

  1. Choose plant materials based on your goals and objectives
    • Choosing a nursery – Research potential nurseries and select supplier who has experience matching planting stock to your region and site.
    • Getting help - Consult with your nursery, local growing organization or professional farming consultant to select the right plant materials for site and follow their guidelines for planting and management to determine:
      • The best match of varieties and root stocks to your region and site
      • Type of planting stock best suited for you
      • Stocking density – plants per acre and spacing
      • Canopy management system – influence trellis design, potential crop yields, fruit quality and more
      • Determine best time to plant
      • Property inputs
        • Appropriate trellis design for grape vines and select tree crops
        • Irrigation system if not dry-farmed
        • Utilities
        • Fencing
      • Field layout
        • Design for planting including orchard pollinizers and filler trees, cover crops for vineyards, intercropping and row orientation
        • Loading / processing areas
        • Equipment/travel corridors
        • Permanent and temporary buildings and structures
      • Planting stock ordering - Order as early as possible especially if desired plant varieties are in short supply

  1. Deciding between a do-it-yourself approach or hiring professional assistance
    • If you wish to conduct your own planting determine the following
      • Do I have the knowledge and skill to oversee the project? If not, can I acquire them ahead of time?
      • Do I have the time it takes to do the job right?
      • Do I have the site preparation/planting tools and equipment that will be required? If not, can I afford to acquire them?
      • Do I have access to the manpower needed?
      • Do I have resources to safely transport and temporarily store seedlings after receiving them from the nursery?
    • If you wish to hire a contractor for all or part of your planting project research potential candidates to include the following information:
      • Experience – How long has the contractor been managing properties for wildlife including preparing, planting and performing follow-up for projects similar to what you have in mind?
      • References – Does the contractor have references from other clients readily available for you to research?
      • Project Assurance – Will the contractor sign a consulting or project contract specifying prices for service and a guarantee for agreed upon results related to the work performed?
      • Project Insurance - Does the contractor have adequate general liability and equipment (auto, field equipment, etc.) insurance?

  1. Planting site preparation 
    • Invasive species /competing vegetation control – Identify control method best suited to you property and project
      • Mulching
      • Grazing
      • Manual (scalping with hand equipment)
      • Mechanical (mowing, tilling/disking, etc.)
      • Chemical – always follow label instructions
    • Soil preparation including physical and chemical modification
    • Initial weed control
    • Planting layout
    • Trellis structure installation if required (sometimes installed or completed after planting)
    • Property line confirmation

  1. Make record keeping  an integral part of your project
    • Documentation including photo/video should before project implementation and continue through to long-term goal achievement
    • Budget review
    • Start a planting log or diary to record your activities which can provide invaluable reference information to measure performance and problem solve.

Planting Season Activities 

  1. Planting logistics plan
    • Stock location, marking/flagging – Layout and mark the planting site well ahead of planting date;
    • Planting stock transport and handling plan – Consult with nursery supplier about the best way to handle the plant materials you’ve decided to use;
    • Labor planning – Scheduling help needs to be done in advance to make sure resources are available when your planting date arrives.

  1. Incorporate plant protection and growth measures at time of planting – “Planting Like You Mean It” means making sure your new planting Survives, Thrives and Succeeds. Be sure to budget for Plantra seedling establishment “tools” to keep your newly planted stock from being killed or damaged by wildlife and human impacts.
    • Vine-orchard grow tubes – To quickly and safely grow new vines and orchard trees;
    • Fertilizer – Early nutrition doesn’t end at the nursery, it needs to continue in the field
    • Repellents – to use in conjunction with physical protection
    • Weed barrier – stop weeds before they start and make sure your plants get all the sun, soil moisture and nutrients they need to compete.
    • Rodent control – Install gopher guards below ground and encourage natural rodent control by attracting owls and other predators to your planting site

Post-planting season Activities 

  1. In the field
    • Planting inspection
      • Survey to assess survival and growth including photo and video documentation
      • Condition of grow tubes, stakes, weed barrier fabric and other supplies to protect and grow seedlings 
    • Ongoing competing vegetation management
    • Training, pruning and other cultural practices.

  1. Administrative/record keeping
    • Periodic project review - Performance measured against original goals and objectives 
    • Planting assessment
      • Survival
      • Growth
      • Corrective measures if necessary
    • Budget review of expenditures vs. projected costs 
    • Project diary update

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