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Starting a Backyard Vineyard - Part 2

Updated: Nov 19, 2020

In the last month, the vineyard has really started to take shape. We installed temperature, humidity, and light intensity data loggers, finished up the end posts, and ran all of the high tensile trellis wire. A humid August and rainy start to September has kicked off the downy mildew which has required some foliar sprays but has not dramatically impacted the growth. Overall, most of the hard labor is to an end for year one, aside from some pre-winter prep. It has been a great little project so far and should produce about 400-500lbs of wine grapes at full maturity. As the vineyard progresses, I will continue to share updates and details (read the year 3 update here). Here are some current projects and updates at year 2.

Onset Hobo Data Loggers

Installing the Data Loggers to Monitor Vineyard Conditions

This is one area where modern tech meets agriculture. To get a better grip on my local climate and seasonal extremes, I have installed data loggers in the vineyard. Generalized climate data is available for larger geographies, but some instrumentation is required to get a better handle on my microclimate at the vineyard plot. The loggers that I am using are an Onset HOBO MX2202 for light intensity and a HOBO MX2302 with the RS3-B Solar Radiation Shield for humidity and temperature. The data loggers are set to take a reading once every 10 minutes and store the data onboard. The data can be accessed from about 50 or 60ft away with your smartphone using bluetooth low energy. In my case, I can upload the data from my dining room without even leaving the house which will be handy on rainy days or winter extremes. Here is a phone snapshot of the last couple weeks since I have installed the loggers.

Onset Data Logger Readout

The top graph is from the MX2302 and shows temperature in black and humidity in blue. We had a record rainfall from September 7th to 10th, and have otherwise been getting some dew at night, which accounts for the 100% humidity spikes. This has caused some downy mildew which is indicated by yellow or brown spots on the leaves and a white powder on the underside. In extreme cases, this can prematurely defoliate the vines and limit grape ripening but I was able to get it under control. This is best treated before it is obviously visible on the vines. Some treatment options would be a bordeaux mix (Copper Sulfate and Hydrated Lime), Mancozeb, or Captan. Mancozeb and Captan are better for early season since they cover a broad spectrum of fungal infections. They can also be used all year in year one since you will not be getting any fruit. Copper/Lime is a little less effective but better for late season sprays since it readily washes off and causes less concern for residual fungicide on the grapes. Next year, the data loggers will help to better time these applications since I can keep a close eye on the humidity.

Downy Mildew on a Grape Leaf

Downy Mildew on Grape Vines

The bottom data logger graph is from the HOBO MX2202. While it does show temperature, the temperature reading is not accurate since the sensor is placed in full sunlight and receives significant radiant heating. My real purpose for this sensor is for light intensity which is shown by the blue line. This gives an idea of the amount of morning, daytime and evening sun, how many full sun days vs partial sun or cloudy days and just a good look at the general intensity of the sun in your area. Eventually all this data, along with the temperature and humidity charts will help with future planting decisions, canopy management, harvest timing, and spray timing to make better wine grapes.

Some General Perks from Installing Data Loggers:

-Microclimate data (Extreme Highs, Extreme Lows, Averages, Days of Full Sun vs Shade vs Rain)

-Better timing of fungicide sprays, less total over the season

-Growing Season Data (Growing Degree Days, Frost Free Days, Light Intensity)

-Better selection of vines for each specific plot (GDD Requirements, Fungal Sensitivity, Frost Free Days)

-Having years of data to share could improve resale value of vineyard.

Running the Trellis Wires

This was the other big task this month after setting the last few end posts. The wire that we used is 12.5 gauge high tensile galvanized fence wire. High tensile wire is the norm for vineyards but is a little tricky to work with if you are not familiar. Before getting started, be sure to place the wire on a spinning jenny. This assures that you will not have a large, unusable, tangled slinky of wire. A spinning jenny allows the wire to be unrolled without unleashing total chaos. Make sure to wear gloves and safety glasses, since the wire can have a mind of it's own. Always step on the loose end of the wire or stick it in the ground to avoid intense frustration and possible injury. Once you have those couple things figured out, running the high tensile wire isn't too bad.

The main hardware that I needed for the job were fencing staples, wire strainers, and #2-3 wire crimps. In addition to the hardware, a crimping/cutting tool, strainer handle, and some hammers made the job a lot easier. Most of this can be found at Tractor Supply or any other farm supply store. To make the job easier, it helps to have a second set of hands since there will be a lot of loose ends.

The vine training method or trellis type chosen will dictate the number of wires required per row. In my case, I am utilizing the more modern smart-dyson training method which generally requires seven wires. The first wires installed were the on the bottom, since working from the bottom up is a little easier. This pair of wires are simply guide wires to hold canes downward for the bottom half of the split style vine canopy. To stop the wires from sliding down the angled end posts, the wires were wrapped once on each end and fixed with two staples.

Vineyard Wire

The staples along the upright posts were not pounded fully tight, allowing the wire to slide freely. We pre-made a several foot section of wire with a wire strainer on each end. This was wrapped around the other end post, stapled, and the ends of the long wire were ratcheted into the strainers. These wires do not need to be very tight, just tight enough that they don't look sloppy. To attach the wire strainers, we used two crimping sleeves each. You may want to pre-make all these wires with strainers at once so that they are the same length and align nicely along the end posts. This will save you a lot of hassle later.

Wire Strainers

The next wire above this pair will bear most of the load and only needs to be a single wire. To attach it, we simply looped the wire around the far end twice and attached with two crimps and two staples (don't forget to put the crimps on before wrapping around the post!). The staples on the upright posts were not pounded tightly and a single wire strainer was mounted to the other end post for adjustment. This wire can be tightened as necessary to prevent sagging and hold the heavy cordons of grapes.

Above this wire, we ran two more sets of double wires. These are routed and installed exactly like the first set of double wires and will manage the upwards canes. The general wire spacing is as follows; Starting from the top down, the wire sets are spaced 12-14 inches apart. The main single wire should be at least 38 inches from the ground to allow enough space for the downward canes if using a smart-dyson training method. These measurements are not set in stone but are a good general guideline.

Smart Dyson

Now that the wires are up, the vines are nicely contained have something to latch onto. The next steps for the vineyard will include hilling up or burying vines for winter protection. This will be a simple job with the right tools but we'll get to that on another day. Be sure to subscribe to stay updated on this project and check me out on youtube at: The Home Winemaking Channel. Please post any comments on this project in the section below and stop back for more winemaking topics!

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