Soil Type & Soil Preparation for planting grapes

As discussed previously, there are a lot of things you need to know and plot for when you are looking to establish a new vineyard. The location matters much; but you also need to know the type and quality of the soil and what can be planted in it.

Soil type. If you really want to be sure, the simplest way to know if the soil is suitable for planting a new vineyard is to have a professional test the soil.  Buy this service from an expert and get a clear thought of what type of grapes would be suitable to plant on the land.  You can also buy a home testing kit. 

Soil testing kit

Soil testing kit

All excellent vineyard soils should have minerals that are vital to the health of the vines, including calcium that helps neutralize the soil pH levels.

The presence of iron is essential too, as it is used for photosynthesis. 

Magnesium is also required as it is an vital component of chlorophyll. 

To improve the vine’s total health, nitrogen, which is assimilated in the form of nitrates, must be present; as well as, phosphates which encourage root development and potassium which improves the vine’s metabolism.

For additional information you can contact the USDA Soil Conservation Service. 

Soil drainage.  Since it is through the soil that minerals and nutrients enter the vine, the land should have excellent internal soil drainage. An area of thin topsoil and subsoil that sufficiently retains water, but also has excellent drainage, is ideal. It is also desirable to have at least 30 inches of unobstructed soil depth.  

Rain water accumulating and displacing oxygen surrounding the root system will result in root rot. If this happens, vines will not be as vigorous and productive as they should be.  To avoid this, excellent soil drainage must be ensured.

A sign of excellent internal drainage includes bright, uniformly-yellowish-brown or brown subsoil.  Subsoil having mottled or dark gray color usually indicates poor drainage. Tile drains can be installed if the general topography is favorable, yet drainage is poor. 

The state of the soil’s drainage system also affects the ability of the soil to retain heat and/or reflect it back to the vine, an vital factor that affects the ripening of the grape.

Transition layers.  A transition layer exists where the soil texture changes dramatically.  An example is a layer that is all sand or all clay.  The vine’s roots cannot penetrate these layers.  To make sure that they do, you must break through these layers and mix them before planting.  An alternative is to just find a location where there are no transition layers.  If that’s not possible, you can reduce the effects of transition layers by ripping through one layer in opposite directions.  You must rip the soil 3 or 4 feet deep on 3 foot centers to improve rooting depth and soil drainage.

Current vegetation.  Weeds and grasses should be taken off the vineyard, but their growth indicates a excellent site. Where they are abundant, the soil is productive. But you must still check the rooting depth of these plants.

Soil texture.  The mixture of sand, silt and clay together form the texture of the soil. Sand in the soil makes it look and feel grainy.  It is vital for drainage.  Clay on the other hand causes soil particles to stick together and is vital for water and nutrient retention. 

Knowledge of these facts can help you in plotting the irrigation and fertilization processes you need. With the right management practices, vineyards with soil texture ranging from sandy loams to heavy clay and silty-clay loams can produce excellent vines.

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