Grape Trellis Usage and Guidelines
So you ask, how important is the construction of a trellis or arbor really?
To grow any significant amount of grapes you will need a trellis system of some kind. You see, grape vines cannot support the weight of a full harvest by themselves.
Choosing a training-system and trellis is something you must decide for yourself. Some resemble beautiful home decorative designs while others are purely functional. They can range from simple to complex.
Many backyard grape growers use their grape vines not only to produce grapes, but to add that special decorative touch to their landscaping.
Grapes are often referred to as "the fruit of gods". Decorating your home with grape vines can be a very natural and enchanting experience.
The most important thing to consider is that you ensure enough exposure to sunlight and air movement so that photosynthesis, the ripening of the fruit and the control of diseases can be done effectively.
Many first time grape growers plant their vines first before installing a trellis in the rush and excitement of just getting started. That is certainly understandable.
I can assure you though that this is not a good idea. Once your grape vines starts growing, you want to immediately start training the young vines as soon as possible.
Considering the fact that it usually takes a few years to produce any grapes at all, the trellis system is going to be in place for a good while. Plan for it up front and you will be much better off.
Consider having your trellis built by a fence contractor. You don't have to build the trellis system yourself. Often fence contractors can do it cheaper then you can. They can also save you a lot of backache and headache.
Fence contractors usually have access to all the necessary materials and tools. The good ones are generally very helpful with layout and design ideas as well.
The illustration below is a typical styled VPS Trellis system. There are numerous varieties available.
Posts, Anchors, Staples, In-line wire tightners:
The post for a typical trellis system can be made from iron, pre-treated wood, PVC pipe or aluminum. A typical 6' tall trellis would require an 8' post set 2' deep into the ground. Use 12' post for end post. Keep the distance between line post less than 24'. A basic grape trellis setup is illustrated below:
End post should be anchored well to help support the load of the trellis. A good anchor is the helix style. You will want one at least 30" long. Use a smaller anchor if you have short rows that do not exceed 100'. Dig a starter hole a few inches deep.
The anchor can be turned into the ground with a crowbar or digging bar. Position the anchor about 6' from the base of the of the end post. Loop brace-wire from the post to the anchor with a twitch stick in the middle that you can turn to take up slack: Here is an example of a helix anchor
Attach 12.5 Gauge fencing wire to the post with barbed staples. These items can be found at your local farm supply store. Wrap the wire around the end post and secure with crimping sleeves or barbed staples. You can use in-line wire tighteners to prevent wire from sagging. Tighten up wires at the beginning of every growing season. This trellis system is know as the Vertical Shoot Positioning system: Here is an example of an in-line wire tightener
The bottom wire known as the fruiting wire is set approximately 30" off the ground. This is the wire your canes will be tied off to. Position another wire approximately 8" above your fruiting wire so that you can tie off young shoots to prevent them from breaking in windy weather or growing downward towards the ground.
Position two more wires one at 12" from the fruiting wire and another at 24 inches so that you can train your shoots to grow vertically. It is a good idea to have at least the fruiting wire and all your post in place before planting your Grape vines.
If you are constructing a fairly large vineyard you may consider renting or borrowing a spinning jenny to avoid the frustration of tangled wires: Click Here for an example of a spinning jenny
Grape Growing Lesson 4: Vine Pruning and Training
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The Backyard Vintner: An Enthusiast's Guide to Growing Grapes and Making Wine at Home