KSU Viticulture
Design Your New Vineyard


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Once the site of your new vineyard has been taken cared, factors influence the vineyard design should be considered. These include the characteristic of the site for example its dimensions, topography, variation in soil types; the equipment access to the site; and the trellis type to be constructed.

Vineyard Layout

Row orientation: In Kentucky, as in the northern hemisphere, vineyard rows in a North/south orientation provide the best sunlight interception to the canopy. But, in some cases, a east/west row orientation is acceptable if plantings are on north- or south-facing slopes since this will run rows across the slope and therefore controlling soil erosion and avoid short north/south-oriented rows.

Row length: row length should be shorter than 1000 foot long.  A 300-600 foot long row are common. Longer rows may cause problems since this increases the tension to the end posts.

Row spacing and vine spacing: Vineyard row width should be at least 1.1 times of the trellis height, otherwise the lower portion of the trellis will be shaded. The actual row spacing is determined by your equipment. A 8-12 space between rows are common. Space between vines are usually 6-8 foot long in Kentucky.

Feet between ROWS

Feet between VINES

4 5 6 7 8 9
4 2723 2178 1815 1556 1361 1210
5 2178 1742 1452 1245 1089 968
6 1815 1452 1210 1037 908 807
7 1556 1245 1037 889 778 691
8 1361 1089 908 778 681 605
9 1210 968 807 691 605 538
10 1089 871 726 622 545 484
11 990 792 660 566 495 440
12 908 726 605 519 454 403

Measuring your vineyard: Two or three people will be needed to measure your vineyard. Establish the four corners of a rectangular planting and then flag out rows. Determine the location of the end posts, keep all the numbers on your sketch paper. Please note a portion of the vineyard will be for headlands (minimal a 30 foot long). Also leave at lease 30 foot wide out of your outmost rows at both sides of the vineyard. TOP

Preparing the Vineyard

Tree/shrub removal: Remove all woody plants from the site, especially the hedgerows downhill to insure cold air drainage.

Weed control: The best time to kill the weeds is in the fall previous to the planting next year. Roundup can be applied to kill perennial weeds. In the spring, prior to planting, rotor-tilling rows with a 4 to 6-foot wide rotor-tiller. Spray pre-emergence herbicide along the rows about 4-foot wide. Can mix with Roundup or Touchdown if weeds have already presented. Please refer to  the Midwest Commercial Small Fruit and Grape Spray Guide (2005) pp55-68 for more weed control information or visit the Spray Guide.     TOP


Why Trellising?  Grapevines in the wild are climbing plants. Their weak twinning stems are supported by tendrils on the annual shoots hooking to other plants or "supporters". In commercial vineyards, vines are trained by using support systems, first might be a stake, then posts and wires. The constant search for profitability and performance of vineyards has le to the development of many different forms, with the simple two-wire system most popular. The basic aims of trellising (and training) include: to maximize production; to facilitate vineyard cultural practices; to improve canopy microclimate there for to reduce disease incidences and to optimize fruit quality; and to support the mechanical load of the grapevines.

Which Type of Trellis? There are many trellising systems available around world for different climate and varieties. In Kentucky, high trellises will help the fruiting parts of a vine away from colder air that tends to lie along the ground. The two wire trellis is the most common type in the United States. You also need to consider your growth vigor of your cultivars. Cultivars with vigorous growth may use the Lyre or Geneva Double Curtain (GDC) system. The figures and table below may help you in determining you trellis type.   TOP

  • Single Stakes: for head-trained or vertical-cordon vines without wires. The need is only stake supports for the first few years after planting. This is not suitable for Kentucky.

  • One-wire Trellis: mostly for raisin or table grapes. Training system can be double-arm cordon. Not suitable for Kentucky.

  • Two-wired Trellis: the most popular one in the US. The height of the two wires are different from warm to cold regions, with higher wire in the colder regions. Training systems can be double-arm cordon, umbrella Kniffen. Please note that this is not the best system for vigorous American and French Hybrids.


  • Three-wires Trellis: suitable for American grape varieties or hybrids that tend to sprawl and grow downward, e.g., Edelweiss. Training system include those for the Two-wired Trellis plus six arm Kniffen.

  • Lyre or Movable Wire Trellis: to encourage the new year's growth vertically upward so the clusters hang in filtered sunlight in the open air underneath. It can cuts on rots and mildews. The training system for it are the same as the Three-wired Trellis. It is the best system for European cultivars.

  • Geneva Double Curtain Trellis: excellent for very vigorous vines in colder areas. It provides best sunlight exposure and increases yield for American and Hybrids of high vigor.  TOP


Time to Set up Trellis: Trellis can be put in before or after planting. Actually, it will be about two years before vines really need the trellis. But you should remember that young vines will be disturbed by digging and working around them when you choose to trellis them after planting. Young vines are like kids, they don't like to be bothered as they take off smoothly to mature stages, they simply can give up easily. So my recommendation is to set up the posts first, plant vines and do the wires (wires will be inconvenient to planting, especially when you choose to use tractors for augering.) If you have to wait for trellising after planting, I would do trellising in the late fall or early winter when you might have more spare time.  TOP

Trellis Cost Consideration: Cost on trellis supply itself can reach $2,000/acre. This is the major investment for developing a new vineyard. But, the trellis is set to last at least 20 years. If average this cost over 20 years or so, you will think that this investment is not that bad.  And also because the long term use of trellis, should be very careful with the materials you are going to use. The word "Durability" should be kept in your mind.

How Many Posts? It all depends the interval between rows and the vine spacing. Post spacing of a 16-24 foot is very common, and the row length can be anywhere from 300 to 1000 feet. So do a simple home work to calculate your need for line posts and end posts.

Please read the Trellising and Training part for more information on trellis and training (pruning and positioning).   TOP

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Updated August 13, 2007