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Growing Grapes on a Small Island in Michigan

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rab

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Hi,


I own a small island in Michigan that I currently use for camping. It is just under 4 acres in total size, about half wooded and half cleared with a few trees here or there. My plan is to start off this year with 50 vines and next year fill a 100' x 150' area of the island. If I am able to get the vines to grow well on my unique plot of land then I could comfortably have up to 1.5 acres of vines on the island.

I want to grow Marquette here spaced every 6' along the trellis with 6' between rows on a TWC Trellis system 6' high. My main concerns are with my soil and water table. I believe the water table will be my biggest issue. My soil is dry but the growing area is only about 5 feet above water level for the lake (dam controlled and currently at the highest water level). I need to install a pipe in the ground to monitor the water table. If I need to lower the water level I should be able to do so with drain tile to a stable 3'.

Over the next few weeks I will be completing the following main objectives:

- Get soil samples sent in.
- Install a vertical pipe to monitor water table.
- Cut down the tall grass and till the soil for the first three rows.
- Correct soil conditions.
- Plant 50, 1-year-old bare rooted vines.
- Install bamboo stakes and growing tubes.
- Install three trellis rows.(going north-south)


My main goal with all of this is to make some wine for myself and to add something interesting on the island. If I am able to get quality grapes to grow here then I wouldn’t mind turning this into a profitable venture. I am self employed and I keep busy in the winter time but work pretty much stops from April to September.

Here are my current questions:

- How high should my grow tubes be if the trellis system will not be installed until later in the season?
- What is the best option for grow tubes?
- How late can I wait to install the trellis?
- Can I take cuttings from my new vines in the fall and grow them in a greenhouse over the winter to be planted next spring? I have been doing research on this but I wasn’t sure if my vines would be too young.
- Should I till the whole area to be planted or just up the rows where the grapes will go? It would be nice to keep the existing grass to prevent erosion but I am concerned it will compete too much with the vines.
- Does my 6’x6’x6’ spacing sound good for my conditions and vine type? I am working within a finite space and would like to maximize yield per acre.

I have attached a picture of the island with a box, not to perfect scale, of where I would like to grow the first 100’x150’. The remaining growing area if I decide to expand would be the rest of the island to the east. It is mostly cleared but there are some trees I would have to cut down.

I would love to hear any comments and concerns that anyone has. I more info I can absorb right now the better.

Thanks,
Rab
 

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sour_grapes

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I don't have much technical advice to help you, but welcome to WMT!
 
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Masbustelo

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Why are you going to use grow tubes? Do you have deer? The row spacing to me seems to close. Six foot is the minimal, minimal, between rows. Not the optimal. It will be very difficult to walk between the rows, when mature, very difficult to spray by hand, and impossible to get a 4x4 etc in for spraying, and harvesting. I cant say on the six foot plant spacings, seems a little close, depends on soil fertility. Why not mow the grass, as lawn mower style height, and use a herbicide to clear a three foot strip for your row and vines. The mowed grass won't affect vine growth. afterwards maintain the strip mechanically.
 

salcoco

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grow tube height should be 36 inches
hard plastic is best they can be recycled for your next batch. the tube made of light blue plastic sheets inserted in a plastic wear out quickly although less expensive
I would install the trellis right away. digging the holes mechanically might be a problem initially but set the poles first then wire the trellis then plant the grapes. the bamboo poles for each plant can then be fastened to the wire trellis at 42 inches and above. the grow tube then fastens to the bamboo.
procedure for cutting would work I would do further research to insure method used is sound. I have used the cuttings from the initial grapes as they arrive with about a two foot growth that must be pruned to two buds.
Maybe to late now but I would used herbicide for a 3 foot width swath were plants will be planted mow the rest.
I would plant on 8 foot center with rows eight ft apart. this allows for a 4 ft cordon each direction once plant are mature and room between rows for mechanical or personnel movement. allthought less plants for given area yield for total area will be the same or higher. poles for trellis are set at 20 ft apart
 

mfzona

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I’m growing Marquette on 8 foot rows at 8 feet vine spacing. I have very fertile soil and the vigor is insane. I wish I had gone 16 foot spacing. Depending on your soil results, I’d think hard about the vine spacing.
 

BigH

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- How high should my grow tubes be if the trellis system will not be installed until later in the season?
30-36".

- What is the best option for grow tubes?
I like the brown Plantra grow tubes.

- How late can I wait to install the trellis?
It depends on your year 2 strategy. You can wait until the summer of year 2 to install the trellis if you prune back to a 2 buds in year two (the Grapeman strategy). You might even be able to get away with the spring of year 3, but that would be cutting it close. If you retrain trunks from year 1, then you really need the trellis in place before the start of year 2.

- Should I till the whole area to be planted or just up the rows where the grapes will go? It would be nice to keep the existing grass to prevent erosion ...
I tilled everything, but I was instructed to disc in some nutrients as deep as I could get them. My recommendation is to not till everything unless you have a good reason to. Grass grows back fast, so erosion concerns are short lived.

- Does my 6’x6’x6’ spacing sound good for my conditions and vine type? I am working within a finite space and would like to maximize yield per acre.
That sounds too tight IMO. Quality trumps quantity. Besides, the idea that more vines produce more fruit is likely a fallacy. 6' row spacing will be tight for mowing and spraying. Marquette grows upright and then arches out and down. Those 6' rows will be quite narrow by July. 6' spacing between vines doesn't give you much space to have enough buds to control vigor. fwiw, I grow Marquette with 8 ft spacing on a GDC. It hasn't been quite vigorous enough to fill the entire trellis. I would do 9 or 10 ft spacing on TWC if I could start over.

Last suggestion: Marquette is a fantastic grape for winemaking, but I don't recommend that you go all-in on it. Best to pick at least one other variety. Marquette breaks bud very early, and a late frost could wipe out an entire growing season.

Good luck
H
 

rab

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Wow, thank you all for the great responses. I was not expecting to get that much feedback so quickly.
@sour_grapes thank you for welcoming me to WMT, this seems like a great forum.

Here are my takeaways from what you all said.

- Grow tubes, 36” sounds good and yes I have deer they really like the island because it offers them some security. I will probably have to put up some deer fences once the vines outgrow the tubes.

- The group consensus is that 6’ row spacing is too tight. The biggest piece of equipment that will be going down the rows is a small lawn mower or atv so if you all think 8’ is better, then that will be the plan. I am young and have more time than money so everything will be done by hand or small machines. Unfortunately, I will not be getting to play around with a big tractor.

- Mowing and tilling, I will just mow the grass and till the rows. Temps here will be good for planting in just over a week so I think I am too late for weed killer. I am out of town right now but I will be able to go to the island on Thursday and all of next weekend. This should give me plenty of time to prep the site and plant two weeks from now.

- I plan on pruning back to two buds for year two. If waiting until Fall or late summer is not a big deal then that is when I will put in the trellis. I have more free time in the fall than spring. Also, spreading out the cost would be nice.

- @BigH , what is your reasoning for not liking the GDC? One of the ideas I am considering is to plant at 8’x8’ and then after monitoring how vigorous my vines are deciding between TWC or @grapeman 's modified GDC. With my growing area being 150’ East-West and 100’ North-South I could do 150’ rows of modified GDC or have my choice of 100’ or 150’ TWC.

- As far as adding variety, I agree. I would like to do this first 150’x100’ (1/3rd of an acre) all Marquette and then have a different grape for every 1/4 or 1/3 of an acre.

Thanks again,
Rab
 

BigH

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@BigH , what is your reasoning for not liking the GDC? .
It's not that I don't like the GDC. I use it for 6 out of 10 varieties in my vineyard. I have La Crescent on a TWC and Marquette on GDC. Looking back, I would switch the two because La Crescent has been quite a bit more vigorous. My Frontenac, St Croix, Brianna, and Edelweiss have all been vigorous enough to fill the GDC trellis they are on, but the Marquette has not. fwiw, the Frontenac is at 9 ft spacing.

As far as adding variety, I agree. I would like to do this first 150’x100’ (1/3rd of an acre) all Marquette and then have a different grape for every 1/4 or 1/3 of an acre.
Word of caution. I found some wisdom on these forums when I was starting that said 1/2 acre of grapes is about the most 1 person can manage without quitting their day job. My vineyard is 1/4 of an acre, and I agree with that wisdom. I can't tell from your post if this will be a hobby or if you are planning to start a commercial operation. 1.5 acres would be a huge hobby vineyard.

H
 

CTDrew

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Definitely keep us posted, and good luck. This sounds like an interesting project.

Seconding @BigH I would say starting small will give you a feel for the work involved. My personal feeling is less vines that I take good care of serve me better than more that I don't!
 

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