Realistic Spacing Question

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We are planning out a home vineyard of about 30 vines. Every article we read or person we speak with recommends spacing of 6, 8ft between vines and up to 10 or 12 ft between rows. All the Vineyards we have visited have less space between vines (3ft). Why are we getting mixed answers? The Vineyards we visited are quite prolific. We are in Massachusetts.
 
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3ft is not very much... Did you measure these vineyards planting distance? l own a vineyard and the planting distance is 6' between vines, 9' between rows. 3' rows don't allow for ANY equipment, so I struggle to see a vineyard larger than an acre or 2 attempting that. 7' between rows is about the absolute minimum and still able to efficiently use a narrow tractor. You can certainly drive it in narrower places, but you must have room to avoid trunks, irrigation points, doing repairs, etc.
 
The larger spacing is typical for American vineyards. In some area of France it's more common to see metre-by-metre spacing (roughly vines 3ft apart, rows 3ft apart), in fact I think it might be mandatory for some regions like Champagne. As @tjmeyer notes you can't get a tractor between such narrow rows, though there are some specialized tractors that can basically straddle the rows. It's certainly possible to manage multiple acres on such spacing even without mechanical help, though it's a lot of work.
 
though there are some specialized tractors that can basically straddle the rows.
True true! I've never used these but I've seen them.

One other thing I forgot to mention was irrigation capacity. Slow drip irrigation typically propagates into soil at a larger radius than .5m, unless you have more rock than soil or are extremely sandy. This means that the line pressure can't cover as much land and is overlapping. But in very small applications this isn't likely to matter as much.

Last point I wanted to make to warn against this is vine replacement and trimming will be very difficult at these distances. Your vines to be replaced will be thoroughly merged with roots on ALL sides, potentially damaging 4 other vines just to replace one that is sick or overgrown with rootstock. My cordons are also typically 2'+ on each side also, which would cause significant growing season overcrowding if my vines were this close. At 3' spacing, you're setting up your vines to only have 18" cordons before they run in to their neighbors. I'd be more concerned with root space though.

Let us know how it goes!
Cheers!
 
We are planning out a home vineyard of about 30 vines. Every article we read or person we speak with recommends spacing of 6, 8ft between vines and up to 10 or 12 ft between rows. All the Vineyards we have visited have less space between vines (3ft) and rows. Why are we getting mixed answers? The Vineyards we visited are quite prolific. We are in Massachusetts.
The vines will fill in the gap along the rows. The row spacing will be function of equipment and geometry.

With only 30 vines I suspect everything will be done without real equipment. ( I've got 30 vines too and my equipment is a clipper and hand pump sprayer).

I only have a single row along 1 side of my lot and spaced them at about 6' since I let my vines go vertical too (up to 12'). If doing a traditional vineyard style I would have used 8' spacing.

The vines can get huge if you let them. I've got some around my garage that extend about 12' in each direction and produce around 50 lbs of grapes. The quality of the grapes from my big vines seem the same as the smaller vines.

For row spacing I'd just pay attention to sun angles late in the season. I've got a few that start to get partial shade late in the season and it does slow down ripening. The unshaded ones are typically ready to pick 2 to 3 weeks earlier than the shaded grapes even though veraison was about the same.
 
It would help to know what you are planting, the answer will be different for Vinifera vs Hybrid and how vigorous the site is

Since it's a backyard vineyard I'm assuming you won't need to drive a big tractor down the rows. The minimum row spacing should be the expected height of the vine foliage, so likely 5-6 feet minimum. If you're planning on having grass between rows you'll want to ensure you've got enough room for your lawn mower. Personally I've got a rider with a 54" deck and I wouldn't want to drive anything bigger down my rows which as spaced 6 feet apart.

As for vine spacing you definitely want to take vine variety and soil fertility into account. Personally the only way I'd go less than 6 foot vine spacing is if I was growing something like Pinot Noir in non-vigorous (ie: sandy) soil. Personally I've got Frontenac (very vigorous) at 6 foot spacing on a rocky clay loam site that gets about 3.5 inches/rain per month in the summer. I could have went 8 foot instead as the vines do sprawl, but it's manageable as is.
 
Spacing is not a fixed number. It depends on trellis type, varietal, rainfall, vigor, soil fertility, among other things. It is best to follow what the locals do in regards to vineyard planting. In California the spacing is wider because there is less irrigation, and mechanization. Vines also sprawl more here and get less tending. If they were closely spaced the vines would form an impenetratable mat. Finding information from your University Coop Extension will be the best source of information
 
I have concord and Marquette vines in my small backyard vineyard ( 8 vines total). I planted them all with 8 foot spacing. Now, with several years growth I wish I had given the concords a little more space, maybe 10 feet. The Marquette, however, should have been a little closer. They would be fine with 6 foot spacing and I could have fit another vine into my limited space. The row spacing is 8 feet but that is for my convenience not for required space .
 
I have a small backyard vineyard of 50 vinifera (riesling/sangiovese/nebbiolo) . The climate here in SW Washington is ideal for powdery mildew, so air circulation between/through vines is something to think about. If the vines are 'crowded' then you will not have much airflow through the vineyard/between plants. The vines WILL grow into each other ... a lot. Any overlap between plants will make a dense canopy that will require pruning back or at least some leaf thinning in order to keep some air circulation.
My vines are spaced 6' apart and I am glad they are not closer. My space between rows is 6 feet, which gives me enough room to run a lawn mower through, in addition to have enough room for myself and a handsprayer.
I cane prune, so each vine will have a cane that will extend approximately 3' , one cane on each side....so they almost interesect with the adjacent vines. 6 foot spacing works well for me. 8 foot spacing would not be bad at all. However, 3 foot spacing would not leave much room for the new canes that you 'bend over' and the later canopy growth.
Certain vinifera do well with longer canes, more buds, which would require further spacing between plants. I keep relatively short canes and only 3-4 buds on each cane, focusing on fruit quality, and not so much quantity.
Spur pruning would be slightly different, as you might want to have longer cordons. And that would determine your plant -spacing.
This is the fun part about grape growing! You get to try all sorts of techniques. The amazing thing about wine grapes is that they grow like crazy and seem almost indestructable.
Good luck and have fun!
 
I have a small backyard vineyard of 50 vinifera (riesling/sangiovese/nebbiolo) . The climate here in SW Washington is ideal for powdery mildew, so air circulation between/through vines is something to think about. If the vines are 'crowded' then you will not have much airflow through the vineyard/between plants. The vines WILL grow into each other ... a lot. Any overlap between plants will make a dense canopy that will require pruning back or at least some leaf thinning in order to keep some air circulation.
My vines are spaced 6' apart and I am glad they are not closer. My space between rows is 6 feet, which gives me enough room to run a lawn mower through, in addition to have enough room for myself and a handsprayer.
I cane prune, so each vine will have a cane that will extend approximately 3' , one cane on each side....so they almost interesect with the adjacent vines. 6 foot spacing works well for me. 8 foot spacing would not be bad at all. However, 3 foot spacing would not leave much room for the new canes that you 'bend over' and the later canopy growth.
Certain vinifera do well with longer canes, more buds, which would require further spacing between plants. I keep relatively short canes and only 3-4 buds on each cane, focusing on fruit quality, and not so much quantity.
Spur pruning would be slightly different, as you might want to have longer cordons. And that would determine your plant -spacing.
This is the fun part about grape growing! You get to try all sorts of techniques. The amazing thing about wine grapes is that they grow like crazy and seem almost indestructable.
Good luck and have fun!
Great point about airflow and disease. The threat is real. Most of my vines have fences or walls behind them so airflow isn't great. I had a powdery mildew outbreak last summer and the few vines with good airflow never got infected even though the infected vines were only 5 ft away.
 
The vineyards I have seen in Europe used roughly one meter spacing. It was eye opening and made me appreciate how versatile the grape plant is. This also went along with maintenance with a push mower or letting grass grow or hoeing the soil.

? How do you want the maintain the vineyard? I use a 46” mower so rows are spaced to get that through two passes. The local winery uses a gator to haul picked grape so the spacing is enough for folks to scrunch against vines and drive through.
One thing I would change is my perimeter. I fight japanese beetles with seven. Unfortunately I put raspberry at eight foot from a line of grape. There is drift and I will have to stop picking raspberry because I have sprayed grapes.
 
The vineyards I have seen in Europe used roughly one meter spacing. It was eye opening and made me appreciate how versatile the grape plant is. This also went along with maintenance with a push mower or letting grass grow or hoeing the soil.

? How do you want the maintain the vineyard? I use a 46” mower so rows are spaced to get that through two passes. The local winery uses a gator to haul picked grape so the spacing is enough for folks to scrunch against vines and drive through.
One thing I would change is my perimeter. I fight japanese beetles with seven. Unfortunately I put raspberry at eight foot from a line of grape. There is drift and I will have to stop picking raspberry because I have sprayed grapes.
That's wild! I'd never dare try a mere 1 meter spacing. Guess I need more education! Wine trip to Tuscany, anyone?
 

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