The planting date depends on the vine variety, weather conditions, and the grower’s preferences. Ideally, we could plant our benchgrafts during the entire winter period. However, the second half of the winter is the most suitable period in most cases.
Farmers generally prefer 1-year-old rooted seedlings. Some producers prefer to plant benchgrafts by removing cuttings and grafting them on rootstock varieties on their own. However, buying your plants from a legitimate seller is always the best possible solution.
After all the preparation steps described in the previous chapters, we can proceed with transplanting. Growers label the exact points on the soil where they will plant the young plants. During the previous century, they used ropes and stakes to be sure they would plant the vines linearly. Nowadays, farmers have at their disposal modern technology like high-precision lasers to “draw” the planting map. They then dig holes 30-50 cm (12-20 inches) deep and plant the seedlings. Planting can be done either by hand or by using laser planters. The advantage of laser planters, contrary to manual planting, is that the first can plant quickly, with very high precision, and at the right distances. On the other hand, they face difficulties in planting on inclined fields.
When it comes to rooted benchgrafts, it is important to plant them in such depth to keep the connection point about 4-5 cm (1.6 – 2 inches) above the soil surface. If we cover the connection point, the scion will most probably develop roots. These roots will start to increase rapidly and will outmatch those of the rootstock. This would be a great problem. However, in countries with a high risk of frost, some farmers used to cover the entire plant with soil after transplanting, to protect it. They then removed the extra soil together with any possible scion rooting a couple of weeks later.
As far as the planting distances and population are concerned, we have a lot of different patterns depending on the producing varieties, the soil structure, organic matter, the type of the vineyard, and growing techniques. For example, at irrigated vineyards with fertile soil, a commonly used pattern includes up to 2,000-2,500 plants per hectare for table grapes and 3,000-3,500 plants per hectare for wine varieties with a yield of 10-12 tons per hectare.
For a population of 3,000 to 4,000 plants per hectare, many producers prefer to install their grapevines on distances 2 – 2.5m (6.5 to 8.2 feet) between rows and 1.25 – 1.35 m (4.1 – 4.4 ft.) between plants. Other producers prefer a 2,5m (8.2 ft.) distance between rows and 1.15m (3.8 ft.) between plants. Keep in mind that 1 hectare = 2.47 acres = 10.000 square meters.
The second pattern is not recommended for all varieties. The reason is that by keeping such close distances between the plants in the row, the roots of the two neighboring plants may interfere. Distances less than 1 meter (3.3 ft.) between plants shall generally be avoided, as they will lead to foliar overlapping and crowding of plants. This often results in poor aeration and decreased air circulation within the crop canopy.
Most contemporary table grapes varieties require a 3 meters (9.8 ft.) distance between rows and 1.5 meters (5 ft.) distance between the plants in each row.
Some farmers use special anti-hail nets. These nets also protect the crop from birds.