Planting of grapevines

by | Jun 1, 2016 | Winetech Technical, Viticulture research


  • Plan ahead and get advice from your consultant/viticulturist to plant the most suitable graft combination of a chosen variety for a specific soil type.
  • Make an attempt to place your order for grafted vines at least 18 months before the grapevines have to be planted, and insist on certified vines.
  • Certified vines are only available from nurseries registered with the DPA (table and raisin grapes) and VIA (wine grapes) and are indicated with a blue or candidate certification label (Fig. 1).
  • Follow up on your order every three months and confirm that the correct quantities of each graft combination have been grafted and can be delivered.
  • Visit the nursery towards the end of the growing season to take a look at the overall condition of the nursery.

Collection of grapevines

  • Nursery vines should preferably be in a totally dormant condition when collected from the nursery.
  • Nursery vines should be handled as little as possible, stored as briefly as possible, and planted as soon as possible.
  • Make prior arrangements with the nursery for the collection of the vines.

NB: Some nurseries practice warm water treatment (WWT, namely 50°C for 45 minutes) on grapevines. In such instances the nursery is obliged to inform you about this so that the vines may be collected and planted as soon as possible. WWT stimulates bud burst in vines and bare roots increase the risk of drying out.

* Make sure that:

  • Each bundle of vines has been labelled properly.
  • Information regarding cultivar, clone, nursery certificate and status is correct (Fig. 2).
  • The number of vines tallies with your order.

* During transport the nursery vines should be kept moist and the soil should preferably not be washed from the roots.

* Take precautions to prevent the vines from drying out by:

  • Covering them with a tarpaulin if they are transported in an open truck.
  • Avoiding transportation of the vines on hot days.
FIGURE1. A certification label. FIGURE1. A certification label. FIGURE 2. Certification labels should be controlled. FIGURE 3. Physical requirements for grafted table and wine grape vines.

Arrival on the farm

* Upon receipt ensure that the nursery vines comply with the minimum physical requirements for grafted vines, as prescribed in terms of the SA Plant Certification Scheme for Wine or Table Grapes (Fig. 3). If the vines do not comply, follow up immediately with the nursery.

* For control purposes it is recommended to keep photos of each graft combination vines and the certification labels on record. This will improve traceability in the event of possible disputes and complaints.

Storage before planting

* Nursery vines that underwent WWT must be planted out as soon as possible, because the treatment stimulates bud burst in the vines and the bare roots increase the risk of drying out.

* Nursery vines that are not planted out immediately, can be stored in airtight plastic bags in a cold room for a few months.

  • Maintain temperatures of 1 to 4°C with relative humidity (RH) 70 to 80% and take the necessary precautions against fungal infections.
  • Nursery vines must be left steeped in water for at least 24 hours before planting with the water surface level above the graft joint, but below the buds to prevent them from rotting.
  • If the vines have been in a cold room for more than six months, they should be left to stand in water for at least four days.
  • An increase in temperature after cold storage stimulates bud burst in vines and they should therefore be planted out as soon as possible.

* Nursery vines that are left in the soil should preferably be placed in shaded sandy soil.

  • Sand must be washed between the vines with water and the graft joints should also be covered with sand.
  • Vines should be kept moist at all times.
  • Sites should be well-drained – avoid drowned or saline soil.

During planting

  • Plant the vines before the buds start swelling and before bud burst.
  • Do not plant vines in soils that are too wet or too dry. No free water should occur in the root zone, because the roots will die back due to oxygen deficit and rotting.
  • Do not take a large amount of vines from the soil where they have been laid in or from the cold room, in view of the fact that drying out is a big risk. Only take out enough vines to be planted comfortably in one day. As far as possible vines should not be placed back into the sandy soil or cold room.
  • Vines that come from a site where they have been laid in, should be steeped in water for at least six hours before planting – follow the method above.
  • Pruning back of shoots before or during planting entails a significant risk of drying out and pathogen infections and is not recommended. If this is nevertheless done, apply wound sealant.
  • If vines are trimmed back to one shoot or four buds, a mound of soil should cover the graft joint to prevent the vines from drying out.
  • Vines should be kept in moist bags on the ground and not be allowed to dry out at any stage.
  • Plant holes should be large and deep so that the vines may be planted without having to trim the roots back too much. A large part of the vine’s reserves are in the roots and therefore they should not be trimmed shorter than 20 cm.
  • If the plant holes have smooth walls, these should be loosened with a fork to improve root distribution.
  • Plant vines so that the roots all point downwards and with the graft joint approximately 50 mm above the soil surface on even soils and 100 mm above the soil surface on uneven soils.
  • Fill the plant hole with fine topsoil and trample down the soil.
  • Fill the plant hole with water or irrigate to bring the roots properly into contact with the soil, but in certain soils care should be taken to avoid excess water.
  • Fill the plant hole with topsoil.
  • No fertiliser, manure, lime, phosphate or gypsum must be applied to the plant hole. All supplementary or remedial fertilisation should be done before or during soil preparation.

Alternative planting methods

  • If one shoot remains, trim it back to four buds if bud burst occurs in the top bud.
  • If vines are planted early in the season, they should first be pruned back when bud burst occurs in the top buds.
  • If vines are planted early in the season, they should first be pruned back when bud burst occurs in the top buds.
  • If shoots are trimmed back, wound sealant should be applied.
  • If vines are planted late in the season, plant as is and do not trim back at all.
  • Vines that have undergone warm water treatment should be planted as is and only trimmed back if the top bud bursts.


  • In cases where plastic is laid and cut back earlier, the soil should not be too wet or too dry. If planting on plastic, special precautions should be taken against drying out with a small mound above the soil covering the graft joint.
  • To prevent drying out of the graft joint and root, the vines should be irrigated judiciously.
  • In the case of drip irrigation, ensure that the root zone of the young vines is moistened effectively.


  • When bud burst starts, precautions should be taken against weevils and other pest infestations and disease infections.
  • In areas where strong winds prevail during the growing season, ringbark often occurs on sandy soil at the surface of the soil.
  • Mealybugs that feed on the bark just below the soil surface may also cause ringbarking in young vines.
  • Young planted vines should be protected against feeding damage by antelopes. Do not use fresh (white) straw, because this may lead to sunburn damage.
  • Weed control should be undertaken regularly to avoid competition with the young vines.
  • Replacement vines should preferably be planted in plant bags so as to achieve better success with replacement.
  • If vines have to be replaced at a later stage, make the plant holes double the size of the original holes and still follow all the above-mentioned planting guidelines.

Possible problems after planting

  • After planting a young vineyard, any problems must be detected as soon as possible.
  • Report problems directly to the nursery, at an early stage, otherwise follow the VIA/DPA complaints procedure.
  • If the problem cannot be ascribed to the quality of the nursery vines, advice should be sought from a viticulturist.

– For more information, contact Jacques Ferreira at or visit

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