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General Information

Recent trends indicate a rapidly increasing interest in production of both wine and table grapes in New England. Throughout most of New England, special cultural care must be taken to overwinter European (V. vinifera) varieties, which are very sensitive to cold temperatures. Native American varieties including V. labrusca varieties, such as Concord and Niagara, are hardier and more resistant to endemic disease problems. French-American hybrids vary in their cold hardiness, and several can perform well on warmer sites throughout New England.

Site selection is critical to success with grapes. Ideal sites seldom experience winter temperatures below -5˚F, are unlikely to experience late spring frosts, and offers a frost-free growing season of at least 165 to 180 days. Grapes will do best on a well drained loam soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. Potassium, manganese, and iron deficiency problems may develop if the soil pH is above 6.5.

There are many training system options for grapes; but whatever system is used, sufficient light exposure on selected canes and the proper severity of pruning (generally determined using the balanced pruning formula for each specific variety) are the keys to maximizing productivity and fruit quality.

In New England, the use of multiple trunks (and systematic trunk renewal) is highly recommended to minimize the risk of severe low temperature injury and the development of Eutypa dieback disease and crown gall. Overcropping also significantly increases the risk of winter injury.

Table 51. Recommended optimal soil characteristics for growing grapes.
Soil Characeristic Desirable Range*
pH 5.5 (V. labrusca) - 6.5 (V. vinifera)
Organic Matter 4 to 6%
Phosphorus 20-50 ppm
Potassium 120-150 ppm
Base Saturation > 3.0
Magnesium 100-150 ppm
Base Saturation > 5.0
Calcium 1000-1500 ppm
Base Saturation > 50.0
*Desirable range will vary with soil type (sand, silt, or clay), soil organic matter, and pH.
Table 52. Sufficiency ranges for nutrient concentrations in vineyard petiole analyses
Nutrient Petiole samples at bloom Petiole samples at veraison
Total Nitrogen (N) 1.2-2.2 % 0.8-1.2 %
Phosphorus (P) 0.17-0.30 % 0.14-0.30 %
Potassium (K) 1.5-2.5 % 1.2-2.0 %
Calcium (Ca) 1.0-3.0 % 1.0-2.0 %
Magnesium (Mg) 0.3-0.5 % 0.35-0.75 %
Boron (B) 25-50 ppm 25-50 ppm
Iron (Fe) 30-100 ppm 30-100 ppm
Manganese (Mn) 20-1,000 ppm 100-1,000 ppm
Copper (Cu) 5-15 ppm 5-15 ppm
Zinc (Zn) 30-60 ppm 30-60 ppm
Molybdenum (Mo) 0.5 ppm 0.5 ppm
Adapted from Bates and Wolf (2008). Vineyard Nutrient Management. In: Wine Grape Production for Eastern North America. T. Wolf (ed.). NRAES, Ithaca NY.