post harvest vineyard management
What are some steps that can be taken in the fall to prepare the vines for a better outcome next year?
Cleveland County Oklahoma
Wow. That's a big question, and depends upon what you did this year and what problems you may have had.
When vines are dormant: Buds and shoots gradually become more resistant to cold temperatures, even after temperatures drop below freezing. Next year's crop potential is already set in the buds. Little you can do to the vine itself to change anything - until you decide upon how you are going to prune them.
One thing that comes to mind as a key fall practice:
Managing perennial weeds. After the first frost, when all the green tissue is gone, is a great time to put on a non-selective contact herbicide such as glyphosate (RoundUp) to control perennial weeds. They often stay green longer than grapevines, and the glyphosate will be strongly translocated to the roots.
Fall fertilizer: If you need potash or lime, fall is a good time to apply it. Some like to lay down N in the fall, but I don't recommend it, as too much can be lost to leaching and volatilization.
Hilling up: If you have grafted vines, and a cold-tender scion variety (most vinifera) AND can be subject to damaging winter temperatures, mounding soil over the graft union will protect the scion buds from winter injury. It's standard practice with vinifera here in the Finger Lakes.
Review what went right and what went wrong: Analyze what practices worked and what didn't. If you had disease management problems, consider a plan of attack to address the problems, and try to identify what went wrong and when it happened. Learn more about disease biology and critical phenologic stages (growth and development). If your canopy was too vigorous or not vigorous enough, develop a plan of attack for the coming growing season.
Educate yourself: There are winter meetings, educational materials and workshops all winter long. These are important, and well worth your time.
Feel free to follow up with more specific questions about particular issues you may be concerned about.
And remember: Next year will be better!