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How and when to replant young grape vines?
February 8, 2011 2:39 AM   Subscribe

I think I've failed in my first test as a backyard gardener by planting some grape vines in a stupid place. What can I do to save them?

About five months ago, in mid-Spring, I planted three small (20cm high) grape vines in my backyard in Canberra. They've mostly grown well; one in particular has a main stem about 3 metres long.

Unfortunately two of them are about 50cm away from the underground sewer mains (that's on the surface; the pipes are probably somewhere between 60cm and 2m deep). The other is about 2.5m away. I now understand that the highly invasive roots of the grape vines are likely to eventually damage the pipes and block them, and that legally I should have planted them at least 3m away.

So, I'd like to move them to a more sensible place where they will be unable to destroy anything, but I'm not sure how to do so and my google searches have dug up a vast range of confusing and contradictory information. Stupid content farms. Current plan is to dig a circle 80cm in diameter and about 50cm deep around each of them with a mattock, scoop them up from the bottom with a shovel, then move them to a new hole somewhere else and water them heavily. Does that sound right, or is there a better way? The law aside, do I need to move the one that's 2.5m away?

And when would be the best time? It's late Summer now; should I move them now so that they can do a bit of growing in their new site before they lose their leaves for Winter, or should I wait until just before they start growing again next year? I was planning to prune them back pretty hard (probably to a 50cm single stalk) at the end of Winter.

One of the possible planting sites is next to the house, a long way away from underground water pipes. Does putting a grapevine next to a house guarantee doom for the foundations?

More data: the soil is clayish; the varieties of vines are black muscat, white muscat and emerald seedless; the climate here usually has long, hot Summers and long, cold Winters although this Summer has been unusually cold and wet; the sewer pipes are probably about 40 years old and likely made of something weak and permeable; two of the vines are healthy but the seedless has been stunted by mildew - should I save it or just start again?

Please help my grape vines.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
 
First thought: Canberra weather is extreme, as you mention, so I'd be very tempted to call a local (long-established) vineyard and ask their advice about when and how to move them.

Second thought: CSIRO. I won a Wollemi pine in a competition and the internet advice was all conflicting. I rang the CSIRO in Canberra and they put me in touch with someone who knew what they were talking about. (Wally the Wollemi pine died anyway, but they're temperamental buggers.)
posted by malibustacey9999 at 3:30 AM on February 8, 2011


If your underground sewer mains are made of PVC and don't leak, there should be no problem; such pipes don't attract roots.

That said: deciduous plants generally are best moved while dormant, since that's when they've pulled their little heads in and socked away all their growitupitude into their big roots. If those were my vines and I wanted to move them, I'd do it in late winter.
posted by flabdablet at 4:40 AM on February 8, 2011


Sorry, failed to read the part about old and probably permeable pipes. But if they really are only 40 years old, there's a fair chance that they are, in fact, PVC; it's been in use since the mid-fifties.
posted by flabdablet at 4:43 AM on February 8, 2011


If they've only been in for five months, prune them back, dig them up and move them. I'm sure they won't love you for it, but they'll probably survive. Anecdotally I think grapes are OK next to houses as you often see huge vine planted inside older conservatories attached to houses (i.e. in the ground) here in the UK - and in clay soil.
posted by rhymer at 5:00 AM on February 8, 2011


If it was me, I would give your plan a go. Another option would be to wait for winter and do it then. Third option would be to grow/obtain some rootstock in the new area, and then graft the current vines onto it. And then just rip out the old roots.
posted by gjc at 6:44 AM on February 8, 2011


To answer just one part of this. We've got four enormous vines over a trellis at my new house in Perth. The trellis is right next to the house (which has a basement) and the vines don't appear to have done any damage to the foundations or the basement walls. They've had a long time in which to try and do it, but they haven't.

On another front, the house did have to have it's main (1960s clay pipe) sewer line replaced with pvc last year after a neighbor's Acacia got into it in a big way. Might be worth digging down rather carefully and seeing what your sewer is made of.
posted by Ahab at 9:09 AM on February 8, 2011


call a local (long-established) vineyard and ask their advice about when and how to move them.

That's a good idea... I might give it a try (or the CSIRO).

If those were my vines and I wanted to move them, I'd do it in late winter.

I'm sure they won't love you for it, but they'll probably survive.

That's what I want to hear! Thanks.

Third option would be to grow/obtain some rootstock in the new area, and then graft the current vines onto it. And then just rip out the old roots.

I've considered some kind of grafting, or just starting again with new vines, but I think it's the root systems I really want to save - they seem to be the important part of the vine to keep around, while the above-ground parts get cut back every year. I'll probably move them in late Winter/early Spring and might put one next to the house, which is probably the best position in terms of sun.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 12:57 PM on February 8, 2011


You won't ever save an entire root system while transplanting; you'll always do some damage. But if you do it in winter, what you will save is the big thick roots near the base of the plant, which is where deciduous plants store fuel for spring growth; also, in winter the roots won't be working super-hard because the plant won't have leaves, so it will be using much less water.

Transplant attempts made in summer often kill plants through water stress. Damage to root hairs is like emphysema for plants - they can dry up and die even when there's plenty of water around them.
posted by flabdablet at 2:56 PM on February 8, 2011


wait until winter and they're dormant. You can then afford to take not so very much of the roots as you might think.

We paid $3000 recently to replace our sewer connection (in Footscray), due to root penetration.
posted by wilful at 9:43 PM on February 8, 2011


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