replanting a grape vine

I’ve been impressed often enough at the combinatoric availability of documents and especially videos on the web for even the most specific of the nearly limitless tasks one can do, that I’m at least mildly disappointed when I can’t find one that I need. By combinatoric, I mean that one is able to have highly specific questions answered in a user-friendly manner, implying that variations of those questions might also have answers. For example, I recently wanted to change the struts on our 18 year-old minivan, and found a walk-through video on Youtube for our particular model, complete with annotations of specific tools I’d need. (That video saved me $500 and I was quick to send “Fix It Angel” a token of my appreciation). When Google or Youtube fail to deliver I sometimes have this gnawing feeling that maybe I should add to this wealth of information instead of just taking from it, so what follows is my small contribution.

I am building a pergola at my rear property boundary to lend some privacy and provide a structure for grape vines, and had made what seemed to me a mistake of planting one of the vines in a small cavity in the alley wall, which I feared would limit its growth. Poking around was inconclusive about whether a Zone 7b one year-old grape vine about five to seven feet in length could be safely moved once in full leaf bloom. But it seemed to me that it could be done if one took care to carefully dig out the roots, and I am happy to report that this is in fact the case.

Some notes:

  • I took great care to gently dig out as many of the roots as I could, particularly what I thought of as the smaller “capillary” roots. This required me to follow many branches along and dig out fairly deep. I did break a few of them, including one that I didn’t want to bother going too deep with.
  • The root ball was out of water for maybe half an hour. I dug a big hole and put down a layer of good bag soil, then laid out the roots, covered them with more soil, and doused everything with water. Were I to do this again, I’d soak it in a bucket or cover it in damp rags to minimize the dry time.
  • After transplanting, the leaves were all limp within four hours. I covered the whole vine with a tarp, on the idea that until the roots could adjust and supply enough water, it would be best to keep the hot sun off them.
  • I poured about 2–3 gallons of water over the roots twice a day for two days afterward.

Two days later, the leaves had recovered their zest, and I only lost a few of them.

So the answer is, yes, you can transplant a one year-old grape vine in full bloom in USDA Zone 7b and recover within a day or two provided you preserve most of the roots, shield the leaves, and douse regularly in water.

[Update: it seems I didn’t look hard enough, as has this covered, so consider this a corroboration.]