This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V18", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
A remarkably interesting paper has recently been contributed to the Gardener's Chronicle by Mr. D. T. Fish, showing how weight influences the pro-" duction of fruit in the grape-vine. We leave out. what Mr. Fish says about the nature of grapevine tendrils, because morphologists now know that a bunch of grapes is nothing but a set of transformed branches, and that a tendril is the same thing in a lower stage of development. We also leave out Mr. Fish's explanation, because that has been better explained by the author of "Waste Force in Vegetation." The interesting facts of Mr. Fish are, however, worthy of careful thought. He says:
"Having charge of a large vinery at the Messrs. Tattersalls', Hyde Park Corner, London, between thirty and forty years ago, he found that though he could command good shows of grapes by means of the genial atmosphere provided by a stock of fermenting manure within the house; hardly had the flower peduncles grown to anything like their full length when, probably in sympathy with dormant and diseased roots, they began to twist round any branch or twig they came in contact with, and to run into tendrils. He soon found that when the twists were removed the tendency to run into tendrils was arrested. This was one step gained. Partly to better the lesson thus learned, and with a view of confirming the dependent position, small weights were attached to the bunches. The result was as gratifying as it was at first unexpected. The untwisting and the weight together soon checked the formation of tendrils, and forced the sub-peduncle into its proper character of a bunch of grapes. When I lived with my brother at Putteridge Bury, there was an old vinery with the roots in a bad state, or very deep. The grapes in this were always in danger of bolting off into mere tendrils, unless weighted into fruit bearing, and we used to weight each with small pebbles as soon as they fairly showed.
If any were missed, or if the pebble or other weight slipped its tie, these bunches ran off into tendrils, while I do not remember an instance of one sufficiently weighted ' doing likewise. Since then, during more than twenty years' practice, I have weighted many suspicious-looking bunches, and always with the result of checking the degeneration of a fruit branch into a mere tendril. In this reversion or degradation of parts there is often a great variety of structure. The flower-stalks, soon after they are formed, often branch off into a number of hooked semi-tendrils, resulting, of course, in a fruitless state; on the other hand, true tendrils that show flowers on the extremities or other parts - for these flowers are by no means confined to the extremities - set and swell their fruit better if also weighted.
"It is well also to note that the weighting of the sub-peduncles is not nearly so effectual, unless the twist is carefully undone. There can be no doubt that that single revolution dominates to a large extent the character of the entire branch beyond, and confirms in a powerful manner its tendrilward tendencies; in fact, unless that circle is undone, it is comparatively useless to attempt to lure back the runaway bunch into fruitfulness. I have even seen such sub-peduncles weighted above the twist suddenly snap off and the remaining portions run off into true tendrils.
More wonderful still, perhaps, as showing something akin to a sympathy of parts, and like dominating like, the success of weighting is enhanced by removing the tendril. I have also noticed that the tendency of the sub-peduncle to form a tendril is increased in proportion to the strength and length of the tendril, and would, therefore, strongly recommend the removal of all tendrils at the earliest possible moment.
"The effect of weight in promoting fruitfulness is further seen in the fact, that as soon as any fruit sets and begins to swell on the sub-peduncle, the formation of tendrils ceases. The natural weight of the berries brings back the wayward branch, as it were, to its proper business - that of fruit bearing. So strong is this check that I have seen tendrils on the fruit-bearing branch attempt to form flowers after the berries began to swell. The same fact is strikingly illustrated by the second flower on Muscat grapes. I never remember to have seen one of these sub-peduncles run into a tendril; on the contrary the tendril is often wanting, or changed into a part of the bunch, thus converting it into a cluster. Another singular fact has often been observed in regard to these, and that is, that however imperfectly the first crop may have set or swelled off, the second or third successional crops invariably set and swell well. It would be interesting to prove what effect the weight of the first crop had on the freer setting and more rapid swelling of-the second.
"That weight has something to do with it is almost demonstrated, else how can the facts already advanced be explained? - or the additional one that by weighting the blossoms of cucumbers and melons we promote the setting, and stimulate the swelling of the fruit? I have adopted this course with cucumbers hundreds of times, and always with uniform success.
" Now, in almost every case the weighted fruit only will swell, and if some of the others attempt to follow its lead it will nevertheless outstrip them all. Pressure is as potential as a weight suspended, and I have often covered over shy setting melons with an inch or two of wan* soil at the period of fecundation, and the progress they have made has been quite astonishing and not to be accounted for by the increase of heat or humidity, to which the buried fruits were subjected. The stimulus to the growth was so great, that if the fruits were carefully exposed to the light afterwards, they receive such a stimulus as to ripen a week or more in advance of those not covered, and sorts difficult to set freely did so by either weight or covering."