This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V21", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
I have had very fair success in growing Grapes and plants in the same house, and will give my experience, hoping it may be of some benefit to J. C. S., of Hampton, Va. My house is about fifteen feet long, by about the same in width, and is an extension of the cold grapery, having a glass partition between the two, which I think is unnecessary, a double board partition would give it better protection. The boiler-house is at the other end, giving ample protection from the cold north-west winds. There was at one time six vines in the house, but one not being of a suitable variety, I took it out. The roots are all confined in an inside border, which gives me better control of the vines. At the back part of the house is a brick terrace about three feet high and five wide. On the top of this is built a common stair staging, on which I have been in the habit of keeping my plants over Winter, such as Geraniums, Roses, Carnations, Heliotropes and other half-hardy plants. I have never grown any plants that require much heat; my object being to keep the vines dormant, and the plants growing just enough to keep them healthy.
During the fore part of the Winter, and up to the time the buds on the vines begin to start, which is about the middle of February, I keep the temperature as low as possible, say from thirty-five to forty degrees. I let the vines remain tied to the wires after pruning them in the Fall, as there is moisture enough in the house to keep them from being injured by the sun. They must be closely watched about the first of February, and as soon as the buds begin to swell, the heat must be gradually increased each day, keeping a spring-like temperature, and imitating nature as near as possible. When the buds break, and the shoots begin to grow, keep on increasing the temperature, just as if there were no plants in the house, until it reaches seventy degrees on a cloudy day. It will be found that by the time the temperature reaches 60° it will be too hot for the plants, causing them to grow faster than is good for them. I suppose I have the advantage of many persons, there being hot-water pipes in the cold-grapery. I can heat it up at any time, and as soon as I find that the plants are suffering, I turn on the heat and put all the plants in there; this gives them a cooler atmosphere, and is more congenial to their nature.
I am convinced that no one can be successful in growing Grapes and plants in the same house, unless they study the nature and requirements of each; for if the temperature is kept up as it should be for the Grapes, the plants will be permanently injured, and again, if the temperature is kept too cool, the Grapes will be a failure. I have no doubt that J. C. S., would succeed very well, if he would remove his plants to a cooler atmosphere as soon as it is necessary to increase the heat, and for this purpose a cold frame would answer very well in his latitude.
There are other things that require close attention, such as ventilating properly; shading the plants from the sun, for the glass cannot be whitewashed, as the Grape vines require all the sunlight they can get; keeping the house clear of insects, particularly the red spider, which will give trouble if not kept in check. I find a very good way to do this, is to throw a small quantity of sulphur into the hot water pans on the pipes. I know the fumes arising from sulphur is not very agreeable, but it is better to suffer a little inconvenience in this way, than to let this pest get control of the house.
I would advise J. C. S., to take out his old vines, and plant young ones in their places; and as advised by the Editor, take the canes through the brick wall into the house, and train to the rafters; or if he prefers it, and has, or can make a suitable soil, plant the vines inside and train as above. Pinch out all the laterals, or branches that grow from the axils of the leaves, for I do not believe in the theory of pinching them back to one leaf, and when they start, pinch back again, and so on through the season; this is all humbug, pinch them out entirely, they are nothing but vexation, and of no mortal use to the vine. Let nothing grow but the vine, and be careful not to break it off or injure it in any way, as it is very tender. At the end of the season, if all has gone well with the vines, they will have reached the top of the house. When they have dropped their leaves, cut back to two good strong buds, this will give the roots a good start the next season, and give strength to the vines for their future work. This is the most essential point in successful Grape growing, whether inside or out.
Give the vines a good start by letting them make good strong roots, and they will repay the time given them for this purpose.
In the Spring, when the buds begin to grow, save the strongest shoot for the new cane, and rub out the other, train to the rafters as above, pinching out all laterals. If the vines have done well, they should be about the thickness of a man's thumb, when the wood is ripe, and should be cut back to about four feet from the ground. When they begin to grow again in the Spring, let the shoots grow from the buds at the joints, but do not allow more than one or two of the clusters to mature. The top shoot should be trained in line with the cane, as a leader, and must be brought into position gradually, being careful not to break it off where it joins the cane. The tips of the other shoots should be pinched off when they are about one and a half, or two feet long, or at the third leaf beyond the cluster, and pinch out all laterals, as they grow, except the last one; pinch back to one leaf each time it starts out. Cut back the shoots in the Fall, to two buds, and the new cane to six or eight feet from where the new growth commenced.
The next Spring, let the outer buds on the spurs bear the fruit, and let the inner ones, next the canes grow for the next season; cut it back in the Fall to two eyes, and cut out the other near the spur just formed, and so on each season.
Too much care cannot be used in fruiting young vines. Many persons are in too much of a hurry to get a large quantity of fruit, and in that way ruin the vitality of the vines; this should be avoided as much as possible, by a systematic use of judgement in not allowing them to overbear. A young vine should never be allowed to bear until the third or fourth season, according to its strength, and then not more than one or two clusters; the next season double the quantity may be allowed to mature, and each season afterward increase the quantity as the strength of the vines will allow.
It would be impossible to have Grapes in cold weather, as J. C. S., proposes, as they can only be grown in a retarding-house, which must be kept cool as possible during the Spring, so as to keep the vines dormant and retard their growth. Plants could not be grown in such a house, because they would not get enough of sunlight, which is essential to their growth and health, and the fire-heat required to keep out frost, would force the vines into growth.