This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V23", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The rule in pruning grape-vines, is to shorten the shoots in proportion to their strength]; but, if the advice we have given in former summer hints has been attended to, there will be little disproportion in this matter, as summer pinching of the strong shoots has equalized the strength of the vine. Those who are following any particular system will, of course, prune according to the rules comprising such system. As a general rule, we can only say, excellent grapes can be had by any system of pruning; for the only object of pruning in any case is to get strong shoots to push where they may be desired, or to add to the increased vigor of the shoot, which pruning supposes will follow the act, increased size in the fruit it bears.
Manuring of grapes should be regulated by the nature of the soil. If it be damp - in most cases a bad condition for grape-growing - stable manure in great quantities means diseased vines. In dry ground, it has a beneficial effect. Many persons of small places have grapes in damp ground, or can have none. They must take care to keep the roots near the surface; never crop the ground about them to destroy the small fibres, if it can be avoided; and even good may often follow, when the vines seem failing, to carefully follow up the roots, lift near the surface, and encourage, as much as possible, those remaining there. Wood-ashes, bone dust, and such like fertilizers are best for grape vines in low ground.
Do not plant any tree deep - cut off tap roots, and do all you can to encourage surface fibres. Surface manuring is the best way of doing this after the tree is planted. Do not allow any thing to grow vigorously around your trees the first year of planting, nor allow the soil to become hard or dry. Let trees branch low, and prune a little at transplanting.
As to whether underdraining, although a benefit in the abstract, is sufficiently so as to be a profitable operation in many cases, is a question deserving some thought before embarking largely on labor and materials, costing say a dollar against an improvement not worth more than one or two per cent, per annum, is not the most judicious expenditure. When one has a very wet piece of ground there can be no mistake about the value of underdraining it, provided one has no other ground fit for fruit trees that is not wet; but when the ground is naturally in fair condition, it would be well to go by the advice of some practical man, or at least experiment on a small scale first, before embarking largely in the improvement.
The Strawberry, where it has been covered during the winter, should be uncovered as early as possible in spring, that the warm spring suns may exert all their influence on producing an early crop. As soon as growth commences, a sowing of guano has been found to be of great benefit to the crop of fruit.
In the vegetable garden we have few hints to give to those who grow for profit. Pew seldom go into the vegetable business until they have had some amateur experience, and after this they know how to make money better than we can tell them. But the amateur may be benefited by what we say, and he can go into the profitable line afterwards.
In managing the vegetable garden the highest excellence should be aimed at. This is the chief source of pleasure in a garden. If one can take no pleasure in his garden; if the watching of the beautiful processes of nature in furnishing him food, and the many lessons they offer to teach, and which he in a thousand ways can so pleasurably and profitably apply, have no charms or attractions for him, he had better give up gardening; for, assuredly, in most cases - even to ninety-nine in one hundred instances - the market gardener will bring the vegetables to his own door cheaper than he can grow them. Amateur gardening should primarily be pursued for the lessons it teaches, and the pleasure it affords. When it ceases to do this it should be abandoned.
One of the most interesting parts of a vegetable garden is a hot-bed for starting seeds early. The end of the month will be time enough for those who have not command of a large supply of stable manure, as the very low temperature we often get at the end of the month, soon absorbs all the heat the hot bed possessed. It is in any event best to put up the beds in the warmest and most sheltered spots we can find, and to keep cold winds from the manure, by covering it with branches of trees or mats; and the glass should always be covered with mats at night. Tomatoes, egg-plants, peppers and cucumbers, are the first seeds to be sown this way. Cooler frames can be got ready for cauliflower, lettuce, beets, celery and Early York cabbage, a little of which may be sown about the end of the month for the earliest crop. The cauliflower is a particularly valued vegetable, and no expense spared to get them in perfection will be regretted when one's efforts are successful.
Those who have hot-beds will now sow tomatoes, egg-plants, peppers, and other vegetables that can be forwarded by this means; and those who have not, will sow them in boxes or pans, and forward them in windows. Every garden ought to have at least a few hot-bed sash to forward early vegetables; for if they have no means of applying artificial heat to them, the sash will of itself forward some things considerably.