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 comparative ease with which good fruit of all kinds can be had at all seasons in America, makes less necessity for amateur culture than there is in Great Britain; but the house culture of grapes seems well worthy of more general adoption, for good as any fruit may be few things will compare with a well grown hothouse grape. On this account we are tempted to reproduce the following good sketch from the Loudon Journal of Horticulture:
"As some encouragement to amateurs who would like to commence grape-growing, and are afraid to make a start owing to doubts and difficulties which are conjured up in their minds, I have thought it might be useful if I relate the experience of an old retired gentleman in this district who, at my suggestion some years ago, was induced to make a small beginning. This has proved to him a great boon in many ways, but chiefly, as he firmly believes, in prolonging his life by many years, in consequence of the agreeable occupation and moderate exercise which the vines have occasioned him. He attends to them entirely himself, including stoking, thinning the grapes, and supplying water. Many people are under the impression that because they live in a town the luxury of vine-growing must be denied to them; but this is quite a delusion, as I hope I shall be able to prove. There is no reason whatever why every householder who may have a fair-sized back or front garden to his house cannot have a vinery or two and plenty of good grapes also, if he plants the right sort of vines and sees that the preliminary work of border draining and making is properly carried out.
"This gentleman's residence is in a town of about eight thousand inhabitants; at the back of his house he has a small yard walled in. Against a portion of this wall, with a south-west aspect, he built his first very small vinery - a rough-and-ready structure built by himself and a carpenter, at a trifling cost, obtaining a small second-hand boiler with two rows of piping, a flow and return. A border three yards wide and one yard deep was made with a compost of turf cut into not too small pieces, and into which had been previously mixed little half-inch bones and a sprinkling of old mortar rubbish, and in connection with which a drain had been laid to take away all stagnant water. His vines grew luxuriantly the first year, and soon reached the top of his house, and by a little firing in the autumn, to harden the wood and ripen the buds of the vines, he had the satisfaction of seeing in about twelve months after planting a good show of bunches on all the vines, as the result of his own attention and care, with an occasional hint from me. The vines were not allowed to carry more than three bunches each the first year, but were cut back as is usual, leaving them about two feet long. The second year they also grew well and ripened the grapes they carried finely.
In the autumn, as before, they were assisted with a brisk fire heat for about a month or six weeks (from the end of August to the beginning of October), to help to harden and ripen the wood of the vines. This is of much more importance than many are aware. The want of attending to it is more often the cause of failure (especially in the case of young vines,) than anything else I know. The vines were again cut back in the winter, this time to four or five feet, and carried the next year from five to seven bunches of grapes each. The year after (third year of bearing, four years after planting) his house was full of good plump grapes which would have done credit to any professional man, and of which, I assure you, the gentleman was very proud.
"Encouraged by his first success he built an- other vinery against a higher wall and rather longer in the same yard, which he planted with Black Alicante, and which has succeeded even better than the first, and which returns to him annually for surplus grapes sold the handsome sum of from £25 to £30. The old gentleman declares that he has no property (and he has a variety including house property) which returns him anything like the interest on the amount expended that this vinery does.
" I hope what I have narrated above will encourage others to try and do likewise. There are few districts to be found in which there are not gardeners who would be willing to assist gentle-men in this matter with suggestions and direc- tions how to proceed. To those who have not this channel of information, with your permis- sion I shall be glad to give more detailed directions in a future paper."