This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
For the earliest house there should not be any outside borders. The border inside ought to be raised as for rose beds, but of greater depth, say about twenty inches, with hot water pipes beneath, and of course the drainage must be of the most perfect kind. The soil should be thus composed : One-half strong brown loam, one-fourth light sandy earth, an eighth part of leaf mould, an eighth part decayed cow manure; a moderate quantity of ground bone may be added, or old lime rubbish will be better, as the bone is apt to generate a species of grub which may be injurious. This bed or border is under full control, and the vines can be rested sooner than if their roots extended outside the grapery; consequently we can obtain much earlier fruit. Many know with what difficulty their vines are induced to start with their roots in a cold base; this and the practice of pruning before the foliage has entirely fallen, are the causes of this difficulty, and valuable time and fuel are lost thereby. For second early crops this kind of border will not be necessary, and those as at present in use are without doubt as good as may be. The object in having a border outside the house was, that when the roots had filled the inside one they would find their way outside.
But in most of the houses I have had in charge, I found hardly any inside the house; they had nearly all found their way to the outside. The proper place to plant, in my opinion, is at the centre of the house, and as they progress in growth, to lay down or bury three feet of the cane annually; in two years they will appear as if planted originally at the foot of the rafters. There will be no loss of fruit by this mode, as some apprehend, as the layering will not be performed until after the vines are pruned in December. Mulching the inside and keeping it so for a year or two will encourage the roots. There is objection to borders outside the house, as they are exposed to heavy rains, and being generally very rich, retain moisture a great length of time, and so injury to roots is apt to occur, and this may happen just as the grapes begin to color, and shanking and shriveling of the fruit often follow. There ought to be some protection used in these cases, so as to throw off superabundant moisture.