Grapes can be grown in almost any soil, provided it is not a wet one, although the grape will take abundance of water when in a growing state, it must pass off quickly, else the growth will be impeded. If the ground is not naturally suitable, (i e., at least a foot in depth of good soil), a border prepared in the manner recommended in the chapter on "Cold Grapery," will well repay the trouble. It is imperative that the position where the vine is planted be such as will enable it to get sunlight for the greater portion of the day. Ten years ago I planted an arbor with an arched top and 100 feet long by 16 feet wide and 10 feet high, covering a walk running east and west; this gave a south and north exposure. The crop has always been excellent and abundant on the south side, and top of the arbor, but on the north side, (unless the first and second years of fruiting, when there was not sufficient foliage to impede the light), it has been nearly a failure. There is much misconception as to what should be the age of a grape-vine when planted; nine-tenths of our amateur customers ask for vines three or four years old. If a vine of that age could be properly lifted with every root unbroken, then there might be some advantage in its greater strength, but as vines are usually grown in the nurseries closely together, with the roots all interlaced, large plants can rarely be got with roots enough to support the vine and maintain its vigor after transplanting. As a rule it is better to plant one or two-year-old vines, which can usually be bought at half the price of those of three or four years old, and which in all probability will give a crop quite as soon, if not sooner, than the large ones. The manner of planting the vine is similar to that of setting any other tree or shrub. The ground must be thoroughly broken up, not in a mere hole only sufficient to hold the roots, but if a regular border has not been made, the place where each vine is to be planted, should not be less than three feet in diameter, and if double that, all the better, and to the depth of not less than a foot. On receiving the vine from the nursery, it may consist of one or more shoots, but on planting it should be cut back to only two or three eyes or buds. On starting to grow, all of these buds or eyes should be rubbed off except one, selecting the strongest. Train this shoot perpendicularly to a stake the first year of its growth, ike next fall, when the leaves drop, cut it back to nine or ten inches from the ground. "When the vine starts the next spring, rub off all eyes or buds except two, which during the season will form two canes, as in Fig. 54. These, if they are canes half an inch in diameter, are in fall to be pruned to three or four feet long, and the following spring are to be trained horizontally, one to the right, the other to the left. If at the end of the second year they are still small, it is better to delay laying down the arms until another year, and grow two upright shoots again, to get them sufficiently strong. These will form the base from which to start the upright shoots, as shown in fig. 55. These upright growths will be the permanent fruiting canes, and should be from 15 to 18 inches apart, and pruned on what is known as the spur system as shown by fig. 56. There is nothing arbitrary as to the hight these canes should be. It is a matter of convenience or taste whether they be trained to 3 feet or 15 feet. Vines thus treated may be allowed to produce a few bunches the third year, and by the sixth year, may be fruited to the hight of 10 or 12 feet of cane if desired. Not more than two bunches of fruit should be allowed to each shoot. We give this manner of training as one of the simplest, although the system of training has but little to do with the crop.
Fig. 54. - Vine With Two Shoots.
Fig. 55. - Vine With Arms.
Fig. 56. - Tine Spur-Pruned.
The distance apart at which grape-vines may be planted, except the Delaware and a few of the weaker growing sorts, is about eight feet; the Delaware may be set one-third closer. Although grape-vines are hardy in nearly all sections, yet in any locality where the thermometer falls to zero, it is beneficial to lay them down close to the ground and cover them up with rough litter before the approach of severe weather in winter, allowing it to remain on in spring until the buds begin to swell, when the vines are uncovered and tied up to the trellis. If covered in this way they should be pruned before laying down. Pruning may be done at any time from November to March. It is a common belief that grape-vines should be pruned only at certain seasons. The weather must not be too cold, otherwise it is supposed they may be injured if then pruned. Again, they must not be pruned late in the spring, else the sap oozing from the cuts may bleed them to death. Let me say that both these notions are utter nonsense. The pruning of any tree or vine in the coldest weather cannot possibly injure, and the "bleeding" or running of the sap after any ordinary pruning, can no more hurt the vine than the blood flowing from a pin scratch would weaken a healthy man. This method of covering up the grape-vine is not commonly practised, but we are satisfied that in exposed positions it is well worth the trouble. I have practised it with vines now ten years old, embracing some 20 varieties; my soil is a stiff clay very unsuitable for the grape, yet these vines have kept clear of mildew, when my neighbor's vines a few hundred yards off have been seriously injured by it. I have long believed that intense cold, long continued, is hurtful to even such plants as we call hardy, and the wonderful vigor of these old vines, so treated, seems a good evidence of it.
The litter used in covering, (which has become well-rotted by spring), is spread over the border, acting both as a summer mulch and fertilizer. Mildew is the worst enemy to the vino; the same remedy we recommend in this book for mildew on roses, will be found equally efficacious for the grape. On the large scale dry sulphur is used, blown upon the vines by a bellows for the purpose.
Fig. 57. Cutting.
Propagation of the grape is done by nurserymen in greenhouses, similar to that used for propagating florists plants. But most of the varieties can be grown with fair success by cuttings in the open air. The cuttings, (made from the young, well ripened shoots of the previous year's growth), may be made with two (Fig. 57) or three buds or eyes, planted in rows, say one foot apart and three inches between the cuttings, and set so that the top eye or bud only is above ground. The situation where the cuttings are placed should be well exposed to the sun, the soil rich and deep, and of sandy or light character. Care must be taken that the cutting is well firmed in the soil. The cuttings may be made from the prunings at any time during winter, and kept in a damp cellar or buried outside in sand until planted in the cutting-bed in the spring.