Bonsall has a vineyard of American Grapes at Germantown, Pa., in a high state of cultivation. In page 331 of Prince's Treatise on the Vine, is a letter to the author, containing some valuable information, from which the following is extracted as appropriate to our subject.
Mr. Bonsall's vineyard is situated between the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers, four miles from the former, and eight from the latter, at an elevation of three hundred feet above their level; has an aspect facing S. S. E., with a substratum of light isinglass soil, and seems well suited to the purpose. He says, "from my experience, both on my premises and at other places, it is my opinion that we should reject almost all the foreign varieties, especially where our object in cultivating them is to make wine." He has upward of thirty varieties of American vines under cultivation; be recommends preparing the ground by ploughing with two ploughs with strong teams, one immediately behind the other, in the same furrow, each of them set deep; and after the ploughing is completed, to be harrowed thoroughly. Then in the direction the rows are intended to be planted, parallel furrows are run across the field, at the distance of eight feet from each other; these are afterward crossed at right an gles, five feet asunder. In the opening, at the intersection of these furrows, cuttings from nine to twelve inches long are planted, and arranged with a view to the vines being, when grown, at distances of four by seven feet from each other; to this end he frequently plants two cuttings in a place, some of which are used to fill up with, in case of failures. He says, that in 1829 he planted in nursery beds from two to three thousand cuttings as late as the middle of April to the middle of May, with better success than at any previous time. "In this case the slips should be kept in a cool, damp place, where vegetation may be held in check. To insure their freshness, sprinkle them occasionally with water. Previous to planting cut them a proper length, and place them with their lower ends three or four inches in water, in a tub above ground, where they may soak three or four days. At this season the temperature will be likely to be such as to spur vegetation at once into healthy and vigorous action. The autumn, or early in the spring, is preferable for rooted plants. In the autumn of the first year, after the frost has killed the unripe part of the young shoots, they should be pruned down to the mature, firm wood, and then with a hoe hilled over with the surrounding soil, which will completely protect them through the winter. If left without protection the first winter, many of them will perish."
Mr. Bonsall says, his mode of training, as far as he is aware of it, is entirely peculiar to himself, which he describes as follows: "I take chestnut posts, the thickness of large fence rails, seven feet in length; these I plant along the rows, at distances of ten feet from each other, and at such a depth as to leave five feet above the surface of the earth; then taking three nails to each post, and driving them to within half an inch of their heads, the first two and a half feet from the ground, a second midway between that and the top, and the third near the top, I attach No. 11 iron wire (one degree soft is best) firmly to one of the nails in the end post, pass on to the next, and stretching it straight and tight, give it one turn round a nail in the same line as the one to which it was first attached. Having in this manner extended it along the three courses, the whole length of the row, my trellis is formed. I have had a portion of my vine - yard fitted up in this way for three years, and experience has confirmed the superior fitness of the plan. It is not its least recommendation, that it possesses in a degree the character of labour-saving machinery. A very important and extensive labour-making portion of the operations in the vineyard during the summer, is the attention required by the growing shoots to keep them properly trained up. They grow and extend themselves so rapidly, that where the strips of the trellis are lath, or where poles are used to support vines, unless very closely watched, they fall down in every direction, in a very unsightly and injurious manner. Here the wire being small, the tendrils or claspers eagerly and firmly attach themselves to it, and thus work for themselves in probably two-thirds of the instances where the attention of the vigneron would otherwise be required. There is a free access afforded to the sun and air, and no hold for the wind to strain the frame," etc. Mr. Bonsall says farther, "I shall not enter into a minute description of my manner of pruning, but may just say, that after the vines have attained a full capacity for production, (say five years from the cutting,) my view is to prepare them for bearing an average of fifty clusters to each, leaving several shoots of from three to five joints on a vine for this purpose. When fresh pruned, they will not be more than four feet high, at their greatest age."
Dr. R. T. Underhill, of New-York, has a vineyard at Croton Point, near Sing Sing, where, after having sunk thousands of dollars in attempting to raise the most celebrated foreign varieties, he abandoned the project as visionary, and commenced planting the Isabella Grape in 1832, and the Catawba in 1835. Mr. Underhill has now upward of twenty acres of these grapes, chiefly of the former, under the most successful cultivation. He says that the Isabella Grape ripens two or three weeks earlier than the Catawba, and that these two varieties are, in his estimation, the best adapted for general purposes; the former yielding with him a more valuable crop than any other with which he is acquainted. He says that the quality of this fruit has improved very much within a few years, the clusters and berries being much larger and sweeter; and that they are capable of still greater improvement by high cultivation.