Underhill's communication to the editor of the 'Cultivator,' published January 28th, 1843:
"In this latitude, (south of the highlands of the Hudson,) I find that the Isabella Grape ripens quite as well when planted in a level field, protected from the north and west winds by woods or hedges, as on declivities. Several of my vineyards are thus located, and, as far as I can perceive, the fruit ripens at about the same time, and is of the same quality as those planted on steep side-hills. I think, however, that north of the highlands, side - hills would be preferable. To prepare the ground for a vineyard, the best way is to turn over the whole of the surface soil from fifteen to eighteen inches in depth, early in the spring, by ploughing twice in the same furrow. This will place the richest part of the soil in a position where it will give the greatest supply of nourishment to the vines. Few vineyards in this country have been prepared in this way; but the cost is so small and the advantages so great, that it should be done wherever there are no rocks or large stones to prevent it."
The following observations on the destruction of the Rose-bug, were also published in the 'Cultivator,' Sept. 13 1S42:
"I observed that when the rose-bugs first appeared on the vines, they were so feeble as to be unable to fly even for a few yards. Having surmounted all other difficulties, I was determined not to be defeated in the vineyard cultivation of the Grape by this insect, and consequently resorted to the following means for its destruction. I directed my men to take each a cup, with a little water in it, and go through the vineyards every morning, removing every bug from the vines; and this was done quite rapidly by passing the cup under the leaf and merely touching it, when the bugs instantly dropped, and were received in the cup containing the water. When the cup was full, they were soon destroyed by pressing the foot upon them on a hard surface. This plan was persevered in every morning as long as a bug could be found, and was attended with such success, that they have given me very little trouble since. I also tried ploughing my vineyards just before winter set in, so as to expose to the weather the insect in the larvae state, which will certainly destroy the young tribe that have not descended below the reach of the plough. For two years past the number has been so small that I have omitted this process for their destruction. - R. T. Underhill."
Although the man of taste and capacity for improving on the improvements of others, may have gleaned ideas from the above extracts, sufficient to enable him to cultivate the vine in his own garden, it may be necessary to direct the reader's attention to the different methods of cultivating this excellent fruit in varied situations.
A vine may be trained horizontally under the coping of a close fence or wall, to a great distance, and the borders in an east, southeast, and southern aspect of large gardens, may be furnished with a variety of sorts, which will ripen in great perfection, without encumbering the borders; or the plants may be trained low, like currant bushes; in which case, three or more shoots, eighteen inches or two feet in length, may diverge from the stem near the ground, to supply young wood annually for bearing. The summer pruning consists in removing shoots which have no fruit, or are not required for the succeeding season; and in topping fruit-bearing shoots, and also those for succeeding years, when inconveniently long and straggling. For as, by this mode, the shoots destined to bear are all cut into three or four eyes at the winter pruning, no inconvenience arises from their throwing out laterals near the extremities, which topping will generally cause them to do.
In training vines as standards, the single stem at the bottom is not allowed to exceed six or eight inches in height, and from this two or three shoots are trained, or tied to a single stake of three or four feet in length. These shoots bear each two or three bunches, within a foot or eighteen inches of the ground, and they are annually succeeded by others which spring from their base, that is, from the crown or top of the dwarf main stem. This is the mode practised in the North of France and in Germany; in the South of France and Italy, the base or main stem is often higher, and furnished with side shoots, in order to afford a great supply of bearing wood, which is tied to one or more poles of greater height. The summer pruning, in this case, is nearly the same as in the last. In the winter pruning, the wood that has borne is cut out, and the new wood shortened, in cold situations, to three or four eyes, and in warmer places, to six or eight eyes.
Nicol observes, that "Most of the summer pruning of vines may be performed with the fingers, without a knife, the shoots to be displaced being easily rubbed off, and those to be shortened, being little, are readily pinched asunder." After selecting the shoots to be trained for the production of a crop next season, and others necessary for filling the trellis from the bottom, which shoots should generally be laid in at the distance of a foot or fifteen inches from each other, rub off all the others that have no clusters, and shorten those that have, at one joint above the uppermost cluster. For this purpose, go over the plants every three or four days till all the shoots in fruit have shown their clusters, at the same time rubbing off any water shoots that may rise from the wood.
Train in the shoots to be retained, as they advance. If there be an under trellis, on which to train the summer shoots, they may, when six or eight feet in length, or when the Grapes are swelling, be let down to it, that the fruit may enjoy the full air and light as it advances toward maturity. Such of these shoots as issue from the bottom, and are to be shortened in the winter pruning to a few eyes, merely for the production of wood to fill the trellis, may be stopped when they have grown to the length of four or five feet. Others that are intended to be cut down to about two yards, and which issue at different heights, may be stopped when they have run three yards, or ten feet, less or more, according to their strength. And those intended to be cut at or near the top of the trellis, should be trained a yard or two down the back, or a trellis may be placed so as to form an arbour; or they may be placed to run right or left a few feet on the uppermost wire.
The stubs or shoots on which the clusters are placed will probably push again after being stopped, if the plants be vigorous. If so, stop them again and again; but after the fruit are half grown, they will seldom spring. Observe to divest the shoots, in training, of all laterals as they appear, except the uppermost on each, in order to provide against accidents, as hinted before, in training the newly-planted vines. When these shoots are stopped, as directed above, they will push again. Allow the lateral that pushes, to run a few joints, and then shorten it back to one, and so on as it pushes, until it stops entirely. When the proper shoots get ripened nearly to the top, the whole may be cut back to the originally shortened part, or to one joint above it, if there be reason to fear that the uppermost bud of the proper shoot will start.
Divest the plants of all damped and decayed leaves as they appear, as such will sometimes occur in continued hazy weather, and be particularly cautious not to injure the leaf that accompanies the bunch, for if that is lost, the fruit will be of little value.
"Every one of penetration and discernment," Nicol observes, "will admit the utility of thinning the berries on bunches of Grapes, in order that they may have room to swell fully; and, farther, that of supporting the shoulders of such clusters of the large growing kinds as hang loosely, and require to be suspended to the trellis or branches, in order to prevent the bad effects of damp or mouldiness in very moist seasons. Of these, the Hamburgh, Lombardy, Royal Muscadine, Raisin, St. Peter's, Syrian, Tokay, and others, should have their shoulders suspended to the trellis, or to the branches, by strands of fresh matting, when the berries are about the size of garden peas. At the same time, the clusters should be regularly thinned out with narrow pointed scissors, to the extent of from a fourth to a third part of the berries. The other close-growing kinds, as the Frontignacs, Muscats, etc, should likewise be moderately thinned, observing to thin out the small seedless berries only of the Muscadine, Sweet Water, and flame-coloured Tokay. In this manner, handsome bunches and full-swelled berries may be obtained; but more so, if the clusters or over-burdened plants be also moderately thinned away. Indeed, cutting off the clusters, to a certain extent, of plants overloaded, and pushing weak wood, are the only means by which to cause them to produce shoots fit to bear fruit next year; and this should be duly attended to, so long as the future welfare of the plants is a matter of importance.",
The preceding observations may be considered as falling short of what may be expected on the cultivation of so important a fruit as the Grape; but it is introduced into this book only as a dessert fruit. The modes of training in vineyards and vineries are alike suited to the garden. Low training may be practised in borders or hedge rows, in large gardens; and high training in sheltered situations, on high trellises or arbours. By proper management, the vine may be elevated to the middle story of a house by a single stem, and afterwards trained to a great height according to the taste of the proprietor. As the vine is often trained near buildings, an awning may be conveniently formed over the tops so as to admit of fumigating the vine with smoke from tobacco, etc, as may be necessary in the summer season; or a sort of movable tent may be made of light boards, and cheap glazed linen, or an old sail, etc, capable of covering the vine while a smoke is created underneath; this will effectually destroy such insects as may annoy the vine, and may prevent mildew and other diseases.