This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
"We will just take a look through, if you please. We understand you have commenced forcing?" "Look through with pleasure, sir; but you will see no forcing." "No forcing?" "No, sir, no forcing" "Why, I understood that you forced all your vines." "People very often get into errors, sir, and make very grave mistakes, which we are sorry to see; and if they have told you, sir, that we force our vines, that is a monstrous error." "Well," said Mr. Pry, "let us have a look at your bare vines, then; it's no use coming here for nothing." So he got an introduction to " Vitis Vinifera".
"Ah, sir, I thought you told me you did not force. How comes it the foliage and fruit are showing if you don't force?" "By inducing it, sir." Mr. Pry knitted his brows, shrugged his shoulders, and walked on - more sharper - never said another word to us after that, Mr. Editor. We thought he had picked up the name of some plant, and was hurrying home with it as fast as possible to write it down before he forgot it.
Nothing requires, perhaps, more care and thought than the vine in attempting to bring it into growth out of its natural season. There is, perhaps, more damage done by an excess of heat in the early season of the year than from any other cause. We should bear in mind that all our vine-borders are not constructed on "Bright's system," inside the house, with a compost nearly allied to the atmospheric temperature, but that the roots are in a cold, and oftentimes wet, perishing soil, and that soil, perhaps, not much above the freezing point. Force up the sap, is the cry. Let us understand, first, how it is to be made. A liquidization, first, of all that sap in the branches that has been congealed by the loss of heat the previous fall takes place. Now, let us mark this operation in reference to the heat applied. If too high a temperature, this liquid is evaporated, leaving some of the spurs and buds dead; in other cases, it will shoot off and burst out, perhaps, in one single eye, with the consistency of a straw. There is no proper circulation of the sap going on. This is what we call forcing. The above results are more perceptible in badly-ripened wood, than when vines are regularly early worked.
Let us now follow this sap that has been worked up at a high temperature down the vine into that wet, icy, perishable soil. How is it going to return? What have the poor roots been able to collect out of that wet, clammy soil? Something congenial to elaborate that beautiful tissue of the leaf, the tender and delicate anther and pollen? Or would this be something like ourselves turned out of a hot room, lightly clad, into the frost and snow, barefoot, to go a distance for a drink of water to quench a parching thirst? What would be our condition on re-entering this hot room? Faint, sick, clogging up of all the pores, tremendous internal heat, and oh, I think I shall die! Because plants have not tongues and throats to make a noise and cry out they are dying! it appears it is all right. I sometimes think it is well for us that plants are not possessed with good strong muscular arms; it saves us many a box on our intellectual craniums.
There are many reasons why the process of developing the powers of the vine should be slow, and the temperature low, in what is termed "early forcing" There is the partial absence of light, which influence has a wonderful power in producing the dark green foliage with a texture and solidity that delights us to look on. We say, work steady and low. Let the vine develop itself. Do not attempt to develop the vine. Watch the foliage narrowly. If it comes out and seems to stand for a few days all crumpled up, something like a young rhubarb leaf in miniature, you may rest assured that the vine is doing the work just in its own way - expanding just as fast as it can collect material for elaboration; but if you see the young leaf appear, and almost at once it is expanded into its proper form, with a texture that a person with ordinary good eyesight could read a newspaper through, and of a beautiful, delicate light-green, then you may depend upon the fact that you have been forcing in good earnest. This sort of forcing is similar to a man we once saw with a pump placed on a heap of ice. The ice was slowly condensing, and he continued with all his might and main to pump up the condensed water, but it did not come.
After a while, he got exhausted and stopped; presently, away he drives again, and he succeeded in getting some little, and then again it stopped. He would look sometimes into the pump, and around the pump; he never, as we saw, looked into the right place. We left him looking, and ran home - "more sharper" - to make a note of it.
As soon as the young shoot showing the fruit has grown long enough to discover a leaf or two beyond the bunch, pinch out the point immediately; this will throw the sap direct into the bunch and remaining leaves. We saw that man at the pump one day breaking off the ends of these young shoots after they had grown some eighteen inches past the bunch - snapped off so very easy at a good joint, he said, and was much less trouble. We thought this was very much like chopping off a man's arms and letting him bleed to death. Poor vines, we wish they had tongues.
Increase the temperature gradually as they advance toward flowering. When vines are worked in a medium temperature, they will not require so much evaporating moisture as is requisite in high temperatures. Keep the night heat not above 60° Fahrenheit. The man at the pump showed us a shoot the other day that had, he said, during the night, grown more than twelve inches. We thought it was no growth at all, but merely forcing an elongation of the cellular tissue. When syringing, use common soap in the water constantly; it will save some trouble with those little animals that come from somewhere, they call red spider, thrips, scale, yes, and mildew.
Begin to thin out the berries from the bunches just so soon as you can be sure they are berries. Just try this little experiment on one vine, if it is only to convince that man at the pump. Tell him, also, that it is not the amount of that luscious saccharine matter which destroys the productiveness of the vine or its longevity, but that it is the seed - that which contains the "Great Life Principle".
Tax this in the vine - in any thing, vegetable creation or animal - and Death is the inevitable doom.
[It is, no doubt, fortunate for the "Man at the Pump" that vines have not arms, or his cranium certainly would suffer. Many of the difficulties of starting vines early would be overcome by converting the whole interior of the house into a border, and planting the vines inside, as we have heretofore recommended. Fox Meadow's caution against using too much heat in starting a vine, can not be too well considered, for it is a frequent cause of failure. All who have forcing-houses will do well to think of the "Man at the Pump." - Ed].