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.
Size - medium. Form - variable, obovate-pyriform inclining to ovate. Calix - small, closed, moderately sunk. Stem - short, about three-fourths of an inch long, inserted without depression. Color - lemon-yellow, partially covered with thin traces of russet, particularly at the stem and calyx; occasionally with bright vermilion cheek. Flesh - white, melting, juicy, and buttery. Flavor - sweetand from the 10th to 26th May continued to open their blossoms. About the middle of July we had a succession of damp and foggy weather, with the wind prevailing south and southeast, when mildew began to show itself. The house was then dried off; no more water was applied inside, as the weather continued damp and the grapes were ripening. Air was admitted above more abundantly, but with caution, and'the floor sprinkled over with sulphur; after which, for three or four days, the heat was allowed to rise to 110° in the middle of the day. What little mildew could be found was cleared off, and not much appeared afterwards.
I mention this more particularly as the above pest has the past season been more than usually prolific in this neighborhood, and as I feel further convinced that this is the best method of getting rid of it.
Mr. Messer says, with respect to his own house, that "if there had been no forcing in the spring, the Hamburghs, Muscats, and Frontignans would have been worthless;" and that in his neighbor's, many clusters of the Purple Frontignans decayed prematurely. This has not been the case here; for out of the number above stated there were only some seven or eight bunches which shrivelled, and those were Muscat Blanc Hatif and Royal Chasselas, the former of which only cracked a few berries the past season, although it is very apt to do so. The last Grapes were cut in good order on the 18th November, viz., West's St. Peter's, Heine de Nice, Syrian, and Palestine; and these would have hung longer, but were wanted for use.
This house was planted in March, 1850, and contains 74 vines. In 1851 there were cut 262 bunches; in 1852, 618 bunches; and last year, 918 bunches; - making a total of 1798 bunches. The vines have made healthy, strong, and well-ripened wood, with plump, prominent eyes, for next season, and are, if anything, in better order than heretofore; and this without the aid of "dead carcases," which your correspondent, Mr. McKay, is so much in love with.
Facts are stubborn things, 'tis said, and both Mr. McKay and Mr. Cleveland seem disposed to give this position to the public Now, it is just possible both have failed to support the principle for which they are contending. I do not think that any man of experience will deny that the latter gentleman's old horse did make a quantity of rich material, and that in this well-rotted state his vine roots did luxuriate therein; and that the former's eighty head of cattle did contribute somewhat toward the rapid growth of his Isabellas, by being buried so deep; and that the gaseous matter evolved therefrom distributed itself among the superincumbent stratum, which had been well worked and loosened up, and which it is presumed was something of a "maiden" earth, therefore just in the state to absorb and retain such - like a dog with an empty stomach, it wanted something organic; - and that afterwards, when the whole was thoroughly decayed, the roots were found in abundance among the bones, and what would be black mold, rich in organic ingredients.
But how far does either example go to prove the advantage of using these same substances in a fresh state, and in the wholesale quantities, along with or even under other rich material in a vine border, to such an extent as sometimes is done, and until the whole mass is glutted until it is one mass of putrefaction. If we are driven to facts, let us abide by them. Therefore, anything extraordinary; or has he even obtained as much, of better quality, in the same time, and with his vines in any better order for futurity, than I have recorded above, and this without any such nuisance. He speaks of the great number of premiums that have been awarded to him; but is it that he has produced something very wonderful from time to time, or is it rather because he has not had much superiority to contend against In a former article, (Horticulturist, 1852, p. 110,) he says that his "vines were not allowed to bear a bunch till the fourth year after planting," and that at the end of eight years he has "never been able to ripen perfectly more than nine or ten bunches on any single vine." Now this does not argue much for the benefit to be derived from such material as he advocates.
With regard to Mr. McKay's example, he jumps at a conclusion rather too fast, without having proved much in favor of the argument. In the first place he has a gravelly bottom - the one above all others most suited to the Grape vine, as admitting of good drainage; his soil is particularly well worked, with some manure added where the roots could take hold of it, which would enable the vines to luxuriate finely for a length of time, until the fleshy part of his oxen was all decayed into mold; and as all the lumps only covered a part of the whole area, the superabundant water could drain away, and with his good culture the soil would remain porous; therefore the gases would be taken up by his fresh base soil, which would render it more fertile. This is a very different circumstance to what is advocated with respect to vine borders; and when Mr. McKay has seen as much mischief done as I have, by the use of these materials, he will not be so sanguine about fresh carrion. I do not deny the good properties of animal manures, when thoroughly decomposed, and in reasonable quantity, but do protest against gorging the ground with them in a fresh state; for no root can exist in contact with such matter: and as barn-yard manure will answer the same purpose, and is generally much more convenient and cheap, where is the advantage ?
With respect to the cultivation of hardy Grapes, there is no doubt but what if the same attention were bestowed on them as there is on the exotic, they would be equal in luxuriance to the latter, and might be made to produce fruit of far better quality than is generally seen; and your correspondent in this instance has only shown what good culture will do: and further, if he will use good barn-yard manure freely, with the same good tillage which he has heretofore practiced, I am very much mistaken if, after a "patient trial," he will not then admit that it is not so indispensably requisite to use dead oxen or any other animal flesh.
The presumption respecting the cure of mildew by cutting off the top roots, is so devoid of physiological fact, and so opposed to experience and observation, that I must own my incompetency to understand it. Is it not more likely that the healthiness of his vines wards it off, as there are plenty of examples to prove this probability?