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.
In a communication from W. C. Strong, in the October number of the Horticul-turist, these sentences occur:
"In this connection, I would ask if any vine-growers have noticed any immunity from mildew to vines trained around cedar posts ? I have thought there was a perceptible difference in favor of vines on cedar posts. We might expect this result, for the aroma from the posts is known to be antiseptic, and it is quite powerful when the posts are new."
As it is probable that no definite conclusions have yet been arrived at on this subject, owing to the absence of direct experiment or comparative trial, I venture to offer my opinion on this point, which coincides with that of Mr. Strong, and, probably like his, is only based upon general observation. All the posts in my vineyard are of red cedar. Their average height above ground is about seven feet, and they stand eight feet apart each way. In the rows, they are connected by horizontal strips of white pine. My vines have never been noticeably troubled with mildew or insects; and those which have happened to be trained nearest to the posts have surpassed the others in general healthfulness of appear-ance and productiveness.
One single vine, in another locality, near the house, trained entirely on and around a cedar post on which the limbs were left uncut (or partially so), is the thriftiest and most productive vine on my place, free from everything noxious.
This is but inferential testimony, to be sure, and only good so far as it goes; but not without its weight, if it be confirmed by the same kind of testimony from others. The point will undoubtedly be more fully investigated during the coming season,, for, as Viticola says, "Mr. Strong's suggestion in regard to cedar posts may prove quite a valuable one."
In this connection I add the following, in the way of parol evidence. A neighbor, whose grapevines for a number of years have been grown and trained, with tolera-ble success, against a high and tight board fence, with an excellent exposure, has detached his vines for the last year or two from the fence, and caused each one to train itself on and around a cedar post, and considers it quite an improvement in every respect, including, incidentally, immunity from mildew.
The cedars are cut and prepared on the mountain; the leader is cut off so as to leave the body about ten feet long; the limbs on the upper half are shortened in somewhat, and those on the lower half are cut close to the body. When used in gar-* den or vineyard, they are set about three feet in the ground, leaving, of course, about seven feet above the surface. The main objection - and probably the only one - to their extensive use (especially for vineyard purposes) is, that the projecting limbs occupy too much space; but this waste of room is partially offset by the gain of time in taking care of them during the growing season, as they want no tying up of any consequence.
This difficulty can also be met - and it has been done in one instance within my knowledge - by flattening the limbs, so to speak, on two sides; that is, by bending some, and by cutting off others, from two opposite parts, to within a few inches of the body; and leaving the others partly trimmed and partly untrimmed for plashing. Prepared in this manner, and set in rows, with an occasional interweaving of the extremities of the longest branches, a serviceable and durable trellis may be formed, which may be expected to repel insects, and, perchance, mildew, from the combined influence of the wood itself and the facility for natural growth afforded by the manner of construction.
By the way, I have for a long time thought that many of the ills of vine-growth were directly traceable to the restraint which we are apt to put upon our free-growing native varieties. Are not our trellises too procrustean ? and our methods of confinement too rigid? Do limb and spray have a fair chance at full natural development ? I look upon motion as a necessary element in healthy vegetation of all kinds. More of this, perhaps, anon.
The following cut is intended to illustrate the foregoing idea of a cedar trellis.
The virtue of cedar wood does not consist (as I think, without wishing to appear hypercritical) in its being strictly antiseptic. Its aroma seems to act simply as a repellant, rendering the wood - particularly that of the red cedar (Juniperus Virginiana) - self-defensive against the attacks of worms and insects, and, possibly, against fungi of all kinds, including mildew.
This is a practical, straightforward statement, and the red cedar grape-stakes are undoubtedly good; but I have seen the Isabella grape mildew badly, in New Haven county, when trained on cedar trellis, not stakes. It is possible there may be a pungency exhale from new wood that for a year or two will repel sporida, and I am glad to read this record, and hope its suggestions will be acted upon. As a boy, I worked off the Sound shore, and there we grew the White Chasselas each year, by laying it down in winter. We grew our Isabellas on trellis, and clambering as they would upon the. old pear-trees, and those on the trees were always the most free from mildew.
Mr. Dewey's inductions here show that we are fast getting out of the tight-laced system of tying grapes to stiff rails, as well as reducing our barbarous practices of cutting away every twig and branch because it does net happen to harmonize with our preconceived views or leanings of grape pruning, or pur ideas of system and order.