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.
Dear Sir - In the August number of the Horticulturist for 1846, you present Doctor Lindley's theory of pruning grape vines, and recommend as the result of your experience, the omission of summer pruning - neither to remove the laterals, nor to stop the fruit bearing branches, unless the vines be too thick, when you remove a portion of the branches with the fruit entire. Has any recent experience induced you to modify or change the opinion there expressed, respecting summer pruning in open culture? Your correspondent " H. G.," in your last number, on the culture of grapes under glass, directs the shoots to be "constantly stopped a joint or two above the fruit." This severe pruning is no doubt required under glass.
Mr. Lawrence Young, a horticulturist of some experience, in the May number, page 208, speaks of severe summer pruning of the fruit bearing and lateral branches as the only correct practice, acknowledged to be so by all Cultivators, and says that " every body does or may know it to be the proper culture." The writer of this is not satisfied that the culture is correct, though he has given the subject attention during the last eight years.
One of our successful cultivators on a small scale, has grapevines in this city, twenty-seven years old, reared from cuttings by himself, which are planted seven feet apart, trained to an upright trellis eight feet high; these vines are pruned in the spring, on the renewal system, allowing three or four canes of the last year's growth to remain, which are trained in short curves, at full length to the trellis; other branches he cuts down to two eyes, to form bearing wood for the next year, then he permits them to grow in a straight diagonal direction until they reach the top of the trellis, when he bends them over and stops them after they have grown about eighteen inches in a downward direction on the opposite side. All the wood that has borne fruit is cut out the following spring. The fruit bearing shoots from the wood of the previous season, are allowed to grow freely until they reach the top of the trellis, when they are stopped, the lateral shoots from these are not stopped or cut off.
The only summer pruning the vines receive is that shore described, together with the removal of a few leaves when they cause too dense a shade over the fruit. His Catawba and Isabella vines are confined in a space of six feet by eight feet high, and are every season loaded with fruit, from within eighteen inches of the ground to the top of the trellis. The berries are of good size, though the bunches ere not quite so large, as may be obtained when a Catawba vine is permitted to run twenty to thirty feet, and bear its fruit on the end, as some amateurs here fancy to train their vines, the bare stems having the appearance of old cordage hung about from prop to prop, with amass of verdure attached to the end. In return for this unsightly mode of culture, they certainly do obtain a few larger bunches of grapes, than I have seen produced in the open air under any other mode of culture. You will oblige your correspondent, by saying whether the experience of the past six years has changed the opinion of the mode of summer pruning, recommended in your journal in August 1846. Respectfully, C.
Louisville, Ky., July 9, 1852
Our opinion relating to vines out of doors is substantially the same: that is to say, we advise every leaf to be left, and only stop the fruit bearing branches when they become so long as to become unmanageable - i.e. fill up the trellis or stake too much. The severe system of pruning out of door vines is both unnatural and unsuited to our climate. Under glass the vine is placed under artificial conditions and may be successfully subjected to various modes of pruning and culture.
In cultivating Isabellas and Catawbas for fruit (not wine) in the garden or field, two things are most important. The first is to give the roots - to the very ends - in the autumn, an immense top dressing of stable manure (digging it in well,) for no tree needs so much animal matter as the grape; the second is to prune the vine very closely, carefully and thoroughly in the early spring or at the close of winter. These two things will always secure a fine crop of very large fruit. Summer pruning is only a secondary - though still important matter. Ed.