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.
F. W. Wood-ward, Esq.: Can you not tell us in the Horticulturist what to do with our grapevines ? Rules made for the East are utterly at fault in this soil and climate - which crowds them forward at such tre-mendous speed. We may prune and pinch as much as we choose, but we can not keep them in the bounds prescribed in the "books." Hadn't we better "let 'em run ?" I mean, had we better set them fifteen or twenty feet apart, and with high trellises give them sufficient room not to crowd the foliage, and dispense with so much "pinching?" With such rankness of growth, I think it must gorge with sap and induce mildew and rot. We give grapes our poorest soil on hillsides, and no manure. Respectfully, C. H. Cushing. Leavenworth, Kansas, July l, 1868.
[The remark made by William R. Prince, - Esq., some years since, at one of the American Pomological Society's meetings, that "our native grapevine is emblematic of the American people, and must have room to expand," seems fully exhibited in the above and many other records we have received from those who are growing the named varieties in the rich virgin soils of the West. Our readers, if they have followed our remarks on grape-training during the past two years, or since the time of Mr. Mead leaving the editorial chair, will remember that we have continuously advocated longer winter and spring pruning than is generally laid down in the books, and in summer pruning we have advised less severe pinching-in than most writers; while if there is too much fruit set for the health of the vine, by reason of the long pruning, we have advised the disbudding or cutting away part of the bunches after they are well set. In our native varieties there is so great a difference in vigor, that no one rule of distance or length of training is found applicable to all.
Each must have its appropriate distance in planting as well as length in pruning, and this again will vary in soils and climates, so that we now, as heretofore, venture the remark, that whoever writes on the culture of the grape must make his writings identical with and applicable to each variety in course; and to do this he must have prepared himself by a careful observation of the variety whose culture he attempts to direct, in many different soils and climates, or otherwise his teaching will apply only to one locality - viz., that of his standpoint of observation - and not become of much value to the public generally. We know not who there is to assume this role, but we are satisfied that a little work on the Concord Grape alone, written in a good common-sense view, regardless of all foreign authors, and illustrated to life, not fancy, would meet a ready and extensive sale. The Catawba would bear another view; the Delaware another; and so on with Norton's Virginia, etc.; while there are many sorts so nearly allied to these, that with some slight changes, by means of intermediate notes in the text, the direction for one might be made to apply to another. - Ed].
Cuttings of almost any plant may be struck now, because the common soil is almost as warm as a hot-bed, and a sash placed over it almost anywhere, and shaded, will soon produce a mild, gentle, moist atmosphere. The best cuttings for this time are formed from the ends of the young growing shoots; but any young wood, and even badly formed cuttings, may now be easily struck. It is a good plan for beginners to practice at this season, for if they fail with the first, there is time for renewal without loss or expense, as sometimes results from inexperience during early spring propagating. Sharp sandy loam is a good material for the bed, and it should be looked at as often as once a day, and, when needed, sprinkled with tepid water. Morning is the best time to do this.
Editor Horticulturist : I am a novice in grape-growing, but from statements made of the profits accruing therefrom, I, two years since, planted about eleven acres, mostly with Catawba as the great American wine grape, some Concords, some Delawares, some Ives, and some Norton's Virginia. Since the planting, I have drank of wines of all these varieties, and had I known then as much as now, would have have planted more of Nortons; but having my vines now out and growing finely, the modes of pruning them have troubled me not a little. One of my friends cut all his vines, without regard to kinds, down to two canes of three buds each this past spring. But not seeing the policy of pruning all sorts alike, I practiced by the ad-vice of a close observer, but not a practical man, and cut my weak and puny vines down to one or two buds; left my next strongest with one cane of three or four buds; and my very strongest canes, and especially the coarse, rank growing kinds, I left with two canes each, of six or seven buds each. My vines are now all looking well, and the weakly ones are rapidly becoming strong, making very vigorous new canes. But without telling more of my own, I am anxious for information.
As I say, my planting is mostly of the Catawba, which although it had a character, at my time of planting, for rotting, at Cincinnati, yet North and West no such statement had come to my knowledge ; and besides, I, after an examination of Cincinnati vine-yardists' practice, regarded them as behind the age, a class who were following dogmas introduced by the old country laborers, through Longworth, few or none of whom had any knowledge except to follow out a mechanical practice in grape pruning, according as their employer abroad had dictated. I may seem a little harsh in this statement, but I write just as I thought, and with no assertion that my views are correct, therefore I trust no harm. The practice above named of my friend this past spring in cutting his vines according to book, to me seemed also the carrying out of the Cincinnatian dogmas, and therefore my unwillingness to adopt it. Lately I have been looking at my vines and comparing them with my friend's. His have more or less of yellow leaves; mine are all quite green. Some of his Catawbas are showing signs of rot; nothing of the kind is yet evident on mine. He has pinched and trimmed from the first; I have done nothing but take away the false shoots or sprouts from close down at the crown.
Of course the season is only part over, and now I want to know what to do. 1 am getting a great quantity of foliage. Shall I cut away ? or shall I let it run ? I see, at a late discussion on grapes at the Cincinnati Horticultural Society, that not only Catawba but Ives were reported rotting. Some disputed the fact of the Ives rotting, but conceded it a general thing with Catawba, all except instances of vines that were left unpruned and grown on trees and high trellises, a point that seemed to me sticking out against their barbarous pruning practice so boldly that even blind men could hardly fail of seeing it. But now what shall I do? My vines, Catawbas, are eight and ten feet on wire trellis. Shall I cut? or let 'em run?
J. T. Lane. [Remarks. - Our correspondent is a little harsh on the practice of severe pruning of the grapevine as practiced by a large number of vignerons around Cincinnati, and yet all testimony of practice, and the ory of vegetable physiology, is concurrent in acknowledgment of a destructive or enfeebling agency produced on the vine by too severe pruning, either in winter or summer. For ourself, we do not think severe winter pruning as injurious as the destruction of foliage or allowance of natural action of the vine in summer; and if we owned our correspondent's vines, all we should do would be to pinch at this time the last half inch off from the end of every shoot. After many years' practice in training and study of the vine, a large part of it in the vineyard, we find each year adding to our impressions of the expansive character of our native vines; and while we once planted a certain sort four by four feet, we now would plant the same sort eight by eight, and do not then feel certain that we have given it room.
Every year's observation convinces us more and more of the necessity of giving such vines as Concord, Norton, Ives, Rogers' 4, 15, 19, etc., abundance of room in order to keep them in unimpaired health, and yet not reduce them by a too great expansion or surface, to the loss of perfection in swelling and ripening their fruit. - Ed].