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.
Having read with much satisfaction, your article upon the construction of cheap houses for horticultural purposes, and their perfect adaptation to the cultivation of choice fruits, and that being a subject to which I have paid much attention, I cannot but think the subscribers to this Journal, many of them, must soon become much interested in it. They wouid derive more real pleasure in a few leisure hours devoted to the cultivation of choice fruits, grown under glass, than from any other source, it being a pursuit of which a person seldom tires, for the farther he advances the more interested he becomes. In the first place, let us see how this object is to be accomplished. You have pointed out the way of growing fruits in cheap houses, and a field is now open where practical men can add their experience. Many persons who have hitherto been disposed to commence something of the kind, have been in a great measure deterred on account of the expense of the materials employed in the construction of houses and the formation of vine borders. I allude now to "cold houses." In houses heated by artificial means there are expenses which it is impossible to avoid. We will suppose a man wishes to erect a cold vinery. His first question will be. what is the shaped house I require.
He refers to the cut of Mr. Rivers? This kind of house answers admirably in England, but will it do as well in this country. Now I do not positively mean to assert that it will not, but I feel certain that one built in the following manner would answer much better for this climate at least.
It should be 2 feet high in front, and the back wall should be at least 10 feet high, and the width of house 14 feet, which would give the roof a better pitch, and prevent any great weight of snow from lodging, and also prevent a deal of drip, and as the vines would have to be brought up on a trellis under the glass, it would give the operator more room to attend to his vines. The frame work of the House might be boarded with planed and matched stuff as It is so much neater in appearance than rough boards, and the difference in cost between the two is so very trifling as scarcely to make it any object in point of economy. The back wall should have strips nailed on to the posts to form a trellis on which peaches, apricots or nectarines can be trained, and let me here remark, that I have never known an instance of stone fruit of any kind being attacked by the curculio that has been grown under glass. If some of your correspondents, who cultivate stone fruit under glass, would let us know if they escape in their different localities it might be worth reading, as it would then prove if it may be relied on as a general thing or only partially so.
I have been using for some years a very cheap and durable wire trellis for training, vines under rafters, which I will describe: take some common hoop iron, 1 inch in width, and cut up into lengths of 10 or 12 inches; then punch two holes two or three inches apart, and one hole at the other end about 1 inch from the end. and large enough to allow of the wire which is intended for the trellis to pass through easily; then take some 1 1/2 inch clout nails and fasten the pieces of iron to the rafters. Begin on the first rafter at 18 inches from the plate, and so on in succession, so that each piece shall be exactly 18 inches from the other on the rafters. It is however, immaterial whether the distance be more or less, provided equal distance is observed. After all the pieces are nailed to the rafters, pass the wire through the holes, form the wire into a loop at one end - take a two inch wrought nail with a large head, put it in the loop and drive it home - that secures that end. Then strain the wire, drive another nail half its length, give the wire one or two turns round the nail, then drive it home, and the wire is secured.
After all the wires are put in, parallel with the length of the house, take some small annealed wire, fasten one end to the bottom trellis wire and carry it up parallel with the rafter, and 6 inches from it, taking a turn round each large wire to keep it in its place. Each rafter or vine will require two of these wires. The pieces of iron should not hang perpendicularly, but stand out at an angle to correspond with the house. The materials for a trellis of this description for a house 14 feet wide, will not cost more than one dollar for every 10 feet in length. In glazing a vinery, use the best cylinder glass, that which is free from waves or blisters, for if a poorer quality is used it will be impossible to get rid of the burning of the leaves, unless the glass is whitened. The first cost will be a little more, but the better glass will ultimately prove the cheapest. The interior of the house may be devoted to the cultivation of vines in pots, or for raising early vegetables to transplant into the garden.
Such a house as this can be put up, painted, glazed, the trellis built, and all made complete for about four dollars the running foot, or a nice snug little house 25 feet long and 14 feet wide for $100, such a house being, in fact, only a slight variation of Mr. Rivers', with the addition of more room. Trees are to be trained on the back wall, and vines under the rafters. Now let us see what such a house is capable of producing when the vines and trees come into full bearing. Nine rafter vines which will produce from 20 to 25 pounds of grapes annually, or two hundred pounds for the whole, (this is not an over estimate,) worth from 60c. to 75c. per lb. The trees on the back wall will produce from 20 to 25 dozens of peaches, apricots or nectarines, worth 8 or 4 shillings per dozen. The interior of the house I make no estimate on, as it is not my intention to mislead by making over estimates. I should like much to see amateurs take this thing in hand, not on speculation, but from the pleasure they would derive from it - also to give the people at large some idea of what the duties of a gardener are, and the qualifications he ought to possess, a thing but imperfectly understood in many parts of the country, and which frequently ends in disappointment, either through gentlemen being imposed upon by ignorant and inefficient men, or else that the talents of a really good man are not properly appreciated on the part of the employer, which I must say is too often the case.
For vines grown in pots, I would recommend the following mode for each pot. Procure a box or tub a few inches larger than the diameter of the pot, bore some holes in the bottom, place a block of wood two inches thick and about six inches square on the bottom of the box, and set the pot on it. Then put in two or three inches of charcoal or broken bricks. Then fill in the space between the pot and box with tan bark. By this mode the roots will not suffer from too rapid evaporation, which is very injurious to young vines; the block is to prevent the roots from running out of the bottom of the pot.
We are told by very many experienced cultivators, that unless we use an immense quantity of certain kinds of manures, in the formation of the borders of vineries, it is impossible to raise good grapes. Now I do not mean to say this is all idle stuff, because the grapevine, being a gross feeder, requires a great deal of stimulus, but what I will say is that most excellent grapes may be grown in the following manner. If the soil is wet and cold, drain it well, trench it 2 feet deep, and put in plenty of old lime rubbish and rotten manure. If the soil is a good loam and does not lay low, trench it 2 feet, and to every layer of earth put on a layer of old rotten dung. The manure from old hot-beds is the best for this purpose; in the absence of that, use the best that can be had. I prefer wide and shallow borders, say two feet deep and 20 or 24 feet wide. Such a border as this will cost no more than for an asparagus bed the same size, but it should be mulched with rotten manure every summer, and forked in in spring. I would like to give my method of attendance to the vines during the growing season, but fear I have already extended my notes too far.
Yours most respectfully, Wm. Webster. Rochester, Feb. 4,1851.
[We shall be glad to have our correspondent's routine of vinery culture. We are not in favor of excessive feeding of vine borders - but we do not think a border will continue to give good grapes for many seasons, unless it contains at least one fourth of its whole bulk of good active animal manure - stable manure we prefer. Ed.]