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.
Instead of the common practice of building the front wall of the house on pillars, I would advise that a solid wall from the foundation be made, as I consider an inside border to be more injurious than beneficial to the roots of the vines. The principal cause of the shriveling of early-forced Grapes is, in my opinion, owing to the roots being over-heated, and not having sufficient moisture. When they extend far into the interior of the house, it is impossible for even the most experienced gardener to guard against this completely.
Having given my objections to an inside border, I may add that building a wall will be found a saving of expense. I consider upright sashes of little or no use in front, and I would recommend the back wall to be built much higher than it commonly is, as the vines always fruit best at their extremeties. I would also have the pathway of the house paved with stone, which would certainly look much better, and be less expensive in the end. Where there is only one house to be erected, it would be much better to have it made circular in front, as it would be more exposfed to the sun's rays.
With regard to the construction of the heating apparatus, I would recommend the hot-water instead of the smoke-flue system, and the use of Week's Conical Boiler. Although it is generally allowed that many a good bunch of Grapes has been grown by the heat of an old smoke-flue, the hot-water system is universally adopted in all new vineries throughout Great Britain. Week's boiler is formed of 2 1/2 to 8-inch pipes, all connected, with the furnace in the center. The body of water being small, and the surface of pipe large, the water heats soon, and circulates rapidly. I would also have the furnace or fireplace made much larger than is usual, so as to afford sufficient space for a large, slow-burning fire, in order that the operator may have it in his power to keep a steady heat in the house. When the fireplace is small, he has to stir.
The site on which the house stands has a gradual inclination to the south, twenty inches in thirty feet, which is very desirable, in order to carry away rapidly all superfluous water. The border is fifteen feet wide and three feet deep; it is dug eighteen inches below the original surface, and raised as much above. In the bottom are placed twelve inches of stones, to form drainage, and these are overlaid with some rough material, vegetable matter, or turf, to prevent the earth from adhering to them. The earth which forms the border was the top-spit taken from the corner of an old pasture which the cows frequented, and which was undoubtedly very rich, mixed with a goodly quantity of well-rotted animal dung (I believe cow-dung to be the best), together with a liberal quantity of bone-dust or something equivalent I also approve of having a drain along the border, near the center, on a level with the stones at the bottom of the border, open at each end, in connection with several intersecting ones, into the interior of the house, in order to dry and convey a current of air through the border, which is most assuredly beneficial to the growth of vines.
I am much in favor of having some rough material mixed with the earth in the border, such as old lime, limestone, or broken bricks, to keep the soil loose.
Of course choose good, healthy vines. It is necessary, when planting, to lay the roots in some nice light earth, say a mixture of leaf-mold and white sand. White sand answers the purpose best, because it is free of oxide of iron. Particular care must be taken not to plant too deep, as nothing is more injurious. The point of divergence of the ascending and descending axis - that is, of the root and stem should always be even with the surface. I would have good, strong vines planted about six or ten inches from the outside of the wall, and introduced through holes made in the building six inches above the surface of the border, and from four to six inches in diameter, with a projection toward the inside. It is customary to plant a vine for each rafter. I prefer one in the center of each alternate sash, in order to grow one rod for each rafter in the house, as the less the roots are interwoven with each other, the better.
I have an abundant supply of water during the warm weather, both inside and out, - the former to keep down insects, which are very numerous in this country, and the latter for the use of the border. I have been in the habit of syringing in the early part of the day, instead of the afternoon - say about eight o'clock, in clear weather; and in dull, cloudy weather, the operation was omitted. During the absence of rain, I thoroughly soaked the outside border about three times a week, which border has an excellent covering of strong cow-dung, which greatly increased the vigor of the vines.
Forcing-houses should receive air as frequently at the front as at the top; and when air is admitted at the front, it should be at ventilators opposite the pipes or flues, in order to have a circulation of heated air through the house, resembling that of their native country.
I consider this one of the most important operations in the management of vines. There are various methods adopted by gardeners, with equal success; yet been ascertained. However, there is one way of pruning the rod like a walking-stick (the renewal or long cane system), and another with spurs of one eye or more. The vines here, that I am alluding to, were pruned in the former way, and have done remarkably well this year. I measured some leaves of the Black Hamburgh, which I found to be 18 by 13 inches; and those of the Muscat of Alexandria, 13 by 14 inches, and wood three inches in diameter, of this years growth, and fruiting uncommonly. The bunches of course are not large, which could not be expected the first year. One bunch of the Royal Chasselas measures 12 inches in length, and several berries of the Black Hamburgh measure 3 1/2 inches in circumference.