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.
If the treatment recommended in former calendars with reference to air and temperature has been fully carried out, the young wood will be well ripened, the best safeguard against rigorous winters. Still keep the house open night and day. Closing up only during heavy rains.
The vines may be pruned towards the end of the month, and, after being . loosened from the rafters, laid down and carefully covered; the borders may be top-dressed, and covered six inches in depth with manure. The house should be left aired, unless in storms or very severe frosts.
Figs are too tender to stand the winter uninjured. The best method of preserving them is to peg them down as close as possible to the ground, and cover in and through the stems either with soil or leaves. This fruit is much thought of by many, and should be more extensively grown than it is. Attention to covering from severe frosts will insure plenty of fruit.
Aw old Gravel pit may be usefully treated in another mode than the one last stated. An example is found at the nursery of Mr. Rivers, at Sawbridgeworth, where the soil is a loam, varying from a strong to a sandy nature, according to the character of the subsoil, which, is in places clay, alternating with beds of sand. These sand-beds hare been quarried in places, and Mr. Rivers has taken advantage of these pits, and has converted them into a primitive kind of grapery; to effect this, vines have been planted on one side the margin of the pit, in the natural soil of the nursery; a rough kind of framework is placed over the pit, on which are fixed glased sashes, covering it over, and resting on the opposite side. The vines are brought in under the glass, and fruit freely - -not large, of course, but well-colored. Some of these sand-pits are ten or twelve yards long or more, three or four yards wide, and seven or eight feet deep. Nothing has been done to the interior, except making a rough path along the middle, ending with a seat at the farther end. This is turning old quarries to a useful purpose.
Near one of these graperies, a larger sand-hollow has been converted into a place for plunging vines in pots intended for planting cut; the plants are five or six feet high, and, at a distance, reminded one of the sloping banks of vines on the continent; but, on a closer inspection, they were of course minus the fruit.
Structures for the cultivation of the foreign grape are not so numerous as they ought to be. The cost of erection and preparation of borders is deemed so great as to deter many from entering into their culture. The expense of preparation need not be so very great. Good fruit may be grown in very simple houses. A roof of glass is not so costly, and by dispensing with heavy rafters and sliding sashes, and having the roof a fixture, very efficient houses can certainly be put up for three dollars per foot in length. The borders may be made up with good garden soil, well enriched, and thorough drainage is indispen-sable. Deep, damp borders, excessively manured, never prove satisfactory, and no amount of architectural display will compensate for want of practical skill in cultivation.
In the early grapery, the vines having advanced some inches, the temperature should be gradually increased. The cold houses should be well aired, rarely or never entirely closed, the borders kept dry, the outside portions protected by wooden or glazed sashes; if the latter, lettuce, strawberries, etc, may be cultivated; from its forcing habit, the Sir Harry will be found to be excellent, as well as the British Queen. Straw will be placed over the vines now, in a horizontal position, in the cold house.
Strawberries should be lightly covered with manure, short hay, or leaves, and they will be grateful for it when the time of bearing arrives. Raspberries should be now, if they have not been already, under protection, by laying down the vines and covering them with Boil. Peach-trees in pots may be kept in the grapery in a cool place. Keep the roots dry, and cover to prevent freezing. Root grafting is now advantageously attended to, and the roots set in boxes of earth are placed in a cool cellar.
It is now acknowledged that the making of grape-vine borders has, in many instances, been overdone. Soil that will produce good cabbages, will produce good crops of grapes, provided it is thoroughly aerated, as recommended in former calendars.
There is no doubt that the architecture of graperies admits of much improvement. According to present forms, the space for growth is limited, and the method of training objectionable; the amount of cubic feet inclosed is so small, that sadden changes of temperature are unavoidable - more particularly, hygrometric changes, which are more injurious than is generally supposed. The method of training the vines close up to the ( sloping glass, and the consequent exposure of the fruit to alternations of atmosphere, is a practical difficulty in cultivation. Repeated observation leads to the belief that vines trained on perpendicular trellises are seldom subject to mildew; the fruit is then protected and nearly covered by foliage, which defends it from injurious external influences.
It would be an interesting experiment, and one in which we would have much faith, to cover in a large space on the principle adopted by Paxton in the erection of the far-famed Crystal Palace. A square structure, with upright sides ten feet high, covered by a series of small spans laid on horizontal rafters, could be made to inclose a quarter of an acre of border at an expense not greater than is frequently incurred in houses eighty feet by twenty. The plants could then be planted in rows as those in out-door cultivation, and trained on similar trellises. Such a house would be worthy the name of grapery.