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.
OUR last article left the vine at the close of the second year, ready to be pruned. Whether the pruning be done in the fall or spring, the operation will be the same. The best time to prune will form the subject of a future article. For most localities we prefer fall pruning, the reasons for which must be given at another time. The reader, however, can safely pursue either fall or spring pruning, as may suit his convenience.
We desire to go back a little here, and possibly avoid some confusion, even at the expense of future repetition. There is one system of training which we adopted a good while ago, and which has yielded so much satisfaction that we shall give it some prominence. It is a system that we have often recommended to our friends, and commended publicly. We stop to note it here, because it requires some peculiar treatment during the second year. Instead of growing two canes to every vine, as directed in our last, grow two canes to every other vine. Each alternate vine is to be grown with a single cane during the second year. Instead, therefore, of pruning all the vines to three eyes, regulate the pruning of the alternate vines according to their strength. If they are stout enough to be left three feet long, prune them to this length. In this case, a couple of the lower shoots may be allowed to bear one bunch each. As soon as the fruit is set, stop these lower shoots two leaves above the fruit, and pinch in the laterals to one leaf.
The bud at the end of the shoot will probably break, - but this is of no consequence; indeed, it is of no consequence if all the buds on these bearing shoots break, as they will all have to be cut off at the next pruning.
It is of some consequence, however, in the case under consideration, to stop the shoots and pinch in the laterals at every new leaf that is made. The object is to obtain some frail and yet not materially weaken the growth of the arms; and this can only be well done by persistent stopping and pinching. All the lower shoots except those to be fruited should be entirely removed.
Having provided for the treatment of the lower shoots, let us turn to those above. The two uppermost buds are to be selected for arms. These are to be treated precisely as directed in our last. The object here is to get two arms three feet above the lower arms. They might be formed by carrying up two shoots instead of one, but we prefer a single trunk.
We have supposed above that the first year's cane was sufficiently strong to be left three feet long. If, however, as will probably be the case, it should be too weak for this, it must be cut down to three eyes, and treated as directed for a single cane. The arms, in this case, will not be formed till the succeeding year; but it is, in fact, a positive gain to wait a year rather than attempt to form arms upon a feeble trunk. Very much of the ultimate success of the vine will depend upon having started with a good foundation.
We must explain here that the first and last vine in each row will have but one arm. This is necessary in order to fill up the trellis. The first vine in the row should have the arm above; that is, the arm should be placed three feet above the first wire. The last vine in the row will have its arm above or below, according as there is an odd or even number of vines; but it is desirable, though not indispensable, to have it above. Our illustrations will explain the arrangement.
We may as well add here a few words in regard to the quantity of fruit a vine may be permitted to bear during the second year. If the vine is at all feeble, no fruit should be allowed to form. Fruit bearing is an exhausting process, and under its operation a feeble vine is rendered still more so; in some cases the principle of vitality becomes permanently impaired, and the vine lingers out a feeble life, unable to "yield its fruit in due season." If, on the contrary, every thing has gone on well, and the vines are stout and vigorous, each of the two shoots may be allowed to bear one bunch of grapes. Some, indeed, of great constitutional vigor, might be allowed to bear two bunches to each shoot. A good judgment must be exercised in each particular case, bearing in mind that in this case, as in most others, it is best to err on the safe side. It will be understood, of course, that the laterals are to be pinched in, but that the canes are not to be stopped, except it may be necessary near the end of the growing season, to hasten the ripening of the wood, as explained in a former article.
We drop this caution, lest the reader should confound these arms with the single cane treated above, and in consequence stop them.
Let us now return from this digression, and proceed with the pruning at the end of the second year. We will for the present confine our remarks to the arm system. We have two canes, from which we wish to form two arms. In some oases, where the growth of the vine has been vigorous and stout, these arms might be formed at once of their full length, four or six feet, as the case may be; and persons impatient of fruit, and ambitious of the largest immediate results, would be very apt to thus form them; but this, in our estimation, is by no means the best method to pursue. It is very important that the shoots growing near the trunk of the vine should be as stout and vigorous as those growing near the ends of the arms. This object can rarely be accomplished if the arms are at once formed their full length; for in this case the buds towards the ends of the arms will inevitably break stronger than those near the trunk. How to avoid this will be explained in our next.