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.
THE ground having been prepared, the vines selected and planted, and all preliminary operations performed, we will now give our attention to the care of the vineyard during the first year of its life. It is not necessary yet to say any thing in regard to the various systems of training advocated by different parties. All good systems that we have any knowledge of start from the same point, or, at least, should do so; it can make no difference, therefore, so far as this part of the subject is concerned, what system is adopted.
As the season of planting is at hand, we will say here briefly, in answer to inquiries, what we have already said in a former article, that a trellis should be about six feet high; that the rows should be six feet apart; that short-jointed kinds, such as the Delaware, Rebecca, etc, should be planted four feet apart in the rows, and long-jointed, rampant growing kinds, like the Concord, Union Village, etc, six feet apart . All who grow, or who intend to grow, grape vines, should read these articles from the beginning.
To return to the care of the vineyard during the first year. It is a very common practice, and as bad as it is common, to leave the vines to take care of themselves during the first year. To say nothing of the condition of mind which such negligence indicates, the vines suffer material injury in consequence, and in some instances die from this cause alone. We have reason to believe that this neglect, in many cases, is the result of a belief that the young vine needs no special care, and that proper attention would be given if it were thought to be necessary. This practice is very much like that indulged in by unfeeling parents when they think to make tender infants " tough and hardy" by exposing them half-clad to the win- ter's cold. In both cases physical laws are violated, and with nearly analogous results: some pass through the ordeal, but, alas, how many do not. Let it be known, then, that the vine needs special care when it is young above all other times; that when just starting into life, as it were, it will bear neglect with less impunity than at any other stage of its existence.
It is during the first years of the vine's life that it acquires constitutional vigor and sound condition; if at this time it becomes weakened or diseased, the chances of its recovery become very remote indeed. Let our readers ask themselves how many of their vines and trees have died from imperfect planting and neglect during the first few years of their existence. Many horticultural subjects that have died from these causes have had their dead bodies piled up before the nurseryman's door, as if there were not enough that might justly rise up in judgment against him.
The object, then, of the first year's operations in the vineyard should be, to ob. tain a vigorous, healthy growth; in other words, to secure constitutional vigor and health. This object is to be obtained by judicious culture and training. We here use the word culture in reference to the treatment of the soil, and the word training in reference to the treatment of the vine; generically, the word culture would cover the whole subject, but we propose to treat it in a twofold manner.
First, as to the treatment of the soil. A variety of opinions are in vogue in regard to the propriety of growing crops between the rows of vines in a young vineyard. Some recommend growing crops of various kinds; others, but a very small number, think that nothing should be grown. There can be no doubt that the vines, in the latter case, would be placed in the very best circumstances for securing the object in view, provided the soil were kept free from weeds and frequently stirred; but is it necessary that the wide space between the rows of vines should be wholly given over to idleness during two or three years? We think not. There are some kinds of plants that may be grown between the rows without injury to the vines during two years at least; there are cases in which plants may be grown between the rows with decided advantage; for there are persons who otherwise would not keep the soil sufficiently open and clean, and much less injury will accrue from a cultivated crop than from weeds. It must be understood that the cultivated crop is to be manured as usual, and not grown at the expense of the vines. The crop, also, whatever it may be, should not be grown so near the vines as to interfere with their roots; neither must their roots be injured or disturbed in the operation of hoeing.
It must be carefully borne in mind, that the vines are to have the preference in every thing, and that no operation is to be performed which will interfere with or check their growth. It is a matter of no small importance, too, that the ground should not be trodden on more than is absolutely necessary for the indispensable operations of culture and training.
The question will now arise, What are the best crops to be grown between the rows of a vineyard 1 This may be answered by saying, in general terms, the usual hoed crops; yet corn is not admissible at all, neither is any crop that grows more than a foot or so in height, or that spreads much on the ground. Such crops can not be grown without serious damage. No crop, again, that is earthed up should be grown; we therefore exclude potatoes, not only because they spread over much surface, but also because they are generally earthed up, though we never earth them. Carrots, beets, turnips, and similar crops, may be introduced, and a large yield secured. We have grown strawberries between the rows, and recommended others to do so. It is a profitable crop to be introduced in this way, where the soil is suitable for the growth of the strawberry. Three rows of strawberries, each plant a foot apart, may be planted between the rows of vines. At the end of the third year one row should be removed; and at the end of the fourth year another; and at the end of the fifth year it would be well to remove all. At that time, if not before, the vines will need all the space allotted to them. The strawberries should at no time be allowed to make runners, and the ground must be kept clean and free from weeds.
There is an objection to strawberries, however, if the grape vines are to be covered during the winter, and earth is used for the purpose. Keeping in view the general principles we have laid down, each one can select for himself what kinds of crops, if any, he will grow between his vines.
But we have arrived at a stopping place without having said a word about training. That will be in season for our next. We will simply repeat here, that all the newly planted vines must be cut down to two or three buds, and the nearer these are to the base of the vine, the better. They must be cut down to at least a foot of the base, whether eyes are apparent or not. A vine that will not start below that is not worth having.