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.
IT may as well be stated here that we purpose taking up and following out one system of training at a time. The attempt to describe several modes at the same time must inevitably produce confusion. This course may make some repetition necessary, but that is a small matter compared with clearness. It is better that the reader should have a clear apprehension of one system than confused ideas of many. The subject is not likely to prove irksome.
"We left the vines at the end of the second year ready to be pruned. We will suppose it is late autumn, the wood being ripe and ready for the knife. The first vine in a row has a single cane; the second has two canes; the third has one' cane, and so on alternately, every other vine having two canes. It will not matter much, however, if some of those indicated as having only one cane should have two. We will suppose, however, that the vines are in the condition first named, every other one having a single cane. Our object now is to begin the formation of the arms. These, as already stated, might in some cases be formed at once of their full length; but we think it is very much better not to do so. The arms, when formed at once, are never as strong as they are when formed by degrees; and not only are the arms not as strong, but the buds also partake of the same weakness. The latter circumstance forms a very serious objection to the immediate formation of the arras. It is, indeed, a matter of the very first importance to have the buds strongly developed from the beginning, and this can not well be done if the arms are at once formed of their full length.
It is even more important that the buds near the trunk should be as strongly developed as those near the ends of the arms, and this is impossible where the arms are left their full length at the beginning. The flow of sap tends to the ends of the shoots, and the bads at the ends, consequently, are the strongest when left to themselves. This tendency of the sap is natural, and can only be overcome by artificial means. The whole vine, when under cultivation, is to a considerable extent placed under restraint, and the flow of the sap must be made to yield to the same condition, when the largest and best results are sought to be obtained. It is a matter of every day observation that the vine, in a state of nature, is entirely destitute of fruit wood near the base, and for a considerable distance above it, the fruit being borne principally near the ends. The same state of things is found in vines badly trained, especially on arbors, a bunch of grapes being scarcely ever found within three or four feet of the ground. One of the principal objects of training is to control this tendency to bear at the ends of the shoots, and to place the fruit wood in such positions that each square foot of the trellis shall yield its due proportion of fruit.
This, happily, can be done with comparative ease if some good system of training is adopted when the vine is young. We dwell somewhat on this point because there is a prevalent opinion that training can be adopted at any time. Many, indeed, seem to think that it is a matter of no moment how their vines grow during the first two or three years; no greater mistake could be made. Unless a right direction is given to the arms and buds when the vine is young, no after treatment, however skillfully applied, can properly develop them. The only recourse, in such oases, is to out the vine entirely down, and begin anew.
Now let us see what is to be done in order to develop the buds near the trunk. We have two canes to be pruned for the formation of arms; if the vines are four feet apart, the arms will be four feet long. If we leave them of this length, the buds near the trunk will be weak, not only now, but always hereafter. Instead, therefore, of leaving them four feet long, cut them two feet. The sap, in this case, having a shorter course to run, will distribute itself more equally among the fewer buds left, and give them a fuller development; in other words, its power, confined within narrower limits, becomes intensified, and the points of application receive an increased impetus. But, to develop the base buds equally with the end buds, something more than shortening in the arm is necessary, as will be presently explained. The pruning, therefore, will consist in cutting the arms to half their proposed length, whether it be four or six feet. All laterals and superfluous shoots must be entirely cut away, leaving nothing but the piece of cane intended for the arm.
The cutting should be close, and neatly done, in order that the wound may heal over nicely.
We have stated that the arms on every other vine will be formed three feet above the first wire. These arms can not of course, be formed this season, and every other vine, therefore, must be pruned to a single cane three feet long. If, however, the canes should not be strong enough to leave this length, they must be cut shorter. So, too, if any of the other vines are not strong enough to leave two feet of the cane for arms, they also must be cut shorter. The canes in all cases must be cut back to strong wood. One foot of strong wood is better than two feet of weak wood. In pruning the viae, therefore, the undeviating practice must consist in cutting back to good, well-ripened wood. We have mentioned two feet above, because nearly every vine, if well grown, should have much more than this; but there will always, even under favorable circumstances, be a few weak subjects, and these must be strengthened by a free application of the knife.
The vines having been pruned, it may be advisable, in some cases, to cover them. At the first year's pruning this was done by simply drawing some earth around them in the form of a hillock; but the canes are now too long to be treated in this way. It will therefore be necessary to bend them down and throw a few inches of earth over them, only just enough to hold them down, for too much covering is apt to prove hurtful. The vines must be bent gradually and carefully, and pegged down if necessary. As the vines grow older they will bend easier, an old vine having more elasticity than a young one.
Having placed the vines in winter-quarters, we will leave them there quietly for the present.