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 plan which we have laid down now brings us to that part of our subject which treats of the Best Time to Plant. As with many other parts of grape culture, so here, there is some diversity of opinion, even among practical men. This diversity can be readily accounted for, and is of no serious moment, except as it begets doubts in the mind of the novice. We do not purpose examining this diversity at present, or attempting to reconcile the opinions of others; that we shall leave for another occasion. We shall now, as heretofore; simply give the results of our own experience. We may say, however, that parties are pretty equally divided between spring and fall planting. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but with us the advantages have, on the whole been greatly in favor of fall planting. Something is due to the soil and its con. dition; but we take it for granted that the soil has been prepared as we have directed, and we therefore admit of no exception in case of a heavy soil. Let us look for a moment at some of the reasons for preferring fall planting. The-buds of the vine in the fall are firm, and the whole vine in better condition for hand, ling, and consequently receives less injury from the rough usage of careless men.
In the spring, on the contrary, the buds are usually soft at planting-time, and easily injured. The first warm weather starts them from their winter sleep, and a slight knock either breaks them off, or bruises them so as to impair their vitality. If bruised, the growth is feeble; if knocked off we have to depend upon a secondary bud, which is not always present; in either case we have lost the primary vigor of the plant. By planting in the fall, these casualties may be mostly avoided; the vine is then in all respects in better condition to bear the shook of removal; we may rely with much certainty upon having the primary buds intact, and a consequently strong growth is thereby insured. The difference between a primary bud and a secondary, or an injured one, is very often the difference between a whole season's growth.
Thus much for the top of the vine. As to the roots, we think a vine may be lifted and sent a long distance with much less injury in the fall than in the spring. The hygrometric condition of the atmosphere is more favorable; the vine has prepared itself for its winter rest, and is less affected by atmospheric changes; a warm day will not stimulate its buds; it is all prepared for its long winter sleep, and only needs that a suitable bed be prepared, where it may repose till the genial warmth of spring shall wake it into activity again. There is still considerable warmth in the ground, and if the planting is done early, the roots readily adapt themselves to their new abode, and the vine is in all respects in good condition for renewed growth in the spring. In the fall, too, we usually have more leisure for planting, and are therefore less tempted to hasten the work and do it imper. fectly. Even if all these advantages in favor of fall planting did not exist, we should greatly prefer buying in the fall, because of the certainty of getting vines in better condition, and the incalculable advantage of having them at hand when wanted, and entirely under control as respects handling, and consequent safety from injury to buds and roots.
In the spring, the pressure of work is very great; orders are apt to be sent late, and tardily executed, and the vines come to hand in bad condition, the buds being started, and the roots bruised and dried, and in the hurry of the moment the vines are carelessly planted. Often the bundle remains unopened for days; and as the vines are soon to be planted, it is thought unnecessary to heel them in, and the injury thus caused is productive of much disappointment, and not unfrequent grumbling at nurserymen for sending "such poor vines." The vine, however, is of such native vigor, and so tenacious of life, that even the most adverse circumstances often fail to subdue the living principle within it; and thus it is that it survives shocks of violence that would destroy most other plants. If the vines are received early and in good condition, and are properly cared for and planted, the objections to spring planting are greatly lessened; but this is not often the case; and the risks run are always so much greater in spring than fall, that we do not hesitate to recommend fall as decidedly the best time for planting the vine.
If the ground is not prepared, or any reason exists to prevent planting in the fall, then purchase the vines in the fall, and heel them in.
If vines are in pots, they may be planted almost any time. Some nurserymen lift their vines in the fall, and keep them in sand in a cool cellar during the winter, and this all should do who have the convenience; they are thus in good condition for spring sales; but the careless handling of indifferent workmen often more than neutralizes all the manifest advantages of thus keeping the vines during the winter.
We have said that vines should be at least purchased if not planted in the fall, and "heeled in." This is a professional term which many of our readers may not understand. It consists simply in laying plants close together in a trench, and covering the roots with soil; a very important aid to the gardener in all kinds of planting. If plants are "heeled in" in the spring, the roots alone may be covered; if in the fall, to remain during the winter, the tops as well as the roots may be covered, or the roots only, according to the kind of plant. We shall describe what is best for vines. These may be heeled in either in a cellar or in the open air. If in a cellar, it should be cool, and the roots covered with pure sand or gravel - damp, but not wet. Earth is not so good as sand, because it is liable to become mouldy in a cellar, and the mould will injure the roots of the vine. The tops will need no covering. If the vines are kept out of doors, a dry spot should be selected, and if the soil is light or sandy, so much the better; if not, it should be made so, since there are serious objections to heeling in plants in a heavy tenacious soil, unless well drained.
If convenient, a sheltered spot should be selected on a gentle slope, so that all surplus water may be carried off; the shelter in this case is of less moment than the accumulation of water about the roots, which should be carefully provided against. A trench should be opened, and the soil all thrown on one side, in the form of an embankment, as shown in figure 1.
The vines may then be laid in the trench, close together, and covered with soil, rounding it off so as to shed water, as shown in figure 2. The trench may be made of any length, or trenches may be made parallel to, and near each other. In the latter case, the earth removed in making the second trench, may be used in covering the plants in the first, and so on. If the vines have been pruned, the whole tops should be covered; otherwise a portion may be left exposed. The vines are to be laid in trenches at an angle of 45° or less, and not upright. • If it is thought too much trouble to cover the tops with earth, fine brush may be used for this purpose; but manure, or any thing else likely to accumulate heat or moisture, must not come in contact with any part of the plant while thus heeled in: a mistake very often made, and with disastrous results. Early in the spring the covering should be removed from the tops; and when the time for planting arrives, the vines should be taken out a few at a time, and the roots as little as possible exposed to the air, as heretofore insisted upon.
Vines thus treated will keep well during the winter, and be in good condition to plant in the spring. They may be pruned when heeled in, or at the time of planting. Our next will probably treat of the Best Kinds to Plant.