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.
NOT having yet said any thing in regard to the Proper Age for Planting', and the character of the plants, the present would seem to be a proper time for a few seasonable hints on this part of our subject, which we deem of sufficient importance to make an object of distinct treatment, since we find a great deal of misapprehension to exist in regard to it, seriously affecting the progress of grape culture. There is an opinion so prevalent as almost to amount to an axiom, that the older the vine the greater its value; in other words, that the value of a vine for planting increases with its age, the precise stopping point being nowhere indicated. This is a great fallacy, productive of much injury to the purchaser of vines. There is a similar fallacy prevalent in regard to trees and plants generally. We shall confine our remarks at present exclusively to the native grape, and endeavor to place the subject in a light that will be a guide to the reader in the purchase of plants.
We remark, in regard to vines propagated in the open air, that the first season's growth from a vine five or more years old is no greater than from a good vine one or two years old; as a general thing, it is not near so great; and the younger vine will subsequently be much the most vigorous, producing a larger quantity and better quality of fruit. The reason of this may be found in the fact, that the injury caused by transplanting is greater in an old vine than in a young one, and the ability to repair this injury is less in the former than in the latter; just as an amputation may be more safely performed on a young person than an old one-But even supposing the check to be equally great in both cases, the old vine will produce fruit no sooner than the younger one; but the latter, at the third and subsequent years after planting, will be much the best vine. The shock of transplanting a large vine is so great, that it places it, for all practical purposes, in the condition of a young vine, with the serious drawback of not being able to recover so soon, if at all, its normal vigor; indeed, a vine of any considerable size can not often be successfully transplanted in our climate; for though it may sometimes live, it seldom or never afterward produces fruit fit to be eaten.
In addition to this, all good systems of training require that the arms should be placed not higher than eighteen inches from the ground, and this makes it necessary to cut down an old vine to that height; and this again in a manner brings an old vine to the condition of a young one, with the disadvantages named above, so that nothing is gained even under the most favorable circumstances. With very careful transplanting, and skillful after management, a couple of stout canes may be had the first year from a vine four or five years old, but this will not be often; one good cane is all that can be reasonably looked for. Two good canes may more frequently be had from well-grown vines not more than two years old. If nothing is gained in point of growth, much is lost in labor and expense; for an old vine not only costs more money, but requires more time and labor in planting, and the work is-usually not half as well done as in the case of a young vine. The inference from all this is, that a vine one or two years old is better for planting than an older one.
Our remarks thus far have been somewhat general, but we think dispose of the general misapprehension, that an old vine is better than a young one. Let us now be a little more specific, and examine the respective claims of vines made from Cuttings, Layers, and Eyes. What is needed in all plants is a good system of roots, especially secondary roots; these are necessary, not only to insure, success in transplanting, but also the future well-being of the plants; for it is these secondary roots which nourish and sustain it, and give excellence and size to the fruit. Cuttings of the vine, as ordinarily grown in the open air, are not in the best condition to plant at the age of one year. They would generally be good plants enough if sufficient room were given them, and a little more attention paid to their growth; but they are usually put in a poor soil, and crowded closely together, so that they are not under favorable conditions for the formation of a good system of roots, and a foot or so of feeble top growth is all that is usually obtained. They ought, under such circumstances, to be transplanted into a good soil, given plenty of room, and grown for another year to a single cane, when they will be in good condition for sale.
As the purchaser can not always see the roots, he should select only such vines as have a fair-sized, short-jointed, well-ripened cane, and pay for the privilege of doing so. Short cuttings of two eyes may be grown under glass in pots, and will make better vines in one year than cuttings in the open air will make in two. At the proper time we shall explain how this is done.
Let us now pass to Layers. The mode usually pursued in making vines from layers has the effect of producing a few long primary roots, by no means the best for making a fruitful vine.' When such are bought, the roots should be shortened in freely, to encourage the formation of secondary roots, and increase the chances of making a productive vine. Another class of layers, more carefully made, are very well furnished with proper roots, equally distributed all along and close up to that portion of the vine which has been layered. These are very much better plants than the former, but have been made at a greater cost of time and labor. We are not partial to layers for making a vineyard, and it is only those last described that we can recommend; but the roots even of these should be shortened in. Layers are best for those who want some fruit immediately, and a supply of wood to propagate from, the latter being produced freely, the wood alone often more than paying for a vine during the first year.
The layer, of course, should be only one year old, and should have but one cane.
We lastly come to plants made from Eyes. This we consider by far the best method of propagating the vine; plants thus made we prefer to all others. They are generally grown under glass, and when well managed are, at the age of one year, better than cuttings at two. The roots are more abundant and fibrous, and the wood and eyes better developed; the vine therefore transplants better, and makes a large growth from the beginning. Eyes may be grown a second year in pots with decided advantage, but at considerable additional expense; so few, however, are willing to pay for it, that the nurseryman feels no encouragement to take the extra trouble. The purchaser, in this matter, is undoubtly the greatest loser. If the same pains were taken with the native vine that we take with the foreign in preparing the soil, growing the plants to a fruiting age in pots, transplanting, etc., there is no reason why nearly the same general results in regard to early fruiting should not be obtained in the vineyard that we see in the grapery. Whether it is cheapest to pay a fair price for a good fruiting vine in a pot, or wait three or four years for the beginning of a crop, each purchaser must determine for himself, according to his means or his views of economy.
If vines can be had that have been once transplanted, presenting the conditions that we have named, and grown to a single cane, they may be considered among the best.
We trust we have now put our readers in possession of information that will be useful to them in the purchase of vines; and we conclude by advising them to buy no vine, whether a cutting, a layer, or an eye, that has not a good sized, short jointed, well-ripened cane, and plenty of fibrous roots.