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.
A "SUBSCRIBER" would like to hear something now about the kind of stakes to be used in the vineyard, so that he may be getting them out during the winter. Our own thoughts had been running that way, and the present would not be an inopportune moment to say something on the subject. We shall confine our remarks to the vineyard, leaving the garden, etc., to another occasion. Some kind of support for the vine is indispensable, though precisely what is the best all are not agreed. That it should be of some durable material is very desirable; that it should also be economical, is equally desirable. Without some kind of support, no good system of training can be successfully carried out, for the vine will not support itself; and to let it trail on the ground would simply be to sacrifice both vine and fruit. The cost of stakes or a trellis, it must be acknowledged, forms a no inconsiderable item of expense in grape culture, but one which can not be avoided. There are two kinds of support in common use for the vineyard, the stake and the trellis, and these are the only ones which need claim our attention at present. Others are used in Europe, and in a few places here on a small scale, but few of them are adapted to general use, and they are in all respects inferior to those we have named.
The trellis, though more costly than stakes, is more durable, and much to be preferred, since it is adapted to all good systems of training. Stakes, on the contrary, are only adapted to peculiar modes of training; they could not be used, for instance, in any of the single or double arm sys- terns, except a short arm renewal system which we shall describe hereafter. A combination of the stake and trellis, however, is well adapted to some special modes. The system of training ought to be decided on before determining whether to adopt the stake or the trellis. We have no hesitation in stating our decided preference for the trellis for most systems of training.
Let us now see which is the best form of trellis. The post and wire trellis will undoubtedly in the end be found the most durable and economical. Some use narrow wooden slats instead of wire; but these last a comparatively brief time, are always out of repair, and are therefore not to be commended. Others, again, have wooden slats nailed horizontally to the top and bottom of the posts, the slats being connected by upright wires. This form possesses some conveniences in the facilities it affords for tieing up and training the growing shoots; but there are serious objections to it, the principal of which are, its inherent weakness, and the liability of the slats to be broken: the annual repairs necessary on a trellis of this kind make it a dear one. The best form of trellis, on the whole, is upright posts with horizontal wires. The posts may be of cedar, yellow locust, or chestnut, according as these abound in the locality or may be purchased cheapest. The cost of yellow locust, however, is generally too much to admit of its use in the vineyard. Bed cedar may in some places be had for the mere cutting and hauling. Chestnut, however, is usually most available, and in all respects makes a good and durable post.
The posts need not exceed five inches in diameter; when too large they give the vineyard a clumsy and awkward appearance, and accomplish no good purpose by their large size. Neatness should always be aimed at; it is indicative of a man's tastes and habits of life. The posts should be put at least two feet and a half in the ground; three would be better, the leverage being great when the trellis is covered with vines and acted on by heavy winds. They should be some six or seven feet out of the ground, but not more. If put in the ground in their natural state, the ends will in time rot off; to preserve them, therefore, as long as possible, they should be submitted to some kind of preparation before being set. A variety of applications have been recommended for this purpose. Kyanizing is no doubt one of the best, so far as mere preservation is concerned. Charring the ends will add materially to their durability, if carefully done. A very good plan is to soak the portion to be put in the ground in boiling oil, pitch, or coal tar. Solutions of several kinds of salts are also found to be good, one of the best being sulphate of copper, in the proportion of about one pound of sulphate to one hundred pounds of water.
In this case the posts are dried, and the ends placed in the solution, where they are left for several days, when the whole post becomes saturated, and its durability in consequence very greatly increased. Stakes and posts of all kinds to be put in the ground should be treated in some of these modes.
Having prepared the posts, it is next necessary to determine the distance at which they shall be placed. If the vines are planted four or six feet apart in the rows, the posts should be set twelve feet apart; if the vines are planted five feet apart, the posts should be ten or fifteen feet apart, the object being to get the posts midway between two vines. These distances may be increased, provided a light stake be put between the posts. The faces of the posts, or the sides to receive the wires, should line as accurately as possible. In setting, the end posts should be braced; this is done in various ways, some of them clumsy enough, and quite inefficient. It is usual to sink the brace in the ground on the inside of the posts; and this is a good plan. Whatever mode be adopted, the great point to be secured, strength, must not be lost sight of.
A few words may be added in regard to the wires. No. 10 wire is sufficiently large for general purposes; indeed, a smaller size than this will answer a good purpose. The bottom wire, however, on which arms are to be formed, should be stouter than the upper wires. The wires may be run from twelve to eighteen inches apart, and fastened by a loop to the end posts; to the intermediate posts it may be attached by hooks or screws. It is desirable, and even necessary, to tighten the wires at times, and it is always best to loosen them during the winter, whether the vines are laid down or not; for a vine that sways loosely in the wind never suffers as much during winter as one that is immovably secured. There are numerous devices that may be used for tightening the wires, one of the simplest and cheapest being the screw stiffener now used in the common buck-saw. If the wires are very long, they should be looped to the middle as well as the end posts. The wire used in the vineyard should in all cases be annealed. The toughness of the wire is not impaired by the process, but it is rendered more pliable and durable, and protected from the action of the oxygen in the atmosphere. To protect it from oxydizing, wire is also galvanized; but this is costly, and not as good for the vineyard.
Painted wire will last longer in the vineyard than that which is galvanized.
Something may now be said about stakes. These, to enhance their durability, should be treated to one of the preparations recommended for the posts. Stakes, as a general thing, are best made from red cedars, about the size of a stout bean pole. How many will be necessary, as well as the distances at which to place them, will depend upon the system of training adopted. We wish to drop a caution here against placing wooden stakes immediately in contact with the vines, if they are to remain there. The first year, and perhaps the second, it will be necessary to have a stake within two or three inches of the vine, to train the shoot to; but not longer. Wood, in decaying, often generates a fungus which is injurious to the vine; we have known many young vines (and old ones, too) to become almost incurably diseased by this cause alone. If the stakes are well charred, this objection will be done away with.
We have had our attention directed to iron trellises for the vineyard. They would he more durable, and much lighter than wood, but we fear their cost will be fatal to their general introduction. For a small, model vineyard, nothing could be neater or more desirable, unless some objection should be found to exist in the action of heat and cold on the iron. The objection, so far as winter is concerned, could be got rid of by simply detaching the vines and laying them on the ground, where, covered by the snows of winter, they would be better off than on the trellis. In regard to the cost of an iron trellis, Mr. Davenport, of Stamford, Conn., who is skillful in wire work, thinks it can be put up as cheap as a good wood and wire trellis. We propose to reduce this to an actual test, since, if the cost is no greater, the iron would be much the best investment. Some of our readers might help us to a solution of this question. Our conviction, however, is, that iron posts can not be put up as cheap as wooden ones; but then there are compensating advantages which ought not to be overlooked in summing up the question. In some parts of the country, stone posts of a suitable length can be got at a small cost.
Where this is the case, they should be used.
The trellis may be put up when the vineyard is formed, or it may be left till the fall of the second year, or the spring of the third. Where the means are at hand, it would, on some accounts, be best to put up the trellis at the end of the first year. The very small per centage of wear and tear for a couple of years, as it is commonly called, is nothing, compared with the advantage of having the early use of the trellis. What is saved in the labor of resetting stakes, training, etc., will pay this per centage twice over. Our advice, therefore, is, to make the trellis as soon as conveniently may be, but not to defer it beyond the second year; for if the vines have been well and carefully grown, they will at that time need the support of a trellis.