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.
THERE can be little doubt, we think, that the grape is destined to play an important part in fruit culture. The grape will be very extensively cultivated, not only for the table, but for the manufacture of wine; and there is nothing chimerical in the idea, that at no very distant day American wine will be imported hence to Europe, The first decade in this revolution has already been reached, and we are now furnishing vines for planting in Madeira and the old Douro districts of Portugal, where the vineyards have been nearly destroyed by the Oidium, Already upwards of forty thousand Isabella and Catawba vines have been planted at Oporto, We do not think the kinds have been wisely selected, since the old Isabella and Catawba, of all our native varieties, are most susceptible to the influence which has proved so destructive to the vineyards of Portugal. Better kinds, in our estimation, for wine, would have been the Diana, Delaware, Lincoln, and Lenoir. But we only allude to this as one of the signs of the times. We propose,in a series of articles, to throw out some practical "Hints " on the cultivation of the vine, giving prominence to our own experience on the subject. We purpose hereafter to elaborate these "Hints,"' and use them in another form.
We may not be able to say any thing; new on such an old subject, but among our readers there are many beginners, (in fact, it is at the request of a number of such that we write,) to whom we may be able to give a right direction at the start.
The first thing to be thought of is a proper exposure or aspect, lor a vineyard, the best exposure is one looking south, or a little east of south. Where this is not to be had, we should choose an exposure in the following order: southeast, east, southwest, west, the last, however, being a bad one under most circumstances, A northern exposure should not be thought of, for it is only under very peculiar circumstances that such a one can be made available for the production of good grapes. Whatever the exposure of a vineyard may happen to be, protection of some kind is a very important matter, The prevalent winds injurious to vegetation come from the north, northeast, and northwest, and from the sweep of these the vineyard should be protected. We have found, in our experience, that shelter at these points exercises a marked influence upon the health of vegetation, no matter whether a vineyard, an orchard, or a garden. It equalizes, to a certain degree, the surrounding atmosphere, prevents sudden and violent evaporation from the soil and from the leaves of plants, and acta in other beneficial ways which we shall explain hereafter.
The material to be used for protection is of some importance In some locations a natural shelter will be found in holts of wood; in others it will be necessary to supply it, A variety of trees may be used for this purpose, but we prefer some evergreen, and among evergreens the best are the Hemlock and Norway Spruce, Both of them will bear clipping almost as well as an Arbor Vitae, though much clipping is not needed, the object being to get a hedge some twenty or thirty feet high. Whatever tree be used, whether evergreen or deciduous, let it not be one with wide ranging roots; for this reason, the yellow Locust is not a good one; it may be remarked, in passing, however, that roots do not ramble as much in a good soil as they do in a poor one; this is not, it is true, in accordance with the general belief, but it is in precise accordance with both our philosophy and experience. In some localities, a simple fence made of hemlock boards will afford a good shelter; but the reader must exercise his judgment as to the kind and degree of shelter required for his particular case, our object at present being to impress his mind with the fact that something of the kind is necessary.
As pertaining to this part of the subject, wo may remark, that a hill-sido with a gentle southeasterly slope is to be preferred to a flat surface; we speak now of exposure, without reference to soil, drainage, or culture. It is better, because, other things being equal, it affords in the greatest perfection the conditions of warmth, shelter, and aeration, the importance of which will hereafter be seen. Generally speaking, there is also a choice between the upper and lower portions of a hill-side, and in most cases it is well not to carry the vineyard too far down, since the temperature there is lower, the drainage less perfect, and cold strata of air accumulate which are injurious to the grape. The conditions of a long, warm, uniform season should be obtained as far as possible. These conditions we can never obtain in valleys, or on exposed hill-tops; hence the importance of shelter, and the necessity for avoiding low, wet land, or wet land wherever located. The fact that wild grapes often grow along brooks has sometimes been adduced as an argument against the necessity of selecting a dry, warm soil; but when a grape that a decent man ought to eat has been produced under such conditions, it will be time enough to answer the argument.
Before we leave the subject of shelter, it may be necessary to add a few words of caution. The object of shelter is to protect from winds injurious to vegetation, and to preserve, as far as possible, an equilibrium in the electrical conditions of the earth and atmosphere. We need shelter, but we must have, at the same time, a circulation of air. These injurious winds, experience teaches us, come from northerly points of the compass; hence we must place our shelter at the north, and extend it a little on the east and west; the rest of the vineyard may be left open. We must avoid hedging the vineyard in. The shelter should be sufficient to break heavy winds; in some cases a single row of Norway Spruce will accomplish the object fully, while in others more will be needed. It is not necessary that this shelter should be in immediate contact with the vineyard; it should in no case be so close that the roots of the trees will encroach on the vines. If this should happen, a narrow trench parallel with the trees should be made, and kept open.
As the conditions under which shelter is to be afforded will vary somewhat in different localities, as good judgment must be brought to bear on the subject in all cases. •
A few words may be added in reference to cities and their suburbs. The buildings and fences in these places usually afford all the shelter that is needed; in cities, indeed, it is sometimes present to a degree that is injurious, the circulation of the air being almost entirely prevented. As a general thing, however, our suburbs and villages present, in the way of shelter, just the condition for growing grapes in the highest state of perfection. That this is not generally done is owing to a bad preparation of the border and improper pruning.
We have said enough of shelter, we trust, to impress the reader not only with its importance, but its absolute necessity. There is probably but one other branch of the subject of more importance to the vineyardist or the amateur, or even to the person who grows but a single vine. There is a greater necessity for shelter in a cold climate than a warm one, but our conviction is, that some form of it is beneficial every where, even at the sunny South. Each man, of course, must judge of the necessities of his own case, but he will act wisely if he locates his vineyard in reference to this important point of needed shelter.
Our next will be on the Soil and its Preparation. We propose following the subject regularly through all its gradations up to the ripening of the fruit. As the grape has been a study with us, the reader may at times find us a little positive; but that remains to be seen.