Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Grape - Pruning and care


No garden is so small that there cannot be found in it room for three or four grape-vines; no fruit is more certain, and few more delicious.
If it is convenient, a situation fully exposed to the sun, and sloping slightly, will be preferable. But any good soil, provided only it is rich and thoroughly drained, will produce good results. If a few vines
are to be set against walls, or in other out-of-the-way places, prepare the ground for them by excavating a good-sized hole, putting in a foot of coal cinders or other drainage material, and refilling with good
heavy loam, enriched with old, well rotted manure and half a peck of wood ashes. For culture in the garden, such special preparation will not be necessary--although, if the soil is not in good shape, it will be advisable to slightly enrich the hills.
One or two-year roots will be the most satisfactory to buy. They may be set in either fall or spring--the latter time, for New York or north, being generally preferable. When planting, the cane should be cut back to three or four eyes, and the roots should also be shortened back-- usually about one-third. Be sure to make the hole large enough, when setting, to let the roots spread naturally, and work the soil in well around them with the fingers. Set them in firmly, by pressing down hard with the ball of the foot after firming by hand. They are set about six feet apart.


As stated above, the vine is cut back, when planting, to three or four eyes. The subsequent pruning--and the reader must at once distinguish between pruning, and training, or the way in which the vines are placed--will determine more than anything else the success of the undertaking. Grapes depend more upon proper pruning than any other fruit or vegetable in the garden. Two principles must be kept track of
in this work. First principle: the annual crop is borne only on canes of the same year's growth, springing from wood of the previous season's growth. Second principle: the vine, if left to itself, will set three or four times the number of bunches it can properly
mature. As a result of these facts, the following system of pruning has been developed and must be followed for sure and full-sized crops.

(1) At time of planting, cut back to three or four eyes, and after these sprout leave only one (or two) of them, which should be staked up.

(2) Following winter (December to March), leave only one cane and cut this back to three or four eyes.

(3) Second growing season, save only two canes, even if several sprout, and train these to stake or trellis. These two vines, or arms, branching from the main stem, form the foundation for the one-year canes that bear the fruit. However, to prevent the vine's setting too much fruit (see second principle above) these arms must be cut back in order to limit the number of fruit-bearing canes that will spring from them, therefore:

(4) Second winter pruning, cut back these arms to eight or ten buds-- and we have prepared for the first crop of fruit, about forty bunches, as the fruiting cane from each bud will bear two bunches on the average. However these main arms will not bear fruiting-canes another year (see first principle above) and therefore:

(5) At the third winter pruning, (a) of the canes that bore fruit, only the three or four nearest the main stem or trunk are left; (b) these are cut back to eight or ten buds each, and (c) everything else is <ruthlessly cut away.
Each succeeding year the same system is continued, care being taken to rub off, each May, buds or sprouts starting on the main trunk or arms.

The wood, in addition to being cut back, must be well ripened; and the wood does not ripen until after the fruit. It therefore sometimes becomes necessary to cut out some of the bunches in order to hasten the
ripening of the rest. At the same time the application of some potassium fertilizer will be helpful. If the bunches do not ripen up quickly and pretty nearly together, the vine is overloaded and being damaged for
the following year.

The matter of pruning being mastered, the question of training is one of individual choice. Poles, trellises, arbors, walls--almost anything may be used. The most convenient system, however, and the one I would
strongly recommend for practical home gardening for results, is known as the (modified) Kniffen system. It is simplicity itself. A stout wire is stretched five or six feet above the ground; to this the single main trunks of the vine run up, and along it are stretched the two or three arms from which the fruiting-canes hang down. They occupy the least possible space, so that garden crops may be grown practically on the same ground. I have never seen it tried, but where garden space is limited I should think that the asparagus bed and the Kniffen grapearbor just described could be combined to great advantage by placing the vines, in spaces left for them, directly in the asparagus row. Of course the ground would have to be manured for two crops. A 2-8-10
fertilizer is right for the grapes. If using stable manure, apply also potassium fertilizer.

If the old-fashioned arbor is used, the best way is to run the main trunk up over it and cut the laterals back each year to two or three eyes.
The most serious grape trouble which the home gardener is likely to encounter is the black-rot. Where only a few grapes are grown, the simplest way of overcoming this disease is to get a few dozen cheap manila store-bags and fasten one, with a couple of ten-penny nails, over each bunch. Cut the mouth of the bag at sides and edges, cover the bunch, fold the flaps formed over the cane, and fasten.
 They are put on after the bunches are well formed and hasten the ripening of the fruit, as well as protecting it. On a larger scale, spraying will have to be resorted to. Besides the spraying, all trimmed- off wood, old leaves and twigs, withered bunches and grapes, or "mummies," and refuse of every description, should be carefully raked up in the spring and disposed of. Also give clean culture and keep the main stems clean.
The grape completes the list of the small fruits worth while to the average home gardener. If you have not already experimented with them, do not let your garden go any longer without them. They are all easily
obtained, and a very limited number will keep the family table well supplied with healthy delicacies, which otherwise, in their best varieties and condition, could not be had at all. The various operations of setting out, pruning and spraying will soon become as familiar as those in the vegetable garden. There is no reason why every home garden should not have its few rows of small fruits, yielding their delicious harvests in abundance.