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Growing grapes

Growing grapesIf the gardener has grown his own vines the first step in transplanting them to their permanent places will be to dig them from the nursery or plant bed where they have grown. And here great care must be observed or the roots will be badly mutilated. It has already been said that grape roots are long, slender, and numerous and that they naturally spread near the surface of the ground. If the spade is inserted near the vine the roots will be cut short and fatal consequences will probably follow the operation of transplanting.

Set the spade not nearer than a foot from the young plant and work under it from this point of beginning; at the same time gently lift or pull the vine but not hard enough to strain or break its roots. If, however, there are roots that are broken or mutilated in the operation of digging, as is likely to be the case, they should be cut smoothly at their ends, which will greatly encourage the formation of new roots in place of those broken or cut away. This same care should be given plants that are purchased from the nurseryman before planting them out.

Cut back the previous year's growth of wood to a spur of two buds. If the young vine has been neglected in the nursery and allowed to form several shoots they should all be cut back in the same manner. Care should be taken in these operations to guard the roots of the vine from all avoidable exposure to sun and wind. When a plant is dug and its roots and top pruned as above directed, and it is made ready for planting, in case it is impossible to plant it at once, its roots should be immediately covered with fresh earth or otherwise protected until it is wanted for planting.

Distances between the Vines - Farmers almost invariably use horse cultivators. It will be well, therefore, to plant the vines, when more than a dozen in number, with this fact in view. It is inferred that the vineyard will be subordinate to the general farming operations; hence the vines should be planted in long lines or rows for convenience in using the horse and cultivator in their culture. The proper width of rows will be 7 or 8 feet, about double the space allotted to several ordinary farm crops.

Then the cultivator may pass, if neclessary, directly from the adjacent field crops and through the vineyard rows. This will establish the distance apart of the rows of vines, and the average distance between vines in the rows may be safely fixed at 8 feet, though this will depend somewhat upon the system of training intended and the varieties to be planted. Strong ­growing varieties like Concord or Niagara will require a little more space, while feeble-growing ones, such as the Delaware, may do well with less.

Time and method of planting grapes - It will be well for the vines if a cloudy, damp day (not wet) in spring or fall be chosen for their planting, as the roots will be less injured by exposure to such an atmosphere as would then prevail. The digging of the holes is of minor importance, as it is inferred that the soil of the vineyard site has been thoroughly prepared before the time of planting and the holes will need to be made only large enough to receive the roots of the vine without cramping them.

The bottom of the hole may be made a little higher in the center so that the roots of the vine, when it is placed on this highest point, will be a little deeper at their outer end. They should be evenly distributed so they will start out in every direction from the vine, their common center, as they were originally formed. Fill in about the roots with well pulverized soil and the work of planting is accomplished. The plants should be set a little deeper than they stood before they were taken up for transplanting.

Supports and training vines - The support for the young vine at first may be temporary, a mere stake or pole sufficiently strong to bear its weight and tall enough to train it in an upright position for one or two seasons. During this time it should be trained as a single shoot, from which all lateral or side branches are pinched off as soon as they are formed. These lateral or side branches will start at a point above each leaf and will be very easily broken off if attended to early.

At the end of the first year's growth of the young vine, treated as above directed, it may be expected to resemble an upright stem. A well-cultivated grape-vine of the Concord or some equally strong­growing variety should then be from 5 to 10 feet in length. Its treatment the following or second year will depend somewhat upon the training intended. In any event it should be cut back in the fall or winter of the first year to within about 2 feet of the ground.

Only the two upper buds should be allowed to grow for the second season, and they should be treated as the single shoot of the previous year was; that is, by training them to single shoots. If the vine, now in its third year's growth from layer or cutting is a strong, one it may be allowed to bear a cluster of fruit on each of the two shoots of wood of this year's growth.

In the fall or early winter each of these two shoots (now called canes) should be cut back to about 2 feet in length. The vine will then have its stem and two branches or canes cut back to an even length, as they are intended for the permanent horizontal arms of the vine that is to be.

The vine has now passed its second year in its permanent location and is ready for a more enduring support. This may be a stake, a building, or a trellis. The stake is now almost obsolete, having been superseded by the trellis, made cheaper and really better than the stake through the use of wire in its construction.