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- The Home Acre - 10/28 -


fruit in his locality. From causes often too obscure to be learned with certainty, excellent kinds will prove to be well adapted to one locality, and fail in others. If, therefore, when calling on a neighbor during August, September, or October, we are shown a vine producing fruit abundantly that is suited to our taste, a vine also which manifests unmistakable vigor, we may be reasonably sure that it belongs to a variety which we should have, especially if it be growing in a soil and exposure somewhat similar to our garden plot. A neighbor worthy of the name will be glad to give us a few cuttings from his vine at the time of its annual pruning; and with, very little trouble we also may soon possess the desired variety. When the vine is trimmed, either make yourself or have your friend make a few cuttings of sound wood from that season's growth. About eight inches is a good length for these vine-slips, and they should contain at least two buds. Let each slip be cut off smoothly just under the lowest bud, and extend an inch or two above the uppermost bud. If these cuttings are obtained in November or December, they may be put into a little box with some of the moist soil of the garden, and buried in the ground below the usual frost-line--say a foot or eighteen inches in our latitude. The simple object is to keep them in a cool, even temperature, but not a frosty one. Early in April dig up the box, open a trench in a moist but not wet part of the garden, and insert the cuttings perpendicularly in the soil, so that the upper bud is covered barely one inch. In filling up the trench, press the soil carefully yet firmly about the cuttings, and spread over the surface just about them a little fine manure. The cuttings should be a foot apart from each other in the row. Do not let the ground become dry about them at any time during the summer. By fall these cuttings will probably have thrown out an abundance of roots, and have made from two to three feet of vine. In this case they can be taken up and set out where they are to fruit. Possibly but one or two of them have started vigorously. The backward ones had better be left to grow another year in the cutting bed. Probably we shall not wish to cultivate more than one or two vines of the variety; but it is just as easy to start several cuttings as one, and by this course we guard against failure, and are able to select the most vigorous plant for our garden. By taking good care of the others we soon derive one of the best pleasures which our acre can afford--that of giving to a friend something which will enhance the productiveness of his acre, and add to his enjoyment for years to come.

Not only on our neighbor's grounds, but also on our own we shall discover that some varieties are unusually vigorous, productive, and well-adapted to our locality; and we may very naturally wish to have more vines of the same sort, especially if the fruit is to our taste. We can either increase this kind by cuttings, as has been described, or we can layer part of the vine that has won our approval by well-doing. I shall take the latter course with several delicious varieties in my vineyard. Some kinds of grapes do not root readily as cuttings, but there is little chance of failure in layering. This process is simply the laying down of a branch of a vine in early spring, and covering it lightly with soil, so that some buds will be beneath the surface, and others just at or a little above it. Those beneath will form roots, the others shoots which by fall should be good vines for planting. Every bud that can reach the air and light will start upward, and thus there may be a thick growth of incipient vines that will crowd and enfeeble each other. The probabilities are that only two or three new vines are wanted; therefore all the others should be rubbed off at the start, so that the strength of the parent plant and of the new roots that are forming may go into those few shoots designed to become eventually a part of our vineyard. If we wish only one vine, then but one bud should grow from the layer; if two vines, then two buds. The fewer buds that are permitted to grow, the stronger vines they make.

It must be remembered that this layer, for the greater part of the growing season, is drawing its sustenance from the parent plant, to which it is still attached. Therefore the other branches of this vine thus called upon for unusual effort should be permitted to fruit but sparingly. We should not injure and enfeeble the original vine in order to get others like it. For this reason we advise that no more buds be permitted to grow from the layer than we actually need ourselves. To injure a good vine and deprive ourselves of fruit that we may have plants to give away, is to love one's neighbor better than one's self--a thing permitted, but not required. When our vines are pruned, we can make as many cuttings as we choose, either to sell or give away.

The ground in which a layer is placed should be very rich, and its surface round the young growing vines always kept moist and free from weeds. In the autumn, after the leaves have fallen and the wood is ripe and hard, cut off the layered branch close to the vine, and with a garden-fork gently and carefully lift it, with all its roots and young vines attached, out of the soil. First cut the young vines back to three or four buds, then separate them from the branch from which they grew, being sure to give each plant plenty of roots, and the roots BACK of the point from which it grew; that is, those roots nearest the parent plant from which the branch was layered. All the old wood of the branch that is naked, free of roots, should be cut off. The young shoots thus separated are now independent vines, and may be set out at once where they are to fruit. If you have a variety that does not do well, or that you do not like, dig it out, enrich the soil, and put one of your favorites in its place.

We will now consider briefly the diseases and insect enemies of the grape. A vine way be doomed to ill-health from its very situation. Mr. Hussman, a grape-culturist of great experience and wide observation, writes: "Those localities may generally be considered safe for the grape in which there are no miasmatic influences. Where malaria and fevers prevail, there is no safety for the crop, as the vine seems to be as susceptible to such influences as human beings."

Taking this statement literally, we may well ask, Where, then, can grapes be grown? According to physicians, malaria has become one of the most generally diffused products of the country. When a man asserts that it is not in his locality, we feel sure that if pressed he will admit that it is "round the corner." Country populations still survive, however, and so does grape-culture. Yet there are low-lying regions which from defective drainage are distinctively and, it would almost seem, hopelessly malarial. In such localities but few varieties of the vine will thrive, The people who are compelled to live there, or who choose to do so, should experiment until they obtain varieties so hardy and vigorous that they will triumph over everything. The best course with grape-diseases is not to have them; in other words, to recognize the fact at once that certain varieties of the grape will not thrive and be productive of good fruit unless the soil and climate suit them. The proprietor of the Home Acre can usually learn by a little inquiry or observation whether grapes thrive in his locality. If there is much complaint of mildew, grape-rot, and general feebleness of growth, he should seek to plant only the most hardy and vigorous kinds.

As I have said before, our cultivated grapes are derived from several native species found growing wild, and some now valued highly for wine-making are nothing but wild grapes domesticated; as, for instance, Norton's Virginia, belonging to the oestivalis class. The original plant of this variety was found growing upon an island in the Potomac by Dr. Norton, of Virginia.

The species from which the greatest number of well-known grapes is obtained is the Vitis labrusca, the common wild or fox grape, found growing in woods and thickets, usually where the ground is moist, from Canada to the Gulf. The dark purple berries, averaging about three-quarters of an inch in diameter, ripen in September, and they contain a tough, musky pulp. Yet this "slip of wilderness" is the parent of the refined Catawba, the delicious Brighton, and the magnificent white grape Lady Washington--indeed, of all the black, red, and white grapes with which most people are familiar. Our earliest grapes, which ripen in August, as well as some of the latest, like the Isabella, come from the labrusca species. It is said that the labrusca class will not thrive in the extreme South; and with the exception of the high mountain slopes, this appears reasonable to the student of the vine. It is said that but few of this class will endure the long hot summers of France. But there are great differences among the varieties derived from this native species. For example, the Concord thrives almost anywhere, while even here upon the Hudson we can scarcely grow the Catawba with certainty. It is so good a grape, however, that I persist in making the effort, with varying success; but I should not recommend it, or many of its class, for those localities not specially suited to the grape.

I will now name a few varieties which have proved to be, or promise to be, the most thrifty and productive whereever grapes can be grown at all the labrusca class: Black--Concord, Wilder, Worden, Amenia, Early Canada, Telegraph or Christine, Moore's Early. Red-Wyoming, Goethe, Lindley, Beauty, Brighton, Perkins (pale red), and Agawam. White--Rebecca, Martha, Alien's Hybrid, Lady Pocklington, Prentiss, Lady Washington. These are all fine grapes, and they have succeeded throughout wide areas of country. Any and all are well worth a trial; but if the grower finds that some of them are weak and diseased in his grounds, I should advise that he root them out and replace them with those which thrive. The Niagara is highly praised, and may make good all that is claimed for it.

Of the aestivalis class I can recommend the Cynthiana and the Herbemont, or Warren, for the extreme South. Both of them are black. There are new varieties of this vigorous species which promise well.

The cordifolia species promises to furnish some fine, hardy, and productive grapes, of which the Amber is an example. The Elvira, a pale yellow grape, is highly praised by Mr. Hussman. Although the Bacchus is distinctively a wine grape, I have already said that its flavor, when fully ripe, was agreeable to me. The only difficulty in growing it is to keep the ground poor, and use the pruning-knife freely.

I have enlarged on this point, for I wish to direct the mind of the reader to the fact that there are many very hardy grapes. I congratulate those who, with the taste of a connoisseur, have merely to sample until they find just the varieties that suit them, and then to plant these kinds in their genial soil and favored locality.

At the same time I should like to prevent others from worrying along with unsatisfactory varieties, or from reaching the conclusion that they can not grow grapes in their region or garden. Let them rather admit that they can not raise some kinds, but may others. If a variety were persistently diseased, feeble, and unproductive under good treatment, I should root it out rather than continue to nurse and coddle it.


The Home Acre - 10/28

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