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Pruning and Training.
Several methods have been recommended by authors for the pruning and management of vines, each of which is supposed to possess some particular merit; and as the ultimate object, in all cases, must be supposed to be that of a large crop of good fruit, it is material to consider how and by what means this is to be obtained, and also what description of crop when it is obtained, whether that of a large number of bunches, or a number of large bunches, the weight of the whole being the same.
I have myself ever been an advocate for large fruit, or the largest size to which any particular fruit usually attains, being fully satisfied that the value of fruit is more to be estimated by its individual bulk or weight, than by the number of its individuals composing that weight. I may illustrate this by taking, for example, any variety of either grape or other fruit; but, as we are now considering the former, let the Muscat of Alexandria, Black Hamburgh, or indeed any
sort, be selected, and compare fifty single berries of the largest size, with an hundred others of the same aggregate weight, equally in a state of maturity: the preponderance in the scale of merit will be given, I apprehend, by all competent judges, to the fifty instead of the hundred. If, hen, we are to consider the maximum of merit to consist in the obtaining of superior fruit, this accomplished, the gardener will have no difficulty in possessing himself of those of a lower grade in the scale, as that will be regulated by his own application of the means within his reach.
The attainment, then, of fine grapes can only be accomplished by having the vine in a vigorous and flourishing state. In the hothouse or in the vinery, as soon as the vines are planted out, one good shoot must be
obtained from each rafter, or other place intended for its support; and at the end of the year, or as soon as the leaves are fallen off, it should be cut down to the bottom of the rafter. In the spring the two uppermost shoots must be trained at length, cutting off any other which may be produced from the lower eyes. When they have grown to the top of the rafter they must be stopped : this will occasion two or three of the upper eyes to push out into lateral shoots, which must be treated in the same manner as directed under the head Propagation, after the description of the different sorts of GRAPES, in that part which relates to the strong shoots of young plants from layers in pots; and the small laterals from beside the main buds, from their first appearance, must be treated in a similar manner.
When these two shoots have cast their leaves in the autumn, one of them should be cut down to two eyes, leaving the other shoot to ten, twelve, or fifteen, according to its strength.
This, according to Mr. Speechly's method, is the commencement of an alternate system of fruiting one shoot this year, to be cut down for the purpose of furnishing a supply for the next.
If the number of eyes left upon the long shoot be not too great, they will all push and show fruit, one or two branches from each eye; which, for the first crop, had better perhaps be reduced to one, and this at the time after the berries are set, as it will then be seen which is likely to form the best bunch, leaving that, and cutting the other away, stopping the shoot at the same time two joints above the fruit. The uppermost eye will push again, which must be treated as described before for laterals.
When the berries are as large as small peas, they must be thinned out by the scissors : this operation must be repeated as they advance in size, taking care to cut out the interior ones, and leaving the outermost.
This practice will, in all cases, give the greatest dimensions of which the bunch is capable. When the bunch is a shouldered one, the shoulders should be expanded and supported by strings, and when finally thinned out, the berries should be kept at such a distance as not only not to touch each other, but to have some considerable space between them. By this means the berries will not only acquire the greatest possible size, but the highest degree of both colour and flavour : besides this, any bunch of grapes, deprived of one third of its original number of berries, by judicious and timely thinning, will weigh fully as much when matured, if not much more, than it would have done had it been left in a state of nature, to say nothing of its vastly superior quality; the interior and exterior berries possessing an equal degree of both colour and flavour.
The fellow shoot, which had been cut down to two eyes, will have sent forth two shoots, which must be treated in the same manner as directed for the first two in the preceding
In the autumn pruning, when the leaves are fallen, the shoot which produced the fruit must be cut out, leaving the two young shoots only, which are to be treated precisely as those had been before, except leaving the long shoot with a few more eyes, in consequence of the increased strength of the plant; and allowing, perhaps, two bunches to remain from each eye, instead of reducing them to one.
This mode of pruning and training is applicable principally to those houses where the rafters only are to be occupied by the vine, as over the pine-pit, or where other crops are cultivated in the body of the house ; but when it is intended to occupy the whole roof, this system may still be adopted, by extending the vine on each side of the rafter, till it meets that from the adjoining one; or, the vine may be divided at the bottom of the rafter, on
its first training, and formed with two principals on each side, making four principals to each vine. If, however, the vines should consist of the larger-fruited class, such as Muscat of Alexandria, Black Hamburgh, or Syrian, &c., one principal on the rafter and one on each side will be much better than more.
It may likewise be necessary to extend this system still further, where the house is large, and has a great length of rafter, which may be done by forming a second series one half the way up the rafter: by this means a cop will be obtained under the upper as well as the lower part of the roof.
There are some who adopt a spur system in the management of their vines, and who obtain very good grapes; but in this case a provision must be made for a supply of bearing wood, when the limbs producing these spurs are exhausted, and require to be renewed.
Vines against the open wall.
In the management of Vines against the common wall, where it is intended to be wholly occupied for grapes, I should recommend a somewhat similar method of pruning and training to be adopted as that under glass ; with this difference, that instead of cutting down alternately for two shoots, one only will be required.
The vines should be planted at six feet apart, and supposing the young plant to have one good and vigourous shoot, it must be cut down to three or four eyes. As soon as the young shoots are long enough to nail to the wall, two of the best must be selected, and trained horizontally within nine inches of the ground: when each shoot has extended two feet and a half from the stem, it must be trained in a perpendicular direction for two or three feet according to its strength, when it must
be stopped, and such lateral shoots as may be produced after that time, must be treated as directed before.
In the autumn when the leaves are fallen, each shoot should be pinned back to the horizontal line where it had turned upwards, thus leaving a foot between the extremities of each vine.
As soon as the young shoots are long enough, three must be selected from each shoot at a foot distance from each other : one at the extremity, another a foot from that, and a third within six inches of the stem where it had been first headed down ; these must be trained perpendicularly, and if each plant has furnished its six shoots, they will be a foot from each other the whole length of the wall. When they have attained a height of four feet they must be stopped, and not suffered to extend further that season.
This mode of arrangement is by far the most perfect of any that I have seen, and when the vines have extended some way up the wall, they will make a very neat and uniform appearance, nor will they be less so at any future period.
If the vines should be weak when first planted out, it will be better to cut them down to two eyes, and select the best shoot from each, which should be trained perpendicularly the first year : during this time the plants will have got firm hold of the soil, and may be proceeded with as directed before.
In the next autumn pruning, every alternate shoot must be cut down to two eyes, and the others left two or three feet, according to their strength, for fruit. Should these produce more than half a dozen bunches each, it would be better to reduce them to this number, as eighteen bunches will be as many as any one of the plants, at this age, ought to be allowed to bear. The intermediate shoots which had been cut down to two eyes, will produce two shoots, the best of which only