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Care Of Young Vines

Virgil calls the period in the life of the vine between the setting
and the first vintage, the "tender nonage," and tells us that at this
time the vines need careful rearing; so they do, now as then, American
grapes as well as the grapes of ancient Rome. Fortunately, any
departure from normal well-being is easily told in the grape, for the
color of the leaf is as accurate an index to the health and vigor of
the vine as the color of the tongue or the beat of the pulse in man. A
change of color from the luxuriant green of thrifty grape foliage,
especially the yellow hue indicating that the leaf-green is not
functioning properly, suggests that the vines are sick or need nursing
in some detail of care. When all goes well, however, the amazing
energy of Nature is nowhere better seen among plants than in the
growth of the grape, so that much of the care is in the use of the
knife; in fact, as we shall see, the grape almost lives by the knife
the first two years out.

The first year.

The vines having been pruned and staked at planting, these operations
need no attention in the first summer. Many varieties send up several
shoots as growth starts, and, except in the case of grafted plants
and in the event of the suckers coming from the stock, these should be
left to feed the vine and help to establish a good root system. Vines
making a strong growth should be tied to the stake, at least the
strongest shoot, to keep the wind from whipping it about and to keep
the plants out of the way of the cultivator. The only knack in tying
is to keep the vine on the windward side of the stake, thus saving the
breaking of tying material.

The first year's pruning, though severe, is easily done. All but the
strongest cane are cut out and this is pruned back to two buds, nearly
to the ground, so that the vines are much as when set in the vineyard.
This pruning, and that of the next two years, has as the object the
establishment of a good root system and the production of a sturdy
trunk at the height at which the vine is to be headed. It is important
that the cane from which the trunk is to come be healthy and the wood
well ripened. Pruning may be done at any time after the leaves fall,
though most growers give preference to late winter. In cold climates
it is a good practice to plow up to the young vines for winter
protection, in which case the pruning should be done before plowing.

Every detail of vineyard management should be performed with care and
at the accepted time in this critical first year. Cultivation must be
intensive, insects and fungi must be warded off, mechanical injuries
avoided, vines that have refused to grow must be marked for discard,
and the vineyard be put down to a cover-crop in early August if it was
not earlier planted to some hoed catch-crop.

The second year.

Work begins in the spring of the second year with the setting of
trellis posts on which one wire is put up. The vine is not yet ready
to train but the slender lath of the first season is not sufficient
support, and the one wire on the future trellis saves the expense of
staking. Tying requires some care and is usually done with string or
bast. As the summer proceeds, suckers from the roots are removed and
some growers thin the shoots on the young vine; some think it
necessary also to top the growth if it becomes too luxuriant and so
keep the cane within bounds. Suckers must be cut or broken off at the
points where they originate, otherwise several new ones may start from
the base of the old. If the vines are topped, it must be kept in mind
that summer pruning is weakening, and the tips of shoots should,
therefore, be taken when small, the object being to direct the growth
into those parts of the vine which are to become permanent.

Pruning, the second winter the vine is out, depends on the vigor of
the plant. If a strong, healthy, well-matured cane over-tops the lower
wire of the trellis, it should be cut back so that the cane may be
tied to the wire; otherwise the vine should again be cut almost to the
ground, leaving but three or four buds. If the cane be left, in
addition to sturdiness and maturity, it should be straight, for it is
to become the trunk of the mature vine. The training of the young vine
is now at an end, for the next season the vine must be started toward
its permanent form, instructions for which are given in the chapter on

The summer care of the vineyard does not differ materially in the
second year from that of the first. Intensive cultivation continues,
the vines are treated for pests and the annual cover-crop follows
cultivation. Many varieties, if vigorous, will set some fruit in this
second summer, but the crop should not be allowed to mature, the
sooner removed the better, as fruiting at this stage of growth
seriously weakens the young vines.

Next: Catch-crops And Cover-crops

Previous: Planting

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