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Planting








The dangers and difficulties of planting hardwooded plants are greatly
exaggerated. The tyro, in particular, is impressed with his
responsibilities at this time, and often sends a hurry-up call to
experiment station or nurseryman to "send him a man to plant." If the
land is properly prepared and the plants in good condition, the
operation of planting is easily, quickly and safely accomplished.
There is no need, in planting the vine, of such puttering overniceties
as laying out the roots to preserve the fibers, watering each vine as
it is set, inserting the vine in a gingerly fashion to make sure that
it stands in its new abode as it stood in the old, or puddling the
roots in pail or tub of water. On the other hand, the slap-dash method
of a Stringfellow who cuts off all small roots and uses a crowbar in
place of a spade is not doing duty by the plant, and burying the roots
deep in the earth or covering them close to the surface is courting
failure.

Digging the holes.

This is a simple task in land in good tilth. The holes need only be
large and deep enough to hold the roots without undue cramping. Herein
is again manifested the wisdom of thoroughly preparing the land; for,
in well-prepared land, the hole is really as large as the vineyard.
Even in the condition of poor tilth, deep holes are often a menace to
the life of the plant, especially if drainage is not provided, for the
deep hole becomes a tub into which water pours and stands to soak the
roots of dying vines. An extra spurt in digging holes cannot take the
place of perfect fitting of the land.

There is nothing to commend the practice of digging holes in a leisure
time that all may be ready when the time to plant arrives. The vines
will strike root best in the freshly turned, moist soil of newly dug
earth, which can be firmly set about the roots when the vine is
planted. Neither is time saved in digging beforehand, for the
sun-baked and rain-washed sides of holes long dug would surely have to
be pared afresh. It is, however, quite worth while to throw the
surface soil to one side and that lower to the other, that a spadeful
of moist, virile, surface soil may be put next to the roots.

There are, no doubt, some soils in which the holes might be blasted
out with dynamite, as, for instance, in a shallow soil with the
hardpan near the surface and good subsoil beneath. It is very
questionable, however, whether these defective soils should be used
for commercial plantings as long as there still remain unplanted many
acres in all grape regions of good deep land for the grape. To such as
are attracted by "dynamite farming," minute descriptions of methods of
use of dynamite and even demonstrations may be secured from
manufacturers of the explosive.

Time to plant.

The best time to plant the vine in cold climates is early spring, when
sun and showers arouse the spirit of growth in plants, and nutritive
solutions proceed quickly and unerringly to their preappointed places.
At this time, the much mutilated vine can undertake best the double
task of making fresh roots and opening the dormant leaves. Fall
planting puts forward the work, thus diminishing the rush of early
spring when vineyard operations crowd, and, no doubt, when all is
favorable, enables the vines to start a little more quickly. However,
there are frequently serious losses from planting in the fall. In cold
winters the grip of frost is sufficient to wrench the young vine from
its place and sometimes all but heaves it out of the soil. There is,
also, great liability of winter-killing in vines transplanted in the
autumn, not because of greater tenderness of the plant, but because of
greater porosity of the loosened soil which enables the cold to strike
to a greater depth. These two objections to fall planting can be
overcome largely by mounding up the earth so as practically to cover
the vines, leveling the mound in early spring; but this extra work
more than offsets the labor saving in fall planting.

In climates in which the soil does not freeze in the winter, the vines
may be set in the autumn if all is favorable. Often, however,
conditions are not favorable to fall planting in warm climates, since
autumn rains frequently soak the soil so that it cannot be placed
properly about the roots; and, moreover, in a cold, water-logged soil
the inactive roots begin to decay; or the soil may be too dry for fall
planting. Under such conditions, it is often better to delay planting
in warm climates until spring when better soil conditions can be
secured. Fall or spring, the soil should be reasonably dry, warm and
mellow when the work is done. The best time to plant must necessarily
vary from year to year, and the vineyardist must decide exactly when
to undertake planting in accordance with the conditions of soil and
weather, mindful that the Psalmist's injunction that there is "a time
to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted" is subject to
several conditions requiring judgment. The grape puts out its leaves
late in the spring, making the temptation great to delay planting;
late-set plants, however, need special care lest they suffer from the
summer droughts which annually parch the lands of this continent.

The operation of planting.

All being in readiness, planting proceeds rapidly. A gang of four men
work to advantage. Two dig holes, a third holds the vines and tramps
the earth as the remaining man shovels in earth. Except in large
vineyards, four men are seldom available, and gangs of two or three
must divide the work among its members as best suits conditions. A
tree-setting board is not needed in planting grapes, although some
growers use it. The man who holds the vines in the hole and tramps as
the shoveler fills, must align the plant after the stake is removed
and see that it stands perpendicularly in the hole. The stake, a lath,
is set in its old place in the hole to serve as a support for the
growing vine and to mark it so that the cultivator does not pull up
the young plant. The soil must be set firm about the roots of the
plant, but zeal in tramping should diminish as the hole is filled,
leaving the topsoil untramped, smooth, loose and pulverized, a dust
mulch--the best of all mulches--to prevent evaporation.

The depth to which vines should be set is a matter of controversy.
This should be governed by the soil more than by any other factor,
although some varieties need a deeper root-run than others. The rule
to plant to the depth the vine stood in the nursery row is safe under
most conditions, although in light, hungry or thirsty soils the roots
should go deeper; and, on the other hand, in heavy soils, not so deep.
Deep planting is a more common mistake than shallow planting, for
roots under most conditions stand exposure better than internment,
going down being more natural than coming up for a root seeking a
place to its liking.

Watering at planting is necessary only when the land is parched with
drought or in regions in which irrigation is practiced. When
necessary, water should be used liberally, at least a gallon or two to
a vine. After the earth has been firmed about the roots and the hole
is nearly filled, the water should be poured in and the hole filled
without more firming. Under dry weather conditions, some prefer to
puddle the roots; that is, to dip them in thin mud and plant with the
mud adhering. In making the puddle, loose loam and not sticky clay is
used, as clay may bake so hard as to injure the roots. With puddling,
as with watering, the surface soil should be left loose and soft
without traces of the puddling below.

Manure or fertilizer about the roots or even in the hole are not
necessary or even desirable. If the soil is to be enriched at all at
planting time, the fertilizer should be spread on the surface to be
cultivated in or to have its food elements leak down as rains fall. In
land in which the providential design for grapes is plainly
manifested, the vine at no time responds heartily to fertilizers, the
good of stable manure probably coming for the most part from its
effects on the texture and water-holding capacity of the soil. The
newly set plant is not in need of outside nourishment; to put rank
manure or strong commercial fertilizers about the roots of a young
newly set vine is plant infanticide.





Next: Care Of Young Vines

Previous: Selecting And Preparing The Vines



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