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Winter-protection Of Grapes

With a little care as to winter-protection, grapes may be grown
profitably in northern regions where, without protection, the vines
are killed or injured by low temperatures. Indeed, it is little short
of amazing how well grapes can be grown in northern regions where
nature wears a most austere countenance in winter, if hardy early
sorts are planted in warm soils and situations, and the vines are
covered in the winter. Occasionally one finds grapes grown profitably
in commercial vineyards in the northern states in regions where
protection must be given to prevent winter-killing, the extra work of
giving protection being more than offset by the high price received in
local markets for the fruit.

In all locations in which winter-protection must be given, several
other precautions are helpful or even necessary. Thus, cultivation
must cease early in the season, and a cover-crop be sown to help
harden and mature the vines. The grapes, also, must not be planted in
soils rich in nitrogen, and nitrogenous fertilizers must be applied
with care. The pruning should be such as does not induce great growth.
These simple precautions to hasten maturity often suffice in climates
where the danger of winter-killing is but slight, but where danger is
imminent the vines must be covered either by wrapping or by laying
down. Wrapping with straw may suffice for a few vines, but when many
vines are to be protected, laying them down is cheaper and much more

By laying down is meant that the vines must be placed on the ground
and there be protected by earth and snow or other covering. It is
obvious that to protect thus, the vines must receive special training;
otherwise the trunks may be too stiff for bending. Some method of
training must be chosen in which renewals may be made rather
frequently from the ground so that if the trunks become large, clumsy
and unpliable, a more manageable trunk can be trained. If the
provisions for renewal are kept in mind, any one of the several
methods of training grapes explained in Chapter VIII on training may
be used.

Laying down must be preceded by pruning, after which the arms and
trunk are loosened from the wires and bent to the ground. Bending is
facilitated by removing a spade full of earth from the side of the
vine in the direction in which the vine is to be bent. The trunk is
then laid on the earth and sufficient soil placed on it to keep it in
place on the ground. If the danger of winter-killing is great because
of the tenderness of the variety or the austerity of the climate, it
often becomes necessary to cover the whole plant lightly with earth.
Small growers often make use of coarse manure, straw, corn-stalks or
similar covering, in which case the vines are held on the ground by
fence-rails or other timbers; but protecting with material that must
be brought into the vineyard is expensive and not more satisfactory
than earth.

The vines can be put down at any time after the leaves drop and before
the earth begins to freeze. It is more important that the vines be
taken up at the proper time in the spring. If uncovered too early and
cold weather follows, injury may result and more harm be done than if
the vines had not been covered. On the other hand, if the earth is
permitted to remain too long, foliage and vine are tender both to
sunshine and frost. A grape-grower in New York who has had much
experience in laying down vines in a vineyard of some thirty or forty
acres says that the work may be done at a cost of $6 an acre at the
average wage paid for farm-labor. It must be expected in a large
plantation, no matter how well the work of covering is done, that
occasionally a trunk will be broken, making it necessary to graft the
vine if a shoot does not spring up from below the break.

Next: Ripening Dates And Length Of Season For Grapes

Previous: Bagging Grapes

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