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Treatment Of The Vine The Third Season

At the commencement of the third season, we find our vine pruned to two
spurs of two eyes each, and four lateral canes, of from four to six
eyes each. These are tied firmly to the trellis as shown in Figure 12,
for which purpose small twigs of willows (especially the golden willow,
of which every grape-grower should plant a supply) are the most
convenient. The ground is ploughed and hoed deeply, as described
before, taking care, however, not to plough so deep as to cut or tear
the roots of the vine.

Our vines being tied, ploughed, and hoed, we come to one of the most
important and delicate operations to be performed; one of as
great--nay, greater--importance than pruning. I mean summer-pruning, or
pinching, _i.e._ thumb or finger pruning. Fall-pruning, or cutting
back, is but the beginning of the discipline under which we intend to
keep our vines; summer-pruning is the continuation, and one is useless,
and cannot be followed systematically without the other.

Let us look at our vine well, before we begin, and commence near the
ground. The time to perform the first summer-pruning is when the young
shoots are about six to eight inches long, and when you can see plainly
all the small bunches or buttons--the embryo fruit. We commence on the
lower two spurs, having two buds each. From these two shoots have
started. One of them we intend for a bearing cane next summer;
therefore allow it to grow unchecked for the present, tying it, if long
enough, to the lowest wire. The other, which we intend for a spur again
next fall, we pinch with thumb and finger to just beyond the last bunch
or button, taking out the leader between the last bunch and the next
leaf, as shown in Figure 11, the cross line indicating where the leader
is to be pinched off. We now come to the next spur, on the opposite
side, where we also leave one cane to grow unchecked, and pinch off the
other. We now go over all the shoots coming from the arms or laterals
tied to the trellis, and also pinch them beyond the last bunch. Should
any of the buds have pushed out two shoots, we rub off the weakest; we
also take off all barren or weak shoots. If any of them are not
sufficiently developed we pass them over, and go over the vines again,
in a few days after the first pinching.

This early pinching of the shoot has a tendency to throw all the vigor
into the development of the young bunch, and the leaves remaining on
the shoot, which now grow with astonishing rapidity. It is a gentle
checking, and leading the sap into other channels; not the violent
process which is often followed long after the bloom, when the wood has
become so hardened that it must be cut with a knife, and by which the
plant is robbed of a large quantity of its leaves, to the injury of
both fruit and vine. Let any of my readers, who wish to satisfy
themselves, summer-prune a vine, according to the method described
here, and leave the next vine until after the bloom, and he will
plainly perceive the difference. The merit of first having practised
this method here, which I consider one of vast importance in
grape-culture, belongs to Mr. WILLIAM POESCHEL, of this place, who was
led to do so, by observing the rapid development of the young bunches
on a shoot which had accidentally been broken beyond the last bunch.
Now, there is hardly an intelligent grape-grower here, who does not
follow it; and I think it has added more than one-third to the quantity
and quality of my crop. It also gives a chance to destroy the small,
white worm, a species of leaf-folder, which is very troublesome just at
this time, eating the young fruit and leaves, and which makes its web
among the tender leaves at the end of the shoot.

The bearing branches having all been pinched back, we can leave our
vines alone until after the bloom, only tying up the young canes from
the spurs, should it become necessary. But do not tie them over the
bearing canes, but lead them to the empty space on both sides of the
vine; as our object must be to give the fruit all the air and light we

By the time the grapes have bloomed, the laterals will have pushed from
the axils of the leaves on the bearing shoots. Now go over these again,
and pinch each lateral back to one leaf, as shown in Figure 12. This
will make the leaf which remains grow and expand rapidly, serving at
the same time as a conductor of sap to the young bunch opposite, and
shading it when it becomes fully developed. The canes from the spurs,
which we left unchecked, and which we design to bear fruit the next
season, may now also be stopped or pinched, when they are about three
feet long, to start their laterals into stronger growth. Pinch off all
the tendrils; this is a very busy time for the vine-dresser, and upon
his close attendance and diligence now, depends, in a great measure,
the value of his crop. Besides, "a stitch in time saves nine," and he
can save an incredible amount of labor by doing everything at the
proper time.

In a short time, the laterals on the fruit-bearing branches which have
been pinched will throw out suckers again. These are stopped again,
leaving one leaf of the young growth. Leave the laterals on the canes
intended for next years' fruiting to grow unchecked, tying them neatly
with bass, or pawpaw bark, or with rye straw.

This is about all that is necessary for this summer, except an
occasional tying up of a fruiting branch, should its burden become more
than it can bear. But the majority of the branches will be able to
sustain their fruit without tying, and the young growth which may yet
start from the laterals may be left unchecked, as it will serve to
shade the fruit when ripening. Of course, the soil must be kept clean
and mellow, as in the former summer. This short pruning is also a
partial preventative against mildew and rot, and the last extremely wet
season has again shown the importance of letting in light and air to
all parts of the vine; as those vineyards, where a strict system of
early summer pruning had been followed, did not suffer half as much
from rot and mildew as those where the old slovenly method still

My readers will perceive, that Fall-pruning, or shortening-in the
ripened wood of the vine, and summer-pruning, shortening in and
thinning out the young growth, have one and all the same object in
view, namely, to keep the vine within proper bounds, and concentrate
all its energies for a two-fold object, namely, the production and
ripening of the most perfect fruit, and the production of strong,
healthy wood for the coming season's crop. Both operations are, in
fact, only different parts of one and the same system, of which
summer-pruning is the preparatory, and fall pruning the finishing part.

If we think that a vine is setting more fruit than it is able to bear
and ripen perfectly, we have it in our power to thin it, by taking away
all imperfect bunches, and feeble shoots. We should allow no more wood
to grow than we need for next season's bearing; if we allow three canes
to grow where only two are needed, we waste the energies of the vine,
which should all be concentrated upon ripening its fruit in the most
perfect condition, and producing the necessary wood for next season's
bearing, and that of the best and most vigorous quality, but no more.
If we prune the vine too long, we over-tax its energies; making it bear
more fruit than it can perfect, and the result will be poor,
badly-ripened fruit, and small and imperfect wood. If, on the contrary,
we prune the vine too short, we will have a rank, excessive growth of
wood and leaves, and encourage rot and mildew. Only practice and
experience will teach us the exact medium, and the observing vintner
will soon find out where he has been wrong, better than he can be
taught by a hundred pages of elaborate advice. Different varieties will
require different treatment, and it would be foolishness to suppose
that two varieties so entirely different, as for instance, the Concord
and the Delaware, could be pruned, trained and pinched in the same
manner. The first, being a rank and vigorous grower, with long joints,
will require much longer pruning than the latter, which is a
slow-growing, short-jointed vine. Some varieties, the Taylor for
instance, also the Norton, will fruit better if pruned to spurs on old
wood, than on the young canes; it will therefore be the best policy for
the vintner in pruning these, to retain the old arms or canes, pruning
all the healthy, strong shoots they have to two buds, as long as the
old arms remain healthy; always, however, growing a young cane to fall
back upon, should the old arm become diseased; whereas, the Catawba and
Delaware, being only moderate growers, will flourish and bear best when
pruned short, and to a cane of last season's growth. The Concord and
Herbemont, again, will bear best on the laterals of last season's
growth, and should be trained accordingly. Therefore it is, because
only a few of the common laborers will take the pains to think and
observe closely, that we find among them but few good vine-dressers.

At the end of this season, we find our Concords or Herbemonts, with the
old fruit-bearing cane, and a spur on each side, from which have grown
two canes; one of which was stopped, like all other fruit-bearing
branches, and which we now prune to a spur of two eyes; and another,
which was stopped at about three feet, and on which the laterals were
allowed to grow unchecked. We therefore have one of these canes, with
its laterals, on each side of the vine. These laterals are now pruned
precisely as the last season, each being cut back to from four to six
eyes, and the old cane, which has borne fruit, is cut away altogether.
With Norton's Virginia, Taylor, and some others, which will bear more
readily on spurs from old wood, the old cane is retained, provided the
shoots on it are sound and healthy, with well developed buds; the weak
ones are cut away altogether, and the others cut back to two eyes each.
One of the canes is pruned, as in the Concord, to be tied to one side
of the trellis, the next spring. This closes our summer and fall
pruning for the third year. Of the gathering of the fruit, as well for
market as for wine, I shall speak in another chapter.

Next: Treatment Of The Vine The Fourth Summer

Previous: Treatment Of The Vine The Second Summer

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