GRAPES

UNDER GLASS. A vine should be about 6—8 ft. long when purchased and planted about 6 in. deep during the autumn or not later than January, after which cut down to a bud that gets full light. In practice this may mean cutting back to about 2 ft. This cannot be arbitrarily fixed as it depends on the size and situation of the greenhouse for the best chance of a crop of satisfying grapes is by growing under glass, in a lean-to for preference. In planting, tread down the soil very firmly, and if more than one vine is put in leave 5 ft. between each, and put them in at the front of the lean-to, so that they can be trained upward to the wall side of the top glass. Prepare a bed for the roots by digging at least 3 ft. deep, putting in, over a layer of broken brick for drainage, decayed turves almost to the surface, in which lime and bone meal are mixed, and then fill up with good average soil, but take care the drainage is good. Cut back first year’s growth to a little more than half its length so as to increase the girth and stability of the main stem. This should be done in autumn and will result in really sturdy top growth during the second year. Prune off side shoots up to the basal buds; from these the third year’s lateral shoots will burst. It is really only in the third year that fruits form, though some immature bunches may form during the second year which are best removed before taking strength from the young vine. Three-year-old vines can be purchased for fruiting first year of planting. The third-year crop will be from laterals from the main rod, and burst about 1 ft. from each other. Do not let the laterals run wild; when the bunch has formed pinch off the lateral at a couple of leaves beyond, and after gathering, cut lateral back to a bit more than half in the autumn. The question of heat depends on kinds and when bunches are wanted; the earlier, the greater temperature advisable; for ripening in August the heat of the sun will materially help. During the time the fruit is forming an average temperature of 70 degrees F. is needed. Do not neglect airing; both ventilation and watering are factors in success; keep the air fresh, keep it moist and syringe at intervals. Open the ventilators during the hot spells, but don’t forget to close them at the cool end of the day. When the bunches form, relentless thinning is necessary. If inexperienced, get someone who knows to show how it’s done, but if you do it yourself it will be satisfactory if the reduced bunch of young grapes is thinned enough. Use long-pointed scissors for snipping and steady the bunch with a forked stick. If scalding and scorching shows, pay more attention to ventilation. If red spider appears it is because the air is too dry — keep it moist and the trouble is less likely to arise.

Many growers, where space allows, have the root outside and bring it into the house by removing a brick from the side. This allows for more effective manuring and secures the benefit of weathering. The manured root area is kept free of other growth. To minimise the risk of attacks of mealy bug, some gardeners adopt for vines under glass the long and tedious operation of carefully paring off all the outer husk growth from the whole of the branches, doing so in January. It has to be done gently and with care not to cut into the under layer of bark, and then a paint, made of clay moistened to coating consistency and some Gishurst compound mixed in, is applied. This compound should only be applied when the vines are dormant. Alternative treatments are to apply a tar-oil winter wash again when the plants are dormant, and scraping the rods beforehand. A malathion spray can also be given before the berries swell. Vines are increased from ‘eyes’ cut from laterals at the end of August. Each eye should be scooped out together with a piece of bark and inserted in pots of sandy soil. Make sure the ‘eyes’ never dry out at any time.

Varieties for Indoor Cultivation:

For a heated greenhouse, Alicante (black) and Muscat of Alexandria (rich yellow); for a cold greenhouse, Black Hamburg and Buckland Sweetwater (white) are recommended.

OUTDOOR GRAPES:

Though Britain is not now a wine-producing country, vineyards are mentioned in various Anglo-Saxon documents. Domesday book records 3—8 vineyards, and Gloucestershire was famous in the Middle Ages for grapes. This county probably held its reputation until the early eighteenth century, though vine growing had started to decline after the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII. During the Victorian Age the cultivation of grapes under glass in the gardens of the big estates was a highly specialised art.

In recent years grapes have again been grown in the open for wine-making in various parts of England, especially the south-east. Some very pleasant light wines have been made and the subject is treated in some detail (from the standpoint of the amateur gardener) in specialist books on the subject.

Cultivation:

The best position for planting is at the base of a wall facing south, south-west or south-east. Perfect drainage is essential. Lime, mortar rubble or chalk may be incorporated in the soil, which does not need to be rich. If, however, the ground is on the heavy side, sand, compost and hop manure may be added to break it up. (In a certain nursery in Lancashire about 15,000 vines are grown each year — trained up posts and wires like raspberries or runner beans.) Vines are usually received from the nursery in pots with single rods 2 or 3 ft. long, the plants being one or two years old. Tie the rod to a stake when planting and set the plants 3 ft. apart, and about 1 ft. from the wall.

Vines may be grown as single or multiple cordons with individual rods spaced at least 2 ft. Leaders should be reduced to within 2 ft. of the current season’s growths and all laterals cut back to 1 or 2 eyes from the base — both leaders and laterals must be pruned during the dormant period after the leaves have fallen, otherwise there is a serious risk of bleeding once growth starts.

Summer pruning after growth begins is also necessary. Only one lateral is allowed to each spur. Other growths are either removed or stopped at two or three leaves beyond the bunch.

Vines must not be allowed to crop too heavily. Reduce the bunches to one for every lateral. The aim behind thinning (which should be started as soon as the grapes are large enough to handle) is to leave the centre of the cluster clear of fruits, with the remaining grapes spaced evenly on the outside of the bunch.

Choice of Varieties:

Brandt and Madeleine Royale are two good outdoor varieties, the former making a light red wine like a Bordeaux claret.

Pests and Diseases:

In the open the only pest or disease of importance is vine powdery mildew. Attacks usually begin a few weeks before flowering and appear to be encouraged by dry conditions at the roots. Leaves, flowers and berries are all liable to infection and may fall to the ground. This disease can be controlled by dusting or spraying with a sulphur preparation immediately infection is noticed.

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