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The Grapery

Almost any of the various modifications of greenhouses can be adapted
to growing grapes. Firms constructing greenhouses usually have had
experience in building graperies, and, as a rule, it will pay to have
these professional builders put up the house. If the actual work is
not done by a builder, it is possible to purchase plans and estimates,
from which, if sufficiently detailed, local builders can work. On
small places there is no doubt that the lean-to houses are most
suitable, being inexpensive and furnishing protection from prevailing
winds. These lean-tos should face the south and may be built against
the stable, garage or other building; or better, a brick or stone wall
to the north may be erected. It is possible to build a small grapery
as a lean-to out of hot-house sash.

In commercial establishments and for large estates, where the grapery
must be more or less ornamental, a span-roof house is rather better
adapted to the grapery than a lean-to, especially if the house is not
to be used for the production of grapes early in the season. On
account of the exposure of the span-roof house on all sides, however,
rather more skill must be exercised in growing grapes in them than in
the better protected lean-to grapery. Whatever the house, it must be
so constructed as to furnish an abundance of light, a requisite in
which much is gained by having large-size glasses for the glazing. The
glass must be of the best quality, otherwise the foliage and fruit
may be blistered by the sun's rays being focused through defective

Light, heat, moisture and good ventilation are all required in the
grapery. Brick or stone are preferable to woodwork, as heat and
moisture in the grapery are quickly destructive to wood foundations.
If wood is used, only the most durable kinds should enter into the
construction of the house. The under structure of masonry or of wood
should be low, not higher than 18 inches or 2 feet before the
superstructure of glass begins. The grapery must be well ventilated.
There must be large ventilators at the peak of the house and small
ones just above the foundation walls or in the foundation walls
themselves. The ventilation should be such that the house can be kept
free from draughts or sudden changes of temperature, as the grape
under glass is a sensitive plant, and subject to mildew. Plenty of
air, therefore, is an absolute necessity to the grapes, especially
during the ripening of the fruit. The lower ventilators in graperies
are seldom much used until the grapes begin to color, at which time
the new growth, foliage and fruit are hardened, but from this time on
upper and lower ventilators must be so manipulated that the houses are
always generously aired.

Grapes can be forced in cold houses without the aid of artificial heat
and formerly these cold graperies were very popular; but in the modern
houses for growing this fruit, artificial heat is now considered a
necessity, even though the heating apparatus may seldom be in use. For
a finely finished product, a little heat to warm the room and dry the
atmosphere may be absolutely necessary at a critical time, this often
saving a house of grapes. Of heating apparatus, little need be said.
Standard boilers for heating greenhouses with either steam or hot
water are now to be purchased of many designs for almost every style
and condition of house. Since the grapery seldom requires high heat,
hot water is rather to be preferred to steam, although there is no
objection to steam, especially if the grapery is a part of a large
range of glass.

The border.

The border in which the vines are to be planted is the most important
part of the grapery. All subsequent efforts fail if the border lacks
in two imperatives, good drainage and a soil that is rich but not too
rich. The grapery must be built on well-drained land or elevated above
the ground to permit the construction of a properly drained border.
"Border," in the sense of its being a strip or a narrow bed just
inside the house, is now a misnomer, though the name undoubtedly comes
from the fact that narrow beds inside the house were at one time used
in which to plant vines. The border in a modern grapery now occupies
all of the ground surface inside the house and may extend several feet
outside the house.

Much skill is required in building the border. A good formula is: Six
parts loamy turf from an old pasture; one part of well-rotted cow
manure; one part of old plaster and one part of ground bone. These
ingredients are composted and if the work is well done will meet very
well the soil and food requirements of the grape. This formula can be
varied according to soil conditions and somewhat in accordance with
the variety planted. Unless natural drainage is well-nigh perfect, the
border must be under-drained with tile and in any case a layer of old
brick or stone is needful to make certain that the drainage is
perfect. At least two feet, better three feet, of the border compost
should be placed above the drainage material. In a border made as
described, the grape finds ample root-run, but not too much, as in a
surprisingly short time roots are found throughout all parts of this
extensive border.

The care of the border is a matter of considerable moment and varies,
of course, with those in charge. The usual procedure is to spade the
outside border, if the border extends outside, before winter, after
which it is covered with a coating of well-rotted manure, without any
particular attempt having been made to keep out the frost, as a
certain amount of freezing outside of the house is held to be
beneficial. The inside border must be spaded just before the vines are
started in the spring, having been covered previously with well-rotted
manure. The time at which the vines are to be started in growth is
determined by whether an early or a late crop of grapes is wanted. For
an early crop, the vines must be started early in February; for a late
crop, a month or even two months later suffices. So started, the first
crop of grapes comes on in June or July, the later ones following in
August or September.

It is related that Napoleon I, to secure saltpetre for making
gunpowder, composted "filth, dead animals, urine and offal with
alternate layers of turf and lime mortar," and asserted that "a
nitre-bed is the very pattern of a vine-border" and that "when the
materials have been turned over and over again for a year or two they
are in exactly the proper state to yield either gunpowder or grapes."
Napoleon's niter-bed is not now considered a good model for a
grape-border, as the fruit produced in so rich a soil, though
abundant, is coarse and poorly flavored, and the vines complete their
own destruction by over-bearing. Gardeners hold that a grape-border
may be too rich in plant-food, especially too rich in nitrogen.

Next: Varieties

Previous: Grapes Under Glass

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