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Grape-growers are not in the fog that befuddles growers of tree-fruits
in regard to tillage. He is a sloven, indeed, who permits his vines to
stand a season in unbroken ground, and there are no growers who
recommend sod or any of the modified sod-mulches for the grape.
Tillage is difficult in hilly regions and the operation is often
neglected in hillside vineyards, as in the Central Lakes region of New
York, but even here some sort of tillage is universal. The skip of a
single season in tilling stunts the vines, and two or three skips in
successive seasons ruin a vineyard. No one complains that grapes
suffer from over-tilling as one frequently hears of tree-fruits. There
is no tonic for the grape that compares with cultivation when the
leaves lack color and hang limp and the vine has an indefinable air of
depression; and there is nothing better than cultivation to rouse
latent vigor in a scorching summer, or when drought lays heavy on the

Tillage tools.

The tools to be used in tilling grapes vary with the topography of the
vineyard, the kind of soil and the preferences of the vineyardist. The
best tool is the one with which the ground can be well fitted at least
expense. Good work in the vineyard requires at least two plows, a
single-horse and a two-horse plow. The latter, except on very hilly
land, should be a gang-plow. For commercial vineyards of any
considerable size, several cultivators are necessary for different
seasons and conditions of the soil. Thus, every vineyard should have a
spring-tooth and a disc harrow, one of the several types of weeders, a
one-horse and a sulky cultivator. If weeds abound, it is necessary to
have some cutting tool, or an attachment to one of the cultivators, to
slide over the ground and cut off large weeds. Another indispensable
tool in a large vineyard is a one-horse grape-hoe, to supplement the
work of which there must be heavy hand-hoes. Very often the surface
soil must be pulverized, and a clod-crusher, roller or a float becomes
a necessity. A full complement of bright, sharp tools at the command
of the grape-grower goes far toward success in his business.

Tillage methods.

There are several reliable guides indicating when the vineyard needs
to be tilled. The vineyardist who is but a casual observer of the
relation of vineyard operations to the life events and the welfare of
his vines will take the crop of weeds as his guide. It is, of course,
necessary to keep down the weeds, but the man who waits until weeds
force him to till will make a poor showing in his vineyard. The
amount of moisture in the soil is a better guide. The chief function
of tillage is to save moisture by checking evaporation and to put the
soil in such condition that its water-holding capacity is increased.
The physical condition of the land is another guide. Tilling when the
soil needs pulverizing furnishes a greater feeding surface for the

Tillage begins with plowing in early spring. Whether provided with a
cover-crop to be turned under or hard and bare, the land must be
broken each spring with the plow. Plowing is best done by running a
single furrow with a one-horse plow up to or away from the vines as
occasion calls and then following with a two-horse or a gang-plow.
Some growers use a disc harrow instead of the plow to break the land
in the spring, but this is a doubtful procedure in most vineyards and
is impossible when a heavy green-crop covers the land. Tillage with
harrow, cultivator, weeder or roller then proceeds at such intervals
as conditions demand, seldom less than once a fortnight, until time to
sow the cover-crop in midsummer. About the time grapes blossom, the
grape-hoe should be used to level down the furrow turned up to the
vines in the spring plowing. Tillage should always follow a heavy rain
to prevent the formation of a soil crust, this being a time when he
who tills quickly tills twice. The number of times a vineyard should
be tilled depends on the soil and the season. Ten times over with the
cultivator in one vineyard or season may not be as effective as five
times in another vineyard or another season. In some regions, as in
New York, the grower is so often at the mercy of wet weather in early
spring that the plowing is best done in the fall, and spring
operations must then open with harrowing with some tool that will
break the land thoroughly.

The depth to till is governed by the nature of the soil and the
season. Heavy soils need deep tilling; light soils, shallow tilling;
in wet weather, till deeply; in dry weather, lightly. Grape roots are
well down in the soil and there is little danger of injuring them in
deep tillage. The depth of plowing and cultivating should be varied
somewhat from season to season to avoid the formation of a plow-sole.
In some regions plowing and cultivating may be made a means of
combating insects and fungi, and this regulates the depth of tillage.
Thus, in the Chautauqua grape-belt of western New York, the pupa of
the root-worm, a scourge of the grape in this region, is thrown out
and destroyed by the grape-hoe just as it is about ready to emerge as
an adult to lay its eggs on the vines. In all regions, leaves and
mummied grapes bearing countless myriads of spores of the mildews,
black-rot and other fungi are interned by the plow and cannot scatter

The time in the season to stop tillage depends on the locality, the
season and the variety. It is a good rule to cease cultivation a few
weeks before the grapes attain full size and begin to color, for by
this time they will have weighted down the vines so that fruit and
foliage will be in the way of the cultivator. In the North,
cultivation ceases in the ordinary season about the first of August,
earlier the farther south. Rank-growing sorts, as Concord or Clinton,
do not need to be cultivated as late as those of smaller growth and
scantier foliage, as Delaware or Diamond. The cover-crop seed is
covered the last time over with the cultivator. Plate IV shows a
well-tilled vineyard of Concords.

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