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 plac
s 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.