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Bill Thayer

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Book III

This webpage reproduces a Book of the
De Re Rustica


published in Vol. I
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1941

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

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Book V

(Vol. I) Columella
De Re Rustica

 p353  Book IV

Legamen ad paginam Latinam 1 1 You say, Publius Silvinus, that when you had read over to several students of agriculture the book which I have written on the planting of vineyards, some persons were found who, indeed, had praise for the rest of our teachings, though they criticized one or two: in that I advised the making of excessively steep trenches for vine plants by adding three-fourths of a foot to the two-foot depth which Celsus and Atticus had recorded; and that I had shown little wisdom in assigning each quickset to its individual support when those same authors allowed them, at less expense, to clothe two successive props in the same row with the branches of one vine separated into two parts.

But these objections are based upon false reasoning rather than true judgment. 2 For, to refute first what I first proposed, if we are to be content with a two-foot trench, why are we of such a mind as to work the ground deeper when we intend to set the vines at so shallow a depth? Some one will say, "So that there may be a lower layer of soft ground underneath which will not, by its hardness, check the young creeping rootlets or thrust them back." 3 It is possible, indeed, to accomplish that end also if the  p355 ground is stirred with the trenching-spade​1 and the trench sunk in the upturned earth, which is swollen to more than two feet and a half;​2 for always, in level ground, earth that is thrown out and then back again swells higher than the level of the unbroken ground. And surely the setting of plants does not require that a very deep bed be spread beneath them; 4 but it is sufficient that half a foot of loose earth lie beneath the planted vines, that it may, so to speak, receive the increase of the growing plants into its hospitable — I might even say maternal — bosom. Let us take an instance of this in the arbustum​3 where, after digging planting-holes, we throw a very small bit of dust under the quickset. 5 There is, then, a truer reason for trenching the ground deeper, in that "yoked"​4 vineyards grow up better when planted in deeper holes. For two-foot holes could hardly be approved even by farmers in the provinces, with whom a vine is usually of low stature and kept close to the ground; while one that is intended for the yoke (trellis) must be steadied by a deeper foundation, since if it merely climbs higher, it demands more nourishment and more earth. 6 And on this account, in wedding vines to trees, no one prepares a planting-hole less than three feet deep for the vines. But it is with little insight that there are peculiar advantages in shallow planting, in that  p357 plants grow up quickly when they are not wearied and pressed down by a great weight of soil, and that plants which are lightly supported become more productive. For both these arguments of Julius Atticus are overthrown by the case of planting beside trees, which obviously makes the vine much stronger and more fruitful; which would not be the case if the plants were suffering from being sunk too deep. 7 What answer is there to this — that the soil of a trenched plot, while it is newly broken up and loosened, swells up as though by some process of leavening? and then, when it has taken on no great length of age, it is packed, and settles, and leaves the roots of the vines swimming,​5 so to speak, on the surface of the ground? But this does not happen to my way of planting, in which the vine is put down to a greater depth. Now, as to the argument that deep-set plants are said to suffer from cold, this too we do not deny. 8 But a depth of two and three-fourths feet is not such that it can produce that effect; especially since, as we said a little before, the vine, though planted deeper beside a tree, still escapes the aforesaid discomfort.

2 1 The other point, their belief that two stakes are wedded with the shoots of one plant at less expense, is most falsely taken. For if the actual root dies, two props are bereft, and presently there must be a substitution of the same number of quicksets, which, by their number, burden the accounts of the vinedresser; or, if it takes hold and, as often happens, is of a black  p359 sort or not sufficiently productive, the fruit falls short, not on one prop alone, but on more than one. And men of more than ordinary insight into agricultural affairs think that even a vine of noble stock, when it is so divided upon two stakes, will be less fruitful because it is sure to form a mat of intertwined roots. 2 For this reason the very same Atticus directs us to propagate old vineyards by layers rather than by spreading the whole vines flat, because layers soon and easily strike root so that each vine rests upon its own roots as though upon proper foundations. But a vine that has its whole body laid flat, by making a sort of lattice-work and entanglement of roots in the soil beneath, forms a mat and is choked by the intertwining of over-many roots, and it fails just as if it were burdened with many branches. 3 Therefore I should prefer, on every account, to risk the setting of two plants rather than one, and not to pursue as gain a course which, considered from either side,​6 may bring far greater loss. But now the argument of the previous book demands of us the beginning of the next as promised.

3 1 In every sort of costly enterprise, just as Graecinus says, most men enter upon new works with more vigour than they maintain them when finished. Some, he remarks, erect houses from the very foundation, and then fail to bestow care upon the finished buildings. Some are active in the building of ships, but do not fit them out accordingly with gear and crews when they are completed. Some have a fondness for the buying of cattle, and some for acquiring slaves; but they are moved by no concern over the keeping of them. 2 Many also, by their inconstancy,  p361 undo the kindnesses that they have done to their friends. And that we may not wonder at these statements, Silvinus, some men are niggardly in the nurture of their children — objects of their marriage ties and solemn prayers — and do not look to their improvement through the training of the mind or through the general furnishings of the body. What is the inference from all this? Obviously that errors of like nature are commonly made by husbandmen also, who for various reasons abandon their most beautifully planted vineyards before they reach the age of bearing, 3 some shrinking from the yearly expense and thinking it the first and surest income to have no outgo at all; as if they were under an absolute necessity of making vineyards, only to quit them presently because of their greed. Some consider it a fine thing to have extensive rather than well-tended vineyards. I have known a very great number also who were convinced that their land must be cultivated, whether by good methods or bad. 4 But my judgment would be, not only that every kind of land cannot be profitable unless it is worked skilfully and with painstaking care, but that this is especially true of vineyards. For the vine is a tender thing, weak, and exceedingly intolerant of ill treatment, and it commonly suffers from over-productiveness; for, unless you place a limit upon it, it is exhausted by its own fertility. And yet when it has strengthened itself somewhat and has, as it were, taken on the vigour of youth, it endures neglect. 5 But a newly planted vine, unless it receives every proper care while it is growing up, is reduced to extreme emaciation, and it pines away to such a degree that it can never be restored by any expenditure thereafter.  p363 Therefore the foundations, so to speak, must be laid with the greatest care, and from the very first day of its planting it must be moulded into shape, just as the bodies of young children must be shaped; and if we have failed to do this, the whole outlay comes to naught, and once neglected the proper time for each operation cannot be recalled.

Believe it from my experience, Silvinus, that a vineyard well planted, of good kind, and under the care of a good vine-dresser, has never failed to make recompense with big interest. 6 And the same Graecinus makes this clear to us, not only by argument but also by example, in that book which he wrote on the subject of vineyards. He relates that he often used to hear his father say that a certain Paridius Veterensis, his neighbour, had two daughters, and also a farm planted with vineyards; that he presented one-third of this farm to the older daughter as a dower when she married, and that, none the less, he used to take equally large yields from the remaining two-thirds of the farm; that he next married off the younger daughter with a half portion of the land that was left, and, even so, took away nothing from its old-time revenue. What does this prove? Why, obviously, that that one third of the farm was better tended afterward than the whole farm had been before.

4 1 And so, Publius, let us plant our vineyards with great resolve, and tend them with greater zeal. And the most convenient method of planting them is that one alone which we proposed in the preceding book:​7 that, after making a planting-hole in prepared ground, the vine be laid flat from about the middle point of the trench, and that its firm  p365 wood be raised straight up from the very bottom along the end of the trench and fastened to a reed. For especial care must be taken that the planting-hole be not trough-shaped, but that its ends be drawn up straight, as though to a plumb-line, with clear-cut angles. 2 For a vine that lies slantwise and is set in a trough in a leaning posture, so to speak, is subject to damage thereafter when the ground is loosened around it;​8 for the digger, in his eagerness to deepen the circle of loosened ground, usually wounds a vine that is aslant, and sometimes he cuts it off.​9 We shall remember, then, to fasten the sprig straight up to its prop from the very bottom of the hole, and so bring it to the surface. Then in other matters, to do as we directed in the preceding book; and next, leaving two eyes standing above the ground, to level off the surface. Then, after planting the mallet-cutting between the rows, to loosen the trenched ground anew by frequent digging and reduce it to powder. 3 For it is in this way that quicksets and other plants that we have set out will best gain strength, when once the softened earth supplies moisture to the roots without allowing weeds to creep in, and when the hardness of the soil does not choke the still tender plants as though with close-fitting bonds.

5 1 Moreover, to confess the truth, no limit should be set to the number of times that the ground is to be turned by the hoes, since it is agreed that the more  p367 frequent it is, the more beneficial is the digging. But, since consideration for expenses demands some limit, it has seemed sufficient to most people to dig newly planted vineyards every thirtieth day from the Calends of March​10 up to October, and to root out all weeds and especially grasses; for these, unless pulled out by hand and thrown on the surface, return to life when any least part of them is covered with earth, and so scald the vine-plants as to make them scaly and shrivelled.

6 1 Furthermore, whether we have planted cuttings or quicksets, it is best to train the vines from the beginning in such a way as to remove superfluous growth by frequent leaf-pruning, not allowing them to bestow their strength and all their nourishment upon more than one branch of firm wood.​11 Yet two shoots are allowed to grow at first, that one may be a reserve if the other should happen to die. 2 Later, when the green branches have hardened somewhat, one of each pair is removed. And that those which are left may not be beaten off by squalls of wind, it will be best to follow them up, as they grow, with a soft and loose band, until they catch hold of their props with their tendrils as though with hands.​12 3 If shortage of workmen prevents the carrying out of this kind of labour in the case of the  p369 cutting — and we advise the pruning of this also — at any rate it must be brought about without fail in the case of vines planted in rows that they are not sapped of their strength by too many shoots, unless we are looking forward to future propagation by layers; but that they devote themselves each to one cane, whose growth we should encourage by applying a prop of greater length, along which they may creep up to such a height as to rise above the frame of the following year and to be bent over for bearing. 4 When they have grown up to this height, their tops should be broken off, so that they may rather grow in thickness and strength than make a slender growth of useless length. However, we will leaf-prune this same stem, which we let grow into firm wood, up to three and one-half feet from the bottom, and will frequently pull off all the stock-shoots that sprout from it within this space. 5 Anything that sprouts forth then above that point shall be left untouched. For it will be better that the upper part be cut away with the pruning-knife the following autumn than that superfluous shoots be removed in summer time, since from that spot from which you have taken the secondary shoot​13 it immediately puts forth a second; and when this has sprouted, there remains in the firm wood no eye to sprout and produce fruit the following year.

7 1 But the proper time for removing all superfluous growth is while the shoots are so tender that they may be struck off by a light touch of the finger. For if they have hardened to a greater degree, they  p371 must either be pulled off with a greater effort or cut away with the pruning-knife, both of which are to be avoided: the one, because it tears the parent vine if you try to pull them off; the other, because it wounds the vine, which is a harmful thing to do in a stem that is green and not yet mature. 2 For the injury does not stop at the exact spot where the edge of the knife made its mark; but in the heat of summer a wound deeply imprinted by the knife dries up to a greater breadth, with the result that it kills more than a small part of the very body of the mother. And for this reason, if it is necessary that the knife be applied to stems that have already hardened, the cut must be made at a little distance from the mother vine, and spur-like ends​14 must be left to take upon themselves the injury of the heat up to the place where the shoots sprout from her side; for the heat's energy creeps no farther. 3 In the case of the cutting there is a similar method of pruning and of encouraging length of wood, if we wish to use a cutting of one year, which I have often done. But if it is your fixed intention to cut it off, so as to use it rather when it is two years old, when you have now reduced it to one shoot and that shoot has exceeded one foot in length, it will be proper to lop off its head, that it may be strengthened rather up to the neck and have more vigour. And this is the first step in the cultivation of plants after they are set.

8 1 The period next following, as Celsus has recorded, and Atticus — men whom our age has especially and rightfully approved — demands greater care. For after the Ides of October,​15 before the  p373 coming of cold weather, the vine must be ablaqueated.​16 This operation lays bare the summer rootlets, and the wise husbandman cuts these off with a knife. For if he allows them to grow strong, the lower roots waste away; and the result is that the vine puts out its roots at the very surface of the earth, to be injured by the cold and burned to a greater degree by the heat, and to force a violent thirst upon the mother vine at the rising of the Dog Star. 2 For this reason, when you ablaqueate the vine, anything that has sprouted out of it within a foot and a half must be cut off. But the method of this root-pruning is not the same as that proposed for the upper part of the vine. For the wound is not to be smoothed off, and by no means is the knife to be applied to the mother herself; because, if you cut away a root close to the stock, either more roots will spring from the scar, or the rains of winter which stand in hollows in the loosened soil will gall the fresh wounds by freezing in midwinter and will penetrate to the very pith.​17 That this may not happen, it will be proper to keep a distance of about one finger's breadth from the stock itself, and so to trim off the small roots; when they are removed in this manner, they sprout out no more and protect the stem from further injury. 3 When this work is finished, the vine should be left exposed if the winter is mild in that region; but if a more severe  p375 winter prevents our doing this, the above-mentioned hollows must be levelled off before the Ides of December.​18 In fact, if there is a suspicion of extremely cold weather for that region, you will spread some stable-dung or, if more convenient, some pigeon dung over the roots before you bury the vine; or you will pour over them six sextarii of stale urine previously made ready for such use. 4 But it will be necessary to ablaqueate the vine every autumn for the first five years, until it grows strong. However, when the main stem has come to maturity, this task may be omitted for about three-year intervals; for the lower parts​19 of the vine receive less injury from the iron, and small roots do not shoot out so rapidly, now that the stock has become old.

9 1 Ablaqueation is then followed by pruning, in such a manner that the vine is reduced to one small rod, according to the directions of ancient authorities, leaving two eyes close to the ground. This pruning should not be done next to the joint, lest the eye be checked in its growth; but an oblique cut is made with the knife about midway between the joints, lest, if it be crosswise, the scar may hold the rain that falls upon it. 2 But the slope is made, not toward the side where the bud is, but to the opposite side, so that it may shed its tears upon the ground rather than upon the bud. For the sap that flows down from it blinds the eye and does not allow it to grow.20

10 1 There are two seasons for pruning; but the better time, as Mago says, is in the spring, before the shoot puts forth its buds, because, being full of  p377 sap, it allows an easy, smooth, and even cut, and does not resist the knife. Celsus and Atticus, moreover, have followed this method. To us it seems that plants should not be held back by close pruning unless they are very weak, and that at least they should not be cut in the spring. 2 But, to be sure, in the first year that they are set out they should be aided, every month while they are in leaf, by frequent digging and by leaf-pruning, so that they may gain strength and support not more than one branch of firm wood. And when they have reared this they should be trimmed clean, in our opinion, in the autumn, or in the spring if it is more convenient, and freed from secondary shoots which the leaf-pruner had left on the upper part; and so they should be placed upon the frame. For it is the smooth and straight vine, without a scar, that overtops the frame with a rod of the first year. This happens, however, with few farmers, and seldom; and for that reason the aforementioned authors thought it best to cut off the first shoots of the vine. 3 But in any case, spring pruning is not preferable in all regions: for where the climate is cold, that time of pruning is doubtless to be chosen; but in regions that are sunny, where winters are mild, the best and most natural pruning is that of autumn, at which season, by some divine and eternal law, plants drop both fruit and foliage.

11 1 This, I believe, is the thing to do, whether you have planted a quickset or a cutting. For experience has condemned that long-standing belief that year-old cuttings should not be touched with the knife because they have a dread of it. This was a matter on which Vergil​21 and Saserna and the Stolos and the Catos​22 had groundless fears; and they were mistaken, not  p379 merely on this point, in that they allowed the first year's foliage of plants to go untouched, but also after two years, when the quickset was to be cut back, they lopped off all the upper part right down to the ground, close to the very joint, so that it might make new growth from the hard wood. 2 But experience, the master of arts, has taught us to regulate the growth of first-year cuttings and not to allow a vine to run wild with a rank growth of useless leafage; and, on the other hand, not to hold it back to the extent that the ancients directed, to the point of lopping off all the upper part. 3 In fact, this method is most harmful; in the first place because, when you cut to the ground, most plants die, being visited, as it were, by an unbearable wound; while some of them also, which have a more stubborn hold on life, produce less fruitful wood — seeing that, by the admission of everyone, shoots which sprout from the hard wood are very often destitute of fruit. 4 Therefore a middle course is to be followed; namely, that we neither cut back a cutting to the ground nor, on the other hand, draw it out into a woody branch of excessive length; but, trimming off the sprouts from the spur​23 of the year before, we shall leave, close to the crotch where the old branches were joined, one or two buds from which it may send out shoots.

12 1 Attention to the propping of the vine follows the pruning. But the present, or first, year does not yet require a strong prop or stake; for it has been my observation that, for the most part, a young vine is better satisfied with a support of moderate size than with a stout prop. And so we shall attach each young  p381 vine either to two old reeds, lest new ones strike root; or, if local conditions allow it, to brier canes, to which single cross-bars may be tied along one side of the row — 2 a kind of frame which farmers call a canterius or "horse."​24 It is of the greatest importance that this be such that the young vine-shoot, as it creeps forth, shall immediately grasp it a little below the point of its bending and spread out on the cross-bars rather than on the uprights, and so, resting upon the "horse," may more easily bear up against the winds. And it is proper that this frame should be raised up to less than four feet, until the vine becomes strong.

13 1 Then, after the propping, comes the binder, whose task it is to train the vine upright to the frame. And if the vine is set close to the stake, as has pleased some authorities, the man who ties it will have to guard against the notion that, in fastening the firm wood, he must follow the curve in the stake if it happens to be bent, for that makes a crooked vine; or, if space is left between the vines and the stake, as has seemed best to Atticus and some other husbandmen and is not displeasing to me, a straight reed must be joined to the stock, and so by numerous bindings the vine is to be guided up to the frame. What sort of bands they are with which the plants are tied, is of the greatest importance. 2 For while the vine is young, it must be tied with the very softest kind; because, if you bind with withes of willow or elm, the growing vine cuts itself. The best, then, is broom, or the rush that is cut in marshy places, or sedge; and yet the leaves  p383 of reeds also, when dried in the shade, do not serve badly for this purpose.

14 1 But like attention should be given to cuttings, that after being cut back to one or two eyes in the autumn or in spring, before the time of budding, they shall be fastened to the frame. For these, as I have said, the "horse" must be placed closer to the ground than for mature vines in rows; for it should be not more than one foot in height, so as to be of such a sort that the still tender shoots may grasp it with their tendrils​25 and not be rooted out by the winds. Then follows the digger, to break up the surface soil evenly and finely with many strokes of the two-pronged hoe. This level digging we especially favour. 2 For what they call the "winter digging" in Spain — when earth is removed from the vines and brought into the space between the rows — seems to us unnecessary, because it has been already preceded by the autumn ablaqueation, which has exposed the upper rootlets and carried the winter rains to the roots below. Again, the number of diggings should be the same as of the first year, or less by one; for the ground is in special need of frequent working until the vines shade it with their growth and do not allow weeds to grow beneath them. 3 The same method of leaf-pruning should hold for this year as for the year before. For the childhood of the plants, so to speak, must still be held in check and the plant allowed to grow to not more than one shoot;  p385 the more so, in fact, because its tender age does not endure the burden of both offspring and woody branches.

15 1 But when the vineyard, at the age of one year and six months, is brought to the vintage, it must be recruited to full strength​26 immediately after the fruit has been removed, and reserve cuttings which were planted for this purpose must be set in the gaps; or, if these also are wanting, a layer​27 must lead from a vine in the row to another stake. For it is of the utmost importance up to this time that every prop be clothed with a new planting, and that the vineyard shall not be in a state of replanting later, when it is time to be taking its fruits. 2 There is one kind of layer where the vine is bent above ground close to its support, and so, being carried under­ground by a deep trench, is brought out beside a vacant stake; then from the "bow"​28 it puts forth a vigorous shoot of firm wood, which is immediately attached to its prop and brought up to the cross-bar. 3 Then in the following year a cut is made in the upper part of the bed,​29 as far as the pith, that the rod under propagation may not draw into itself all the strength of the mother vine, and that it may learn little by little to take its nourishment from its own roots. Next, when two years old, it is chopped off close to the branch which has been caused to spring up from the bow. And what is cut away and separated from the mother vine, immediately has the ground dug deep about it; then a small hole is made, and it is cut off at the very lowest point and covered with earth, so that it may drive its roots downwards and not sprout out near the top of the ground by being carelessly cut at the surface. 4 Moreover, there is no time better  p387 suited for the amputation of this layer than from the Ides of October to the Ides of November,​30 so that it may strengthen its roots during the winter months. For, if we do this in the spring, when the branches are beginning to bud, it droops as a result of being suddenly robbed of its mother's nourishment.

16 1 The same method holds in transplanting the cutting. For in the second autumn, if conditions of weather and situation permit, it is taken up and planted to best advantage after the Ides of October; but if some harmful quality of soil or of air opposes this, the time of its planting is postponed to the next spring. And it should be left no longer in the vineyards, lest it use up the strength of the soil and impair the plants in the rows; the sooner they are relieved of the partner­ship of quicksets, the more readily do they gain strength. But in a nursery one may keep a vine for three or even four years, if it is cut back or closely pruned, because no thought is taken of a vintage. 2 When the planted vineyard has passed its thirtieth month, that is in the third autumn, it must be propped at once with stronger supports; and this is not to be done just as you please or in haphazard fashion. For if the stake is set near the vine stock, still it must be left one foot away so that it will not press upon or injure the foot, yet so that the digger may work around the plants on every side. 3 And this stake must be so placed as to receive the fury of the colds and of the north winds and so protect the vine; or if it is placed midway between the rows, it must be either pushed well down or driven to a greater depth by first making a hole in the ground with a small stake, so that it may more easily support both the  p389 trellis and the fruit. For the closer a prop is set to the stock, even when lightly fixed in the ground, the steadier it is; since, by standing close to the vine, it both supports and is supported in turn. 4 Then stronger cross-bars are to be bound to the standards; and these are made either of willow rods or of several reeds tied in some sort of bundles to give them stiffness, so that they may not be bent by the weight of the fruit. For now two firm wood branches must be allowed to grow on each plant; unless, however, the slenderness of some vine requires a closer pruning, in which case only one branch is to be left and that containing few eyes.

17 1 A frame of rods is stronger and requires less work. Reeds are put together with greater labour, because they are tied in several places. And these must be bound with their tops turned, one opposite to another, so that the whole frame may be of equal thickness; for if the tops come together, the weakness of that part, when burdened with weight, throws the fruit to the ground just as it ripens and exposes it dogs and wild animals. 2 But when a frame is duly constructed of several tied in bundles, with their tops in alternating order, it gives about five years of service.

Nor, indeed, is the method of pruning or other culture different from that of the first two years. For ablaqueation​31 must be carefully done in the autumn, and new layers must be applied to the vacant props none the less; for this work must never be discontinued but should be renewed every year.  p391 3 Surely those things that are planted by our hands cannot be immortal; and yet we take such thought for their permanence that we set other plants in place of those that have died, and do not allow the whole genus to be brought to destruction through many years of neglect. Moreover, frequent diggings​32 must be given, although one may be subtracted from the number of the first year's cultivation. Leaf-pruning also must be practised often; for it does not suffice to remove excess leafage from the vine only once or twice in a whole summer. 4 And especially must everything be broken off which has sprouted below the head of the main stem. Likewise if any single eyes just below the frame should put out two shoots, even though they give evidence of an abundance of fruit, one branch must be pulled off from each, so that the remaining branch of strong wood may make more vigorous growth and better nourish the fruit that is left.

After the forty-second month, when the vintage has been gathered, the pruning must be so managed, by allowing the growth of more shoots, that the vine may be spread out in the form of a star.​33 5 But it is the duty of the pruner to check the vine at a distance of about one foot short of the cross-bar, so that any tender growth that is sent out from the head may be drawn out in the form of arms and that, after being bent over the frame, it may be dropped down to a length which cannot reach the ground. But a limit must be observed in proportion to the strength of the stock, that no more branches may be allowed to grow than the vine is able to support. And in general, when the soil is fertile and the stock thrifty, the aforesaid  p393 age requires three firm wood branches, rarely four, which should be separated by the binder into as many different parts. 6 For it is of no use that the frame is given cross-pieces and made in the shape of a star unless fruit-bearing branches are joined to it. This arrangement, however, has not met the approval of all husbandmen; for many have been satisfied with a plain straight line. But that vine is more stable, both for supporting the burden of young branches and for bearing its fruit, which, being bound to the frame on both sides, is spread out in even balance as with a kind of anchors. Then too a vine that is supported on every side spreads its woody branches over more arms and extends them more easily than one which is crowded with many fruiting canes on a simple "horse." 7 However, if a vine is not of wide spread or not very fruitful, and if it is in a climate that is not turbulent or stormy, it may be satisfied with a single frame. For where there is great violence and onslaught of rains and storms, where the vine is loosened by frequent downpours, where it hangs, as it were, on steep hillsides and requires a great many reinforcements, there it must be supported on every side, so to speak, by troops in square formation. 8 But in warm and drier places the frame must be extended in every direction, so that the shoots, as they creep forth on every side, may be joined and, being matted together in the fashion of an arched roof, may shade the thirsty earth. On the contrary, in rainy and cold and frosty districts plain straight rows are to be put up; for in that way the ground is more readily warmed by the sun, and the fruit is thoroughly ripened and has a more wholesome ventilation; also the diggers ply their hoes with  p395 greater freedom and precision, and the fruit is better examined by the overseer and more easily gathered by the vintager.

18 1 But in whatever way it pleases you to arrange your vineyards, let them be set off by footpaths into individual plots of one hundred vines each; or, as pleases some, have the whole extent of the vineyard broken up into divisions of half a iugerum. This separation, apart from the advantage that it affords more sun and wind for the vines, also allows easier access for the eyes and feet of the proprietor — things most beneficial to the vines — and it provides a definite gauge in the exaction of labour; for we cannot be deceived when the iugera are divided at equal intervals. 2 Furthermore, the marking out of small plots in itself lessens the fatigue, as it were, in proportion to the smallness of the sections into which it is cut, and it goads on those who are performing the work and encourages them to hasten the task; for as a rule the immensity of impending work weakens their spirit. Also it is of some advantage to know the strength and the yield of each part of the vineyards, so that we may judge what part is in need of more or less cultivation. These footpaths also provide for the vintagers and for those who repair the frames and props convenient room for the carrying of fruit or supports.

19 1 As for the pla­cing of the frame, how far it should be raised above the ground, it is sufficient to say that the lowest is four feet and the highest seven. This last, however, is to be avoided in the case of young plants; for this regulation should not apply  p397 to vineyards at the start, but the vine must be carried to this height after a long succession of years. 2 But the moister the soil and climate, and the gentler the winds, the higher must the frames be raised. For the luxuriance of the vines allows them to spread themselves at a greater height, and the fruit is less inclined to rot when well removed from the earth; and by this method alone there is thorough ventilation by the winds, which quickly dry up the fog and pestilential dew, and contribute much to the casting of the flowers and the goodness of the wine. 3 On the other hand, land that is poor and sloping and parched with heat, or that is subject to violent storms, calls for a lower frame. But if all circumstances answer to your desire, the proper height for a vine is five feet; and yet there is no doubt that the vine yields wine of better flavour in proportion to the height of the frames to which it raises itself.

20 1 After the vineyard is staked and yoked, there follows the work of the binder, whose first concern should be, as I remarked above, to keep the vine-stock straight and not to let it follow the curve of the prop, lest the crookedness of the support form a vine after its own likeness. This is of the greatest importance, not only to its appearance, but also to its strength, productiveness, and durability. 2 For a straight stem bears pith like itself, through which, as by a sort of road without a turn or obstruction, the nourishment of mother earth more easily makes its way and arrives at the very top; but vines that are  p399 bent and misshapen do not offer equally smooth paths,​34 because knots obstruct, and the bend itself, like rough places in a road, checks the passage of moisture from the earth. 3 Therefore when the vine is drawn straight up to the top of the stake, it is fastened with a band so that, when weighed down with its offspring, it may not sag and become bent. Then from that point where that which is nearest to the frame is tied, its arms are arranged in different directions, and the branches which are placed upon the frame are bent downward in a curve, and what hangs from the frame is filled with fruit; on the other hand, the bend puts forth firm wood next to the band. 4 Some spread out upon the frame that part which we bend down, and hold it fast by tying it with withes closely set; but I consider these not at all worthy of approval. For rains and frosts and hail do not harm hanging branches as much as those which are bound and, so to speak, exposed to stormy weather. Still, those same branches should be tied before the fruit mellows, while the grapes are still of different colours and sour, so that they may be less likely to rot with the dews or to be pillaged by winds or wild beasts. 5 Along the main path and the bypaths the branches should be bent inward, that they may not be injured by brushing against those who pass by. And by this method certainly the vine is brought to the frame at the proper time. For a vine that is weak or short must be cut back to two eyes, so that it may put  p401 forth more vigorous wood which may immediately shoot up to the frame.

21 1 There is no other pruning for a vine five years old than that it shall be shaped as I have undertaken to describe above, and that it shall not spread too far; but that the head of the stock shall be about one foot below the frame and that, with its four arms, which some call duramenta, or "hardened branches," it shall be spread out into a corresponding number of spaces. It will suffice for a time that these arms be reduced to one fruiting branch each, until the vines are of proper strength. Then, some years later, when they have entered the juvenile stage, so to speak, it is uncertain how many branches should be left. 2 For richness of situation requires more, and leanness fewer; since, indeed, a vine of rank growth, unless it is checked by bearing, casts its blossoms badly and runs to wood and foliage; while a weak vine, on the contrary, is impaired when burdened with fruit. And so in rich ground it will be permissible to impose two rods upon each arm, but not to burden them with a number beyond the point where one vine supports eight rods, unless its very excessive fruitfulness shall demand more; for the vine which is extended with firm wood beyond this limit has the appearance of an arbour rather than of a vine. 3 And we should not allow the arms to be larger than the stock; but when presently the growth of lateral shoots from them is permitted, the upper hard canes must be constantly cut away so that they may not go beyond the frame; but the vine should always be renewed with young branches. These laterals, if they have made sufficient growth, should be placed upon the frame; but if one of them is broken or not  p403 of sufficient length, and if it occupies a suitable place from which the vine should be renewed​35 the following year, let it be cut down to a thumb (pollex), which some call custos or "keeper," others resex or "cut-back," and several praesidiarium or "reserve" — that is, a stub of two or three eyes, from which all of the old arm above is cut off after the fruit-bearing wood has come forth; and so the vine sprouts out again from the young branch. And this management of well-established vineyards must be constantly observed.

22 1 If, however, we have taken vineyards trained by another system, and if many years of neglect have now covered the frames, we shall have to consider the length of the old hardened branches that exceed the aforesaid measure. For if they are two feet long or a trifle more, the entire vine may still be put under the frame, provided that the supporting stake is close to the trunk; 2 for it is moved away from the vine and set exactly in the centre of the space between the two rows, and then the vine is carried across to the prop and so brought under the frame. But if its hardened branches have grown to a greater length, so that they have crept out to the fourth or even to the fifth prop, it is restored at greater expense; for when propagated by layers — a method which pleases us most — it comes forward very quickly. 3 This, however, if the surface of the trunk is old and decayed;​36 but if it is strong and sound, it requires  p405 less labour; for, having the soil loosened about its roots in the winter time, it is satiated with dung and closely pruned, and between the third and fourth foot from the ground it is wounded with the sharp point of an iron implement in the greenest part of the bark. Then the earth is thoroughly mixed by frequent digging, that the vine may be stimulated and that it may have the strength to put out a shoot especially from that place where it was wounded.​37 4 Generally, moreover, a bud grows from the scar, and if it shoots out to considerable length it is allowed to grow for a cane; if rather short, for a thumb; and if very small, for a knurl. This last may be formed from any fibrous growth, even the smallest. For when a twig of one or two leaves has come out of the hard wood, provided only it comes to maturity, it puts forth a vigorous branch of firm wood the following spring, if it is not trimmed away or rubbed off; and when this has grown strong and has formed a sort of arm, you may then cut back that part of the old branch that has spread too far, and so bring under the frame that part which is left. 5 Many, aiming at the saving of time, chop off such vines above the fourth foot, having no fear of cutting them back in this way; since, as a rule, the nature of most stocks is so adapted that they sprout out with new leaves close to the scar. But this method is not at all pleasing to us, because a larger wound, unless it has vigorous wood above which may close in, is parched by the heat of the sun; and then presently it rots with the dews and the rains. 6 Nevertheless, when a vine must in any case be cut down, it is best first to loosen the dirt about it and then to make the amputation a little below ground, so that the soil above may ward off the violence of the sun and  p407 give passage to the young stems that spring from the roots, that they may be able either to wed their own props or to bedeck with their offspring any mateless props that are near by. 7 However, this should be done in this way on condition that the vines are rather deeply planted and do not have roots gliding along on the surface, and if they are of good stock. For otherwise the labour is spent to no purpose, because low-grade vines, even when renewed, will retain their former character; while those that barely cling to the surface of the earth will fail before they can recover strength. 8 The one vine, then, will have to be grafted rather with fruitful shoots, and the other completely rooted out and replanted, provided the goodness of the soil makes it advisable. When a vineyard has wasted away because of the bad quality of the soil, we believe that it is in no way worthy of being restored. Furthermore, the bad qualities of a place which usually bring vineyards to destruction are meanness and barrenness of soil, salty or sour marshland, a steep and rugged situation, a valley that is too dark and not exposed to the sun, also sandy tufa, or gravel that is unduly hungry, and also gravel that is bare and destitute of earthy matter, and anything of like nature which does not nourish the vine. 9 But if it is free from these disadvantages and their like, a vineyard may be restored by the method which we advised in the preceding book. On the other hand, those vineyards of bad stock which, even though of vigorous growth, are destitute of fruit because of barrenness, are improved, as we have stated, by grafting; and we shall treat of this in its proper place​38 when we have come to that subject of discussion.

 p409  23 Now, since we seem not to have said enough about the pruning of vineyards, we shall set forth with greater care that most necessary part of the work proposed. It is proper, if a gentle and temperate mildness of climate permits it in that region which we are cultivating, to begin the pruning after the Ides of October,​39 when the vintage is finished: on condition, however, that the equinoctial rains have come before and that the branches have arrived at their proper maturity; 2 for dry weather makes the pruning later. If, however, the cold and frosty state of the weather gives notice of a severe winter, we shall postpone this matter to the Ides of February.​40 And it will be permissible to do this if the measure of our holding is small. For where a vast extent of land denies us the choice of time, it will be proper that the strongest part of the vineyard be pruned in cold weather, and the weakest part in spring or autumn; indeed vines with a southern exposure may be pruned even during the winter solstice, and those exposed to the north during spring and autumn. 3 And there is no doubt that the nature of these plants is such that the earlier they are trimmed, the more wood they produce, and the later, the more fruit.

24 1 Therefore, at whatever time the vine-dresser shall enter upon this work, he should especially observe three things: first, to make fruit his chief consideration; next, to choose from the very start the most fruitful wood for the following year; and then, also, to make the vine-stock survive through as many years as possible. For any one of these that is neglected brings great loss to the owner. 2 Moreover, when the vine is trained out into four parts, it faces the same number of quarters of  p411 the heavens. And since these different directions possess qualities that are contrary to one another, they also require a different arrangement in the parts of the vine according to the circumstances of their situation. Therefore those arms which are exposed to the north should receive the fewest wounds, and the more so if they are pruned at the onset of cold weather, by which the scars are blasted. 3 And so only one firm wood branch next to the frame is to be allowed to grow, and one reserve branch below it to renew the vine presently for a year. But, conversely, more rods should be set apart for growth toward the south, to shade their mother as she suffers from the summer heat and not allow the fruit to wither before it comes to maturity. In the pruning of the east and west sides there is no very great difference, because the vines receive the sun for an equal number of hours in each quarter. 4 The limit, therefore, of firm wood branches will be that which the fertility of the ground and of the stem itself shall prescribe.

The above must be observed in general, and the following in particular. For, to begin at the lowest part of the vine, as at the foundation, so to speak, the earth around the shank should always be laid open with a small mattock. And if any offspring which country people call a suffrago or "sucker," clings to the roots, it must be carefully pulled up and cut off smoothly with the knife, so that it may repel the rains of winter; for it is better to tear off a shoot that sprouts forth afterward from the  p413 wound than to leave a cut that is knotty and rough. For by the one method it quickly forms a callus, and by the other it becomes hollow and rots. 5 Then, after care has been taken of the feet, so to speak, the legs themselves and the trunks must be examined to see that no sprouting leafy shoot or wart-like knob is left; unless the vine, being cut off above the frame, shall require renewal from the lower part. But if the old part of the trunk is dried out by the sun's blast, or if the vine is hollowed out by rains and by harmful animals which creep in through the pith, it will be proper to clear away with the mattock any part of it that is dead; and then that it be pared down to the quick with the pruning-knife, so that it may form a callus from the green bark. 6 And it is not a difficult matter, soon after the wounds are smoothed off, to daub them with earth which you have first moistened with oil lees. For a daubing of this sort keeps out the wood-borer and the ant, and also keeps off the sun and the rains; and because of this the wound grows together more quickly and keeps the fruit green. Also the dry and shaggy bark hanging along the upper parts of the trunk must be peeled off down to the body;​41 because a vine, when rid of its rags, so to speak, thrives better and imparts less of dregs to the wine. Moreover, the moss which binds and compresses the legs of the vines in the manner of shackles, and softens them with its mouldiness and old dirt, must be stripped off and scraped away with the iron. 7 This, then, for the lower part of the vine. And likewise those directions must next be given which are to be observed with reference to the head.

 p415  The wounds which a vine receives in its hard wood should be made slantwise and rounded, for they grow together more quickly and, as long as they have not formed a scar, they shed water to better advantage; while crosswise cuts receive and hold more moisture. Let the vine-dresser especially avoid this fault. Let him cut off branches that are far extended, old, badly formed, crooked, and turning downward; and let him permit the growth of those that are young and fruitful and straight. Let him preserve the young and tender arms, and remove the old and withered with the pruning-hook. Let him trim off the tips​42 of the reserve stubs when they are one year old. 8 When the vine has been raised to about four feet above the ground, let him arrange it in the same number of arms, each fa­cing in the direction of one cross-piece of the frame. Then let him allow the growth of one rod to each arm if the vine is rather slender, or two if it is more stocky; and, having placed them upon the frame, let him cause them to hang down. 9 But we must bear it in mind not to allow two or more branches of firm wood to be in the same line and on one side of the arm. For it is especially injurious to the vine when every part of the arm does not exert itself equally, and when it does not dispense its juice to its offspring in equal portions, but is drained on one side only; whereby it comes about that that vein whose moisture is entirely taken away withers as though struck by lightning.

10 There is also a shoot, called the "throat-shoot"  p417 (focaneus),​43 which usually comes out at the centre of the fork; and farmers call it by the aforesaid name because, sprouting out between the two arms where the vine divides itself, it obstructs the fauces or throat, so to speak, and forestalls both of the hardened branches by drawing off their nourishment. Therefore these same farmers are careful to cut off and trim away this rival, as it were, before it gains strength. If, however, it has already become so strong as to have impaired one arm or the other, the weaker arm is removed and the throat-shoot is allowed to grow. 11 For when the arm is cut off, the mother vine bestows her strength equally upon both parts. Therefore let the pruner establish the head of the vine one foot below the frame, from which, as I have said, there may extend the four arms by which the vine is renewed yearly by cutting away the old branches and allowing the growth of new ones, the choice of which must be made with skill. For where there is a great abundance of woody branches, the pruner should guard against leaving either those that are next to the hard wood (that is, from the stock and head of the vine), or on the other hand, those at the ends. For the former contribute very little to the vintage, since they yield scanty fruit, being, in fact, like leaf-branches; while the latter exhaust the vine, because they burden it with too much fruit and extend themselves as far as the second or third stake, which we have declared to be wrong. 12 Therefore branches will be let grow to best advantage on the middle  p419 of the arm, that they may neither disappoint the hope of a vintage nor cause the wasting of their own stem. Some men are more greedy in enti­cing the fruit by allowing the growth of terminal and medial shoots, and also by cutting the sprig next to the hard wood into a reserve stub; a thing which I believe should not be done in any circumstances unless strength of soil and stock permit it. For they cover themselves with grapes to such an extent that they cannot reach maturity if friendliness of the land and a thrifty condition of the stock itself are not present. 13 The subsidiary branch, which is the same as the reserve stub, should not be cut back into a spur when the rods from which the next fruits are expected are situated in a suitable place; for when you have bound them and bent them to look downward towards the earth, you will force the growth of hard wood below the binding. 14 But if the vine has sprung out from the head to a greater length than the practice of husbandmen allows, and has crept out with its arms to the roof-like​44 trellises that belong to other vines, we shall leave close to the main stem a strong reserve rod, and the largest possible, of two or three joints, from which, as from a spur, firm wood may be quickly fashioned into an arm the following year; so that the vine, cut back and restored in this way, may be kept within the frame.

15 But in setting aside a reserve stub for growth the following points must be especially observed. First, that the wound shall not face upward toward the heavens, but rather that it slope downward toward the earth; for in this way it is both protected from the  p421 frosts and shaded from the sun. Secondly, that the cut shall not be made like an arrow-point but hoof-shaped​45 rather; for the former dies more quickly and over a wider area, while the latter is checked more slowly and within narrower limits. There is also a practice which I observe to be employed, and very wrongly, which should be especially avoided; for in their attention to graceful appearance, so that the reserve stub may be shorter and like a thumb, they cut the branch close to the joint. 16 But this is very detrimental, because the bud, being placed next to the wound, suffers from frost and cold, and afterwards from heat also. The best plan, then, is to clip the subsidiary branch about midway between the joints and to make a sloping cut behind the bud, so that, as I have already said,​46 its tears may not drop upon the budding eye and blind it. 17 If there is no opportunity for a cut branch, we must look about for a knob which, even though cut very close in the manner of a wart, may put forth a firm wood branch the following spring, which we may leave either for an arm or for fruit. If such a knob is not to be found, the vine must be wounded with the knife and caused to form a "sore" in that place where we wish to draw out a shoot.

Now I strongly believe that those branches which we are making ready for bearing should be freed of tendrils and secondary shoots. 18 But one method is employed in cutting these away, and another in removing those that come out of the main stem. For  p423 anything that sprouts from mature wood is cut away and trimmed close by a more vigorous application of the pruning-hook, so that it may form a scar more quickly; while, on the contrary, anything that comes from young wood, such as the secondary shoot, is cut away with greater caution because it usually has a bud close beside it, and care must be taken that this is not grazed with the knife. For if, in applying the knife, you trim too closely, the bud is either taken away altogether or wounded severely; and because of this the branch when it presently puts forth in sprouting will be feeble and less fruitful and also more liable to injury by the winds, obviously because it will be weak when it comes forth from the scar. 19 Furthermore, it is difficult to set a limit to the length of the woody branch which we allow to grow; yet most people draw it out to a length such that, when bent and falling down over the frame, it cannot touch the ground. We believe that the following points should be investigated more closely: first, the condition of the vine, for if it is strong it sustains a greater number of woody branches; and next, the richness of the soil, for if this quality is not present we shall quickly kill even the strongest vine if it is wasted away by rods that are too long. 20 But long branches are valued, not for their length, but for the number of their eyes. For where there are rather considerable spaces between the joints, it is permissible to extend the wood to the point where it almost touches the ground, for nevertheless it will put forth but few leaves and shoots; but where the segments are short and eyes are found at close intervals, the branch, though short, is green with many sprouts and luxuriant with numerous offspring.  p425 Therefore it is necessary that a limit be set to such a sort especially, that it may not be burdened by fruiting branches of excessive length, and that the vine-dresser may take into account whether or not the vintage of the previous year was abundant. 21 For after a large yield the vines must be spared, and for that reason they should be closely pruned; but after a scanty yield they must be urged. In addition to the other directions we are of this opinion also, that we should carry out the entire operation with the thinnest and sharpest of hard iron tools. For a knife that is blunt and dull and soft delays the pruner, and for that reason he accomplishes less work and causes more labour for the vine-dresser; for if the edge is curled over, which happens to soft iron, or if it penetrates too slowly, as is the case with a blunted and thick too, greater effort is needed. Then, too, ragged and uneven wounds tear the vines; for the matter is not finished with a single stroke but by strokes often repeated. 22 And so the usual result is that what should be cut off is broken off, and that in this way the vine, being mangled and jagged, is rotted with moisture and its wounds do not heal. Therefore the pruner should be expressly reminded to draw out the edge of his implement and to make it as razor-like as possible. And he should not be ignorant as to what part of the pruning-hook should be used in each operation; for I have learned that a great many men make havoc of vineyards through lack of knowledge on this point.

25 1 Now the shape of the vine-dresser's knife is so designed that the part next to the haft, which has a straight edge, is called the culter or "knife" because of the similarity. The part that is curved is  p427 called the sinus or "bend"; that which runs on from the curve is the scalprum or "paring-edge"; the hook which comes next is called the rostrum or "beak," and the figure of the half-moon above it is called the securis or "hatchet"; and the spike-like part which projects straight forward from it is called the mucro or "point." Each of these parts performs its own peculiar tasks, if only the vine-dresser is skilful in using them. 2 For when he is to cut something with a thrust of the hand away from him, he uses the culter; when he is to draw it toward him, he uses the sinus; when he wishes to smoothe something, he uses the scalprum, or, to hollow it out, the rostrum; when he is to cut something with a blow, he uses the securis; and when he wants to clear away something in a narrow space, he makes use of the mucro. But the greater part of the work in a vineyard must be done by drawing the knife toward you rather than by hacking; for the wound which is made in this way is smoothed with one impression, since the pruner first puts his knife in place and so cuts off what he has intend to cut. 3 One who attacks the vine by chopping, if he misses his aim, as often happens, wounds the stock with many blows. Therefore that pruning is safer and more advantageous which, as I have said, is accomplished by the drawing of the knife and not by striking.

26 1 When this is finished there follows, as I have said before,​47 the matter of propping and trellising the vineyard.​48 And for giving firmness to this the stake is better than the pole, and that not any stake you please; for chief of all is the olive tree split with wedges, the oak and the cork tree, and any other wood of like strength. The round prop holds third  p429 place; and that is most approved which is made of juniper, and also of laurel and cypress. Also forest pines do well for this purpose, and elders too are acceptable in the capacity of supports. These props and their like must be gone over again after the pruning, and the decayed parts must be hewn away and sharpened; 2 and some, if they are sound, are to be reversed, while others, which are either rotten or shorter than is proper, must be removed and replaced with suitable props; those that are lying flat must be set up, and those that lean are to be straightened. As for the frame, if there is no need of a new one, have fresh bindings worked into the mending of it. If it seems to need rebuilding, let it be tied together with poles or reeds before the vine is attached to its prop, and then, as I have directed in the case of a newly planted vine,​49 we should bind the vine to the stake, close to head and below the arms; and this tying should not be done every year in the same place, lest the band cut into the stock and choke it. 3 Then we will arrange the arms in four directions, below the star,​50 and bind the tender fruiting branches upon the frame, not forcing them contrary to their nature; but according as each branch will submit, it will be bent slightly, so as not to be broken in the bending and that the buds already swelling may not be rubbed off. And when two mature branches are extended along one part of the frame, let a bar come between them; and let the separated vine-shoots run out over the quadrangular openings​51 of the frames, and, as if plunging  p431 downward, let them look upon the ground with their tips. 4 That this may be done skilfully, the binder must remember not to twist the young branch but merely to bend it down and tie it; and he must bear in mind that every mature branch which cannot yet be bent down to earth is to be placed upon the frame, so that it may rather rest upon a bar than hang from its binding. For I have often observed that farmers, through want of foresight, place a fruiting branch under the frame and tie it in such a way as to let it hang merely by a withe; and when this vine receives the weight of its shoots and grapes, it is broken down.

27 1 When our vineyards are so put in order, we shall next hasten to clean them and to rid them of the pruned twigs and deadwood. However, these must be gathered when the ground is dry, lest the earth, being trampled when muddy, make the task harder for the digger, who is to be brought in immediately while the vines are still dormant. For if you send the digger in when the fruiting branches are swelling and putting forth buds, he will knock off a large part of the vintage. Therefore vineyards are to be dug as deep as possible during the time when spring begins and winter ends, before the buds come, that they may sprout out more luxuriantly and joyfully; and when they have bedecked themselves with leaves, a limit must be set to the young shoots before they are full grown. 2 And let the same vine-dresser who made use of the knife before, now prune with his hand, and let him hold the  p433 shade in check and pull off superfluous foliage; and it is of the utmost importance not to do this unskilfully, since the removal of excess leafage is even more beneficial to vines than is pruning. For though the one is of great advantage, still it wounds and checks the vines; while the other heals them more generally, without a wound, and makes the next year's pruning easier. 3 Then too it produces a vine that is freer from scars, because that from which a green and tender thing is plucked soon heals over. In addition, the mature branches which have fruit make a better recovery, and the grapes, being more completely exposed to the sun, are thoroughly ripened.52

4 Therefore it is the part of an intelligent vine-dresser, and one especially expert, to take stock and consider in what places he should allow the growth of firm wood for the year, and to remove not only the branches that are destitute of buds, but fruitful branches as well, if their number has gone beyond proper bounds; since it happens that some eyes put forth three shoots, of which you must remove two, that the eyes may better rear one nursling apiece. 5 For it is the business of a wise husbandman to consider whether the vine has bedecked itself with a greater quantity of fruit than it can carry to maturity. Accordingly he will wish, not only to pick off superfluous foliage, which should always be done, but sometimes to shake off a part of the fruit so as to lighten a vine that is overburdened by its own productiveness. And a diligent vine-trimmer will do this for various reasons, even if there is no more fruit than is able to ripen; 6 or if it is right that a vine, fettered by heavy bearing in previous years  p435 without interruption, should now restore and recover itself, if provision is to be made for the mature wood of the future. For to break off the tips of the rods for the purpose of checking rank growth, or to remove twigs that are situated on the hard part of the stock, unless it is necessary to preserve one or two for renewing the vine; as also to pull off every green shoot that comes out of the head and between the arms, and to strip away those sterile shoots which all along the mature wood shade the mother vine to no purpose, is a proper task for anyone at all, even for a child.

28 1 But the time for vine-trimming​53 must be chosen, preferably, before the vine shows its flower, though it is permissible to repeat the operation afterwards. Therefore the intervening period of days, when the berries are being formed, refuses us entrance to the vineyard, because it is not expedient to disturb the fruit when it is in the blossom. But when the fruit is passing from childhood and is in the adolescent stage, so to speak, it is proper to bind it and strip it of all leaves, and also to make it plump by frequent diggings; for fruit is made more plentiful by pulverizing the soil.​54 2 And I do not deny that most teachers of husbandry before me were  p437 content with three diggings;​55 among whom is Graecinus, who speaks as follows: "It may seem sufficient to dig an established vineyard three times." Celsus, too, and Atticus agree that there are three natural impulses in a vine, or rather in every branch: one which makes it sprout, another which makes it bloom, and the third which makes it ripen. These impulses, then, they think are stimulated by diggings: for nature does not sufficiently accomplish her purpose unless you diligently give her the benefit of your efforts. And this attention to the cultivating of vineyards comes to an end with the vintage.

29 1 I return now to that part of my discussion in which I promised directions for the grafting of vines and protecting the grafts. Julius Atticus has said that the time for grafting is from the Calends of November to the Calends of June, up to which time he asserts that a scion can be kept without sprouting. And by that we should understand that no part of the year is excepted if we have a supply of dormant twigs. Furthermore, I would freely grant that this can be done in other kinds of stock that have stronger and sappier bark. 2 In the case of vines, one thing it is not in keeping with my honesty to conceal — that it is exceedingly rash to allow husbandmen to graft during so many months; not that I am unaware that a vine grafted in the dead of winter sometimes takes hold. But we should instruct learners, not what may come about by chance in one or two experiments, but what commonly occurs under a definite system. For if the risk is to be taken with a small number, in whose case greater care makes amends for rashness, I can  p439 wink at it to a certain extent; 3 but when the extensiveness of the operation divides the attention of even the most careful husbandman, we ought to remove every uncertainty. There is, indeed, a contradiction in what Atticus directs. For he says that it is not right to prune a vineyard during the middle of winter; and although this does less injury to the vine, still it is forbidden to be done, with good reason, because in cold weather every branch is numb with the cold, and because in its frozen condition it produces no impulse in the bark to heal the scar. 4 And yet this same Atticus does not forbid grafting at the very same time, and he directs that it should then be done by cutting off the head of the whole vine and making a cleft at the point of this cutting. Therefore the more proper way of grafting is at the end of winter, when the days are now growing warm, when both bud and bark are stirred by nature, and when there is no attack of cold weather that may sear either the grafted scion or the wound made by the cleft. 5 Nevertheless I would allow those who are in haste, to graft the vine in the autumn, because the temperature of the air at that season is not unlike that of spring. But at whatever time one intends to graft, let him know that attention to the choosing of scions is not different from that which was prescribed in the preceding book when we gave directions for the selection of cuttings.​56 When he has pulled from the vine scions which are of good stock, fruitful, and as well ripened as possible, let him also choose a day that is warm and free from winds. 6 Then let him look for a scion that is round and of firm body, not of spongy pith,​57 and also with numerous eyes and short joints. For it is of the greatest  p441 importance that the twig which is ingrafted be not long; and also that there be many eyes on it, from which it may put forth shoots. And so, if the joints are long, it will be necessary to shorten the scion to one or at most two eyes, lest we make it so long that it cannot endure the storms and winds and rains without being disturbed.

7 Now when a vine is grafted it is either cut off or left whole and bored through with an auger;​58 but the former is the more usual graft and is known to almost all farmers, while the latter is less common and is employed by few. Therefore I shall discuss first the method which is more in use. 8 The vine is generally cut above ground, though sometimes below, in the place where it is most solid and free from knots. When it is grafted close to the ground, the graft is covered with earth to its very top; but when the graft is higher above ground, the cleft is carefully daubed with kneaded clay and bound with an overlaying of moss to ward off heat and rains. The scion is so shaped as to be not unlike a reed pen. The piece that is pared off you should hold against the cleft;​59 and under this cleft there is need of a node in the vine, to bind it together, as it were, and not allow the crack to advance beyond that point. 9 Even if this node is four finger-breadths distant from the point of cutting, still it will be proper that it be bound before the vine is split, lest the wound spread wider  p443 than it should when a way is made for the graft with the knife. Moreover, the pen-shaped scion should be tapered not more than three fingers, and so that it may be smooth on the side where it is shaved. And this shaving is carried so far as to reach the pith on one side, and on the other side to be pared down a little farther than the bark;​60 and to be fashioned in the form of a wedge, so that the scion may be sharp at its lowest point, thinner on one side and thicker on the other, and that, when inserted by the thinner side, it may be pressed close on that side which is thicker and may touch the cleft on both sides. For, unless bark is fitted to bark in such a way that the light shows through at no point, it cannot grow together.

10 There is more than one kind of band for ingrafting. Some bind the cleft with willow withes; some wrap it with inner bark; very many tie it with rush, which is most suitable. For the willow withe, when it has dried, penetrates and cuts into the bark. For this reason we give higher approval to softer bindings which, after being wrapped around the stock, are drawn tight by forcing in small wedges of reed. But it is of very first importance that the ground be loosened around the vine beforehand, and that the surface roots and suckers be cut away; and afterwards that the stock be covered with earth. And when the stock has taken hold of the graft, it again requires care of a different sort: 11 for, when it buds, it must be stripped oftener of superfluous growth, and the suckers which sprout from the sides and roots must be pulled off more frequently. Furthermore, anything that it puts forth from the place of ingrafting must be tied up, lest the scion should be  p445 loosened when moved by the wind, or the tender shoot be pulled out. And when this shoot has increased in size it must be deprived of its secondary shoots, unless because of the poverty or baldness of the place they are reserved for layers. Then autumn applies the pruning-knife to the matured branches. But the following method of pruning is observed in grafted vines — that, where there is no desire for a layer, one shoot is brought up to the frame; and a second is cut back to such an extent that the wound is flush with the stock, though in such a way that nothing is pared from the hard wood. 12 Excess foliage must be removed just as in the case of the young quickset; but the pruning is to be done in such a way that demands are put upon it very sparingly up to the fourth year, until the wound of the trunk forms a scar. This, then, is the method of procedure in cleft-grafting.

13 The procedure by terebration or boring is as follows:​61 first, to take note of the most fruitful vine in the vicinity, from which you may draw over a traverse branch, so to speak, still clinging to its parent vine, and pass it through the hole. For this is a safer and surer way of grafting because, even though it does not take hold the next spring, at any rate it is forced to be united in the spring following, when it has grown larger; and presently it is cut loose from its mother, and the upper part of the grafted vine is lopped off close to the place where the scion was admitted. 14 If there is no opportunity for such a traverse branch, then a twig is selected — one taken as fresh as possible from the vine — and, being lightly pared all around in such a way that the bark alone is removed, it is fitted to the hole; and then the vine is cut back and daubed over with clay, that the whole stock  p447 may devote itself to a vine of different origin. However, this is not done in the case of a traverse shoot, which is nourished at its mother's breast until it grows into the other vine.

15 But there is one type of iron tool with which our ancestors used to bore through the vine,​62 and a different sort which I myself have now found by experience to be more suitable. For the ancient gimlet — the only kind that old-time farmers knew — would make sawdust and would burn the place which it perforated. Moreover, it was seldom that the burned part would revive or unite with the former and that the grafted scion would take hold. Then, too, the sawdust was never so completely removed that some did not remain in the hole; and this, by its intervention, kept the body of the scion from being closely joined to the body of the vine. 16 We, having devised what we call the "Gallic auger"​63 for this kind of grafting, have found it far more suitable and practical. For it hollows out the stock in such a way as not to burn the hole, because it does not make dust but shavings; and when these are removed a smooth wound is left, which can more easily touch the seated scion on every side, since there is no interference of that woolly matter which the ancient gimlet produced. 17 Therefore see to it that the grafting of your vines is finished immediately after the vernal equinox; and graft the black vine in places that are parched and dry, the white vine in wet places.64 And there is no  p449 need of propagating this if only the stock is of so moderate a thickness that the growth of a grafted scion can cover the wound on all sides; unless, however, the place left vacant in a vine whose head is dead demands a replacement. When this is the case, one of the two shoots is turned down for a layer, and the other is carried up to the frame and set apart for fruit. And it is not without advantage to rear shoots from the vine which you have layered, as they sprout from the arched part of the layer, which, if it so happens, you may either use for further layers or leave for fruit.65

30 1 Inasmuch as we have discussed those matters which it seemed could be taught to advantage for the establishing and cultivating of vineyards, a method must be set down for the provision of props, frames, and withes. For these are prepared beforehand, as dowries, so to speak, for the vineyards. And if the farmer is destitute of these, he has no reason for making vineyards, since everything that is needed will have to be sought outside the farm; and, just as Atticus says, not only does the cost of purchase put a burden upon the accounts of the overseer, but also the procuring of them is a very great annoyance. 2 For they must be brought together at a most inconvenient season — in winter. Therefore osier-willows and reed thickets must be provided beforehand, and also ordinary woods or woods purposely planted with chestnut trees. Atticus thinks that one iugerum of osier-willows may suffice for binding twenty-five iugera  p451 of vineyard,​66 and one iugerum of reed thicket for framing twenty; and that a iugerum planted with chestnut trees is enough to provide as many props as a iugerum of reeds can furnish with cross-rails. 3 Ground that is either well watered or abounding in marshland is best for nourishing the willow, and yet level and rich ground is not unsuitable. And this ground should be turned with the double spade; for the ancients direct us to trench ground intended for a willow-bed to a depth of two and one-half feet. And it makes no difference what kind of osier you plant, if only it is very pliant. 4 Still they think that there are chiefly three kinds of willows:​67 the Greek, the Gallic, and the Sabine, which most people call the Amerine.​a The Greek is of a yellow colour; the Gallic of a dingy purple, and with very slender switches; and the Amerine has a slim and reddish rod. And either top-shoots or truncheons of these are planted. Top rods of moderate stoutness, which, however, should not exceed the thickness of a circular two-pound weight,​68 are best planted if they are put down as far as solid ground. 5 Truncheons of one and one-half feet are stuck into the earth and covered over with a little of it. A well-watered spot requires wider spaces, and spaces of six feet in the quincunx arrangement do very well; a place that is normally dry needs closer planting, but in such a way as to give easy access to those who cultivate it. In this case it is satisfactory that the distance between rows be five feet, yet so that the plants may stand at two-foot intervals in the line of planting, alternating with empty spaces between. 6 The time for planting them is before they  p453 bud, while the slips are dormant, and it is best that they be taken from the trees when they are dry. For if you cut them off when they are wet with dew, they do not grow properly; and for this reason rainy days are avoided in lopping off the willows. Willow copses are to be dug more frequently during the first three years, as are new vineyards. Later, when they have gained strength, they are satisfied with three diggings; under any other cultivation they quickly run out. 7 For, even though care is taken, very many willows die. In their place layers should be propagated from a near-by plant, by bending down and burying its leaders, so that anything that has died may be replaced with these. Then when the layer is a year old, let it be cut loose from its stock, that it may be fed by its own roots just like a vine.

31 1 Very dry places, which do not admit copses of this sort, require broom. A band of this material not only has sufficient strength, but also it is very pliant. The plant is raised from seed, and when it has sprouted, it is either transplanted as a quickset when two years old; or, if left where sown after that time has passed, it may be cut close to the ground every year in the manner of standing grain. Other bindings, such as those made of bramble, require greater labour, but still a necessary labour in poor soil. 2 Willow for poles requires about the same land as that for withes; nevertheless it thrives better in well-watered ground. And it is planted in the form of truncheons; and when it has sprouted it is made to grow as a single shaft, and is frequently cultivated and weeded; and excess foliage is removed no less than in the vine, that it may be encouraged to length rather than spread of branches.  p455 When so cared for it is cut finally in its fourth year. 3 For the willow which is prepared for bindings may be cut off when it is one year old, at about two and a half feet above ground, so that it may send out branches from the trunk and be arranged in arms like a low vine; but if the ground has been rather dry, it will be cut back preferably at the age of two years.

32 1 The reed​69 is planted in ground that is not worked so deep, though it is better to plant it with the two-foot spade. Although it is very hardy and does not refuse any situation, it succeeds better when put in loose soil than in compact; better in a damp place than in a dry one; better in valleys than on hillsides; and on river banks and in borders and thickets better than in midfield. 2 Its bulbous root is planted, as also truncheons of the cane; and again the whole reed is laid flat on the ground. The bulb, when buried with three-foot spaces between, yields a full-grown stalk in less than a year. The truncheon and the whole reed are longer than the aforementioned time in coming to maturity. But whether truncheons of two and one-half feet are planted, or entire reeds laid flat, their tops should extend above ground; because, if they are entirely buried, they rot completely. 3 But the culture of the reed thicket, for the first three years, is not different from that of the other thickets. Later, when it has become old, the ground must be trenched again. And this is its old age, when it has either dried up completely because of many years of decadence and sloth, or has become so crowded that the reeds grow up slender and cane-like. 4 But in the former case it should be dug up again from the  p457 beginning; in the latter it may be cut out and thinned — an operation which farmers call castratio.​70 However, this repairing of a reed thicket is done blindly, because it is not apparent on the surface what should be removed or what should be left; still the reed suffers castration better before the time of cutting, since the small canes, like pointers, show what is to be plucked out. 5 The time for redigging and planting is before the eyes of the reed sprout. Then the time for cutting is after the winter solstice; for it makes growth up to that time, and is then checked when stiffened by the winter cold. The reed plot must be dug as often as the vineyard; but its leanness must be relieved with ashes or other fertilizer, and for this reason most people burn it over after it is cut.

33 1 The chestnut tree​71 is next best to the oaks, and for this reason it is suitable for supporting vines. Its nut, too, when planted in prepared ground, quickly springs up; and when cut down, after five years, it renews itself in the manner of the willow, and when made into a stake it lasts usually to the next cutting. It likes a black and loose soil; does not refuse a damp, gravelly soil or crumbling tufa; delights in a shady slope with a northern exposure; and fears a heavy soil that is full of red ochre. 2 It is planted from the month of November throughout the whole winter, in ground that is dry and worked to a depth of two feet and a half. The nuts are placed in a row, half a foot apart; and the rows are separated by five-foot intervals.  p459 The chestnut is committed to furrows sunk to a depth of three-fourths of a foot; and when these furrows are planted with nuts, and before they are levelled off, short reeds are set beside the chestnuts, so that, with these markers of the planting, they may be dug and weeded with greater safety. 3 As soon as the plants have formed a stem — and they may be transplanted when two years old — they are thinned out; and two feet of room is left free for the young saplings, lest crowding weaken the plants. The planting is closer, moreover, because of various mishaps: for the nut is sometimes dried up by droughts before it springs forth, or it decays from excessive wetness; and sometimes it is destroyed by under­ground animals, such as mice and moles. 4 For these reasons young plantations of chestnut often grow up in thin numbers; and when it is necessary to increase them, it is better that a near-by sapling, if such a one is suitable, be bent over and propagated in the manner of a layer, than that it be taken up and replanted. For such a sapling, being undisturbed at its base, sends out shoots vigorously; but one that is torn out by the roots and transplanted is retarded for two years thereafter. On this account it has been found more advantageous to start trees of this sort from nuts rather than from quicksets. The spaces allotted to this planting, as described above, admit 2880 chestnut trees; of which total, as Atticus says, every iugerum of land will easily yield 12000 props. For the lengths cut closest to the stump generally supply four stakes when split, and then the second cuts of the same tree yield two; and this sort of split  p461 prop lasts longer than the round pole. 5 The management of setting and digging is the same as that of the vineyard. It should be pruned lightly when two years old, and again when three; for twice in early spring it must be attacked with the knife, that its upward growth may be hastened. The oak also may be planted in like manner; but it is cut down two years later than the chestnut. For this reason common sense requires that we profit rather by the gain in time, unless it happens that brush-covered and stony mountains, and the kinds of soil which we mentioned above, demand the acorn rather than the chestnut.

6 These matters concerning Italian vineyards and vineyard equipment I have discusses, so I believe, fully and not without profit. I intend presently to give an account of viticulture among our provincial farmers, also of the management of the arbustum both in our own country and in Gaul.

The Editor's Notes:

1 I.e., to a depth of about two feet. Cf. III.5.3, note; XI.3.11; De Arb. 1.5.

2 As prescribed for level ground. On the various depths of trenching and the proportionate swelling of the earth, see, e.g., III.13.8, XI.3.10.

3 See III.2.9, note.

4 I.e. vines trained to iuga (yokes). See III.2.8, note.

5 Cf. Quintilian, X.7.28, innatans illa verborum facilitas in altum reducetur, sicut rustici proximas vitis radices amputant, quae illam in summum solum ducant, ut inferiores penitus descendendo firmentur.

6 I.e., whether the plant dies, or lives as an inferior vine.

7 III.15.2.

8 The operation of loosening the soil about the roots of a plant, to admit air and moisture, is summed up in the convenient, though now obsolete, word "ablaqueation." Cf. II.14.3, note a.

9 So Palladius, II.10.3.

10 March 1st.

11 Palladius, VI. (May) 2, gives similar instructions for the trimming away of useless foliage (pampinatio), and adds, like Columella (IV.7.1), that the task should be performed at a time when the young twigs snap easily with pressure of the fingers. Cf. Varro, R. R. I.31.2; Col. IV.27.6, 28.1, with note.

12 Cf. Cicero, de Sen. 15.52, Vitis quidem, quae natura caduca est et, nisi fulta est, fertur ad terram, eadem, ut se erigat claviculis suis quasi manibus, quicquid est nacta, complectitur.

13 Columella appears to use nepos to mean both "water-sprouts" or "stock-shoots," sprouting from unfruitful (p369)wood, and "secondary shoots" or "laterals" growing out of fruiting canes.

14 See IV.21.3.

15 Oct. 15th. Compare with this chapter Palladius, XI (Oct.).5.

16 Cf. IV.4.2, note.

17 Cf. De Arb. 5.3.

18 Dec. 13th.

19 Lit. the legs.

20 Cf. Pliny, N. H. XVII.192.

21 Georg. II.362‑370.

22 Cato, 33.2.

23 Lit. "thumb," from the resemblance of the stub to that member.

24 Cf. Pliny, N. H. XVII.165, Simplici iugo constat porrecto ordine quem canterium appellant.

25 Capreoli. Cf. Varro, R. R. I.31.4, where the word is derived from capio (grasp); also Isidore, Orig. XVII.5.11, Capreoli dicti quod capiant arbores.

26 I.e. missing vines must be replaced.

27 The mergus, "layer," was so called because, without being separated from the nurse vine, it "dives" (mergit) into the ground and then reappears, like a diving bird (mergus). Cf. Palladius, III.16.1, Mergum dicimus, quoties velut arcus supra terram relinquitur, alia parte vitis infossa.

28 I.e the bend under ground.

29 Closer to the parent vine.

30 Oct. 15th to Nov. 13th.

31 Cf. IV.4.2, note.

32 Cf. IV.28.2.

33 See IV.26.3.

34 The translation attempts to preserve the figure in some measure; but the text (alliduntur) seems doubtful. Gesner's interpretation, accepted by Schneider and perhaps correct, is that the flow of sap in the vine is compared, in alliduntur, to the beating of waves on a shore.

35 revocari, in a technical sense. Cf. Palladius, III.12.4.

36 Cf. Palladius, III.16.

37 Cf. Palladius, XII.3.

38 Chap. 29, below.

39 Oct. 15th.

40 Feb. 13th.

41 I.e. the sound bark.

42 Lit. the nails (of the "thumbs"), for the stubs have been cut slantwise (Chap. 9, above).

43 Rustic dialect for faucaneus. Cf. Palladius, III.12.2, Focaneus etiam, qui inter duo bracchia medius nascitur, debet (p417)abradi; qui si pinguitudine sua bracchium quodcumque proximum debilitaverit, illi deciso ipse succedat.

44 So called from the resemblance of the cross-bars of the trellis, with their four-sided opening, to the square opening of the compluvium in the Roman house roof. Cf. Pliny, N. H. XVII.166, (p419)Compluviata copiosior vino est, dicta a cavis aedium compluviis.

45 An oblique cut is to be made clear through, thus giving the stub the appearance of a horse's hoof, with its flat surface not round but of oblong shape.

46 Cf. IV.9.2.

47 Cf. IV.12.1.

48 With this chapter cf. Varro, R. R. I.8; Pliny, N. H. XVII.164‑166, 174.

49 Cf. IV.12‑13.

50 Of the frame, i.e. the X formed by the intersecting cross-bars (IV.17.6).

51 See IV.24.14, with note.

52 Cf. De Arb. 11.

53 I.e. the stripping off by hand of useless leaves and twigs (pampini), an operation described just above and frequently mentioned (e.g. Chap. 6, above; De Arb. 11.2), and called pampinatio, as distinguished from putatio or pruning with (p435)a knife. With this sentence compare Pliny, N. H. XVII.190, Pampinatio verna in confesso est ab Idibus Maiis, intra dies x, utique antequam florere incipiat. . . . De sequente variant sententiae. Cum defloruit aliqui pampinandum putant, alii sub ipsa maturitate.

54 Pulveratio meant the working of the ground about the vine when it was dry, redu­cing it to powder, and raising clouds of dust to settle on the leaves and fruit as a protection against sun and fog; cf. XI.2.60; De Arb. 12.1; Pliny, N. H. XVII.49.

55 Cf. Pliny, N. H. XVII.188‑189.

56 III.6.

57 cambium-layer.

58 With the instructions that follow compare Cato's chapter (41) on vine-grafting; also Pliny, N. H. XVII.115‑117, and Palladius, IV.1.

59 Sobel (Stud. Colum., pp77‑78) explains that the paring is to be used as a wedge to hold the cleft open while the scion is being inserted.

60 Thus forming an unsymmetrical wedge. By medulla is meant the cambium-layer.

61 Cf. Pliny, N. H. XVII.116; Palladius, III.17.7.

62 Cf. Cato, 41.3‑4.

63 Cf. De Arb. 8.4; Pliny, loc. cit.; Palladius, loc. cit.

64 The passage is bracketed by Schneider as irrelevant at this point, perhaps having crept in from De Arb. (loc. cit.), where an almost identical statement follows the description of the Gallic wimble.

65 This passage, printed as it stands in the manuscripts and editions, is obviously out of place. It appears to belong, as Schneider points out, at the beginning of Sec. 12 of this chapter, after the words radatur e duro.

66 So Pliny, N. H. XVII.143.

67 Cf. Pliny, N. H. XVI.177.

68 Probably in the form of a rod or bar, an old Roman unit of weight.

69 Cf. Pliny, N. H. XVII.144‑146.

70 Cf. Cato, 33.2; Pliny, N. H. XVI.206, XVII.144, et al.

71 Cf. Pliny, N. H. XVII.147‑150.

Thayer's Note:

a i.e., from Ameria, a town that in Roman times was just barely in Sabine country, in its far western reaches; now Amelia in the Italian region of Umbria. The town was rather more prominent in Antiquity than today, lending its name to a consular road connecting it to Rome, that was then extended to Tuder and Perusia.

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