Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Home Vegetable Gardening 8


Many a home gardener who has succeeded well with vegetables is, for some reason or other, still fearsome about trying his hand at growing his own fruit. This is all a mistake; the initial expense is very slight and the same amount of care that is demanded by vegetables, if given to fruit, will produce apples, peaches, pears and berries far superior to any that can be bought, especially in flavor.

I know a doctor in New York, a specialist, who has attained prominence in his profession, and who makes a large income; he tells me that there is nothing in the city that hurts him so much as to have to pay whenever he wants an apple. His boyhood home was on a Pennsylvania farm, where apples were as free as water, and he cannot get over the idea of their being one of Nature's gracious gifts, any more than he can overcome his hankering for that crisp, juicy, flavor of a good apple, which is not quite equaled by the taste of any other fruit. And yet it is not the saving in expense, although that is considerable, that makes the strongest argument for growing one's own fruit. There are three other reasons, each of more importance. First is quality. The
commercial grower cannot afford to grow the very finest fruit. Many of the best varieties are not large enough yielders to be available for his use, and he cannot, on a large scale, so prune and care for his trees that the individual fruits receive the greatest possible amount of sunshine and thinning out--the personal care that is required for the very best quality. Second, there is the beauty and the value that well kept fruit trees add to a place, no matter how small it is. An
apple tree in full bloom is one of the most beautiful pictures that Nature ever paints; and if, through any train of circumstances, it ever becomes advisable to sell or rent the home, its desirability is greatly enhanced by the few trees necessary to furnish the loveliness of
showering blossoms in spring, welcome shade in summer and an abundance of delicious fruits through autumn and winter. Then there is the fun of doing it--of planting and caring for a few young trees, which will reward your labors, in a cumulative way, for many years to come.

But enough of reasons. If the call of the soil is in your veins, if your fingers (and your brain) in the springtime itch to have a part in earth's ever-wonderful renascence, if your lips part at the thought of the white, firm, toothsome flesh of a ripened-on-the-tree red apple--then you must have a home orchard without delay. And it is not a difficult task. Apples, pears and the stone fruits, fortunately, are not very particular about their soils. They take kindly to anything between a sandy soil so loose as to be almost shifting, and heavy clay. Even these soils can be made available, but of course not without more work. And you need little room to grow all the fruit your family can possibly eat.

Time was, when to speak of an apple tree brought to mind one of those old, moss-barked giants that served as a carriage shed and a summer dining-room, decorated with scythes and rope swings, requiring the services of a forty-foot ladder and a long-handled picker to gather the fruit. That day is gone. In its stead have come the low-headed standard and the dwarf forms. The new types came as new institutions usually do, under protest. The wise said they would never be practical--the trees would not get large enough and tractors could not be driven under them. But the facts remained that the low trees are more easily and thoroughly cared for; that they do not take up so much room; that they are less exposed to high winds, and such fruit as does fall is not injured; that the low limbs shelter the roots and conserve moisture; and, above all, that picking can be accomplished much more easily and with less injury to fine, well ripened fruit. The low-headed tree has come to stay.

If your space will allow, the low-headed standards will give you better satisfaction than the dwarfs. They are longer-lived, they are healthier, and they do not require nearly so much intensive culture. On the other hand, the dwarfs may be used where there is little or no room for the standards. If there is no other space available, they may be put in the vegetable or flower garden, and incidentally they are then sure of receiving some of that special care which they need in the way of fertilization and cultivation.

As I have said, any average soil will grow good fruit. A gravelly loam, with a gravel subsoil, is the ideal. Do not think from this, however, that all you have to do is buy a few trees from a nursery agent, stick them in the ground and from your negligence reap the rewards that follow only intelligent industry. The soil is but the raw material which work and care alone can transform, through the medium of the growing tree, into the desired result of a basement well stored each autumn with fruit.

Fruit trees have one big advantage over vegetables--the ground can be prepared for them while they are growing. If the soil will grow a crop of clover it is already in good shape to furnish the trees with food at once. If not, manure or fertilizers may be applied, and clover or other green crops turned under during the first two or three years of the trees' growth, as will be described later. The first thing to consider, when you have decided to plant, is the location you will give your trees. Plan to have pears, plums, cherries and peaches, as well as apples. For any of these the soil, of whatever nature, must be well drained. If not naturally, then tile or other artificial drainage must be provided. For only a few trees it would probably answer the purpose to dig out large holes and fill in a foot or eighteen inches at the bottom with small stone, covered with gravel or screened coal-cinders. My own land has a gravelly subsoil and I have not had to drain. Then with the apples, and especially with the peaches, a too-sheltered slope to the south is likely to start the flower buds prematurely in spring, only to result in total crop loss from late frosts. The diagram on the next page suggests an arrangement which may be adapted to individual needs. One may see from it that the apples are placed to the north, where they will to some extent shelter the rest of the grounds; the peaches where they will not be coddled; the pears, which may be had upon quince stock, where they will not shade the vegetable garden; the cherries, which are the most ornamental, where they may lend a decorative effect.
And now, having decided that we can--and will--grow good fruit, and having in mind suggestions that will enable us to go out to-morrow morning and, with an armful of stakes, mark out the locations, the next consideration should be the all-important question of what varieties are most successfully grown on the small place.

The following selections are made with the home fruit garden, not the commercial orchard, in mind. While they are all "tried and true" sorts, succeeding generally in the northeast, New England and western fruit sections, remember that fruits, as a rule, though not so particular as vegetables about soil, seem much more so about locality. I would suggest, therefore, submitting your list, before buying, to your State local Cooperative Extension Service. You are taxed for its support; get some direct result from it. There they will be glad to advise you, and are in the best position to help you get started properly. Above all, do not buy from the traveling nursery agent, with his grip full of wonderful lithographs of new and unheard-of novelties. Get the catalogs of several reliable nurseries, take standard varieties about which you know, and buy direct. Several years ago I had the opportunity to go carefully over one of the largest fruit nurseries in the country. Every care and precaution was taken to grow fine, healthy, young trees. The president told me that they sold thousands every year to smaller concerns, to be resold again through field and local agents. Yet they do an enormous retail business themselves, and of course their own customers get the best trees. The following are listed, as nearly as I can judge, in the order of
their popularity, but as many of the best are not valuable commercially, they are little known. Whenever you find a particularly good apple or pear, try to trace it, and add it to your list.

Without any question, the apple is far and away the most valuable fruit, both because of its greater scope of usefulness and its longer season--the last of the winter's Russets are still juicy and firm when the first Early Harvests and Red Astrachans are tempting the "young idea" to experiment with colic. Plant but a small proportion of early varieties, for the late ones are better. Out of a dozen trees, I would put in one early, three fall, and the rest winter sorts.

Among the summer apples are several deserving special mention: Yellow Transparent is the earliest. It is an old favorite and one of the most easily grown of all apples. Its color is indicated by the name, and it is a fair eating-apple and a very good cooker. Red Astrachan, another first early, is not quite so good for cooking, but is a delicious eating-apple of good size. An apple of more recent introduction and extremely hardy (hailing first from Russia), and already replacing the above sorts, is Livland (Livland Raspberry). The tree is of good form, very vigorous and healthy. The fruit is ready almost as soon as Yellow Transparent, and is of much better quality for eating. In appearance it is exceptionally handsome, being of good size, regular form and having those beautiful red shades found almost exclusively in the later apples. The flesh is quality is fully up to its appearance. The white, crisp-breaking flesh, most aromatic, deliciously sub-acid, makes it ideal for eating. A neighbor of mine sold $406 worth of fruit from twenty trees to one dealer. For such a splendid apple McIntosh is remarkably hardy and vigorous, succeeding over a very wide territory, and climate severe enough to kill many of the other newer varieties. The Fameuse (widely known as the Snow) is an excellent variety for northern sections. It resembles the McIntosh, which some claim to be derived from it. Fall Pippin, Pound Sweet and Twenty Ounce, are other popular late autumns. In the winter section, Baldwin, which is too well known to need describing, is the leading commercial variety in many apple districts, and it is a good variety for home growing on account of its hardiness and good cooking and keeping qualities; but for the home orchard, it is far surpassed in quality by several others. In northern sections, down to the corn line, Northern Spy is a great favorite. It is a large, roundish apple, with thin, tender, glossy skin, light to deep carmine over light yellow, and an excellent keeper. In sections to which it is adapted it is a particularly vigorous, compact, upright grower. Jonathan is another splendid sort, with a wider range of conditions favorable for growth. It is, however, not a strong-growing tree and is somewhat uncertain in maturing its fruit, which is a bright, clear red
of distinctive flavor. It likes a soil with more clay than do most apples. In the Middle West and Middle South, Grimes (Golden) has made a great local reputation in many sections, although in others it has not done well at all. The Spitzenberg (Esopus) is very near the top of the list of all late eating-apples, being at its prime about December. It is another handsome yellow-covered red apple, with flesh slightly yellowish, but very good to the taste. The tree, unfortunately, is not a robust grower, being especially weak in its earlier stages, but with good cultivation it will not fail to reward the grower for any extra care it may have required. These, and the other notable varieties, for which there is not room here to describe, make up the following list, from which the planter should select according to locality:
Earliest or Summer:--Early Harvest, Yellow Transparent, Red
Astrachan, Benoni (new), Chenango, Sweet Bough, Williams' Favorite, Early Strawberry, Livland Raspberry.
Early Autumn:--Alexander, Duchess, Porter, Gravenstein, McIntosh Red.
Late Autumn:--Jefferies, Fameuse (Snow), Maiden's Blush,
Wealthy, Fall Pippin, Pound Sweet, Twenty Ounce, Cox Orange, Hubbardston.
Winter:--Baldwin, Rhode Island Greening, Northwestern Greening,
Jonathan, Northern Spy, Yellow, Swaar, Delicious, Wagener, King,
Esopus, Spitzenberg, Yellow Bellflower, Winter Banana, Seek-no-further, Talman Sweet, Roxbury Russett, King David, Stayman's Winesap, Wolf River.

Pears are more particular than apples in the matter of being adapted to
sections and soils. Submit your list to your local Cooperative Extension Service before ordering trees. Many of the standard sorts may be had where a low-growing, spreading tree is desired (for instance, quince-stock pears might be used to change places with the plums). Varieties
suitable for this method are listed below. They are given approximately in the order of the ripening:

Wilder: Early August, medium in size, light yellow, excellent quality. Does not rot at the core, as so many early pears are liable to do.
Margaret: Oblong, greenish, yellow to dull red.

Clapp Favorite: Very large, yellow pear. A great bearer and good keeper--where the children cannot get at it.
Howell: A little later than the foregoing; large, bright yellow, strong-growing tree and big bearer.
Duchesse d'Angouleme: Large greenish yellow, sometimes reaching huge size; will average better than three-quarters of a pound. The quality, despite its size, is splendid.
Seckel: Small in size, but renowned for exquisite flavor--being probably the most universally admired of all.
Beurre Superfine: October, medium size, excellent quality.

Bartlett: The best known of all pears, and a universal favorite. Succeeds in nearly all sections.
Anjou: One of the best keepers, and very productive. One of the best in flavor, rich and vinous.
For trees of the standard type the following are worthy of note:
Congress (Souvenir du C.): A very large summer sort. Handsome. Belle Lucrative: September to October.
Winter Nelis: Medium size, but of excellent quality and the longest keeper.
Kieffer: Very popular for its productiveness, strength of growth and exceptional quality of fruit for canning and preserving. Large fruit, if kept thinned. Should have a place in every home garden. Josephine de Malines: Not a great yielder but of the very highest quality, being of the finest texture and tempting aroma.

Success with peaches also will depend largely upon getting varieties adapted to climate. The white-fleshed type is the hardiest and best for eating; and the free-stones are for most purposes, especially in the home garden, more desirable than the "clings."
Greensboro is the best early variety. Crawford is a universal favorite
and goes well over a wide range of soil and climate. Champion is one of the best quality peaches and exceptionally hardy. Elberta, Ray, and Hague are other excellent sorts. Mayflower is the earliest sort yet introduced.

The available plums are of three classes--the natives, Europeans and Japans; the natives are the longest-lived, hardier in tree and blossom, and heavier bearers.
The best early is Milton; brilliant red, yellow and juicy flesh.
Wildgoose and Whitaker are good seconds. Mrs. Cleveland is a later and larger sort, of finer quality. Three late-ripening plums of the finest quality, but not such prolific yielders, are Wayland, Benson and Reed, and where there is room for only a few trees, these will be best. They will need one tree of Newman or Prairie Flower with them to assure setting of the fruit. Of the Europeans, use Reine Claude (the best), Bradshaw or Shropshire. Damson is also good. The Japanese varieties should go on high ground and be thinned, especially during their first years. My first experience with Japanese plums convinced me that I had solved the plum problem; they bore loads of fruit, and were free from disease. That was five years ago. Last spring the last one was cut and burned. Had they been planted at the top of a small hill, instead of at the bottom, as they were, and restricted in their bearing, I know from later experience that they would still be producing fruit. The most satisfactory varieties of the Japanese type are Abundance and Red June. Burbank is also highly recommended,


Cherries have one advantage over the other fruits--they give quicker returns. But, as far as my experience goes, they are not as long-lived. The sour type is hardier, at least north of New Jersey, than the sweet. It will probably pay to try a few of the new and highly recommended
varieties. Of the established sorts Early Richmond is a good early, to be followed by Montmorency and English Morello. Windsor is a good sweet cherry, as are also Black Tartarian, Sox, Wood and Yellow Spanish. All the varieties mentioned above are proved sorts. But the lists are being added to constantly, and where there is a novelty strongly recommended by a reliable nurseryman it will often pay to try it out--on a very small scale at first.


As the pedigree and the quality of the stock you plant will have a great deal to do with the success or failure of your adventure in orcharding, even on a very small scale, it is important to get the best trees you can, anywhere, at any price. But do not jump to the conclusion that the most costly trees will be the best. From reliable nurserymen, selling direct by mail, you can get good trees at very reasonable prices.

As a general thing you will succeed best if you have nothing to do with the perennial "tree agent." He may represent a good firm; you may get your trees on time; he may have a novelty as good as the standard sorts; but you are taking three very great chances in assuming so. But, leaving these questions aside, there is no particular reason why you should help pay his traveling expenses and the printing bills for his lithographs ("made from actual photographs" or "painted from nature," of course!) when you can get the best trees to be had, direct from the soil in which they are grown, at the lowest prices, by ordering through the mail. Or, better still, if the nursery is not too far away, take half a day off and select them in person. If you want to help the agent along present him with the amount of his commission, but get your trees direct from some large reliable nursery. Well grown nursery stock will stand much abuse, but it will not be at all
improved by it. Do not let yours stand around in the sun and wind, waiting until you get a chance to set it out. As soon as you get it home from the express office, unpack it and "heel it in," in moist, but not wet, ground; if under a shed, so much the better. Dig out a narrow trench and pack it in as thick as it will go, at an angle of forty-five degrees to the natural position when growing. So stored, it will keep a long time in cold weather, only be careful that no rats, mice, or rabbits reach it. Do not, however, depend upon this knowledge to the extent of letting all your preparations for planting go until your stock is on hand. Be ready to set it the day it arrives, if possible.

Planting can be done in either spring or fall. As a general rule, north of Philadelphia and St. Louis, spring planting will be best; south of that, fall planting. Where there is apt to be severe freezing, "heaving," caused by the alternate freezing and thawing; injury to the newly set roots from too
severe cold; and, in some western sections, "sun-scald" of the bark, are three injuries which may result. If trees are planted in the fall in cold sections, a low mound of earth, six to twelve inches high, should be left during the winter about each, and leveled down in the spring. If set in the spring, where hot, dry weather is apt to follow, they should be thoroughly mulched with litter, straw or coarse manure, to preserve moisture--care being taken, however, against field mice and other rodents.
The trees may either be set in their permanent positions as soon as bought, or grown in "nursery rows" by the purchaser for one or two years after being purchased. In the former case, it will be the best policy to get the strongest, straightest two-year stock you can find, even if they cost ten or fifteen cents apiece more than the "mediums." The former method is the usual one, but the latter has so many advantages that I give it the emphasis of a separate paragraph, and urge every prospective planter to consider it carefully.

In the first place, then, you get your trees a little cheaper. This gain, however, is not an important one--there are four others, each of which makes it worth while to give the method a trial. First, the trees being all together, and in a convenient place, the chances are a hundred to one that you will give them better attention in the way of spraying, pruning and cultivating--all extremely important in the first year's growth. Second, with the year gained for extra preparation of the soil where they are to be placed permanently, you can make conditions just right for them to take hold at once and thrive as they could not do otherwise. Third, the shock of transplanting will be much less than when they are shipped from a distance--they will have made an additional growth of dense, short roots and they will have become acclimated. Fourth, you will not have wasted space and time with any backward black sheep among the lot, as these should be discarded at the second planting. And then there is one further reason, psychological perhaps, but none the less important; you will watch these little trees, which are largely the result of your own labor and care, when set in their permanent positions, much more carefully than you would those direct from the nursery. I know, both from experience and observation, how many thrifty young trees in the home orchard are done to an untimely death by children, careless workmen, and other animals.

So if you can put a twelve-month curb on your impatience, get one-year trees and set them out in a straight row right in your vegetable garden where they will take up very little room. Keep them cultivated just as thoroughly as the rest of your growing things. Melons, or beans, or almost any low-growing vegetable can be grown close beside them. Let us suppose that your trees are at hand, either direct from the nursery or growing in the garden. You have selected, if possible, a moist, gravelly loam on a slope or slight elevation, where it is naturally and perfectly drained. Good soil drainage is imperative. Coarse gravel in the bottom of the planting hole will help out temporarily. If the land is in clover sod, it will have the ideal preparation, especially if you can grow a patch of potatoes or corn on it one year, while your trees are getting further growth. In such land the holes will not have to be prepared. If, however, you are not fortunate enough to be able to devote such a space to fruit trees, and in order to have them at all must place them along your wall or scattered through the grounds, you can still give them an excellent start by enriching the soil in spots beforehand, as suggested above in growing lima beans. In the event of finding even this last way inapplicable to your land, the following method will make success
certain: Dig out holes three to six feet in diameter (if the soil is very hard, the larger dimension), and twelve to eighteen inches deep. Mix thoroughly with the excavated soil a good wheel barrow full of the oldest, finest manure you can get, combined with about one-fourth or one-fifth its weight of South Carolina rock (or acid phosphate, if you cannot get the rock). It is a good plan to compost the manure and rock in advance, or use the rock as an absorbent in the stable. Fill in the hole again, leaving room in the center to set the tree without bending or cramping any roots. Where any of these are injured or bruised, cut them off clean at the injured spot with a sharp knife. Shorten any that are long and straggling about one-third to one-half their length. Properly grown stock should not be in any such condition.
Remember that a well planted tree will give more fruit in the first ten years than three trees carelessly put in. Get the tree so that it will be one to three inches deeper in the soil than when growing in the nursery. Work the soil in firmly about the roots with the fingers or a blunt wooden "tamper"; do not be afraid to use your feet. When the roots are well covered, firm the tree in by putting all your weight upon the soil around it. See that it is planted straight, and if the "whip," or small trunk, is not straight stake it, and tie it with rye straw, raffia or strips of old cloth-never string or wire. If the soil is very dry, water the root copiously while planting until the soil is about half filled in, never on the surface, as that is likely to cause a crust to form and keep out the air so necessary to healthy growth.
Prune back the "leader" of the tree-the top above the first lateral
branches, about one-half. Peach trees should be cut back more severely. Further information in regard to pruning, and the different needs of the various fruits in regard to this important matter, will be given in the next chapter.

Standard apple trees, fully grown, will require thirty to forty-five feet of space between them each way. It takes, however, ten or twelve years after the trees are set before all of this space is needed. A system of "fillers," or inter-planting, has come into use as a result of this, which will give at least one hundred per cent, more fruit for the first ten years. Small-growing standards, standard varieties on dwarf stock, and also peaches, are used for this purpose in commercial orchards. But the principle may be applied with equally good results to the home orchard, or even to the planting of a few scattered trees. The standard dwarfs give good satisfaction as permanent fillers. Where space is very limited, or the fruit must go into the garden, they may be used in place of the standard sorts altogether. The dwarf trees are, as a rule, not so long-lived as the standards, and to do their best, need more care in fertilizing and manuring; but the fruit is just as good; just as much, or more, can be grown on the same area; and the trees come into bearing two to three years sooner. They cost less to begin with and are also easier to care for, in spraying and pruning and in picking the fruit.

The home orchard, to give the very finest quality of fruit, must be given careful and thorough cultivation. In the case of scattered trees, where it is not practicable to use a horse, this can be given by working a space four to six feet wide about each tree. Every spring the soil should be loosened up, with the cultivator or fork, as the case may be, and kept stirred during the early part of the summer. Unless the soil is rich, a fertilizer, high in potassium and not too high in nitrogen, should be given in the spring. Manure and phosphate rock, as suggested above, is as good as any. In case the foliage is not a deep healthy green, apply a few handfuls of nitrate of soda, working it into the soil just before a rain, around each tree. About August 1st the cultivation should be discontinued, and some "cover crop" sown. Buckwheat and crimson clover is a good combination; as the former makes a rapid growth it will form, if rolled down just as the apples are ripening, a soft cushion upon which the windfalls may drop without injury, and will furnish enough protection to the crimson clover to carry it through most winters, even in cold climates.
In addition to the filler crops, where the ground is to be cultivated by tractor, potatoes may be grown between the rows of trees; or fine hills of melons or squash may be grown around scattered trees, thus, incidentally, saving a great deal of space in the vegetable garden. Or why not grow a few extra fancy strawberries in the well cultivated spots about these trees? Neither they nor the trees want the ground too rich, especially in nitrogen, and conditions suiting the one would be just right for the others.

It may seem to the beginner that fruit-growing, with all these things to keep in mind, is a difficult task. But it is not. I think I am perfectly safe in saying that the rewards from nothing else he can plant and care for are as certain, and surely none are more satisfactory. If you cannot persuade yourself to try fruit on any larger plan, at least order half a dozen dwarf trees (they will cost about twenty cents apiece, and can be had by mail). They will prove about the best paying investment you ever made.

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