The Home Acre by Edward Payson Roe
Chapter IV. The Vineyard and Orchard
He who proposes to plant grape-vines will scarcely fail to take the sensible course of inspecting the varieties already producing fruit in his locality. From causes often too obscure to be learned with certainty, excellent kinds will prove to be well adapted to one locality, and fail in others. If, therefore, when calling on a neighbor during August, September, or October, we are shown a vine producing fruit abundantly that is suited to our taste, a vine also which manifests unmistakable vigor, we may be reasonably sure that it belongs to a variety which we should have, especially if it be growing in a soil and exposure somewhat similar to our garden plot. A neighbor worthy of the name will be glad to give us a few cuttings from his vine at the time of its annual pruning; and with, very little trouble we also may soon possess the desired variety. When the vine is trimmed, either make yourself or have your friend make a few cuttings of sound wood from that season's growth. About eight inches is a good length for these vine-slips, and they should contain at least two buds. Let each slip be cut off smoothly just under the lowest bud, and extend an inch or two above the uppermost bud. If these cuttings are obtained in November or December, they may be put into a little box with some of the moist soil of the garden, and buried in the ground below the usual frost-line--say a foot or eighteen inches in our latitude. The simple object is to keep them in a cool, even temperature, but not a frosty one. Early in April dig up the box, open a trench in a moist but not wet part of the garden, and insert the cuttings perpendicularly in the soil, so that the upper bud is covered barely one inch. In filling up the trench, press the soil carefully yet firmly about the cuttings, and spread over the surface just about them a little fine manure. The cuttings should be a foot apart from each other in the row. Do not let the ground become dry about them at any time during the summer. By fall these cuttings will probably have thrown out an abundance of roots, and have made from two to three feet of vine. In this case they can be taken up and set out where they are to fruit. Possibly but one or two of them have started vigorously. The backward ones had better be left to grow another year in the cutting bed. Probably we shall not wish to cultivate more than one or two vines of the variety; but it is just as easy to start several cuttings as one, and by this course we guard against failure, and are able to select the most vigorous plant for our garden. By taking good care of the others we soon derive one of the best pleasures which our acre can afford--that of giving to a friend something which will enhance the productiveness of his acre, and add to his enjoyment for years to come.
Not only on our neighbor's grounds, but also on our own we shall discover that some varieties are unusually vigorous, productive, and well-adapted to our locality; and we may very naturally wish to have more vines of the same sort, especially if the fruit is to our taste. We can either increase this kind by cuttings, as has been described, or we can layer part of the vine that has won our approval by well-doing. I shall take the latter course with several delicious varieties in my vineyard. Some kinds of grapes do not root readily as cuttings, but there is little chance of failure in layering. This process is simply the laying down of a branch of a vine in early spring, and covering it lightly with soil, so that some buds will be beneath the surface, and others just at or a little above it. Those beneath will form roots, the others shoots which by fall should be good vines for planting. Every bud that can reach the air and light will start upward, and thus there may be a thick growth of incipient vines that will crowd and enfeeble each other. The probabilities are that only two or three new vines are wanted; therefore all the others should be rubbed off at the start, so that the strength of the parent plant and of the new roots that are forming may go into those few shoots designed to become eventually a part of our vineyard. If we wish only one vine, then but one bud should grow from the layer; if two vines, then two buds. The fewer buds that are permitted to grow, the stronger vines they make.
It must be remembered that this layer, for the greater part of the growing season, is drawing its sustenance from the parent plant, to which it is still attached. Therefore the other branches of this vine thus called upon for unusual effort should be permitted to fruit but sparingly. We should not injure and enfeeble the original vine in order to get others like it. For this reason we advise that no more buds be permitted to grow from the layer than we actually need ourselves. To injure a good vine and deprive ourselves of fruit that we may have plants to give away, is to love one's neighbor better than one's self--a thing permitted, but not required. When our vines are pruned, we can make as many cuttings as we choose, either to sell or give away.
The ground in which a layer is placed should be very rich, and its surface round the young growing vines always kept moist and free from weeds. In the autumn, after the leaves have fallen and the wood is ripe and hard, cut off the layered branch close to the vine, and with a garden-fork gently and carefully lift it, with all its roots and young vines attached, out of the soil. First cut the young vines back to three or four buds, then separate them from the branch from which they grew, being sure to give each plant plenty of roots, and the roots back of the point from which it grew; that is, those roots nearest the parent plant from which the branch was layered. All the old wood of the branch that is naked, free of roots, should be cut off. The young shoots thus separated are now independent vines, and may be set out at once where they are to fruit. If you have a variety that does not do well, or that you do not like, dig it out, enrich the soil, and put one of your favorites in its place.
We will now consider briefly the diseases and insect enemies of the grape. A vine way be doomed to ill-health from its very situation. Mr. Hussman, a grape-culturist of great experience and wide observation, writes: "Those localities may generally be considered safe for the grape in which there are no miasmatic influences. Where malaria and fevers prevail, there is no safety for the crop, as the vine seems to be as susceptible to such influences as human beings."
Taking this statement literally, we may well ask, Where, then, can grapes be grown? According to physicians, malaria has become one of the most generally diffused products of the country. When a man asserts that it is not in his locality, we feel sure that if pressed he will admit that it is "round the corner." Country populations still survive, however, and so does grape-culture. Yet there are low-lying regions which from defective drainage are distinctively and, it would almost seem, hopelessly malarial. In such localities but few varieties of the vine will thrive, The people who are compelled to live there, or who choose to do so, should experiment until they obtain varieties so hardy and vigorous that they will triumph over everything. The best course with grape-diseases is not to have them; in other words, to recognize the fact at once that certain varieties of the grape will not thrive and be productive of good fruit unless the soil and climate suit them. The proprietor of the Home Acre can usually learn by a little inquiry or observation whether grapes thrive in his locality. If there is much complaint of mildew, grape-rot, and general feebleness of growth, he should seek to plant only the most hardy and vigorous kinds.
As I have said before, our cultivated grapes are derived from several native species found growing wild, and some now valued highly for wine-making are nothing but wild grapes domesticated; as, for instance, Norton's Virginia, belonging to the oestivalis class. The original plant of this variety was found growing upon an island in the Potomac by Dr. Norton, of Virginia.
The species from which the greatest number of well-known grapes is obtained is the Vitis labrusca, the common wild or fox grape, found growing in woods and thickets, usually where the ground is moist, from Canada to the Gulf. The dark purple berries, averaging about three-quarters of an inch in diameter, ripen in September, and they contain a tough, musky pulp. Yet this "slip of wilderness" is the parent of the refined Catawba, the delicious Brighton, and the magnificent white grape Lady Washington--indeed, of all the black, red, and white grapes with which most people are familiar. Our earliest grapes, which ripen in August, as well as some of the latest, like the Isabella, come from the labrusca species. It is said that the labrusca class will not thrive in the extreme South; and with the exception of the high mountain slopes, this appears reasonable to the student of the vine. It is said that but few of this class will endure the long hot summers of France. But there are great differences among the varieties derived from this native species. For example, the Concord thrives almost anywhere, while even here upon the Hudson we can scarcely grow the Catawba with certainty. It is so good a grape, however, that I persist in making the effort, with varying success; but I should not recommend it, or many of its class, for those localities not specially suited to the grape.
I will now name a few varieties which have proved to be, or promise to be, the most thrifty and productive whereever grapes can be grown at all the labrusca class: Black--Concord, Wilder, Worden, Amenia, Early Canada, Telegraph or Christine, Moore's Early. Red-Wyoming, Goethe, Lindley, Beauty, Brighton, Perkins (pale red), and Agawam. White--Rebecca, Martha, Alien's Hybrid, Lady Pocklington, Prentiss, Lady Washington. These are all fine grapes, and they have succeeded throughout wide areas of country. Any and all are well worth a trial; but if the grower finds that some of them are weak and diseased in his grounds, I should advise that he root them out and replace them with those which thrive. The Niagara is highly praised, and may make good all that is claimed for it.
Of the aestivalis class I can recommend the Cynthiana and the Herbemont, or Warren, for the extreme South. Both of them are black. There are new varieties of this vigorous species which promise well.
The cordifolia species promises to furnish some fine, hardy, and productive grapes, of which the Amber is an example. The Elvira, a pale yellow grape, is highly praised by Mr. Hussman. Although the Bacchus is distinctively a wine grape, I have already said that its flavor, when fully ripe, was agreeable to me. The only difficulty in growing it is to keep the ground poor, and use the pruning-knife freely.
I have enlarged on this point, for I wish to direct the mind of the reader to the fact that there are many very hardy grapes. I congratulate those who, with the taste of a connoisseur, have merely to sample until they find just the varieties that suit them, and then to plant these kinds in their genial soil and favored locality.
At the same time I should like to prevent others from worrying along with unsatisfactory varieties, or from reaching the conclusion that they can not grow grapes in their region or garden. Let them rather admit that they can not raise some kinds, but may others. If a variety were persistently diseased, feeble, and unproductive under good treatment, I should root it out rather than continue to nurse and coddle it.
When mildew and grape-rot first appear, the evil can often be remedied in part by dusting the vines with sulphur, and continuing the process until the disease is cured, if it ever is. I have never had occasion to do this, and will not do it. A variety that often requires such nursing in this favored locality should be discarded.
There is one kind of disease, or feebleness rather, to which we are subject everywhere, and from which few varieties are exempt. It is the same kind of weakness which would be developed in a fine sound horse if we drove him until he dropped down every time we took him out. Cultivated vines are so far removed from their natural conditions that they will often bear themselves to death, like a peach-tree. To permit this is a true instance of avarice overreaching itself; or the evil may result from ignorance or neglect. Close pruning in autumn and thinning out the crowding clusters soon after they have formed is the remedy. If a vine had been so enfeebled, I should cut it back rigorously, feed it well, and permit it to bear very little fruit, if any, for a year.
Of insect enemies we have the phylloxera of bad eminence, which has so dismayed Europe. The man who could discover and patent an adequate remedy in France might soon rival a Rothschild in his wealth. The remedy abroad is also ours--to plant varieties which are phylloxera-proof, or nearly so. Fortunately we have many which defy this pestiferous little root-louse, and European vine-growers have been importing them by the million. They are still used chiefly as stocks on which to graft varieties of the vinifera species. In California, grapes of the vinifera or European species are generally cultivated; but the phylloxera is at its destructive work among them. The wine-grapes of the future throughout the world may be developed from the hardy cestivalis and cordifolia classes. In many localities, even in this new land, varieties like the Delaware succumb to this scourge of foreign vineyards.
The aphis, or plant-louse, sometimes attacks the young, tender shoots of the vine. The moment they appear, take off the shoot, and crush it on a board with the foot. Leaf-rollers, the grape- vine sphinx, and caterpillars in general must be caught by hand and killed. Usually they are not very numerous. The horrid little rose-chafers or rose-bugs are sometimes very destructive. Our best course is to take a basin of water and jar them off into it--they fall readily--and then scald them to death. We may discover lady- bugs--small red or yellow and black beetles--among our vines, and many persons, I fear, will destroy them with the rest. We should take off our hats to them and wish them godspeed. In their destruction of aphides and thrips they are among our best friends. The camel-cricket is another active destroyer of injurious insects. Why do not our schools teach a little practical natural history? Once, when walking in the Catskills, I saw the burly driver of a stage-load of ladies bound out of his vehicle to kill a garter-snake, the pallid women looking on, meanwhile, as if the earth were being rid of some terrible and venomous thing. They ought to have known that the poor little reptile was as harmless as one of their own garters, and quite as useful in its way. Every country boy and girl should be taught to recognize all our helpers in our incessant fight with insect enemies--a fight which must be maintained with more organized vigor and intelligence than at present, if horticulture is ever to reach its best development.
Wasps and hornets often swarm about the sweet and early ripe varieties. A wide-mouthed bottle partially filled with molasses and water will entrap and drown great numbers of these ugly customers. Some of our favorite birds try our patience not a little. During the early summer I never wearied of watching the musical orioles flashing with their bright hues in and out of the foliage about the house; but when the early grapes were ripe, they took pay for their music with the sang-froid of a favorite prima donna. On one occasion I saw three or four alight on a Diana vine, and in five minutes they had spoiled a dozen clusters. If they would only take a bunch and eat it up clean, one would readily share with them, for there would be enough for all; but the dainty little epicures puncture an indefinite number of berries, merely taking a sip from each. Then the wasps and bees come along and finish the clusters. The cardinal, cat-bird, and our unrivalled songster the wood-thrush, all help themselves in the same wasteful fashion. One can't shoot wood-thrushes. We should almost as soon think of killing off our Nilssons, Nevadas, and Carys. The only thing to do is to protect the clusters; and this can be accomplished in several ways. The most expeditious and satisfactory method is to cover the vines of early grapes with cheap mosquito netting. Another method is to make little bags of this netting and inclose each cluster. Last fall, two of my children tied up many hundreds of clusters in little paper bags, which can be procured at wholesale for a trifling sum. The two lower corners of the paper bags should be clipped off to permit the rain to pass freely through them. Clusters ripen better, last longer on the vine, and acquire a more exquisite bloom and flavor in this retirement than if exposed to light as well as to birds and wasps. Not the fruit but the foliage of the grape-vine needs the sun.
Few of the early grapes will keep long after being taken from the vine; but some of the later ones can be preserved well into the winter by putting them in small boxes and storing them where the temperature is cool, even, and dry. Some of the wine-grapes, like Norton's Virginia, will keep under these conditions almost like winter apples. One October day I took a stone pot of the largest size and put in first a layer of Isabella grapes, then a double thickness of straw paper, then alternate layers of grapes and paper, until the pot was full. A cloth was next pasted over the stone cover, so as to make the pot water-tight. The pot was then buried on a dry knoll below the reach of frost, and dug up again on New Year's Day. The grapes looked and tasted as if they had just been picked from the vine.
For the mysteries of hybridizing and raising new seedlings, grafting, hot-house and cold grapery culture, the reader must look in more extended works than this, and to writers who have had experience in these matters.
We shall next consider three fruits which upon the Home Acre may be regarded as forming a natural group-peaches, plums, and raspberries, if any one expresses surprise that the last-named fruit should be given this relationship, I have merely to reply that the raspberry thrives in the partial shade produced by such small trees as the peach and plum. Where there is need of economy of space it is well to take advantage of this fact, for but few products of the garden give any satisfaction when contending with roots below and shade above.
We have taken it for granted that some grape-vines would be planted in the two borders extending through the centre of the garden, also that there would be spaces left which might be filled with peach and plum trees and small flowering shrubs. If there is to be a good-sized poultry-yard upon the acre, we should advise that plums be planted in that; but we will speak of this fruit later, and now give our attention to that fruit which to the taste of many is unrivalled--the peach.
With the exception of the strawberry, it is perhaps the only fruit for which I prefer spring planting. At the same time, I should not hesitate to set out the trees in autumn. The ground should be good, but not too highly fertilized. I prefer young trees but one year old from the bud. If set out in the fall, I should mound up the earth eighteen inches about them, to protect the roots and stem, and to keep the tree firmly in the soil. With this precaution, I am not sure but that fall planting has the greater advantage, except when the climate is very severe and subject to great alternations. Plant with the same care and on the same principles which have been already described. If a careful system of pruning is to be adopted, the trees may be set out twelve feet apart; but if they are to be left to grow at will, which I regret to say is the usual practice, they should be planted fifteen feet from each other.
There are many good reasons why the common orchard culture of the peach should not be adopted in the garden. There is no fruit more neglected and ill-treated than the beautiful and delicious peach. The trees are very cheap, usually costing but a few cents each; they are bought by the thousand from careless dealers, planted with scarcely the attention given to a cabbage-plant, and too often allowed to bear themselves to death. The land, trees, and cultivation cost so little that one good crop is expected to remunerate for all outlay. If more crops are obtained, there is so much clear gain. Under this slovenly treatment there is, of course, rapid deterioration in the stamina of the peach. Pits and buds are taken from enfeebled trees for the purpose of propagation, and so tendencies to disease are perpetuated and enhanced. Little wonder that, the fatal malady, the "yellows," has blighted so many hopes! I honestly believe that millions of trees have been sold in which this disease existed from the bud. If fine peaches were bred and propagated with something of the same care that is bestowed on blooded stock, the results would soon be proportionate. Gardeners abroad often give more care to one tree than hundreds receive here. Because the peach has grown so easily in our climate, we have imposed on its good-nature beyond the limits of endurance, and consequently it is not easy to get sound, healthful trees that will bear year after year under the best of treatment, as they did with our fathers with no care at all. I should look to men who had made a reputation for sending out sound, healthful stock grown under their own eyes from pits and wood which they know to be free from disease. Do not try to save a few pennies on the first cost of trees, for the probabilities are that such economy will result in little more than the "yellows."
In large orchards, cultivated by horse-power, the stems of the trees are usually from four to six feet high; but in the garden this length of stem is not necessary, and the trees can be grown as dwarf standards, with stems beginning to branch two feet from the ground. A little study of the habit of growth in the peach will show that, to obtain the best results, the pruning-shears are almost as essential as in the case of the grape-vine. More than in any other fruit-tree, the sap tends strongly toward the ends of the shoots. Left to Nature, only the terminal buds of these will grow from year to year; the other buds lower down on the shoots fail and drop off. Thus we soon have long naked reaches of unproductive wood, or sucker-like sprouts starting from the bark, which are worse than useless. Our first aim should be to form a round, open, symmetrical head, shortening in the shoots at least one-half each year, and cutting out crossing and interlacing branches. For instance, if we decide to grow our trees as dwarf standards, we shall cut back the stems at a point two feet from the ground the first spring after planting, and let but three buds grow, to make the first three or leading branches. The following spring we shall cut back the shoots that have formed, so as to make six leading branches. Thereafter we shall continue to cut out and back so as to maintain an open head for the free circulation of air and light.
To learn the importance of rigorous and careful pruning, observe the shoots of a vigorous peach-tree, say three or four years old. These shoots or sprays are long and slender, lined with fruit- buds. You will often find two fruit-buds together, with a leaf-bud between them. If the fruit-buds have been uninjured by the winter, they will nearly all form peaches, far more than the slender spray can support or mature. The sap will tend to give the most support to all growth at the end of the spray or branch. The probable result will be that you will have a score, more or less, of peaches that are little beyond skin and stones. By midsummer the brittle sprays will break, or the limbs split down at the crotches. You may have myriads of peaches, but none fit for market or table. Thousands of baskets are sent to New York annually that do not pay the expenses of freight, commission, etc.; while the orchards from which they come are practically ruined. I had two small trees from which, one autumn, I sold ten dollars' worth of fruit. They yielded more profit than is often obtained from a hundred trees.
Now, in the light of these facts, realize the advantages secured by cutting back the shoots or sprays so as to leave but three or four fruit-buds on each. The tree can probably mature these buds into large, beautiful peaches, and still maintain its vigor. By this shortening-in process you have less tree, but more fruit. The growth is directed and kept within proper limits, and the tree preserved for future usefulness. Thus the peach-trees of the garden will not only furnish some of the most delicious morsels of the year, but also a very agreeable and light phase of labor. They can be made pets which will amply repay all kindness; and the attentions they most appreciate, strange to say, are cutting and pinching. The pruning-shears in March and early April can cut away forming burdens which could not be borne, and pinching back during the summer can maintain beauty and symmetry in growth. When the proprietor of the Home Acre has learned from experience to do this work judiciously, his trees, like the grape-vines, will afford many hours of agreeable and healthful recreation. If he regards it as labor, one great, melting, luscious peach will repay him. A small apple, pear, or strawberry usually has the flavor of a large one; but a peach to be had in perfection must be fully matured to its limit of growth on a healthful tree.
Let no one imagine that the shortening in of shoots recommended consists of cutting the young sprays evenly all round the trees as one would shear a hedge. It more nearly resembles the pruning of the vine; for the peach, like the vine, bears its fruit only on the young wood of the previous summer's growth. The aim should be to have this young bearing wood distributed evenly over the tree, as should be true of a grape-vine. When the trees are kept low, as dwarf standards, the fruit is more within reach, and less liable to be blown off by high winds. Gradually, however, if the trees prove healthful, they will get high enough up in the world.
Notwithstanding the rigorous pruning recommended, the trees will often overload themselves; and thinning out the young peaches when as large as hickory nuts is almost imperative if we would secure good fruit. Men of experience say that when a tree has set too much fruit, if two-thirds of it are taken off while little, the remaining third will measure and weigh more than would the entire crop, and bring three times as much money. In flavor and beauty the gain will certainly be more than double.
Throughout its entire growth and fruiting life the peach-tree needs good cultivation, and also a good but not overstimulated soil. Well-decayed compost from the cow-stable is probably the best barnyard fertilizer. Wood-ashes are peculiarly agreeable to the constitution of this tree, and tend to maintain it in health and bearing long after others not so treated are dead. I should advise that half a peck be worked in lightly every spring around each tree as far as the branches extend. When enriching the ground about a tree, never heap the fertilizer round the trunk, but spread it evenly from the stem outward as far as the branches reach, remembering that the head above is the measure of the root extension below. Air-slacked lime is also useful to the peach in small quantities; and so, no doubt, would be a little salt from time to time. Bone-meal is highly recommended.
Like other fruit-trees, the peach does not thrive on low, wet ground, and the fruit-buds are much more apt to be winter-killed in such localities. A light, warm soil is regarded as the most favorable.
Of course we can grow this fruit on espaliers, as they do abroad; but there are few localities where any advantage is to be derived from this course. In our latitude I much prefer cool northern exposures, for the reason that the fruitbuds are kept dormant during warm spells in winter, and so late in spring that they escape injury from frost. Alternate freezing and thawing is more harmful than steady cold. The buds are seldom safe, however, at any time when the mercury sinks ten or fifteen degrees below zero.
As we have intimated, abuse of the peach-tree has developed a fatal disease, known as the "yellows." It manifests itself in yellow, sickly foliage, numerous and feeble sprouts along the larger limbs and trunk, and small miserable fruit, ripening prematurely. I can almost taste the yellows in much of the fruit bought in market. Some regard the disease as very contagious; others do not. It is best to be on the safe side. If a tree is affected generally, dig it out by the roots and burn it at once; if only a branch shows evidence of the malady, cut it off well back, and commit it to the flames. The only remedy is to propagate from trees in sound health and vigor.
Like the apple, the peach-tree is everywhere subject to injury from a borer, named "exitiosa, or the destructive." The eggs from which these little pests are hatched are laid by the moth during the summer upon the stem of the tree very near the root; the grubs bore through the outer bark, and devour the inner bark and sap- wood. Fortunately they soon reveal their evil work by the castings, and by the gum which exudes from the hole by which they entered. They can not do much harm, unless a tree is neglected; in this case, however, they will soon enfeeble, and probably destroy it. When once within a tree, borers must be cut out with a sharp- pointed knife, carefully yet thoroughly. The wounds from the knife may be severe, but the ceaseless gnawing of the grub is fatal. If the tree has been lacerated to some extent, a plaster of moistened clay or cow-manure makes a good salve. Keeping the borers out of the tree is far better than taking them out; and this can be effected by wrapping the stem at the ground--two inches below the surface, and five above--with strong hardware or sheathing paper. If this is tied tightly about the tree, the moth cannot lay its eggs upon the stem. A neighbor of mine has used this protection not only on the peach, but also on the apple, with almost complete success. Of course the pests will try to find their way under it, and it would be well to take off the wrapper occasionally and examine the trees. The paper must also be renewed before it is so far decayed as to be valueless. It should be remembered also that the borer will attack the trees from the first year of life to the end.
In order to insure an unfailing supply of this delicious fruit, I should advise that a few trees be set out every spring. The labor and expense are scarcely greater than that bestowed upon a cabbage patch, and the reward is more satisfactory.
For this latitude the following choice of varieties will prove, I think, a good one: Early Alexander, Early Elvers, Princess of Wales, Brandywine, Old Mixon Free, Stump the World, Picquet's Late, Crawford's Late, Mary's Choice, White Free Heath, Salway, and Lord Palmerston.
If the soil of one's garden is stiff, cold, adhesive clay, the peach would succeed much better budded or grafted on plum-stocks. Some of the finest fruit I have ever seen was from seedlings, the trees having been grown from pits of unusually good peaches. While the autumn planting of pits lightly m the soil and permitting them to develop into bearing trees is a pleasing and often profitable amusement, there is no great probability that the result will be desirable. We hear of the occasional prizes won in this way, but not of the many failures.
By easy transition we pass to the kindred fruit the plum, which does not generally receive the attention it deserves. If one has a soil suited to it--a heavy clay or loam--it can usually be grown very easily. The fruit is so grateful to the taste and useful to the housekeeper that it should be given a fair trial, either in the garden borders or wherever a tree can be planted so as to secure plenty of light and air. The young trees may be one or two years old from the bud; I should prefer the former, if vigorous. Never be induced to purchase old trees by promises of speedy fruit. It is quite possible you may never get any fruit at all from them worth mentioning. I should allow a space of from ten to fifteen feet between the trees when they are planted together, and I should cut them back so that they would begin to branch at two feet from the ground. Long, naked stems are subject to the gum- disease.
In the place of general advice m regard to this fruit I shall give the experience of Mr. T. S. Force, of Newburgh, who exhibited seventy varieties at the last annual Orange County fair.
His plum-orchard is a large poultry-yard, containing half an acre, of which the ground is a good loam, resting on a heavy clay subsoil. He bought trees but one year from the bud, set them out in autumn, and cut them back so that they began to form their heads at two feet from the ground. He prefers starting with strong young plants of this age, and he did not permit them to bear for the first three years, his primal aim being to develop a healthy, vigorous tree with a round, symmetrical head. During this period the ground about them was kept mellow by good cultivation, and, being rich enough to start with, received no fertilizers. It is his belief that over-fertilization tends to cause the disease so well known as the "black knot," which has destroyed many orchards in this vicinity. If the garden has been enriched as I have directed, the soil will probably need little, if anything, from the stables, and certainly will not if the trees are grown in a poultry-yard. During this growing and forming period Mr. Force gave careful attention to pruning. Budded trees are not even symmetrical growers, but tend to send up a few very strong shoots that rob the rest of the tree of sustenance. Of course these must be cut well back in early spring, or we have long, naked reaches of wood and a deformed tree. It is far better, however, not to let these rampant shoots grow to maturity, but to pinch them back in early summer, thus causing them to throw out side-branches. By summer pinching and rubbing off of tender shoots a tree can be made to grow in any shape we desire. When the trees receive no summer pruning, Mr. Force advises that the branches be shortened in at least one half in the spring, while some shoots are cut back even more rigorously. At the age of four or five years, according to the vigor of the trees, he permits them to bear. Now cultivation ceases, and the ground is left to grow hard, but not weedy or grassy, beneath the boughs. Every spring, just as the blossoms are falling, he spreads evenly under the branches four quarts of salt. While the trees thrive and grow fruitful with this fertilizer, the curculio, or plum-weevil, does not appear to find it at all to its taste. As a result of his methods, Mr. Force has grown large and profitable crops, and his trees in the main are kept healthy and vigorous. His remedy for the black knot is to cut off and burn the small boughs and twigs affected. If the disease appears in the side of a limb or in the stem, he cuts out all trace of it, and paints the wound with a wash of gum shellac and alcohol.
Trees load so heavily that the plums rest against one another. You will often find in moist warm weather decaying specimens. These should be removed at once, that the infection may not spread.
In cutting out the interfering boughs, do not take off the sharp- pointed spurs which are forming along the branches, for on these are slowly maturing the fruit-buds. In this case, as in others, the careful observer, after he has acquired a few sound principles of action to start with, is taught more by the tree itself than from any other source.
Mr. Force recommends the following ten varieties, named in the order of ripening: Canada; Orleans, a red-cheeked plum; McLaughlin, greenish, with pink cheek; Bradshaw, large red, with lilac bloom; Smith's Orleans, purple; Green Gage; Bleeker's Gage, golden yellow; Prune d'Agen, purple; Coe's Golden Drop; and Shropshire Damson for preserves.
If we are restricted to very light soils, we shall probably have to grow some of the native varieties, of the Canada and Wild-Goose type. In regard to both this fruit and peaches we should be guided in our selection by information respecting varieties peculiarly suited to the region.
The next chapter will treat of small fruits, beginning with the raspberry.