John Jacobs Thomas.

The American fruit culturist, containing directions for the propagation and culture of fruit trees, in the nursery, orchard, and garden, with descriptions of the principal American and foreign varieties, cultivated in the United States online

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wood is immature. It however happens, in the ordinary
practice of the country, that where one peach or apricot tree
is injured by too rich a cultivation, more than a hundred
suffer by diminished growth from neglect.

Clayey and light soils in some cases require opposite ma-
nagement. The former, for instance, is much benefited by
the admixture of chip-dirt, which renders it looser, lighter,
and more retentive of moisture. But on light soils the
effect is not so beneficial, and is sometimes positively inju-

Peaty and spongy soil? are particularly injurious to tender
fruits. Such soils become very warm by day, and radiate
the heat rapidly in clear frosty nights ; hence peaches and
apricots generally perish when growing in them, the heat
of the sun promoting a rapid succulent growth, which is the
more easily destroyed by the succeeding intensity of cold.


Besides the more common and universal ingredients of
soils, sand and clay there are others essential to the growth
of trees. Among the more important of these are potash,
lime, and phosphate of lime.

Now, whatever earthy ingredients are found in the wood,
bark, and fruit of trees, must be derived from the soil ; and
if the soil in which they are planted does not contain all
these ingredients, the trees cannot flourish. It therefore
becomes vitally important to supply such deficiencies by the
applica'ion of the particular or specific manure needed.

But it is not to be expected that cultivators generally will
be able to analyze their variously differing soils, nor to pro-
cure it done by a skilful chemist. t The next thing, then,

* A great deal of m s';;! de-stand ng has arisen from an indefinite u-<e of terms.
We often n lice in i region of couu ry wnere a eavy ha ing riay prevails, < er-
tain -pots of ground locally designated as " quite sandy ; and in n s;iiidv r.jgion, por-
tions which are pointed nut as 1 " heavy -lay.' 1 Yet we not u fr quent'y fin i that
the *adt/ s >,1 of the clay region ac ually co :tains more c ay than cZ;//W)il of ihe
s ;ndv district. Tue terms, a.s commo.jly ued. ire relative ; and lo decide c >rreci-
ly on siati menu made by others, w> are competed to inquirt- where the nut or- of
siK-h st <i"menis re-id-, and wit i what -o,ls they ha\v : ecu fain IUT. The . esl sim-
ple ru'e for distinguishing, applicable 10 all localiiie-, i< r> regard such soils as in
any case are found to crack in dr:ut:i, as heavy, aiul thos- which never craCK. a?
light soils.

t Considerable difficulty exists in procuring perfect analyses of soils In examining
one of the most fertile soils of Monroe Co., N.Y., Dr. Emmoiis did not discover even


that can be accomplished is to ascertain the component
parts of the different kinds of trees, which are nearly the
same in all localities. If it is found that a particular
species contains an unusual quantity of some certain ingre-
dient, we may safely conclude that such ingredient should
be largely supplied as a manure.

As instances, analysis has shown that the pear, the
apple, and the grape, contain, of 100 parts each of earthy
ingredients, the following proportions of potash, lime, and
j-hosphate of lime : *


Sap-wood. Bark.

Potash 22 6

Lime 13 SO

Phosphate of lime 27 6


Potash 16 5

Lime 19 51

Phosphate of lime 17 3


Potash 21 2

Lime 17 39

Phosphate of lime 15 5

The proportions of these ingredients, although not exceed-
ing the quantities found in sume other plants, are so large
as to show conclusively the importance of a proper supply
in the soil. They already exist in all soils adapted to the
growth of fruit trees; but their small amount in particular
localities, from natural deficiency, or from long cultivation,
may render their application a matter of the greatest impor-
tance. Such application may b- partially made by common
yard manure, which contains them in considerable propor-
tions ; but wood ashes, in which they mostly exist in large
quantities, will furnish them more freely and with a more
speedy effect ; as from the large proportion of animal matter
in yard manure, too much succulence of growth or even

a irace of plxwphates when 100 grains, and afterwards IOO grains, of the soil wereor.e-
rritfti upon, and it was only when 1000 prams were u^ed. thai a fiv - th<u*iu>dtft part
w-i< delft-red Yet th.s minute proportion is equal to about ten cubic feet per acre
\vMh a depth of one foot, and supplies the necessary ingredient for heavy crops.

* According to the experimeuu of Dr. Emraons.


surfeit would result from its abundant and exclusive appli-
cation, an evil in no wise resulting from the use of ashes.
But over-doses, even of these, should be avoided.

The large proportion of lime in the wood an.d bark of the
apple, indicates its value as a manure for this fruit ; we
accordingly find that leached ashes, which contain much
lime, are eminently useful. Leached as well as unleached
ashes may indeed be applied with great advantage to nearly
all fruit trees. Bones contain much phosphate of lime, and,
pulverized, they would undoubtedly in many cases produce
an excellent effect on the pear, and other species.

Iron is found only in minute quantities in the wood and
bark of trees ; yet the speedy restoration from pale and
sickly to deep green and luxuriant foliage, by its application
to the roots in some instances, proves that however small
its proportion may be, its presence is essential.

An interesting experiment is stated in the Horticulturist,*
upon a large pear tree, bearing blighted, cracked and worth-
less fruit, which resulted in its perfect restoration to health,
and the production of smooth and fair crops. This change
was affected by digging, three feet distant from the tree,
a circular trench four feet wide and twenty inches deep ;
filling this with fresh, rich soil and turf, and intermingling
two bushels of scoriae from a blacksmith's forge, two bushels
of charcoal, and two pounds of potash. The fresh soil and
potash, doubtless contributed largely to success. Other
experiments of a similar character have been equally

Dr. Kirtland states that orchards on the limestone hills of
Ohio, invariably afford the best apples a remark fully
corroborated by other observations. The same eminent
cultivator gives the following account of his success with
specific manures : his pear trees on worn out land, made
but two to six inches growth in a single season, and the
fruit was blighted, knotted, and deficient in flavor. They
soon began to exhibit evidences of disease and old age. An
analysis of the soil was made by Dr. Emmons, indicating
its deficiencies. Dressings of phosphate of lime, [in pul-
verised bones,] ashes, and barn-yard manure, with a limited
supply of common salt, effected a complete renovation.

* Vol. I., p. 226.



The subject of special manures is destined to become one
of great interest to cultivators. It is yet in its infancy.
Many years of careful experiment, guided by patient and
laborious analysis, can only carry it forward to maturity.
But in the meantime, enough is known to enable orchardists
to operate in many instances with great advantage. Not
always knowing the deficient ingredient, they may not at
once apply the precise remedy. But there are some ma-
nures that can never do injury, that will usually be highly
beneficial, and sometimes yield extraordinary results. To
enable cultivators to experiment with these, the following
excellent practical hints are given from the Horticulturist,
from the pen of A. J. Downing, its editor :

" For old apple orchards, upon soil deficient in lime, we
would recommend a top-dressing of lime for the first time
of 200 bushels to the acre. This will, usually, if the
land is in good condition, bring the trees into good bearing
condition again. In some soils, the effects will be imme-
diate, and in others it will require one or two seasons for
the lime to produce its effect.*

"For middle sized bearing trees, a peck of air-slaked lime
to each tree, is sufficient. It is, perhaps, best applied in
the autumn, but it will answer very well in the spring.
Scatter it evenly over the surface of the ground, as far as
the roots extend. It may be ploughed or hoed under
slightly, or left upon the surface, as it will find its way
downwards in the soil.

" To keep an apple orchard in the fruit-bearing condition,
in a soil not calcareous, and not naturally congenial to the
tree, it should be dressed with lime, and with ashes, every
alternate autumn, and manured every other spring. The
same quantity of spent ashes as of lime, may be used for
each tree.

" For the pear tree, we prefer the following compost.
Take a wagon load of peat, or black swamp earth dissolve
20 Ibs. of potash in water, and water the peat thoroughly
with the liquid. Let it lie a couple of days, and it is fit for
use. Or, for the same quantity of peat, use one-third of a
load of leached wood ashes, (or ten bushels of fresh ashes,)

* Oyster-shell lime is the very best some others contain too much magnesia
but, perhaps, only a few.


mixing the whole, and letting it lie a fortnight before using-
it. Give each middle sized bearing tree, a bushtl of this
compost annually ; a newly planted young tree, half a
peck, and others in this proportion. If this compost is
applied in the spring, the trees may also have a top-
dretsing of bone dust, if easily obtained, in the autumn, at
the /ate of half a peck to a tree.

" The same compost, and the same quantities, will
answer admirably for the grape vine. But as the grape
is a strong feeder, and likes more lime than the pear, we
would give it besides, an autumnal coat of lime, at the rate
of from 50 to 100 bushels to the acre, applied along with
any manure or compost most easily obtained.

"For the plum tree, in light soils, (there is little or nu
difficulty in growing it in clay soils,) we would recommend
a, made as follows : To two wagon loads of strong
loam, or yellow clay, add a bushel of cheap salt and four
bushels of lime. Mix the whole thoroughly ; suffering it
to lie at least a fortnight. Apply this as a top layer or top
dressing to the soil directly under plum trees, (spreading it
over the surface as far as the branches extend,) at the rate
of two bushels to a middle sized bearing tree, or half a peck
to a young, newly planted tree.

" As a general compost for fruit trees, we repeat, that
nothing is equal to that formed of ashes and peat. These
materials are easily obtained in all parts of the country,
and they contain the elements most essential in the organic
and inorganic structure of fruit trees. Where peat is not
at hand, use wood ashes alone, at the rate of half a bushel
of leached ashes to each middle sized bearing fruit tree.
But as ashes furnish only the mineral or inorganic elements
of food, the usual supply of ordinary manure must not be
withheld, unless the soil is already sufficiently rich."


After a suitable soil is obtained, hardy trees, such as the
apple, will usually succeed in almost any situation. But
with tender fruits, as the peach and apricot, the case is very
different. In many localities in the northern states, they are
soon destroyed by the severity of winters, and their cultiva-
tion is accordingly not attempled. In others, crops are not


yk-lded oftener than once in two years. But some situations
ur.- so favorable, that a failure scarcely ever occurs. In plant-
i.igr out tender fruits, it is consequently very desirable to know
what p aces will prove the best. Even the apple, in re-
gions where the winters are rigorous, is sometimes destroy-
ed by frost, and in some very unfavorable places rarely

It is familiar to many cultivators, that warm, low valleys
are more subject to night-frosts, than more elevated locali-
ties. Objects at the surface of the earth become chilled by
the radiation of heat to the cold and clear sky above, and
they cool by contact the surrounding air, which thus be-
coming heavier, rolls down the sides of declivities and set-
tles Ike the waters of a lake, in the lowest troughs. This
coldness is further increased by the stillness of those shel-
tered places favoring the more rapid cooling, by radiation of
the exposed surfaces ; while on hills the equilibrium is par-
tially restored by currents of wind. Superadded to these
causes, vegetation in low, rich, and sheltered places, is more
luxuriant, and wood less ripened, and hence particularly
liable to injury from frost. The mucky soil of Tallies ra-
diates heat rapidly from its surface. The warmth of low
places, during the mild weather, often occurring in winter,
often swells fruit-buds, and succeeding cold destroys them.
On more elevated lands, vegetation escapes all these disas-
trous influences.

The existence of colder air in valleys, on still, clear nights,
is often plainly observed in riding over a rolling or broken
face of country. The thermometer has often shown a dif-
ference of several degrees between a creek bottom and a
neighboring hill not fifty feet high. A striking proof was
exhibited a few years since, after a severe night-frost early
in summer. The young and succulent leaves of the hicko-
ry were but partially expanded ; and where the trees btood
in a valley, twenty feet deep, all the leaves had been .frost-
ed, and were black and dead, up to the level of the banks
on each side, while all above the surface of this lake of cold
air, were fresh and green.

In the winter of 1845-6, when the cold on a clear night
sunk the thermometer several degrees below zero, after the


peach buds had been swelled by a few warm days, trees
which stood on a hill thirty feet higher than the neighbor-
ing creek valley, lost nine-tenths of their blossoms, while
on another hill sixty feet high, nine-tenths escaped. The
lake of cold air which covered the top of the smaller hill
did not reach the summit of the larger.

The cultivation of the peach is rarely attempted in the
southern tier of counties in the state of New- York. Proofs
are not wanting, however, that it might be entirely suc-
cessful on selected ground. In the valley of the Conhoc-
ton, which is flanked by hills 500 feet high, peach trees
have been completely killed to the ground. But on one of
the neighboring hills, 500 feet above, and probably 1,200
feet above the level of the sea, an orchard planted in good
soil, yields regular crops. In the town of Spencer, Tioga
county, near the head of Cayuga inlet, peaches have with-
stood the climate and done well, at an elevation of 700
feet above Cayuga lake. In the northeastern part of Penn-
sglvania, probably 1200 or 1500 feet above the level of the
ocean, in the summer of 1835, after one of the severest
winters for twenty years, the only two peach trees observed
in travelling many miles, were full of peaches ; while after
the same winter, a large tree in Stroudsburg valley, was
noticed killed quite down to the ground. While those hills
are usually covered with snow throughout the winter, and
vegetation consequently remains uniformly dormant, the
valleys are subjected to occasional thaws, and are more un
favorable to tender vegetation.

These cases show the importance of elevated sites. A
dry, firm soil, is however, of great consequence. The in
fluence of a compact knoll, rising but slightly above the
rest of the field, has been observed to save from frost the
corn which grew upon it ; while on the more mucky of
spongy portions of the rest of the field, radiating heat more
freely, the crop has been destroyed. Cultivators of drained
swamps have found it necessary to plant such lands with
tender crops two or three weeks later than the usual period
on upland. The successful cultivation of the peach and the
grape, on the gently swelling hills called mounds, in the
in the western prairies, while the crops are destroyed on
the adjacent dark and porous soils of the plains, affords ano-


ther example. In Lycoming county, Pa., on the banks of
the Loyalsock, a creek so rapid that no muck is deposited,
but fine dry soil, peaches have been raised, though the cold
is often intense.*

Sometimes the effect of unfavorable soil more than over-
balances that of situation. In some of the hilly parts of
western New- York, where the highest land is peaty, spongy,
or springy, and the valleys dry and firm, the latter are found
best for the peach. " Some years ago, we drained a shallow
swamp ; and though the situation is high and airy, peach
trees of the best bearing kinds planted there, have always
been unproductive."!

The preceding facts furnish strong reasons for believing,
that in large portions of the northern states, where the cul-
tivation of the peach has been entirely relinquished in
consequence of the only attempts made having been in the
warm vallies, abundant crops might be regularly obtained
by a proper selection of soil and locality. Even much fur-
ther south, the occasional destruction of tender fruits, points
out the great importance of careful attention to situation.
The death by frost of large orange trees in Florida in 1835,
proves that all parts of the country are liable to such disas-
ters, and that no means of prevention are to be overlooked.

Occasionally crops are saved by the artificial application of
a remedy, which may be briefly glanced at in connection
with this subject. In one case, a bank of snow covering
the lower limb of a peach tree, saved the fruit, while all on
the rest of the tree perished. In another, a row of peach
trees close along the north side of a fence, where snow-
drifts lay, were more fruitful than the other trees. Hence
the practice of piling snow round them has been recom-
mended, and in some cases practiced with success. It can-
not be considered infallible in any situation. It is only
useful where a slight reduction of temperature is sufficient
to prevent the starting of the buds. We can easily conceive
such a time, when a part of the buds start, and a part do
not. In one season, the lower buds on the tree, which re-

J The skilful cultivator, as he values the size and quality of his fruit, will rendily
distinguish between a rich soil consisting chiefly of spongy muck and peat, and a dry
and firm soil rendered fertile by a due admixture of these substances, and potash,
lime, and good manure.

t D. Thomas, Traas. N. Y State Ag. Society, vol. I.


ceived the reflected heat from the ground, nearly all started,
and were killed, while those on the tops of the trees were
not injured. It is evident that a very slight depression of
temperature would have been sufficient to have prevented
the lower buds from starting. But the warmth rnay be so
great, either late in autumn or in mid-winter, that no check
of the kind would be sufficient.

It has often been observed that woods or thick trees,
buildings, high board fences, or steep hills, on the east side
of peach orchards, protect the crop. Hence the erroneous
opinion, that it is the east wind, which does the damage. It
is the sunshine upon the frozen buds which destroys them ;
hence, a clouded sky after a clear frosty night, by prevent-
ing sudden thawing, sometimes saves a crop. Covering
trees of rare kinds with mats, to shade them from the morn-
ing sun, after an intensely frosty night, might -sometimes
be highly beneficial.

Influence of deep Lakes and, Hirers. Large bodies of un-
freezing water in the bottoms of valleys, will reverse some
of the preceding rules, and the banks of such waters are pe-
culiarly adapted to the cultivation of tender fruits. They
soften the severity of the cold, by the large and warmer
surface constantly presented ; on the other hand, they chill
the dangerous warm air which starts the buds in winter;
and they afford great protection by the screen of fog which
they spread before the morning sun. Along the borders of
the lower parts of the Hudson, and on the banks of the
Cayuga and Seneca lakes, tender fruit trees often afford
abundant crops, while the same kinds are destroyed only
two or three miles distant. Along the southern shore of
Lake Ontario, the peach crop scarcely ever fails, and the
softening influence of that large body of unfreezing water,
extends many miles into the interior.


The skilful cultivator, after having prepared his ground,
procured the best trees the country affords, carefully trans-
planted them, and watched over them, and giveu them
careful and laborious attention for years, feels a very
natural desire to partake of their fruits. But this he can-
not do, in many places, unless his fruit garden is protected


from idle boys' rambles. It cannot be concealed that our
country is rather remarkable for its fruit pilferers. It is
feared it will continue to be so, until public opinion shall
place the young man who steals a pocket-book, and the
depredator of fine fruit, which has cost the owner as much
care and labor, and which money cannot replace, on pre-
cisely the same level.*

This formidable evil has deterred many from planting
fruit-gardens. The most quiet and secure protection is af-
forded by a good thorn hedge. The English hawthorn, far
to the north, will generally succeed quite well for this pur-
pose ; the Washington and Newcastle thorns are less lia-
ble to disaster from drouth and hot summers, and the at-
tacks of insects ; but the Buckthorn, which gradually thick-
ens in ermour as it becomes older, appears to be the only
perfectly hardy and reliable hedge plant for severe climates.
The Osage Orange, however, where the winters are not too
cold, will be found best of all. Its numerous and terrific
thorns render it perfectly impassable. It is sufficiently har-
dy in all places where the peach crop generally escapes.
Further north than 41 or 4^J degrees of latitude, it cannot be
expected to succeed in low valleys ; but on elevated ground,
the winter-killing of its smaller shoots, \vill only tend to
thicken it below, like trimming with shears. The Michi-
gan rose, in connexion with a high beard or picket fence,
which it has covered and interlaced, has been found an ef-
fectual protection to a fruit garden. It grows as freely from
layers and cuttings as the grape vine.

* " The native fruit of a thickly populated country, growing without culture
and free for all, has doubtless had its share in producing this laxity of morals. ' I
would sooner have a hundred Irishmen round me than one Yankee.' was the declara-
tion i -fa sufferer, whose fruit had been plundered near the line of the Erie canal,
when that great work WHS in progress. But Europeans are generally more exem-
plary on this pojnt than Americans ihame on us ! When Professor Stowe was in
Prussia, where the roads are Ihied with fruit irees by order of the government, he
observed a wisp of straw attached to particular trees, to protect the fruit ; a sufficient
guard ; but he suggested to the coachman, tlm in America, it might only prove an
invitation to plunder. ' Have you no schools?' was the significant reply.

" Yes, we have schools ; but how many where the child is taught to respect his
neighbor's property ? Too often he acquires literature and vice at the same time.
The state of New- York is famous for her schools and her prisons; the latter to supply
the defects of the former system, which they do however, very imperfectly. Br Her
let the mandate go forth that the morality of the Bible shall be one of the chief objects
of instruction. TKACH HER CHILDREN TO BE HONKST, and then with science a;*!
literature, a foundation for true greatness and prosperity would be laid." David
Thomas, in Tram. N. Y. State Ag. Society, Vol. 1, p. 223.



NEARLY every fruit tree must at some period be removed
from the nursery, and transplanted into the orchard or gar-
den. When it is remembered that in a large number of
instances, where hastily performed, the trees perish from
the act ; and that in a still larger number, including a great
majority, a severe check is given to their growth, it needs
no argument to show the importance of transplanting well.

This removal is from necessity, an act of violence. As
frequently performed, it is so severe that it either results
in death, or a lingering recovery. But with the skilful
operator, the rigor of the operation may be so softened, as
to be not only attended with perfect safety to the tree, but

Online LibraryJohn Jacobs ThomasThe American fruit culturist, containing directions for the propagation and culture of fruit trees, in the nursery, orchard, and garden, with descriptions of the principal American and foreign varieties, cultivated in the United States → online text (page 6 of 31)