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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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 7 of 31)
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with scarcely an abatement in the thriftiness of its growth.

It may indeed sometimes happen, that careless manage-
ment from an accidental combination of favorable causes,
is followed with success. The entire failure of similar
treatment in other cases, proves the superiority of the mode
which shall invariably accomplish the object, with the same
certainty that cause is followed by effect. The most skilful
cultivators, who have the whole operation at their control,
never expect to, and actually do not, lose one tree in a

Taking up the tree, and shortening -in. Every person,
about to transplant a tree, should remember that the roots
and the leaves both perform very important offices, the one
constantly dependent on the other. The first collects food
for the tree ; the other elaborates and prepares this food for
use. Without the roots, the leaves and rest of the tree
perish. Without the leaves, the root cannot grow, and
eventually dies.

It is obvious that if a tree could be removed with all its
roots, including all the numerous thread-like radicles, and



placed in its new situation precisely as it stood before, it
would suffer no check in growth. The nearer then, we can
approach this, the greater will be our success.

There is no difficulty in saving the leaf-bearing branches.
All our attention must accordingly be directed to the roots.
The spade should be set into the earth at a distance from
the tree, and ihe whole carefully lifted, not forcibly with-
drawn, from the soil. Or, so much of the earth should be
separated in a circle by the spade, that when the tree is
withdrawn, a large portion of the soil may be lifted with
it with the small fibres.* The roots of a young tree usually
extend in a circle quite equal to its height; the workman,
therefore, who cuts off all within six inches of a tree which
is itself eight feet high, deprives it of a large portion of

its means of sustenance.
In the annexed figure,
a indicates the trunk of
the tree; bb the circle
of roots cut off with the
spade in a hasty re-
moval ; and without this
circle, the rest of the
roots which are left in
the earth. Fig. 35.

But in ordinary, or
even very careful prac-
tice, a part of this wide
network of fibres must
necessarily be separated
from the tree. It is evi-
dent then, that the usual supplies of sap to the leaves must
be in part cut off. Now the leaves are constantly (during
day) throwing off insensible moisture into the air; and good
sized trees thus give off daily, many pounds. Reduce the
supply from below, and the leaves cannot flourish ; and if
the reduction is severe, the tree withers and dies.

The remedy consists in lessening the number of leaves,

* Some cultivators have adopted the opinion that the small fibres are unimportant,
and may be cut off without lessening the chances of growing. But this can only be
true with very small trees or seedlings, which quickly reproduce a multitude of small
roots, after the top is removed for the insertion of a graft ; or where the fibres of
larger trees have been killed by exposure after removal, and which are followed by
a necessary lopping of the branches.




so as to correspond with the diminished supply. This may
be done in two ways : one, by shortening back every shoot
of the previous year, to one quarter of its length, and in
extreme cases, every shoot may be shortened back to one

lud, just above the previous
year's wood. The other mode,
attended with more labor, but
preserving the full size of the
head, is to leave all the shoots
entire, and remove every al-
ternate bud, leaving the ter-
minals, or remove two-thirds
or three-quarters of the buds
in the same way. Neither of
these modes can in the least
degree destroy the natural sym-
metry of the tree. Cutting
off large branches at random
often quite spoils the shape.
Fi 36 Fi s- 37 Fig. 36, represents an unpruned

tree, and fig. 37, the same with the shoots shortened back.

Where peach and other trees have
been once a year trimmed up to a single
stem, while in the nursery, the mode of
shortening is shown by figs. 38 and 39.

A few experiments only are needed
to convince any one of the advantages
of thus cutting in the shoots. In 1846,
an orchardist on the Hudson, carefully
transplanted 180 apple trees into good
mellow soil. The roots had been cut
rather short in digging. One-half had
their tops shortened back, so as to leave
only one bud of the previous season's
wood ; the heads of the other half were
suffered to remain untouched. The season
Fig. 38. Fig. 39. p rove d favorable. Of the ninety which
had their heads pruned, only two died, and nearly all made
fine shoots, many being eighteen inches long. Of the
ninety unpruned, eight died ; most of them made but little
growth, and none more than six inches. Both the first and


second year, the deep green and luxuriant foliage of the
pruned trees afforded a strong contrast with the paler and
more feeble appearance of the other.* A similar experi-
ment was made with 78 peach trees, of large size, three
years' growth from the bud. One-half were headed back
so as to reduce the buds one-half ; the rest were unpruned.
The season was rather dry, and twelve of the 39 unpruned
trees perished; and only one of those which were headed
back. The unpruned, which survived, lost parts or the
whole of the upper portions of their branches ; the pruned,
made fine bushy heads of new shoots.* It has been found
useful to shorten in the shoots of peach trees so severely as
to reduce the heads to only one quarter of the original number
of buds. This was tried with great success the past season.
Trees, only one year's growth from the bud, transplanted
in the usual manner unpruned, were placed side by side
with others of four years' growth, and with trunks an inch
and a half in diameter, the heads being pruned to one
quarter their size. The growth of the former was feeble;
the large trees, with pruned heads grew vigorously. Again,
trees set out before the buds had opened, and without
pruning, presented a more feeble growth than others re-
moved when the leaves were an inch long, with a copious
shortening-in of the branches.

The degree to which this shortening should be carried,
must depend much on climate. In the cool moist atmos-
phere of England, the leaves perspire less, and a larger
number may remain without exhausting the supply from
the roots. In this country, the perspiration is more rapid,
and fewer leaves can be fed, until new roots furnish
increased supplies.

But in no case should the lopping be excessive ; for as
the reproduction of roots depends upon the action of the
leaves, a disproportionately small number of the latter,
would fail to produce a speedy renewal of the former.

And especially, no one should unnecessarily mutilate the
roots, with the hope that lopping the head will remedy the
evil; for it rarely happens, that with the most careful
digging, more than one half the entire amount of roots will
be secured, which would in that case, require the removal

Hort., Vol. II., p. 319.



of at least half the head. A badly mutilated root may be
saved alive, by a severe lopping of the shoots ; but it can-
not possibly succeed so well as a tree with a fine large mass
of uninjured fibres.

Trees which quickly reproduce new shoots, as the
peach, may be more closely shortened back than others
having a less reproductive power, as the apple. The cherry
throws out a new growth still more reluctantly, and hence
more care is needed in digging up the roots entire.

A very mistaken notion prevails with many who purchase
trees for orchards, that the most important requisite is to
obtain large straight stems and handsome heads, while the
condition of the roots is regarded as entirely subordinate.
It is far preferable that the limbs be mutilated than the
roots ; for though the tree may have a bad appearance when
first transplanted, well preserved roots will soon restore the

1 Preparing the ground and manuring. Ground intended
for trees must be secure from danger of being flooded in
wet seasons, and from all liability of becoming water-
soaked beneath the surface. If not naturally dry enough,
it must be thoroughly underdrained.

The next requisite, and it is one of the greatest impor-
tance, is to deepen and enrich the soil by trenching. In
the garden this is done with the spade ; but in the open
orchard, it is cheaply and thoroughly effected, by first
loosening the earth to a depth of at least twenty inches
with a subsoil plow. Next, to intermix the whole loosened
bed of soil thoroughly together, it is trench-plowed. It
would be impossible to attain this depth with a common
plow, without previous subsoiling ; and subsoiling fails to
accomplish a proper admixture without trenching. Manure
is to be applied in sufficient quantity to render the whole
fertile ; the amount to be graduated by the character of the
ground. Trenching or deepening must in no case be
omitted; for if the soil is exhausted, if it is poor, if liable
to suffer from drouth, it is a remedy which applies in all
cases. If this deepening and enriching cultivation can be
continued for a year or two, in connexion with root crops,
before planting, the ground will be brought to the finest


In setting out large orchards, if the whole field cannot be
deepened, a strip of land ten feet wide extending across
the orchard, may be treated in the same way, in the centre
of which each row is to be set ; and the intermediate
spaces, constituting two-thirds or more of the whole, may
be prepared afterwards, by the time the roots have passed
the boundaries of the first.

Now, when it is recollected that a good orchard is worth
annually a hundred dollars per acre, and that this thorough
preparation will bring trees into plentiful bearing, in con-
nexion with good subsequent culture, in one third of the
time required where trees are crowded into small holes in
hard ground, it must be perfectly plain to every one that the
former is by far the cheaper treatment.

Where, from any unavoidable cause, trench-plowing can-
not be accomplished, the holes should be seven or eight feet
in diameter, and from one and a half to two feet deep. The
earth should be mixed with a liberal allowance of well-rotted
manure, or still better with a compost made and worked
over some weeks previously, consisting of two or three
parts of muck or peat, one of barn manure, and a fifth part
of leached ashes. This is indeed an excellent manure for
fruit trees in all cases with ordinary soils. If the subsoil
is sterile, it should be scattered back out of the way.

In rare cases, where rotted manure or compost is not at
hand, and it becomes necessary to use fresh manure, it
must be thoroughly incorporated with an iron rake into the
soil, and this mixture not placed in contact with the roots
but at such a distance that they may not reach it till after
some months of growth, when it will have become well
combined with the soil. One quarter manure will be an
abundant proportion in any case.

Preparing the roots. Before a tree is set in the earth,
ail the bruised or wounded parts, where cut with the spade,
should be pared off smoothly, to prevent decay, and to
enable them to heal over by granulations during the
growth of the tree. Then dip them in a bed of mud,
which will coat every part over evenly, and leave no por-
tion in contact with air, which accidentally might not be
reached by the earth in filling the hole. The bed of mud


is quickly made by pouring into a hole a pail of water, and
mixing it with the soil.

Setting the tree. It should not be set deeper than it stood
before removal. Deep planting injures the tree, and when
excessive, may cause its death. Setting it upon the surface
of the ground without any hole, and placing a bed of fine
earth upon the roots to the usual depth, is preferable, and on
shallow or unprepared soils, or such as are quite clayey and
rather wet, has been quite successful. When placed in the
unfilled hole, if it is found to be too deeply sunk, a mound
or hillock is to be made under the centre, to raise it suffi-
ciently, and the roots separated and extended to their full
length. Fine rich mould is then to be sprinkled or sifted
over, taking care to fill all the interstices, and using the
fingers to spread out all the fibres during the operation. The
mellow earth should rise two or three inches above the
surrounding surface, to allow for its subsequent settling.

In nearly all soils, the use of water insetthng the earth among
the roots will be found eminently serviceable. Dashing in
a few quarts before the hole is quite filled, is the more com-
mon way : but an admirable mode is to settle the fine earth
as it is constantly sifted in, by a regular shower from a
watering pot, one man holding the tree, a second filling in
the earth, and the third applying the water. By this pro-
cess the roots are not disturbed in their position, and every
cavity about them is filled in the most perfect manner. The
trees will be found to maintain their position better than
vvher pulverised earth alone is used ; for although it may
at first be easily moved while surrounded by the half liquid
mass ; in a few hours the earth around it will
absorb the superabundant moisture, and it will
become as firm as when it has stood for weeks
in its new position.

Stiffening against the wind. Newly planted


trees, being acted on as levers by the wind,

often press aside the earth about their stems,
and make an opening down to the roots, which
in consequence suffer from both drouth and
disturbance. There are two ways to prevent
this disaster. In autumn transplanting, the
Fig. 4u. best way is to embank a mound of earth about


the stems, from ten to eighteen inches high, as the size of
the tree may require, fisr. 40. This mound performs the
triple ofice of stiffening the tree, excluding mice, and cover-
ing the roots from frost. Only a few seconds are required
to throw up one of these conical heaps of earth. After the
tree commences growing, the mounds are removed. Trees
which have had their heads lightened by the shortening pro-
cess, already described, will not often need any other pro-

But when the trees are large, or the situation is windy,
staking becomes necessary. If driven before the roots are
covered, they may be erect, as in fig. 41 ; if driven
afterwards, they may be slanting; and in both
cases, straw bands should be first wrapped once
round, to prevent the trees from chafing

Watering. A very common error is the belief
that trees need frequent watering before they are
in leaf. Deluging the roots, while in a partially
dormant state, is as hurtful to trees as to green-
house plants, and a continued repetition of it is al-
most certain death. When a plant is in a state of
rapid vegetation, large quantities of moisture are
drawn up by the leaves and thrown off', but while the buds are
unexpanded, the amount consumed is very small. Fruit trees
sometimes remain with fresh and green branches, but with
unswollen buds, till midsummer. Instead of watering such
at the roots, let the tops be wet daily at evening, with a
watering pot, and it will in nearly all cases bring them into
active growth. In extreme cases, shading the stem in ad-
dition to the watering, will be found beneficial.

The following successful treatment in transplanting, in
cases that appeared almost hopeless, was practiced by the
late S. G. Perkins, of Boston :

" Some ten years ago, I imported from Paris two hun-
dred and ten pear trees on quince stocks, whose roots, on their
arrival, I found to be entirely black and dead. I shaved off
with a drawing knife all the roots down to the stump. These
I planted in trenches, tying them to cross-bars to keep them
firm, and then filled up the trench with good soil. The
heads and bodies of these trees were regularly washed in
dry weather until they began to sprout which most of them


did in abundance during the summer, and I finally saved oul
of the whole number, one hundred and seventy-four, which
became as well rooted and as good trees as any in mj

" This has happened more than once. Three or foui
years ago, I imported among other trees, twenty plum trees,
from six to seven feet high, the heads of which had been
budded the previous - year in France. These buds had
grown from nine to twelve inches long, and were perfectly
fresh when they arrived ; but the roots on examination were
found entirely dead. Two of these I gave away. One was
good for nothing, and the other seventeen I planted in my
garden, having cut out all the roots that had fibers, they be-
ing entirely dead. One of my men said I might as well
plant my walking stick. Sixteen of these are now flourish-
ing trees, well grown and well rooted, new roots being in-
duced by means of washing the upper part of the tree."

Watering the roots, even of fast growing trees, will rare-
ly become needful if the soil is deep and is kept mellow
But whenever it is performed, the surface earth should be
thrown off, the water poured in, and the earth replaced.
This will admit the water at once to the roots, and leave the
surface mellow ; while by watering the top of the ground,
the water will perhaps fail to reach the dry soil below, but
only serve to harden and bake the surface.

Mulching, or covering the ground about the tree with
straw, coarse barn-yard litter, or, what is still better, leaves
from the woods, will in nearly all cases obviate the necessity
of watering. It is an excellent protection against mid-summer
drouths, which so often prove destructive to newly trans-
planted trees, after they have appeared in leaf. A corres-
pondent of the Horticulturist, mulched 50 trees out of 150,
all of which had commenced growth alike. Those which
were mulched, all lived. Of the hundred not mulched, fif-
teen perished. The weather was hot and dry at mid-

Trees received from a distance, and injured by drying,
should immediately have their roots coated by immersion in
a bed of mud ; and then the whole stems and branches buried
in moderately moist earth for a few days. They will gradual-
ly absorb moisture, through the pores in the bark, and re-


sume their freshness. Plunging into water, as sometimes
practiced, is more liable x to induce decay by water-soaking.

Season for transplanting. Much discussion has arisen on
the relative advantages of autumn and spring transplanting.
When the work is well done, both are successful. For
apple and other hardy trees, autumn is perhaps the best, as
the soil becomes well settled about the roots, and the trees
commence growing without interruption in spring.* The
more tender trees, as apricots and peaches, removed to
a colder region, may be in more danger, especially if the
roots have been much mutilated and the setting out badly
done. A neighbor purchased fifty peach trees in the
autumn, and lost half of them the following severe winter ;
another bought fifty the next spring, and .lost only one.
Was this a conclusive proof that spring planting was best ?
By no means ; for in the former case they were set out in
grass land, and received no culture ; in the latter, they had
the best care. The same autumn a neighbor saved all his
peach trees by good management ; while the same spring
another lost most of his by neglect. We may hence infer
that good management is of incomparably more importance
than the season of the year.t

But there are many things to be taken into account in
drawing conclusions. It has been remarked that tender
trees taken to a colder climate may be in danger of winter
frosts. Good, thrifty, and well ripened wood, however,
where the trees have grown on high, dry, firm soil, even
from a warmer region of country, are much safer than trees
of succulent growth and badly ripened wood, from a colder.
So again, trees equally hardy, might perish when set out
on a low, sheltered place, or on a wet soil, while they would
endure the severest rigors of our winters on a drier and
more elevated piece of ground.

Again, success has sometimes attended careless trans-
planting ; while on the other hand, the greatest care has

* The remark of Dr. Lindley that early fall transplanting is decidedly best, by
permitting the formation of small roots and a consequent establishment of the tree
in the soil before winter, though applicable to the moist climate and long mild
autumns of England, is not so here where the growth while it lasts is more rapid,
its cessation more sudden, and the dryness of the air unfavorable to removal before
growth ceases.

t Embanking round the tree, as described on a preceding page, is an ezceUent
protection from frost for tender trees set out ia amunui.


resulted in loss. In the first instance, the trees may have
been in the best condition, the roots uninjured, the soil just
right, and every attending circumstance favorable. In the
other, every thing may have been done right, but some acci-
dental disaster proved ruinous. A neighbor, as an instance,
set out several peach trees in autumn in the best manner j
but his soil was low, and became soaked with water in
winter, causing their death. Removal from high and
exposed, to low and frosty ground, or the reverse, may often
influence the result. Even a wet subsoil, where the sur-
face has been dry, has destroyed tender trees in winter, as
the apricot, without removal.

Again, when the soil is a heavy clay, and holds water
like a tub, tender trees are in great danger from autumn
transplanting, unless provision is made for draining the
holes ; which may be effected by running a deep furrow
from one hole to the other, along the line of trees, and
using brush, cornstalks, or straw, as a temporary under-
drain for the water to soak away.

As a general rule, the proper season for the removal of trees
is at any period between the cessation of growth in autumn,
usually a little later than mid-autumn in the northern
states, and its recommencement in spring. The earlier in
spring the better; but if deferred till the buds are much
swollen, the roots should be coated immediately with mud,
and kept moist till again set out. Transplanting may
be performed in winter, whenever the ground is open,
and the air above freezing ; but roots which are frozen
while out the ground, will perish unless they are buried be-
fore thawing.

When it becomes necessary to keep trees through winter
without setting, as often occurs where they are received from
a distance, the roots may be placed sloping in a trench on
a dry spot of ground, and fine earth thoroughly sprinkled in
among them, filling up all interstices ; and if theyare of ten-
der kinds, one-half of the stems may be covered with earth.
Trees are often badly kept from neglect to fill up the cavi-
ties, which may be prevented by dashing in water, as in
transplanting.* If received late in autumn, after having

* Trees packed for distant conveyance, should always have the roots coated with
jnud; 'or if n pring, it will tend to prevmt their dryi::pr. as warm weather approach-
es; and if iu autumn, it will assist the more gradual and safe abstraction of uic trust if


been frozen, the roots should be buried as speedily as pos-
sible before thawing takes place, the gradual abstraction of
the frost by the soil being perfectly safe, in the same way
that it takes place every spring when the frozen roots of
standing trees are thawed with the thawing of the ground.

The size for transplanting, must vary with circumstances.
Six to seven feet high is large enough under ordinary cir-
cumstances, but those much larger may be successfully re-
moved if they have been previously prepared by shortening
the long roots to induce the emission of a mass of smaller
fibres near the centre or stem. This is done one year pre-
viou-ly, by running a spade into the earth in a circle about
the foot of the stem, if the tree yet stands in the nursery, or
by cutting a circular trench around the tree if it is a large
standard in open ground.

Trees not over four or five feet high would usually suc-
ceed best with the usual hasty mode of digging, as a proper
balance between the top and the root would be more near-
ly preserved, the danger of dying would be lessened, and
the vigor of growth being less checked, they would as soon

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 7 of 31)