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 8 of 31)
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attain a bearing state.

On a review of the essential requisites for successful
transplanting, they may be summed up briefly as follows :

1. A previous preparation of a rich deep bed of mellow earth
to receive the roots, and land which cannot be water-soaked.

2. Removing the tree with as little mutilation of the roots
as practicable.

3. Paring off the bruised parts.

4. Shortening-in the head, in a greater or less degree, to
correspond with the necessary loss of roots.

5. Immersing the roots in mud.

6. Settling the earth with water.

7. Planting no deeper than before.

8. Staking or embanking to prevent injury by the wind,

9. Watering the stems and branches only, before the ap-
pearance of the leaf.

10. Mulching, where danger of mid-summer drouth is

they should happen to be frozen. In addition to this, they should be copiously packed
in ii. imp moss, which retains moisture a longtime, and does not heat. For sea-
voyages, however, the moss should not be damp, as the sea- lir will preserve the
requisite degree of humidity, which otherwise would be excessive and injurious.




THE cultivator, having transplanted his trees in the best
manner, and secured them from disaster by every means
which skill can devise, has a still more important task yet
to perform, the cultivation of the soil.

It is more important, because it is not commenced and
finished in a day, but needs constant attention for years ;
and in ordinary practice it receives greater neglect. For,
of the thousands of trees which are every year transplanted
in all parts of the country, the assertion may be made with
safety, that more are lost from neglected after-culture^ than
from all other causes put together.

To purchase and set out fine fruit trees of rare sorts, in
a baked and hardened soil, whose entire moisture and
fertility are consumed by a crop of weeds and grass, might
very aptly and without exaggeration be compared to the
purchase of a fine horse, and then perpetually to exclude
him from food and drink.

Here is the great and fatal error with a large portion who
attempt the cultivation of fruit. We may not incorrectly
divide these into three classes :

1. Those who, having procured their trees, destroy them
at once by drying them in the sun or wind, or freezing them
in the cold, before setting out.

2. Those who destroy them by crowding the roots into
small holes cut out of a sod, where, if they live, they main-
tain a stunted and feeble existence, like the half-starved
cattle of a neglectful farmer.

3. Others set them out well, and then consider their
labors as having closed. They are subsequently suffered to
become choked with grass, weeds, or crops of grain some
live and linger, others die under the hardship ; or else are
demolished by cattle, or broken down by the team which
cultivates the ground.


A neighbor purchased fifty very fine peach trees, hand-
somely rooted, and of vigorous growth ; they were well set
out in a field containing a fine crop of heavy clover and
timothy. The following summer was dry ; and a luxuriant
growth of meadow grass nearly obscured them from sight.
What was the consequence ? Their fate was precisely what
every farmer would have predicted of as many hills of corn,
planted and overgrown in a thick meadow, very few sur-
vived the first year.

Another person bought sixty, of worse quality in growth ;
he set them out well, and kept them well hoed with po-
tatoes. He lost but one tree ; and continuing to cultivate
them with low hoed crops, they now afford yearly loads of
rich peaches.

Another neighbor procured fifty good trees. Passing his
house the same year late in summer, he remarked, " I
thought a crop of wheat one of the best for young peach
trees ?" " Just the reverse ; it is one of the worst all
sown crops are injurious ; all low hoed ones beneficial."
14 Well," answered he, " I have found it so my fifty trees
all lived it is true, but I have lost one year of their growth
by my want of knowledge." On examination, they were
found in excellent soil, and had been well set out. All the
rows were in a field of wheat, except one which was hoed
with a crop ofpotatoes. The result was striking. Of the
trees that stood among the wheat, some had made shoots
the same year, an inch \long, some two inches, and a very
few, five or six inches. While on the other hand, on
nearly every one that grew with the potatoes, new shoots
a foot and a half could be found, and on some the growth
had been two feet, two and a half, and three feet. Other
cases have furnished nearly as decisive contrasts.

An eminent cultivator of fine fruit, whose trees have
borne for many years, remarks: "My garden would be
worth twice as much as it is, if the trees had been planted
in thick rows two rods apart so that I could have cultivated
them with the plow. Unless fruit grows on thrifty trees,
we csn form no proper judgment of it. Some that we have
cultivated this season, after a long neglect, seem like new
kinds, and the favor is in proportion to the size."

The thick rowtj here alluded to, may be composed of


trees from six to twelve feet apart in the rows. This mode
admits of deep and thorough cultivation, and the team
can pass freely in one direction, until close to the ro\v,
where the soil need not be turned up so deeply, or so as to



4(. * * * * *

* * * * iff *

Fig. 42. Fig. 43.

injure the roots. Fig. 43 exhibits this mode of planting ;
and fig. 43 another mode, where the trees are in hexagons,
or in the corners of equilateral triangles, and are thus more
equally distributed over the ground than by any other ar-
rangement. They may thus be cultivated in three direc-
tions. For landscape effect, this is undoubtedly better than
by any other regular order.

Trees are frequently mutilated in cultivating the ground
with a team;* to obviate this difficulty, arrange the horses
when they work near the line of trees, one before the other,
ad tandem. Let a boy ride the forward une, use long tra-
ces and a short whipple-tree, and place the whole in the
charge of a careful man who knows that one tree is worth
more than fifty hills of corn or potatoes, and no danger need
be feared. In the absence of this arrangement, oxen will be
safer than horses.

When it becomes necessary
for trees to stand in grass, as in
some instances near dwellings,
a circle of several feet round
each tree must be kept mellow
by the spade, fig. 44. The work
should be shallow near the tree
to prevent injury to the roots,
and gradually deepen as it re-
cedes. This operation when re-
peated several times during sum-
mer, has been known to increase
But a not less important result is the

Fig 44.

the growth five fold.

* When hark is accidentally rubber! off, if ine-rlv sumim-r, the fresh surface
should he left untouched, nd a new bark will soon form a:.d cover the ; surface. Hub-
bing tlie wound with eurth, spuib this surface, and leave* a bad wound.



exclusion of the mice, for which this is by far the most ef-
fectual method, if the surface is raised nine or ten inches
round the tree just before winter, fig. 45.
The grass no longer affords these animals
any hiding place, and when they reach the
bank of fresh earth, they are immediately
diverted from their course, and never attack
the stem.

Such a circle of dug earth facilitates the
application of manure, which may be spread
about the tree late in autumn, when the
soluble portions are carried down among the
Fig. 45. roots by the autumn and spring rains, after
which it is turned beneath the soil with the spade. Unless,
however, this circle is of large size, it can afford but very
partial benefit. The size should increase as the tree ad-
vances in growth. In very small trees, most of the roots
are within a foot or two of the stem, but their circumfe-
rence forms an annually increasing circle. Hence the fre-
quent practice of applying manure, or digging the ground
losely about the base, as exhibited in the annexed fig-
ure, (46,) is com-
paratively use-
less. Hence, too,
the practice of
plowing a few
furrows only on
each side of a row
of large trees in
an orchard, is
greatly inferior to
the cultivation of
the whole sur-

Among the crops
which are best
suited to young
trees, are pota-

ig. 46. toes, ruta bagas,

beets, carrots, beans, and all low hoed crops. Indian corn,
though a hoed crop, is of too tall a growth, shading young


trees too much by its formidable stalks. All sown crops are
to be avoided, and grass is still worse. Meadows are ruin-
ous. An acquaintance who purchased a hundred peach
trees and placed them in meadow land, lost most of them
by the overgrowth of the grass ; and the following winter,
the mice, who avoid clean culture, destroyed the remainder.

Every one was lost. A clean, mellow, cultivated piece
of ground, kept so a few years, might have saved the whole
of them, and brought them into bearing.

A chief reason of the fatal effects of sown crops, is the
impossibility of mellowing the ground by repeated culti-
vation. For this reason, a low crop of peas has been found
much worse than a heavy growth of Indian corn. A large
peach orchard was sown with peas, and bordered on one
side with corn, in which one row of the peach trees stood.
Such was the benefit derived by them from the hoeing
given to the corn, that the single row was most con-
spicuously visible by the deeper green of its foliage, at the
distance of half a mile.

Low hoed crops have been recommended. But the more
frequently the plow or cultivator passes among them, the
greater will be the benefit to the tree. A friend, who well
understands thorough cultivation, found that his young and
newly planted standards which stood among the small
seedling trees of his nursery, and which received the
benefit of constant and continued working till autumn,
made twice the growth of those in a field of beets, and
which was kept well hoed only through the early part of
the season, or till the crop covered the ground. Some of the
former made shoots the first year four feet in length. The
best peach orchard for market crops in western New York,
is kept mellow by deep and thorough tillage without any
other crop, and the improved quality and amount of the
fruit is found of greater consequence than any other pro-
duct of the land. The same course is pursued with the
best of the great peach orchards which supply the city of

A very mistaken policy is the selection of uneven or
stony ground for orchards, which cannot be cultivated or
occupied with any thing else. The truth should be unal-
terably fixed on every farmer's mind, that the orchard



should have the best piece of land on the farm, so long as
clean, thrifty trees, loaded with fair, large, and high-
flivored fruit, are to be preferred to light crops of what is
half grown and distorted, with deficient flavor; with the
acidi'ional difference that the former may be brought into
full bearing in one-third of the time required for the latter.

Note. In connexion with the cultivation of the soil, the
restoration of trees of feeble growth will be much hastened,
if the trunk and principal branches are scrubbed several
times in a season, with a brush dipped in soap-suds, first
scraping the bark, should it be rough or mossy.



PRUNING has two objects ; one, to promote vigorous growth
in older trees, and to lessen the number of branches, where
they become so thick as to interfere with each other's full
development, and retard or lessen the perfect ripening of
fruit. This occurs with large apple trees, which have
grown without care till the thick mass of branches and
leaves present an almost impenetrable shade. The other
object, is to lessen the luxuriant growth of young trees
growing in rich soil, and to prevent the too rapid formation
of the wood and leaves at the expense of the production of
fruit ; the most familiar instance of which occurs in the
summer pruning of hardy grapes, by pinching off the ends
of the young shoots.

I. Fruits are acid in cold summers, and comparatively
destitute of flavor. Forced fruit, grown in winter when
there is little light, cannot compare in quality with that
ripened under the full blaze of a summer's sun ; and
melons, grown in frames covered with mats, possess none
of the luscious flavor of those cultivated in the open air.
Hence the advantage of a free admission of light and air
among the branches of fruit trees, instead of allowing them
to be covered with a thick shade of leaves.

The utility of sun-light is shown by the difference between
specimens of fruit on the same tree fully exposed to the
solar rays, and in thick shade. Even the exposed side of
the same apple is often found decidedly the highest-flavored.
The rich acid of the Esopus Spitzenburgh, and the sugary
sweetness of the Tallman Sweeting are more strikingly
observable under the deep red skin of the one, <.md the
brown sunny cheek of the other.

There is, however, more judgment needed in piuning
large trees, than perhaps any other operation in their


management. It is next to impossible to give particular
rules, as circumstances vary so much that no two trees are
to be treated precisely alike. But, keeping steadily the
objects of pruning in view, the admission of light, the re-
moval of crooked limbs, and the preservation of a handsome,
evenly distributed top, the careful operator can hardly do

The best practice, undoubtedly, is trimming moderately
every year or two, as the trees may need it, which obviates
the necessity of cutting away much at a time, or making
large wounds by sawing off heavy branches.

In ordinary practice, it is carried to a much greater ex-
tent than the health of the tree, or the necessity of the case
requires. The safer error of the two, is trimming too little.
Small portions, frequently pruned off, are the utmost that are

If judicious pruning is commenced early, and the growth
of crooked or improperly crowded branches prevented by a
timely removal of superabundant shoots, very little subse-
quent lopping will be necessary. Indeed, so much may be
accomplished by early care, that some skilful cultivators
have found it entirely needless to possess such a tool as a
pruning-knife or pruning-saw, accomplishing all they desire
by merely rubbing off the fresh shoots at the outset. The
cutting off of large limbs should only be resorted to in
cases of absolute necessity, or where trees have been for
a long time neglected till they have become an impenetra-
ble mass of brush.

In -pruning standard trees, it should be observed, that the
older they become, the more caution is requisite to effect a
gradual and not a sudden reduction. With young trees,
the case is quite different, where free trimming may be un-
hesitatingly adopted, particularly with such kinds as the
peach, which quickly reproduce new branches. A familiar
instance of the safety of pruning heavily quite young trees,
occurs in the heading down of stocks to the inserted eye,
after the operation of budding.

In heading large apple and pear trees, and especially the
latter, for the purpose of regrafling them, it is quite neces-
sary that it be done gradually, and in successive years. For,


if too many boughs are lopped at a time, a great number
of young shoots will be emitted, which beingof a tender growth
are often eminently liable, if the tree be the pear, to the
frost-blight. The renewing should commence at the top,
otherwise the tree will be thrown up to too great a height,
and should proceed downwards, till in successive years, the
whole work is completed.

Pruning, for the purpose of letting in light on the leaves
and growing fruit, is more essential in a high northern lati-
tude than further south. It is found of more utility in New
England than in Ohio, and still more essential in England,
where many fruits, to be perfectly ripened, need the full ex-
posure of wall training, and the reflection of wall heat.

The priming of the peach by shortening-in, described on
a future page, is totally different from that of the apple and
pear, and must be performed with an unsparing hand.

The best mode to prune young trees in the nursery, is to
cut off all the annual shoots in winter, close to the main
stem. This gives the whole strength to the stem, and pre-
vents large stiff branches, so discordant with a handsome,
clean tree. The side shoots which are thrown out, suffi-
ciently stiffen the tree, and if the ends of these shoots are
shortened in summer, in a greater or less degree, varying
with the degree of stoutness or "stockiness" desired, it will
throw all the growth into the main stem. Keeping the tree
trimmed closely in summer, makes it too slender.

Season for pruning. Thinning out the heads of old trees,
or heading back for grafting, may be performed in autumn
or winter; and on younger trees, just before midsummer,
when, the tree being in a growing state, the operator can
judge better of the shape the head is assuming, and act ac-
cordingly ; and the wounds are soon healed by the new
wood. Peach trees may be shortened back during winter,
or if the climate is cold, early in spring.

A cheap application to the wounds in pruning ; to shut out
air and water, and prevent cracking and subsequent decay,
is a mixture of tar and brick-dust. But a much better one
is made by dissolving gum shellac in alcohol, so that it
shall be of the consistence of paint. It is applied with great
ease and rapidity, adheres firmly, keeps out the air, and


not being a heavy application, but only a thin coating, it
offers no impediment to the forming-lip of the new growth
as it closes over the wound. A bottle of this composition
at all times at hand, would be found a great convenience.
A shilling's worth of gum shellac dissolved in a quart of al-
cohol, is all that is necessary, and is immediately ready
for use. If too thick, it is at once rendered more liquid by
the addition of alcohol, and vice versa. The most convenient
way to use it, so that it may be instantly ready at all times,
is to fit into the cork of a large-mouthed bottle, a brush of
convenient size, the cork thus forming a sort of handle to
the brush, which remains within the bottle when not in use.


The principles of this mode of pruning will perhaps be
best understood by a detail of the operation :

In the early part of summer, or when the shoots have
grown about one foot, cut off about one inch from their grow-
ing points ; the sap, in consequence, no longer expends itself
to increase their length in the formation of useless wood
but is directed to the production of fruit. - Cutting back to
within two or three buds of the base, as often done, is ob-
jectionable, as not enough leaves are left for the elaboration
of sap, and to support the healthy functions of the tree ;
and this sudden diminution, induces the remaining buds to
make an effort to replace them by a second growth of leaves.

In two or three weeks, give the trees a second examina-
tion, and where shoots are too crowded, thin them out by
cutting back so as to leave two or three buds at the base of
each. Again, near the close of summer, or early in autumn,
when the fruit requires more sun-light, and when there will
be no danger of the remaining buds being stimulated .to
growth, and when the leaves have nearly completed their
office, cut all the shoots back to two or three good buds. By
this mode, no half-ripened shoots, of mid-summer growth,will
be produced, but all will be strong, well matured, and

The skilful operator will, however, avoid the extreme of
too much denuding the tree of leaves ; for they are at all
times indispensable to the ripening as well as the growth of
the fruit. An analogous case may serve to illn**"*** tir'



effect, in the practice of lopping early in autumn the stalks
of Indian corn immediately above the ear; which, by care-
ful measurement, has been found materially to lessen the

A common method in France, is to allow all shoots to
start, and pinch off their ends when they are only a few
inches in length. In this way they all subsequently become
fruit bearers, without crowding the tree with a confused
mass of branches, like those of a sheared hedge. This
shortening of the young green shoots, is found much supe-
rior to the practice of leaving them till winter. It should be
commenced at the top first, and so proceed downwards as
the season advances, for the lower shoots always have a ten-
dency to be the weakest. A second and further shortening
of the upper shoots, is often needed to preserve a proper
balance between the upper and lower parts.

Pyra7nidal Trees. A neat and convenient mode of plant-
ing the sides of large walks, on cultivated ground, prefer-
able in most cases to espaliers, because less adverse to a
natural growth, and hence better adapted to the warm sum-
mers of America, where highly artificial modes of training
are less needed, is by the use of trees trained as pyramids.

For this purpose the trees are
usually grafted on dwarf stocks,
and are placed at distances of six
to twelve feet asunder. The first
year's growth from the graft or
bud, is headed down to within
about six good buds of its base ;
these buds, as a consequence,
grow vigorously. About mid-
summer, their growth, with the
exception of the upper one, is
stopped by cutting off their tips,
or by bending and tying them
downwards. The upper or lead-
ing shoot, then grows with great
vigor, and soon needs stop-
ping again, to induce the emis-
sion of a second tier of shoots about one foot higher, which
are treated as the former. This process is repeated for suc-

Fig. 46. Pyramidal Tree.


cessive years, till the tree has attained its desired height.
The side branches will throw out shoots, which must be cut
back, as already described for summer pruning, so as to form
a handsome pyramidal tree.

This mode of pruning is usually adopted for dwarf pear
trees on quince stocks, but it need not necessarily be confined
to these ; applied to the pear on pear stocks, and other fruit
trees, it will promote in a high degree its early frui; fulness.

These rules for summer pruning, will be found of much
utility if applied to the operation, necessarily more common
in this country, of pruning hardy grapes.

It will be distinctly observed, that these remarks do not
apply to standard trees, but only to those artificially trained
in the form of espaliers or pyramids. But it might be adopt-
ed to a certain extent for standards, to give them a better
head, and bring them into earlier bearing.*

* The particular modes in which pruning and training are applied to various kinds
of fruit trees, will be found described on the pages which separately treat of those



WHATEVER tends to a rapid circulation of the sap, and to
increase the growth of a tree, causes also the formation of
leaf buds instead of flower buds. On the contrary, what-
ever tends to an accumulation of sap in any part, or to re-
tard its circulation, induces the production of flower instead
of leaf buds. When trees are young, and the bark and
wood soft and flexible, the sap flows freely and without
check ; hence, leaf buds and the vigorous growth of branches
are the result ; but as trees become older, and the bark and
other parts more rigid, they offer more resistance to a free
circulation, and hence the production of flowers and the conse-
quent fruitfulness of the tree.

This principle enables us to apply artificial means at
pleasure for the promotion of the same object. When trees
are young and small, a rapid growth and the attainment of
size is desirable, which is given by enriching the ground,
and by thorough and constant cultivation. A neglect of
these operations, would check free growth and circulation,
and cause the tree to bear. This would, however, be at
the expense of the future vigor and size of the tree, and of
the size and excellence of the fruit. Indeed, it often hap-
pens, that with the best treatment, trees will bear as young
as their ultimate success requires.

There are, however, some varieties, which, in rich soil,

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 8 of 31)