Thomas W. (Thomas Warren) Field.

Pear culture. A manual for the propagation, planting, cultivation, and management of the pear tree. With descriptions and illustrations of the most productive of the finer varieties and selections of kinds most profitably grown for market online

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Online LibraryThomas W. (Thomas Warren) FieldPear culture. A manual for the propagation, planting, cultivation, and management of the pear tree. With descriptions and illustrations of the most productive of the finer varieties and selections of kinds most profitably grown for market → online text (page 2 of 18)
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This plan presents advantages which will be more
largely discussed, but of which the following is a

1. It divides the labor into practicable portions which
do not discourage the planter by their magnitude, and
the work is better performed than if more were
demanded at once.

2. Manure, which would be difficult to obtain in
sufficiently large quantities, for preparing the whole
ground well, may be easily procured for one-fourth the

3. In the best selected lot of trees, there will, from
various causes, be some that fail in the first two or
three years, and if planted in an orchard, would leave
an unsightly blank or require the planting of a tree
that will always break the harmony of the ground, by
its smaller size. But trees taken from the near supply
will scarcely lose any vigor, by a careful second trans-
planting, and not one in a thousand should be lost.

4. The root-pruning occasioned by removal hastens
the bearing of pear-trees, on both pear and quince
stocks, many years.

5. All the nursiiig which young trees especially
require is brought within a small compass, and the
labor is materially lessened. The mulching, the hunt
for insects, and the washing of the trees, are all per-
formed in a small area, and without the fatiguing labor
of travelling long distances. The pear tree, above all
others, is especially fitted for frequent removals, and



is, indeed, benefited by them in acquiring capacity
for early fruiting


Undoubtedly, the most thorough preparation for an
orchard or fruit ground would require the enriching
of the whole soil nearly as well as most cultivators
do the space immediately around the tree. As it is
intended that the entire body of earth within the
limits of the fruit ground shall be occupied by the
roots, it is important that it should contain sufficient
nourishment for their sustenance. During the first
few years, it is true, they would be supplied with
the pabulum they find immediately around the tree,
and that in a light soil much of the nutriment at
first supplied would have escaped before the trees
were fitted by age and growth for its appropriation.
But for such a soil, the manure should be adopted to
its peculiar condition, and be composted with a large
bulk of clay, or swamp-muck, or other organic matter,
which will enable a hungry soil to long retain the
fertilizing agencies applied to it. A soil, however,
which has been naturally supplied with but a moderate
proportion of vegetable mould or cla} r ey loam, will
not forget for many years the influence of a manure
which has been deeply deposited. Used in this manner,
manure will exhibit its influence upon the growth and
fruiting of the pear tree in a much greater degree than
in any subsequent application. It. not unfrequently
occurs, that sufficient manure for the whole space of
ground to be fertilized is not readily obtainable at the
time of planting. *


To economize tlie quantity for present use as much
as possible, a partial application, that will serve tem-
porarily, may be made along a line of five or six fur-
rows in width, thoroughly plowed in, and inter-
mingled with the soil. After the holes are dug along
this line, well-rotted manure should be strewn in them,
and covered with soil. Occasionally, as the hole is
being filled over the roots, more manure should be
well pulverized and shaken in, but in all cases, in such
a manner as to prevent its direct contact with the roots.
In deepening a soil for any purpose, it must be remem-
bered, that as the quantity of earth to be enriched is
greatly increased, a much larger amount of manure
will be required. If it be desired to increase the
depth of a soil of nine inches to eighteen, and the
manure is thoroughly intermixed to that depth, it will
require more than double the quantity of the latter,
which would be needed to fertilize the first nine inches
of depth, as the subsoil is nearly devoid of nutritious
matter. But, as the escape and loss of this is upward
into the atmosphere, the deepened soil will retain the
volatile constituents of manure much longer than a
shallow one.


It is a general truth, that the manure that will
produce a good crop of corn or potatoes will perfect
a crop of fruit ; but while special manures are to be
jealously criticised and tested by experiment, still
something should be learned from the special demands
of the plant. In the ashes of the pear and apple wood
or fruit, and in the potato stalk and tuber, a very


large amount of potash is found, and the theoretical
deduction from that fact, that potash or ashes would
add largely to the growth and fruiting of these varie-
ties of trees and plants, is found true in practice.
But in the ashes of wheat, comparatively little potash
is discoverable, while in its place is seen a large
amount of phosphates ; and, accordingly, we find the
various salts, of which phosphoric acid is the base,
exercise a great influence in increasing the wheat crop.
Now it would be blindness or mulish obstinacy to
neglect these facts, and apply manures without atten-
tion to the special wants of a plant or tree. Farmers
and gardeners who scout contemptuously the teachings
of science in regard to manuring, daily practice the
most scientific and special theories for manuring plants,
to produce perfect vegetables and flowers.

Well-rotted stable-manure is without doubt the
safest, and ordinarily the most convenient, form in
which nutriment can be conveyed to trees, but it is
not always attainable in sufficient quantities, nor does
it alone produce the highest result. Guano is a con-
venient manure, though temporary in its action, unless
combined with twenty times its bulk of charcoal-dust,
plaster, or partially, dried muck. From two ounces to
half a pound may be applied to each tree at planting ;
varying in quantity according to the area and depth
of ground in which it is distributed. But in no case
should it be placed so that the roots will have less
than three to six inches of earth, protecting them from
its caustic influence. Guano affords an admirable
liquid-dressing for trees (especially when exhibiting a
languid growth) applied at the rate of an ounce or


two in a pailful of water, distributed for a space of
three or four feet around the tree.

Of the more concentrated forms of manure, ground
bones, horn shavings, etc., are decidedly the best,
especially when dissolved in sulphuric acid.

"When used without this treatment, the bones should
be a mixture of the finely-ground bone-meal and the
crushed half-inch bones in equal quantities. The first
will decay rapidly, and afford immediate nutriment to
the roots, while the latter will last longer, and yield
their virtues when the finer bones will be completely
exhausted. But even these generous and excellent
manures have a better effect mixed with coarser
manures, such as stable-litter, horse-dung, swamp-
muck, and other decomposing organic matter.

Summer applications of stimulating manures have
a tendency to produce late succulent growth that does
not ripen, and which the winter blights or kills down,
endangering the life of the whole tree with its poisoned
sap. Late spring applications of manures also stimu-
late wood-growth to such an extent in midsummer, as
to induce the tree to throw off the young and half
grown fruit.

In the grounds of the author, during the last season,
a Bartlett Pear tree, three years from the bud, set 520
pears. "When the fruit had acquired the size of mus-
ket-balls, the tree was supplied with guano and super-
phosphate of lime, dissolved in large quantities of
water, in order to ascertain how great a number of
fruits a tree six feet high, and one and a half inches
in diameter of body at the ground, would L r <m. A
barrel was filled with the solution, and set so as to leak
slowly about two quarts daily around the roots.


As the summer advanced, fine thrifty shoots, two
and throe feet in length, covered the tree, but all the
fruits, except about thirty, fell before ripening : while
on trees not stimulated by such unnatural nutrition,
and which made little or. no wood-growth, more than
fifty fine pears were matured.

No tree of that size should have borne one-quarter
of that number, but it was an experiment in which the
good of individual trees was not regarded. Nature
usually refuses to perform the double labor of wood-
growth and large fruit production during the same
period ; and we cannot, with all our skill, induce her
to disregard the laws which govern her delicate and
wondrous processes.

"When rich stimulants are applied to bearing trees
during the growth of the fruit, the latter is almost
certain to fall prematurely, as soon as the unusual
nutrition is exhibited in more thrifty production of

The proper time for the application of such highly
organized manures as have been mentioned, is in the
fall or in early spring, during the hibernation of the
tree. They should always be well and deeply worked
into the soil. The cost of manuring varies much with
the locality and price of stable manures. If thoroughly
manured for the reception of 400 to 800 pear trees
an acre should receive from twenty to fifty double
wagon-loads of stable or compost manures. Thirty-
five wagon-loads, at two dollars each, would fix the
cost of manuring an acre at 70, which would be a
very moderate sum.

In the grounds of Prof. Mapes, at Newark, New


Jersey, may be seen pear trees of luxuriant growth,
producing great quantities of the finest fruit, which
have been manured, as he assured me, only with super-
phosphate of lime.


There is nothing in his range of labors that gives
the genuine lover of fruit and vegetable growth such
complete satisfaction as the increase in size and excel-
lence of his compost-heap. In it the cultivator is
storing up his chemicals for Nature's laboratory, and
is thus prepared to furnish to her the elements which
shall come forth the purest gold. Untold wealth lies
hidden in its dark and unseemly mass, and at the
magic touch of the great enchanter, shall burst forth
in forms of wondrous beauty. In it his imagination
sees hidden the subtle essences which will ripen the
golden pear, color the cheek of the melting peach,
give lustre to the green foliage and beautiful growth
of the trees on which his care is bestowed ; and thus
he cheats his senses of the loathsomeness which
appears to others.

No single substance or kind of manure contains all
the virtues or manurial requisites for tree or fruit
growth ; and a compost which contains all or most of
the fertilizing agents, will be always found in practice
to produce the finest growth and fruit.

Excellent results in the growth and fruiting of pear
trees have been obtained from a compost formed in
the following manner : Peat or swamp muck, and the
tough sods of an old headland, were laid down in a
layer about six inches thick, and twenty-five feet


square, and on this a layer of old leather shavings,
three to four inches, and an inch of refuse lime were
placed. These layers were repeated until the heap
was five or six feet in height. To every second layer
of sods or peat was added one inch of "bone-meal,
amounting to one hundred bushels in the aggregate,
and twice on the top of the sods a layer of six inches
of horse manure, that aided in starting the fermenta-
tion. The whole was encased and topped off with sods.
A narrow rim was turned upon the edge, forming a
basin, and five hundred pounds of potash, dissolved
in water, poured upon the heap. If ashes had been
obtainable, one hundred bushels of unleached, or three
hundred to five hundred of leached ashes would have
been applied. The heap contained one hundred cubic
yards, was turned twice before spreading on the soil,
and was intended more as a medium of distributing
the potash, lime, and five hundred pounds each of
guano, and superphosphate of lime, afterwards added,
and for forming with the peat and leather shavings a
good retainer of ammonia in the soil.

Let every fruit-raiser, each spring and fall, prepare
such a compost as the following, and the results of its
application to trees will astonish and delight him.

A heap of leaves, leaf or swamp muck, peat, or
rubbish of any organic matter, should be placed at a
convenient distance from the house (for no offensive
smell need be apprehended, if properly treated), to
receive the wood-ashes, the soapsuds, the kitchen and
chamber slops.

Another heap should be formed at the stables, or
rather, a pit should be dug, and half filled with the


absorbing materials, in which should be thrown all
the bones and spoiled meat, the carcases of fowls and
animals, all the old fish and meat brine, the night-
soil from the privies, and the liquid manure from the
stables. Even the coal-ashes should be preserved for
the small per-cent of alkaline salts they contain; and
to the whole, iron should be added in some shape,
either as cinders from the blacksmith's shop or the

All this mass is effectually deprived of offensive
smell, by covering with a fresh supply of muck, when-
ever an escape of nitrogenous matters is perceived.
The effect of such a compost, applied to fruit-trees,
is almost startling, in the rapidity and hardiness of
growth it induces, and in the luscious and highly-
colored fruit a soil so fertilized will bring forth.

As the dark and loathsome mass swells in its pro-
portions, the cultivator (who knows it is but the
ungraceful form which covers a beautiful soul) sees
gorgeous flowers and fruits emerging with colors no
mortal hand could bestow.


If the soil has been trenched or deeply plowed, the
digging of holes for trees is a work of comparatively
small labor, and they need be made but little larger
than sufficient to accommodate the roots without
bending or crowding. "When, however, the soil has
not been thus deeply prepared, the holes should be
dug as deep and as large as the most generous views
of the planter would dictate, taking care, only, that
they shall not be a less width than twice the diameter



of the spread roots to be planted in them, nor of a
less depth than six inches below the bottom of these

"When it is intended to prepare the ground only in
the immediate vicinity of the tree, the holes should
not be less than four feet in width, by two feet in depth.
But no plan can be more defective than digging
deep holes in retentive clayey soils, where water 4 will
collect without freedom of passage. Filling this hole
with loose earth does not alter its character for retain-
ing water, and the roots must soon decay. When it
is only intended to dig such holes without connecting
them one with another in the form of a trench, having
an outlet fall, the planter had far better dig but a
shallow hole, and prepare himself for very indifferent
results without more pains than mere hole-digging.


The disappointment and chagrin which the tree-
planter feels at seeing a sickly tree linger feebly
through three or four seasons of yellow leaves and
dwindling branches, would often be averted if some
person interested in the life and growth of the tree,
and with skill to direct, were present at its digging.

It is just at this point that the care of the cultivator
should begin, for it is too late for skillful management,
when the tree has been ruined in the digging.

No disappointment can be more exasperating than
that experienced by one who waifs with feverish
impatience, year after year, for the fruiting of his trees,
and sees them struggle, almost like living sentient
things, to preserve a sickly existence, and ultimately


die from the violence and abuse they received in dis-
placing them from the nursery. Many a person has
retired care-worn from business, to the farm he has
labored half a life-time to obtain the means of purchas-
ing, only to be driven back into the old mill-track
again, by disappointment at the result of his labor in
planting the imperfect, rootless trees sent to him from
some famous nursery. The nurseryman is usually
sincerely desirous that his trees should be taken up
carefully, and arrive in good condition; but petty
questions arise regarding the expense of increased
labor in digging or packing carefully, and his reflec-
tion usually is : that he " guesses they will do pretty
well." In pressing seasons, too, he is glad to engage
the most ignorant foreigner who offers; to be em-
ployed in digging up a tree, about whose necessities
the laborer knows no more than he does of the con-
stitution of the country of which he is, or expects to
be, a voter. Pat or Heinrich, with no higher idea than
that he is to take out a good spadeful, sets in his spade
close to the body of the tree, and by lifting, and pry-
ing, and twisting, brings out a living thing from the
earth, which although mangled, and torn, and cut, he
cannot conceive is hurt, because it does not groan.

It is not only stupidity and ignorance with which
the purchaser is obliged to contend, but an utter
indifference on the part of the laborer to the success
or failure of the tree ; and his desire to exhibit a good
day's work induces him to hasten that part of his
labor in which he should exercise most care.

In all cases, one should begin with the intention cf
hastening no part of the digging of a tree which can


be better done with more time. If the tree is more
than two years old, commence at a distance not less
than two feet from the body, and increase the dist-
ance one foot for every inch in thickness of the tree at
the earth-collar. Set the spade into the ground with
one edge of the upright blade always turned towards
the tree, and bending back the spade, raise the earth
with a shaking motion, that will free it from the roots
raised by the blade. If the flat side of the blade and
the face of the digger were turned towards the tree,
every root would be cut off clean, where the spade
enters the ground. But by the first method, in addi-
tion to the two feet of roots in the solid ball, there
will remain rootlets and fibres to the width of the

In this manner proceed around the tree, with the
edge of the spade turned towards it, and you will cut
very few of the roots which extend into the trench.

Let a sharp ciitting spade be provided, which should
never be used for digging, and with this cut smoothly
all the roots that extend beyond the trench until the
lowest layer of roots is reached, and proceed to dig
under them, by laying the spade nearly flat, and
parallel with the ground, and thrusting it under the
ball to cut the tap-root. Having cleared away the
loose dirt, shake the tree gently back and forth, until it
is ascertained where the tree is held by the remaining
roots; and then, with a digging-fork, dislodge the
earth in the ball from them, and only lift it when you
find that the tree will not strain, or the roots break.

A gentle shake will now free it thoroughly from
earth without dashing it against the ground, as most


laborers will do unless watched. From this time, the
sooner it is in the ground the better ; but if replanting
is delayed, Nature must be imitated as nearly as pos-
sible, by hiding the roots from the light and air, in
the best manner, and as soon as you can. An old rug,
pieces of matting, wet straw, or, when these are not
convenient, a light, but complete covering of pulver-
ized soil, should be thrown over the roots.

Even in a rainy or cloudy day, injury is received
by exposure to the chilling atmosphere or light.

When the soil is sufficiently adhesive, and the trees
to be planted are near their destination, a ball of earth
may be left around the roots, and the whole carefully
lifted in the arms of two men, and set in the hole.

There is in plants a condition somewhat analogous
to animal heat, though hardly sufficiently well defined
to be pronounced vegetable heat. But it is certain
that the temperature of plants must be maintained
within a limited range, to preserve their juices from
destructive change ; and this limit is much re-
stricted, when the roots are deprived of their natural
protection, and exposed to chilling atmosphere. It is
not necessary that the temperature of the air should
even be lowered to the freezing-point, to accomplish
great injury to the naked roots, which, while protected
by earth, could endure an absence of heat indicated
by thirty degrees below zero. There is something in
this analogy of condition of plants to living beings
which, while it excites our wonder, reveals to us how
little we have yet learned regarding their mysterious

I have seen some of the roots of a pear tree, stand-


ing upon a bank, exposed on one side entirely unpro-
tected, to a severe winter, without injury. The
requisite condition, or heat being maintained by their
connection with the larger body of roots, which were
protected in the soil -just as we daily expose a part
of the person to the cold with impunity, while the
naked body would not endure a temperature many
degrees higher, without perishing.

There is an equal danger in exposure to the opposite
extreme of temperature, though not so rapid in its
consequences. A cold bleak wind is far more effective
in drying up the sap than a moderately warm tem-
perature, exerted for the same length of time. The
effects of both extremes of heat and cold are the same.
The sap is inspissated to such a degree, that the
empty cells close up, and become incapable of again
exerting the mysterious endosmose action by which
their functions are employed. Could the lungs of a
drowned person be once more inflated, the blood would
commence its flow ; or could the blood be induced to
move by friction, the empty air-cells of the lungs
would fill, and the vital functions of life once more
commence. Could we fill the collapsed sap-vessels of
the dried tree, we should gain one point in its recovery,
and in the appropriate place the means for this will
be discussed.


It is somewhat mortifying to the promologist, after
twenty years of careful study of the laws which
govern the growth and fruiting of trees, to feel con-


strained to acknowledge, that not only what he has
learned from others, but much of what he has gathered
from his own experience, is to be distrusted perhaps

In nothing is he likely to be more disappointed
than ic the soils which analogy and theory would
induce him to point out as superior. So many influ-
ences and conditions affect the results of horticultural
effort, that disappointment often follows the selection
of what appear the finest soils. The Newtown Pip-
pin, on the soil of Long Island, where it originated,
refuses to yield the exquisite juices and rare perfumes
which distinguish this king of apples ; and from the
same island which once sent forth sloop-loads of the
rarest Yergalieu Pears, scarcely a bushel of perfect
fruit of that variety has been gathered in one season
for the last fifteen years. Neither the richest soil, nor
the most careful cultivation, any longer produce good
fruit of these varieties ; while on the rugged farms
along the Hudson, the Newtown Pippin preserves its
superiority with scarcely an attempt at cultivation
bestowed upon it ; and through the central and. north-
ern counties of New York, the Yergalieu continues
to produce its unrivalled fruit. Most of the other
varieties of Pear are produced on Long Island and in
New Jersey in great excellence and abundance. Yari-
eties. of pears are pronounced excellent in the vicinity
of Boston, which are worthless when raised in other
localities with equal care in cultivation. These anom-
alies prevent us from declaring with certainty upon
the fitness of any soil for all varieties of pears, when
that particular locality and soil have not been tested


by experiment. !N~o prudent man will, therefore, plant
a very large number of trees, of varieties which have
not been proved in his neighborhood ; at least, not
without having made careful inquiry regarding those
that have succeeded or failed.

Still, general rules that should govern in the choice

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Online LibraryThomas W. (Thomas Warren) FieldPear culture. A manual for the propagation, planting, cultivation, and management of the pear tree. With descriptions and illustrations of the most productive of the finer varieties and selections of kinds most profitably grown for market → online text (page 2 of 18)