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- The Home Acre - 5/28 -

If the acre has been enriched and plowed twice deeply, as I have already suggested, little more is necessary in planting than to excavate a hole large enough to receive the roots spread out in their natural positions. Should no such thorough and general preparation have been made, or if the ground is hard, poor, and stony, the owner will find it to his advantage to dig a good-sized hole three or four feet across and two deep, filling in and around the tree with fine rich surface soil. If he can obtain some thoroughly decomposed compost or manure, for instance, as the scrapings of a barnyard, or rich black soil from an old pasture, to mix with the earth beneath and around the roots, the good effects will be seen speedily; but in no instance should raw manure from the stable, or anything that must decay before becoming plant food, be brought in contact with the roots. Again I repeat my caution against planting too deeply--one of the commonest and most fatal errors. Let the tree be set about as deeply as it stood before removal. If the tree be planted early in spring, as it should be, there will be moisture enough in the soil; but when planting is delayed until the ground has become rather dry and warm, a pail of water poured about its roots when the hole has been nearly filled will be beneficial. Now that the tree is planted, any kind of coarse manure spread to the depth of two or three inches on the surface as a mulch is very useful. Stake at once to protect against the winds. Do not make the common mistake of planting too closely. Observe the area shaded by fully grown trees, and you will learn the folly of crowding. Moreover, dense shade about the house is not desirable. There should be space for plenty of air and sunshine. The fruit from one well- developed tree will often more than supply a family; for ten or fifteen barrels of apples is not an unusual yield. The standard apples should be thirty feet apart. Pears, the dwarfer-growing cherries, plums, etc., can be grown in the intervening spaces. In ordering from the nurseries insist on straight, shapely, and young trees, say three years from the bud. Many trees that are sent out are small enough, but they are old and stunted. Also require that there should be an abundance of fibrous and unmutilated roots.

Because the young trees come from the nursery unpruned, do not leave them in that condition. Before planting, or immediately after, cut back all the branches at least one-half; and where they are too thick, cut out some altogether. In removal the tree has lost much of its root power, and it is absurd to expect it to provide for just as much top as before.

In many books on fruit-culture much space has been given to dwarf pears, apples, and cherries, and trees of this character were planted much more largely some years ago than they are at present. The pear is dwarfed by grafting it on the quince; the apple can be limited to a mere garden fruit-tree in size by being grown on a Doucin stock, or even reduced to the size of a bush if compelled to draw its life through the roots of the Paradise. These two named stocks, much employed by European nurserymen, are distinct species of apples, and reproduce themselves without variation from the seed. The cherry is dwarfed by being worked on the Mahaleb--a small, handsome tree, with glossy, deep-green foliage, much cultivated abroad as an ornament of lawns. Except in the hands of practiced gardeners, trees thus dwarfed are seldom satisfactory, for much skill and care are required in their cultivation. Their chief advantages consist in the fact that they bear early and take but little space. Therefore they may be considered worthy of attention by the purchasers of small places. Those who are disposed to make pets of their trees and to indulge in horticultural experiments may derive much pleasure from these dwarfs, for they can be developed into symmetrical pyramids or graceful, fruitful shrubs within the limits of a garden border.

When the seeds of ordinary apples and pears are sown they produce seedlings, or free stocks, and upon these are budded or grafted the fine varieties which compose our orchards. They are known as standard trees; they come into bearing more slowly, and eventually attain the normal size familiar to us all. Standard cherries are worked on seedlings of the Mazzard, which Barry describes as a "lofty, rapid-growing, pyramidal-headed tree." I should advise the reader to indulge in the dwarfs very charily, and chiefly as a source of fairly profitable amusement. It is to the standards that he will look for shade, beauty, and abundance of fruit.

Since we have been dwelling on the apple, pear, and cherry, there are certain advantages of continuing the subject in the same connection, giving the principles of cultivation and care until the trees reach maturity. During the first summer an occasional watering may be required in long periods of drought. In many instances buds will form and start along the stem of the tree, or near the roots. These should be rubbed off the moment they are detected.

One of our chief aims is to form an evenly balanced, open, symmetrical head; and this can often be accomplished better by a little watchfulness during the season of growth than at any other time. If, for instance, two branches start so closely together that one or the other must be removed in the spring pruning, why let the superfluous one grow at all? It is just so much wasted effort. By rubbing off the pushing bud or tender shoot the strength of the tree is thrown into the branches that we wish to remain. Thus the eye and hand of the master become to the young tree what instruction, counsel, and admonition are to a growing boy, with the difference that the tree is easily and certainly managed when taken in time.

The study of the principles of growth in the young trees can be made as pleasing as it is profitable, for the readiness with which they respond to a guiding hand will soon invest them with almost a human interest. A child will not show neglect more certainly than they; and if humored and allowed to grow after their own fashion, they will soon prove how essential are restraint and training. A fruit tree is not like one in a forest--a simple, unperverted product of Nature. It is a result of human interference and development; and we might just as reasonably expect our domestic animals to take care of themselves as our grafted and budded trees. Moreover, they do not comply with their raison d'etre by merely existing, growing, and propagating their kind. A Bartlett pear-tree, like a Jersey cow, is given place for the sake of its delicious product. It is also like the cow in requiring judicious feeding and care.

Trees left to themselves tend to form too much wood, like the grape-vine. Of course fine fruit is impossible when the head of a tree is like a thicket. The growth of unchecked branches follows the terminal bud, thus producing long naked reaches of wood devoid of fruit spurs. Therefore the need of shortening in, so that side branches may be developed. When the reader remembers that every dormant bud in early spring is a possible branch, and that even the immature buds at the axil of the leaves in early summer can be forced into immediate growth by pinching back the leading shoot, he will see how entirely the young tree is under his control. These simple facts and principles are worth far more to the intelligent man than any number of arbitrary rules as to pruning. Reason and observation soon guide his hand in summer or his knife in March--the season when trees are usually trimmed.

Beyond shortening in leading branches and cutting out crossing and interfering boughs, so as to keep the head symmetrical and open to light and air, the cherry does not need very much pruning. If with the lapse of years it becomes necessary to take off large limbs from any fruit-tree, the authorities recommend early June as the best season for the operation.

It will soon be discovered--quite likely during the first summer-- that fruit-trees have enemies, that they need not only cultivation and feeding, but also protection. The pear, apple, and quince are liable to one mysterious disease which it is almost impossible to guard against or cure--the fireblight. Of course there have been innumerable preventives and cures recommended, just as we see a dozen certain remedies for consumption advertised in any popular journal; but the disease still remains a disheartening mystery, and is more fatal to the pear than to its kindred fruits. I have had thrifty young trees, just coming into bearing, suddenly turn black in both wood and foliage, appearing in the distance as if scorched by a blast from a furnace. In another instance a large mature tree was attacked, losing in a summer half its boughs. These were cut out, and the remainder of the tree appeared healthy during the following summer, and bore a good crop of fruit. The disease often attacks but a single branch or a small portion of a tree. The authorities advise that everything should be cut away at once below all evidence of infection and burned. Some of my trees have been attacked and have recovered; others were apparently recovering, but died a year or two later. One could theorize to the end of a volume about the trouble. I frankly confess that I know neither the cause nor the remedy. It seems to me that our best resource is to comply with the general conditions of good and healthy growth. The usual experience is that trees which are fertilized with wood-ashes and a moderate amount of lime and salt, rather than with stimulating manures, escape the disease. If the ground is poor, however, and the growth feeble, barnyard manure or its equivalent is needed as a mulch. The apple-blight is another kindred and equally obscure disease. No better remedy is known than to cut out the infected part at once.

In coping with insects we can act more intelligently, and therefore successfully. We can study the characters of our enemies, and learn their vulnerable points. The black and green aphides, or plant-lice, are often very troublesome. They appear in immense numbers on the young and tender shoots of trees, and by sucking their juices check or enfeeble the growth. They are the milch-cows of ants, which are usually found very busy among them. Nature apparently has made ample provision for this pest, for it has been estimated that "one individual in five generations might be the progenitor of six thousand millions." They are easily destroyed, however. Mr. Barry, of the firm of Ellwanger & Barry, in his excellent work "The Fruit Garden," writes as follows: "Our plan is to prepare a barrel of tobacco juice by steeping stems for several days, until the juice is of a dark brown color; we then mix this with soap-suds. A pail is filled, and the ends of the shoots, where the insects are assembled, are bent down and dipped in the liquid. One dip is enough. Such parts as cannot be dipped are sprinkled liberally with a garden-syringe, and the application repeated from time to time, as long as any of the aphides remain. The liquid may be so strong as to injure the foliage; therefore it is well to test it on one or two subjects before using it extensively. Apply it in the evening."

The scaly aphis or bark-louse attacks weak, feeble-growing trees, and can usually be removed by scrubbing the bark with the preparation given above.

In our region and in many localities the apple-tree borer is a very formidable pest, often destroying a young tree before its presence is known. I once found a young tree in a distant part of my place that I could push over with my finger. In June a brown

The Home Acre - 5/28

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