Success with fruit cultivation must in-evitably depend upon the subjection of outgoing sums. First study how to prevent money from leaving the exchequer, and then endeavour to increase the return.
Obviously, a lady starting on her career as a fruit-grower must purchase her initial stock-in-trade, her bushes and trees, from a nurseryman, but when she gets her undertaking into something approaching working order she should take steps to provide her own raw material. To be a fully fledged, business proposition, the holding should be very nearly self-supporting, and this can only be the case where propagation is successfully carried out.
The lay mind is surprisingly ignorant as to the art of propagation. To the man in the street the question of how an apple-tree is grown is a profound mystery. Budding and grafting are unfathomable enigmas, and cuttings but little understood. Giving apples first consideration, seeing that they belong to the most important order of our native fruit, they are, in a wild state, the highly coloured crabs of our country hedgerows. As such, they are captured and tamed, to use a convenient simile, and brought up in the way they should go.
The majority of our orchard apples are grown on the stock of the common crab. That is to say, small stems of crab apple are budded with cultivated varieties, and so form ' maidens," which is the primary stage of the marketable apple-tree.
"Paradise" Stock for Apples
For garden fruit and also for certain choice varieties, however, the buds are worked on to what is known as "Paradise " stock. This stock is the wood of a dwarf-growing wild apple, originally found in Palestine and the East, and its Biblical name is probably derived from its native land. At any rate, Paradise stock makes more fruit-bearing, fibrous roots than crab stock, is not so rampant in the formation of wood, has not the same gross tap-roots, and, in short, is more refined.
Both crab and Paradise stock are to be increased readily by cuttings inserted in sandy soil, and kept thoroughly moist till well established. The cuttings should have their lower buds rubbed off, and should be set some five or six inches in the ground, preferably in the autumn.
Cuttings of currants for the creation of new nursery stock
Then, again, apple stock may be raised from seed, and it is surprising how quickly one of these tiny pips will grow, three summers yielding a sapling of quite respectable proportions.
Having obtained a suitable stock, the next matter is to bud it. Budding is preferable to grafting with maiden stock, and it is not so formidable a task as would appear at first glance. Indeed, anyone who has budded roses will experience little difficulty in performing a similar operation on a fruit-tree, though it is wise and judicious to experiment on some wild hedgerow growth before attempting to deal with a stock that is of some material value.
Having obtained the required stocks to "work" (as a nursery foreman would express it), the next task is to get the buds. These are best if secured from strong, young wood of the same season's growth, and as budding is seasonable work early in August there should be little difficulty in this direction. If your own orchard does not furnish buds of the varieties you require, beg them from a neighbour or purchase them from a nurseryman.
Having the buds by you (they must be kept moist) take the budding-knife - which may be obtained for eighteen-pence from the cutler - and in the bark of the stock make an incision in an upward direction, and another at right angles, and work the knife well in under the bark so as to raise it bodily from the tissue of the stem. When planning to grow a standard apple, the incision should be made about eight inches above the ground, but the height should be less when bush or trained trees are required. Now take the bud, which will have been removed from its parent wood with a "tag" or strip of bark some couple of inches in length, and place it against the cut in the stock. Trim it up to fit beneath the bark, and, when it lies in place, take some bast, or raffia, and tie it round the stock, so that it completely covers the incision, excepting just the bud. Then knot it tightly. If the weather is dry, efforts must be made to prevent the bud from shrivelling, but when it gives evidence that the joint has been made, the head of the stock may be cut off, and thenceforward the growth from the bud must be trained as required.
Gooseberry cuttings should be taken in the autumn, and consist of straight, vigorous shoots about fifteen inches in length
The great point to bear in mind is the preparation of the bud. It must be trimmed up in such a way that the green tip from which life springs is not damaged, and yet as much of the fibre under the bark as possible should be removed. Get the bud itself right, make it fit the stock neatly; tie firmly, keep moist. These are the chief details to consider. Peaches and nectarines are usually worked on wild plum, such as the thorny Myrabella, and on almond ; pears are worked on quince stock, and in certain cases on pear stock itself ; plums are budded on to stock raised from the plum-stones, and from the wild plum.
Grafting Grafting is quite a different matter from budding. It is not often employed for converting stocks into maidens, except when budding has failed. Generally speaking, grafting is to rejuvenate old trees, and in certain cases to change varieties.
The principle of grafting is to attach a healthy, vigorous shoot of a young tree to the stem of an old one. One must first cut down the old tree till it is practically nothing but stump. The graft is then taken and cut away to a steady slope, and at the head of the old tree a corresponding slope is formed. The two sloping pieces are then laid together, bound in position, and to keep air from the joint a ball of clay is pressed round it.
How to layer a strawberry runner, so as to ensure a strong, healthy young plant. The selected runner is laid on a flowerpot of light potting soil and kept in place with a flat stone until rooted, when it is severed from the parent plant
This grafting clay is formed by making a mixture of ordinary clay, a little cow-manure, and a little hair, damped with water, but grafting wax, such as is sold by all sundriesmen, is more cleanly and answers the same purpose.
Cleft grafting is the method of splitting the old tree with the aid of a wedge and of filling the cleft with the shoot of new wood, or " scion " as it is generally called.
Currants and gooseberries are easily propagated by means of cuttings or strikings, and the autumn is the most favourable time for the work. Select straight, vigorous shoots about fifteen inches in length, and set them in a light, sandy soil in a sheltered and somewhat moist position.
Red and white currants should have their lower buds removed, but in the case of black currants all the buds should be allowed to remain. The lower buds of gooseberry cuttings should be rubbed off, and in all cases the cutting should be trimmed at the top with the pruning-knife. The cuttings should be inserted a foot apart, and about four inches deep in the soil.
Strawberries, in the natural order of things, throw runners from which tiny plants appear. In the ordinary way these tiny plants will increase and multiply, till, in the course of a couple of years, the bed is choked. The proper treatment is to layer the young runners carefully, so that efficient propagation may take place. The best runner of all is the one nearest the parent plant, and the others should be pinched out as fast as they appear. Take the selected runner, and lay it on a small flowerpot full of light potting soil, keeping it in place with the aid of a flat stone. In a comparatively short time the runner will have rooted, when it may be severed from the parent and removed in its pot to a shady place to mature. By the time the best plant-ing - out season - August and September - has arrived, it will be a sturdy plant.
Strawberry plants reared on this careful system will come to earlier productivity, and be far more robust than those treated in the lackadaisical way of being allowed to root where they please.