Having selected the site and concluded a contract of tenancy for the holding, the next consideration is the preparation of the land for planting the fruit. The first thing is to get the land clean. He will be a lucky man who takes land that has been farmed if he does not come into an inheritance of original sin in the shape of perennial weeds such as couch grass, thistles, nettles, bindweed, or coltsfoot. These must be got rid of. To plant fruit trees and bushes among them would be to mortgage the enterprise at the start; once get them among the roots of the trees and bushes, and they will cling like a bad habit. If possession is entered into at Michaelmas there will be time to ridge baulk the land. This is done by drawing shallow single furrows about 10 in. apart, so that the soil off the plough breast falls on the space between the furrows, and then turning the whole of the soil to the depth of the first furrows over into the spaces where the first furrows were turned from, so that the soil lies in a ridge. The drags can then be put through it crosswise of the ridges, and all weeds and rubbish will be found on the top. After harrowing and rolling once or twice, to break lumps and shake the dirt out, it may be forked into rows and burnt. If the land is very dirty the process may have to be repeated. For these processes drag harrows (fig. 318) which can be obtained for from two up to four horses; cultivators (fig. 319) which can also be obtained for two, three, or four horses; harrows (fig. 320), for one or two horses, and a Cambridge roll (fig. 321), and a plough which will turn the land over in rectangular furrows are required. What are called digging ploughs are not so suitable for such work, as they flop the soil over in a confused medley, and it does not so readily catch the tines of the drag or cultivator, unless the land be very light - then almost any plough will do.

Drag Harrow.

Fig. 318. - Drag Harrow.

When the surface cleaning is thoroughly done the land should be baulked up again and so left through the winter. In the spring the baulks may be harrowed down; if the holding is near enough to a market to grow vegetables the land may be manured with dung, 40 loads to the acre; or with crushed hoofs, 5 cwt. to the acre; and fine-crushed bones or dissolved bones, 3 cwt. to the acre, and ploughed in. Part of it can be planted in May with Brussels Sprouts, previously raised on a seed bed from a sowing made in March. They should be planted 3 ft by 2 ft. 6 in. on the square, so that the horse hoe can be worked both ways. Another portion can be planted in June with Savoys, also previously raised in a seed bed from a sowing made in April. These should be planted 2 ft. 6 in. by 2 ft. and planted on the square. A remaining portion can be planted also in June with Coleworts, planted 18 in. by 18 in. on the square, the seed to be sown at the same time as the Savoys.

Cultivator.

Fig. 319. - Cultivator.

Harrow.

Fig. 320. - Harrow.

These green-stuff crops, if the horse hoe and the man hoe be kept well at work among them during the summer, will smother any weeds that may have remained from the autumn cleaning, excepting such deep rooters as thistles, bindweed, or coltsfoot, and even these will be much weakened.

The Coleworts and Savoys will be oft' in November, and the Brussels by Christmas, thus leaving plenty of time to plant the trees, which a careful man will buy in the summer, and have heeled-in in the autumn. Of course if the holding is one on which horses are not used, then all the cleaning must be done by forking and picking.

Now comes the question, how shall the land be prepared for the fruit? Here rival schools assert their differing theories. Shall it be deep cultivation or shallow? Shall it be by plough or spade, and if the latter shall it be digging, double digging, or trenching? He who proposes to grow fruit for a living, and cannot draw upon unlimited supplies of money, must discard elaborate theories beloved of experts who do not spend their own money. Doubtless double digging or two-spit trenching does make a splendid deep tilth for the trees and bushes to go into, but either will cost anything from 12 to 16 an acre, according to the nature of the soil and subsoil to be dealt with, and the trees and bushes may not show appreciation of the extra expense. The object of cultivation is to move the soil thoroughly, bringing fresh particles up to the action of wind and weather; to keep it open and pervious for water to reach the roots and rootlets; and so that the micro-organisms that constitute fertility may secure oxygen and be free to multiply.

If the soil is never moved except to the depth of a few inches, the bottom becomes hard and impervious, like a pan, and the fertility becomes, like beauty, only skin deep. It stands to reason that, except for such crops as prefer a hard bottom, the deeper the soil is moved and the more thoroughly its particles are broken up, the more the forces we call fertility are increased and the freer they are to work; and in times of drought the more moisture will be held by the finely separated particles for the use of the crop. Mr. A. D. Hall says {The Soil, p. 100): "The soils which are least affected by drought are the deep loamy sands of very uniform texture, fine grained enough to possess a considerable lifting surface, and yet not too fine to interfere with the free movement of water ". A fruit tree when once established in suitable soil is able to send its roots into the subsoil and do its own pulverization; it is only during the first year or two after planting, when it has not had time to develop its root system, that it needs the soil finely prepared for it. It is generally considered to be sufficient, therefore, for all practical purposes if the soil is broken up to the depth of 18 in., and this will also do for bush fruits. The question of deep and shallow cultivation has been dealt with in Vol. I., pp. 101-25.

Clod Crusher (Cambridge Roll).

Fig. 321. - Clod Crusher (Cambridge Roll).

5. Preparation Of The Land For Fruit Trees. Part 2

In spade culture the cheapest way to accomplish this is by bastard trenching, which is turning one spit over, shovelling the bottom of the trench, and then forking the bottom. This will cost from 6 to 8 per acre according to soil. In mechanical culture the best way will be to get the land steam-scarified twice, the second time at right angles to the first. This will cost 14s. per acre exclusive of coal and water, and the cartage of them to the engines. The land can then be ploughed with horses, care being taken not to have the furrows wider than 8 in., so that all the surface soil is thoroughly moved. The ploughing and subsequent harrowing and rolling for planting will cost about 20s. per acre.

Planting can be continued all the winter, during suitable weather, up till March.

Analysis of the soil will give some idea of what manure is desirable. If a deficiency of lime is shown, it will be convenient to apply a dressing of fresh burnt lime of 4 tons to the acre, and let it slack before the land is scarified. It is generally not wise to plough a dressing of dung in when planting fruit trees; it is better applied as a "poultice" or mulch round each tree and bush after planting. By such a plan the nourishment in the dressing is washed by the rains down to the rootlets, and by checking evaporation it is a valuable help to the young plantation during dry spells in the summer.

On soils suitable for the cultivation of fruit little of nitrogenous manures is required; lime, phosphoric acid, and potash will be found the most effective. The lime can be applied in a dressing of 3 or 4 tons to the acre in the winter about every four years. For the others a dressing of 4 cwt. of a good brand of basic slag and 1 cwt. of sulphate of potash in the early autumn will be found a convenient method.

In many successfully cultivated fruit gardens a mulching of long dung is put on once every three or four years in the late winter or early spring. This plan may be strongly recommended when a fully cropped garden has reached maturity, and the soil at the surface consequently becomes crowded with root fibres.

But it cannot be too frequently reiterated that one of the most important things is to keep down the wild growths that, if allowed to grow, will rob the trees and bushes of nutriment and moisture. Weeds are the labourer's friend, but the grower's enemy. Hoe as soon as the weeds appear; it is cheaper to hoe three times when hardly any weeds can be seen than to wait till there is a tangled and matted carpet of growths which have sucked enough from your soil to produce flowers and develop their seeds. The more mouths there are to feed from the cupboard the quicker its shelves become bare. (See Vol. I., p. 121.)

While the operations for cleaning and preparing the land are going on the grower will find employment during the evenings of his first winter of occupation in studying nurserymen's catalogues and in gathering all the information he can as to how to set out his plantation, what distances to plant, and whether to intercrop with bushes, or with other crops, or not at all.

He will have little difficulty in deciding that while he will plant in straight rows each way, he will have the widest spaces running north and south, if the conformation of his land makes it at all possible.

He will take care not to have his rows too long without a break. As he hopes to get fruit he will reflect that such fruit must be carried out. If the distances are too long, too much of his own or his gatherers' time will be taken up in walking to and fro. He will therefore arrange for a roadway whenever his rows approach to 300 yd. in length. It may be that around the outskirts of the land he proposes to plant there is that feature that gives peculiar beauty to an English landscape, and that in the breast of the grower, frequently, causes a conflict between his aesthetic tastes and his instincts as a cultivator - hedgerow timber. If there is, it goes without saying that there is a clause in his agreement binding him to respect it as landlord's property. He will certainly try and arrange to use the space immediately under it as a roadway, and will select to plant near it some varieties retaining from their ancestors qualities that enable them to accommodate themselves more or less to the conditions of hedgerow existence, such as the Damson and the Bush Plum.

He will have before him several methods of planting to choose from.

A Young Standard Apple Tree in Fruit.

Fig. 322. - A Young Standard Apple Tree in Fruit.

1. The method of planting rows of half-standard trees, 40 or more feet apart, and cropping between with vegetable crops. This may be seen in operation at Evesham. (See p. 28.)

2. Half-standard trees, 15 ft. apart, with bushes between the trees and one row up the middle. If the bushes are Red Currants, there may be two rows up the middle. Raspberries may be planted instead of bushes, or one row of cordon Apples may be planted between the rows, and bushes in the rows.

3. Standard Apples (fig. 322), 30 or 36 ft. apart, and half-standard.

Fig 323   A Well developed Six year old Dwarf or Bush Apple Tree, after pruning.

Fig 323 - A Well-developed Six-year-old Dwarf or Bush Apple Tree, after pruning.

Plums between the rows and between the trees in the rows, or Nuts may be planted under, as is done frequently in Kent. Cherries may take the place of the Apples.

4. Dwarf Apples and Dwarf Pears (fig. 323) may be planted 9 ft. apart, with Strawberries planted three rows at 2 ft. 6 in. apart between the rows, and four plants between the trees, or the trees may be 12 ft. apart, with a Currant or Gooseberry bush angled between them, thus: -

Apple. Apple. Pear.

Gooseberry Gooseberry.

Apple. Apple. Pear.

Of these methods it is difficult to see the advantage of No. 1. It seems to be neither open land nor fruit plantation. Doubtless it gives the trees plenty of air, and they in turn may shelter the vegetable crop. "With No. 2 the half-standards are frequently Apple and Plum, or Pear and Plum interlined.

In the case of the Apple and Plum it is generally the intention of the planter to cut the Plums back as the Apples grow, and finally remove them altogether, and leave it all to the Apples. It may be doubted whether the intention is often carried out; it requires more courage than_the average grower possesses. The Plums are useful revenue producers, even when they crowd the Apples. It is better to admit the difficulty beforehand, and plant the half-standards 18 ft. by 15 ft., and let them both remain, choosing the varieties of Apple of not too spreading growth. If this is done, two rows of Gooseberries, or Raspberries, or Black Currants, and three rows of Red Currants, can be planted between the rows of trees. Strawberries may be also planted under, one row between each two rows of bushes. If a jam factory is within reach it will be better to plant the preserving sorts, like " Stirling Castle " or " Scarlet", as these can be left down longer than a table sort, although of a sort like " Royal Sovereign " two or three crops may be taken before they are hoed up, to give the bushes and trees all the room. If the rows are 18 ft. apart, as suggested, a row of Dwarf Apples or Pears may be planted instead of the bushes or cordons. It would be wise in any case, if the situation were convenient for its disposal, to grow green-stuff crops between the tree rows for a year or two before planting the bushes. It will give a better opportunity of eradicating any weed progeny remaining in the soil, and will also afford a chance, if it is needed, of bringing the condition as to manure up to par.

The bushes that are to go into the middle may meanwhile be accommodated as extra ones in the tree rows. When it is determined to plant between the rows they may be shifted in the early autumn, care being taken to preserve unbroken a good ball of earth at the roots, and they will not "miss the shift", as the gardeners' saying goes. In No. 3 the intention is eventually to have an Apple orchard when all the Plums will be removed. At the beginning the conditions as to undercropping may be the same as in No. 2.

But it cannot be said that the plan of planting standard trees is in accordance with the most up-to-date ideas.

If spraying is to become a permanent part of a fruit-grower's organization it will be wiser to keep the trees as low as possible. No. 4 method will therefore have much to recommend it on this ground alone. The consideration of it will lead to the study of the different stocks on which Apples are budded or grafted. These are: (a) The Crab; (6) The Free Stock; (c) The Broad-leaved Paradise; (d) The Doucin or Dutch.