This section is from the book "Commercial Gardening Vol3", by John Weathers (the Editor). Also available from Amazon: Commercial Gardening, A Practical & Scientific Treatise For Market Gardeners.
In many cases the fault lies, not with the grower, but with the landlord, who stipulates that a certain number of trees must be planted to the acre, probably under the impression that he can charge a higher rent for land carrying a large number of trees. The fact that air and light are essential to the proper growth and ripening of fruit trees seems to be overlooked altogether, and that when more than, say, 320 bush trees, or more than 160 half-standard trees, are planted to the acre, the value of the holding declines instead of being improved. The numbers mentioned may appear small when the trees are first planted, but at the end of eight or ten years it will be found that they have none too much space at their disposal. A cradle is quite large enough for a baby, but will be woefully lacking in accommodation as the baby grows into manhood. It is the same with fruit trees; space must be allowed for development. The man who takes on a thickly planted garden, under the impression that he will get more fruit from 1000 trees to the acre than he will from 320, simply does not know his business, or the laws that govern plant life, and he is sure to fail. The annexed sketches show what too frequently happens to fruit trees planted too closely together. One (fig. 332) represents a plum tree about fifteen years old; the other (fig. 333) one about twenty years of age, both taken from actual examples. It will be seen that instead of being in the prime of life and capable of yielding good crops, they are in a miserable, decrepit condition, cumbering the ground upon which they stand within about 8 ft. of their neighbours. The main stem has been cut out long ago, and side shoots have struggled up in search of air and light, but even they are already in a mutilated condition.
Fig. 332. - Plum Tree not more than fifteen years.
Fig. 333. - Plum Tree about twenty years.
The following analysis of 1795 trees (mostly Plums with a sprinkling of Apples and Pears) in a market garden will show the evils of overcrowding from a financial point of view. The garden is considered a good one as market gardens go, but it will be seen from the figures that over half the trees are a long way below par, and do not pay their way as they ought.
If all these 1795 trees on about 4 ac. of ground had been in a proper state of growth each one would have yielded at least 10s. worth of fruit annually, making a total of £897, 10s. Owing to the wretched condition of most of them, however, the entire crop could be valued at only about £550 in a good season, representing an annual loss to the grower of £347, 10s. In other words, he paid the terrific fine of £347, 10s. per annum for having overcrowded his garden. At the end of a twenty-one years lease this would represent at least a total loss of about £2000, to say nothing of the cost of labour of cutting out the dead wood in the winter. If 800 trees, instead of 1795, had been properly planted on the same area, the crop of fruit would probably have been worth 15s. per tree, giving a total revenue from top fruit alone of £600. With 800 trees, therefore, the grower would have obtained £50 a year more than he did with 1795, and the cultural expenses would have been lighter in proportion. [J. W.]