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.
The first consideration with regard to planting is the selection and purchase of trees. It must be remembered that the initial cost of the trees bears a trifling proportion to the other expenses of Cherry growing; consequently the best trees are always the cheapest in the end. Faulty and second-class trees should not be planted.
In the selection of Cherry trees attention must be paid equally to both root and shoot. The roots should be evenly distributed on all sides, not long and straggling, but numerous, fibrous, and spreading in all directions. The tree should have a straight stem, not less than 5 ft. nor greater than 6 ft. high. The branches should be numerous, evenly balanced, and on no account lopsided.
It is not advisable to buy trees that have been budded at the crown, since these are often badly balanced and have a " gouty" lump where the bud was placed. If worked at the top, the stock should be grafted, not budded, since grafted trees more often form well-balanced heads.
In laying out an orchard, consideration should be given to the time of ripening of the fruit. It is convenient to have all the early sorts on one side, the medium in the centre, and the late sorts on the other side of the orchard. By this means not only can the birds be more easily kept off, but the cherries can also be more economically gathered, with less moving of ladders, etc.
When full grown, a Cherry tree covers a large area of ground - considerably more than other orchard trees; the trees should therefore be planted far enough apart to allow of maximum development. The best distance for this purpose is 2 rods (33 ft.) .apart in each direction. This allows 4 perches of ground for each tree, and thus forty trees are required for each acre. It is preferable to plant the orchard upon what is usually called the "diamond" plan (fig. 367) rather than the "square" (fig. 366). In the latter case the trees in each row are planted opposite one another.
Fig. 366. - Diagram illustrating Square Planting.
Fig. 367. - Diagram illustrating " Diamond' Method of Planting.
In the former case the trees in one row are planted half-way between the trees in the next row. When planted diamond fashion the boughs of the trees in one row can attain a greater development before they reach those of the next row; thus each tree has a greater air space and gathering is facilitated.
At the present time there are two very different methods adopted for the planting of fruit trees. It must be remembered that the roots of a tree serve two functions: firstly, to support the tree in an upright position, especially against wind; and secondly, to traverse the soil and absorb from it the ingredients of plant food necessary for the growth of the tree. In view of these functions the two methods will be examined.
The method of planting adopted by the ordinary practical fruit grower is to dig out a shallow hole 6 to 9 in. deep and about 3 or 4 ft. in diameter, according to the length of the roots. Any injured roots are then trimmed off with a sharp knife and the small fibrous roots are spread out very carefully with the fingers, and the tree is placed firmly in the centre of the hole. Some fine earth is shovelled on top of the roots and carefully worked in among them. More earth is then shovelled in and gently but firmly trodden down tightly, taking care to bruise the roots as little as possible in the process.
The alternative method, due to the experiments of Mr. S. U. Pickering1 upon the Duke of Bedford's Experimental Fruit Farm at Woburn, consists in digging out a similar hole; but instead of carefully working the soil in among the roots, as in the former method, the soil, after being-shovelled in a little at a time, is rammed down tightly with a heavy rammer, the last shovelful of soil only being put loosely upon the rammed and puddled soil beneath.
Careful experiments have shown that in the former method, even with the greatest care, many of the old roots die, and it is certain that practically all the delicate root tips are destroyed, and it is these root tips alone that serve to absorb plant food from the soil. On the other hand, new roots do not develop freely in the loose soil. Thus in the older method the roots neither absorb much nutriment from the soil nor do they hold the tree securely in the loose soil.
By Pickering's method, on the other hand, the majority of the finer roots are killed at once, but new roots quickly develop in the firm soil, and, as soon as they have grown outside the circle of puddled soil, begin to absorb nutriment to feed the tree. In the firm soil also the roots support the tree more effectually. This method, though apparently so ridiculous to the practical grower, is based upon the most accurate experiments. These have shown that in nearly all cases trees so planted grow much more rapidly than those planted upon orthodox lines.
After the trees have been planted they should be supported for the first few years of their life by being tied to a stake, which is set in the ground close to the tree. Care must be taken to see that the stake does not rub against the bark of the tree. For this reason the stake should be perfectly straight, and should be driven into the ground upon the side of the tree from which the strongest winds come; this is usually the west side. The best method of fixing the tree to the stake is by means of straw bands, which must be renewed at least once a year. If the trees are bound with string, over a padding of sacking, this operation of renewing the bonds is likely to be neglected, and the bark will be injured by the string.