This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V18", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
O. M., Ottumwa, Iowa, writes: "I am interested in plum growing, but am at a loss to know how to proceed, or what plan to adopt, and appeal to you for advice. This subject has not been tried much in this country, and I am desirous of learning the best plans. As you are aware, the great obstacle is the curculio, and this is what troubles me. I have been thinking of a plan on which I ask your opinion, viz., to plant an orchard, cultivate the ground, sow lettuce under the trees,' then with a tight fence, and furnished with a pond of water, pasture ducks and geese thereon. This idea is original with me, and if you will be so kind as to favor me with your opinion, also any other ideas or hints which might be useful, I will submit the same to our State Horticultural Society, and thus, no doubt, be a source of valuable information to others also."
[This letter reads as if a reply was desired by letter; but, as we often get similar requests, we take occasion to say that we have no time to write private letters on public topics, but are always willing to speak of them through these columns. The members of the Iowa State Horticultural Society are readers of our magazine, and it will do the same good, and probably interest numbers of others, by being answered here.
That plum growing would be profitable, if successful, is true. We may say it is profitable where successful, for many succeed in keeping clear of the curculio, and that is almost the only serious obstacle. The insects are kept down by jarring the trees, when the insects fall into sheets and are destroyed. Ellwanger & Barry have a snag made by sawing off a branch a few inches from the main stem. They hammer on this, and thus the bark is saved from bruising. Dr. Hull had a sort of wheelbarrow, with a sheet spread on a frame, and a pad so fixed as to save the bark when the barrow was run forcibly against the tree. Both these methods of jarring are followed by considerable fruit.
Keeping trees in chicken yards has been tried with some, but not great, success. It cannot be applied on a very large scale, and only to a score or so of trees. The curculio is hard to catch, even by one of the feathered tribe. Still sometimes it is very successful. One of our subscribers in Philadelphia tells us that a half dozen trees in a chicken yard are every year laden with plums. We suppose, in this case, the chickens destroy the curculio.
This is all we can say of our correspondent's proposition from experience. It may do, but it is a matter wholly to be worked out by an experiment. It is worth the trial, as good plums are as profitable as any fruit can be. - Ed. G. M.]