This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V20", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
April is a good planting month. There is not much art in planting trees, though it is often much of a mystery. N]ot to let the roots dry for an instant between taking up and planting, everybody knows, but everybody don't do it; in fact, everybody deceives himself. We have seen this distinguished individual leave the tops of trees exposed to the sun, with a mat or straw thrown over the roots, and think all was right - or heel in for a day or two, by just throwing a little dirt over the roots. This is a little good; but everybody's fault is, that although this may be ten minutes of good, he expects to get ten hours, or even ten day's value out of it. and thus he suffers more than if he had done nothing, because he forgets that the branches evaporate moisture from the roots in a dry wind, and the juices go from the roots through the branches, very nearly as well as directly to the air from the roots themselves. So with heeling in. The soil is thrown in lightly, or at most just"kicked" down. "It is only temporay," very few of the roots come in contact with the soil. They can draw in no moisture to supply the waste of evaporation, and thus they stay day after day - everybody satisfied because he sees the roots covered, really worse than if they had been exposed.
We have no doubt that more trees are lost from imperfect heeling in than from any other cause whatever. Of course, if the tops be covered as well as the roots, there is less waste of moisture and more chance of success.
This hint will help us in planting. That is, pound the soil in well about the fibres, so that they may be in close contact with it; or they cannot draw in the necessary moisture. Should the trees appear a little dry, or the roots badly mutilated in digging, or have few fibres, cut away the plant according to the severity of the injury. It is scarcely necessary to repeat that for this evaporation reason, it is best to plant trees when the ground is rather dry, because it then powders best in pounding, and gets well in about the roots."Wet ground plasters, and leaves large hollows in which roots cannot work.
Where evergreens can be benefited by pruning, April is a very good month to attempt it. If a tree is thin in foliage at the base, the top of the tree, leader and all, must be cut away. It makes no difference what the kind is, all will make new leaders after being cut back, if properly attended to. We make this remark because there is a prevalent idea that Pines will not stand this cutting. Of course the trimming should be done in a conical manner, so as to conform to the conical style of the evergreen tree. Sometimes an evergreen, especially a Pine, will rather turn up some of the ends of its side branches than push out another leader; when this is the case, cut these away, and a real leader will form the second year.
Evergreen hedges should be trimmed now, cutting them conically, so as to give light to the lowermost branches.
There is so much to be done in April, that the briefest hints must suffice. First, of course, we must prepare the ground for planting. Soil loosened two feet deep dries out less in Summer than soil one foot deep. Rich soil grows a tree larger in one year than a poor soil will in three. Under-drained soil is cooler in Summer than soil not under-drained. The feeding roots of trees come near the surface ; therefore, plant no deeper than necessary to keep the tree in the soil. If there be danger of its blowing over, stake it, but don't plant deep. One stake set at an angle is as good as two set perpendicular. Straw or mat set round the tree keeps the bark from rubbing. Large stones placed around a transplanted tree are often better than a stake. They keep the soil' moist, admit the air, and encourage surface roots. Shorten the shoots at transplanting. This induces growth, and growth produces roots; and with new roots your tree is safe for another season. Unpruned trees produce leaves, but little growth, and less new roots.
Unless inside of a round ring, or circular walk, don't plant trees or shrubs in formal clumps. They are abominations in the eyes of persons of taste. Meaningless irregularities form the opposite extreme. Remember, " art is nature better understood".