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.
Being somewhat interested in the growing of this desirable fruit, both as dwarf and standard, and watching the successes and failures of fruit growers in this vicinity, and having read with much interest the different experiences of fruitgrowers, as discussed through your valuable journal, I thought, with your consent, I would state a few instances or peculiarities of the blight in this section. One of my neighbors has an orchard of about 200 standard pear trees, from 8 to 10 years set; soil a rich loam, underlaid with coble. The latter is from 3 to 4 feet under. The first 8 or 10 inches is a good loam in which small flatfish stone is pretty freely mingled, but after the first 8 or 10 inches it becomes a clean deep loam free from stone. The trees were set about 15 feet apart each way, and head formed 3 to 4 feet high. The ground has been carefully tilled with hoed crops, generally potatoes, but sometimes a part of it has been planted to corn. All have been pretty liberally manured with barnyard manure, and, as a matter of course, the trees have made a splendid growth. The sorts were mostly Bartlett, though some F. Beauty, B. Bosc, B. Clairgeau and Vicar were set. The Bartlett and F. Beauty have borne two or three nice crops, and the fruit was exceptionally fine.
In the year 1875 about one-fifth of the orchard was seeded down to clover, and as it become pretty well mixed with weeds, the whole was mown and placed around the trees in the last mentioned one-fifth for a mulch. In the Spring of 1876 the clover came on finely and made a large growth, and getting down early, and the season at that time being pretty dry, he concluded to leave it, thinking to keep the ground cool and moist. The Bartlett and F. Beauty were cropping pretty well at the time, but he noticed instead of the trees in the clover making a fine growth they grew but lightly, and the leaves turned a sickly color like ripening up, while the trees in the cultivated portion of the orchard grew finely. By the middle of August some of the trees in the clover portion showed patches of bark on the stems and larger branches, signs of dying, and turned black, while those standing in the cultivated portion showed no signs of the disease, and have not to this time, but have kept growing right along, and have borne a fine crop the past season, 1877. I should have said the F. Beauty are the only trees that suffered severely. The Beurre Bosc and Bartlett ripened up their leaves early, and made but small growth.
Now was this the fire blight, and if so, why did not the F. Beauty in the cultivated portion show it also ? Or did a portion of them, in both the cultivated and the sod, receive a slight freezing of the sap the previous Winter and those in the cultivated portion grow out of it; and those in the sod being checked by being robbed of some of the essentials by the crop of clover, and being already weakened by the blight and taxed or deprived by the clover could not throw it off, consequently the disease already seated, and the tree weakened, as before stated, gave way at that time ? Now was this the frozen sap blight or was it something else ? Would farther say none of the trees died fully, but are slowly recovering.
Another, but still different case. Another neighbor having a fine young orchard of Bartlett, F. Beauty, B. Bosc and Vicar about 8 or 10 years set, and the two former having borne a couple of crops or so - the trees having stood in sod for a few years, and not making satisfactory growth - he decided to plow the orchard, which he did in the Spring of 1877, and planted it to corn. The trees started up and made a nice growth, particularly the F. Beauty and Vicar. The former set a fair crop of fruit and carried it through finely. Shortly after the first cold snap, say about November 20th, the F. Beauty and Vicar showed signs of dying in part or whole, the larger branches became suddenly shriveled and partly dry. Sometimes the whole head, and again a part of the branches, and occasionally the stem in part or whole gave way, and up to this date the disease continues to make itself manifest; and while the larger branches and main stem become dry in part or whole, the ends of the branches are fresh and apparently healthy. Now, if this was caused by freezing of the sap, when was it frozen ? When it was first discovered the freezing had been very light.
Or did they receive their check the Winter previous, and being weakened by the crop of fruit and the dry weather, which prevailed at that time, cause them to give way at that late date; and if so why did the Vicar die also, having no fruit to tax it ? Did the crop of corn take from the trees what was essential to their lives, and if so, why did not the Bartlett and B. Bosc also die ? Trees of the F. Beauty, which matured a bushel or more of fine fruit in 1877, are in some cases now entirely dead.