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.
When a few years ago the Gardener's Monthly called attention to the fact that the Catalpa was one of the most rapid growing trees as well as giving very durable timber, planters were very incredulous. Since then facts have come to light showing it to be even more valuable than we supposed. We take the following from the proceedings of the Mont. Co. (O.) Horticultural Society:
"Prof. F. J. Burrill writes : From the experiments so far at the Illinois Industrial University, the catalpa is one of the cheapest, and easiest to grow, and one of the most rapidly growing of our forest trees, native or introduced. In one plantation, containing about twenty selected species, only the soft maple and white willow have in eight years time surpassed it. It has outgrown the White or American Elm, White Ash, European Larch, Osage Orange, Black Walnut, etc, upon the same ground, and under the same treatment. It is not attacked by any insect, nor does it appear to be subject to any disease whatever. Our trees were raised from seed planted in the spring of 1869, and were transplanted in 1871. When reset the tops were cut to the ground, because they were crooked and much branched, and were set two feet by four feet to induce erect growth, cultivated like corn three years, and plowed once each of the two following years, since which time nothing has been done to them except a very little pruning.
Next spring every other row will be removed and used for stakes in vineyards, fences, etc.
The average height is now sixteen feet three inches, and average diameter one foot from the ground three inches, some much larger. They are as straight and erect as can he desired, and grew in 1877 an average of thirty-three inches.
While collecting specimens of the trees of Illinois for the Centennial I found some boards sawed from a log two feet in diameter which was proven to have laid upon the ground one hundred years. One man had known the log to have thus lain during forty years of this time, and he had the information directly from another as to the previous sixty years. This was in the extreme southern portion of Illinois, about twelve miles from Cairo and the Missippi river bottoms. The wood is still sound and strong, and susceptible of a fair polish".
The Practical Farmer has a good word for the Catalpa, from the editor's personal experience of its value. He says it has an additional advantage over locust in being free from borers.