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.
H. J. R., Riverside,Cal., writes:"As one of the oldest subscribers to your journal, I am tempted to trouble you with a few questions in relation to the cultivation of the Orange and Lemon. The growth of these fruits in orchards is one of the great industries of this portion of the Pacific coast. We have in this colony about 200,000 Orange and Lemon trees in orchard, and about 500,000 in nursery. The trees in orchard are planted about twenty feet apart. Nothing is grown between the trees, and the usual custom is to plough the orchard twice each season with a heavy two-horse plow, and cultivate with a diamond-tooth cultivator as often as may be necessary to keep down weeds or keep the surface, of the land loose and friable after each irrigation; as we cannot rely upon growing anything here without irrigation. It has seemed to me that this frequent deep ploughing would destroy the surface roots, and ultimately injure the trees; but in our oldest orchards, six years transplanted, we do not as yet detect any injury.
The seedling trees be»in to bear in six to eight years from the seed, according to the care and attention given. Budded trees bear in one to two years from the time of budding. So much for prelude, now from your experience in the cultivation of deciduous fruit trees, would you advise such frequent deep ploughing of the orchard after the trees are planted'? Will not budding dwarf the growth of the seedling tree ? Would it answer to seed the orchard to Alfalfa, and take an occasional crop of grass, and leave an occasional crop, say during the Winter, to rot upon the ground? We can cut the Alfalfa eight times a year, and on good fields it will yield two tons of dried hay per acre, but requires thorough irrigation to do this. Would like hear your opinion upon these points, and any suggestions you may be able to give in regard to the cultivation of the different varieties of the Citrus family".
[There is no general rule in regard to ploughing orchards. There are many cases where it is absolutely best to plough orchards, and others where one may absolutely refrain from ploughing them. Then there are cases which cannot be settled so decisively, but it is to be a balance of advantages or disadvantages whether we should plough or not. Ploughing or non-ploughing of orchards is just one of those cases in gardening where nothing but practical skill and experience of one's wants and one's surroundings on the spot can decide.
To giv an illustration: - There is in no case a doubt but that a tree has need of all its roots, and more if it could get them; so some people would say, we will sow the orchard in grass, and thus avoid ploughing, which must injure some roots. But the roots are of no use unless they have something to eat; and if we let the grass have the best of the food, there is no gain, and often a loss. In such cases, it is better to plough the ground and destroy the grass, though some roots are destroyed, because the roots left have at least all the food to themselves. But if we are so situated that we can give the grass all the food it wants, and the tree roots all the food they need, then it is far better not to plough the ground, because then you have not only all the roots to work for you, but some cool shade besides. It follows that in those parts of the world where little manure can be had for top-dressing, it would be the. height of absurdity to keep an orchard in grass, no matter how great the theoretical advantages might be. The surface should be ploughed to keep down grass and weeds so that the tree may have all the food there is in the soil.
All that we can say is, that as a principle of culture, those trees are the healthiest, the largest leaved, every way the best, which, with plenty of food, have their roots the least disturbed.
Budding or grafttng does not dwarfen Oranges or Lemons, unless a dwarf variety happens to be employed as a scion. - Ed. G. M.J