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.
The communications from Mr. Downing and others in the August and September numbers have moved me to add my mite to the - confusion, shall I say? that dominates the Peach question. But out of chaos comes order, and possibly I can facilitate that result a little in the present instance. If the illustration is allowable, I would suggest that this has proved to be an eclipse year of the Peach, giving us very unusual facilities for stuyding its coronal phenomena. I mean by this that its growth and general behavior have been so far abnormal as to give us views of some of its characteristics much clearer than the oldest of us, perhaps, ever had before.
In the August number you say: " It is evident that comparative ripening is, in some respects, an unknown quantity." I quote this to add that not only is it the literal truth, but more modestly put than the facts in my own knowledge, as well as those you have published require. I first began to notice these facts more closely, June 19th. Being in town, I was solicited by some who had purchased trees of my own seedling, the Alexander, to see the Burns Peach, so-called, which had caused some stir by a few ripe specimens, their own showing no signs of ripening soon. Had they got spurious trees, or were they so far distanced by a new competitor? It had every appearance of an Alexander except its perfect adhesion to the pit, which led me to think it must be different. On coming home, I began to investigate, and this is the result. I found larger specimens by more than one inch in circumference, some of them ripe, but all with the same tenacious hold upon the stone. This was characteristic of all the early Peaches I had from first to last, not excepting the Beatrice, and including some other early seedlings of mine, which were completely free when they fruited before.
In one row, were about two dozen Alexander trees, some of them in the condition stated, and some with fruit yet in the green stage, and which, according to my best recollection, did not ripen for some two weeks subsequently. These trees were more or less mixed together, so that soil and situation cannot possibly account for the difference. I have two Amsden trees, twenty-four feet apart, one of which ripened its fruit at least a week, I believe, before the other.
To present and enforce a point right here, which I think worthy of a good deal of thought, I will select of my Alexander trees, from each extreme, the earliest and latest. If one of the two stocks used had carried a bud of the Amsden, Honeywell, or Early Canada, which Mr. Downing thinks about alike in earliness, and had behaved in all other respects as at present, and I had had no other tree of either kind in bearing by which to correct the error, it is plain that one or the other would have commended itself to me over its rival, not only by the difference in period, two weeks or more, but by the superior size of its fruit.
Another important fact should here be stated. The most vigorous trees, those making the most wood growth, bore the latest and smallest fruit, and, so far as I am able to say, in proportion to that vigor. Can borers alone be responsible for all this difference, or does the character of the stock contribute its share; or should some other, or additional element be sought for ?
I have spoken of ripe Peaches; I ought to correct this by saying, that no such phenomenon as legitimate ripening, particularly of the early Peaches, occured here this year to my knowledge. As early as Febuary the buds began to swell freely, growing and stopping in accordance with the alternations of heat and cold, till they finally softened, preparatory to rotting an entire month in advance of the usual period. The result was one side hard, the center tough and tenacious, and the whole unpalatable and unwholesome. Another result was unsually large fruit. A Hale seedling, a genuine cling, had during three previous years produced small fruit invariably, less than six inches, I judge. This year its entire crop of five Peaches measured from nine and one-quarter to nine and three-quarter inches. These, ripening later, were quite good, though not so sweet as formerly.