This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V21", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
1879 brought us here a late spring, and a summer characterized by a few hot days, and many cold nights when the mercury would fall below 50° under glass.
This produced on some vines a succession of fruiting and a Clairgeau tree on my premises has some very large matured pears below, and a small crop of fruit about a quarter grown on the upper branches. Crops generally have been satisfactory. Some buckwheat and corn got touched with the Fall frosts, and potatoes, very fine in some localities, were badly diseased and unsound in others. The Colorado beetle is much less dreaded than it was at first.
Summer fruits were very abundant in the market, furnishing at reasonable prices, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries, and the smaller wild fruits of the forest. Among the strawberries, Captain Jack, measuring four inches in circumference, and Colonel Cheeney measuring if taken the long way from six to eight inches, made their first appearance here, and certainly make a magnificent show on the table - while the market gardener may still cling to the Wilson, the producer for home use can certainly now do better in the way of selection as to what to grow.
The symmetrical top shape of the Captain Jack variety seems to conform more to one's ideal standard of form for the strawberry, than the coxcomb form of some of the larger kinds.
Last "Winter the mercury several times reached a point of depression when theoretically the peach blossoms should have been killed, but though many of the better kinds of this fruit were killed, the trees which survived were full of blossoms; some of those which perished, blossomed out well and set fruit, and then dried up seemingly from lack of sap circulation. The dryness of the winter winds, and not the severity of the cold apparently did the injury. Hardy seedlings on the hills, though late in maturing, are bending with fruit.
The Foster Peach bore with me for the first time, and came hardly up to its primitive reputation. The fruit measuring about eight inches in circumference, was of a bright yellow and red color, showy and juicy, but somewhat stringy and coarse.
With the great yield of last season, this should have been an off-year for this fruit, but our farmers at the Fairs make a very creditable show of all the leading varieties. Somewhat unevenly distributed, many of the trees are heavily freighted with fruit. The quantity would be amply sufficient were the apples all sound, but the codling moth smiles at the entomologist, and like the oil drillers goes on boring, irrespective of the final result on the market prices.
In common with many beginners, years ago I felt discouraged in trying to grow pears, I think now that patience and potash are the true essentials of success. Keep the limbs strong by occasional shortening in, accomplishing at the same time symmetry of form; wash the trunks twice a year with lime, or wood ashes, or a dilution of the potash of the shops, and the bark will be smooth, the growth vigorous, and the pear trees will be things of beauty, and a joy as long as they last. Blight will come sometimes despite all this, but the amateur does not need for family wants more than a dozen of well selected pear, and still fewer peach trees, and it is easy always to have a young tree coming on to supply the place of one that fails. Pear trees are often too prolific, and the fruit needs severe thinning, leaving no pears to come in contact or rub against each other. On a moderate sized Seckel Pear tree, last Spring, with me, from three to four out of every five pears were cut out soon after the fruit formed, yet even this seemingly thorough work was really not sufficient. One thousand and thirty-five Sectel pears by actual count were taken from this tree last month, leaving half a bushel of Lawrence pears on a top graft of the same.
Some of my Clairgeaus this year weigh twenty ounces, which is almost California size, while Duchesse with a full crop yields specimens of three-quarters of a pound, and Winter Nelis of half a pound, which is a good size for the latter. The Sheldon is one of our nicest pears, the fruit resolving itself into sugar and juice on being eaten. Beurre Giffard is one the earliest to mature, bears well, is fair in quality, and though not a sweet pear it is jucy; and the smaller sized Tyson which follows it, though not juicy is sweet and well worth a place even in a small collection. The fruit of the Lawrence as it grows here is longer in shape than the drawing in Downing represents it to be, and when well matured is juicy, melting, and sweet with a flavor distinct and peculiar of its own.
The season was rather short for grapes; we get wagon loads of well-colored Concords brought here from the Lake Erie region, but here the Concord did not mature as well as usual; with me Isabella, Iona, Crevel-ing, Massasoit, and Delaware ripened pretty well, the Creveling bearing very fully and ripening among the best.
I notice a late commendatory notice of the Telegraph grape. Here it fruited so thickly that the grapes as they enlarged would sometimes wedge each other from the stem, and I rejected it, classifying it among varieties that popular taste has outgrown. Allowance has however always to be made for results which come from varieties of soil and climate.
On the 4th of October we are still enjoying string beans, though we had a frost on the 26th of September, when the mercury touched 32°, and frosts on the 10th, 21st and 25th, with mercury ranging from 38° down to 35°.