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.
A correspondent from Boston, says: "You must take a more rosy view of the number of trees that are going to be planted, than I can, if you think the price is going down. Unless time steps in, I expect to see their average all over the country, $2.00, within twenty-five years. The number used up annually, will soon be ten times as great as at present, both on account of increased mileage, and also, and more especially on account of increased traffic. I have been giving much study to this sleeper question, of late, in behalf of Western R. R. planting, and I think I begin to see daylight ahead".
And another says: "I would call your attention to the fact, that already we have over 85,000 miles of railroad track in the country, which, at the very lowest estimate, consume 34,000,000 sleepers every year, or the growth of something like 60,000 acres. Now how long do you suppose it will be, before the American people will plant annually 60,000 acres for sleepers? If they don't do it, the price will rise, and rise enormously, as you will live to see. But very soon now, either the railroads themselves, or companies of capitalists will go into tree planting on a large scale; and then we shall have an American forestry, for which so many people are setting out, without the slightest idea of what they want, or what forestry means".
[We are very glad that our remarks have called out these observations. There is nothing likely to be more profitable in the future than timber for railroad supplies, and it is well worth while to do what is done, understandingly. There is nothing truer as a principle in business, that the moment anything is found to be scarce and high priced, there is a rush to supply it that pulls down prices. It takes of course, longer to supply the deficiency in a short timber supply than almost anything else; but still a judicious selection of trees to suit soil and climate, would give our country all the sleepers wanted in ten years' growth. Railroad Companies are already looking forward, in many cases, to their timber supplies; and some of them are planting largely; and this will tend to cut down our friend's annual 60,000 acres. One of the leading Eastern railroad lines, as we are credibly informed, had this matter before it last year, and the appointment of some one to look after the interest talked of, and it only fell through because it appeared that the gentleman they had thought of to work up the matter was not disposed to accept the position for the honor of the thing. But we are quite sure that long before ties bring $2.00 each, such a thought will take some practical form.
And then there is this to be said, that the 60,000 acres annually cut over for ties, are not all cleared. An immense area of this acreage grows up again in timber, and especially is the case along the great Allegheny ridge. In Pennsylvania, nearly one-fourth of its whole area is in timber; and it always will be in timber because the land is too steep and rocky for anything else. To our knowledge there are many tracts of timber land that have already been cut over twice since the settlement of the State, and have now timber fit for the axe.
It has been the writer's good fortune to form some acquaintance with the forests of Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and other States, wherein there are now millions of acres of timber, the greater portion of which will not bring $5 per acre to-day. Long before ties bring $2 each would it be to the interest of railroad companies to carry tracks through this wooded region, if for no other purpose then to get from these arboreal mines the rich treasures they offer. And this region will always be in timber because, as already observed, it will yield nothing else.
We may again remark that there is now at once a fair field for profitable timber planting; but it must be done judiciously, and on sound business principles; and the most unbusiness principle one can adopt is to take up with rose colored views of enormous profits.
But we trust our own views will not prevent a free expression of those of correspondents. There is so little known of American Forestry practically, that the most anxious to learn of any of us know but little, and all light we can get will be very welcome, so that we know it is light and not mere phosphorescent glow.