This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V22", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
An excellent account of some of the good work being done in American Forestry appeared recently in the Boston Herald, and which we give our readers below. We might take exception to some of the ideas advanced, but on the whole, the paper will meet with general approval. We may, however, note there is no actual necessity for the feeling that when a forest is planted it is only for one's children, for there is no need of waiting till one is past middle age before making profit from a forest. We take the ground that a judiciously managed forest may come into profit in ten years: and by profit we mean that it shall yield a handsome sum over all expenses, interest on capital invested included.
" There are probably few who better appreciate the advantages of neighboring forests than the prairie farmer of the West, whose lone dwelling stands exposed, almost as much as a ship at sea, to the full, fierce sweep of the winds that blow across the wide, level expanse, with nothing in their track to break their force. In mid-winter, while his house is half buried in the snow drifts and seems but a mound in the blank waste, he sits by his corn-burning fire and thinks how fine and comfortable it would be if, twenty or thirty years before, when he first settled there, he had only planted a few of his hundreds of broad acres with trees, and his home now lay warm and calm on the leeward side of a fine piece of woodland as undisturbed by the frigid northwester as if it were not blowing. His gardens, too, would not be parched and baked to death by the first dry wind of summer, and his fruit not shaken from the boughs nor blasted. And, reflecting on the high price of lumber, and the scarcity of fuel that compelled him to burn his grain, he would see what a profitable investment it would have been.
A few had the forethought to take such a course, and its wisdom is now so manifest that throughout the prairie States there is a universal interest in the subject of tree-planting, although its importance, as a means of affording shelter and supplying the rapidly increasing population with fuel, timber, etc., has been felt by many since their first settlement. By those able to look ahead to the future development of these States since the enormous growth of the railroad system there, consuming as it does every year an immense number of ties, etc., the necessity has been more keenly felt. The new railroads built in the treeless States in 1879 required over ten million ties in their construction. It will be seen that an immense consumption of forests is caused by railroads alone. Before the great panic of 1873, several attempts at tree-planting had been made by railroad companies, but none were successful, owing to bad management, an improper selection of trees, neglect and fire, the result of the trees being planted too near the line of the railroads. But, lately, an earnest has been given of the great value of the Harvard Arboretum at West Roxbury to the material interests of the country.
Within the last two years, under the inspiration of that institution, more systematic attempts at railroad tree-planting have been made in Kansas by the Fort Scott & Gulf Railroad Company, several hundred acres having already been planted; and, during the present winter, a Boston capitalist has contracted for the planting of 560 acres of prairie land in eastern Kansas. This contract is made with Messrs. Robert Douglas & Sons, of Waukegan, 111., the largest and most successful raisers of forest-tree seedlings in the United States, and is peculiar and novel in its provisions. They agree, at a certain price per acre, - which would differ, of course, with different conditions and location, - to break and plow the land, prepare it for planting, plant not less than 2720 trees to the acre, and cultivate these until they shade the ground and so require no further cultivation, to keep down the weeds and strong natural grasses - the great drawback to all prairie tree-planting. At the end of this time, probably in three or four years from the time of planting, the plantation will be delivered over to the owner, one cent a tree being deducted from the final payment for every tree less than 2000 to the acre delivered, only trees at least six feet high at the time of delivery being counted.
The advantage of this plan, which is the one also adopted by the Fort Scott Railroad, is that the trees will be carefully planted and attended to by experienced men, for whose interest it will be to use the best plants, and to cultivate and care for them in the best manner, so as to be able to deliver the greatest number of trees in the shortest possible time, that they may get quick returns for the money invested in plants, planting, etc. Any plantation in which the trees are six feet high, and in which the ground is so shaded that weeds and stray natural grasses cannot grow, is safe, and will re- quire no further attention until the time comes for thinning out the trees for fence posts, etc. The plan relieves the owner of the great risk always attending the early years of a plantation, and makes his investment practically safe. This plantation of 560 acres is to consist of 300 acres of the western catalpa, 200 acres of ailanthus, and 60 acres which will serve as an experimental ground on which will be tested trees of several varieties, to be selected by the director of the Harvard Arboretum, Prof. Sargent. The western catalpa, a native of the low lands bordering the lower Ohio, and the banks of the Mississippi in Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee, is a rapidly-growing tree, easily cultivated, and producing timber, which, although soft, is almost indestructible when placed in the ground, and, therefore, of the greatest value for fence-posts, railway ties and similar uses.
The ailanthus will grow with great rapidity anywhere, where the climate is not too cold for it, and in spite of its wonderfully quick growth, produces hard, heavy timber valuable for fuel, ties, cabinet work, or almost every purpose for which wood is used.
" It is believed that this plantation will soon lead to the formation of others, both by the railroad companies and by individuals, or corporations chartered to plant and own timber lands in the prairie States. Eventually, a great deal of capital will be invested in this way. The returns will be slow, and a man investing thus should consider that he is doing it for his children. But when the returns do come they will be enormous, even at the present prices of lumber, and it must be remembered that, before a crop of trees planted now can be harvested, the price of ties and other forest products will be more than doubled in the Western States. An encouraging fact, and one which shows that public attention is being directed to the importance of providing for the future demand of such things is, that the Iron Mountain Railroad Company, which runs for hundreds of miles through a heavily timbered region, and possesses in its own lands some of the finest white oak on the continent, has also made a contract with the Messrs. Douglas to plant near Charleston, Mo., 100 acres of western catalpa as an experiment.
They do this because catalpa ties have stood on their road entirely unaffected by decay during the last twelve years, and because this tree is so valued by the farmers for fence posts that it is already practically exterminated in Missouri, and so not to be procured for ties, although the superintendent of the railroad is willing to pay three times as much as for the best white oak ties. If the planting of trees is good policy for a railroad running through a heavily timbered country like Missouri and Arkansas, it will certainly pay for roads in Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota and Kansas to do the same. Messrs. Douglas have adopted another important measure at the instigation of the director of the Arboretum, in order to facilitate the planting of trees by farmers and others of small means who have always found it difficult to procure a few trees on reasonable terms, is the sending out of dollar packages by mail, post-paid, and containing each from seventy-five to one hundred forest trees. There is little profit in this branch of the business directly, as the postage and the cost of packing amounts to about fifty cents, but it helps foster a taste for tree planting, and gets people into the habit of planting a few trees every year.
They will gradually become imbued with the desire to plant, and so will send larger orders. At any rate, whether there is, or is not, profit to the grower, people are thus enabled to obtain the best trees at the lowest rates and in small quantities. It is only necessary to send a dollar to the Messrs. Douglas, and the sender will receive by mail a package of 100 trees, of any kind named in their circular, which explains this peculiar feature. The choice of trees include the catalpa and ailanthus, already mentioned, the white ash, Scotch pine and many other valuable woods. The experiment was made last year for the first time, and 75,000 trees were sent out in this way, of which not a single one, it is said, failed to reach its destination in perfect condition. The plan was so successful that this year it is expected that several million trees will thus be distributed over the country, not only all over the New England and Western States, out in large quantities in Texas, New Mexico, California, Oregon and Utah. The advantage is very great to small farmers living in remote portions of the country where freight and express charges are excessive, and tree-planting cannot fail to be encouraged among a class of men who will be greatly benefited by it, and who, without such a system, would be practically outside the possibility of procuring valuable trees.
If every farmer in this country would consider it a part of his routine work to plant annually 100 trees, the question of the future timber supply of the United States would be greatly simplified, and this plan puts it within the reach of all to do so if they choose.
"The importance of tree planting is now recog-nized by several of the Western States, which offer bounties for the best lots of woodland, and exempt land planted with trees from taxation for a considerable term of years. In this state, the Massachusetts Society for the Promotion of Agriculture offers fine premiums for the ibest acres of woodland of various kinds and stages of growth.
"The secretary of the Connecticut State board of education, Hon. B. G. Northrop, who is an enthusiastic arboriculturist, in stating that in Connecticut, in the last ten years, over $300,000 have been expended annually in building and repairing school-houses, says: " 'Wise and necessary, as was this expenditure, had one hundredth part of this sum been spent annually in planting trees and adorning the school-grounds, a still better result would have been accomplished in cultivating the tastes of our youth, leading them to study and admire our noble trees, and realize that they are the grandest and most beautiful products of nature, and form the finest drapery that adorns this earth in all lands. Thus taught, they will wish to plant and protect trees, and find in their own happy experience that there is a peculiar pleasure in their parentage, whether forest, fruit or ornamental - a pleasure that never cloys, but grows with their growth. Such offspring they will watch with pride, as every year new beauties appear. Like grateful children, they bring rich filial returns, and compensate a thousand-fold for the trouble they cost.
This love of trees early implanted in the school and fostered in the home, will be sure to make our youth practical arborists.'"