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.
We do not know that under the head of Seasonable Hints we could do better than repeat what we have once said before, that we feel that the advice constantly given to subsoil and under-drain, and manure to the extent of hundreds of dollars per acre is too costly to follow, and of little use after it is taken. If we were going to prepare a piece of ground for an orchard, we should manure it heavily and put in a crop of potatoes; then in October manure again lightly and put in rye. On this, in April, we should sow red clover. The rye off, we should then consider it ready to plant trees. For apples, pears, plums or cherries, we should mark out the rows ten feet apart, and for the trees ten feet from each other. This will be twice as thick as they will be required when full grown, but they grow much better when thick together; and they will bear more than enough fruit to pay for the room they occupy, before the time comes to cut every other one away. We say the rows ten feet apart, but every fourth row should be twelve feet to afford room to get between the blocks with a cart.
Plant as early in October as possible, but it can be continued until the approach of frost. To plant, a hole can be dug in the stubble just large enough to hold the roots without cramping them. We should tread in the soil and trim in the head very severely. The next spring we should just break the crust formed by the winter rains about the tree, and then leave everything to grow as it might. The clover will be ready to cut in June or July. The twelve feet rows may be done by machinery, the rest by hand. Hay enough will be made to pay for all the labor in one year and a little more. After the hay has been hauled off bring back some rich earth of any kind, and spread about a quarter or half an inch thick over the surface of the ground disturbed in making the hole. This will keep the grass from growing very strong just over the roots. Keep on this way annually, every two or three years giving the whole surface of the orchard a top dressing for the sake of the grass, and it will be found to be the most profitable way of making the orchard ground pay for itself, until the fruit crops come in, that one can adopt. The trees also will be models of health and vigor, and when they commence to bear will do so regularly and abundantly.
This is an epitome of what the Gardener's Monthly has taught, opposed as it has been by the excellent men of the old school of culture. No one who follows it will ever abandon it for any other. It is costless comparatively, from the first to the last; and pays its way at every step.
The dwarfer fruit trees we would plant on the same system, but six instead of ten feet apart. Few soils are too wet for fruit trees. Only in wet soils plant on the surface, and throw up the earth over them from between so as to make a ditch or furrow to carry away the surface water. On the plan of annual surface dressing which we have outlined, the feeding roots will thus always keep above the level of standing water; and when they can do this it will not hurt the trees even though the tap roots are immersed in water for a half year.
Now, there are some parts of the country where the soil is cool, other parts where manures for top dressing are scarce, others where vegetables among trees would be very profitable in comparison with a crop of hay, or perhaps occasionally some very good reason why the outlines here sketched out should be departed from. Successful fruit culture does not consist in following any person's plan, but in having judgment enough to make a good rule bend to suit the circumstances about one, or the special object desired.
Celery as it grows will require earthing up, and Endive successively blanched; but the main business of the month will be preparations for housing the root crops for the winter. Beets are generally the first thing attended to, they being the most easily injured by frost; carrots salsify and parsnips following. The latter are never really good until they have been well frozen; and many leave them entirely in the ground, taking them up as wanted for use. We prefer taking them all up and packing them in sand or half dried loam, in a shed or cellar, which may be kept just above freezing point; yet the cooler the better. If suffered to be in heaps they heat and soon rot. In the same situation Endive and Cape Brocoli may be preserved to the end of the year; they are taken up with a small quantity of earth adhering to them, and placed side by-side together. Tomatoes, if dug up also, and suspended, roots upward, in such a situation will keep good a long time; but this must be done before the least frost has touched them. It is a wise plan to sow a little more Early York Cabbage early in the month, as in fine mild winters the September sowing grows too forward when protected. A very slight protection is better for them than any elaborate affair, the sun principally injuring them.
The same remarks apply to Lettuce intended to be kept over winter for spring use, though the sun is less destructive to them than to the cabbage. But many good growers who have no interest in being extra early, do not sow early cabbage till Spring.