This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V23", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
One of the troubles of a beginner in fruit growing is to decide on what varieties to plant. It is just here that no writer of seasonable hints can help him. Varieties which do well in one place will not in another, so that the best kinds are matters of actual experience. It is wise to consult with some fruit grower in the vicinity who has already had experience. But, of course, this will not hold good as to new kinds which few have tried. Somebody has to begin. It is perhaps better to let those make the trial who have already had some experience. They have an instinctive idea as to what "may do," and hence rarely make serious mistakes. But after all there has been this knowledge gained of late years, that fruits are not near as local in their preferences as they were once supposed to be. That they are tender, or do not do well in some places, often arises more from diseased or weakened plants being used than from constitutional incompetence. It was in this way it once came to be believed that only two or three varieties of grapes could be grown in the United States. "Plant only the Concord" came to be an universal cry.
Now we know that the steam hatched plants in some established houses which had an immense grape trade, scattered plants with Phylloxera on the roots over the whole country. It was this minute insect, and not the "tender kind," which rendered the grape diseased. Now since grape vines are grown from the start in the open air, and the little pest has not the chance to get everywhere distributed, almost any native kind can be fairly grown. It is the same with the raspberry, strawberry and blackberry. It is minute insects or small parasitic plants which weaken their growth, and these are carried from place to place until finally the whole variety is pronounced "tender" or "worthless;" and it is this fact which gives a necessity for raising new varieties, as it takes some time for these little foes to get on roots, which start clear of them as a seedling does. It is strange how a disease sticks to a variety after it once gets hold. Let a strawberry bed once have spotted leaves, and it is not safe to take runners from those beds. If the same kinds are desired, better get them from some one who can warrant them free from spot.
If this cannot be done, it is time to raise a new kind from seed.
In getting ready for spring vegetables do not fear to pile on the manure. It is the rank rich growth which gives the agreeable tenderness to them, and without an abundance of manure this cannot be done. Deep soil is also a great element of success. Though we do not favor sub-soiling and underdraining for fruit trees, we regard it as very profitable in vegetable growing.
Asparagus beds may have the soil raked off them a little, if it was thrown up from the alleyway in the fall. It allows the sun to get to the roots earlier, and the crop is forwarded thereby. If the beds are poor, they may have a dressing of guano, or superphosphate, which has been found very beneficial to this crop. It has become almost a stereotyped recommendation to have "salt applied," but there is a good deal of the humbug about it. In dry, sandy soils it does a little good, and a little in whatever manure is applied is acceptable to them, but more has been made of the salt theory with Asparagus than it deserves. Asparagus beds may be got ready as soon as the ground is sufficiently dry to admit of working. A deep soil is all-important; two feet, at least, and a situation should be chosen that is warm, and yet not too dry. The roots should be set about four inches under the surface, twenty inches or two feet from each other, and the rows eighteen or twenty inches apart. Large, fine Asparagus cannot be obtained by crowding the plants; strong two and three year old plants are the best; although in good, rich soil, one year old plants will often bear a good crop the year after planting. The length of time Asparagus requires to come into bearing depends much on the soil.
It is useless to attempt raising it in poor ground.
This is generally supposed to be the pruning season. Orchard trees generally get too much pruning. In young trees only thin out so as not to have the main leaders crossing or interfering with one another. Or when a few shoots grow much stronger than the rest, cut these away. Insist on all the branches in young trees growing only on a perfect equality. On older trees which have been in bearing a number of years, it will often benefit to cut away a large portion of the bearing limbs. By a long series of bearings, branches will often get bark bound and stunted, preventing the free passage of the sap to the leaves. In such cases the sap seems to revenge itself by forcing out vigorous young shoots a long way down from the top of the tree. It is down to these vigorous young shoots that we would cut the bearing branches away. One must use his own judgment as to the advisability of this. If the tree bears as fine and luscious fruit as ever of course no such severe work need be done, but if not, then now is the time.