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.
Of the many new points brought out by the Gardener's Monthly, through its excellent contributors at different times, few have been of more practical value than that trees may live through heavy trials, and yet have their vital powers so reduced as to be badly fitted to stand other trials. To all appearances a tree may be in perfect health and in the best apparent condition, and yet it will easily suffer afterwards when the conditions are not favorable. Hence after severe winters or severe summers, we have an unusual mortality among transplanted trees. Very often we have severe winters or severe summers after transplanting, and yet the general result seems satisfactory, while at other times, though the seasons succeeding the planting seem favorable, there are numberless losses for which we seem unable to account. At least we could not once account for these things; but we now know, that the preceding season has as much to do with success as the one which follows transplanting.
In the light of these facts we may anticipate a very poor season for transplanting this year. The immense drouth must have sorely tried the constitutions of many young fruit trees. It will be impossible for the seller to tell whether the tree has suffered or not. The little thing we call vital power is hidden from the human eye. But it is well for both purchaser and seller to remember the fact, that the tree has possibly lost some of its vital power by the summer's heat, and that a little extra precaution to insure success will not be wholly thrown away. One of the best precautions will be pruning, not cutting away indiscriminately all sorts of wood, but thinning out the shoots which seem the weakest, and leaving the full, fat, solid looking shoots to stand. To be forewarned is to be forearmed, and if we know the chances to be unfavorable, we must do the best to help the vital power when the tree comes into our hands.
Established orchards, on thin or impoverished soil may be renovated in the following manner: If a tree have been planted say fifteen years, and attained the size we might expect in time, get, say ten feet from the trunk, and dig a circle two feet deep all around it, and fill in with a good compost; the effect the next season will be quite marked. If the tree is older or younger, the distance to start with the circle from the trunk will of course be proportionate. A top-dressing will also be of great assistance, as well as a vigorous pruning out of all weak or stunted branches. Moss and old bark should be also scraped off, and if the trunk and main branches can be washed with a mixture of sulphur and soft soap, much advantage will follow. Old decayed bark on fruit trees is always a sign of a want of vigor. When a tree is growing thriftily it cracks this old bark so freely, as to make it easily fall off; but when the tree is weak and enfeebled, the bark often becomes indurated before it has got cracked and in this state the tree becomes what the gardeners call " hide bound," and artificial means must be afforded to aid the tree to recover. In the cherry and plum trees this is easily done, by making longitudinal incisions through the bark with a sharp knife.
In the peach and apricot also, this process has been employed with advantage, in spite of the learned theories which have attempted to show up the absurdity of the practice. Once in a while a tree may suffer from the artificial slitting of the bark, as it will from any other good practice, but careful observation extending over years, in many localities, shows the general practice to be a very good one.
Sometimes fruit trees are unproductive from other causes than poverty of the soil, or neglect of the orchardist. They often grow too luxuriantly to bear well. In this case root-pruning is very effectual, and is performed by digging a circle around the tree, with the circle made close to the trunk of the tree. A fifteen year old tree, for instance, may be encircled at five feet from the trunk. No rule can be laid down for this; judgment must be exeicised. If cut too close, the tree may be stunted for years, and if too far, it will not be effective. The aim should be to reduce the roots about one-third.
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 can 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 Cab. bage 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.
Forcing vegetables, wherever the least command of heat can be had, is the most interesting and useful part of gardening. It is not by any means what it is often considered, an operation by which you pay a dollar for every mouthful. The Asparagus, Sea Kale, Lettuce, Radish and Cauliflower can be had for months earlier than in the open ground, wherever a regular temperature of 55° can be obtained, with, of course, the proper amount of air, moisture, etc. Asparagus can be had under a greenhouse stage, though of course the tops will not be so green, nor will it be much else but indifferent under such circumstances, as it would be in the full light.
Radishes require an abundance of air, and Lettuce light. Cauliflowers, if kept for some months with all the light and air possible, at a temperature of 50° or 55°, may have it gradually raised to 60° or 65°, and even 70°,and thus come into use in February, when there is no vegetable more desirable.
Cucumbers, Tomatoes and Beans require a temperature of at least 65° to begin with. If a temperature of 70° can be maintained in the coldest weather, a few of these might be sown by the end of the month, which will produce some very acceptable dishes about New Year's day. Rhubarb, if carefully taken up at the fall of the leaf and potted, or put in boxes, will also come forward well if put under the stage in a house of the last temperature.