This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Talk as we like about the proper culture of fruit trees, much more of success depends on geographical location than it usually gets credit for. The Apple will grow almost anywhere, but there are places where, for some inscrutable reason, it will do better than anywhere else. S. D. Willard has recently claimed for Western New York the distinguishing title of the " apple orchard of the world," and we believe he can justly claim it, unless some portion of Canada rises to demand a share in the distinction.
According to the recent observations of the writer, there is a belt of about fifty miles around the western end of Lake Ontario that is fully the equal of Western New York in ability to bring the apple tree to perfection. Still the apple orchards of Western New York are a sight to see, and those who have never seen them have missed one of the greatest sights in the United States. There is, however, one matter which will not fail to attract the observer's attention. Many of the leading agricultural papers of New York State insist strongly on the neces- sity to success in orchard culture that the apple ! orchard should be devoted solely to apple trees, If paradise be an orchard of apple trees, crops of grain, grass or vegetables constitute the great | serpent which is to creep within the gates, and upset all the good calculations of the good setter-out of the orchard trees. Strange to say the " cleanly cultivated surface " is a rare sight in a New York orchard. It would be no exaggeration to say that in some ten days of travel the editorial eye rested on hundreds of apple orchards, and but two were noted which had nothing but apple trees, and these were large trees, growing so closely together that nothing else had more than the shadow of a chance, under the umbrageous foliage.
Wheat, rye, barley, corn, grass and potatoes in the apple orchards are all but universal. There is no doubt but that, theoretically, an apple orchard ought to do better when it has all the food it requires alone to itself. If it has to share with other crops, what it ought alone to have, it should surely suffer. But it may be that sometimes there is food for it, and to spare. And again, there are often theoretical advantages, but practical gains in violating them. There is an old adage that people can " gain an inch but lose an ell," or, in more modern phrase, " save at the spigot and lose at the bung," and this may be the case in some of our orchard speculations. The orchardist of Western New York may get a few more apples, or somewhat larger trees by giving up the ground wholly to the fruits, but it is evident he thinks the heavy crops of other things he gets is more than a match for the loss. And moreover, the remarkably healthy trees did not seem to object seriously to their more agricultural neighbors' company. Cherries do well usually in most districts, but these seem the most at home in the higher lands of Pennsylvania. At elevations of 1,000 or 2,000 feet they are beautiful pictures, both in the health of the trees, and the wonderful abundance of luscious looking fruit.
The Peach does not seem to be planted to any great extent in what might be termed the best apple districts, but in the belt before referred to, on the western side of Lake Ontario, very large orchards were frequently seen. The whole region, however, seemed afflicted by the curl. Indeed it was prevalent to an extent never before met with in the writer's experience. The diseased leaves had here a brownish cast, which led at first to the impression that some new form of the curl fungus had been operating so destructively, but it was probably only the extent of the injury which gave more color to the results. If we were not mistaken the disease was almost wholly confined to trees which had borne at least one crop. Young trees seemed free from it.
These suggestions from recent experiences are thrown out as seasonable hints to those about planting orchards. There is no doubt much in the proper selection of varieties ; much in selecting healthy trees ; much in all that the term good culture implies. But with all this there is something in geographical location, and this something cannot be taught by any theo retical reasoning. It is a matter wholly to learn from experience. He, therefore, who would plant wisely should first find out what has al ready been done in his vicinity, and what the result has been. He will then have a better foundation for all success, than anything books can teach.