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.
In this part of the South, the fruit crop of the season just closed affords a subject for reflection and thought that is worth looking into. Not that there can be any remedy, as the territory affected is so extensive, but a knowledge of the probable cause of the failure may do some good.
In the early spring it was noticeable that there were some localities, particularly in low ground, where the peach trees failed to bloom, and the trees looked as though they were dead, not a single bloom appearing on any of them, while on higher grounds on either side within a short dis-tance all the trees were in full bloom.
A strip of this kind running parallel with, and east of Missionary Ridge, in Tennessee, extended quite a distance into Georgia. This was our first trouble.
Subsequently, or on the first day of April, there was a heavy snow storm, the wind blowing from the north-west; the weather after it remained was very cold for several days. At this date the fruit trees were in full bloom. It was a beautiful sight, but to the fruit-grower a very unwelcome one.
The cold wave seemed to take a south-east course, its eastern edge being about the line of the Nashville & Chattanooga and Western & Atlantic Railroads, resulting in the almost total destruction of the fruit crop of Alabama and that portion of Georgia west of said line, and south of Atlanta. Apples, pears and peaches all fared alike, the pears probably came off a little the best.
At Calera, Alabama, there are a few pear orchards that are well cared for; they bore probably one-tenth of a crop of defective fruit, and this was the best that could probably be produced in the State.
During the summer I visited several counties of North-east Georgia, east of the Western & Atlantic Railroad and north of Atlanta, and the fruit crop there was immense. I saw hundreds of peach trees with every main limb broken down with the very heavy load of fruit on them. The apple trees were equally well loaded, but they were able to sustain the weight.
It must be remembered that the trees have no care whatever, never having been pruned to make them able to sustain the weight of the fruit. The people said this was the first crop they had seen in four years.
East Tennessee, which also escaped the cold wave, has had the best fruit crop it has had for some years. The people of that section dried the most of their fruit, which brought them a very good price, while the people of Georgia, with very few exceptions, saved but very little of it, the hogs coming in for the largest share. Some of the finest was hauled to the railroads, where the parties lived adjacent to them, but hardly any of it was shipped off. Most of the peaches (being grown on seedling trees) were small and the owners did not know how to dispose of them.
In several localities I noticed that the Shockley apple trees looked very badly rusted, the leaves dropping off; many of them were dead outright, while other trees in the same orchard looked green and healthy. I fear the days of the Shockley - in the South at least - are numbered. It promised to be the best late apple ever introduced in the South, and I have seen some very fine ones this fall; but from the way the trees are decaying in various places that I have seen, even before the dry weather set in, I would not plant another tree of it, or advise any of my friends to do so.