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.
Many like to get fruit trees in the fall, heel them in, and so have them ready for the early spring season. It is an excellent idea in many respects. The wounds granulate, and are ready to make new growth as soon as the spring weather comes. Again, when we get trees in the spring, they are often delayed, or we are delayed in setting them out, and spring is nearly over before the work is done. Then the wounds have not time to heal, and new fibres come before the demand for moisture, as the warm weather proves too much and the plant dies.
All this is obviated by having the plants on hand. But nothing is free from objection. As usually done, the fall-procured trees are put in loosely, slanting, and many roots are not in contact with the soil. They do not heal,but dry up, and this is a great injury. Now it should be remembered that it is the drying up of the stems by cold, frosty winds, and not so much low temperature, that injures fall planted trees. The trees should, therefore, be set together as thickly as possible, in a square block, in a sheltered place, the earth pounded in as tightly as possible, and remain there till ready for them in spring. The sheltered place keeps the winds away; the planting thick in a square block, keeps the winds from whistling through the branches, and the pounding of the earth gives every root a chance to heal and to work. A couple of men can put in several hundred a day in this way; and though it took more time, it would be time well spent.
The winter season is a very important one in the management of fruit trees. Pruning is especially important. Some believe that if the foundation of a tree be properly laid in youth, there will be no necessity to prune an adult tree. This does not accord with the writer's experience. An intelligent examination, both with the saw and good knife in hand, should be made every winter. Real good, large, healthy leaves in every part of a tree is of vast importance, and these cannot be had when branches are close together, smothering one another.
It should always be remembered in pruning that we want sound, healthy wood to make sound growth, and yet nothing is more common than to see in dwarf pears, especially, the healthy, vigorous shoots shortened back, and loads of weak fruit-spurs left to make the next season's growth! Thinning out, not shortening back, is what such trees require.
Pruning is very important, but above all, for both apple and pear orchards, we bespeak a liberal dressing - a top dressing of something or another. If no manure is to be had, even common road sand will be found to have a beneficial influence. Poverty of the surface soil is oftener a cause of fruit failure than "grass," "change of climate," or many imaginable ills brought up from some ghostly cavern of thought to cover up the poverty of pocket or of industrial inclinations.
The treatment of the bark of fruit trees is growing in importance with practical fruit growers. There is no doubt but that Dr. Warder, Mr. Barry and other leaders in the practical knowledge of fruit culture, are entirely correct in the ideas they have publicly expressed, that a tree perfectly healthy will throw off its useless bark in its own way, in its own proper time, without any aid but nature. Unfortunately our methods of culture are too often against nature, and it is rare to find trees so thoroughly vigorous and healthy that they can dispense with the fostering hand of man. We have, therefore, great faith in bark treatment as an aid in successful orchard culture. An unusual burst of hot sun in summer, poor soil, attacks of scale or other insects will often harden the smooth bark of trees, so that the new growth of wood and bark the following season cannot expand properly. The branch is practically enclosed in an iron band. In this case slitting up the bark is a speedy and positive remedy. So with the rough bark, if it do not scale off easily and rapidly, help it to scale by rubbing or washing it off.
The practical old fellows, both in the old world and the new, have found this to be good practice by hard-headed experience, and without having the advantage of reading an article like this. In every collection of good orchard tools and implements are found contrivances for rubbing off useless bark. Annexed is a wire-glove, used in Germany for taking off the rough bark of the grape vine.
It is little use to attempt to grow vegetables well, unless the soil is well treated. They may be and are grown on thin soils, not only at a great expense fur manure, but at a great risk of dying out in a dry season, and of having the roots rotted out in a wet one. In these parts where the frost has not yet been severe enough to injure the celery crop, it may have another earthing up. Care must be exercised in the operation not to let the earth get into the hearts of the plants, or they will be liable to rot. Where the plant has evidently finished its growth for the season, measures should be taken to preserve it through the winter. For family use, it is probably as well to let it stay where it is growing, covering the soil with leaves, litter or manure, to keep out the frost, so that it can be taken up as wanted. When large quantities are frequently required, it is better to take it up and put it in a smaller compass, still protecting it in any way that may be readily accessible. It always keeps best in the natural soil, where it is cool and moist and free from frost, and whatever mode of protection is resorted to, these facts should be kept in view. Beets, turnips, and other root crops, will also require protection.
They are best divested of their foliage and packed in layers of sand in a cool cellar. Parsnips are best left in the soil as long as possible. If any are wanted for late spring use, they may be left out to freeze in the soil, and will be much improved thereby. Cabbage is preserved in a variety of ways. If a few dozen only, they may be hung up by the roots in a cool cellar or buried in the soil, heads downward, to keep out the rain, or laid on their sides as thickly as they can be placed, nearly covered with soil, and then completely covered with corn stalks, litter, or any protecting material. The main object in protecting all these kinds of vegetables is to prevent their growth by keeping them as cool as possible, and to prevent shrivelling by keeping them moist. Cabbage plants, lettuce and spinach sown la,st September, will require a slight protection. This is usually done by scattering straw loosely over. The intention is principally to check the frequent thawings which draw the plants out of the ground.
In making new vegetable gardens, a southeast aspect should be chosen, as far as practicable. Earliness in the crops is a very great desideratum, and such an aspect favors this point materially. Too great a slope is objectionable, as inducing too great a run of water in heavy rains. The plots for the crops should be laid off in squares or parallelograms, for convenience in digging, and the edges of the walks set with box edging. If water can be introduced, it is a great convenience.
Sometimes broccoli does not head before there is danger of frosts, especially if growing vigorously. If taken up with small balls of earth, and set in a damp cellar, they will still perfect themselves.
When the ground becomes frozen, or no other work offers, preparation can always be made for advancing prospective work when it arrives. Bean-poles may be made; and if the ends are charred, and then dipped in coal tar, the commonest material will be rendered nearly equal to the best cedar.