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.
As you invite testimony on this question in your November number, I give my limited experience. The growth of Myrobolan stocks is so vigorous that I was tempted to bud the peach upon it, three years since. The buds have taken only fairly well, and the subsequent growth has disappointed me. The stocks have been on heavy and also on upland soil. Though I do not yet abandon the trial, yet the indications are not favorable for a vigorous and healthy growth. On the other hand, the white and pink almond and Prunus triloba, as also the varieties of plum, make a very strong growth on this stock. This season, I have budded into the Damson and St. Julien stocks, but as yet cannot report results. These experiments have been made on a considerable number of stocks, in order to arrive at a definite conclusion. For it has seemed to me reasonable to expect that the plum stock would give exemption from the fungus which we call yellows, and also might give us a more permanent tree, and in heavier soils than the peach stock will thrive in. Considering the common European practice of budding upon the Muscle stock, it is surprising that this question has not long since been tested and decided in this country.
It seems to me that no other question in fruit culture is so important, at the present time, as this. If we can find a plum stock which suits the peach, and will give us exemption from this greatest drawback to peach culture, the yellows, and may possibly add some other advantages, then indeed shall we make an immense advance in our art. I can think of no field so encouraging for experiment. In this connection, and as a warning to make haste slowly, and also because I owe it to the public, I must state that my experiments in budding the pear upon a strong seedling of Cydonia (or Pyrus) japonica have proved disappointing. The buds grew well the first season, and some varieties have continued to grow for the second and third seasons. But, the indications are plain, after several years of extensive trial, that there is a want of congeniality between the stock and the cion. Of course, everybody is now wise enough to see that a Pyrus communis will not thrive on a Pyrus japonica seedling, however strong it may be. Well, I am content to be a martyr for the public good.
For one, I confess that I did not know until the trial was made.
I notice an inquiry from " A.," Union Spring, N. Y., as to the value of plum stocks in the propagation of the peach.
Eight or ten years ago we worked a small lot on native and imported stocks, part of which were sold, and part planted on our own grounds. Of ten varieties planted in our own orchard, all are gone, except two Oldmixon Free trees. None? of the trees did well. The growth was dwarfed, and the crops, though full, were inferior. The fruit, in quality, did not compare with that of the same variety grown on our peach roots. The trees were not altogether exempt from the borer; none developed a tendency to the yellows, but seemed to perish from an unsuitability of the stock.
Some of these trees, planted on tenacious-clay, deemed unsuitable for the peach, on its own root, have done no better. The same experiment, made by my father, twenty years before, on different soil, developed exactly the same results. Peach on its own root does well here, and if pruned and kept free of worms will generally last twenty or twenty-five years.
Noticing the interest manifested in your pages of late, upon this subject, I am tempted to give a few facts from my experience with peach on plum in the nursery. As long ago as 1866 my attention was called to an experiment made by Mr. David Miller, formerly of Carlisle, Pa. - a gentleman well known to horticulture - on the Sand Hill Plum, known locally as the Sand Hill Cherry (Prunus pumila), common to the sand hills of Kansas, Nebraska and the Northwest. Mr. Miller had bearing peach trees on this stock at that time, and wrote me very favorably of the result. I made a determined effort to get the pits of this plum, but there was so much confusion concerning the name and so much procrastination in the minds of those to whom I applied, in neighborhoods where I supposed them to abound, that I did not get any until I went for them myself, and then with difficulty, as no one seemed to know them by any name that I had ever heard. Finally, it was found on Saline Fork, Kansas, after following an old man several miles over the sand hills, in a doubtful way, after what he and his neighbors called the Mountain Cherry. I procured pits enough to make an experiment, in view of their propagation in the nursery.
The peach buds set well and they made a healthy growth, but what with the difficulty of getting the pits, the slender growth of the seedlings, and their disposition to drop their foliage before budding time, I was forced to abandon the project.
I also experimented with Myrobolan as a stock but found it very unsatisfactory. The buds set well, but their growth was very irregular, and whilst there was an occasional tree that seemed healthy the most of them seemed stunted in growth and sickly in foliage. I never tried the peach on Horse Plum or St. Julian, because I could not grow plum trees upon them profitably.
The subject of the plum stock for the peach held its fascination for me in view of its probable value in exempting the peach from its great foes, the yellows and the borers, and the prospective prices for the young trees should I succeed. Upon taking the management of the nurseries-here I noticed the striking similarity of the foliage and habit of many of the seedlings of the Wild Goose Plum to the peach, and I was induced to try the peach upon the Chickasaw of this particular type. After growing trees upon this stock for three years in succession I felt so strongly convinced that I had found the true plum as stock for the peach that we budded over thirty thousand of them in the summer of 1880, and as they have done each year, they grew very perfectly and regularly - a little more stocky and better branched, although not quite as tall as the peach on its own roots. This stock makes handsome fibrous roots, on our soil, and carries its size up well to the peach, completing a perfect union.
I have noticed also that this stock is influenced much less by drouth than any plant in the nursery. The past summer was remarkable for its great heat and severe drouth, so trying to nurserymen who had much to bud; there was not a day in which it could not be budded, and the buds put in lived, whilst buds inserted in peach stocks at the same time perished. It is strictly healthy every way, holding its foliage and continuing its growth until chilled by frost, equaling in this respect the Mahaleb Cherry. After my experiment of the first year with this stock, my expectations of its' value were greatly strengthened by the experience of Mr. John Frazer, our superintendent, who had a thorough education and much practice in this business in England, where the peach is grown exclusively on plum ; and also from his knowledge of a peach tree in Missouri worked on this stock, which is distinctively healthy and bears fine crops of fruit. The wood of the peach on plum is more solid, sturdier and hardier than on peach, as any one will believe who has grown the Apricot on the different stocks and noted the difference.