Without 'tis a desert, too bleak for a ram, Within we have one - merely Apples and Jam, Preserved for the season, with skill and with care, By the hands of the thrifty, the good, and the fair!
As the season for pruning fruit trees and vines commences in the various parts of our country at different periods, according to the climate, I would submit a few general remarks on the subject, with a view to prepare the gardener for the performance of the work in a skilful manner, and at the proper season; for be it remembered that untimely or injudicious pruning may produce injury instead of benefit, and in many cases defeat the real object of the operation.
Having given ample directions for the cultivation of the various species of fruit, I would recommend the novice to peruse every article before he enters upon the work of the garden; he will there discover that no single rule will apply to every kind of fruit; first, because the mode of bearing is different in almost every distinct species; secondly, because the sap rises earlier and continues longer in the branches of some species than in others; and thirdly, because some trees, as the Plum for instance, is apt to gum, if pruned too soon in the season, and the grape vine to bleed if delayed too long. For the above, and other reasons that may be given, the gardener should examine all his fruit trees frequently in this month, with his implements at hand, and if circumstances will not admit of a general pruning, he may cut off dead branches, and clear trees from moss and canker, also search for the nests of insects, and destroy them while in a torpid state. This will assist the natural efforts of the trees, in casting off the crude and undigested juices, which if confined in them will in a short time destroy them, or some of their branches.
As soon as the severity of the winter is over, the hardy and half hardy grape-vines should be judiciously pruned, by cutting out old branches which produced fruit the preceding year, as well as all superfluous and weak young shoots, leaving the strong summer shoots for bearers the coming season, which should be judiciously trained as recommended in articles, pages 21 and 72.
In pruning all descriptions of trees, some general rules may be observed. In cutting out defective branches, prune close to the healthy wood, and also shorten such shoots as have been injured by the winter, to the full extent, or even a few inches beyond, where damage has been sustained.
In pruning healthy young trees the limbs should not be too closely pruned, because this would occasion more lateral shoots to put forth than is beneficial to the tree; which, if not rubbed off in the summer, while quite young, and as it were herbaceous, they will form crowded branches, which may not yield good fruit. In doing this disbudding, however, care must be taken to leave shoots in a suitable direction, sufficient for the formation of an open and handsome head to the tree, according to its kind.
It may be observed, farther, that in the event of young trees, taken from the nursery, being deficient in fibrous roots, as is sometimes the case, close pruning may be necessary to maintain a proper equilibrium between the roots and the head, but it should be borne in mind, that foliage is as essential to the maintenance of the roots, as roots are necessary to the promotion of the growth of the head; because the secretion of plants being formed in leaves, it follows that secretions cannot take place if leaf buds are destroyed.
As vegetation makes rapid progress in our climate after the frost is out of the ground, the gardener should employ himself in unfavourable weather, in providing implements and materials for the performance of the work of the garden every fine day, in order that his pruning and planting may be done before the too rapid advance of the sap.
By such management, he will not only promote the welfare of his fruit garden, but will save himself much anxiety and labour as the season progresses. For some appropriate hints, relative to the employment of this month, see the Calendar for January and February, in the first part of this work, pages 148 and 149, also page 53 of the second part, and pages 21 and 34 of the third part.
Toward the latter end of this month, it will be time to prune and train grape vines in many situations. Provide shreds or strips of woollen cloth about half an inch wide, or list from broad cloth, which is still better; also small sharp-pointed nails to use in training vines and such fruit - trees as require training.
If any removals are contemplated, or if fresh trees or vines are required, arrangements should be made to have them planted as soon as the ground can be brought into good condition. See pages from 9 to 11, also pages 93, 101 to 104.
If the kernels of the Apple, Pear, and Quince, and the pits of the Apricot, Cherry, Peach, and Plum were not planted last autumn, as directed, let it be done as soon as the earth can be brought into tillable condition, because exposure to frost is essential to their vegetating.