The varieties of this fruit resemble the Peach in every respect, except that the skin is perfectly smooth, of a waxen appearance, and the flesh generally more firm; although of the same genus as the Peach, which is so plentiful in this country, the fruit of the Nectarine is quite a rarity, and seldom appears in our markets. There are seventy-two varieties cultivated in the Horticultural Garden of London under name.
It is generally allowed that their failure here is occasioned by the attacks of insects. The most efficacious method that I have heard of for securing any thing like a crop of Nectarines, is to fumigate the trees in the evening, when the air is calm and serene, at the season when the fruit is ready to set. Tobacco is the most effectual antidote for these insects; but a friend of mine collected a quantity of salt hay that had been used for his Spinach the preceding winter; with this he created a smoke, first on one side of his plantation, and afterward on the other, by which means he obtained a good supply of fruit. Our enterprising horticulturist, Mr. W. Shaw, has succeeded in gathering fine fruit, by pursuing the English plan, namely, in training his trees against a close fence; and it has been discovered by others, that the Nectarine, like the Grape vine will yield best in sheltered situations. That eminent horticulturist, Mr. David Thomas, observes, that "A vast quantity of fruit is annually destroyed by the Curculio, which causes the Plum, Apricot, and Nectarine prematurely to drop from the tree. To prevent this loss, let the tree, after the blossoms fall, be frequently shaken by a cord connected with a swinging door, or with a working pump-handle, etc.; or let the bugs be jarred from the tree and killed. Or keep geese enough in the fruit garden to devour all the damaged fruit as it falls. We know that this last method is infallible."
As some may object to shaking or jarring fruit trees, for fear of disturbing the fruit, such are here reminded, that if the blossoms set more fruit than can be supported, it will not come to full perfection, and the trees may be injured in their future bearing; for these reasons, when fruit sets too thick, it should be thinned in an early stage of its growth.
The Nectarine, as also the Peach tree, is subject to injury by an insect different from the Curculio species, which feeds on the sap beneath the bark, principally near the surface of the earth; but if not checked, will commit ravages on the trunk and root, so as eventually to destroy the tree. The egg is supposed to be first deposited in the upper part of the tree; and in the months of June and July, it becomes a very small maggot, which drops to the ground, and approaches the tree near the surface. If the ground be kept clear around the roots, as it ought always to be, the worm can readily be detected by a small speck of gum, which appears on the tree after it has made its entrance, which gumminess will increase in quantity as it progresses; but if the trees are thoroughly examined about once a week or ten days, and the gum, wherever found, removed by means of a small knife or pointed wire, the worm may be at once defeated from making any havoc on the trees. An orchard of several acres may be kept free from worms by going over it a few times.
After a shower of rain is a good time, as the gum can then be more easily discovered; and when it is removed, the wound will soon heal up, and the danger is over, provided the ground be kept cultivated around the trees, and the collar, or that part from which emanate the main roots, be near the surface.
This is an important precaution, and should be attended to at the time of transplanting all descriptions of trees and smaller plants; because deep planting prevents the essential circulation of the juices of plants in their regular and natural courses, and, consequently, causes disease and premature death; and it must be admitted, that from the circumstance of this fruit being generally raised on standard trees, and in a light soil, our cultivators are apt to plant too deep; and thus act contrary to sound judgment and philosophy, with a view to save the trouble and expense of staking or otherwise supporting their newly-planted trees, which precaution is absolutely necessary to their preservation, even in less tempestuous climates, and in stiff as well as in light soil.
Saltpetre dissolved in the proportion of one pound to five gallons of water, and applied round the stems and roots of trees, as recommended for plants in general, is, in my opinion, one of the best remedies for the destruction of various kinds of insects; it is, moreover, allowed by modern and learned physiologists to contain the most essential nutriment to all descriptions of trees or smaller plants, when judiciously used. Other remedies are recommended to be applied for the destruction of these insects around fruit trees, besides those previously mentioned; as, dissolved potash, coal tar, sul phur and lime-mortar mixed, vinegar, soapsuds, etc. Culture, upon correct principles, will, however, in general operate not only as a radical cure, but as a preventive to all defects in trees and plants; which, to be healthy and productive, should be so managed that the sap and nutrimental juices can circulate through every pore which nature has designed for their perpetuity. (See article on the choice of Fruit Trees in the Nursery; also, article Peach.)
The Nectarine is generally budded on stocks of the same species, or on the Peach or Plum, two or three years old. Knight recommends growing Almond stocks for the finer kinds of Nectarines and Apricots, as likely to prevent the mildew, and as being allied to the Peach. Dubreuil recommends a Plum stock for clayey soils, and the Almond for such as are light, chalky, or sandy. The same opinion is held by the Montreal gardeners. The Flemish nurserymen graft both the Peach and Nectarine on the Myrabella Plum, a very small cherry-shaped fruit.
The budding may be performed in July or August, in the side of the stock, which will, if properly managed, shoot the following spring, and attain the length of three or four feet the first year. After the budded trees have ripened their first year's shoots, they may either be planted where they are to remain, or retained in the nursery for two, three, or four years, till in a bearing state. Whether the plants be removed into the orchard at a year old, or remain in the nursery, the first shoots from the bud must be headed down in a judicious manner, in order to promote the most desirable form. In annual pruning, thin out superfluous branches and dry wood, and shorten the bearing shoots.
Nectarines may be trained to a close fence, or wall, in private gardens; in which case, such plants should be chosen as are budded low. (See article Apricot.)