As the failure of this fruit of late years has elicited considerable discussion and observation, which increases in interest annually, I will offer an exposition of my views on the subject, by a comparison between vegetable and animal matter, which I humbly conceive bear a striking analogy to each other. If the reader should deem my arguments visionary, or speculative, I would remind him that the grave importance of the subject fully justifies this or any other attempt at elucidation.
Having, in article Nectarine, shown the error of deep planting all descriptions of trees and plants, I would here observe, that a tree brought into a state of disease, by which the circulation of its nutrimental juices is impeded, and its bark injured, is very similarly situated to a timber post inserted in the soil; which every one knows will rot between earth and air, however sound its other parts may be.
In venturing a comparison between vegetable and animal matter, I would first refer the reader to article Chestnut, where I have shown that a chestnut tree has been known to live over a thousand years; and that its timber, cut in proper season, is supposed to be in durability commensurate with the age of the growing tree. It is also recorded in history, that animal subjects preserved on the Egyptian principle,
9* have been known to keep as long as the most durable timber; while daily experience shows, that corrupt animal and vegetable substances, not only become a prey to the most noxious insects and reptiles, but will generate them in incal culable numbers.
It is also evident, that a tree deprived of its functions or means of growing luxuriantly, is in a similar situation to a diseased animal. If disease be not checked before the juices of the tree become putrid, it will not only die, but will contaminate the earth in which it is planted, to the destruction of its neighbouring inmates of the garden or field. All experienced nurserymen admit this to be the case with dis-eased Peach trees, and some have actually abandoned their Peach orchards, and chosen fresh ground for new planta-tions.
It is precisely the same with smaller vegetable plants. A diseased Cabbage, for instance, by its excremental and corrupt juices being spent in the ground, will render the cultivation of the same or allied species a casualty; and daily observation teacheth, that young and thrifty plants often fall a prey to worms and reptiles which were generated by a previous crop.
It is, moreover, evident that all those enemies of the vegetable family feed on the same descriptions of vegetable matter which first generated them; hence the Peach insects feed on its fruit in embryo, as well as in a state at, and even beyond, perfection; the Cabbage worms prey on plants of the same genera or species; and I have no doubt but the cotton worms prefer the same description of vegetable matter which gave them birth, and that when these insects and reptiles cannot obtain the parts which are the most palatable to them, or congenial to their nature, they will feed upon diseased trees, plants, or any other matter which contain similar juices or nutriment. I again repeat, that the best security against their depredations is health and soundness. A good sound healthy tree, planted and cultivated upon correct principles, may be justly considered as invulnerable to the attacks of insects and reptiles, as any species of healthy animal creature in existence.
As I have been more familiar with the cultivation of vegetables than fruits, I would state farther my views relative to the Cabbage tribe. On New - York Island, in the vicinity of the city, it is customary with gardeners to cut their Cabbages gradually as they are required for market, and often to leave their roots standing; these by some are ploughed under, where they not only feed, but generate their peculiar species of insects. Some gardeners take their roots and leaves to the cattle yard or dung heap, and return them back to the garden the ensuing season in the shape of manure. As a consequence of such practice, good Cabbages are very seldom obtained, even after a routine of other crops, for two or three years.
With a view to illustrate the evil of deep planting, I would observe farther, that when Cabbage plants are transplanted in proper season and on good fresh soil, they generally prove uniformly good; whereas, if it should happen, as it sometime does for want of suitable weather, that the plants cannot be transplanted until they get crooked and overgrown, so as to require deep planting to support them in the soil, such plants, like diseased Peach trees, decay first in the bark, between earth and air, and then, from being deprived of a natural circulation of the vegetable juices, die, and discharge their putrid matter in the earth, to the destruction of such other plants as may be inserted in their stead. I have frequently known a land of Cabbage plants filled up half a dozen times, and the crop at last scarcely worth gathering, whereas, could the plants have been set out while dwarfish, and inserted their proper depth in the ground, the cultivator would have been rewarded a hundred fold.
I dislike tautology, but cannot avoid repeating my humble opinion, that deep planting and injudicious culture are the causes of most of the diseases and failures of fruit trees; and in this way I account for Peaches being less plentiful than they were when left almost to nature, which was the case, I am informed, in the beginning of the present century. That this malpractice in horticulture is very general, the most superficial observer may discover, by comparing the thrifty growth of those trees scattered by nature in our highways and by ways with many of those aided by the art of man. If any of my readers should require proof of my assertions, I can show them from the window of the room where this article is being written, scores of living, or rather dying evidences of the evil of deep planting.
All the varieties of the Peach produce their fruit upon the young wood of a year old, the blossom buds rising immediately from the eyes of the shoots. The same shoots seldom bear after the first year, except on some casual small spurs on the two years wood, which is not to be counted upon. Hence the trees are to be pruned as bearing entirely on the shoots of the preceding year, and a full supply of regular grown shoots must be retained for successional bearers. Cut out the redundant shoots, and all decayed and dead wood, and reduce some of the former bearers, cutting the most naked quite away.
A Peach Orchard may be planted at any time after the bud is established, until the trees are three or four years old, which may be placed from fifteen to twenty feet from each other, or from any other spreading trees. The dwarf kinds may be introduced into the kitchen garden, and trained against fences, as directed for the Apricot, or as espaliers, or dwarf standards.