This section of the book is from the Guide To Hardy Fruits And Ornamentals book, by Thomas Joseph Dwyer, published in 1903.
No single family of fruits of the tree, bush and vine has grown in importance for the last ten years like the Peach. It is the fact that during this period the consumption of all fruits has increased to a greater proportion than ever before in the history of the country, and this increase is larger and more noticeable each year both in the use of the fruit in its natural state and preserved. The demand for the Peach has been far the greatest, and we cannot say that it has been fully supplied. More than ten years ago a Peach orchard of five hundred trees was quite a singular sight; at the present time most any up-to-date. progressive fruit grower will fruit this quantity of trees, while in the principal Peach growing sections of the country you will find, the orchards, numbering from three to ten thousand trees. Profitable results always follow the production of good Peaches, and one fact proves it. The largest and best growers are the ones who have been extending their plantations for some time past and at the present time, too. It is also an encouraging sign to see those with gardens of their own, large and small, growing their own fruit. A quarter of a century ago it was thought, and in fact decided, that Peaches could only be grown in some special favored conditions of soils and climates. Today they are successfully cultivated and produced in all parts of the country, except in Maine, Vermont, and the Northwestern States beyond the great lakes. With a judicious selection of varieties we can have this delicious, fruit in its natural state on our tables each day from the middle of July until along in October, and this privilege is possible and within the reach of all with a list of six or seven sorts that ripen at different periods of the season. As a canned fruit the Peach has no superior. There is no tree fruit as easily grown and that will come into full bearing so soon after planting as the Peach.
The Soil for Peach Trees should be prepared as previously explained in the beginning of this book. The Peach succeeds best on a sandy loam, but good results can be had from them when properly cultivated on any land that water does not lay on for any length of time after a rain storm. We should select the highest ground we have for our Peach trees. They can be grown on side hill situations quite regardless of the exposure -- in fact Peaches can be produced on land that is of little value for any other crop. Our aim from the beginning must be to properly prepare and enrich our soil and plant our trees on elevated locations to give them every favorable chance and opportunity to bring the fruiting buds through the Winter uninjured.
Plant the Trees Fifteen Feet Apart Each Way -- This is the best distance, all things considered. However, on very light land they may be planted as close as twelve feet, while on heavy rich land they should be planted eighteen feet apart. We must study the character of our soil and our individual purposes and conveniences in determining the distance. If it is our intention to prune back severely each year for large and best fruit, we should plant our trees closer than we would when we expect to give them the ordinary pruning as practiced for the average orchard purposes.
Peaches are grown far more extensively than any other single tree fruit as fillers between orchards of Apples and other fruits, the purpose being to crop them for a few years before the other fruits come into bearing, and then remove them. It must be remembered, that unlike the other tree fruits the Peach should be kept in a thorough state of cultivation at all times. From the time they are first planted until they are done bearing, the land should be kept at all times under tillage, loose and clean. The one exception to this rule would be in isolated cases where along in the last of July or early in August we found our trees making a superfluity of new wood, then we should at once prepare our ground between the trees and use the crimson or red clovers, selecting the one that best suits our climatic conditions, and seed down at once.
This will, of course, soon retard the growth of wood. The clover under normal season conditions will make a top growth of eight to twelve inches before the end of the growing season. We advise that this clover be left on the ground until early Spring, when it should be plowed under just as soon as the land is dry enough to cultivate -- the earlier the better. Clover when grown and managed in this way will have served the triple purpose of retarding the excessive and injurious wood growth, as a mulch or cover crop for the land during the Winter months, and, perhaps, what is more important than all other considerations -- a valuable enricher of the soil, adding to it as it surely will, the much needed humus and the all necessary nitrogen that is trapped free from the air. The writer here wishes to caution the reader against something that is quite generally unnoticed, overlooked, or entirely neglected -- the guarding against this superfluous wood growth in the late growing season. Very many serious losses are solely attributable to this neglect. This new growth must be checked sufficiently early in the Autumn to give it the needed opportunity to ripen up thoroughly before freezing weather begins, otherwise the trees will go into the Winter season with an over abundance of soft, immatured wood. The whole tree will suffer accordingly and a partial or whole loss of the crop will be the ultimate result. In this connection we want to advise against the indiscriminate use of stable manure on Peach trees after the ground has been prepared and the trees planted. If used at all, and of course it can be used advantageously, it must be applied sparingly and cautiously, in order to cope successfully against the production of too much wood. In addition to stable manure, unleached wood ashes and pure ground bone, nitrate of soda, or any good commercial fertilizer rich in potash is good for Peach trees. The quantities required must he determined by the grower who is familiar with the condition of the land, and the size and requirements of the trees. If he is an observant man, in love and sympathy with his trees and solicitous of their welfare, he will, like the mother with the child that needs a little special attention, know what to prescribe and when and how to administer it without perhaps being able to give a scientific reason or explanation.
* The Borers and Yellows
-- These are the two greatest enemies of the Peach. The former is easily overcome by making a thorough examination of the trees regularly every Spring and Autumn and cutting out with a sharp knife the grubs, whose presence may be readily detected by the gum formed from the exuding sap. The yellows, however, is a constitutional disease which may come from many causes. For instance, it may be distributed from the original pit, from the bud, or from land where Peaches had been previously grown. One thing is certain, however, that it is more prevalent and detrimental on trees grown under unfavorable conditions and on worn out or run down land. In its early stages of development it can be often eradicated with prompt efficacious spraying, severe pruning out and heading back of fully one-half of the whole tree. The removed parts thus affected should, of course, be burned at once. However, in the great majority of cases, especially where the disease has made any considerable headway, it is best and safest to at once dig up the tree and burn it both root and branch. This will be the surest way to guard against contaminating your other trees. It is not difficult or expensive work to cope successfully with the yellows, and no one should be hindered or discouraged in planting Peach trees on account of fear or expectation of this. possible and somewhat more or less provoking annoyance. Where Peaches are grown for family use, it is desirable to plant a few trees each year -- from four to twelve trees, depending on the size of the family and the quantities. needed for table use and for canning. This is the safest and best method to pursue in order to secure a supply each fruiting season.
When setting out the young trees, be sure to cut off all side limbs and also cut the top off, not leaving the top or stem over 21/2 feet high; trim each year the main shoots off on third of the last season's growth. This should be done the last of March, and for three or four years until the tree has become quite large, when the severe pruning should be stopped. Prune light after this period, removing all superfluous small and sickly branches.. We must never lose sight of the fact that the fruit is produced on the previous season's growth; therefore it is of absolute necessity to keep up a good supply of vigorous new shoots over the entire tree. Spraying is of the first importance and is essential for best results. We advise the Bordeaux Formula as described in the beginning of this book. When the trees are overbearing the fruit should be thinned out when about one-quarter grown. As heretofore explained, the individual samples of fruit should be five to six inches apart on the tree. We know that to the inexperienced this will sound like radical treatment, in fact a waste of fruit. The fact remains, however, that you can get more bulk of fruit when matured from two hundred and fifty Peaches on a tree than from seven hundred and fifty -- besides the lesser number of choice large Peaches will bring you five times the amount of money, and there is always a demand for fine fruit, while at times when the market is over supplied, it is difficult to dispose of small inferior fruit, and when it can be sold the prices are low, unsatisfactory and at times unprofitable. If we seem to enlarge immeasurably on this subject, it is for the purpose of trying to impress all with the advisability of leaving nothing undone to produce the choicest fruit, and of course thinning is a necessary requirement to this end.