In planting fruit on a somewhat extensive scale the cost of the trees is a considerable item. Growers keep it down in various ways, perhaps the commonest being to attend auction sales and "pick up bargains." That these are often very bad ones is well known to all who have the opportunity of getting into the fruit districts, and keep their eyes open while there. In the long run I am of opinion that it pays best to go to a fruit nurseryman who has a reputation, and wants to keep it. The first cost of the trees will be greater than if they were bought at the auction, but they will very likely come into profitable bearing sooner, and make better trees, so proving cheaper in the end. The prices of trees vary with their age and strength. I have got very good trees for 1s. each, and I have paid as much as 3s. 6d. for a picked standard Apple four years old. The grower must never grumble if he gets good standards at £5 per 100, bushes at £4 per 100, and pyramids at £6 per 100. More will be asked for picked trees. As regards small fruits, 12s. per 100 is a fair price for Gooseberries, 10s. per 100 for Currants, 3s. per 100 for Raspberries, and Is. per 100 for Strawberries. Not only will selected specimens be dearer, but special varieties will cost more. Novelties are always dear, because scarce.
A, standard trees on grass arranged in diamonds: the circles, 6 feet in diameter, indicate the prepared stations for the trees.
B, arrangement of trees in fruit plantation in diamonds: a, standard; b, bush: c, upright or cylindrical; d, early bearing bash; e, Currant or Gooseberry.
A, standard trees planted in squares, as practised in orchards on grass for Apple, Cherry, Damson, Pear, and Plum trees.
B, alternating of standard and lush trees: a, standard; b, bush.
C, double squares or standard trees with dwarf varieties or bush trees between them in double lines: c, standard; d, bush.
Labour is scarce and becoming dearer in rural districts, so that there promises to come a time, and that speedily, when the standard items for cost of cultivation will have to be revised. Even as it is there are great variations. As one who has had to employ labour in different parts, I find that in some scarcity of labour and stiffness of soil combine to raise the cost of cultivation to almost double what it is in others where there is more labour and a lighter soil. The following must be taken as approximate: Preparing by simple digging, 4d. to 6d. per rod; preparing by bastard trenching, 1s. to 1s. 6d. per rod; digging between established trees, 30s. per acre; hoeing, 20s. per acre.
In large cultures pruning, or "cutting," as it is more commonly termed, is generally done by permanent hands, but there are many instances in which the services of a professional "cutter" are called in. Sometimes he is properly qualified, sometimes he is an impostor; but whatever his abilities he generally expects to be paid. The approximate rates are Apples, 20s. per acre; Currants, 20s. per acre; Gooseberries, 30s. per acre; Raspberries, 12s. per acre. Cherries and Plums are not much pruned, as a rule, in market cultures.
There is nothing much more misleading than the figures often quoted as returns on given areas of fruit land. My readers have seen plenty of them. You are supposed to plant so many trees per acre, get so much fruit from each, sell it at such a rate, and realise a profit varying from £200 to £2,000 per acre. It is all nonsense, of course. Owing to circumstances over which the grower has no control, such as weather, the returns from fruit are so uncertain that all calculations have a hypothetical basis. No heed must be paid to special results; they nearly always lead to disappointment. For these reasons I prefer not to give figures. Whether fruit as a commercial venture shows a profit or a loss depends largely upon the skill, judgment, and business aptitude of the grower. I could tickle the palates of my readers with some very tempting figures, and they would, perhaps, like me all the better for raising their hopes; but if a, number of people quite unfit for fruit growing, and lacking the necessary capital, were thereby led into losing hard-earned savings, as has been the case in the past only too often, I should have nothing to feel proud about. I prefer to give practical information, and leave the rest to the judgment and aptitude of the individual.