Root-Pruning

I am averse to root-pruning the Peach and Nectarine, or any stone fruits, according to the fashion recommended by some, and have never found it necessary to cut away many of their roots after they were first planted. I have never found much difficulty in subduing any tendency that young trees have had to grow too grossly by pinching the shoots when growing, and directing the energies of the tree to its other parts. I think the practice of continually cutting hard back, and preventing the trees from making a more natural headway, has much to do with gross shoots. Letting the young trees bear heavily, in conjunction with the training indicated above, is generally sufficient when the trees are planted in a loamy soil into which rank manures have not been introduced. However, cases do occur when the roots have to be dealt with in the case of some of the stronger-growing varieties. Then I would recommend a trench to be taken out at a radius beyond where the roots have extended. Encroach carefully on the roots, removing all the soil - but saving every possible rootlet - close up to the bole of the tree, or as far up as the check that is desirable would demand.

Unless it be some roots very much out of proportion to the others, they should not be cut back, but be all carefully laid in the border again with some sound fresh loam under and over them, making the soil all firm about them again. This operation I prefer doing just as the leaves are nearly all dropping off. If done earlier, the wood is apt to shrivel instead of ripen.

And General Management. Time To Commence Forcing Forcing

The time when ripe Peaches are required, must of course regulate the time when forcing has to be commenced. As the Peach and Nectarine will not submit to hard forcing, especially in their earliest stages of progress, it takes about five and a half months to ripen a crop when forcing is commenced late in November. This may be termed very early forcing. On referring to my note-books I find that trees started - by being shut up without fire-heat for the first fourteen days - on the 15th November, ripened their first dishes of fruit from the 24th to the 30th April. Those started in January and February take fourteen days less time, but the character of the season has much to do with the exact time required to produce ripe fruit. Unless where there are several Peach-houses, such early forcing is not desirable, and if the trees are not in good condition it should never be attempted. From the beginning to the end of January is a good time to start the earliest house, where there are, say, three Peach-houses, allowing the interval of a month between the starting of each house.

These early houses, with a late one in which no fire-heat is used beyond what is necessary to protect the trees from frosts or to ripen the wood in autumn, keep up a long succession of Peaches when the selection of varieties is made to this end. In the case of young or newly-planted trees that have not been accustomed to early forcing, February is sufficiently early to begin to force them the first year. The second they may be started a month earlier. By beginning a few weeks earlier every year they can be worked round to start at any time within the limits of what is practicable, much more safely than by beginning them very early the first and second years. It may be said of plants and trees in this respect that "use is second nature;" for unless violently pushed they will have their period of repose, and the Peach most particularly should never be subject to hard forcing.

Dressing The Trees And Borders

Let it be supposed that the earliest Peaches have been pruned, and' the woodwork and glass of the house thoroughly cleansed. If there has been any red-spider about the trees the previous season, let the whole of them be first washed by means of a hair-brush and soft water, in which about an ounce of soft-soap to every gallon has been mixed. After the trees are dry, coat them over with a mixture of sulphur, cow-dung, and soot, in equal proportions, and reduced to the consistency of thick paint with hot water. To a gallon of this add 2 oz. of soft-soap. In painting the trees over with this, care should be taken always to draw the brush upwards towards the points of the shoots,, to prevent the prominent buds from being rubbed off. I have often started Peaches without this dressing, and only consider it necessary when the trees have been attacked by red-spider the previous season. In tying the trees, care must be taken to rub off as little of the dressing as possible.

The surface soil should be removed from the border to the depth of 2 inches, and replaced with pure fresh loam in the case of young vigorous trees in new borders. In the. case of old trees that have borne heavily for a succession of years, remove the soil down to the first roots, and replace it with an equal amount of loam, with a third of horse-droppings or well-rotted manure mixed with it. If the inside border is dry, give it a good soaking with tepid weak manure-water. Presuming that these operations have been attended to a fortnight before the house is to be shut up for forcing, still keep the house cool and well aired, but keep the trees dry, so that the dressing does not get washed off them. The outside border should always be protected from cold and wet at the same time by a covering of litter and leaves and a tarpaulin, or other means, such as wooden shutters for throwing off drenching rains. This is supposing that forcing is begun before the end of February.

Temperature

Unless the weather be frosty when the house is shut up, no- more fire-heat should be applied than is necessary to keep the temperature from falling at any time below 45° at night. In mild weather it will necessarily range higher without fire-heat. After the house has been shut up a fortnight, firing in a regular way should commence, and the night temperature be kept at 50°, allowing it to sink a few degrees lower on very cold nights; with a day temperature 10° higher with sun. If a higher temperature be maintained at first, the trees are subject to start their wood-buds before the blossom-buds, and the blossom under such circumstances is sure to be weak and likely to drop off before it expands. By the time the blossoms are open the night temperature should be gradually raised to 55°, with a corresponding rise by day with sun. After the fruit are set raise the temperature by degrees to 600 at night, and with sun it may safely run to 70° or 75° by day, according to the intensity of the sunshine. Until the fruit are stoned the night temperature should not exceed this. After they are stoned it may be raised to 65°, and to 80° with sun-heat by day.

In the case of early forcing, of which I am now treating, I do not recommend a higher temperature for Peaches than the last named - not that there is any fear of the fruit dropping off with a higher temperature after the stoning process is past, but I have til ways found that the moderate rate of forcing produced finer Peaches and wood than are attainable with more rapid forcing. Of course very much depends on the state of the external atmosphere, as every experienced forcer knows. With mild weather, the temperature I have named may be exceeded by a few degrees with impunity, even with advantage. On the other hand, in time of very severe frost, when hard firing is necessary to keep up the proper temperature, it is wisest to let the heat decline a few degrees. After a day of bright sunshine, which more or less heats up all surfaces, the house can be shut up with a higher temperature, and the heat husbanded, so that very moderate firing keeps the heat up in the fore part of the night higher than I have named, and under such circumstances there is no objection to this.

Of course when forcing is commenced later in the season, and the trees are more easily excited, and produce their blossom and young wood more strongly under the influence of increased light, the temperature may range a few degrees higher with safety. For instance, a house started in December, for which 500 with fire-heat would be sufficient, might, if not started till far on in February with more natural warmth and sun by day, be started at 55° with fire-heat after the trees are moving naturally. In bright weather, early shutting up with sun-heat should always be preferred to hard firing without sun.

D. T.