This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V26", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Why the sap ascends in trees is yet a mystery. All attempts to solve it by mechanical or chemical laws have failed. At one time we think we have it when some good man talks to us about what he calls "root pressure." Then, some other tells us about osmotic action, and we get learned disquisitions on the power of endosmose and exos-mose. Again, another gives us an explanation of the manner in which starch is converted into sugar, and the tension which occurs during this change acting as a pump to pull up the sap. But the orchardist, with his every-day experience, always feels that the philosopher has left out something in the calculation, which he at least is not permitted to forget, namely, plant life - and though the man of science may ask him what he means by life, or to explain what he calls vital power, he can only say that he does not know, but he is sure there is a something which he may call this, though science has not been able to get near it. The orchardist knows that a half dead tree does not draw up sap as freely as one in vigorous health, nor does a half dead branch act as freely as one with full vital power.
Now, a transplanted tree is in some sense a half dead tree, and the proof is, that in a dry time, or a hot time, or a cold time, or under any unfavorable circumstances, the chances are two to one in favor of an untransplanted tree getting through. The only reason that it is half dead is, that the sap does not ascend as freely as it ought to do. The leaves push slowly, and the growth is feeble, simply because the sap does not ascend as it should do. Now we must help the tree to do this if we would have the best success in transplanting. As a rule, the healthier parts of the tree, those parts near the ground, get disgusted with the attempt to pass sap through the sluggish cells above, and push out sprouts along the stem, or suckers from the roots, and these will soon manage to get all if left alone. It is therefore essential to the well being of any tree with a weakened top, that every sprout should be taken out as soon as it appears. This applies not only to trees with a weakened top from transplanting, but from grafting, budding, or any other horticultural operation.
Watch all such trees, as soon as they leaf in spring, and take out every sprout from trunk or leading branches as soon as they appear.
In grape raising people seem to go to extremes in management. A few years ago the poor plant was in leading strings. It dared not make one free growth, but it was pinched and twisted into all sorts of ways. Now the "prune not at all" maxims are getting headway, and this is as bad, if not worse. First, grape growing was such a mystery it took a life time to study it, and the "old vigneron" was an awfully sublime sort of a personage. He is now among the unfrocked and unreverenced. But there is great art in good grape treatment; and yet this art is founded on a very few simple principles. For instance, leaves are necessary to healthy growth; but two leaves three inches wide are not of equal value to one leaf of six inches. To get these strong leaves, see that the number of sprouts be limited. If two buds push from one eye, pinch out the weakest whenever it appears. The other will be strengthened by this protective policy, and the laws of trade result in favor of larger and better leaves on the leaf that follows. Allow no one shoot to grow stronger than another. If there are indications of this, pinch off its top. While it stops to wonder what you mean by this summary conduct, the weaker fellows will profit to take what properly belongs to them.
There is little more science in summer pruning than this; but it takes some experience, joined with common sense, to apply it. This, indeed, is where true art comes in.
The apple is our standard fruit, and may always be relied on with reasonable care. The first care is good food. Some talk about too rich soil. We never saw the soil too rich for the apple. Where any trouble arises in apple culture, it will be safe to attribute it to other causes than rich soil. Kitchen ashes, in which table refuse is thrown, is an excellent top-dressing for apples. We like top-dressing better than any other system of manuring apple trees. Even nice ditch scrapings are good to top-dress with where nothing else offers. Apple trees are often starved in other ways than by neglect to manure. The apple borer leads to starvation oftener than poor soil. The supply of food is cut off by every move the borer makes.
They work at the surface of the ground. Look for them now. If you have no time, set the boys and girls to work. Say they shall have no apples for Christmas or birthday presents if they do not. However, get the borers out somehow, if even by wire and jack-knife. If not soon done they will soon get out themselves, and give you more trouble in the future. After they have left, whether by your invitation or otherwise, keep them out; even though you have to lock the door after the horse is stolen. Paper put on in May, and then gas-tarred, will keep them out; some say it will not, but it will. There is no doubt about it. One papering will last three years. The weakening of the tree by the borer is why the fruit drops off in so many cases, and is small and scrubby in others. With these cases attended to there will be little left to worry one but the codling moth.