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.
I believe your correspondent " R. D." is quite right in his conclusion that beech and chestnut will not grow - at least to any advantage - upon limestone soils. In this part of Pennsylvania (Centre County) the chestnut grows abundantly upon the mountains which have a sandy soil, but in the valleys, the soil of which is mainly a limestone clay, it is practically unknown except where there are well-marked outcrops of sandstone or sandy shale.
I can now recall but one exception to this, and in that case a half-grown tree is growing where the soil is made quite gravelly by strong admixture of flint. A case which I thought quite exceptional proved, on closer examination, to be like that mentioned by " R. D.," no exception at all, for the surface soil showed many loose sandstones which betrayed the underlying rock.
I know of two attempts at cultivation of the chestnut on limestone land. One made about twelve years ago, when a number of trees were set out, but at this time only two or three are alive, and they but three or four inches in diameter, if my memory serves me right, and very much smaller than other kinds of trees set out at the same time.
In the spring of 1879 we set out forty one-year old chestnuts in a nursery row at the college. To-day only three are left, and they are but little larger than when they were set out, although catalpas, ashes, and other trees in adjoining rows have grown well.
Of the beech, I only know that while it is found to some extent in the mountains upon the west side of our valley, it does not occur in the valley itself, not even in the sandy ridges. Having never attempted its cultivation, and knowing that there are sometimes natural obstacles to the dissemination of the seeds of trees, I have always hesitated about putting it in the same category with the chestnut.
But "R. D.'s" experience seems to show that the trees are alike in having a certain incompatibility with limestone land. State College, Centre Co., Pa. [This is a question of very great interest in American forestry, and it is very desirable to have it settled in accordance with a wide basis of facts before it is finally dropped. For our part we are very much mistaken if we have not seen superb chestnut forests on limestone land in Chester and Montgomery counties, Pennsylvania; but should be glad to know positively from those living in such sections - Ed. G. M].