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.
Were all the facts known regarding the raising of forest trees in Scotland, it would appear that in no country is the subject better understood, and nowhere is greater interest manifested in all that appertains to skillful management than is to be found amongst the owners of land in that country. The Forestry Exhibition which is to be held in Edinburgh during the coming season is not only a manifestation of the spirit that is abroad, but a pledge that success will crown that display of national talent and industry.
And yet, in the face of all this, we have an account of how trees are planted there by a correspondent of a New York paper, and quoted in the Gardeners' Monthly for January, which would lead any one not knowing the facts to suppose that the people of that country had not emerged from the darkness of the middle ages. It is therein stated that the seed is sown upon the site of the plantation to be, and trodden into the ground by sheep penned upon the spot. This method is new to me, and may have its advantages, but we question if it is practiced to any great extent in any locality, as it certainly is not at all in those parts where forestry is well understood. However this may be, in the light of the quotation referred to forestry is placed in as unfavorable a light there as agriculture would be in Wales were the fact made known that in some parts of that principality women carry manure on their heads in baskets up the steep slopes of the mountains to little patches of cultivated ground inaccesible to horse and wagon.
Neither would it be creditable to American farmers were outsiders to receive their only impressions regarding their calling by the way in which it is conducted in many parts of Connecticut. From which we learn, that false conclusions are apt to be reached by regarding the way in which work is performed in isolated cases as true in every other case.
Having had some experience in tree-culture in Scotland I may here state that the method most in repute there in starting mixed plantations is, when the land is in suitable condition as regards moisture to dig pits for the hard wood trees about fourteen or sixteen inches in diameter and about ten feet apart, and the spaces filled with the larch or other trees. When the ground will admit, the latter are planted by merely cutting the sod cross-ways and replacing it when the trees are in position, and if impracticable so to do, pits are dug about twelve inches in diameter, which, but as a matter of economy, is the better way in every case. When the trees are planted they will stand three or four feet apart and no special care is necessary for a year or two except to prevent the encroachment of grass and rank weeds. The after management is, to see that the trees do not get overcrowded. To prevent this, in the first instance, any branches which encroach upon the permanent crop should be lopped off; and by-and-bye thinning out the nurses in such a way as to prevent unnecessary exposure to those that remain. In the course of a few years - say eight or ten - these thinnings can be turned to good account in the rural districts and many of them are sold for coal stoops.
In the case of the larch, when it attains to four inches in diameter and upwards, it is much sought after for fencing and other economical purposes. The bark also, when taken off in four-feet lengths and dried, is readily sold for the tannin it contains. In days gone by graver errors were committed in pruning than in planting, and chiefly because in many instances the work was entrusted to men who knew not enough of " How Plants Grow " to be intelligibly guided in the operation. So obvious was this that Dr. Lindley and others took the ground that the pruning of forest trees should be utterly abandoned. But such work improperly performed affords no reason why good practice may not have its advantages. And the questions for settlement are: Whether is it better to allow nature to take its course or to subject trees to a judicious course of pruning during the first years of their growth; or, by which method can the greatest amount of useful timber be obtained after trees reach a serviceable age? It can scarcely be doubted that the unpruned trees would outweigh the others in the gross, but the latter would have more measurable timber in the clear, and consequently would be of greater commercial value.
If this be true, no objection of weight can be brought against shortening such branches as compete with the leader, provided it is done while they are small; but in no case should they be cut to the stem until it is ten times their thickness, when it might be done without appreciably retarding growth, or in the future proving injurious to the timber. By so doing, young hard wood trees can be so directed I in their growth that when reaching maturity they would not only be individually valuable, but a greater number can be grown on a given area than of those with a wider spread of branches.
New Haven, Conn.