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.
No matter how carefully one may proceed in the selection of varieties of fruit trees, there is always an element of chance which no forethought can overcome. Location, soil or other circumstances have much to do with the success of the most popular variety, and it may not be all we wish for when it comes into bearing. Even the stock on which the variety is grafted will make a difference. Pear and apple stocks are raised from seed, and it is from seed that new varieties originate. Among the seedlings are some which, if permitted to grow to trees, would be some very vigorous growers, and others slow or stocky ones. The same variety grafted on stocks of opposite character, can not produce fruit in all respects alike any more than would a variety of pear grafted on the quince or the same grafted on the pear. A Duchess on a dwarf stock is different, both in eating qualities and productiveness, from a Duchess grown on a standard pear stock; because the growth or nutrition is interfered with on the weaker more than on the stronger stock. But after one has an apple, pear or cherry, full grown, and it does not come up to expectation, it is well to graft it with some other kind which by experience we find to do what we desire.
It is probably one of the reasons why the earlier fruit growers did better than so many moderns that they were mostly fond of grafting, and were continually changing the tops with the better kind. Now-a days if one has a White Doyenne, St. Germain, Beurre Diel, or other variety of pear, which produces worthless fruit instead of the delicious products of the past age, the modern effort is to try some scheme to cure the disease. The old plan, and probably the wiser one, was to top graft it with some more certain variety. Every good orchardist should cut grafts before the leaves push, and bury these scions in the earth; after the sap begins to actively ascend, the grafting process may be begun. If the scions have been properly preserved, so that the buds do not push, the grafting is much more likely to succeed after the leaves of the stock have grown a little, than before. But though this success may go on through into midsummer, the sooner after the spring opens the grafting can be done the stronger will the growth of the scion be. The great enemies of the fruit grower, insects and fungus growths, are now measurably kept down by stem washing.
Even ordinary lime washes, colored to prevent glare, are useful, for large numbers of species of fungi which like to grow on dead wood or bark, will not start on limy substances. Nor do some insects care to work through to get at the bark. But soapy substances are particularly noxious to most classes of insects and species of fungus, and it is excellent practice to wash the stems therewith. Grapevine diseases are kept in control by those who manage them under glass, by washing the stems before the leaves push, with lime and sulphur, and no doubt such treatment would benefit the grape in the open air.
The enormous crops produced by the Kieffer Pear, and consequent depreciation of quality where a good dessert fruit is desirable, has caused more than usual attention to be given to the necessity of thinning where superior flavor is desired. In cases where quantity is preferred to quality this may not be of so much importance; yet it is worth remembering that heavy bearing often tells on the future vigor of the tree, and on this account some degree of thinning, when there is a tendency to produce large crops, may be always desirable. If pruning has not been finished where the leaves have not yet begun to push, it should of course be finished at once. The pruning knife is one of the most useful implements in a judicious hand. The great aim in most bearing trees is to thin out those shoots which show symptons of exhaustion, so as to always keep a stock of young and vigorous growth.
In vegetable growing there has not been much novelty developed of late years in regard to practice. There is yet much difference of opinion whether asparagus plants ought to be set deep in the ground - say nine or more inches - or shallow, say four or less. It is very desirable to have it early as possible, and it is contended by some that when but four inches deep, it gets the benefit of the warm sun as soon as the ground is thawed that deep; while the deep planters contend that when the root is below the frost, the natural warmth of the earth keeps the root in condition to grow strongly at once when the thaw comes. Again, some like tender white in the asparagus while others would as soon have it green. It is believed that the tender white stalks proceed from the deeper planted, while the tough white follow the more shallow planted roots. So far as we know, these matters have never been settled by side-by-side experiments. Each grower follows his own notion. Market growers usually plant deep, so' that they may make the ground soft and clean in spring by a shallow ploughing over the roots.
In all vegetable crops manure is the one great secret of success.
Deep, rich soil, now so generally condemned for fruit gardens, is of the first importance here. Soil cannot be too rich or too deep, if we would have good vegetables. It is, indeed, remarkable, that in many respects we have to go very differently to work to get good fruits than we have to perfect vegetables. While, for instance, we require sunlight to get the best richness to our fruits, our vegetables are usually best when blanched or kept from the light. So, also, as we keep the roots as near the surface as we can in order to favor the woody tissue in trees, we like to let them go deep in vegetables, because this favors succulence.