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.
There would seem to be little new in the way of practical hints from year to year; what is found true once should be true for all time. But fruit growing is a complicated affair. Things are only relatively true, and, as circumstances vary, so do rules. Take fall planting trees, fall pruning, planting of large or small trees, and similar questions. There has surely been great gain. Everybody knew that, as an abstract question, it was best to plant any kind of tree in the fall. The old arguments for it were good enough. It was said that the ground was warm, roots healed, often new fibres would form, and the trees were just ready to push into growth when the growing time came. This is all true. But in practice it was found that stems evaporated moisture in a drying time, as much as they would with leaves in winter. A tree exposed to keen, frosty winds, is, therefore, at a disadvantage when it has lost many roots by transplanting. So the rule came down to this, that where the tree could be put where the roots would soon heal, where the winter would not likely be very severe, where the tree itself had good roots, and these not injured by too much drying before planting, where shelter from drying winds could be afforded, and so forth, it was a very good thing to plant in fall.
But when we look at the risks of spring planting, - the tree called into growth before new roots are formed, hot drying summer winds, summer drouths and other contingencies, the conclusion of the observant man is that on the whole one season is no better than another, and "plant when you are ready" has become the rule. But progress has been made in getting some of the advantages without the risks. In fruit trees particularly, now, many who want to plant in spring, buy in the fall, and plant all temporarily thickly together, no matter if the stems are a foot or more deep in the ground, in some nook sheltered from drying winds. Here they remain till spring, sheltering one another, as well as being sheltered. The advantage is that the wounded roots heal over, and when replanted in spring, push into growth a couple of weeks before those then freshly taken up. Besides this, there is the great advantage of having them on hand to plant just when you are ready, instead of having them rushed in just as something else is sure to demand immediate attention. It does not take much time. Hundreds can be thus thickly planted in a few hours.
Even when trees come in spring, almost as much time has to be taken in "heeling in" to save till we are quite ready, and the imperfect manner of heeling in usually destroys large numbers, though "very carefully planted by an experienced person," as the complaint to the vendor usually reads.
And "carefully planted" has new meanings as knowledge progresses, - as in treatment of animals kindness is often cruelty. The "deep hole," "soft earth pressed about by the fingers," the "copious watering" or "puddling of roots," useful sometimes, just as often kill the trees. The perfection of good morals in tree planting is, to do it when the ground will powder and not paste - as soon as there has been dirt enough put in to somewhat cover the roots, pull the tree up and down a little to encourage the earth to jolt into every little hole and cranny, then fill in and pound down the earth as tightly as possible. Prune out all the weak shoots and shorten the stronger ones. This is good planting, and unless a tree is dried up before setting in, not one in a thousand has much chance of losing its life.
And about large trees. They do just as well as small ones, provided they are very healthy, and are taken up with all the roots that can reasonably be taken, planted as we have described and pruned in the same manner. After a tree has once come freely into bearing, and its growing powers thereby checked somewhat, it has not the same chance as a really growing tree - growing in the full sense of the word - but until this time arrives the planter may safely use the larger trees.