This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
[Continued from p. 586].
One lesson which experience has taught us, is the importance of thinning the fruit, especially of apples and pears. This branch of Pomology has received comparatively but little attention. There is a limit to the capabilities of all created things. If you tax the energies of an animal too severely for a long time, the result will be premature age and decay. Subject any vegetable or mineral substance to too great pressure, and you destroy its power of cohesion. So if you permit a tree to bear beyond its strength, you injure its fruit, retard its growth, and shorten its life. All have observed that superfecundity one year produces barrenness the next. Hence we hear among our farmers and gardeners of what they term the bearing year. They invariably designate the Baldwin ap-ple as a tree that beans on alternate years. But is not the cause of this alternation found in the fact, that the abundant crop of the bearing year exhausts the energies of the tree, and absorbs the pabulum so as not to leave sufficient aliment for the formation of fruit spurs for the succeeding year? Many varieties have a tendency to overbearing, especially those which produce their fruit in clusters.
Nature herself teaches us the remedy for this evil, and a superabundance of blossom is generally followed by a profuse falling of the embryo fruit. When and where this dropping is not sufficient to prevent overbearing, we should resort to the process of relieving the tree of a portion of its fruit.
The organism which carries on healthful development, in order to repeat its cycle of functions from year to year, can not be overworked without time for recuperation. Whatever of nutrition goes to the support of useless branches, or a redundancy of fruit, abstracts that strength from the tree which would otherwise be appropriated to the perfection of the crop, and the development of the spurs which would bear fruit the next year. One of the best cultivators in the vicinity of Boston has reduced this theory to practice, with the happiest effect, in the cultivation of the pear. His system allows no useless wood, nor more fruit spurs, and no more fruit, than the tree can properly sustain. As a consequence, he produces every year superior fruit, which commands the highest price. Some have doubted whether this practice can bo made remunerative, except in its application to the finer fruits. But another cultivator, who raises an annual crop of the best apples, assures us that the secret of his success is the thinning of the fruit, and he has no doubt of the economy of the practice. No good farmer doubts the necessity of thinning his root crops, no vigneron the propriety of thinning his grapes.
Analogy of cultivation, therefore, justifies the practice, and I entertain no question of its great importance.
Light, air, and moisture, are essential to the production of vegetable products, and especially of fine fruits. Who has not observed that the best specimens of fruits on a tree are ordinarily those which are most exposed to these elements? Who does not select the full sized ruddy fruit, which has had free communion with light, heat, and air, in preference to the half fed specimen which has shared its own proper nourishment with five or six crowded rivals on the same spur?
An experienced English cultivator says: "The bending of branches of trees by an overcrop of fruit is most injurious, for the pores of the woody stalk are strained on the one side of the bend, and compressed on the other; hence the vessels through which the requisite nourishment flows being partially shut up, the growth of the fruit is retarded in proportion to the straining and compression of the stalk." This is illustrated in the overbearing of some varieties, which, from a redundancy of fruit, without the process of early and thorough thinning, seldom produce good specimens, and in a few years become stinted and unhealthy trees. The overbearing of a tree is as much a tax upon its energies and constitution, as is the exhaustion of a field by excessive crops of the same kind, year after year, without a return of nutritive materials. Inexhaustible fertility is a chimera of the imagination. Sooner or later, the richest soils will require a restoration of what the kind your father saw at the Fair. Then there is the Japan Quince, grown for the sake of its brilliant flowers; it is one of our best ornamental shrubs, and sometimes bears a fruit that will pucker your mouth all up.
The kind that we have selected for you is the apple-shaped Quince, which grows on a tree some eight to ten feet high. Some people think it grows best on low, damp soils; but that is all nonsense, Frank, and you must get no such ideas in your head. It grows best on a rich, mellow, well-drained soil. In damp and wet places it becomes hard, gritty, and astringent, whereas on a well-drained soil it grows large and mellow. Some people grow it like a bush, letting suckers come up and grow as they will, and never taking the least pains to prune it. Such people are dreadful slovenly, Frank, You must not be so, with your Quinces, or any thing else. Your father must buy you one of Rea's Seedling, and prepare a piece of ground to put it in, digging it deep, and enriching it with some old manure and plenty of muck. After that is done, and the hole ready, spread out the roots carefully, and work in some nice fine soil all around them. Trim off all the branches within two feet of the ground, and as, the tree grows, out out such branches as interfere with each other. If you will only take a little pains in this way at the beginning, you will in time have a nice, round-headed tree, loaded with beautiful golden fruit. After the tree is once established, it will require little or no pruning.
If you want large Quinces, Frank, you must break off a good many when they are quite small. You will get quite as many pounds as though you left all on, with this advantage. that the fruit will not only be large, but very much better. You must look out for the borer, however, and punch him out if he gets in, or he will spoil all your hopes of big quinces.
Quinces are not eaten like Apples and Pears, Frank; they are made into jellies and preserves, which are very nice when well made, with the flavor of the quince preserved. They are profitable to raise for market, always bringing a good price. But we will tell you more about Quinces at another time, and give you some more pictures. So good-by, Frank, for the present.