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.
As soon as the fruit becomes the size of a horse-bean, commence syringing the trees morning and evening with soft water, and continue to do this all through the summer till the fruit begins to change color before ripening. Weak liquid manure may be given once a week during the summer. This is, however, almost a matter of choice. My trees "grow and bear well without it. Guano water, one pound to twenty gallons, is perhaps as good as any; and a good soaking of this once a week is better than using it more frequently. While in their young state, the fruit must be thinned, leaving, at first, upon a bush that has been two years in a pot, about three dozen; which, when they attain the size of a small nutmeg, must be reduced to two dozen: the third year, a tree, if it has prospered, will be able to bring three dozen to maturity; it is, however, better to have a few finely-grown fruit than many that are small. If some of the trees are required to decorate the dessert - and what can be more ornamental than an apricot tree full of fruit? - they must be prepared for removal by lifting the pots a week previously, so as to break off the roots that have struck into the border: no harm will be done, - it only checks their growth a little prematurely; they must, however, in such cases, be brought back to the orchard house after the fruit is gathered, and have water till the end of October.
* I now have my pots made with five holes, each an inch and a half in diameter. In remote places, where these cannot be procured, the enlarged holes may be used. † If a tree with only three or four branches is potted, they must be cut into four inches; Land the tree must have a season's growth to form itself.
To sustain trees in health in pots something more must be done than allowing their roots to go into the border; annually, in October, every tree should have a top-dressing of rich compost. I have employed, with much success, horse-droppings gathered from the roads, and unctuous loam, equal parts. The former I have had saturated with night-soil or liquid manure, and then exposed to the air for two or three months before mixing it with the loam. Some powdered charcoal strewed over this compost will prevent any disagreeable smell. Any kind of rotten manure, however, and loam, seems to answer well for top-dressing, which is done in the following manner: take out a portion of the soil, five of six inches in depth, and about four inches in width all around the side of the pot, leaving the central mass of roots undisturbed (a portion of the mould may, however, be picked out from among the mass of fibres with advantage, as fresh food can do them no harm); then fill in the compost, and ram it firmly down; keep on filling and ramming till it is on a level with the edge of the pot; place one or two inches of loose compost on the surface, as it will settle much during the winter; give one or two good soakings of water; and then place the trees close together, for you will then have more space for winter parsley, lettuces, young cauliflowers, and other matters requiring shelter.
Water most be withheld, and the trees suffered to remain dry and completely at rest during the winter.
This treatment may be continued every year without variation, except as regards pruning. In removing the trees to their allotted places on the borders in spring, I have lately found it beneficial to take out about two shovelfuls of earth on the place where the pot is to stand, and replace it with the same quantity of the compost used for top-dressing: the tree is thus fed from above and below. It will be necessary in very dry winters to watch the trees to see if their shoots shrivel; if so, they must have a small quantity of water, but not in severe frost; and if the winter be excessively severe, to "make assurance doubly sure," some dry hay or litter may be laid on and around the pots: the dry state of the soil will, however, as far as my experience has gone, perfectly resist the effects of frost.
The best implement for top-dressing is a piece of iron rod an inch and a half in circumference and nine inches long, flattened at the end, with a handle of wood five inches long, like the annexed figure.
Now, let us see what we may expect from this treatment. The apricot, the peach, and nectarine, as is well known, all come from the East. We will take Persia or Armenia. The winter there is dry and very severe; the spring dry, with hot sun and piercing wind, just when peaches and apricots are in full bloom, and yet how they succeed I Let any one go into an orchard house when we have our usual March weather: the wind will whistle through it, and the climate will be dry, sunny, and bracing; the blossoms, under these circumstances, will all set Unfortunately, we cannot command sunshine enough to carry us along, to make our fruit ripen in May and June, as in warmer climates; we must, therefore, wait patiently, for our orchard house climate is slow but sure in its operation's. If the above directions are followed, Eastern nature is imitated as closely as our cloudy skies permit. The trees bloom in a dry, airy place; they pass through a comparatively dry, warm summer; they are, like all trees natives of dry climates, early in a state of perfect rest, which is continued all through the winter, and thus they form healthy shoots and well-developed blossom-buds. Nothing in .culture can be more perfect, and all is so simple, that, knowing as I do, with what facility it is done, I feel ashamed of the many words I have used in describing it.
It will be seen that I have, to carry out this system, recommended houses of wood and glass; those, however, who prefer brick to wooden walls, may have them, as any greenhouse may be made into an orchard house, by merely lowering the roof to the height given in page 10*, sinking the pathway, and having sliding shutters, back and front. The grand essentials are, low roof, borders instead of benches, and constant ventilation, more or less, according to the state of the weather, through the shutters; but in houses with brick walls there will not be that constant, gentle percolation of air which there is through boarded houses, and which seems so highly favorable to the well-being of stone-fruits.