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.
Junius, (Princeton, N. J.) From the account you give of the difficulty of raising good peaches in your soil as compared with twenty years ago we should say your soil is exhausted of the proper food for the tree, to restore it prepare large holes for a new plantation of peach trees, by trenching the soil two feet deep and mixing with it a heavy dressing of leached wood ashes and stable manure. If we were to add another hint it would be to send to a distance and get a new stock of the best varieties.
The destruction of the peach tree this year was unusual in degree, and occasioned by an unusual cause. The hard frosts of December 27th previously had, apparency, destroyed the most of the fruit buds. The winter, though unusually cold, was favorable to the health of fruit by its great uniformity. Apple trees and healthful plums passed through it safely, while plum trees that had been injured during the summers of 1850-51 by the mildew of the leaf, (in consequence, I think, of hot, damp weather,) were killed.
On the 14th of April I passed through all my peach trees, and removed such trees as I have found uniformly yielded late and poor fruit. On that occasion I was pleasantly surprized at the healthful state of the wood and the proportion of fruit buds yet alive, especially those situated about the base of the limbs. Certainly, there had been no winter of the eight during which I had cultivated the peach, more congenial to its health. April 26th the temperature rose to 68°, there having been but two or three days as high as 54° previously. At this date I deemed my peach trees in a fairly hopeful condition, with the exception of the large lose of fruit already noticed.
April 27th to 30th, inclusive, were four bright days, with a brisk wind, which was cool except daring the last of them. These four days were undoubtedly the turning point in the health of the peach. At the conclusion of them, much of the young wood was shrivelled and drying up, even to the eye, and much more to the test of the knife. The change was so sudden and extreme as to leave no room to doubt, even on the most cursory observation. The sun and wind combined seemed to have annihilated the sap of the young wood - the weather previously having been too cool to excite the roots toaction.
Gooseberries were now slowly coming into leaf; pie-plant was partially expanding; peach, but especially cherry buds, were here and there swelling. May 1st there was rain copious enough to make the Mohawk overflow its banks. May 3d to 6th were four frosty nights. From the 6th to the 9th, inclusive, were four hot days - the temperature on the 7th reaching 82°, and on the 8th it was probably as high, though the indication was not reached. The peach broke into flower slowly and irregularly from the 15th to the 22d, when it was about in full flower. This was just ten days later than usual, it ordinarily being in full flower on the 12th. While these were coming into flower they encounted three Novembery days from the 18th to the 20th, which resulted in frost on the morning of the 21st. By this time it was evident that of some five hundred trees that had exhibited apparently fair health less than one month before, full one-half were substantially ruined - some being dead (as the result soon after showed), root and branch, others killed to the ground merely, and others still having here and there a live limb. The remaining half were injured less in various degrees.
Soon after flowering there was a considerable development of the "curled leaf" malady, though I think it was less than in 1851. This attack was to have been expected, if the principles laid down in an article in your paper for February, 1851, were correct, the general character of the weather in the two cases having been very similar. It deserves to be noticed that trees that stood in the grass, and so had made less succulent wood the preceding year, were less injured. I have read in your paper general statements of the extensive death of the peach during the last severe winter. It would be gratifying to know whether this destruction was occasioned by an influence acting strictly during the winter, or whether, as in my own experience, it was, more properly, the influence of an irregular spring. I closed my articles one year ago, when writing on the "curled leaf," in a tone of considerable confidence in the possibility of cultivating the peach somewhat successfully, even in Oneida county; but the experience of 1852 is, I acknowledge, not a little discouraging. Others about me, with a few trees, on a heavier and less excitable soil, have suffered lees than myself. A tree of mine, also, that is budded on a plum root, has been vigorous.
But it is sufficiently obvious that, in a climate with such liabilities, the cultivation of the peach must ever be precarious.
This is the best month to prune peach-trees. Take out all dead wood; shorten back the last year's growths one third to one half; take away entire most of the puny little twigs, and shorten others back into spurs for bearing another year. Clear away all borers from the roots.
"Penny Wise, Pound Foolish." -Many, very many, in their improvements of grounds, arranging of trees, positions of roads, etc., can yearly have this old adage safely applied to them. Reader, we hope you are not among the number. It is a common thing for a new beginner, a man of wealth, to suppose that in arrangement of his grounds, the position of trees, etc., he knows as much as any one, or that his gardener, to whom he pays a good salary, is quite competent, and under this view his planting and the arrangement of his place is made. This same man would consider it bad policy to employ a cheap hand to make him a coat, for although the tailor might sew strong, yet there would be in the shape and set a feature that wherever he wore the coat would betray the maker. And just so it is in arrangement of grounds, positions and curves of roads, arrangement of trees, etc.; the gardener may be a perfect workman, very often a much better practical hand with tree and plant than the landscapist, but from want of study and an innate expanded taste, he can no more arrange trees on a lawn or around the buildings to the best effect than the cheap tailor can give to his coat the style of the day.
Every one who prepares a new place should call in for consultation, at least once, a competent landscape gardener, a man whose mind is and has been attuned to the subject, who may not perhaps be half as good a tree planter as many gardeners, but who has studied light and shade, harmony and color of foliage, breadth, form, and height of tree, until, at a glance over a place, he can see where and what will create upon it features of beauty and grandeur.
This "penny wise, pound foolish" system is often practiced by men under the impress that they can not afford to pay ten or twenty dollars a day for a man just to look about. If they would think one moment how this looking about, sticking a stick here, another there, and noting the tree to be planted, is going to increase in permanent beauty their property, they would not hesitate. Without this staking by an artist, many a man has in a few years to take up and remove many trees. Some are too near the paths; others that are in the center of a group do not grow as fast as the outside ones, and consequently can not be seen, and so on, keeping his place for years in a constant state of removal and renewal, with a face of garish newness, never of quiet peace and repose.
Fruit-trees may yet be proned; indeed, it is better to do it now than in mid-winter. Pruning now will be for the purpose of creating form and more vigorous growth. Trees that are already growing thriftily had better be left until the last of July or early August, when the pruning will have a tendency to check extended growths and increase the number of fruit-buds.
Vineyard vines now require constant care. Very much of the success of the summer may be said to rest in the early starting. Leave now only just the number of buds you wish to grow from the main stem or arms for next year's fruiting, rubbing out all others. In many sections this should have been done last month, but in some cold ranges the buds do not push much until this time. As the laterals grow, do not pinch them until they have made at least two leaves; and as the fruiting shoots grow, do not pinch back to leave less than three leaves beyond the fruit.
This is a good month to propagate all green-house plants.
Lancaster, O., February 17, 1867.
Messrs. Editors : In February number Horticulturist, under Editor's Department, the following item occurs:
"Experiments of years in succession have shown that well-ripened but medium-sized tubers planted whole, result in giving the most rigorous character of plant and most even-sized tubers as the crop; large potatoes planted whole give a few extra large potatoes each hill, while cut pieces of one and two eyes each do not give strong plants, and too often have too many small valueless tubers."
Now, perhaps, this is good advice in New York, but in Ohio we would consider it a decided waste of material to plant whole tubers. Last year I planted three bushel Garnet Chile potatoes.
Cut from one to two eyes, and dropped two pieces six inches apart every eighteen inches, covering with earth from one to two inches, and then spread bagasse all over the ground, six to eight inches. Without any further attention, I gathered from that lot one hundred bushels large, even-sized potatoes, that will sell in any market. My Garnet Chile, not affected with rot, while all other varieties that I had planted were. L A. Fetters.