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.
The able Secretary of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society has sent us the new seedling peach, raised by Mr.E. W. Keyser, 9th Street, below Vine, Philadelphia, which is a promising acquisition. In size and flavor it is between the Strawberry and the Rare-Ripe peaches and of most delicious quality. Mr. Keyser offers grafts to any applicant.
The Prospectus of the Architects and Mechanics' Journal, issued by Baillere Brothers, 440 Broadway, promises a new and useful periodical, at $3 in advance.
It must be honestly confessed that, as scientific horticulturists, the majority of us know very little about the peach.
Stop! I may be too fast in this proposition; well, let it be modified by saying that very little definite information is to be met with in our periodicals respecting the peach.
Since A. J. Downing wrote up the history and practice of peach-growing as an orchard crop, few satisfactory experiments have come within our observation calculated to throw a satisfactory light on the want of success which has, in the majority of cases, attended the extensive culture of this fruit.
Too much alike many other ventures, "peach-raising has had its day".
This idea might be accepted without comment but for the fact that under certain circumstances, and in various sections of the country, at intervals, fair crops of a fair quality are produced. But what is more important, individual trees, in many sections, are found to produce abundant crops of the largest and finest fruit, without, it would seem, any special care or attention. Such trees are produced from chance pits, either deposited as an experiment in private yards or gardens, or spring up spontaneously from the pits cast away by chance. In either case the result is of equal importance in demonstrating that good peaches and an abundant crop may be obtained from such individual trees, leading us to the inquiry, why this result in these exceptional cases !
That there are hundreds of such instances of chance seedlings producing luscious fruit, and an abundance of it, it is presumed no one will question who has been a close observer or frequent attendant at fruit exhibitions.
Nothing connected with our fruit culture is more striking than the rapid decline of the peach crop in many sections of the Middle States. It can scarcely be credited that, in twenty years, districts of New Jersey have fallen off from thousands of bushels of choice fruit to a few bushels of like quality; the remainder being spotted, second rate, or almost worthless fruit. Yet who can doubt but that negligent cultivation and a want of due attention to the requirements of this unacclimated tree have been the chief causes of the deterioration ? Changes in the atmospheric conditions of our climate have, without doubt, had much to do with the recent failure of the peach, as all our orchard fruits appear to be on the decline during the past quarter of a century. Atmospheric changes can not, however, account for the entire failure; several other matters bear a part of the blame. Various reports of reliable and interested growers combine to place considerable weight on the nature of the soil, and many of them express their belief in the absence in many soils, otherwise apparently suitable, of some "unknown ingredient" which the peach demands; this is but negative information.
Other more certain defects are readily detected, such, for example, as the general exhaustion of the thin sandy soil chiefly selected for peach orchards; the exhaustion of the vigorous constitution of the trees by injudicious selection of diseased or debilitated pits; budding by selecting cions from one-year-old immature trees, in which the wood-producing cells only have been developed; inattention to the selection of a proper site, in which the tree will be exposed during the early spring and late fall so as to avoid the premature starting of the sap before the severe frosts have disappeared, thereby exposing the expanding buds, and in autumn or early winter shelter preventing the full development and maturation of the wood by the partial ripening of the foliage these are some of the causes which, in my mind, have led to the failure of the peach.
To what extent the skillful and intelligent cultivator could avoid the evils arising from the causes above enumerated, we can not accurately determine.
In addition to the presumed evils, the remaining well-defined causes of deterioration are, the attacks of the borer and other pests; the winter killing of the buds in unusually severe seasons, and the blighting of the blossoms from the same cause; the injury to the foliage from parasitic fungi, induced by want of vigorous development, and other contingencies.
The condition of a tree can be determined on inspection by a skillful cultivator. The presence of a multitude of twiggy shoots crowding the interior is an evidence of negligence in pruning; the absence of a healthy green hue in the foliage argues imperfect development of the coloring matter - the best evidence of healthy leaves; this you may call the "yellows".
The presence of the "curl" or blister on the leaves, showing the attack of a well-known form of fungus which has secured a footing in consequence of the unhealthy state of the tissue, but which will temporarily yield to a vigorous growth at a more advanced period of the season, and the presence of other forms of parasitic pests, are certain evidences of weakened vitality. Once for all it may be safely affirmed, that as the multitude of animalculae attack the fallen trunk and limbs, and reduce the organs of which they are composed to mere decaying matter, so these organized vegetable growths of the lowest grades attack the still struggling plant, and insinuating their peculiar roots or mycelia into the cells and passages, draw therefrom the juices destined for the support of its foliage and appropriate them to their growth and nutrition. Without these wonderful agents - the scavengers of the vegetable world - we should fail to note the presence of imperfect vitality, and should prize our invalid trees as if they were perfect models of health, to be mortified and disappointed at the unprofitable result.
The practiced eye, however, detects the various forms of minute parasitic fungi on the leaves or bark or wood, and thus is forewarned of the approach of insidious decay. Such, however, is the nature of these forms of the vegetable kingdom that they continue for months and years to increase and spread over and throughout the congeries of cells and vessels, until the tree, with its multitude of leaves and shoots, falls a prey to their insidious attack. So much, at least, has been learned of the philosophy of these minute but innumerable attendants on debilitated growth. How much remains to be learned, we dare not conjecture.
The "curl," "mildew," or any other form of such parasites is but the evidence that all is not right within the tree. The sooner we set ourselves to stimulate and restore a healthy growth, the sooner these will drop their hold upon its vitals. "Fungus".