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.
That the stock upon which a graft is inserted has an influence upon its future growth, is well known. If it were not so, then grafting, budding, and similar modes of propagating plants would not have been discovered, nor the beneficial results of these operations been enjoyed by mankind. But merely supporting the graft or furnishing it with the required amount of sustenance, does not convey the full meaning of the term influence as generally understood in connection with this subject.
The stock not only acts as a medium through which the graft obtains sustenance from the earth, but it in a great measure imparts its own characteristics to it; and it is thus we change the giant into a dwarf, the slow growing plant into a rapid, and many other variations from the natural habits of plants, simply through the influence of the stock on the graft.
We may not be able in every instance to determine the true cause of certain variations which may appear to be antagonistic with what we call natural laws, still, for all practical purposes, our knowledge of this subject is sufficient to enable us in many instances to so change natural products that their value to us is increased many, many fold.
The common method of producing dwarf trees is one of the most familiar instances of the influence of the stock on the graft. But there is, however, a too general inclination on the part of the public to misapply the term dwarf, as many suppose that it is nearly, if not quite, synonymous with debility or stunted growth. This idea is an erroneous conclusion, for in many instances what arc called dwarf trees are equal to and often more vigorous than standards. For instance, we will select two seedling stocks, one shall be the Mahaleb Cherry and the other the Mazzard; both shall be of the same size and of equal vigor. Upon these we will insert buds of the May Duke Cherry, or any other variety. Now, the chances are in favor of the bud on the Mahaleb stock making the most rapid growth for the first one or two years, and still the Mahaleb is considered to be one of the best stocks on which to dwarf the cherry. Now, the Mahaleb stock does not lessen the vigor of the tree, but merely imparts to the graft its peculiar habit of growing and spreading, and we are obliged to allow and assist the tree to grow in this form, or it will surely become feeble and perish.
The. bud inserted upon the Mazzard stock will shoot up into a tree, assuming its natural form, but the influence of the stock will be to make it grow pyramidal and quite tall, because that is the natural habit of the Mazzard Cherry.
From my own experience, I conclude the same rule holds good with many other dwarf stocks, and I have, as a general thing, secured a larger growth of the pear for the first two or three years, and even longer with proper care, on the quince than upon the pear stock. The influence of these stocks is shown by imparting their peculiar form of growth to the graft, early fruiting, etc., more than checking their vigor. By these remarks, we wish to be understood as only referring to stocks upon which the graft readily unites. If we undertake to trim up our dwarf trees and make standards of them, we soon discover our mistake; and I once knew of an instance where ten thousand cherry-trees on Mahaleb stocks were destroyed in endeavoring to change them from dwarfs into standards. In this instance, the first sign of failure appeared upon the upper portion of the stem and among the branches in the form of a species of fungus or blight, which killed the upper portion of the tree, and at the same time young, vigorous branches were produced in abundance on the lower portion of the stem; and thus the tree assumed its natural low growing or dwarfish habit.
In some instances, we use stocks merely as a temporary support to the graft, not expecting that a permanent union will be formed, as in grafting the tree paeonia upon the herbaceous, or the stem of one dahlia upon the tubers of another. But with trees we usually expect permanency, and therefore select stocks that shall not only support the graft, but develop those particular characteristics which are most desired.
The chief point of influence of the stock on the graft may be stated as follows: 1st. The stock gathers the crude materials for the support of the graft from the soil, and in doing so it may furnish it in such quantities as to produce rapid growth, or the reverse.
2d. Its tendency is to impart its own habit of growth to the graft. Early or late maturity and productiveness being characteristics of different varieties, the stock will therefore hasten or delay fruiting.
3d. One species of stock will extract from the soil the peculiar ingredients which are necessary to support the graft, while another will not, consequently a variety of species of fruit may fail upon one stock and succeed upon another in the lame soil and locality.
4th. The hardiness of a tree is but slightly changed by the stock, except as its growth is influenced, to mature early or late in the season.
5th. The quality of the fruit is occasionally influenced by the stock; but the true cause of this is not yet sufficiently understood to allow of positive rules being given by which it may be avoided. Size of the fruit is also considerably changed by the use of different stocks. I know of two Bartlett pear-trees of the same age and standing side by side, and both apparently of equal vigor, still for ten years one has produced very large fruit and the other small. The number of specimens upon each tree being reduced to an equal number, the difference in size was still the same. With such examples before us we can not but conclude that the stock in some instances does exert sufficient influence to change the size of the fruit.
6th. The stock will not only impart vigor to the grafts, but will also transmit diseases. It is therefore just as important to avoid the one as to endeavor to secure the other.
IN order to have flowers early in the season, from seed, you will find the following brief hints of value to you, if taken. At the Pottery you can buy small two-inch pots for a cent each. Get a hundred, or more if you like; make a hot-bed in the usual way, and fill your little pots full of the richest, lightest earth you can find, and that which is free from foul grass or weed seed. Plant a few seeds in each pot - the number to be governed by the size of the seed - sowing them quite shallow, and pressing the soil lightly with the back of your fingers. Then plunge the pots in your hot-bed soil up to the rim of the pot; water occasionally with a very fine rose sprinkler, and your planting is done. Give plenty of air on warm, bright days, and when your plants are several inches high, either thin them out to two or three, and throw the other away, or transplant them to other pots and place in a cold frame. When all danger of frost is passed, turn out your plants with the soil or ball of earth attached, wherever you want them to grow. If treated in this way, no shading will be necessary, and your plants will grow as well as if they had never been transferred.
Cucumbers, melons, squashes, etc., etc., can all be treated successfully in like manner, and you will thus be enabled to eat fresh vegetables in advance of your plodding neighbors, some three or four weeks. This advice is given after several years of practical testing, and is no mean theory suggested by an idle brain.
Stanford, Ky. Woodman.