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.
Mr. Beadle, of Canada. - The Northern Spy has for two years fruited with us in Canada, and seems to promise very well, bearing fine fruit and plenty of it It is all fine, largo, well-colored fruit, and hang3 well upon the trees. This is quite a desideratum, especially exposed, as we are, to high winds in autumn.
Mr. Barry. - When the Spy was first brought forward it was charged to be a very shy bearer, and to bear a large proportion of inferior fruit in the crop; but now we have had fifteen or sixteen years' experience with the fruit, and ought to be certain as to the real importance of the tree and the real value of the apple. Apples for market form an item of immense importance in our fruit growing farms, and I believe the Northern Spy has improved every year in quantity and quality, becoming finer and finer every year. I find it is now the best of all our winter apples, and one which will always be found a valuable sort to plant.
Mr. Sharpe, some fourteen years ago, got some of the scions, and grafted into the top of an old tree. After a while became discouraged waiting for the scions to bear, and directed a boy to bud them all over to pears. The pear buds failed; but that very year the tree bore four barrels of fine fruit, which kept nicely until the next April and May; and, sir, I never ate an apple that has the flavor nor the freshness which those Northern Spy apples had. This year that same tree bore five barrels of fruit, which sold readily at $1.50 per barrel, while other sorts at the same time brought only $1.00 per barrel If any body gets discouraged waiting for their Spy trees to fruit, I would advise them to try budding them over to pears, (laughter).
Mr. Brooks. - In 1855 set out an orchard with one hundred and fifty Spy trees in the one thousand trees. Some neighbors said I had made a great mistake; that they had grafted over every Northern Spy that they had planted. Now this year my trees have fruited, and fruited finely. If this fruit is one which we can carry into April or May with good flavor, and in fine condition, it will cause me to say with friend Bissell, (as to this important subject of having fine fresh fruit in the spring,) that the area of hnman enjoyment is thereby greatly enlarged.
Mr. fish, of Monroe County, spoke of the Northern Spy being called by some persons a great humbug because it would not bear fruit the first season after setting out People are generally too impatient to have their trees bear very early. One of my neighbors, of this temperament, who had set out quite a number, became lastyear discouraged, and dug part of them up. This year, those which were left standing have borne fully and finely of handsome fruit.
Mr. HoaG had seen Roxbnry Russet and Northern Spy in June, in New York. It is a most splendid keeper. Cultivators can make it bear earlier by thorough pruning, and checking the growth to wood. The fruit has never yet been over-praised. The pruning which I speak of should always be to make the tree very open, and grow spreading, and thus give sun to the whole inside of the limbs, and to every fruit.
Wm. B. Smith had pursued this plan of thinning out the top very thoroughly, and this year has had trees produce five barrels of fruit to the tree.
Mr. Barber. - This Northern Spy originated in Ontario county, and the fruit was first tested there some forty years ago. It is a slow tree to come into bearing; often requires six or seven years to produce. You can't get a bushel from a tree that is seven years old; but when it does pay, it pays. There are, however, localities where the crops can be hastened; for instance, upon the sunny sides of hills, in warm, rich, and deep soils. One of my neighbors has such trees in the centre of his orchard, upon a sunny side hill, and has had more profit from them, for the past fifteen years, than from any other trees in his orchard; and when he wants any more trees for profit he will plant Northern Spy. Other men in his neighborhood, whose trees are not in such favorable locations, are not as well pleased, and are grafting over their Northern Spy trees. There are some noticeable features about this variety. The trees need to bo young and thrifty when planted, and you.can not have good fruit upon them without extra care; keeping them pruned well and open, and not permitting them to overbear. The trees need a dry, well-drained soil, rich, loose, and deep, and good cultivation.
The trees do not leave out too early, and consequently are not exposed to danger from late frosts from which some other varieties suffer. Apple-buyers watch them closer at market than any other sort. But a spot upon an apple does not affect the whole apple; even if it be half rotten, the other half of the apple is good, and retains its true sprightly flavor.
Dr. Sylvester stated that the Spy was extensively planted in Wayne county, and in most places was very fine. The trees are slow in coming into bearing; but when they do bear, they produce fine, sound fruit. The tree needs thorough, judicious pruning and cultivation, and careful thinning out of the branches. Any person, with a dry, nice soil, who will devote attention enough to the tree to keep it in good heart, will have fine crops of a delicate nice apple, and an apple that keeps, and keeps well.
Mr. Moody was a decided advocate for the Northern Spy. Many of his neighbors had planted it freely, and such as had not already grafted it over, never will; for the trees are now bearing enormous crops. The tree needs proper pruning, and the top should be kept open, for it is inclined to grow compact, and too much to shade the fruit. The not early leafing out of the tree in the spring is quite an important advantage; for late frosts will sometimes kill back all the trees in the orchard, except Talman's Sweet and Northern Spy.
Mr. Hoag thought it a decidedly valuable tree, if well treated. The fruit is of superior quality, and such fine fruit always pays for good treatment It does well if you give it sun enough by open pruning. Apple-dealers consider the Northern Spy the most valuable sort we have.
Mr. Townsend stated that, fifteen years ago, his father grafted the Spy upon the tops of two old trees, and in the sixth year from the graft they bore a crop of fine fruit. Has gathered nine bushels from those two trees. Picked the fruit upon a cool, dry day, assorted it carefully, headed up the barrels, and did not meddle with it until the 1st of April; but found that fully three fifths were totally decayed, and the balance, which seemed fair, were decayed in the centre. My trees suffer from dry rot. The Spy is my favorite apple for eating, but they decay rapidly. Fruit-buyers dislike the blotches which it is apt to have upon the surface, and say that they " won't buy those blight, fungus blotches." My trees are upon a soil which is heavy, but well drained.
Mr. Barry was pleased to hear the opinions of the gentlemen who had spoken, representing all varieties of soil, and a circuit of a hundred miles or more; and, although they differ in details, the general verdict is that the Spy is a good apple. To be sure, it requires care, but no more than its ultimate value will justify. It requires a dry, warm soil, and some pruning; but so do all trees from Which we get such decided returns. The thinning out should be done very lightly. This tree bears fine fruit, and it pays, and pays well, for good culture. The tardiness in coming into bearing is no objection, for the tree thus has time to become fully established, and is more sure for future years. The Spy bears enormous crops, and the fruit should not all be allowed to grow, or the limbs become thereby bent, and the sap obstructed, while the ground becomes poor and the tree impoverished by the production and ripening of such over-heavy crops. After a heavy crop of fruit, not only the Spy, but all apple-trees should be well pruned, and the ground restored by careful cultivation. The fungus in certain localities is due wholly to local causes; it is not a general thing. As to the keeping, much depends upon the care in gathering, and on the care used in assorting previous to packing.
In my cellar the Northern Spy is keeping as well as any variety.
Mr. L. B. Langworthy thinks he grafted the first tree with this variety in the county of Monroe, and has watched it closely. The tree needs pruning, and has a tendency to over-hear. The fruit has a very fine juicy, spicy flavor, and holds this flavor longer than any other apple in the world; while, as to beauty, there is no handsomer fruit If carefully looked to, and well kept, there is no finer apple for the household; but for transportation to distant markets it has faults. Dealers do not like them for shipment because they are thin-skinned, tender, and liable to bruise.
Dr. Sylvester had found that his apples kept very much better by being sweated before being headed up in barrels. Never head up fruit while wet.