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.
So much has been said and written of late upon the Grape question, that I begin to fear we may forget that other fruits can be successfully raised. I therefore propose to give you my experience in raising Plums, in which I have made a profitable experiment, willing that my fellow readers of the Horticulturist may go and do likewise, if they believe the Yankee maxim, that some things may be done as well as others, and that one man can do what another has done, if he tries.
In 1856, 1 set out with care what remained of seven or eight hundred Plum-trees, which had been stuck out by contract two years before, and up to that time had refused to thrive. This transplanting revived them, and from that period I date the beginning of my experiment, which, including the present season, makes six years that they have been under treatment. The ground between the Plum-trees has been regularly plowed and cultivated for the Raspberry crop, the product of which has paid all expenses, including $50 per year ground-rent, for two acres and a quarter, and a profit besides. In 1859, 1 spread under each tree half a peck of common salt.
The black knot upon these Plum-trees has appeared regularly every year, and has been cut out clean to the healthy wood in the month of June, say within a fortnight after its first appearance, and while the excrescence was still soft. It is then easily removed without injury to the tree, the wound generally healing over the same season. For the last three years this disease has decreased yearly. The past season I removed the whole from 640 trees in less than half a day. In 1859 these trees began to bear fruit, yielding twenty bushels, which was sold for fifty-five dollars, after paying expenses. In 1860, the crop was nine bushels and one peck, which brought three dollars a bushel. In 1861, 1 gathered and marketed seventy-two bushels, for which I received five dollars and twenty cents a bushel, after paying expenses. The total receipts for the three years amount to four hundred and forty-eight dollars and seventy-five cents, after paying all expenses, and amounts to about three times the original outlay, including cost of trees, labor of setting, and transplanting. I know of no business which pays a better profit upon the investment. Only about one-half of my trees have yet borne fruit. Many of them produced from six to twenty Plums the past season.
Of course, the production may be expected to increase for many years.
The variety cultivated by me is the free-stone frost Plum, which is most prolific. The cling-stone is much the finest variety, holds good] on the tree two or three weeks later, and brings a higher price in market.
The secret of my success may be summed up as follows:
1st. By selecting varieties that are but little troubled by curculio, and that are marketed without damage to the fruit; these, being used for preserves, are gathered before they become soft and mellow enough to eat: consequently, they are not injured by transportation to market, and are sure to bring a good price.
2d. By careful planting in ground previously prepared and mellowed, and kept so by yearly working.
3d. By the use of salt as a manure.
4th. By an unsparing use of the knife upon the black knot in the month of June of each year, instead of waiting until fell or the next spring, or perhaps neglecting it altogether.
In former years the Plum crop of this country was a source of profit to almost every farmer, but the curculio has attacked and destroyed the finer varieties of fruit, and the black knot made such havoc among the blue Plum-trees, as to discourage its culture. May we not hope to see this fruit again generally cultivated for market purposes?
[There is no reason why we should not, if we take the necessary trouble, which need not exceed that usually bestowed upon the Raspberry in your own neighborhood. If the time and labor devoted to covering the Raspberry were bestowed upon the Plum, in jarring the trees, etc., as practiced by Ellwanger & Barry and others, the Plum would yield a fair average all over the country. Without some such devotion as this, it is useless to attempt growing few but the poorest kinds. Prince's Imperial Gage seems to be one of the few good Plums not so much attacked as others. Cutting out the black knot, as you suggest, is very necessary. The application of salt, if not carried too far, is good, since it also helps to kill the grub; but we have known its injudicious application to be entirely destructive of the tree : the recommendation of such applications should always be accompanied by a caution. We are obliged to you for calling attention to this subject, and giving us the results of your practice. We shall be glad to hear from you again. - Ed.]