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 R. 0. refers to the "application of muck as being injurious because it is a powerful absorbent of ammonia." In the name of common sense, where does it obtain such an excess of ammonia? Certainly not from the soil or atmosphere. I will simply ask Mr. O. if the application of fresh muck in excessive quantity, does not injure vegetation in consequence of the presence of an excess of humic acid? which condition could be changed by exposure to the atmosphere, or by the addition of lime or ashes. In our communication, we referred to the abundance of muck, and stated that "lime is cheap." We did not consider it necessary to point out the fact that muck required manipulation before it was adapted to supply plants with the elements of growth. We did not deem it necessary to discuss the principles of agricultural chemistry, which we imagined .every horticultural tyro understands.
Mr. O. refers to the thinness of the soil, and the deficiency of pasturage. We do not question the correctness of his statements, for we have reason to believe that his observations have been confined to the eastern portion of the State, where a thousand acres of land in most localities would be dear at any price. But his remarks do not apply to many portions of the state. Mr. 0. is like many others who have condemned the State - they have not visited or examined its garden spots.
Mr. O. asserts that often one-third of the fruit on a tree cracks open before ripe. That such an accident may occur in the region where Mr. O. resides, I do not for a moment question; for if the soil is such as he describes, the trees cannot mature a full crop. In all my wanderings in the State, during summer and winter, I never heard such a thing referred to. Even though one-third should fall off, orange and lemon trees set such immense quantities of fruit, that "one-third of a crop" could be spared. Apples and pears crack and are seriously injured in our northern states, yet they are profitable. In some soils and in some locations those fruits are a failure, yet such is no evidence that they cannot be successfully grown in other localities.
He informs us that the fruit does not bear transportation, as well as that raised in drier times. This is true to a certain extent; for the Mediterranean and West India fruit is so thick-skinned, spongy, and juiceless, that it cannot be injured te the same extent as the luscious orange of Florida. The oranges produced in Florida are to a great extent thin-skinned, and overflowing with luscious saccharine juice. One reason why Florida fruit decays, is owing to careless packing. They are picked and handled without care, seldom sweated. When packed they are placed loosely in barrels; and during their journey, they are rolled from wagon to dock, dock to boat, and the dose is repeated until every orange is bruised. When the growers pick and handle the fruit with care, subject it to a sweating process, and pack it in proper boxes, with each fruit wrapped in paper or dry moss, the fruit will carry to our northern markets successfully. Mr. O. tells us that much of the fruit is lost whilst en route to our northern states, but neglects to refer to defective packing, and does not even give us an idea of the percentage of loss. The official returns of the port of New York show that 25 per cent, of Mediterranean, and 45 per cent, of West India fruit decayed.
Even with defective packing we question if Florida fruit decayed to the same extent. Last February I gathered oranges at Enterprise, Melonville, Harts and Moragnys groves, at Palatka, Manatee, Tampa, Sumpterville and Booksville, and carried the fruit with me during my travels, uninjured, until I arrived at my northern home.
Your correspondent refers to a grove of 50 trees that had not produced a peck of oranges in 25 years, which goes to substantiate my statement, that great care should be exercised in selecting a suitable site and soil for a grove. He refers to the failure of orange trees if planted in a soil where water can be reached in from two to five feet beneath the surface. If he had dug as many holes as I have at St. Augustine to determine this very fact, he might be induced to change his opinion. • I can refer him to one lemon tree, the crop of which sold for over $100, and potable water can be obtained at any time near the tree, by digging a hole less than three feet deep.
Your correspondent asserts that the women living in what is considered the best sections for orange growing, would be quite glad to leave the country for good; and he seldom found a man who had been living on his place for five years, but would gladly sell for one-half cost. Last winter, I made it my business to visit large and small groves owned by "women" and men, and in no instance did I meet with a person who would sell their groves, old or young, for anything like a reasonable price - much less at a sacrifice. Mr. 0. refers to his observations and his town, but he leaves us in the dark regarding where he has found women so ready to sell; or the whereabouts of "his town." It is a self-evident fact, that he has not examined the groves at St. Augustine, Mandarin, Darcy's Landing, Orange Mills, Palatka, Eaton's Grove at north end of Lake Monroe, where the fruit of one tree has sold for $140; at Enterprise, near Melonville, Burman's or Dummit's Grove on Indian river - the latter having yielded over a quarter of million of oranges in one year; the groves at Manatee, Tampa, Sumpterville, Booksville, Orange Lake, Micanopy or on the Appalaohicola river.
At one time I entertained views regarding Florida similar to those of Mr. 0., but later experience, extensive travel and careful observation induced me to change them, and I have no hesitation in stating that in my opinion, portions of the State present greater inducements for settlement than any other section of the United States. And in conclusion, I can assure your readers, that orange and lemon culture will prove more remunerative than any other description of fruit growing in the United States. So convinced am I of this fact, that if it were necessary for me to engage in any description of business for a livelihood, I would embark in orange culture - not on the poor "sandy soils" with a sandy foundation, but on the rich loamy soil to be found in many portions of the State - localities evidently unvisited by Mr. Oliver, but carefully examined by "Al Fresco."