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.
It is indispensable, to grow fine fruits in pots under glass, that in addition to an unclouded roof, there should be ample ventilation; and here it is that fruit houses differ from cold graperies. When it would be proper and suitable in a cold grapery to have every crevioe closed, in the fruit house half the shutters at least should be open. In the front wall cut out shutters four feet long by a foot and a half deep; ten shutters of these dimensions will be required in a house fifty feet long. In the back there should be at least six pairs of ventilating shutters; they may be made to slide in grooves, or let down by hinges, and should be at least three feet long by one foot wide. Over the openings thus made, both in the front and back wall, should be placed a thin gauze wire netting, the thinner the better, so that when the shutters are opened, a protection will be afforded against insects. Unless this netting is made very thin, it will be of no use, and should be got for the purpose; the holes should be as small as in the gauze netting used to protect beds against musquitoes. No obstacle is thus offered to the free ingress of air, and in sects are effectually excluded.
My own fruit house is forty feet long by thirteen wide, with cedar posts five feet apart, and three feet in the ground. On top of the front and back row of posts rest the wall plates. The rafters are five feet apart, between which are the white pine strips. On the rafters and on the strips are furrowed grooves, on which the glass, which is 10 by 12 fourth quality, rests; the back, front, and sides are made by nailing inch and a quarter flooring boards on the posts. In the front, ventilators three feet long by a foot and a half wide are cut; and in the back, three pairs of ventilating shutters work in grooves. The back shutters are three feet long by one foot wide; two are near the roof, two in the middle, two about two feet from the ground: exact distances are not essential. In addition to my three pairs of shutters I have knocked off the two upper boards, and thus made a shutter on hinges running the whole length of the building, all of which will be required in our July weather. I have two chestnut posts on each end of my house, on which are hung the two doors, the one inclining to the south being glazed entirely.
The walk in the centre is two feet wide, and eighteen inches deep; on the ground is a wooden lattice work; the front border is fire feet wide; the back divided into two, the furthest back being raised.
If preferred, the form of the house may be span-roofed, although we give our decided preference to the lean-to, believing it in our climate to be best suited to the wants of the potted tree. The span-roofed house may be thirty feet long, four feet high at the side walk, middle eight feet, and four feet wide - the borders on the right and left of the walk may be divided into two; the front one raised nine inches, and supported by a plank or sod, or the walk may be sunk and the border undivided.
The trees may be potted any time the weather is suitable, between October and April. The size of the pots will in a measure be determined by the kind of trees: for Apricots and Plums small pots will answer, while the Peach and Nectarine, being of coarse growth, will require a larger pot. The first size flower pots are fourteen inches, and are $2 40 per dozen, or 25 cents singly; second size, twelve-inch, $2 00 per dozen; third, eleven-inch, $1 50 per dozen; fourth, ten-inch, $1 20 per dozen. It is not desirable to use a smaller size than the last named. The apertures in the bottom of the pots will require to be enlarged to three or four inches; this may be very simply done with a light hammer. Where potting a large number of trees is in contemplation, the pots should be bespoken and made with a large hole in the bottom. On the hole in the bottom of the pot place some old broken crocks, pieces of broken flower pots, tiles, old broken china, or small pieces of brick sufficient to prevent the escape of the soil; on top of this put either the most lumpy part of the compost heap, or, what is preferable, bits of charcoal; a couple of handfuls to each pot will be needed.
Now put in several handfuls of the compost, ramming the same well down, next the tree, having first carefully shortened the roots; then more soil, ramming well down; do not plant too deeply; especially avoid placing the tree deeper than when growing in the nursery. Do not entirely fill the pot with the compost, as it is desirable that, after settling, the pot should not be entirely filled with earth, otherwise needless trouble will be experienced in watering. Having pressed the earth firmly around the roots, with a sharp knife, shorten the tree to at least three feet from the surface of the pot, at the same time shortening well in every branch; on no account cut off a branch entire, unless very near the collar. Allow the lower branches to be the longest, and diminish the length of each as the top is approached: the topmost branches should not be over two inches, while the lower ones may be a couple of feet long. No specified rule need be followed, only impress on the novice the importance of shortening the top well in, and if thrifty, vigorous trees are desired, severe pruning must be insisted on. When we take into consideration the severe mutilation the roots undergo when transformed into the narrow spaces of an eleven-inch pot, the sharp cutting will be justified.
A suitable compost for young pot-trees may be made by thoroughly incorporating with the top soil of an old pasture field, well rotted manure, wood ashes, leaf mould, and some road sand or pulverized charcoal; any thing that will tend to lighten and make pervious the soil seems suitable. The materials should be suffered to lie in a heap for a time with an occasional turning.
[The Doctor has entered upon orchard house culture with much enthusiasm, and we are greatly indebted to him for an opportunity of laying before our readers the results of his experience. The length of his article precludes some suggestions we should like to make. We will say here, however, that we should prefer a lap of only one-eighth instead of half an inch in the glass; besides other important advantages, the danger of breakage is much less. We hope the Doctor will continue the subject, and give us an additional chapter on the treatment of the trees. - Ed].