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.
I have around me some very good neighbors, and all more or less imbued with a taste for horticultural pursuits. Some of them are readers of the Horticulturist, and, as a consequence, advanced in their knowledge of the subject over those that do not read. I hope they will excuse me for thus telling their good points, but as it is my rule to tell the truth as I know it, I shall, of course, take nothing back. One of my neighbors is decidedly enthusiastic on fruits, and especially upon grapes, and at once sends off for every new one that has a shadow of promise to be valuable. He cultivates, by-the-by, a little over nine acres in vineyard, and takes care of it, too, which is saying more than I can for another neighbor, who has grasped tight the belief that no cultivation is the best of cultivation. Whenever any such doctrine is asserted, I have a habit of thinking the advocate likes to lie in bed pretty late of a morning, loves to go hunting, etc., rather than apply himself to practice with the hoe or pruning-knife. But to our chat.
Neighbor B. says he has had enough of puny, thread-rooted grapevines; that last season he tried some thousands, not because he believed in them, but that when he was ready to purchase in the spring he could find no others. This year he took time by the forelock, and laid in his vines this past fall, by purchasing plants of two to three feet growth, of well-ripened wood, as large as one's little finger; had the vines dug and delivered to him; then he selected a dry location, and heeled them in carefully, covering two buds with earth, and then covering the whole batch with straw, and thinks the spring will find him with plants of a quality and in such condition that, if he gives them good culture, will be satisfactory to him in their appearance next fall.
Neighbor L. thinks he would have preferred to have buried his plants in sand in the cellar, because last year his roots outdoors were injured, while those kept in the cellar were "first-rate." I suggested that burying in the sand in the cellar might answer if the cellar was a new one, and the sand freshly put in, but I queried that if the cellar was an old one, and the sand had been in it one or more years, whether the niter engendered would not be injurious to roots and plants kept there. I know some tree-dealers have told me that their trees and plants imported too late in the fall for out-door heeling-in, and placed in the cellar, had not come out as they could have wished in the spring, nor as they did in years gone by, when their cellars were new, and they attributed the cause to the niter that had accumulated in the sand.
Neighbor K. said this growing of grapevines in the manner it had been done for the past half dozen years, by forcing, etc., had set us back at least ten years in vineyard culture, while at the same time it had made rich a few who he thought loved money more than the cause and advancement thereof. He knew he was speaking out loud, but it was too true. There is nothing, said he, to prevent growing grapevines as was done by nurserymen twelve or fifteen years ago, and then it was considered a profitable business to be able to sell all the hardy grapevines that could be grown, at ten to twelve cents each, at two years old.
Neighbor S. said our growers now offered Catawba, and some others of the old kinds, at from three to five cents each, one year old, but he supposed the price paid for buds of the new kinds had kept up the price for plants.
Neighbor K. said he was in favor of giving to an originator of a new fruit full compensation, but after it had been distributed years, there was no sense in holding puny plants grown in a forcing-house, at sixty, seventy, and eighty dollars a hundred, when abundance of well-ripened buds were for sale at two to five cents each. As he had before remarked, he believed the quality of the plants sold, and the exorbitant rates asked for them, had kept us back in vine culture at least ten years. He believed, also, that the check time had come, and that growers of vines, even this spring coming.
Would have to sell at far less than advertised rates, or keep over, and that another season he hoped planters would bo educated up to a point that would cause them to purchase only plants similar to what Neighbor B. had procured this last fall.
I suggested that vine-growers were very much like other men, and endeavored to obtain as much as possible for their wares; that the excitement on grape culture which had prevailed the past few years, had induced many a man to invest who had really no knowledge of, or love for, the subject, and who had invested as a source of prospective income without labor or care; that old vineyardists knew such impressions to be fallacious, but telling men so did no good - they wanted to try it themselves.
Neighbor P. said a man who did not love plants and trees for themselves could never succeed in growing them. He believed there was a close sympathy between plants and mankind, proof of which he thought could be daily seen in the fact that no one who really loved flowers ever failed to make a plant grow, while their neighbors without such love, but with ambition to have their yards look nice, often failed. Neighbor P. is a sort of Spiritualist, and looks forward to breathe the perfume of flowers and enjoy the aroma of good fruits forever.
Neighbor S. said, to change the subject, he wanted to tell them a little about one of his friend's pear-trees. From neglecting to take away the mulch, very many, if not all the trees in his orchard were completely girdled near the ground by mice, and he supposed he had lost them. It was a great loss, as many were bearing finely.
I suggested that a little labor and care would set that all right in one season, and put the trees in as good condition as if the mice had never been near them; that it was to be done by grafting. Select a warm day in February to cut from some thrifty, vigorous, growing pear-tree healthy, strong shoots, sufficient to make about six grafts for each pear-tree to be operated on. Lay these away, the lower ends in sand, in a cool, dark cellar, until the frost is out of the ground. Then go at once to work, as follows: Pare the wound made by the mice smooth, cut away all ragged ends of bark, then prepare a graft by measuring its length two inches longer than the spaces between the bark on the tree where eaten by mice. Make each end of the graft in form of a wedge, but one side, that which is to fit next the tree, less sharp or tapering than the other. [See drawing.] Next, having the bark on the tree around the wound trimmed neatly and smoothly, take a piece of flat, smooth bone or ivory, like a common paper-cutter, or the end of an old-fashioned budding knife, and raise the bark at the upper and lower sides of the wound on the tree, just sufficient to enable you to push the graft carefully under at each end, about one inch.
Continue this insertion of grafts until you have four, six, or more, around the body, according to its size; the distance between each graft never being over two inches - if nearer, still better. Then wrap the whole with strips of cloth about two inches wide, to keep each graft securely in its place. Then paint the cloth over with warm, not hot, grafting wax, and finish by drawing a mound of earth up around the whole, and, say, two inches above it. The accompanying figure shows the position of a graft when set, and the dotted lines outside, the lines of the mound of earth. Some practice cutting one side of the graft the whole length, and laying it on smooth and even; it may be better, but I have succeeded when doing as I describe. I will also say that I have often filled up a gap, or the want of a limb in a young pear or apple tree, by inserting a side graft in early spring, at the point where I wish the limb. The rough drawing here shows the graft when set. I take a scion that will leave me two good buds after being trimmed for setting.
I then form one end just as I have shown for recovering the pear-trees, cut the other an inch beyond the bud, the cut sloping toward the opposite side, make a horizontal cut across the limb or body of the tree where the graft is to grow, of about one inch, raise the bark carefully with my piece of smooth, thin bone or ivory, and press in my graft downward, tie it securely with bass matting, and then cover all with grafting wax, so that neither air nor water can reach the wounded parts.
Neighbor K. said he had a great love of pears, and faith sufficient in the practice of growing them as dwarfs to plant out some hundreds the past spring, but that the blight was a matter that troubled him. He had lost by blight quite a number of trees only planted in spring.
Neighbor B. said he had also lost from last year's planting, but that he had mainly attributed his loss to too deep planting, and water standing around the roots. Others, however, he noticed, had lost, who had no such cause, and he therefore queried whether blight was not preconceived from injury the previous winter, rather than from atmospheric influence of the growing season.
Neighbor H. said he thought blight was in great measure attributable to influence of the temperature of the previous winter. In planting some hundreds of trees the past spring, he noticed occasionally one with a little black spot of bark on it, and, as the season advanced, the dark spot spread, until midsummer found all such injured trees dead.
Neighbor S. said he was about washing his trees with a weak solution of salt in water. Should also try some other things, as copperas, sulphur, etc., and watch the result. He had a great deal of faith in manuring with salt and plaster Last year he manured some of his trees with hen manure, and some with salt and plaster, and while he had a little blight among those manured with the hen excrement, he had none with those where salt and plaster had been applied.
Whoever the writer of this may be, it is evident that, although he may not be accustomed to writing, he has looked to the working of Horticulture understandingly. In quoting his neighbor, he raps some of those men who, caring more for the dollars than the advancement of fruit culture, have not hesitated to propagate and sell grapevines grown from unripe wood of unripe, stimulated, fire-heated plants, thereby creating and entailing an enfeebled habit that does not really belong to the vine, and which never is visible in plants grown only from eyes of healthy plants. I have no objection to the green wood, but it must be taken from a plant growing in a healthy, vigorous manner, not from a thread that knows no life except one of tropical forcing heat.