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.
Held at Stockton, Thursday Evening, October 1.
Not the least important part of the programme of proceedings for the State Agricultural Fair, lately held at Stockton, was the Convention of Fruit Growers, arranged for Thursday evening, "for free discussion and interchange of opinions".
Mr. Flint spoke of raising peaches on the Bay of San Francisco, on a soil of a sandy loam. At first his peaches had dropped off before maturing, and he was unable to raise a crop. As a remedy, in November he dug away the dirt from the trees, and applied ashes freely, and the next year the trees were loaded with an abundant crop of fine fruit. He recommended heading in, that the trees may be formed low, and the fruit should be shaded as much as possible. As our climate was different from the Atlantic States, where they have much wet weather throughout the year, our plans of operations were necessarily more or less different. He also recommended deep cultivation, and, as an example of its benefits, stated that by deep cultivation he had raised fruit successfully where previously grass would not grow.
Mr. Osborne, of Napa, agreed with the foregoing. At one time he lost a tree a week from some cause, and applied whitewash. For pears, he had applied salt with good effect. During the summer he would not plough too much among his fruit trees, but cultivate, without turning the surface under, and by this plan he killed out the weeds; if ploughed deep alter dry weather came on, weeds would grow again, and the soil become very dry.
G. H. Beach, of Marysville, said he did not want to plough after the first of May, and was satisfied Mr. Osborne is right. The top soil should be kept loose. But deep ploughing, at the proper time, when preparing the ground, is the great desideratum; by using the subsoil plough, much less water is required for irrigation. He cannot get along without irrigation for fruit or vegetables. His soil is a sandy loam, and water twenty feet below the surface. If water is within five or six feet of the surface, no need of irrigation. His soil contains no alkali, consequently no bad effects resulted from irrigating; though too much water might tend to make the fruit insipid. In reply to a question from the Chair, as to what kinds of fruits succeeded with him, Mr. Beach said he had not had much success with apples; though he had found that mulching trees would prevent all sunblight, which at first affected his trees.
Question. Why not grow the trees low down.
Mr. Beach. Too much trouble, as it would be inconvenient to cultivate among them. In three or four years trees are past all danger from sunblight.
Chairman. What about Mr. Flint's suggestion of heading low.
Mr. Beach. There is a limit to it; if trees are formed too low, they are in the way; the limbs two feet from the ground would give room. His apple orchard is on too sandy soil to succeed well. The climate is the best in the world for grapes, which grow very sweet. Among the varieties he raised were Black Hamburg, Portugal, July and Catawba; the latter even sold well for a table grape. Of figs he had some dozen foreign varieties; the white will stand three degrees more of cold than the purple; the lower the land and plentier the water, the more liable to frost. He raised several varieties of white grapes.
Referring to figs, Mr. Osborne considered them the fruit of all fruits. Last year he obtained one White Ischia Fig, and now he had from it 300 trees growing finely. Would not prune while sap is ascending. This fig was larger than any others. Those exhibited in the Hall were not genuine. The frosts of last year caused no injury. He has another fig which bears three crops a year. Those who thought the grapes of Los Angeles not so sweet as others, should try some when fresh, and not judge of them after they have been packed in redwood sawdust for several weeks. He loved the Isabella, as it reminded him of his old home and early associations. The frost last winter, though more severe than previously known, injured nothing but young orange-trees. Ice formed of the thickness of a sheet of paper, causing the Indians to exclaim, "muchofriol" They had some 150,000 orange-trees, and 200 lemon. About 1000 acres of grape-vines are planted in a year, averaging 1000 vines the acre. In another year they would have in the county 3,750,000 vines. This is now their business; formerly it was cattle; but the "cattle on a thousand hills" have disappeared, and people have turned their attention to the vine. They make some raisins.
Allowing one gallon of wine for each vine, at $1 a gallon, ten acres would produce $10,000, and, deducting $2000 for expenses, would leave a net profit of $8000. They had suitable land enough, if brought into cultivation, to produce yearly $60,000,000 in wine. Their best grapes are raised on high gravelly land, irrigated.
Mr. Beach said he imported the Catawba Grape for wine, but many preferred it for dessert.
Mr. Osborne, of Napa, said, last year his foreign grapes were killed by frost.
A. H. Myers, of Alameda, said he thought there was no danger of over-planting fruit, though many people feared there was. Trees are continually being lost from various causes; many are killed by drought, etc. He said the number now planted cannot supply the market. We can also grow a great many varieties; we can grow all our almonds and raisins. There are ten large orchards in the State, and tenfold more cannot supply the demand for fruit. A great business could be made in dried fruit; he had dried peaches in the open air in three days. Then we may expect large accessions to our population, and we must grow fruit for those to come, as well as for our present population. A person can eat more fruit here with impunity than elsewhere. We should endeavor to produce new varieties, which in a few years we could ship to the East, and undersell dealers there in their own markets. People should bear in mind that there can be no glut of fruit here.