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.
ED. WESTERN Horticulturist: - The great complaint of want of success in the cultivation of fruit trees, can in a great majority of cases be attributed to a lack of proper care. Not only after they are set, but at the time of setting; there is no doubt but that a tree may be so set as to disastrously affect the whole of its future growth; in fact the very life of the tree depends upon its setting. It is related, that a man having purchased one hundred apple trees, set a man at work setting the same, and having labored all day, reported having set ten trees. This so provoked the proprietor, that the man was discharged, and the next day another set to work. At night this man reported the remaining ninety trees all set. Now for the result. Of the one hundred trees set, every one of the ninety, set on the second day by the rapid workman died, while the ten set by the careful workman, every one lived. This case is undoubtedly very similar to many others, and ought to furnish a striking lesson of the necessity of all reasonable care.
If the excavation is made of good size, the soil left loose and convex, to conform to the concave form of the roots, and the fine loose soil properly deposited upon the roots, and then compacted so as to be firm about them, it is believed that the tree will be almost sure of life, and upon the future care which it receives, depends its successful growth and fruitage. In an apple orchard there should be cultivation of the soil for at least eight or ten continuous years. While an orchard may be set in greensward and make a successful struggle for existence, and in process of time may come to bearing, the trees ever present a stunted appearance which time never overcomes. Such an orchard, however, by proper mulching, which serves a double purpose of cultivation and fertilizing, may be carried on so as to present a good appearance. But in the growth of trees, the main object is to obtain a good healthy body and head, which can be accomplished in no way better than by general cultivation of such crops as will afford least obstacle to the growth of the trees.
It is far better, too, to remember the old maxim that, "just as the twig is bent, the tree is inclined," and so let the pruning be carefully and judiciously made, for the reason that it can be done with far less injury to the tree, and also the top of the tree more' properly shaped. There is no doubt but that it is much better to train the trees with the tops as near the ground as possible, for the ease of picking the fruit. It is also questionable, whether it is not better to so arrange the trees by varieties, at such distances apart, that when arrived at full'growth, they shall come very nearly together in their branches. This will very much affect vegetation, tending to keep the soil loose and moist as well as serving as a protection against winds, which otherwise would cause the fruit to fall. This, however, may be obviated by setting the trees at a greater distance apart, and planting alternate rows of evergreens. There is no doubt of the very great benefits of pursuing such a course. In every case, however, whatever system be pursued, let proper care be exercised.