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.
Dear Editor: Your repeated inquiries about "the possibility of having pear orchards/' hare suggested some reflections which I will submit to you io all humility and with more impartiality than you are perhaps willing to suppose in a man so fond of pears, and so thoroughly convinced of their usefulness as a luxury and an article of diet.
It is beyond contest that of all the fruits cultivated in our northern latitudes, the apple must take the lead, if not in point of profit, at least as the most useful, the most indispensable fruit. We all agree upon that point There are many varieties of apples as good as the finest pear, and, by some, preferred to all fruit Next, in point of general usefulness, comes the peach. I do not mention the smaller fruits, as grapes, raspberries, and strawberries; we only intend to talk about fruit growing upon trees.
The question arises here, how shall we consider the value of a fruit; by its whole-some influence upon the human diet, or by its market value? As I consider all good and ripe fruits healthy, we shall only look at the profits, generally a good criterion of their respective merits. It is beyond a doubt that a good apple orchard, if kept in good cultivation, and pruned, cleaned and watched, will pay handsomely; so will a good peach orchard with perhaps less care. Cherries are out of the question considered as orchards. It costs too much, it is too troublesome to pick these, and they do not fill the basket as the larger fruits do. I believe that, in a general point of view, and as long as Mr. Curculio will have his own way, we must let the question be between the apple, the pear, and the peach.
Let us take up the apple first as the first in rank. Nothing in my opinion can be more beautiful, more promising, more tempting than a fine orchard of healthy well-bearing apple trees, as you can see many in Northern and Western New York, ermont, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Virginia. In good seasons these orchards bring good profits; but, there is not the main question. We want to compare the products of an orchard from the very starting point, not from a well and old established plantation. Let us see: -
One acre of apple trees will support, at twenty-five feet distance from tree to tree (and that distance is at least required for standard apple trees), from sixty-five to seventy trees.
These trees if sound, and well-growing varieties, as the Baldwin, Northern Spy, R. I. Greening, etc. etc, will require a space of time of from ten to fifteen years before they begin to yield any profits.
It is true that meanwhile the soil can be cultivated as if nothing was in the way; but this large cultivation is a permanent danger for the spare trees in so large a spot of ground; because they are sometimes overlooked. Such an acre requires a different culture and rotation from the other parts of the farm, as cattle cannot be turned in, poles and boxes not being a sufficient protection. Many young apple orchards are rooted up and abandoned in disgust because we have no more of that patience and watchfulness, the distinguished features of the old settlers; we jump at conclusions, nowadays.
Well, if it must be so, let us turn our attention to the peach-tree. Three years will bring a good variety into bearing, chiefly where the soil is light and suitable.
Let as allow twelve feet between each tree, the very nearest we can plant a top-spreading tree, and we find about three hundred trees upon the acre.
If you have the soil, locality, and favorable seasons, yon can certainly bring a good many baskets to the market after the third or fourth year; but the objection is that a fruit which we can raise so very easily is of little value in favorable seasons, because everybody has half a dozen or so.of peach-trees; and, chiefly, because parts of Delaware and Maryland, etc. etc., are covered with peach orchards, coining earlier, and beating ours in the markets. Another objection is the shortness of their season. You must sell the products of your orchard at $hort notice, and perhaps in overcrowded markets; you cannot keep peaches; nor do they last, in a given locality, over two months, from the Early York to the Crawford Late or Late Heath. Then, you have severe winters, killing the weaker varieties, killing, most of the blossoms in their dormant state; spring frosts, nipping all the glorious pink blossoms in a single night. You have the gum, the borer, that pest of the peach-trees, the yellows, and that eternal scoundrel, the curculio, turning his attention to the peach when he cannot find plums or apricots enough to suit himselt.
As you see, the list of drawbacks for the peach is long. The result is that it has become a very uncertain crop in parts of the union where it was once the most profitable fruit. Let us not imagine that a peach orchard does not require cultivation. It is more than time to do away with the absurd idea that fine fruit can be grown for a certain length of time in neglected soils and without proper attention given to pruning, cleaning, and manuring.
We now come to the pear, and we find that by grafting hardy varieties and good growers upon the quince-stock, to bring these into early bearing, and weaker or slow growing, and, of course well-bearing varieties, upon the pear stock, we can, without any difficulty, plant our pyramids only eight feet apart, giving from six hundred and seventy to six hundred and eighty trees to a single acre of ground. You see that my attention is directed to pyramids, not to widely spreading cider pears. I neither recommend nor discard quince-grafted trees; I leave that question entirely aside. Many varieties, as the Bartlett, the Duchesse, Ac., if kept in pyramidal shape and under judicious treatment, will bear as well and abont as early upon the pear stock, as other varieties will do upon the quince. Those who have not succeeded in raising good and abundant fruit from their quince-grafted trees, must not lay the fault upon the tree, but perhaps upon an injudicious selection of varieties, want of proper care and pruning, bad planting, Ac. Ac. I say so, because I succeed without any difficulty, and that I have seen many others suceeed in the same way. I never said that a tree, weakened by an artificial process, did not require more attention and skill than a free wild standard.
A sound pear-tree from. the nursery, if well planted and cared for, will bear sometimes the very first year, and most certainly the third year after its planting, if attention be paid to what is stated above. By years of experience I can safely expect from every tree in perfect condition, ten fruits (on an average) the fifth year after its planting; and some dozens about the tenth year. But let us say: ten Bartletts, or Duchesse, Ac., upon every tree will bring in round numbers from six thousand five hundred to seven thousand fruits, at how much a piece? I have seen hundreds of dozens sold from six shillings to three dollars a dozen, but let it be something like two or three cents apiece; that would bring from $120 to $200 for the crop of six hundred and eighty or seven hundred trees the fifth year, increasing every subsequent year.
Now let us take in consideration that the pear-tree is the most pleasant tree to cultivate, having few enemies, thus far, beyond an occasional blight, and a scorching of the bark; that, nnder good cultivation it bears at least eight years in ten; takes any form and shape yon choose to give it; requires very little pruning compared to apple and peach-trees; grows and bears in almost all kinds of soils; is hardy, for none of our late severe winters have killed the dormant bloombud, aa has been the case with the peach for three winters in succession; I say, when you take all this into consideration, what is the tree that will produce a crop which pays better? The season of the pear is protracted; from July to March, (in Europe from June to June); you can keep your late pears, or sell them at your own time, which you cannot do either with peaches, or with cherries. The pear is a universal favorite, suiting all tastes; for, nowhere, in the vegetable kingdom, is to be found a fruit so varied, so distinct in shape, taste, habits, keeping, Ac. We have, in their native climate, the aroma of the Hyacinth in the Josephine de M., the vanilla in the Beurre Antoinette and DocUur Oapron; the perfect aroma of the rose in the Parfum Rose, the musk in the Bartlett, more striking in the Woodstock; the perfection of all things combined in the unsurpassed Seckle and Fulton; we have buttery, melting, breaking, cooking pears; sweet, subacid, refreshing juices; from the tartness of the apple to the full "sweetness of a preserve.
I must stop and conclude by expressing my conviction that the pear will always be a universal favorite, when good pears shall be in general use. Such a Protean fruit, Mr. Editor, is well worth a thorough cultivation, as a melon or a celery plant is. Plant your orchard in the shape of a garden, and under the same laws of cultivation, and it will pay an hundred per cent, of your money invested. I let every man make his own calculation; I will only add that after six years of experience in mine and my friend's gardens, I must consider the pear crop one of the most steady and profitable of all the fruits. You must say the same, for your garden was full of noble fruit this season.
I could tell you about a single pear-tree bringing from one hundred to over two hundred dollars, at least three years in four. I could tell you about small patches of city gardens yielding from two to four hundred dollars in pear crops, almost every year; but you would not believe me; because in the neighborhood of Philadelphia there is no such cultivation as in Cambridge, all around Boston, and in Rochester and its environs. I only want to say that if you give to an acre pear orchard, planted with leading and marketable varieties, the care, cultivation, and expense, which are bestowed upon an acre of cabbages or celery, you will find, taking together a space of ten years, that your orchard has cost you a great deal less and has paid you as well; but you must drop that word orchard, and say a pear garden. I could say a great deal more about the pleasure and profit of fruit cultivation compared to the vegetable garden, where the same labor is required every year; while a tree can be left alone at least for a season, and is increasing in value annually;* but enough about that; I have taken up too much of your valuable time, and if you think my remarks worth publishing, too much of your varied and most interesting monthly.
* I conld prove also that for the first five or six years you can raise vegetables enough among your trees to pay all expenses.