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.
The Society met March 25th, President Degrauw in the chair.
Among the flowers on the table were a beautiful Double White Flowering Almond from Mr. Dailledouze, a very fine Acacia Drummondii from Mr. Bridge-man, a beautiful Bouquet from Mrs. Humphries, and a Dendrobium nobile and other plants from parties whose names we forget.
The subject of the evening was Pruning. Mr. Quinn, of Newark, opened the discussion, having furnished himself with trees to illustrate the subject. After some prefatory remarks on the preparation of the soil, he said :
It is a mistake to suppose that a tree whose habit is to bear fruit," will flourish and produce profitable returns yearly, unless the constituents that go to make wood and fruit are regularly supplied to the soil. It is a well-known fact to intelligent fruit growers, that pear trees become more delicate in their habits, in pro- portion as the quality of their fruit is improved, and, therefore, with an orchard of choice fruit, greater care is required to supply the necessary ingredients than would be called for in those of a coarser character. The idea that a tree once in place can take care of itself, should be dismissed from the minds of all who intend growing fine varieties.
The soil should be disintegrated to at least a depth of two feet, and if the subsoil be tenacious or impervious to water, underdraining should be resorted to, in order to free the soil of standing water on the surface or around the roots. No fruit tree will maintain a healthy condition, when its roots are submerged in water, as a free circulation of air through the soil is absolutely requisite in promoting a vigorous growth. Various opinions are held by growers concerning the proper size to which the holes should be dug in putting out pears, but my own belief is, that the field should be one large hole filled with fine earth. I can commend the following rules to those about to plant trees:
1st. Pulverize the soil to a depth of two feet. 2d. Keep the soil free from standing water.
4th. A soil that will yield sixty bushels of shelled corn to the acre, will produce paying crops of fruit.
With these few suggestions, we will leave the soil and take up the next most important branch of our subject, pruning. For the pear, the pyramid or conical shape is preferable to all others, for these reasons: 1st. The largest surface is nearest the ground, and, therefore, the less likely to suffer from prevailing winds.
2d. The fruit is less injured in fulling from the tree. 3d. Less ground is shaded with the pyramidal than with higher and more spreading forms of growth. 4th. The trunk is not exposed to the direct rays of the sun, and consequently the flow of sap is not accelerated, as would otherwise be the case. These few reasons, with numerous other advantages, might be given, but these mentioned afford sufficient evidence in favor of conical shaped trees.
Two years from the time of budding the young tree is ready to be taken from the nursery row, and consists of one main or center shoot with numerous side shoots or laterals. The most vigorous of those are on the upper part of the centre shoot, while the weakest are near the ground. The plan of pruning should then be directed to check the upward tendency of the sap, so that it will be disseminated in the lower part of the tree, to develop the dormant buds, and increase the strength of the weak branches. I will remark, that in setting out a tree, the weakest side, or that with fewest branches, should be placed facing the southeast, as the strongest growth of wood will be made in that direction. By this means less labor in pruning is required to keep the tree in balance.
To prune for a pyramidal tree, each branch should be longer than the one immediately above it, and the operator should encourage an upward and outward growth. When necessary, a bud may be inserted where a shoot is required to fill up a vacant space. Some varieties, such as the Duchess d'Angouleme, Flemish Beauty, Lawrence, and Bartlett, are naturally inclined to form a pyramid; their growth of wood is regular, and consequently may be made to attain the right shape with little trouble, while other kinds, such as the Winter Nelis, Glout Morceau, and Beurre d'Amaulis, are more difficult to manage, owing to their propensities for irregular growth. For the first named kinds the cut should be made slanting! on the upper side of the shoot, near a wood bud, or, in other words, the operator stands facing the tree, cutting from the upper side, drawing the knife at an angle towards him. The bud in this case should be on the lower side of the shoot, so positioned that the growth from the bud will keep the tree in balance. For the latter class of trees, the cutting depends on the position of the shoots and buds, but, as we said before, the growth should be encouraged upward and outward.
Owners should not be over anxious to have a large tree in a few years, but rather endeavor by cutting back to get a stocky growth and strong branches near the ground. By this method the fruit spurs are formed on the trunk and near the base of the larger branches, and therefore are not liable to be blown off by heavy fall gales.
The question is frequently asked, when should pruning be done? The best answer to that query is, "Prune in winter for wood and summer for fruit," or, in other words, to encourage the growth of wood, prune in winter; to encourage fruit-bearing, prune in summer. At each pruning the same object should be kept in view, the formation of a cone, open enough in the centre to admit air and light freely, and sufficiently compact to withstand heavy wind storms. New beginners are apt to permit a young tree to overbear before it has established itself. It always proves a detrimental practice, weakening the constitution of the tree, and in time producing disease and premature death. A young tree, to maintain its healthy condition, must continue to make new wood, as well as produce fruit; if not, it will soon become sickly. He mentioned the fact that trees badly pruned, and unfruitful, sometimes are brought into bearing by either ringing the bark, or another method, which consists in taking a straight upright shoot, and bending it so that the extreme end may be fastened to its base; this checks the flow of sap, and fruit buds will be developed on the upper line of the arch.
He would prune in winter for wood, and in summer for fruit - mostly through March and April.
Mr. T. W. Field. - I bought these trees to fill up a gap. They are in different conditions in regard to form. Most trees are defective as they come from the nursery. Branohes on a pyramidal tree should not be nearer than six inches, or more than a foot apart The branches should be as near triform as possible. Cutting should be done when the sap is flowing, so that the wound will heal. If pruned in the fall, the cut should be higher above the bud, as it will infallibly die back. Most trees on Long Island lean to the northeast. All the food that enters into the structure of a pear tree passes through its leaders. The object of pruning is, first, for shape; second, for leaves. Would not root prune a standing tree; would root prune the one in my hand. Most soils are shallow; those on Long Island are not over one foot in depth. You can not pare the soil so close but that you will disturb the mouths of some of the little roots seeking sustenance from the atmosphere. If I wanted to produce fruit early I would root prune. Would prune when setting out, but would not prune a tree growing. If I had a child I would scrub him and clean him, but I would not dig his heart out.
Would commence pruning next week, and continue till the second week in May. Branches may be taken away occasionally until the middle of July. Each little rootlet has formed a place for itself, and would not keep company with the others if they could, and if not put in the same way would not live.
In answer to a question, Mr. Field said, the Beurre Diel, Duchesse d'Angou-leme, Beurre d'Anjou, in fact, all our best pears do best on the quince. The Bart-lett forms a poor union with the quince, because its tendency is to fruit early on its own stock. There is no greater ornament in a gentleman's grounds than a Bartlett on quince. Would plant the Flemish Beauty always on the quince; it is one of our best pears.
Mr. Fuller. - My rule for pruning is to cut a shoot when it needs it. Would cut a vine down to two buds, and make two shoots the next year. The third year train the arms laterally, and take out the buds on the lower side. Grapes grow on the wood that is to grow, not on that that has grown. A vine should not be larger when 100 years old, but more in diameter. Gut the shoots from the arms to two buds. You will get a spur six inches long in twelve years, on short-jointed kinds. You can make one vine cover half an acre if you wait long enough. A vine will bear for 100 feet if kept on a level. I can not get a good lower bud in the renewal system; believe the arm system is the best, and do not approve of the new ones.
Mr. Peck. - Why are two arms better than one?
Mr. Fuller. - Two arms are not better than one, but the arm system I think the best. The best fruit for wine grows nearest the old wodd. I do not think it best to have more than two arms.
Mr. Peek. - Are not inexperienced persons, in growing to arms, apt to get one stronger than the other 1
Mr. Fuller. - Yes, I think so. A trellis should be at least six inches from the fence. Plant your vine two feet from the trellis; bring the vines together at the trellis. A variety of grape vines do not look well on a trellis. Pinch off all laterals, and serve them as you would politicians. Laterals are called thieves* and if not pinched out would rob the main shoot. Do not like to break them out, as it is liable to make dormant buds break. We want as many leaves as we can get, and have them healthy. Rub out the suckers from the old wood. Grapes do not want the sun; if the sun strikes the grape it will not ripen. Can get color, but not flavor. Can make a tendril turn into fruit by pinching off the end when it appears.
The Society met again April 8, Mr. Howe in the chair.