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 Sir: In your November number, under head of Domestic Notices, are to be found excellent directions for transplanting trees, the best in feet I have ever met with, subject however, I think, to one objection; I allude to making deep holes well filled with old manure, rich soil, etc. This proposition I think will not bear the test of reason, although from its almost universal adoption, it requires some nerve to battle against it. For instance: You dig a hole three feet square and three feet deep, the first foot in depth being generally pretty good soil, and the other two feet a stiff clay. Well - fill up the hole with good soil and manure, and plant your tree on top of it according to directions. As surely as the needle points to the pole, so surely will the roots of your transplanted tree strike down into the rich compost prepared for it, and possibly it may thrive apace. In a wet season this fine deep hole will be half full of water, hopeless of exist; in a very dry season the roots will likely be burned up in your rick compost. However, your amateur don't believe a word of it. He rather likes that hole three feet deep and full of fat soil. 'Tis scientifically, thoroughly done. Well, your tree bears once, perhaps twice, and then somehow ft goes backwards.
The shoots dwindle, the leaves look sickly, the stock gets hide bound, covered with moss; in fact it is near death. My amateur scratches his head, passing around bis tree, examines every inch above ground, possibly grubs around the roots a little, but finally gives it up as a mystery. Gould his eyes have penetrated down in that fine deep hole of his, have seen the roots, rendered tenier by the rich nourishment they had feasted on, and by this time entirely consumed, writhing and striving to penetrate through the four clay walls of the cell into which they had been decoyed, their gnawing hunger, their vain struggles upward, he would not require to be puzzling his head so much about yellow blights and premature decline. The surface soil is the soil for roots make that (at and loose, and lead your roots into it, and not into the bowels of the eart away from sun and air, and light. Having officiated at numerous funerals of this kind, I speak knowingly of the sad effects. Some years since, passing through a new peach orchard on a gentleman's country seat, a few miles from town, in rather a hurry, after a flock of quails, I went sock into one of those deep holes half roll of water; on scrambling out and surveying the premises, I perceived numerous other excavations taking their winter soak in true amateur fashion, so giving the owner a hasty anathema,! trudged home rather in poor plight.
However I consoled myself that there would be few peaches gathered there. It is now a pasture with some dead sticks marking the spot where peach roots were buried. Yours, respectfully, C.G. Siewers. Cincinnati, Jan. 19, 1852.
Our correspondent is both right and wrong. He is right in saying that it is folly to dig deep holes in clay hard-pan, unless such hard-pan is broken up and the holes drained. The advice to dig deep holes, was based upon the supposition that the subsoil was one that would drain Itself. Such is the fact in good soils generally, and where an exception occurs the practice must be varied.
In other cases there is great advantage in deepening the soil in the hole. It enables the roots to go down for nourishment out of the reach of the burning sun, - a great gain in a hot climate. Of course, if one could afford to trench the whole garden or orchard, we would always do so instead of preparing any holes at all - but where neither the trenching nor subsoil plowing is possible, then one must do the next best thing. After a while, of course the roots will entirely occupy the deeply prepared soil in the hole - but nothing then prevents those nearest the surface from striking out in the surface soil, and gaining all that can be gained thereby. For the rest, we think it quite as likely that the poach trees our correspondent refers to were killed by deep planting, as by the deep soil into which they were put. The first, kills thousands of trees annually. We never knew a single tree killed by the latter.