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.
A report upon the subject of fruit growing in the State of Mississippi, should properly be prefaced with a few remarks upon the soil and climate.
My locality is six miles south of the city of Natchez, between the thirty-first and thirty-second degrees of north latitude. The surface soil is a rich, black, vegetable mold, about eighteen inches in depth, resting upon a strata of hard clay, underlaying which is a yellow loam, filled with fresh water shells. This great loamy formation, elevated about two hundred and fifty feet above the level of the sea, extends along the right bank (ascending) of the Mississippi River, from the thirty-first degree of north latitude, as far up as Vicksburg, (thirty-two and one-half degrees north latitude,) and runs horizontally eastward from the river, a distance of twelve to fifteen miles, at which point a marine and fresh water deposit, with recent sea shells, crops out followed by the eocene formation of geologists.
The Tulip tree, the Sassafras, the Black Walnut, and several species of the Oak, are found eighty to one hundred feet in height, and having a diameter of from three to five feet near their bases.* In so rich a soil, the growth of all fruit trees is much more rapid and vigorous than upon the Atlantic slope, and consequently the trees are a longer time in coming into a hearing state.
Our winters are generally mild and open - snow seldom falls, or if so, melts away under sunshine in a few hours. We never experience so great a degree of cold as to kill fruit trees. The thermometer has been known to fall as low as fourteen degrees above zero, but this is very unusnal. Our winters are cold enough to give deciduous fruit trees a sufficient period of rest to recruit for another summer's fruit bearing; and this, followed by a spring and summer of so high a temperature as to mature the latest kinds of fruit early in the fall, is all that is wanted, as regards climate, to bring fruits to perfection. The temperature during the months of May, June, July, August, and September, is almost torrid. The thermometer rarely falling under eighty degrees, and often rising to ninety and ninety-five degrees. Spring frosts occur, but rarely destroy the fruit crop. Long drouths are prevalent during our summer and fall months.
Before noticing the varieties of fruits which follow, I must premise that aspect is of high importance with us, and that the best exposure for an orchard is a northern one. I would also state that ray ground was well prepared before I planted out the trees - that the specific mineral manures, especially for the Apple and the Pear, were incorporated in a well decomposed compost, and this spread over the surface of the orchard two inches deep. The ground was then trench-plowed, followed by a sub-soil plow; and after planting, the trees kept well mulched during the summer months, and the soil every year cultivated in root crops.
This fruit is indigenous to our State. I cultivate the wild variety for its early maturity; ripening first week in April. I also cultivate the Black Prince, Orescent City Seedling, Hovey's Seedling, and Large Early Scarlet. All these varieties bear well, and are deliciously flavored. They continue in bearing during two months, May and June.
I cultivate the Red Antwerp, Yellow Magnum Bonum, and Faetolff. Our climate and soil is favorable to the growth and maturity of this fruit. They continue with me in bearing two months, May and June. The plants require heavy nulching during pxa hot months.
It is rare to find this fruit in our southern States; and the'prevalent opinion is, the Cherry will not fruit in this climate. As this fruit (it is well known) was raised in perfection by the ancient Romans in Italy, and as several varieties are at the present day successfully cultivated in the south of Spain and Italy, I see no valid reason why it should not succeed with us. I cultivate the following varieties:
Baumarts May, Doumer's Late, Early Purple Guigne, Oraffion, Sparhawk's Honey, Black Tartarian.
Belle de Choisy, Late Duke, May Duke.
Monstreuse de Mezel, Bigarreau Napoleon, White Blgarreau.
Butner's Morello, R Late.
My bearing trees are upon the Mahaleb stock, and six years old from the bud. They bore abundant crops the spring of 1853; the fruit perfect in size, and luscious in taste. The Early Purple Ghiigne, was especially noticed for its large size and delicious flavor. This variety excelled all the others in quality; the Late Duke and May Duke ranking next. This year the Cherry crop was cut short by a frost when trees were in bloom. I had less fruit, and that of inferior size to the preceding year.
I would wish a longer experience before speaking confidently of success with this fruit.
No region of country upon the globe, can exceed ours in the perfection to which these delicious fruits attain, our burning sun developing the saccharine qualities of the peach to the highest degree. Even the yellow fleshed varieties are with us, sweet and sugary, with only so much acid as to be grateful to the taste. I cultivate about one hundred varieties of the Peach and six of the Nectarine. Although the northern varieties are sometimes cut short by frosts, from their habit of late blooming, still the Peach may be considered a Sure crop in this region. In a period of ten years past, I have never failed in securing a crop. Our State exports largely of this fruit to the New Orleans market. All northern varieties ripen with me in June and July.
I cultivate the Moorpark, the Large Early, the Peach Apricot, and the Breda. Since planting the trees Upon the north side of buildings, I have not failed of securing fair crops of fruit. Ripens here latter end of May. The ground under my trees is well paved, and the curculio, so far, has never attacked the fruit.