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.
Summer pruning, or pinching the points of young shoots, seems not to be so thoroughly understood as its importance demands. It is not too much to assert that the highest degree of cultivation cannot be reached, until its importance and necessity is fully comprehended and recognized. The whole aim of pruning is to modify and direct growth so as render it subservient to the wishes of the cultivator. At no time can this be more readily attained than during the season of growth. It is much easier to prevent a shoot from growing now where it is not wanted, than to cut it off after growth is completed, just as it is easier to rub off a bud than cut off a branch. We allude to established trees. It would be well for. all cultivators to study this matter practically. Especially is it desirable that a practice should not be condemned, in the absence of knowledge as to the proper applications of the principles upon which it is founded.
Those that have been recently planted should he properly secured. Of the many essential points in culture, no one is paramount; it is only from a happy combination of the whole that we can expect constant success. A tree may be planted in the most congenial soil, and with all possible care, yet, if allowed to sway about with every breeze, this will counteract the best treatment. Mound the soil well up the stems of newly planted trees, to throw off wet and keep the roots in a healthy condition, and in a state of growth. Dig up the ground and leave it exposed to the frost; apart from the highly beneficial action on the soil, this is one of the most effectual means for the destruction of insects and their larva. We have known plum-trees that were kept perfectly exempt from the attacks of the curculio by occasionally forking over the soil and exposing it to the winter's severity.
Pruning is an operation very little understood by the majority of cultivators; an annual visit to the orchard with an axe and saw, and the cutting out of a few limbs being considered the indispensable procedure. If your trees are old and overgrown with wood, thin them out judiciously; if very productive of fruit, but have made short and weak growths, prune them down severely; but young, strong-growing, fruitless trees do not touch while destitute of leaves.
Prepare for planting by digging out the holes at the earliest opportunity; let them be deep and ample in every respect. In strong clayey subsoils, trenching with the spade, or loosening with the subsoil plough, are indispensable operations to success. It is cheapest in the end to give all the care and attention to planting that experience and science demand. Turn over the soil, and spread it out in sunny weather to dry and warm; most of the failures in spring planting are attributable to the fact that the atmosphere is considerably warmer than the soil, consequently the branches are excited before the roots are able to supply them with sufficient nourishment for continued growth.
An evil that has been observed to follow early winter pruning, is the great evaporation from newly-cut surfaces. The effect will be noticed in the complete shrivelling of the terminal buds on pruned branches. Pruning is frequently deferred till spring, in order to avoid the effects just noticed. Evaporation, in such cases, may be prevented by covering the cut surface with a paint of gum shellac dissolved in alcohol. All fruit cultivators should be provided with this preparation, for the covering of cut surfaces, and accidents to the bark of trees.
In former remarks on winter pruning, it has been suggested to prune very sparingly all those of luxuriant and thrifty growth; such will now require attention in picking out the points of all shoots that exhibit a tendency to luxuriance. This pinching process appears to be looked upon by many as a fancy species of cultivation only applied to dwarf pear-trees. So far from being so, it is, practically, the most important subject to which the attention of fruit growers can be directed. By its means, they can induce fruitfulness in young trees, and keep them uniformly productive. It is economical, inasmuch as it is easier to rub off a bud than to saw off a branch, and, when thoroughly understood and acted upon, branches are permitted to grow only when and where they are wanted. Fruit-trees, when healthy, and growing in good soil, have a tendency to make strong, yearly shoots at the extremity of the branches, the lower buds on the tree remaining dormant, or producing only weak shoots. Pinching consists, practically, in checking, at an early stage of growth, these robust shoots, by breaking out their points; this retards their longitudinal extension, and causes a development of latent buds, producing short, lateral growths, which are the future fruiting points.
Our most successful fruit growers are becoming convinced that this is the only method of securing full benefit from good cultivation; otherwise, manuring only increases wood growth, to be lopped off at the winter pruning.
When the size of a tree is the only object in view, summer pruning should not be practised.