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 planting and growing of Dwarf Pears yearly increases, but comparatively slow in accordance with what would be supposed from the acknowledged fact of their correct cultivation being profitable in a pecuniary view. Treatise after treatise has been written, and the whole subject perhaps as fully delineated as is possible, and yet there are hundreds of men who yearly plant Dwarf Pear Trees, but follow no system of cultivation except the plain one of "let alone," and the result is, that of the number of trees yearly planted, nine tenths of them grow for two, three, or four years, become ill-shaped, bear a heavy crop of fruit, gratifying the owner, and causing him to break out in fulsome praises, but the next year are found merely alive, and in two years more gone entirely. Such showing, however unfavorable it may appear, is, according to my observation, very near the truth, and while, as I have said, abundance has been written, which should have been heeded, yet as line upon line is always needed in Horticulture as well as Holy Writ, I will assume to give a few plain directions, that, according to my observation, must be pursued in order to grow Dwarf Pear Trees and fruit them, looking forward to their long and profitable life.
And first, while Dwarf Pear Trees, that is, the pear worked upon quince roots, may be grown and fruited successfully in almost any soil, as with the grape, I believe a rather heavy, strong clayey loam is the most enduring and productive of the highest-flavored fruit. We must also understand that, unlike the Standard or pear root, the dwarf, being on quince, will not do to grow in grass plots, no matter how much you dig and mulch around them; in fact, digging immediately around the body and under the branches of the tree is injurious rather than beneficial. It is true that Dwarf Pears, as well as grapes, are grown occasionally in grass lands, without care or attention, producing good crops of fruit; but the case is rather exceptional, than as a rule to be followed. Make, therefore, the plantation where with horse plow and cultivator the ground can be stirred between the trees, while keeping the weeds and grass from growing directly around them by means of the hoe; or, if convenient, keep the ground light and loose by mulching, that is, covering the whole of the ground over four inches deep with straw, coarse hay, or any similar material.
Experience, I think, however, favors working the ground and leaving it exposed for the first three or four years after planting, or until the trees commence bearing freely.
In preparing the ground, after first thoroughly plowing mark out the rows eight feet apart, and plow two furrows each way, leaving the center of the line where we design to plant with a land furrow and two furrows of loose soil each side thrown from it. This plowing should be from seven to nine inches deep, and then plant the trees, carefully spreading out the fibrous roots, along the line, each eight feet apart, and just so deep that when the furrow is turned back, all the stock or quince on which the pear is budded will be below the ground. After the trees are set, turn back the furrows with a plow, and then add a subsoil plow to follow the first or common plow, and finish plowing the ground between the rows, turning it all the time toward the trees and leaving a dead furrow in the center for surface drainage.
And now, with the trees planted, comes the "tug of war" in the way of pruning; and while the drawings published give us pictures of trees at just certain lines, I know the majority of growers can not, nor will not, give the care requisite, even provided they had the knowledge to enable them to insert a bud here or a side graft there, in order to form a symmetrical tree. I therefore choose to take things as they are, and try to say how a certain good form and healthfulness to the tree may be obtained by even the most uninformed. Again, our drawings published, as a rule, together with the instructions, direct the commencement of labors from a maiden, or one year from the bud, tree; while very few trees are sold by our nurserymen at less than two years from the bud, and these generally without ever having had a knife applied to them with the intention of forming them into beautiful or appropriate shaped trees, but designedly to enable them to make vigorous and salable ones.
My readers will recollect that I do not here write for the teaching of professional gardeners, and those who have time and knowledge to care for and create perfect formed trees in every case, no matter what the variety, or how incongruously it may grow, but for the plain, practical working of those who desire to grow Dwarf Pears with little labor, and continue them in health and vigorous fruitfulness from year to year.
Assuming that the trees are received and planted, I will next assume that they are mainly of two years' growth from the bud and about four feet high, with side branches, and the growth of the last year varying from one to three feet. Some of them, perhaps, have no side branches until up some two and a half to three feet from the ground, and such trees I cut at once down to a good strong dormant bud about eighteen inches from the ground; but as a majority have side branches, my drawing, fig. 165, shows that I cut down to two buds on a side branch and three buds on the leader, leaving, if possible, my buds on the outside of the shoot in order that, as they grow, the tree will form an open head. This drawing and all the others I give are from trees in my own grounds, and exact copies. The first summer I permit all the buds and shoots to grow as they may, not but what it is probable, if time could be given to watch and rub away buds, as a careful gardener would, that the sap might be directed to furnish greater strength to particular shoots; but that as the average of tree-growers can not, or will not, give time and care requisite for such coarse or purpose, it is desirable to gain all the supply of root possible; and as summer pruning checks rather than adds to the formation of roots, I prefer to let all grow the first season.
What is termed winter pruning is generally advised to be performed in the spring. I prefer the fall, say about the last of November, and I then take this tree, and prune its growth of the season to the cross lines marked on the branches in fig. 166. Fig. 167 shows this same tree with about one half its season's growth made, and the extension beyond my cross lines being yet tender with the foliage not quite half grown, the thumb and finger nail met together cut it readily; and while for a few days the extension of growth is checked, no great check is given to the roots, but within four or five days after pinching, the tree pushes its terminal buds, or the last one against where we pinched; and while it makes a moderate growth spreading and expanding the form of the tree, the little check given by this pinching adds apparent increase to the fullness of the lower buds, and hence hastens the period of its first fruiting. This* summer pinching is an easy labor, usually to be performed about the middle of June - sometimes earlier, according to seasons, and in doing it, perhaps more skill, or rather thought and common sense, is required than even for the winter pruning.
I saw a grower this year imbued with the pinch-ing-in process, but he had done it without a thought of guiding the form of the tree by means of the growth of the next terminal shoot from the last remaining bud, and as a consequence his trees are thick, bushy, round-headed, perhaps, but without that openness required to develop the best fruit; and in order to reach it he will have to cut away a large number of branches, and really put his trees back a year rather than advance them. Fig. 168 shows the same tree, or one close by it, which is an exact counterpart (the whole pruning having been alike), which has not been summer pruned, but left to grow as it would from the condition in which fig. 166 shows it to have been cut at the cross lines last fall. The cross lines on this tree indicate the point at which to cut this fall.
The next and following years, whatever course of pruning, whether fall or annual pruning, i. e., winter pruning or summer pinching be pursued, the lower branches of the tree will sway downward somewhat, and if continued to be pinched or pruned annually the appearance will be, at the expiration of two more summers or the fourth year from planting, as shown in fig. 169. The third summer's growth, however, sometimes proves so very vigorous, that I have occasionally found a gain by leaving the tree without any annual pruning that year. It having obtained a good bushy form, if I cut away too freely I get again a vigorous growth without any gain in shape, but keep back the formation of fruit buds, which the tree is now old enough to produce and sustain its fruit. If left unpruned, the elongation of growth is checked, and all along the stems of last year fruit buds commence to form. Fig. 170 shows a tree left unpruned, on which last year the shoots grew three to five feet; this year they have grown about one foot, or fourteen to sixteen inches, and the shoots of last year have fruit buds promising a good crop next season.
From this time onward, or rather from the time that once the tree has acquired its appropriate regular spreading form and commences bearing fruit, very little is requisite in the way of pruning from year to year to enable it to continue along. Good cultivation, as I have said, and not too near the bodies, with an annual short-ening of the previous year's growth to one half or one third, according as it is vigorous or otherwise, and a yearly thinning out of its fruit should it incline to set too many, is all that is needed to make pear growing on Dwarf Trees successful and profitable.
Raspberries should have all been pruned some time since, but if not done, better do it now than wait until spring. Take away all the old canes that have borne fruit, and also all the small, weakly canes, leaving two to four canes to each hill, and these cut back to from three to four feet high, according to the strength of the canes. Leave all the canes loose, to be acted upon by winds. If tied to wires or stakes, our experience has been that the wear of winter cuts and injures the canes at the tie, causing them often, in the following spring, to break off at that point.