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.
IN our last number we endeavored to call attention to certain points in the nursery management of young trees, necessary to prepare them for successful removal. We now propose to offer a few suggestions on transplanting.
Notwithstanding we have made great progress in the art of planting, during the last twenty years; and with all the information that has been disseminated on the subject, by means of widely-circulated pomological books, periodicals, catalogues, etc.; yet there is among the mass of our vast population who till the ground and plant trees, a very imperfect knowledge of what good planting really consists in. This every nurseryman knows, and every person whose occupation, duties, or tastes, put him in the way of observation. "Will you warrant my trees to live, Mr. Nurseryman "says one. "No." "Then I can't buy from you; for I should certainly lose three-fourths of them, if not all" I will give you double the price for your trees, it you will warrant them to grow," says another; "for I invariably fail in my planting." Another says, I can not understand how you nurserymen plant so successfully; you must possess some secret art, or put some peculiar substance about the roots. Pray, what is it 9" So one after the other proceeds, relating his misfortunes, and asking information from the poor nurseryman, who, however much he may desire to enlighten his customers, is too busy to discourse intelligibly on the theory and practice of tree planting.
The fact is, this is comparatively a new and unknown operation to thousands of people who every year find it necessary to go about it; arboriculture has not been considered a legitimate branch of rural studies, but as the business of the gardener or nurseryman exclusively.
Now, as the whole country seems to be thoroughly awakened on the subject 0r planting, this prevailing lack of knowledge becomes every day a matter of painful experience. The supposition that any man who could set a fence post could plant a tree, is demonstrated to be an illusion, because a tree is not a post, but a living, organized body, made up of a great many parts, all beautifully connected, and reciprocally dependent upon each other. The roots are the principal organs of nutrition, and at the same time sustain the tree in its position; the trunk and branches convey the nutriment from the roots to the leaves; and these refine or elaborate it, and prepare it for the formation of new parts. These different parts or organs must each fulfil their respective functions, or the harmony of nature is broken, and the tree immediately ceases to have a perfect existence.
Now the roots, we have said, are the organs of nutrition; and if they are not in a condition to supply a sufficient quantity of the proper kind, the tree must starve, just as an animal would if deprived of a proper supply of food. It is obvious, then, that the planter must first of all see that the soil in which he proposes to plant is in a condition to yield the essential nutriment to the roots of his trees. How is this to be done ticular, nor of the various chemical changes and combinations which must transpire in them, to prepare the food of plants for absorption by the delicate spongioles of the roots. Experience has taught us that trees will not live - at least, that they will not flourish - on a poor soil; nor on a very thin or shallow soil, with an impenetrable bottom; nor in a very stiff, tenacious, clay soil, that bakes as hard as brick during the growing season; nor in a wet soil, where water is stagnant about the roots. No man need plant trees in any such soils, and hope for success.
Trees - all trees usually planted for fruit or for ornament - require a soil of at least fair average fertility, such as any farmer would expect to yield a good crop of grain or roots: but all do not require the same degree of fertility; for among fruits, the Peach and the Cherry will yield good crops on a lighter and poorer soil than the Apple, Pear, Plum, or Quince; and the Pine and Fir tribe will succeed well on light, poor soils, unsuited to the Oak, the Maple, the Beech, and indeed the great mass of deciduous trees.
On thin soils - say four or five inches deep - lying on a hard subsoil, few trees, and especially fruit trees, will succeed, because the roots are confined too near the surface; and in our hot and dry summere the earth around the roots becomes parched, as no moisture can ascend from the subsoil: vegetation is consequently arrested, and the trees become stunted and scrubby, like the productions of arid plains.
Stiff clay soils are unfavorable to the growth of trees, and more especially young newly-transplanted trees. They bake on the surface, and exclude both air and moisture, and they become so hard that the roots are unable to extend through them any more than they could through a stone wall We admit that careful and skillful cultivators might succeed on such soils, by expending on them a great amount of timely, well-directed labor, to keep them porous and friable to a reasonable depth. But few will take this trouble, and therefore such soils should be avoided as far as practicable.
Wet soils are, of all the others, the most objectionable, either for fruit or ornamental plantations. Wet feet are not more ruinous to human health than a wet soil is to trees. It fills up every cavity of the soil which should be open for the passage of air, without which healthy nutriment for the tree can not be prepared; destructive gasses are formed, and directly the tree declines. We have often been struck with the effect of even a very trifling excess of moisture. In a row of trees descending from dry land to moist, it is observed that on the dry upland the trees are vigorous, with smooth, clean bark; but as soon as we descend to the moist places, the trees look feeble, the bark is mossy, and in every part we see symptoms of decline.*
Now, the planter who desires to ensure success, must see that his soil is not in any of these extreme conditions. If it be poor, manure it liberally a year before hand, and crop it with roots that will give the soil a good working, and also help to enrich it. If it be shallow, deepen it, if possible, by breaking up the under stratum with the subsoil plow. If one plowing be not enough, give it two or three; and if it can not be plowed, trench it, or at least trench a large circle for each tree; throw out the poor subsoil, and substitute good, fertile loam. If it be wet, drain it, and drain it thoroughly. If you have stones on your land, make stone drains, as large and deep as the outlet will admit If you have no stone, use tile, which is now manufactured in many parts of the country. In a wet soil to be planted with trees, tile drains should be at least three to three and a half feet deep, and not more than a rod apart, to carry the water away quickly and effectually from the soil about the roots.