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 trees are set 20, 24, and 30 feet apart; the latter distance not being found too great when the orchard has been five years planted. He found it a difficult matter to drive in an open wagon between the rows when the latter were 20 and 24 feet apart, although the trees were only four or five years old. The trees covered a space of 20 feet in diameter, and averaged 15 feet more in height.
He found evidence that the curculio had been at work among the fruit, although not many peaches had fallen to the ground. It is the prevalent opinion among Delaware growers, that ploughing and constantly stirring the soil among the trees, has a tendency to keep the curculio within bounds.
Successful peach growers do a great deal of work among their peach trees. In the early part of the season they thoroughly plow the orchard, then harrow it, afterwards cultivate both ways, and then, if any space around the trees is not touched by the cultivator, it is thoroughly worked with hoes to loosen the soil and eradicate weeds. This process is continued into July. Their cultivators are on a large scale, reaching nearly half-way across from row to row, and drawn by a pair of horses or mules. Some of the orchards he visited were 150 acres in extent.
Some of the most intelligent and successful growers never cut back the young growth of wood, as many do in this region. Indeed, Dr. G. returned thoroughly convinced by what he saw and heard that the practice of shortening in the branches is not to be recommended ; that it tends to unproductiveness and to the formation of a dense, unyielding, close head, which increases the difficulty of gathering the fruit. Summer pruning, or, indeed, any pruning of the peach tree, is confined, among Delaware growers, to cutting back or entirely removing a few of the lower branches which may be in the way, and thinning out the center of the top in order to let in light and air.
The borers do some little damage to the trees, and are hunted once a year, and that in the Fall. It is the practice to put the land intended for an orchard into a proper condition of fertility before planting the trees ; if this is not done, manure is applied afterwards. Diverse opinions and practices prevail as to the necessity of applying fertilizers after the orchard has come into bearing. But one fact may be regarded as certain, viz., all successful peach growers plough, drag, and cultivate their orchards thoroughly, and no grass or weeds are allowed to grow among the trees.
The varieties planted are, Hale's Early, Troth's Early, Early York, Stump the World, Crawford's Early, Oldmixon, and Crawford's Late. A few other sorts might be mentioned, but they are not extensively planted.
Hale's Early has proved a failure thus far with them, on account of its liability to decay before it can be brought to market.
Upon the whole, Dr. G. is of opinion that Vinclanders who have farms of 40 acres and upwards should be able to compete with Delaware growers in peach raising. They should plant, at least, ten acres. The conditions of success, so far as these depend upon human effort, seem to be -
I. Thoroughly to clear and enrich the soil.
II. To plant the trees from 25 to 30 feet apart.
III. Not to trim the trees, but to train them so that the plough and cultivator can run close to the tree.
IV. Corn and potatoes can be raised in the orchard for the first three years with benefit to the trees, provided fertilizers are applied.
V. After the third year plant nothing, but cultivate thoroughly.