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.
180. Having explained the various annual operations by which the complete formation of the tree is effected at the eighth winter-pruning, it is now necessary to state by what means its regularity, as well as its productiveness, may be maintained, during the fifteen or twenty years which it may be expected to live.
181. At each year's winter-pruning, the branch that has borne fruit is cut off close to the one trained to replace it, and the latter is shortened to a wood-bud situated above several blossom-buds. Sometimes this successional fruit-branch is necessarily left much longer than we could wish, owing to the flower-buds being situated near the top of the shoot This is frequently the case on the upper sides where the strongest shoots have more wood-buds at their bases; but it need not cause us any uneasiness, as we are sure of being able to remedy it at the following pruning, and we can, by leaving the shoot long, obtain one or two Peaches, of which we would otherwise have been deprived. Besides, the shoot may be pruned immediately above a flower-bud, as stated (96). By .thus maintaining on the principal branches well-conditioned fruit-branches and young wood to replace them, it will be perceived that the sap is forced to distribute itself equally, and that it is prevented from running through all the sap-vessels of the principal branches so rapidly as only to leave badly-elaborated juices.
During the existence of the tree, the pruning of the fruit-branches is always the same; and disbudding and pinching are the regulators by which we can conduct the development of these branches at will (87 - 96).
182. With regard to the principal branches, their pruning ought to be governed by two principles. The first is to encourage the prolongation of the branches a, b, c, d; the second, on the contrary, is to restrain as much as possible the growth of the extremeties E, E, E. These two opposite means mutually assist each other. In fact, a, b, c, d, producing young shoots and leaves, these branches attract a greater quantity of sap than flows to the upper secondaries, checked as it is at the same time by obstacles opposed to the growth of the latter, and thus inducing its flow towards the extremities a, b, c, d, thereby contributing so much the more to their growth.
183. Therefore the four last are pruned as long as possible, in order that their points may regularly touch the perpendicular line drawn from the top of the wall to the earth. The only limit to this elongation is the height of the wall which prevents the branch a from attaining a greater length than that at which it touches the under side of the coping; and which, consequently, obliges us to keep the three secondary branches, b, C, d, in a relative proportion, so that their extremities, when nailed, may not extend beyond the perpendicular line falling from the point of the branch, a.
184. When it has reached the coping, there are three modes of proceeding. 1st, - By the annual cutting back of each of the four branches a, b, C, d, on shoots proper for replacing the extremities of the branches shortened back. These shoots are each pruned on a wood-bud suitable for a leader. This is the way generally adopted; and must necessarily be so when, as has been pointed out (59), the Peach trees are only twenty-six feet apart, and consequently there is no more space for the extension of the branches.
185. 2d, - By the annual cutting back of the branch a only, which must be treated from that time the same as will be directed at 187 for the branches e, e, e, and by the equal elongation of the branches b, c, d, until the branch d, in its turn, reach the coping. But, to employ this method, there must be certain conditions not always to be met with. It will be understood that the elongation of the lower branches is a secondary consideration to that of their being maintained in good condition; and that they should always be well furnished with young wood; for if they were prolonged without care being taken, it might prove injurious to the vigor of the lower part of the tree, and produce ugly gaps. Therefore, the elongation of the four branches a, b, c, d must be proportionate to their strength; and when they are weakly, they must be kept shorter, by every year cutting back their extremities to a lower shoot, which, with proper nailing, forms a new leader (184). This proceeding concentrates the sap for the better nourishment of the lower parts, and for the producing in them a more active state of growth.
But if, on the other hand, the growth of the tree is so vigorous that the lower parts are healthy, and the principal branches there well furnished with fruit-branches, there is no danger in treating the branches a, b, c, d as has been explained in the beginning of this article, and thus we may even be able to give each wing an extent of twenty-feet - a proportion that cannot well be exceeded on walls ten feet high; and this does not prevent us from keeping the tree in the form of a long parallelogram forty feet in length by ten feet in height But the second method, which can be very seldom resorted to, requires that a greater distance between the trees be provided for at the time of planting. It will be easily understood that the equilibrium of strength and growth is more difficult to maintain in a tree disposed in this way, the lower principal branches being only three against four upper ones; and. therefore I do not recommend the adoption of this method.
186. 3d, - In carrying successively the depression of the main branch, a, to its utmost limit, its length relatively to the extremities of the three lower secondaries must, however, be maintained. This extreme lowering of the main branch, which thus ceases to divide the wing into two equal parts, still more increases the distance from each other of the upper branches, e, on each wing; and there would be a great space left between them if a fourth upper secondary (F,) were not formed.
It is obtained, as stated at 170, by the prolongation of a fruit-branch chosen at the base of each of the two innermost branches e.
This method is preferable to the second (185), but it should only be employed on trees that are very vigorous, especially in their lower parts; and in those in which a greater number of outlets for the sap can be afforded.
187. The pruning of the upper branches, e, e, e, consists in cutting each of them back every year, at the winter-pruning, on a fruit-branch, the shoot from the terminal bud of which replaces the extremity of the branch. This shoot is nailed as closely to the wall as possible, in order to restrain its growth. If this branch be shortened to a wood-bud, care must be taken to nail it as soon as it is sufficiently developed to admit of its being fastened. The extremities of the three upper branches should, after the winter-pruning, be at the distance of eight or ten inches from the coping.
188. Notwithstanding the constraint imposed on these upper extremities, they soon begin to grow rapidly; and we must take care, first to pinch them, afterwards to cut them down on the lowest lateral which the pinching produces; aud, lastly, whenever one of them approaches too near the coping it is cut down at a summer-pruning on a lower shoot, or on a very slender branch of old wood, which is nailed in as soon as possible, and which becomes a new terminal. Attention to these shortenings is required during the time vegetation is going on; nevertheless if they prove ineffectual, and the branch gain the ascendant, it must be cut down at the following winter. pruning to a small fruit-branch, situated at its base (170), which is pruned and nailed as there directed. It is of course understood that disbudding and pinching are performed on the shoots of these upper branches, and that they should all be nailed as soon as it is possible to lay them in. They are pinched when necessary, and summer-pruning is employed for dispensing with the crowd of laterals which results from the pinching, cutting them off to the lowest lateral.
All these precautions are necessary for producing and maintaining a supply of fruit-bearing branches on the three upper secondaries, b, e, M, of each wing.
The omission of these operations is often the cause of gaps in Peach trees. The treatment of the upper secondary branches is the same throughout the life of the tree. Lastly, - As repetitions must be made in order to draw the attention of the reader to the fundamental principles of the pruning of the Peach tree, I will conclude by stating that its success depends on the care of the cultivator: -
189. 1st, - To form well-nourished main branches, a, a, each tapering from its base to its top without inequalities even at the place where pruned. This result is obtained by training and nailing.
190. 2d, - To obtain lower secondary branches of a proper relative strength; and, like the main-branches, perfectly straight, and tapering, without swelling or knots.
191. 3d, - Not to form the upper secondary branches until the lower ones are so well established, that there may be no danger of their being impoverished by the upper secondaries depriving them of the necessary sap. Rather than run the risk of this, it is better to delay their formation for a year, or more.
192. 4th, - To take advantage of all the eyes, or young shoots, which grow on the upper or under sides of each branch, in order to furnish it properly with fruit-branches and successional shoots; and to destroy all the eyes which push in front of the branches as soon as they make their appearance, in order not to leave unsightly scars. Those produced at the back of the branch are likewise taken off, unless there is a vacancy to fill up, in which case they are preferable to those in front The shoots resulting from these eyes must be nailed so as to bring them gradually to the side.
108. 5th, - Lastly, in order to insure these results, to make a proper use of the means, which are presented by disbudding; by pinching, which should not be too liberally applied; and by summer-pruning, so useful for concentrating the sap in the base of the successional shoot. Neither must we forget the importance of training the principal branches in a perfectly straight direction, this being favorable to the circulation of the sap; nor that of nailing, the effects of which have been treated on, according as it is loose, or otherwise, and whether it keep the branch in an easy or confined, a vertical or inclined position; the importance of shading the strong part to retard its growth; and that of budding and inarching when there is no more natural means of producing a shoot where it is wanted. In thus operating with care and intelligence we will generally obtain trees of regular form, having the bark of the principal branches fresh and nearly smooth, indicating perfect health. They will be well-furnished with fruit-branches at regular distances, and their crops will also be regular and abundant.