The whole ground of an orchard should be dug in the autumn and laid up in a rough state for the winter, giving it as much surface as possible in order that the weather may fully act upon and meliorate the soil, thus following it as far as the case will admit. Observe to dig carefully near to the trees, and so as not to hurt their roots and fibres. If the soil be shallow,, and if these lie near to the surface, it would be advisable to dig with a fork instead of the spade.
Crop to within two feet of the trees the first year, a yard the second, four feet the third, and so on until finally relinquished; which, of course would be against the eighth year, provided the trees were planted at thirty or forty feet apart, with early-bearing sorts between. By this time, if the kinds have been well chosen, the temporary trees will be in full bearing, and will forthwith defray every necessary expense.
Let a small basin or hollow be made round the stem of each tree, a foot or eighteen inches in diameter and two or three inches deep, according to the extent of its roots. Fill this basin with dung to the thickness of five or six inches. over which sprinkle a little earth, just enough to keep it from being blown about. This both nourishes the young fibres, and keeps the ground about them moist in hot weather if wetted freely once a week.
To clothe the Stems of Standard Trees:
this is done by an envelope of moss or short grass; or litter wound round with shreds of matting is of great use the first year after planting to keep the bark moist, and thereby aid the ascent and circulation of the sap in the alburnum. This operation should be performed at or soon after planting. and the clothing may be left on till by decay it drops off of itself. It is of singular service in very late planting, or when, from unforeseen circumstances, summer-planting becomes requisite.
To prune Orchard Trees:
The object in pruning young trees is to form a proper head. The shoots may be pruned in proportion to their lengths, cutting clean away such as cross one another, and fanning the tree out towards the extremities on all sides, thereby keeping it equally poised, and fit to resist the effects of high winds. When it is wished to throw a young tree into a bearing state, which should not be thought of, however, sooner than the third or fourth year after planting, the leading branches should be very little shortened and the lower or ride branches not at all, nor should the knife be used, unless to cut out such shoots as cross one another.
The season for pruning orchards is generally winter or early in spring. A weak tree ought to be pruned directly at the fall of the leaf. To prune in autumn strengthens a plant, and will bring the blossom buds more forward; to cut the wood Iate in spring tends to check a plant, and is one of the remedies for excessive luxuriance.
To recover Deformed Trees:
Where a tree is stunted or the head ill-shaped from being originally badly pruned, or barren from having overborne itself, or from constitutional weakness, the most expeditious remedy is to head down the plant within three, four or five eyes (or inches, if an old tree) of the top of the stem, in order to furnish it with a new head. the recovery of a languishing tree, if not too old, will be further promoted by taking it up at the same time and pruning the roots: for as, on the one hand the depriving of too luxuriant a tree of part even of its sound, healthy roots, will moderate its rigor, so, on the other, to relieve a stinted or sickly tree of cankered or decayed roots, to prune the extremities of sound roots, and especially to shorten the dangling tap-roots of a plant affected by a bad subsoil, is, in connection with heading down, or very short pruning, and the renovation of the soil, and draining if necessary of the subsoil, the most availing remedy that can be tried.
To cure Diseases of Orchard Trees:
A tree often becomes stinted from an accumulation of moss, which affects the functions of the bark and renders the tree unfruitful. This evil is to be removed by scraping the stem and branches of old trees with the scraper, and on young trees a hard brush will effect the purpose. Abercrombie and Nicol recommend the finishing of this operation by washing with soap-suds, or a medicated wash of some of the different sorts for destroying the eggs of insects.
Wherever the bark is decayed or cracked it ought to be removed.
The other diseases to which orchard trees are subject are chiefly the canker, gum, mildew and blight, which are rather to be prevented by such culture as will induce a healthy state than to be remedied by topical applications. Too much lime may bring on the canker, and if so, the replacing a part of such soil with alluvial or vegetable earth would be of service.
The gum may be constitutional, arising from offensive matter in the soil; or local, arising from external injury. In the former case improve the soil, in the latter employ the knife.
The mildew may be easily subdued at its first appearance, by scattering flour of sulphur upon the infected parts.
For the blight and caterpillars, Forsyth recommends burning of rotten wood, weeds, potato haulm, with straw, etc., on the windward side of the trees, when they are in blossom. He also recommends washing the stems and branches of all orchard trees with a mixture of "fresh cow dung with wine and soap-suds," as a whitewasher would wash the ceiling or walls of a room. The promised advantages are, the destruction of insects and fine bark, more especially when it is found necessary to take off all the outer bark.
To preserve Apple, Cherry, and Plum-trees from Frost, as practised in Russia:
The severity of the winters at St. Petersburg is so great that few fruit trees will survive it, even with careful matting; to prevent the loss which is thus usually sustained, the following mode of training has been attended with complete success. It consists in leading the branches of the trees on horizontal trellises only ten or twelve inches from the ground. When the winter sets in, there are heavy falls of snow, and as the frost increases, the snow generally augments, by which the trees are entirely buried, and receive no injury from the most intense frost.
Another very great advantage of training trees in the above method consists in the growth of the wood, it being of equal strength, and the fruit produced being all alike, the blooms come out much earlier, and the crop ripens sooner. The trees are always clean and free from insects.
The only cherry that does not succeed in that way is the Black-heart, this is attributed to the damps which affect the early blossoms, but in a milder climate this injury would be obviated by placing the trellis higher from the ground. When the trellis decays under the apples, it is never renewed, as the trees keep always (from the strength of their branches) their horizontal position.
There are other advantages of treating fruit trees in this manner; they come sooner into bearing, and their fruit is not affected by high winds. The apples are never gathered, but suffered to drop off, for the distance they fall is not sufficient to bruise them.
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