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- Transcriber's Note: Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the original document have been preserved. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected in this text. For a complete list, please see the end of this document. -
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BY M.C. BURRITT
NEW YORK OUTING PUBLISHING COMPANY MCMXII
COPYRIGHT, 1912, BY OUTING PUBLISHING COMPANY.
All rights reserved.
In the preparation of this book I have tried to keep constantly before me the conditions of the average farm in the Northeastern States with its small apple orchard. It has been my aim to set down only such facts as would be of practical value to an owner of such a farm and to state these facts in the plain language of experience. This book is in no sense intended as a final scientific treatment of the subject, and if it is of any value in helping to make the fruit department of the general farm more profitable the author will be entirely satisfied.
The facts herein set down were first learned in the school of practical experience on the writer's own farm in Western New York. They were afterwards supplemented by some theoretical training and by a rather wide observation of farm orchard conditions and methods in New York, Pennsylvania, the New England States and other contiguous territory. These facts were first put together in something like their present form in the winter of 1909-10, when the writer gave a series of lectures on Commercial Fruit Growing to the Short Courses in Horticulture at Cornell University. These lectures were revised and repeated in 1910-11 and are now put in their present form.
The author's sincere thanks are due to Professor C.S. Wilson, of the Department of Pomology at Cornell University, for many valuable facts and suggestions used in this book, and for a careful reading of the manuscript. He is also under obligations to Mr. Roy D. Anthony of the same Department for corrections and suggestions on the chapters on Insects and Diseases and on Spraying.
Hilton, N.Y. February, 1912.
I. THE OUTLOOK FOR THE GROWING OF APPLES 11
II. PLANNING FOR THE ORCHARD 18
III. PLANTING AND GROWING THE ORCHARD 30
IV. PRUNING THE TREES 48
V. CULTIVATION AND COVER CROPPING 62
VI. MANURING AND FERTILIZING 78
VII. INSECTS AND DISEASES AFFECTING THE APPLE 92
VIII. THE PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICE OF SPRAYING 108
IX. HARVESTING AND STORING 127
X. MARKETS AND MARKETING 142
XI. SOME HINTS ON RENOVATING OLD ORCHARDS 153
XII. THE COST OF GROWING APPLES 164
THE OUTLOOK FOR THE GROWING OF APPLES
The apple has long been the most popular of our tree fruits, but the last few years have seen a steady growth in its appreciation and use. This is probably due in a large measure to a better knowledge of its value and to the development of new methods of preparation for consumption. Few fruits can be utilized in as many ways as can the apple. In addition to the common use of the fresh fruit out of hand and of the fresh, sweet juice as cider, this "King of Fruits" can be cooked, baked, dried, canned, and made into jellies and other appetizing dishes, to enumerate all of which would be to prepare a list pages long. Few who have tasted once want to be without their apple sauce and apple pies in season, not to mention the crisp, juicy specimens to eat out of hand by the open fireplace in the long winter evenings. Apples thus served call up pleasant memories to most of us, but only recently have the culinary possibilities of the apple, especially as a dessert fruit, been fully realized.
It is doubtless this realization of its great adaptability, together with its long season, which have brought the apple into so great demand of late. It is possible to have apples on the table in some form the year round. The first summer apples are almost always with us before the bottom of the Russet barrel is reached. Or, should the fresh fruit be too expensive or for some reason fail altogether, the housewife can fall back on the canned and dried fruit which are almost as good.
The tendency in the price of this staple fruit has been constantly upward during the last decade. Many people are greatly surprised when the fact that apples cost more than oranges is called to their attention. The increase in consumption, due to the greater variety of ways of preparing the apple for use, has undoubtedly been an important factor in this higher price. But at least an equally important factor is the marked decrease in the supply of this fruit. To those who are not familiar with the facts, the great falling off in production which the figures show will be no less than startling.
PRODUCTION OF APPLES IN BARRELS IN THE UNITED STATES FROM 1896 TO 1910
1896 69,070,000 1897 41,530,000 1898 28,570,000 1899 37,460,000 1900 56,820,000 —————- Total crop for five years 233,450,000 Average crop for five years 46,690,000 1901 26,970,000 1902 46,625,000 1903 42,626,000 1904 45,360,000 1905 24,310,000 —————— Total crop for five years 185,891,000 Average crop for five years 37,178,200 1906 38,280,000 1907 29,540,000 1908 25,850,000 1909 25,415,000 1910 23,825,000 Total crop for five years 142,910,000 —————— Average crop for five years 28,582,000
Estimates of 1896, 1897, and 1898 from "Better Fruit," Vol. 5, No. 5. All other years from the estimates of the "American Agriculturist."
It will thus be seen that the apple crop of 1910 was 45,245,000 barrels less than that of 1896, and that during the whole period of fifteen years the decline has been regular. The average annual crop of the five year period ending with 1905 was 9,511,800 barrels less than the average annual crop of the preceding five years ending with 1900, and correspondingly the annual average crop of the last five years, ending with 1910, was 8,596,200 barrels less than that of the second five year period. Comparing the first and the last five year periods, we find that the crop of the last was 18,108,000 barrels less than that of the first. These facts alone are enough to explain the higher price of this fruit during the last ten years.
HEAVY PLANTINGS.—Moreover, it should be further noted that this falling off in the apple crop has been in the face of the heaviest plantings ever known in this country. During the last ten years old fruit growing regions like western New York have practically doubled their orchard plantings. Careful figures gathered by the New York State Agricultural College in an orchard survey of Monroe County show that 4,972 more trees (21,289 in all) were planted in one representative township during the five year period from 1904 to 1908 inclusive than were ever planted in any other equal period in its history. New fruit regions like the Northwestern States and a large part of the Shenandoah valley of Virginia have been developed by heavy plantings. These three are all great commercial sections. To them we might add thousands of orchards which are scattered all over the Northern and Eastern States, from Michigan to Maine and from Maine to north Georgia.
It is doubtful, however, if these scattered plantings have made good the older trees which have died out. Scarcely a season passes that hundreds of these old veteran trees are not blown down or badly broken. Every wind takes its toll. After one of these windstorms in Southern New York the writer estimated that at least twenty per cent of all the standing old apple trees had been destroyed or badly broken. In the commercial regions only a small part of the new plantings have yet come to bearing and even here these probably do not much more than make good the losses of old trees. So that on the whole, heavy as our plantings have been, it is extremely doubtful if they have very much more than made good the losses of the older trees throughout the country. It is a fact worthy of note that this talk of over-planting the apple has been going on for over thirty years, and while the timid ones talked those who had faith in the business and the courage of their convictions planted apples and reaped golden harvests while their neighbors still talked of over-planting.
Whether or not it is true that we have over-planted the apple, it must be admitted that at the present time the demand is so much greater than the supply that the poorer of our people cannot afford to use apples commonly, and that no class of farmer in the Northeastern States is more prosperous than the fruit growers. The new plantings must of necessity begin to bear and become factors in the market very slowly. Meanwhile the great opportunity of the present lies in making the most possible out of the older orchards which are already in bearing. Practically all of these old farm orchards which can present a fairly clean bill of health, and in which the varieties are desirable, can with a small amount of well directed effort be put to work at once and during the next ten years or more of their life time, they may be made to add a substantial income to that of the general farm. Now is a time of opportunity for the owner of the small farm apple orchard.
FUTURE OF APPLE GROWING.—In the writer's opinion the future of apple growing in the United States is likely to shape itself largely in the great commercial regions. As these become more and more developed and as the industry becomes more specialized the farmer who is merely growing apples as a side line, except where he is delivering directly to a special or a local market, will be crowded out. Here as elsewhere it will be a case of the survival of the fittest. In the production of apples commercially those growers who can produce the best article the most cheaply are bound to win out in the end.
It would, therefore, seem to be advisable for the general farmer to plant apples only under two conditions; first, when he has a very favorable location and site and plants heavily enough to make it worth while to have the equipment and skilled labor necessary to make the enterprise a success, and second, when he can market his fruit directly in a local market. It would appear that the immediate future of apple growing in the United States lies in the small farm orchard as well as in the commercial orchards, but that the more distant future lies in the commercial orchard except where special conditions surround the farm.
PLANNING FOR THE ORCHARD
LOCATION.—Having decided that under certain conditions the planting of an apple orchard will prove a profitable venture, and having ascertained that those conditions prevail on your farm, the next step will be to determine the best location on the farm for the orchard. In choosing this location it will be well to keep in mind the relative importance of the orchard in the scheme of farm management. If the orchard is merely a source of home supply, naturally it will not require as important a position on the farm as will be the case if it is expected to yield a larger share of the farm income. If the relatively large net income per acre which it is possible to obtain from an apple orchard is to be secured, the best possible location is demanded.
Contrary to the common ideas and practice of the past, the orchard should not be put upon the poorest soil on the farm. The best orchards occupy the best soils, although fairly good results are often obtained on poor or medium soils. The relative importance which is attached to the orchard enterprise must also govern the choice of soil. If apples are to be a prominent crop they should be given the preference as to soil; if not, they may be given a place in accordance with what is expected of them.
SOILS.—In general, the apple prefers a rather strong soil, neither very heavy nor very light. Subsoil is rather more important than surface soil, although the latter should be friable and easily worked. The apple follows good timber successfully. Heavy clay soils are apt to be too cold, compact, and wet; light sandy soils too loose and dry. A medium clay loam or a gravelly clay loam, underlaid by a somewhat heavier but fairly open clay subsoil is thought to be the best soil for apples. Broadly considered, medium loams are best. The lighter the soil the better will be the color of the fruit as a rule, and so, also, the heavier the soil and the more nitrogen and moisture it holds the greater the tendency to poorly colored fruit. In the same way light soils give poorer wood and foliage growth as compared with the large rank leaves and wood of trees on heavy, rich soils.
VARIETAL SOIL PREFERENCES are beginning to be recognized. We cannot go into these in detail in this brief discussion. A few suggestions regarding standard varieties must suffice. Medium to light loams or heavy sandy loams, underlaid by slightly heavier loams or clay loams, are preferred by the Baldwin, which has a wider soil adaptation than practically any other variety. Baldwin soils should dry quickly after a rain. Rhode Island Greening requires a rather rich, moist, but well drained soil, containing an abundance of organic matter. A light to heavy silty loam, underlaid by a silty clay loam, is considered best.
Northern Spy is very exacting in its soil requirements. A medium loam, underlaid by a heavy loam or a light clay loam, is excellent. Heavy soils give the Spy a greasy skin. Light soils cause the tree to grow upright and to bear fruit of poor flavor. The King likes a soil slightly lighter than the best Greening soils, but retentive of moisture. Hubbardson will utilize the sandiest soil of any northern variety, preferring rich, fine, sandy loams.
The particular location of the apple orchard is largely a matter of convenience. It should be remembered, however, that the apple requires much and constant attention, therefore the orchard should be convenient of access. The product is rather bulky, so that the haul to the highway should be as short as possible. Other conditions being equally good there, the common location near the buildings and highway is best.
THE SITE OF THE ORCHARD is a more important matter. Two essentials should be kept in mind, good air drainage and a considerable elevation. Although it is not so apparent and therefore less thought about, cold air runs down hill the same as water. Being heavier, it falls to the surface of the land, flowing out through the water channels and settling in pockets and depressions. Warm air, being lighter, rises. It is desirable to avoid conditions of stagnant air or cold air pockets where frost and fogs are liable to occur. A free movement of air, especially a draining away of cold air, is best secured by an elevation. Fifty to one hundred feet, or sometimes less, is usually sufficient, especially where there is good outlet below. Frosts occur in still, clear air and these conditions occur most frequently in the lower areas.
Aspect or slope requires less attention. Southern exposures are warm and hasten bud development and opening in spring. Northern exposures are cold and retard the blossoming period. It is usually advisable to plant the apple on the colder slopes which hold it back in spring until all danger of late frosts is past. Northeast exposures are best as a general rule. Choose a slope away from the prevailing wind if possible. If this is impracticable it is often advisable to plant a wind break of pine, spruce, or a quick, thick growing native tree to protect the orchard from heavy winds.
A large body of water is an important modifier of climate. Warming up more slowly in the spring, it retards vegetation by slowly giving up its cold. Vice versa, cooling more slowly in the fall giving up its heat wards off the early frosts. It is therefore desirable to locate near such bodies of water if possible. Their influence varies according to their size and depth, and the distance of the orchard from them. Good examples of this influence are the Chautauqua Grape Belt on the eastern shore of Lake Erie and the Western New York Apple Belt on the south shore of Lake Ontario.
Professor Brackett has well summed up the whole question: "The selection of the soil and site for the apple orchard is not governed by any arbitrary rule," he says. "All farms do not afford the best soils or exposures for orchards. The owners of such as do not are unfortunate, yet they should not feel discouraged to the extent of not planting trees and caring for them afterward." There are a number of factors which influence not only a person who wishes to locate, but one already located, either favorably or unfavorably. About these even the most intelligent orchardists often differ. We have only laid down general principles and given opinions. Here as elsewhere application is a matter of judgment.
VARIETIES.—A proper soil and a good location and site having been selected, the next important question to be decided is the varieties to be planted. So much and so variable advice is given on this question that many persons are at a loss as to what to plant and too often decide the matter by planting the wrong varieties. Rightly viewed, the question of varieties is a comparatively simple one. Personal preference, tempered by careful study of certain factors and good judgment, are all that are required. Beginners, especially, are too apt to rely entirely on another's opinion. The only safe way is to learn the facts and then decide for yourself.
We have already indicated that soil is a determinant in the choice of varieties. This should be absolute. It is very unwise to try to grow any variety on a soil where experience has shown that it does not do well. The experience of your neighbors is the best guide in this respect.
The limitations of climate should also be carefully heeded. An apple may be at its best in one latitude or one situation and at its worst in another. Find out from experienced growers in your region, or from your State Experiment Station what varieties are best adapted climatically to the place where you live. It is an excellent rule never to plant a variety that you cannot grow at least as well as any one else, or still better, to plant a variety that you can grow better than anyone else. Grow something that not everyone can grow. Do not try to produce more of a variety of which there is already an over supply.
A few examples may make this more clear. Western New York is the home of the Baldwin, the Twenty Ounce and the King. Albemarle Pippins grown on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge are famous. The Spitzenburg appears at its best in the Northwest. The Northern Spy, the McIntosh, and the Fameuse are not to be excelled as they are grown in the Champlain Valley, in Vermont, or in Maine. To attempt to compete with these sections in the growing of these varieties, except under equally favorable conditions, would be foolish. Your section probably grows some varieties to perfection. Find out what these varieties are and plant them.
All these are general factors to be observed which cannot be specifically settled without knowing the soil and particular locality. Certain other factors governing the choice of varieties can be more definitely outlined. If the prospective orchardist will get these factors thoroughly in mind and apply them with judgment mistakes in planting should be much more rare. The more important ones are: The purpose for which the fruit is intended to be used, whether for the general market, a dessert or fancy trade, or for culinary and general table use; whether the trees are to be permanent and long lived, or temporary and used as fillers; whether the earliest possible income is desired or whether this is to be secondary to the future development of the orchard; whether the stock of the particular variety is strong or weak growing; whether the variety is high, medium, or low as to quality; and whether the market is to be local, distant, or export.
The following tables were originally compiled by Professor C.S. Wilson of Cornell University. They have been slightly revised and modified for our purpose. We believe that they are essentially correct and that they will be a safe guide for the reader to follow in his selection of varieties:
GENERAL MARKET APPLES DESSERT OR FANCY TRADE COMMERCIAL BOX WELL
Baldwin McIntosh Ben Davis Northern Spy Hubbardson Fameuse Northern Spy Wagener King Grimes Golden Rome Beauty Yellow Newton Oldenburg Red Canada Alexander King Twenty Ounce Sutton Winesap Hubbardson York Imperial Esopus Spitzenburg
CULINARY AND GENERAL TABLE USE
Rhode Island Greening Grimes Golden Gravenstein Twenty Ounce Newtown Yellow Bellflower Alexander Oldenburg Tolman Sweet Sweet Winesap
GOOD PERMANENT GOOD TEMPORARY TREES TREES—FILLERS
Baldwin McIntosh Rhode Island Greening Wealthy Northern Spy Wagener McIntosh Rome Beauty *King Oldenburg *Twenty Ounce Jonathan *Hubbardson Alexander Alexander Twenty Ounce Rome Beauty Hubbardson
* When this variety is set as a permanent tree it should be top worked on a hardier stock, such as Northern Spy.
Age at which variety may be expected to begin to fruit. (Add two years for a paying crop).
FIVE YEARS OR UNDER EIGHT YEARS AND UP
Rome Beauty Esopus Spitzenburg Oldenburg Fall Pippin Maiden Blush Golden Russet Wagener Northern Spy Yellow Newton Baldwin McIntosh Gravenstein Fameuse Tolman Sweet King Rhode Island Gr. Twenty Ounce Winesap
ESPECIALLY HARDY STOCKS POOR RATHER WEAK GROWERS*
Northern Spy King Tolman Sweet Twenty Ounce Ben Davis Esopus Spitzenburg Baldwin Hubbardson Fameuse Grimes Golden Winter Banana Sutton Canada Red
* Other varieties are medium.
HIGH IN QUALITY LOCAL OR PEDDLER'S VARIETIES
McIntosh Rhode Island Greening Esopus Spitzenburg Wealthy Northern Spy McIntosh Newtown Fameuse Gravenstein Tolman Sweet Red Canada Grimes Golden Fameuse Jonathan Grimes Golden Hubbardson GOOD GENERAL MARKET VARIETIES Rhode Island Greening Baldwin MEDIUM TO POOR QUALITY Rhode Island King Ben Davis Twenty Ounce Oldenburg McIntosh Rome Beauty Hubbardson Roxbury Russet Northern Spy
GOOD EXPORT VARIETIES
Baldwin Newtown Ben Davis Esopus Spitzenburg Northern Spy Jonathan
Only the best and most common varieties for the more northern latitudes have been included in this list as it would make it too cumbersome to classify all our known varieties. It must be remembered that this is not an arbitrary classification and that it is made as a guide to indicate to the reader the general characteristics of the variety. It should be used as such and not taken literally. The characters of the different varieties grade into each other. For example, the McIntosh is very high and the Ben Davis is very low in quality but the King and the Twenty Ounce are neither very good nor very poor, but midway between.
We must again remind the reader that the choice of varieties is a matter of judgment, tempered by the facts regarding them. One who is not capable of rendering such judgment after studying his conditions and the characteristics and requirements of leading varieties had better stay out of the apple business entirely, as he will often be called on for the exercise of good judgment in caring for the orchard. The facts here given are intended as suggestive. The reader who desires to know more of a particular variety will do well to consult Beach's "Apples of New York," published by the Geneva Experiment Station.
PLANTING AND GROWING THE ORCHARD
The proper soil, site, and location having been selected, the solution of the problems of orchard management is only just begun, although a good start has certainly been made. Farm management brings constantly to one's attention new problems and new phases of old problems, whatever the type of farming. The skill with which these problems are met and a solution found for them determines the success or failure of the farm manager. To some men the details of the orchard business offer the greatest obstacles, while to others it is the general relationship of one detail to another which is difficult. Both are essentials of good management. If we are able in this chapter to remove some of these minor difficulties and at the same time indicate the correct relationships we will have accomplished our purpose.
As we come now to the actual plans for planting our orchard many questions come up for answer. When shall I plant? Where and of whom shall I purchase my trees? How old should they be? Is it wise to use fillers or temporary trees, and if so, what kind? How far apart should the trees be planted and how many are required for an acre? What arrangement of the trees is most advisable? How should the ground be prepared? What is the best method of setting? When the trees are planted should they be inter-cropped, and if so, with what? How should the young trees be handled and cared for? He who would be a successful orchardist must endeavor to answer these questions.
WHEN TO PLANT.—The question of fall or spring planting is a less important one with a comparatively hardy fruit like the apple than it is with a more tender fruit like the peach. Apples may safely be planted in the fall when soils are well drained and when the young trees are well matured, both of which are very important if winter injury is to be avoided. Fall planting has several distinct advantages. During the winter fall planted trees become well established in the soil which enables them to start root growth earlier in the spring. Consequently the young trees are better able to endure droughts. In the fall the weather is usually more settled and there is better opportunity to plant under favorable conditions than in the unsettled weather of spring. It is usually possible, too, to get a better selection of trees at the nursery in the fall because most of the trees are not sold until midwinter.
Still the fact remains that the common practice of spring planting is the more conservative course. There is always danger of getting immature trees in the fall, and of winter injury to fall planted trees. Trees may be set in the fall any time after the buds are mature which is usually after October 1st to 18th in the latitude of New York. They should not be pruned back in the fall, as this invites winter killing of the uppermost buds. The question of available time must also be considered. On some farms fall offers more time; on others, spring. To sum up the matter, plant at the most convenient time, providing the conditions are favorable.
WHERE TO BUY.—But one rule as to where to buy trees can be laid down. Buy where you can secure the best trees and where you can be sure of the most reliable and honest dealers. Beware of the tree agent, who has been guilty of more dishonesty and misrepresentation than almost any other traveling agent. Buy of a salesman under one condition only, that he prove to you that he is the bona fide representative of a well-known and reputable nursery firm, and then make your order subject to investigation of the firm's standing and finding it as represented.
The safest course is usually to purchase of your home nurseryman with whose standing and honesty you are familiar, and whose trees you can personally inspect. Such a man has a reputation at stake and will have an object in keeping your trade. Moreover, you will save freight, secure fresher stock with less liability of injury in handling, and get trees grown under your own conditions. If stock is purchased away from home it is better to get it at a nursery in a more southern latitude in order to secure trees of better growth.
All trees should be purchased in the late summer or early fall when the nurseryman has a full list of varieties and you can get the pick of his stock. Select a well grown mature tree two years old from the bud. One year old trees are preferred by many and if well grown and at least five feet high they are probably best. But a one year old tree is rather more delicate, requiring careful handling and intelligent training. Unless a person buys from a southern nursery and is an expert in handling trees, the two year old tree is to be preferred, but a skilful grower can make a more satisfactory tree from a one year old seedling.
The average buyer must depend largely on his nurseryman for getting trees true to name, which is the reason for laying so much emphasis on purchasing from an honest dealer. Some nurserymen guarantee their varieties to be true to name, and all ought to do so. Buyers should demand it. The seeds of the apple rarely come true to the variety planted. They are therefore usually budded on one year old seedlings imported from France. Sometimes they are whole or piece root grafted which is equally as good a method of propagation.
It is possible for a man to grow and bud or graft his own seedlings, but hardly advisable for the average small grower or general farmer, as it is usually expensive when done on a small scale and requires considerable skill. Always buy a high grade tree. Seconds are often equally as good as firsts when they are simply smaller as a result of crowding in the nursery row. A tree which is second grade because of being stunted, crooked, or poorly grown should never be set. Thirds are seldom worth considering at any price.
FILLERS.—Whether or not the planter of an apple orchard should use fillers is a question which he alone must decide. In the writer's opinion there are more advantages than disadvantages in so doing, but we must state both sides of the question and let the reader judge for himself. The term "filler" is one used to designate a tree planted in the orchard for the temporary purpose of profitably occupying the space between the permanent trees while these are growing and not yet in bearing. Fillers make a more complete use of the land, bringing in larger as well as quicker returns from it, three distinct advantages. (See Chapter XII, The Cost of Growing Apples.) On the other hand, objections to their use are that they are often left in so long that they crowd and seriously injure the permanent trees, and that their care often requires different operations and at different times from the other trees, such as spraying, which may result in injury to the permanent trees in the orchard.
Trees used as fillers for apples should have two important characteristics; they should be rapid, vigorous growers and should come into bearing at a very early age. Two kinds of fillers are available, those of the same species, which may be either dwarf or standard trees, and those of a different species, of which peaches and plums, and possibly pears, are the best adapted. Dwarf trees may be dismissed from our plans with the statement that they have rarely proved profitable under ordinary conditions, as they are much more difficult to grow than standards and when grown they have but few advantages over them. The varieties of standard apples which are advisable as fillers have been indicated in Chapter II.
The use of peaches and the Japanese plums, both of which make excellent fillers because they grow rapidly and come to heavy bearing quickly, is limited to their soil and climatic adaptation. They are adapted to the lighter phases of soil and the more moderate climates and under other conditions are impracticable. On heavier soils and in more rigorous climates the European plums and the more rapid and early bearing pears, such as the Keiffer, make fairly good fillers.
On the whole, the writer is inclined to advise the use of fillers in the general farm orchard. Quicker returns from an investment of this nature, which is usually heavy and which at best must be put off several years, are very important. Under careful and intelligent management the objections to their use are easily overcome.
SPACING AND ARRANGEMENT OF TREES.—The distance apart of planting depends on the variety planted. Close headed, upright growing trees may be planted closer together than spreading varieties. Some varieties grow larger than others, and the same variety may vary in size on different soils. It is seldom advisable to plant standard apple trees in the latitude of New York closer than thirty feet, or farther apart than fifty feet. Trees of the nature of Twenty Ounce and Oldenburg (Dutchess) should be planted from thirty-two to thirty-six feet apart, while Baldwins, Rhode Island Greenings, and Northern Spies represent the other extreme and will require forty, and sometimes fifty feet of space. The method and thoroughness of pruning influences the size of trees greatly, and hence the distance at which It is necessary to set them.
Varieties top worked on other stocks have a tendency to grow more upright and may be set closer together. It should be remembered in this connection that the roots of a tree extend considerably beyond the spread of the branches. From thirty-five to forty feet is a good average distance and trees should be trained so as to occupy this space and no more. Where fillers are used the latter distance is best, as the twenty feet apart at which the trees will then stand is close enough for any standard variety.
RECTANGULAR.—The method of setting or the arrangement of the trees will greatly influence the number of trees which may be put upon an acre and the distance apart of the trees in the row. The most common method in the past has been the regular square or rectangular method, e.g., trees forty by forty feet, or forty by fifty feet, and rows at right angles, and this is still preferred by many. It is easy to lay out an orchard on this plan and there is less liability of making mistakes. It is best adapted to regular fields with right angle corners, especially where the orchard is to be cropped with a regular rotation. All tillage operations are most easily performed in orchards set on this plan.
A slight modification of this arrangement which is often advisable, especially where fillers are used, is to set a tree in the center of the square. The trees then stand like the five spots of a domino, and the shortest distance between trees will be about twenty-seven feet when the trees in the regular rows are forty by forty feet apart. This plan practically doubles the number of trees which can be set on an acre.
HEXAGONAL OR TRIANGULAR.—Another method of arrangement of the trees which is becoming more and more popular is the hexagonal or triangular system. More trees can be planted on an acre by this plan than by any other, it being very economical of space. It makes all adjacent trees equally distant from each other and is really a system of equilateral triangles. This plan is better adapted to small areas and especially to irregular ones, and should be employed where land is expensive and culture very intensive. It is more difficult to set an orchard after this method without error, and it is open to the objection of inconvenience in cultural operations. Most people forget that while the rows running cornerwise in a rectangular or square field set after this plan may be a standard distance apart, yet the right angle rows (not trees) in which it may be more convenient to work are actually much closer together.
The best plan to follow to get the rows of trees straight on a level field is what is known as the outside stake method. This plan requires the placing of a row of stakes on each of the four sides of the field where the trees are to be set and usually about two rows each way through the middle. For this purpose ordinary building laths are best, about one hundred and fifty laths, or three bundles, being required for five acres, which is as large a unit as can be set at once by this plan.
First, determine the distance from the road or fence to the first tree row, which would be at least eighteen feet to allow for turning the teams, and establish base lines on each side of the field at right angles to each other.
Second, beginning at the given distance from the side of the field, set up a row of stakes along these base lines at the exact distance apart at which the trees are to be set and about half way between the fence and the first right angle row. Do the same on all sides of the field.
Third, by sighting across the field from one end stake to the other the cross rows of stakes can be set through the middle of the field. These should be about six or eight rods apart, and care should be used to avoid setting them where they will interfere with the sighting of the right angle rows. This plan has the great merit of enabling the entire orchard to be set without moving a stake, as no stake stands where a tree is to be set. If the trees are set exactly where the sight lines cross at right angles and if all rows are an equal distance apart, the rows will be perfectly straight.
On rough or rolling land this plan does not work well. Here more simple methods, though requiring more time, must be used. Lines drawn with a cord or marked across the field with a corn planter answer well for small areas. Poles of the right length are often used to good advantage. In setting trees after the hexagonal plan an equilateral triangle made of light poles or wire is probably best, especially on small rough areas, as it is very accurate, simple, and quite rapid. Some men prefer to make measurements and set a stake at every point where a tree is to be placed. In these cases a simple device locates the original stakes after the hole has been dug. A light board about six feet long with a notch in the center and holes with pegs in them at each end is placed with the notch at the stake. One end is then swung round and the hole dug. When the end is replaced on its peg the tree set in the hole should rest in the notch where the original stake did.
The following table shows the number of trees required per acre at different distances for the square or rectangular method and for the hexagonal method.
Sq. Hex. Sq. Hex.
12 x 12 302 344 24 x 24 75 80 12 x 15 242 ... 24 x 30 60 .. 15 x 15 193 224 30 x 30 48 56 15 x 18 161 ... 30 x 36 40 .. 15 x 20 145 ... 33 x 33 40 46 15 x 30 96 ... 30 x 48 30 .. 18 x 18 134 156 30 x 60 24 .. 18 x 20 121 ... 36 x 36 33 39 20 x 20 108 124 40 x 40 27 31 20 x 30 72 ... 40 x 50 21 ..
It will be noted that the hexagonal plan allows the setting of from four to forty trees more per acre than the square plan, even when the trees are set the same distance apart. This is the great advantage of this plan over the square. Filling an orchard one way, i.e., between the permanent row, in one direction only, practically doubles the trees which can be set on an acre; filling both ways quadruples the number.
PREPARATION OF SOIL.—The previous condition and treatment of a soil for an orchard are important. If the soil has been in a good rotation of field crops, including some cultivated crops, it should be in prime condition for the trees. Old pastures and meadows should be plowed up, cropped, and cultivated for a year or two before setting to obtain the best and quickest results. If one is in a hurry, however, this may be done after setting the trees. Good results are sometimes obtained by setting trees right among the stumps on recently cleared timberland. Where no stiff sod has formed the trees start quickly in the rich soil.
The best immediate treatment of land preparatory to setting the trees should be such as to place the soil in good tilth. Deep plowing, thorough cultivation, and the application of liberal amounts of manure—twelve to fifteen loads per acre—are the most effective means of doing this. The best crop immediately to precede trees is clover. Sometimes an application of one thousand five hundred to two thousand pounds of lime will help to insure a stand of clover and at the same time improve the physical condition of the soil. Fall plowing is a good practice on the medium loams and more open soils, but on the heavy clays spring plowing is to be preferred, as when plowed in the fall these soils puddle and become hard to handle. Care should always be taken to keep the orchard well furrowed out as standing water is decidedly inimical to satisfactory tree-growth. Tile draining is frequently advisable.
INTERCROPPING.—The question of intercropping a young orchard is one to be carefully considered. As it is often practiced it is very injurious to the orchard, but it is possible to manage crops so as to be of very little harm to the trees. While the practice may be inadvisable in many commercial orchards, yet on a general farm we should by all means think that it was the right thing to do. Certain facts must be remembered, however, which have a bearing on the subject.
Trees are a crop, as much as corn or grass. If we grow a crop between the tree rows we must remember that we are double cropping the land and that it must be fed and cared for accordingly. There is absolutely no use in setting an apple orchard, expecting it to take care of itself, "just growing," like Topsy, as numerous dilapidated and broken down orchards bear ample testimony. If orchards are to be cropped this must be judiciously done with the trees primarily in mind.
The best crops to grow in a young apple orchard are those requiring cultivation, or which permit the cultivation of the land early in the season. Field beans, potatoes, and garden truck of all kinds, as small vegetables, melons, etc., are among the very best crops to grow in the young orchard. Corn will do if it does not shade the trees too much. Small grain and grass should not be used, especially where they come up close to the trees. These crops form too stiff a sod and use up too much moisture. A mulch of straw, cut grass, or coarse manure will help to correct this condition somewhat when these crops must be used. After cultivation until midsummer buckwheat makes a satisfactory orchard crop in some cases.
A regular rotation may be used in the young orchard to advantage when a space is left next the trees to receive cultivation. This space should be at least two feet on each side of the tree the first year and should be widened each year as the tree grows older and larger, to four, six, and eight feet. This method has been used by the author very successfully for a number of years. Some good rotations to use in a growing orchard are: (1) Wheat or rye one year, clover one year, beans or potatoes one year; (2) oats one year, clover one year, potatoes one year; (3) beans one year, rye plowed under in spring, followed by any cultivated crop one or two years. The essentials of a good rotation for an orchard are: A humus and fertility supplying crop, preferably clover, in the north, and cow peas in the south, and at least two crops in four requiring cultivation up to the middle of the summer.
Most of the points regarding the management of young trees have already been mentioned, but a few others should have attention directed to them. Fall planted trees should not be cut back until spring. In the spring all newly planted trees should have their tops cut back rather severely to correspond with the injury to the roots in transplanting, thus preserving the balance between root and top. This will usually be about half to two-thirds the previous season's growth. From three to five well distributed branches should be left with which to form the top. During the first few years of their lives the young apple trees will need little or no pruning, except to shape them and remove crossing or interfering branches.
Constant cultivation at frequent intervals until midsummer should be the rule with young growing trees, with which this is even more important than with older trees. It is a good plan to plow the orchard in fall where possible, always turning the furrows toward the trees, leaving the dead furrows as drainage ditches between the rows. At Beechwood Farm we have always banked the trees with earth in the fall, using a shovel. This not only firms the soil about the tree, holding it straight and strong through the winter, but it affords good protection against rodents, especially mice. Where rabbits are prevalent it is well to place a fine mesh wire netting around the trees in addition to this.
PRUNING THE TREES
Pruning is not an entirely artificial operation as one might at first thought suppose. It is one of nature's most common processes. Nature accomplishes this result through the principle of competition, by starting many more trees on a given area than can possibly survive. In the same way there is a surplus of buds and branches on each individual tree. It is only by the crowding out and the perishing of many buds, branches, and trees that others are enabled to reach maturity and fulfill their purpose. This being too slow and too expensive a process for him, man accomplishes in a day with the knife and saw what nature is years in doing by crowding, shading, and competition. Proper pruning is really an improvement on nature's method.
Neither is it true, as some claim, that pruning is a devitalizing process. On the contrary it is often stimulating and may actually increase the vigor of a weak or declining tree. All practical experience teaches us that pruning is a reasonable, necessary, and advantageous process. True, it is often overdone, and improperly done. As in many other things, certain fundamental principles underlie and should govern practice. When these are known and observed, pruning becomes a more simple matter.
Heavy pruning during the dormant or winter season stimulates the growth and tends to increase the production of wood. In the same way pruning during the summer or growing season stimulates the growth and tends to induce fruitfulness, if the tree remains healthy. But this fruitfulness is apt to be at the expense of the vigor of the tree. On the other hand, the pruning of the roots of a tree tends to check the growth of wood, the same as poor feeding. As above noted heading back a tree when dormant tends to stimulate it to a more vigorous growth.
The habit of growth of a variety has much to do with its pruning. Some varieties of apples are upright, others are spreading growers. Climate and locality greatly affect these habits of growth. So also the habit of a young tree often differs from the habit of the same tree in old age. The tendency is for a tree to continue its growth from its uppermost or terminal buds. Although the heading in of new growth checks this upward tendency and throws the energy of the tree into the development of lateral and dormant buds, nevertheless the pruned tree soon resumes its natural upward growing habit.
Plant food is taken up by the minute tree rootlets in solution and carried to the leaves where it is elaborated and then returned for use to the growing tissues of the tree. Whenever there is any obstruction above a bud the tendency is to throw the energy of the branch into a lateral bud, but if the obstruction is below the bud the branch merely thickens and growth is checked. When too heavy pruning is practiced the balance between the roots and top is disturbed. This usually results in what are commonly known as "suckers." These are caused by an abnormal condition and while they may be the result of disease or injury to the tree, they are often of great value in restoring or readjusting the proper balance between the roots and top.
Pruning a tree is a way of thinning the fruit and a good one. It may sometimes be used to influence the bearing year of trees like the Baldwin, which have an alternate bearing habit, but this is a more theoretical than practical method. Fruit bearing is determined more by the habitual performance of the tree than by any method of pruning, and this is especially true of old trees. It is easier to influence young trees. Conditions which tend to produce heavy wood growth are unfavorable for the formation and development of fruit buds. A quiescent state is a better condition for this.
REASONS FOR PRUNING.—With these fundamental principles in mind we may safely outline a method of pruning an apple tree. As the desired end is different so will the method of pruning a young tree differ from that of an old one. There are five important things for which to prune a young tree, namely:
1. To preserve a proper balance between the top and root at the time of setting out. This usually means cutting off the broken and the very long roots to a reasonable length and cutting back from one-half to two-thirds of the growth of the previous season.
2. To make the top open in order to admit the sunlight freely. In the humid climate of the Northeastern States, it is usually advisable to prune a tree so as to have a rather open top. This is necessary in order properly to color and mature the fruit.
3. To regulate the number of limbs composing the top. Probably three branches well distributed on the trunk would make most nearly the ideal head, but as these cannot always be obtained the best practice is to leave from three to five branches from which to form the top.
4. To fix the branches at the proper height from the ground. This is more or less a matter of opinion, some growers preferring a low and others a high head. The character of the tree growth, the method of culture, and the purpose of the tree whether temporary or permanent greatly influence the height of the head. An upright growing variety should be headed lower than a spreading one. Trees kept in sod or under extensive methods can well be headed lower than those under more intensive culture where it is desirable to carry on cultural operations close around them. Permanent trees should be headed higher than temporary trees. Apple trees should seldom be headed lower than a foot from the ground, nor more than four feet above it. For upright growing varieties intended as permanents, the writer prefers three to three and one-half feet and for more spreading varieties four feet; while for temporary trees eighteen inches should be a good height.
5. To do away with weak crotches and to remove crossing or interfering branches. A crotch formed by two branches of equal size, especially when the split is deep, is a weak crotch and should be avoided. Strong crotches are formed by forcing the development of lateral buds and making almost a right angle branch from the parent one. All branches which rub each other, which tend to occupy the same space with another, or which generally seem out of place, are better removed as soon as any of these tendencies are found to exist.
IDEALS IN PRUNING.—The general method of pruning the old trees and the ideal in mind for it will also influence the pruning of the young tree, especially the shaping of it. Once determined upon, the ideal should be consistently followed out in the pruning of the tree as it becomes older. As the tree comes to bearing age it will be necessary to prune somewhat differently and for other purposes. These we can conveniently consider under six heads:
1. Every tree should be pruned with a definite ideal as to size, shape, and degree of openness in mind. To have such an ideal is very important. It is only by industriously and consistently carrying it out that the ideal tree in these respects can be ever obtained. Haphazard cutting and sawing without a definite purpose in mind are really worse than no pruning at all.
2. It almost goes without saying that to remove all dead, diseased, or injured wood is a prime purpose of pruning. Dead and injured branches open the way for rot and decay of contiguous branches, and disease spreads through the tree. The removal of all such branches is as essential to the health of the tree as it is to its good appearance. In removing them the cut should be made well behind the diseased or injured part to insure the checking of rot and disease.
3. All mature apple trees should be so pruned as to keep them in the most easily manageable shape and to facilitate in every possible way the operations of tillage, spraying, and harvesting. It is most important to have the tree low enough down so that spraying and picking can be easily done. It is difficult to spray properly a tree which is more than twenty-five feet in height. Even this height necessitates a tower on the spray rig and the use of an extension pole. An apple tree should be so pruned that all the fruit can be readily picked from ladders not longer than eighteen to twenty-two feet.
Of course, if the tree has been allowed to get higher than this under previous management, sometimes we have to make the best of a bad situation. If the trees are too high head them back by cutting off the leaders, but it is not always wise to lower all trees to twenty-two feet. Heading back of old trees will be more fully discussed in the chapter on "Renovating Old Orchards." Ladders longer than twenty-two feet are heavy and clumsy to handle.
If cultivation is to be carried on close up under the tree the lower limbs must be pruned so as to allow this. It is not necessary, however, to drive a team closer than twelve or fifteen feet from a mature tree, contrary to the common belief and practice. Cultivation is least important in the first few feet of space around a mature tree. By the use of set-over tools, all that is necessary can be well cultivated without crowding the team under or against the branches.
4. As has been pointed out in the discussion of the pruning of young trees, in humid regions where the sunlight is none too abundant through the growing season, the open head is most desirable. Sunlight on the leaves as well as on the fruit is essential to good color of the fruit, and good color is a very important factor in the flavor and attractive appearance of the fruit. An open center with upright growing leaders removed gives the greatest opportunity for sunlight to penetrate through the tree.
5. As we have seen, pruning in the dormant season tends to increase the vigor of the tree. Thus winter pruning serves to secure a normal and vigorous wood growth, which is most essential to a healthy fruit-bearing tree. On the other hand, such pruning may be excessive and produce wood growth at the expense of fruit buds, throwing the tree out of bearing.
6. The sixth and last reason for pruning is to regulate the number and distribution of the wood and the fruit bearing buds. The proper balance between these is greatly affected by pruning and can be best regulated by experience with the particular tree or variety. A perfect balance is hard to get, but with study and skill it can be closely approximated. Pruning, too, may thin the fruit, as removing branches removes fruit buds. This is best done by removing small branches near the ends of larger ones. It is a much cheaper method of thinning than picking off individual fruits, but not as effective.
TIME OF PRUNING.—The particular time of the year for pruning is not vital. As between summer and winter pruning, winter is to be preferred because of the physical effect on the tree. Summer pruning is an unnatural process and should only be practiced as a last resort to check growth or induce fruitfulness, as it may result in injury to the tree. It is essential that a tree mature its foliage, which it frequently does not do after summer pruning. Diseased, dead, or injured wood should be removed when first observed, summer or winter.
Spring is the logical and usually the most convenient time to prune on the general farm. While dormant season pruning may be done at any time between November 1st and June 1st, the cuts heal more rapidly in the spring when the sap begins to flow. In regions subject to severe and drying winds in the winter, pruning should be deferred at least to late winter. Considered from every standpoint, March and April are quite the best months in which to prune. After the removal of useless branches, the normal amount of food material is delivered to fewer buds under greater sap pressure and the remaining buds are made more strong and vigorous.
In removing small branches with a knife or other cutting tool, the cut should be made upward from below and opposite a bud. On upright growing varieties the last bud left should be an outside one to induce the tree to spread as much as possible, while on spreading trees leaving as the last bud an inside one has a tendency to make the tree grow more upright. Always cut close to the parent branch, never leaving a stub no matter how young or old the tree.
Cuts of lateral branches should be made just at the shoulder of the branch where it joins the parent. A cut behind the shoulder will not heal, neither will one too far ahead of it. A stub left on a trunk or large branch does not heal, but soon begins to rot at the end where the heartwood is exposed. This gradually works back into the main branch and the tree finally becomes "rotten at the heart." All that is needed to complete the destruction is a heavy wind, an ice or a snow storm, or a heavy load of fruit.
All wounds more than two inches in diameter should be painted either with a heavy lead paint, which is preferable, or with some gas tar preparation. These things do not in themselves heal a cut, but they keep out the decaying elements, air and moisture, thus helping to preserve the branch and by protecting it to promote healing in nature's way. A little lamp black will serve to deaden the color of the paint.
PRUNING TOOLS.—The best tool to use in pruning is one which brings you nearest to your work and over which you have the greatest control to make all kinds of cuts. In the writer's experience no tool does this so smoothly and conveniently as a properly shaped saw. A good saw should be quite rigid, rather heavy at the butt, where its depth should be about six inches, tapering down to about two inches at the point. It should have a full, firm grip, be not more than thirty inches long, and should always be kept sharp. Two-edged saws should not be used because of the injury done to the tree when sawing in crotches.
Cutting shears are often very useful, especially the smaller, one-handed type which is almost indispensable in pruning young trees. The larger, two-handled shears are useful in thinning out the ends of branches or in heading back new growth. They should not be too heavy, as they are tiresome to use. The extension handled types are too cumbersome, too slow to work with, and the operator is of necessity too far away from his work for the best results.
FRUIT THINNING.—A matter which is quite nearly related to pruning is thinning the fruit, and may properly be treated here. That this is not as common a practice with most fruit-growers as it should be, the great lack of uniformity in our ordinary market apples is ample evidence. Many persons will at once raise the question as to whether or not it is practicable to thin the fruit on large apple trees. The answer is that many growers find it not only practicable, but most profitable to do so. Wherever fruit of a uniform size and color is desired, thinning is a practical necessity, especially when the crop of fruit is heavy.
The proper time to thin the fruit is just after what is commonly known as the "June drop," i.e., the falling off of those fruits not well enough pollinated or set to hold on to maturity. In thinning the fruit should be taken off until they are not closer than from four to six inches apart on the same branch, although the distance apart on any branch will depend somewhat on the amount of the crop on other parts of the tree. Never leave clusters of fruit on any branches, as some of them are sure to be small and out of shape. Furthermore two apples lying together afford a fine place for worms to get from one apple to another and they seldom fail to improve the opportunity. Step ladders and ordinary rung ladders are used to get at the fruit for thinning. The cost of the operation is not nearly as large as might appear at first thought and in practically all cases is a paying investment.
CULTIVATION AND COVER CROPPING
In its broad sense cultivation is the treatment of the soil. Thus understood orchard cultivation includes the sod mulch system as well as the stirring of the soil with various implements. In its more common and restricted meaning, however, cultivation is the stirring of the soil about plants to encourage growth and productivity. To have the apple tree in sod was once the commonly accepted method of orchard treatment—a method of neglect and of "letting well enough alone." With the advent of more scientific apple culture the stirring of the soil has come to be the more popular method. But within the last few years an improved modification of the old sod method, known as the sod "mulch" system, has attracted much attention because of the success with which a few men have practiced it. For a correct understanding of these practices and of the relative desirability of these systems we must again turn to underlying principles and purposes.
It may be said on first thought that tillage is a practice contrary to nature. But it accomplishes what nature does in another way. Tillage has been practiced on other crops than trees for so long that we think of it almost as a custom. There are, however, scientific and practical reasons for tillage.
THE EFFECTS OF TILLAGE on the soil are three fold, physical, chemical, and increasing of water holding capacity. Tillage affects the soil physically by fining and deepening it, thus increasing the feeding area of roots, and by bringing about the more free admission of air warms and dries the soil, thus reducing extremes of temperature and moisture. Chemical activities are augmented by tillage in setting free plant food, promoting nutrification, hastening the decomposition of organic matter, and the extending of these agencies to greater depth. Tillage conserves moisture by increasing the water holding capacity of the soil and by checking evaporation.
Of all these things which tillage accomplishes in a soil, two should be especially emphasized for the apple orchard, namely, soil moisture and soil texture. That moisture is a very important consideration in the apple orchard the effects of our frequent droughts are ample evidence. The amount of rainfall in the Eastern States when it is properly distributed is fully sufficient for the needs of an apple tree. By enlarging the reservoir or water holding capacity of the soil and by preventing the loss of water by evaporation, an excess of rainfall in the spring may be held for later distribution and use.
As a rule, the improvement of a poor soil texture is as effective as the supplying of plant food and much cheaper. The latter is of no consequence unless the plant can use it. Scientists tell us that there is an abundance of plant food in most soils. The problem is to make it available. Plant food must be in solution and in the form of a film moisture surrounding the smallest soil particles in order to be available to the fine plant rootlets which seek it. Good tillage supplies these conditions. Can they be obtained equally well in another way?
It is claimed by the advocates of the sod mulch system of orchard culture that it also supplies these conditions. Humus or decayed vegetable matter holds moisture. Grass or other mulch decaying in the soil increases its humus content and hence its water holding capacity. By forming a mulch over the soil evaporation may be checked to some extent, although probably not as effectively in a practical way, as by cultivation. If there is a good grass sod in the orchard, moisture and plant food made available by that moisture are utilized, and if the grass is allowed to go back into the soil it continues to furnish these elements to the tree. But there is a rapid evaporation of moisture from the surface of the leaves of grass. In fact, grass may well serve to remove an excess of moisture in wet seasons, or from wet lands.
Laying aside theoretical considerations, let us see what practical experience teaches on this subject. We have the accurate data on a large number of western New York orchards showing the results of cultivation and other methods of soil management. These data are overwhelmingly in the favor of cultivation. In Wayne County the average yield of orchards tilled for five years or more was 271 bushels per acre, as compared with 200 bushels per acre for those in sod five years or more but otherwise well cared for,—an increase of thirty-five per cent. in favor of good tillage. In Orleans County, under the same conditions, the increase in yield due to cultivation was forty-five per cent. and in Niagara County it was twenty-two per cent. Records were made on hundreds of orchards and the results should be given great weight in determining the system to be practiced, as intelligent consideration of trustworthy records is to be encouraged.
These results were obtained in one region under its conditions and it is quite possible, although not probable, that other conditions might give different results. There are, however, special conditions as will be pointed out later, under which the sod mulch method might be more advisable than tillage. It is cheaper, makes a cleaner cover for the drop fruit, avoids the damage from tillage implements to which tilled trees are liable, and can be practiced on lands too steep to till. It often happens, too, that it fits into the scheme of management on a general farm better than the more intensive and specialized system of cultivation. And it must be remembered that we are dealing with this question from the point of view of the home farm rather than of the commercial orchardist. So that where the sod mulch gives equally good results it would be preferred under these conditions.
LATE FALL AND EARLY SPRING PLOWING.—The common tillage practice in the sections where it is most followed is to plow either in late fall or as early as possible in the spring. Whether fall or spring plowing is best depends on two things: the character of the soil and convenience. On heavy clay soils where drainage is poor it is not advisable to plow in the fall as the soil is apt to puddle and then to bake when it dries, making it hard to handle. On gravel loams, medium loams, and all well drained soils which are fairly open in texture either fall or spring plowing is practiced depending on which period affords the most time.
On the general farm where there are several crops for which the land must be prepared in spring, it would seem best to get as much of the plowing as possible done in the fall. But a large crop of apples or a large and late corn husking or potato digging may interfere with this on some farms and make spring plowing more desirable. Always plan this work in connection with the other farm work so as to give the best distribution of labor.
After fall plowing either the spring-tooth harrow or the disk harrow is best to use to work up the soil and no time should be lost in getting at this as soon as the land is dry enough in the spring. Sometimes the disk harrow can be used to work up the soil in the orchard in the spring without any plowing at all, especially on loose loams where there are few stones. But on newly plowed land a disk cuts too deep and there is too great danger of injuring the roots. On spring plowed land the spring-tooth harrow usually gives the best results. After the soil is thoroughly fined and worked into a mellow bed and as soon as the period of excessive moisture in spring is passed, a lighter implement like the smoothing harrow or a light shallow digging cultivator should be used to stir the surface of the soil only.
The growing period for an apple tree begins as early as growth starts in the spring and continues up to about midsummer. If cultivation is to stimulate growth as much as possible, it should be done during this period. The first object of cultivation in the early spring is to loosen up, aerate, and dry out the soil, which is usually too wet at that time. As cultivation is continued the soil will become fined and firmed again by the time drier weather comes on. A fairly deep digging and lump crushing tool is the best implement to use up to this time, and a disk or spring-tooth harrow meets these requirements.
After this period is passed and during drier weather, cultivation is carried on for a different purpose, namely, to conserve moisture by making a thin dust mulch of soil over the surface. This is best accomplished by shallow-going implements of which the spike-tooth harrow, the acme harrow, or a light wheel cultivator are best. As the season and the amount of rainfall vary, so must tillage operations be varied. In an early dry season begin with the lighter implements earlier. In a late wet season keep the digging tools at work later. As soon as the soil is in good physical condition the principal object of tillage is to modify moisture conditions.
As a matter of practice three to four harrowings at intervals of a week to ten days are necessary. Sometimes more, sometimes less are required, according to the character and condition of the soil and the season. The later moisture-conserving tillage should also be carried on every week or ten days, according to weather conditions. It is good practice to stir the soil after every heavy or moderately heavy rain. Use the smoothing tools after light to medium rains and the heavier tools after packing or beating rains. In practice from five to eight or ten of these cultivations are necessary. The drier the season the more necessary does frequent cultivation become.
A COVER CROP is so closely associated with tillage that it is usually considered a part of the system. It should be sown in midsummer as soon as tillage ceases. This time will vary from July first to August fifteenth, depending on the locality, the rainfall, the crop of fruit on the trees, and on how favorable the conditions for securing a good stand of the cover crop are. The farther south the locality, or the earlier the fruit, the sooner the crop should be sown. Absence of sufficient rainfall necessitates a continuation of the cultivation, both because it is necessary to conserve all the moisture possible and because it is difficult to get a good stand of a cover crop—especially of one having small seeds—at a dry time in midsummer.
In a year when there is a full crop of fruit on the trees cultivation should be continued as late as possible as all the stimulus that can thus be secured will be necessary to help the fruit attain good size and maturity, and at the same time enable the tree properly to mature its fruit and leaf buds for the following year. On the other hand, in a year when there is not a full crop of fruit cultivation should be stopped early so as to avoid forcing a too rank growth of wood and foliage and continuing the growth of the next season's buds so late that they may not mature and therefore may be in danger of winter killing.
The different kinds of cover crops which may be used in the apple orchard will be considered in the next chapter as they are so closely associated with fertilization. Strictly speaking, however, a cover crop is used principally to secure its mulching and physical effects on the soil in the intervals between the seasons of tillage. In addition to its physical and feeding effects the cover crop serves to check the growth of trees in the latter part of the season by taking up the nitrates and a part of the moisture, thus helping to ripen the wood.
SOD MULCH.—The ordinary sod culture which is practiced in so many orchards should not be confused with the sod mulch system. The one is a system of neglect, the other of intention. In the sod mulch system the grass sod is stimulated and encouraged and when the grass dies or is cut, it is left on the ground to decay, forming a soil mulch meanwhile. The removal of grass from the orchard as hay is poor practice and should be discouraged. The grass mulch may well be supplemented by the addition of other grass, straw, leaves, coarse manure, or other similar materials. Sometimes this mulch is put on to the depth of six inches or even a foot around the tree. Thus practiced it is very effective in conserving moisture and in adding the humus which is so necessary to the soil.
Sod and tillage have somewhat different effects on the tree and on the fruit. Let us see what these effects are. It is common knowledge that fruit is more highly colored when grown in sod than when grown under a tillage system. This is probably largely due to the fact that tillage keeps the fruit growing so late that it does not mature so well or so early. Fruit is usually two or three weeks later in tilled than in sod orchards. It has been shown that fruit grown under tillage keeps from two to four weeks longer than that grown in sod. It is claimed also—but this is a disputed point—that tilled fruit has a better quality and flavor. Certain it is that fruit grown in sod is drier and less crisp and juicy.
The effect of tillage on the trees is more marked and better known. Tilled trees have a darker, richer green foliage, indicating a better and more vigorous health. The leaves are also larger and more numerous. They come out three or four days earlier in the spring and stay on the trees two weeks later in the fall than the leaves on trees kept in sod. Tilled trees make nearly twice the growth in a season that those in sod do, in fact there is danger of their making wood growth at the expense of fruit buds. Tillage also gives a deeper, better distributed root system.
Despite the advantages and the disadvantages of each system, there are times, places, and circumstances under which one is more advisable than the other. On lands rich in humus and in plant food and level so as to be easily tillable, cultivation is without doubt the best system. But it should be practiced in connection with cover crops, and the orchard should be given occasional periods of rest in sod—say one year in from three to five.
The sod mulch system of orchard culture is probably better adapted to rather wet good grass land and where mulching material is cheap and readily available. It is undoubtedly at its best on lands too steep or rough to till, or otherwise unsuitable to cultivation. Tillage is the more intensive method and where labor is scarce and high sod culture might be more advisable for this reason, other conditions being not too unfavorable.
In order to illustrate a method of management under the tillage system we may suggest the following as a good one for level to gently rolling land:
1912. Early plowing in spring, cultivation to July first to fifteenth. Then sow red clover as a cover crop.
1913. Repeat previous year's treatment, varying the time of sowing cover crop according to conditions.
1914. Let the clover grow, mowing and leaving on the ground as a mulch, June fifteenth to twentieth, and again in August.
1915. Plow early in spring, cultivate to midsummer, and then sow rye or buckwheat as a cover crop July fifteenth to August fifteenth.
1916. Repeat 1915 treatment and if trees are not growing too fast, sow clover or hairy vetch as a cover crop.
1917. Same as 1912, etc.
PASTURING THE ORCHARD.—The sod mulch system explains itself and does not need illustration. Sod orchards are often managed as pasture for animals, however, and this practice should be discussed. An orchard is considered as pastured when a considerable number of animals are turned into it for a greater or less portion of the year. Results in orchards where pasturage has been thoroughly tried out show that it is never advisable to pasture an orchard with horses or cattle, but that fairly good results may be expected where sheep or hogs are used.
The evidence of yield of fruit and appearance of trees both indicate, that pasturing an orchard with horses or cattle is about the worst possible practice. These animals rub against the trees, break the branches, browse the limbs and leaves, and destroy the fruit as high as they can reach. All experience is against this practice which cannot be too strongly deprecated.
Pasturing an orchard with sheep, although a somewhat doubtful practice, often gives good results. Sheep crop the grass close to the ground and to some extent prevent the extensive evaporation which usually takes place from the leaves of grass. Their well distributed manure is worth considerable. They also browse the branches to some extent and should not be allowed to run in the orchard late in the season as they will destroy considerable fruit.
Pasturing an orchard with swine gives better results than any other pasture treatment of the orchard. Hogs do considerable rooting which prevents the formation of a stiff sod and itself may often amount almost to cultivation in well stocked orchards. A good deal of manure is added to the soil, especially when the hogs are fed outside the orchard. Hogs also destroy many insects by eating the wormy fruit.
Pasturage of orchards has its advantages. It gives a double utilization of the land. It is a cheap method of management. When the animals are fed outside the orchard, as should always be the case, it adds considerable plant food to the soil. When plenty of outside food can be given and when the orchard is not overstocked—the animals should never be hungry—hogs and sheep may be used to advantage in pasturing orchards. In very rough fields incapable of tillage, this is undoubtedly the very best system of orchard management.
Pasturage has the disadvantage of exposing young trees to injury from the animals, but this may be at least partly avoided by protecting them with stakes or a heavy wire meshed screen. Hogs especially soil the fruit and make the land rough and difficult to drive over. Under the proper conditions pasturage may be practiced to advantage, especially on small areas and on the general farm where it is more advantageous than it would be commercially.
MANURING AND FERTILIZING
Cover crops may be said to be supplementary to tillage. In the previous chapter this function has been discussed. It now remains to point out another important function—that of a green manure crop adding humus and plant food to the soil. Not only do some cover crops add plant food and all humus to the soil, but they tend to conserve these by preventing leaching, especially of nitrates, and they help to render plant food more available by reworking it and leaving it in a form more available for the tree. They sometimes act as a protection against winter injury by holding snow and by their own bulk. They also help to dry out the soil in spring, thus making the land tillable earlier.
There are two great classes of cover or green manure crops, leguminous and non-leguminous. A non-leguminous crop merely adds humus and improves the physical condition of the soil. In itself it adds no plant food, although it may take up, utilize, and leave behind plant food in a more available form for the tree's use. But in addition to these benefits, leguminous crops actually add to the soil plant food in the form of nitrogen which they have the ability to assimilate from the air by means of bacterial organisms on their roots.
NON-LEGUMINOUS CROPS.—The most important of the non-leguminous crops are rye, buckwheat, turnips or rape, barley, oats, and millet. The first mentioned are the most commonly used. Also in order of importance the following are the usual leguminous cover and green manure crops to be used: clovers, winter vetch, soy beans, alfalfa, cow peas (first in the South). In order to determine the relative advisability of the use of these various crops let us now look at some of their characteristics and requirements.
Rye is one of the best non-leguminous cover crops, especially in the young orchard, as it does not grow as well in shade as in the open. A particularly strong point about rye is that it grows rapidly quite late in the fall and starts early in the spring. Starting earlier than most crops in the spring, it makes a considerable amount of growth before the land is fit to plow. Especially in warmer climates rye should not be sown too early in the fall—not usually before September 1st—because of this too heavy growth. Rye is also adapted to a great variety of soils and hence will often grow where other crops will not do well. About two bushels of seed are required per acre.
Buckwheat is probably about equally as good as rye for an orchard cover crop, although it does not produce quite as much organic matter. It will germinate at almost any season of the year even if it is very dry. It is a great soil improver because of its ability to feed and thrive on soils too poor for other crops, due to its numerous shallow feeding rootlets. It grows rapidly and covers the ground well, but like rye does not thrive as well in shade. Buckwheat should not be used to excess on the heavier types of soil as it is rather hard on the land. One bushel of seed to an acre makes a good seeding.
Turnips or rape often make good pioneer cover or green manure crops. They are great soil improvement crops and it is comparatively easy to secure a good stand of them even in dry weather. Sown in late July in the North they will produce a great bulk of humus and add much moisture to the soil, especially if they cover the ground well. Their broad, abundant leaves and high tops also hold the snow well in winter. Cow Horn is the best variety of turnips to use, as it is a large, rank grower. Use one to two pounds of seed to the acre. Rape makes an excellent pasture crop in an orchard both for sheep and hogs, but especially for the former. Eight or nine pounds of seed are necessary to the acre.
Barley, oats, and millet are not as good crops as the foregoing, because, with the possible exception of millet, they make their best growth early in the season. Moreover they take up too much moisture from the soil at a time when the tree most needs this moisture. In fact they are sometimes used for this specific purpose on wet land in too wet seasons. Two to two and one half bushels of oats or barley and one to one and one half bushels of millet to the acre are necessary for a good seeding.
Although weeds can hardly be classified as cover crops, they are often valuable ones. They grow rapidly and rank, making a large bulk of humus, without the expense of seeding. If they are not allowed to go to seed so as to scatter the seed about the farm, they often make the best of cover crops. This necessitates a mowing in September. Weeds are plants out of place, and when these plants are in place they are not necessarily weeds, as they have then become serviceable.