One Thousand Questions in California Agriculture Answered
by E.J. Wickson
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One Thousand Questions in California Agriculture Answered

By E. J. Wickson

Professor of Horticulture, University of California; Editor of Pacific Rural Press; Author of "California Fruits and How to Grow Them" and "California Vegetables in Garden and Field," etc.


This brochure is not a systematic treatise in catechetical form intended to cover what the writer holds to be most important to know about California agricultural practices. It is simply a classified arrangement of a thousand or more questions which have been actually asked, and to which answers have been undertaken through the columns of the Pacific Rural Press, a weekly journal of agriculture published in San Francisco. Whatever value is claimed for the work is based upon the assumption that information, which about seven hundred people have actually asked for, would be also interesting and helpful to thousands of other people. If you do not find in this compilation what you desire to know, submit your question to the Pacific Rural Press, San Francisco, in the columns of which answers to agricultural questions are weekly set forth at the rate of five hundred or more each year.

This publication is therefore intended to answer a thousand questions for you and to encourage you to ask a thousand more.

E. J. Wickson.


Part I. Fruit Growing Part II. Vegetable Growing Part III. Grain and Forage Crops Part IV. Soils, Irrigation, and Fertilizers Part V. Live Stock and Dairy Part VI. Feeding Animals Part VII. Diseases of Animals Part VIII. Poultry Keeping Part IX. Pests and Diseases of Plants Part X. Index

Part I. Fruit Growing

Depth of Soil for Fruit.

Would four feet of good loose soil be enough for lemons?

Four feet of good soil, providing the underlying strata are not charged with alkali, would give you a good growth of lemon trees if moisture was regularly present in about the right quantity, neither too much nor too little, and the temperature conditions were favorable to the success of this tree, which will not stand as much frost as the orange.

Temperatures for Citrus Fruits.

What is the lowest temperature at which grapefruit and lemons will succeed?

The grapefruit tree is about as hardy as the orange; the lemon is much more tender. The fruit of citrus trees will be injured by temperature at the ordinary freezing point if continued for some little time, and the tree itself is likely to be injured by a temperature of 25 or 27 if continued for a few hours. The matter of duration of a low temperature is perhaps quite as important as the degree which is actually reached by the thermometer. The condition of the tree as to being dormant or active also affects injury by freezing temperatures. Under certain conditions an orange tree may survive a temperature of 15 Fahrenheit.

Roots for Fruit Trees.

I wish to bud from certain trees that nurseries probably do not carry, as they came from a seedling. Is there more than one variety of myrobalan used, and if so, is one as good as another? If I take sprouts that come up where the roots have been cut, will they make good trees? I have tried a few, now three years old, and the trees are doing nicely so far, but the roots sprout up where cut. I am informed that if I can raise them from slips they will not sprout up from the root. Will apricots and peaches grafted or budded on myrobalan produce fruit as large as they will if grafted on their own stock?

Experience seems to be clear that from sprouts you will get sprouts. We prefer rooted cuttings to sprouts, but even these are abandoned for seedling roots of the common deciduous fruits and of citrus fruits also. The apricot does well enough on the myrobalan if the soil needs that root; they are usually larger on the peach root or on apricot seedlings. The peach is no longer worked on the myrobalan in this State. One seedling of the cherry plum is about as good a myrobalan as another.

What Will the Sucker Be?

I have a Japanese plum tree which bears choice plums. Three years ago a strong young shoot came up from the root of it, which I dug out and planted. Will it make a bearing tree in time and be of like quality with the parent?

It will certainly bear something when it gets ready. Whether it will be like the parent tree depends upon the wood from which the sucker broke out. If the young tree was budded very low, or if it was planted low, or if the ground has been shifted so as to bring the wood above the bud in a place to root a sucker, the fruit will be that of the parent tree. If the shoot came from the root below the bud, you will get a duplication of whatever stock the plum was budded on in the nursery. It might be a peach or an almond or a cherry plum. Of course you can study the foliage and wood growth of the sucker, and thus get an idea of what you may expect.

Tree Planting on Coast Sands.

I wish to plant fruit trees on a sandy mesa well protected from winds about a mile from the coast. The soil is a light sandy loam. I intend to dig the holes for the trees this fall, each hole the shape of an inverted cone, about 4 feet deep and 5 feet across, and put a half-load of rotten stable manure in each hole this fall. The winter's rains would wash a large amount of plant food from this manure into the ground. In March I propose to plant the trees, shoveling the surrounding soil on top of the manure and giving a copious watering to ensure the compact settling of the soil about and below the roots. The roots would be about a foot above the manure.

On such a light sandy soil you can use stable manure more safely than you could elsewhere, providing you have water handy to use if you should happen to get too much coarse matter under the tree, which would cause drying out of the soil. If you do get plenty of water to guard against this danger, you are likely to use too much and cause the trees to grow too fast. Be very sure the manure is well rotted and use one load to ten holes instead of two. Whether you kill the trees or cause them to grow aright depends upon how you use water after planting.

A Wrong Idea of Inter-Planting.

What forage plant can I grow in a newly planted orchard? The soil is on a gently inclined hillside - red, decomposed rock, very deep, mellow, fluffy, and light, and deep down is clayish in character. It cannot be irrigated, therefore I wish to put out a drought-resisting plant which could be harvested, say, in June or July, or even later. I find the following plants, but I cannot decide which one is the best: Yellow soja bean, speltz, Egyptian corn, Jerusalem corn, yellow Milo maize, or one of the millets. What do you think?

Do not think for a moment about planting any such plant between orchard trees which are to subsist on rainfall without irrigation. Your trees will have difficulty enough in making satisfactory growth on rainfall, and would be prevented from doing so if they had to divide the soil moisture with crops planted between them. The light, deep soils which you mention, resulting from decomposed rock, are not retentive enough, and, even with the large rainfall of your region, may require irrigation to carry trees through the latter summer and early fall growth.

What Slopes for Fruit?

I want to plant some apples and berries. One man says plant them on the east or south slope of the hill and they will be ripe early. Another man says not to do that, for when the sun hits the trees or vines in the morning before the frost is off, it will kill all the blossoms, and as they would be on the warm side of the hill they would blossom earlier and there will be more frosts to injure them. I am told to plant them on the north or west side of the hill, where it is cold, and they will blossom later and will therefore have less frosts to bother them, and the frost will be almost off before the sun hits them in the morning.

Fruit is grown on all slopes in our foothills, depending on local conditions. On the whole, we should choose the east and north slopes rather than the east and south, because there is less danger of injury from too great heat. In some cases what is said to you about the less danger of injury from frosts on the north and west slopes would be true. All these things depend upon local conditions, because there is so much difference in heat and frost and similar slopes at different elevations and exposures. There can never be a general rule for it in a State so endowed with varying conditions as California is.

Trees Over Underflow.

I have planted fruit trees near the creek, where they do not have to be irrigated as the ground there holds sufficient moisture for them, but a neighbor tells me that on account of the moisture being so near the surface the trees will not bear fruit well, although they will grow and have all the appearances of health.

Shallow soil above standing water is not good for fruit trees. A shallow soil over moving water or underflow, such as you might expect from a creek bank, is better. The effect of water near the surface depends also upon the character of the soil, being far more dangerous in the case of a heavy clay soil than in the case of a light loam, through which water moves more readily and does not rise so far or so rapidly by capillary action. If the trees are thrifty they will bear when they attain a sufficient age and stop the riotous growth which is characteristic of young trees with abundant moisture. If trees have too much water for their health, it will be manifested by the rotting of their roots, the dying of their branches, the cropping out of mushroom fungi at the base and other manifestations of distress. So long as the tree is growing well, maintains good foliage to the tip of the branches and is otherwise apparently strong, it may be expected to bear fruit in due time.

The "June Drop."

I am sending four peaches which are falling off the trees. Can you tell me how to prevent falling of the fruit next year and what causes it?

It is impossible to tell from the peaches which you send what caused their falling. Where fruit passes the pollination stage successfully, as these fruits have, the dropping is generally attributed to some conditions affecting the growth of the tree, which never have been fully determined. It is of such frequent occurrence that it is called the June drop, and it usually takes place in May in California. As the cause is not understood no rational preventive has been reached. A general treatment which consists in keeping the trees in good growing condition late enough during the previous season, that is, by seeing to it that they do not suffer from lack of moisture which causes them to close their growing season too soon before preparation for the following year's crop is made, is probably the best way to strengthen the tree for its burden.

Trees Over a Gravel Streak.

I have an apricot orchard seven years old. Most of the land is a fairly heavy clay with a strip of gravel in the middle running nearly north and south. The trees on the clay bear good crops, but those on the gravel are usually much lighter in bearing and this year had a very light crop. Can you tell me of anything I can do to make them bear? The trees are large and healthy looking, and grow big crops of brush.

We should try some water in July on the gravel streak, hoping to continue activity in the tree later to induce formation of strong fruit for the following year. On the clay loam the soil does this by its superior retentiveness.

Fruit and Overflow.

I have 16 acres of rich bottom-land that overflows and is under water from 24 to 48 hours. I would like to set the ground to fruit trees, either prunes, pears, apricots, or peaches. Would it be safe to set them on such land?

Fruit trees will endure overflowing, providing the water does not exclude the air too long and providing the soil is free enough so that the soil does not remain full of water after the surface flow disappears. If the soil does not naturally drain itself and the water is forced to escape by surface evaporation, probably the situation is not satisfactory for any kind of fruit trees. Overflow is more likely to be dangerous to fruit trees during the growing season than during the dormant season, and yet on well-drained soil even a small overflow may not be injurious on a free soil, if not continued too long. Prunes on plum root, and pears will endure wet soil better than apricots or peaches.

Fruit Trees and Sunburn.

How long is it wise to leave protection around young fruit trees set out in March in this hot valley? The trees are doing well, but we could not tell when to take away protection.

It is necessary to maintain the protection from sunburn all through the autumn, for the autumn sun is often very hot, and as the sap flow lessens, the danger of burning is apparently greater. The bark also must be protected against the spring sunshine, even before the leaves appear. So long as the sun has a chance at the bark, you must protect it from sunburn.

Replanting in Orchard.

Is it considered a good plan to set the tree at once in the place where one has died, or is it better to wait a year before replacing?

It is not necessary to wait a year in making a replanting. Get out all the old roots you can by digging a large hole, fill in with fresh soil, and your tree will accept the situation.

Whole Roots or Piece Roots.

For commercial apple orchards which is preferable, trees grafted on piece roots or on whole roots? On behalf of the piece-root trees it is claimed they sprout up less around the tree. On the other hand, it is claimed they never make a vigorous tree. What is the truth?

Value depends rather upon what sort of a growth the tree makes afterward than upon what it starts upon. Theoretically perhaps a whole-root tree may be demonstrated to be better; practically, we cannot see that it becomes so necessarily, because we have trees planted at a time when the root graft on a piece was the general rule in propagation. After all, is it not more important to have soil conditions and culture of such character that a great root can grow in the orchard than to have a whole nursery concentrated in the root of the yearling tree? As for the claim that a root graft on a piece-root never makes a vigorous tree, we know that is nonsense.

Planting Deciduous Fruit Trees.

In order to gain time, I have thought of planting apples and pears this fall, in the belief I would be just that much nearer a crop, than though I waited until next spring. The land is sandy loam; no irrigation. Would you advise fall or spring planting? If fall, would it be best to plow the land now, turning in the stubble from hay crop, or wait until time to plant before plowing?

You will not be any nearer a crop, for next summer's growth will be the first in either case. On land not liable to be too wet in winter, it is, however, best to plant early, say during the month of December, if the ground is in good condition and sufficiently moist. If the year's rainfall has been scant, wait until the land is well wet down, for it is never desirable to plant when the soil is not in the right condition, no matter what the calendar may say. On a sandy loam early planting is nearly always safe and desirable. On lands which are too wet and liable to be rendered very cold by the heavy January rains, planting had better be deferred until February, or as soon as the ground gets in good condition after these heavy rains. Whenever you plant, it will be desirable to plow the land either in advance of the rains, if it is workable, or as soon as rain enough comes to make it break up well. It is very seldom desirable to postpone plowing until the actual time of planting comes.

Budding Fruit Trees.

Is it better to bud in old bark of an old tree or in younger wood bark? How do you separate old bark without breaking it in lifting the bark?

Buds may be placed in old bark of fruit trees to a certain extent. The orange and the olive work better that way than do the deciduous trees, although buds in old bark of the peach have done well. They should, however, be inserted early in the season while the sap flow is active and the old bark capable of lifting; if the bark sticks, do not try budding. In spite of these facts, nearly all budding of deciduous trees is done in bark of the current year's growth.

Starting Fruit Trees from Seed.

How shall I start, and when, the following seeds: Peach, plums, apricots, walnuts, olives and cherries? In the East we used to plant them in the fall, so as to have them freeze; as it does not freeze enough here, what do I have to do?

Do just the same. In California, heat and moisture cause the parting of the seed-cover, more slowly perhaps, but just as surely as the frost at the East. Early planting of all fruit pits and nuts is desirable for two reasons. First, it prevents too great drying and hardening and other changes in the seed, because the soil moisture prevents it; second, it gives plenty of time for the opening and germination first mentioned. But early planting must be in ground which is loamy and light rather than heavy, because if the soil is so heavy as to become water-logged the kernel is more apt to decay than to grow. Where there is danger of this, the seed can be kept in boxes of sand, continually moist, but not wet, by use of water, and planted out, as sprouting seeds, after the coldest rains are over, say in February. Cherry and plum seeds should be kept moist after taking from the fruit; very little is usually had from dry seeds. The other fruits will stand considerable drying. Very few olives are from the seed, because of reversion to wild types - also because it is so much easier to get just the variety you want by growing trees from cuttings.

Mailing Scions.

Which is the best way to send scions by mail?

Wax the ends of mature cuttings, remove the leaves and enclose in a tight tin canister with no wet packing material.

Nursery Stock in Young Orchard.

How will it do to raise, for two or three years, a lot of orange seedlings between the rows of young three-year-old orange trees? I see that a nurseryman near me has done this, and his trees are more flourishing than mine.

It can be done all right, as your own observation affirms. The superior appearance of the trees may be due to the additional water, and fertilizer probably, used to push the seedlings; possibly also to extra cultivation given them. It all depends upon what policy is observed in growing the seedlings; if something more than usual is done for their sakes, the trees may get their share and manifest it. If not, the trees will be robbed by the seedlings, and there is likely to be loss by both. There is no advantage in the mere fact that both are grown; there may be in the way they are grown. Whether there is money value in the operation or not depends upon how many undertake it.

Square or Triangular Planting.

What is your opinion on triangular planting as compared with square planting?

Planting in squares is the prevailing method. The triangular plan is not a good one when one contemplates removing trees planted as fillers. The orchard should either be planned in the square or quincunx form. In the latter case individual trees can be easily removed; in the other case rows can be removed - leaving the rows which you wish to keep equidistant from each other.

Killing Stumps by Medication.

Will boring into green stumps and inserting a handful of saltpeter kill the roots and cause the stump to readily burn up a few months later?

We have tried all kinds of prescriptions and have never killed a stump which had a mind to live. Many trees can be killed by cutting to stumps when in full growth, whether they are bored or not. Others will sprout in spite of all medicinal insertions we know of when these are placed in the inner wood of the stump. We believe a stump can be killed by sufficient contact with the inner bark layer of arsenic, bluestone, gasoline, and many other things, but it is not easy to arrange for such sufficient contact, and it would probably cost more than it would to blow or pull out the stump. One reader, however, assures us that he has killed large eucalyptus stumps by boring three holes in the stump with an inch auger, near the outer rim of the stump, placing therein a tablespoonful of potassium cyanide and saltpeter mixture (half and half), and plugging tightly. Another says: Give the stumps a liberal application of salt, say a half-inch all over the top, and let the fog and rain dissolve and soak down, and you will not have much trouble with suckers.

Planting Fruit Trees on Clearings.

We wish to plant orchard trees on land cleared this winter: manzanita and chaparral, but also some oaks and large pines and groves of small pines. We have been told that trees planted under such conditions, the ground containing the many small roots that we cannot get out, would not do well. Are the bad effects of the small roots liable to be serious; also, would lime or any other common fertilizer counteract the bad effects?

Proceed with the planting, as you are ready for it, and take the chances of root injury. It may be slight; possibly even absent. Carefully throw out all root pieces, as you dig the hole, and exclude them from the earth which you use in filling around the roots, and in the places where large trees stood, fill the holes with soil from a distance. Much depends upon how clean the clearing was. No considerable antiseptic effect could be expected from lime and the soil ought to be strong enough to grow good young trees without enrichment. The pear, fig and California black walnut are some of the most resistant among fruit-bearing trees, and these may usually be planted with safety. The cherry is the most resistant of the stone fruits. The "toadstool" disease occasionally affects young apple trees recently set out, but it is not usually serious on established trees.

Dipping Roots of Fruit Trees.

In planting an almond orchard would it be of any benefit to dip the young trees in a solution of bluestone and lime dissolved?

We doubt if it would serve any good purpose. If done at all the dip should be carefully prepared in accordance with the formula for bordeaux mixture, for excess of bluestone will kill roots. Healthy trees do not need such treatment, and we doubt if unhealthy ones can be rendered safe or desirable by it.

Preparing for Fruit Planting.

What effect will a crop of wheat have on new cleared land, to be planted in fruit trees later on?

One crop of wheat or barley will make no particular difference with the cleared land which you expect to plant to fruit later. It would be better to grow a cultivated crop like corn, potatoes, beets, squashes, etc., because this crop would require summer cultivation which would kill out many weeds or sprouts and leave your land in better shape for planting.

Depth in Planting Fruit Trees.

I have been advised to plant the bud scar above ground in a wet country. Is that right?

On ordinary good loam, plant the tree so that it will stand about the same as it did in the nursery: a little lower, perhaps, but not much. The bud scar should be a little above the surface. It is somewhat less likely to give trouble by decay in the upset tissue. If the soil is heavy and wet, plant higher, perhaps, than the nursery soil-mark, but not much. In light, sandy soil, plant lower - even from four to six inches lower - than in the nursery sometimes. In this case the budscar is below the surface, but that does not matter in a light, dry soil which does not retain moisture near the surface.

Fruit Trees in a Wet Place.

One part of my orchard is low and wet, much scale and old trees loose. Will much spraying be a cure and can I use posts to hold the old trees firm, or would you take out and put in Bartlett pears!

Spraying would kill the scale but no spraying will make a tree satisfactory in inhospitable soil. As pears will endure wet places better than apples, it would seem to be wise to make the substitution, providing the situation is not too bad for any fruit tree. In that case you can use it for a summer vegetable patch.

Cutting Back at Planting.

I have planted a lot of one-year-old cherry trees and would like to know if I should cut them down the same as the apple tree? I have also planted a lot of walnut trees. Shall I cut them off?

Yes for the cherries and no for the walnuts - although we have to admit that some planters hold for cutting back the walnuts also. If you do cut back the walnuts, let them have about twice the height of stem you give the cherries and cover the exposed pith with wax or paint.

Branching Young Fruit Trees.

It is the practice in this locality to wrap all young trees to a point 24 inches above the bud, for the purpose of protection against rabbits, to protect the bark from the sun and to prevent growth of sprouts. These wrappings are kept on indefinitely, the rule being that no sprouting is to be permitted below the 24-inch murk. Is there any virtue in this, and why is it done?

The wrapping is desirable both to protect them from rabbits and from sunburn, and either this or whitewash or some other form of protection should certainly be employed against the latter trouble. It is not desirable to have all the branches emerge at the same point, either 24 from the ground or at some lower level, as is preferable in interior situations, but branches should be distributed up and down and around the trunk so as to give a strong, well-balanced, low-headed tree. So far as wrapping interferes with the growth of shoots in this manner it is undesirable.

Coal Tar and Asphaltum on Trees.

What is the effect of coal tar or asphaltum applied to the bark of trees?

The application of coal tar to prevent the root borers of the prune which operate near the surface of the ground was found to be not injurious to the trees, although there was great apprehension that there would be. The application of asphaltum, what is known as "grade D," has been also used to some extent in the Santa Clara valley without injury. Of course, in the use of any black material, you increase the danger of sunburn, if applied to bark which is reached by the sun's rays.

Whitewashing Fruit Trees.

When is the proper time to whitewash walnut trees to prevent sun scald? How high up is it advisable to apply the wash?

Whitewash after heavy rains are over and before the sun gets very hot; near the coast see that it is on early in April; in the interior it should be in place in March. Do not wait until all the rains are over, because there is a great chance of bark-burning between rains in the spring. Whitewash the trunk and the larger limbs - wherever the sun can reach the bark; being careful to keep the surface white where the 2 o'clock sun hits it. Be particular to whitewash, or otherwise protect by "protectors" or burlap wrappings, all young trees; the young tree is more apt to be hurt than an old one, but bark seems never to get too old to burn if the sun is hot enough.

Shaping a Young Tree.

In shortening back long, slim limbs the side shoots come out, and one soon has a lot of ugly, crooked limbs to look at. There are a number of orchards here being spoiled in that way. How is this avoided?

You cannot secure a low-heading, well-shaped tree without cutting back the branches. Afterward you can improve the form by selecting shoots which are going in directions which you prefer, or you can cut back the shoots afterward to a bud which will start in the direction which you desire. In this way the progressive shaping of the tree must be pursued. If you only have a few trees and can afford the time, you can, of course, bend and tie the branches as they grow, so that they will take directions which seem to you better, but this is not practicable in orcharding on a commercial scale. There is no disadvantage in crooked branches in a fruit tree, but they should crook in desirable directions, and that is where the art in pruning comes in.

Pruning Times.

What is the best time to prune the French prune and most other trees? In Santa Clara volley they prune as soon as leaves are off; in the mountains they prune later, say in February and March, and finish after bloom is started and of course when sap is up. Which is right?

You can prune French prunes and other deciduous trees at any time during the winter that is most convenient to you. It does not make any particular difference to the tree, nor does it injure the tree at all if you should continue pruning after the bloom has started. In fact, it is better to make large cuts late in the winter, because they heal over more readily at the beginning of the growing period than at the beginning of the resting season. It is believed that early pruning may cause the tree or vine to start growth somewhat sooner and this may be undesirable in very frosty places.

Grafting Wax.

How shall I make grafting wax for grafting fruit trees?

There are many "favorite prescriptions" for grafting wax. One which is now being largely used in fruit tree grafting is as follows: Resin, 5 lbs.; beeswax, 1 lb.; linseed oil, 1 pint; flour, 1 pint. The flour is added slowly and stirred in after the other ingredients have been boiled together and the liquid becomes somewhat cooler. Some substitute lampblack for flour. This wax is warmed and applied as a liquid.

Plowing in Young Orchard.

How near can I plow to two-year-old orange trees safely?

You can plow young orange orchards as close to the trees as you can approach without injuring the bark, regulating depth so as not to destroy main roots. Destruction of root fibers which have approached too near the surface is not material. It is very desirable that the soil around and near the tree be as carefully worked as possible without injury to the bark of the tree. How far that can be done by horse work and how much must be done by hand must be decided by the individual judgment of the grower.

Crops Between Fruit Trees.

What would be best to grow between fruit trees, while the trees are growing, and what to alternate each season, so as not to use up the soil without putting back into it?

Where one is bringing along a young orchard, without irrigation, it is doubtful whether it is not better policy to give the trees all the advantage of clean cultivation and ample moisture than to undertake intercropping. If you live on the place and wish to grow vegetables between the rows, the thorough cultivation to bring the vegetables along satisfactorily would help to preserve moisture enough both for the vegetables and for the trees, but this is very different from growing a field crop by ordinary methods of cultivation. Select a crop which will require summer cultivation, like corn, potatoes, squashes, and beans, and never a hay or grain crop which takes up moisture without working the soil for the greater moisture conversation which hoed crops require. In choice of hoed crops be governed by what you can use to advantage, either for house or the feeding of animals, or what you can grow that is salable with least loss of moisture in the soil. The choice is governed entirely by local conditions, except that leguminous plants - peas, beans, vetches, clovers, etc. - do take nitrogen from the atmosphere and can thus be grown with least injury and sometimes with a positive benefit to the fertility of the soil.

Regular Bearing of Fruit Trees.

How can trees be induced to bear regularly instead of bearing excessively on alternate years?

The most rational view is that in order to bear regularly the tree must be prevented from overbearing by thinning of the fruit; also that the moisture and plant-food supply must be regularly maintained, so that the tree may work along regularly and not stop bearing one year in order to accumulate vigor for a following year's crop. There is some reason to believe that some trees which seem to overbear every year can be prolonged in their profitable life and made to produce a moderate amount of fruit of large size and higher value by sharp thinning to prevent overbearing at any time. This is found clearly practicable in the cases of the apricot, peach, pear, apple, table grape, shipping plum, etc., because the added value of larger fruits is greater than the cost of removing the surplus.

Scions from Young Trees.

I have bought some one-year-old apple trees that are certified pedigree trees. Would it be practical to take the tops of these trees and graft on one-year seedlings and get the same results as from the trees I bought? Will they bear just as good, or is it necessary to take the scions from old bearing trees?

They will bear exactly the same fruit as the young trees will, but you cannot tell how good that will be until you get the fruit. The advantage of scions from bearing trees is that you know exactly what you will get, for, presumably, you have seen and approved it.

Late Pruning.

Will I do injury to my peach trees if I delay pruning until the last of February, or until the sap begins to run and the buds to swell?

It will not do any particular harm to let your peach pruning go until the buds swell or even after the leaves appear. Late pruning is not injurious, but rather more inconvenient.

Avoiding Crotches in Fruit Trees.

How can I avoid bad crotches in fruit trees?

Crotches, which means branches of equal or nearly equal size, emerging from a point at a very acute angle, should be prevented by cutting out one or both of them. The branching of a lateral at a larger angle does not form a crotch and it usually buttresses itself well on the larger branch. That is a desirable form of branching. Short distances between such branchings is desirable, because it makes a stronger and more permanently upright limb, capable of sustaining much weight of foliage and fruit. Build up the young tree by shortening in as it grows, so as to get such a strong framework.

Crotch-Splitting of Fruit Trees.

I have a young fig tree that is splitting at the crotches. I fear that when the foliage appears, with the force of the winds the limbs will split down entirely.

Perhaps you have been forcing the trees too much with water and thus secured too much foliage and weak wood. Whenever a tree is doing that, the limbs ought to be supported with bale rope tied to opposite limbs through the head, or otherwise held up, to prevent splitting. If splitting has actually occurred, the weaker limb should be cut away and the other staked if necessary until it gets strength and stiffens. If the limbs are rather large they can be drawn up and a 3/16 inch carriage bolt put through to hold both in place; but this is a poor way to make a strong tree. We should cut out all splits and do the best we could to make a tree out of what is left. Then do not make them grow so fast.

Strengthening Fruit Trees.

I have read that some trees are propped by natural braces; that is, by inter-twining two opposite branches while the tree is young, so that in time they grow together. What is your idea regarding the practicability of such an idea in a large commercial orchard?

Twining branches for the purpose indicated is frequently commended, but it seems best for the use of ingenious people with plenty of time and not many trees. To prune trees to carry their fruit so far as one can foresee, and to use props or other supports when a tree manifests need of a particular help which was not foreseen is the most rational way to handle the proposition on a large commercial scale.

Time for Pruning.

What is the proper time for pruning pear and apricot trees?

Ordinary deciduous fruit trees can be successfully pruned from the time the leaves begin to turn yellow and fall, until the new foliage is appearing in the late winter or spring.

Grape Planting.

What is the proper time for planting grape vines?

Grape vines are most successfully planted after the heavy rains and low temperatures are over and before the growth starts: This will usually be whenever the soil is in good condition, during the months of February and March.

Covering Tree Wounds.

What is the best stuff to use on wounds and large cuts on my fruit trees? I have used grafting wax, but it is expensive and not altogether satisfactory.

Amputation wounds on trees can be more successfully treated with lead and oil paint than with grafting wax. Mixed paint containing benzine would not be so good as pure lead and oil mixed for the purpose and then carefully applied as to amount so as not to run. "Asphaltum Grade D" may also be used in the same way.

Covering Sunburned Bark.

Would asphaltum do to use an sunburned bark?

Owing to the attraction of the heat by the black color, asphaltum would increase the injury by absorption of more heat. Some white coating is altogether best for sunburn injuries, because it will reflect and not absorb heat, and a durable whitewash applied as may be needed to keep the white covering intact is undoubtedly the best treatment. Where the bark has been actually removed, white paint would be superior to whitewash to keep the wood from checking while the wound was being covered laterally by the growth of new bark.

Too Much Pruning.

Same peach trees entering the third year were pruned early in the winter very severely. The pruner merely left the trunk and the three or four main laterals, the latter about one foot in length. A large proportion of these trees have not sprouted as yet, though alder and better pruned trees are all sprouted in the same vicinity. The bark is green and has considerable sap. Will the trees commence to grow?

The trees will sprout later, after they have developed latent buds into active form. The pruning probably removed all the buds of recent growth. After starting they will make irregular growth, starting too many shoots in the wrong places, etc., and considerable effort will be necessary to get well-shaped trees by selection of shoots in the right places and thinning out those which are not desirable.

For Broken Roots.

When the root of an orange or other fruit tree is exposed or brakes by the cultivator, what is the best way to treat that root?

Where a root is actually broken it is best to cut it off cleanly above the break. This will induce quick healing over and the sending out of other roots. Where there is only a bruise on one side, all the frayed edges of the wound should be cleanly cut back to sound bark, which will have a tendency to promote healing and prevent decay.

Pruning in Frosty Places.

This appears to be a frosty section. Pruners are at work continuously from the time the apricots are harvested until spring arrives. From what is said in "California Fruits?" I judge late winter pruning would be best far apricots and peaches. Am I correct?

In frosty places it is often desirable to prune rather late, because the late-pruned tree usually starts later than the early pruned, and thus may not bloom until after frost is over.

Low Growth on Fruit Trees.

Should the little twigs an the lower parts of young fruit trees be removed or shortened?

An important function which these small shoots and the foliage which they will carry perform is in the thickening of the larger branches to which they are attached and overcoming the tendency of the tree to become too tall and spindling. This can be done at any time, even to the pinching of young, soft shoots as they appear. It must be said, however, that in ordinary commercial fruit growing little attention is paid to these fine points, which are the great enjoyment of the European fruit-gardeners and are of questionable value in our standard orcharding. It is, however, a great mistake to clear away all low twigs, for such twigs bring the first fruit on young trees.

Are Tap-Roots Essential?

Is it better to plant a nut or seed or to plant a grafted root; also is it better to allow the tap-root to remain or not in event of planting a grafted root?

It does not matter at all whether the tree has its original tap-root or not. All tap-roots are more or less destroyed in transplanting and the fact that not one per cent of the walnut trees now bearing crops in California consist of trees grown from the nut itself planted in place, is sufficient demonstration to us that it is perfectly practicable to proceed with transplanting the trees. It is more important that the tree should have the right sort of soil and the right degree of moisture to grow in than that it should retain the root from which the seedling started. The removal of the tap-root does not prevent the tree from sending out one or several deep running roots which will penetrate as deeply as the soil and moisture conditions favor. This is true not only of the walnut but of other fruit trees.

Transplanting Old Trees.

Can I transplant fruit trees 2 to 3 inches through the butt, about one foot from the ground? Varieties are oranges, lemons, pears, apples and English walnuts nearly 4 inches through the butt. I wish to move them nearly a mile. What is the best way and what the best month to do the work, or are trees too large to do well if moved?

The orange and lemon will do better in transplanting than the others. Take up the trees when the soil becomes warmed by the sun after the coldest weather is over. This may be in February. Cut back the branches severely and take up the trees with a good ball of earth, using suitable lifting tackle to handle it without breaking. Settle the earth around the ball in the new place with water, and keep the soil amply moist but not wet. Whitewash all bark exposed to the sun by cutting back. You can handle the walnut the same way, but it would, however, probably get such a setback that it might be better to buy a new tree two or three years old and plant that. The apples and pears we would not try to transplant, but would rather have good new yearlings than try to coax them along. Transplanting deciduous trees should be done earlier in the winter than evergreens.

Dwarfing a Fruit Tree.

I am told that by pruning the roots of a young tree after the root system is well started (say three years old) that as a result this will produce a tree that is semi-dwarfed or practically a dwarfed fruit tree.

Yes; cutting back the roots in the winter and cutting back the new growth in the summer will have a dwarfing effect. The best way to get a dwarfed garden tree is to use a dwarfing root. You can get trees on such roots at the nurseries.

Seedling Fruits.

I have been growing seedlings from the pits of some extra fine peaches and plums with a view to planting them. A man near San Jose advised me that I would get good results, but since then I have met others who say that the fruit trees that spring from planted seeds yield only poor fruit.

It is the tendency of nearly all improved fruit to revert to wild types, more or less, when grown from the seed. The chances are, then, that nine-tenths or more of the seedlings which you grew for fruiting might be worthless. A few might be as good as the fruit from which you took the pits; possibly one might he better. For these reasons the growing of fruit trees from pits and seeds is only used for the purpose of getting a root from which a chosen variety may be gotten by budding and grafting.


I did a little grafting last spring, and as it was my first attempt, about ten per cent of the scions failed to grow. Now shall I saw the stub off lower down and try again, or bud into one of the sprouts that have grown around the cut end? The trees are pear and cherry.

You did very well as a beginner not to lose more than one-tenth. Saw off below and graft again. You might have budded into one of those shoots last July, and if you fail again, bud into the new shoots next summer.

Filling Holes in Trees.

I have a number of trees that, on account of poor pruning and improper care, are decaying in the center. Many of them are hollow for a foot or more down the trunk.

Excavate all the decayed wood with a chisel or gouge or whatever cutting tool may work well and fill the cavity with Portland cement in such a way as to exclude moisture. This will prolong the life and productiveness of the trees for many years if other conditions are favorable.

Deferring Bloom of Fruit Trees.

Have any experiments ever been carried on definitely to decide what causes early blossoming of fruit trees? For instance, have adjacent trees of the same variety been treated definitely by putting a heavy mulch around one to hold the cold temperature late in the spring, leaving the other tree unmulched so the roots could warm up?

It has been definitely determined by the experiments of Professor Whidden of the Missouri Experiment Station that the swelling of the buds and starting of the foliage of fruit trees is due to the action of heat upon the aerial parts of the trees; that is, growth is not caused by increasing the temperature of the ground and cannot be retarded by cooling the ground. Experiments with the use of snow and ice under trees by which the ground has been kept at a low temperature have not prevented the activity of the tree. The only way known to retard activity is to spray the tree with whitewash so that the white color may reflect the heat and prevent the absorption of it by the bark, which is usually of a dark color and therefore suited to heat absorption. Retarding of growth is possible in this way for a period of six to ten days, which, of course, in some cases might be of value, but the lengthened dormancy is probably too small to constitute it of general value. In whitewashing, to determine what advantage there is in it in retarding growth, the tree should be thoroughly sprayed with whitewash so as to cover all the wood some time before the buds swell. In fact, it is to prevent the early swelling of the buds that the whitewashing is resorted to. It is better to make the application, therefore, a little too early than too late. A specific date cannot be given for it that would be right in all localities.

Repairing Rabbit Injuries.

Your book says in Pruning young trees for the first time, about four main branches should be left and these cut back to 10 or 12 inches. Now, where the rabbits have pruned back to 4 or 5 inches the very ones I wanted, what should be done? Some say, cut these back to the stem, allowing new shoots to start from the base of branches so removed.

Cut back to a bud near the stem, or if you do not see any, cut back near to the stem, but not near enough to remove the bark at the base of the shoot, for there are the latent buds which should give you the growth. This should be watched, and the best shoot selected from each point to make a strong branch, pinching back or removing the others.

For a Bark Wound.

What is best to do with an apricot or prune tree when it has been hit with an implement and the bark knocked off?

Cut around the bark wound with a sharp knife so as to remove all frayed edges. Cover the exposed wood with oil and lead paint to prevent cracking, and the wound will soon be covered with new bark from the sides.

Bridging Gopher Girdles.

How shall I make the bridge-graft or root-graft over the trunks of trees girdled by gophers? Has this method proved successful in saving trees three or four inches in diameter, and how is it done?

The bridging over of injury by mice by grafting has been known to be successful for decades in countries where this trouble is encountered. Undoubtedly the same plan would work in the case of all bark injuries which can be bridged. The plan is to take good well-matured shoots which are a little longer than the injury which has to be spanned, making a sloping cut on both ends, also a cut into the healthy bark above and below the injury, and slip the cut ends of the cutting into the cuts in the bark so that the ends go under the bark above and below, and the cut ends are closely connected with the growing layer of the stock. If the cutting is made a little longer than the distance to be spanned, the tendency of the cutting by straightening is to hold itself in place. When in place, the connections should he covered with wax to prevent drying out.

Soil-Binding Plant for Winter.

What would be the best to plant in an orchard on ground of a light sandy sediment which, after plowing, will move with the strong winds? I would like to plant something that will benefit the ground. The winds are the strongest from December to April. This is in the irrigated district and I need something that will make a sod during that period.

We would, in all the valleys, advise a fall irrigation (if the rains are late) and the sowing of burr clover, which when started in September will have the ground well covered by December, if you keep the moisture right to push it. Disking or plowing this under in March (or April, according to locality) will hold the sand and afterward enrich it. You can do this every year, but probably you will not need to seed it more than once.

Bananas in California.

Is there any reason why bananas would not grow and bear in the vicinity of Merced if they had plenty of water? Or would the cool nights at certain seasons keep them from bearing? Would they do better in the Imperial valley?

Bananas would suffer too severely from frost to be profitable at any point in the interior valleys of California. A plant would be killed to the ground at least every year unless under glass or other protection. There are a few places practically frostless where bananas can be grown in this State, but there is no promise in commercial production because they can be so cheaply imported from the tropics.

Carobs in California.

Will the carob tree (St. John's Bread) do well in the Sacramento valley, and is it a desirable tree for lining a driveway?

Carobs have been grown in California for thirty years or more and they will make a handsome driveway and give a lot of pods for the kids and the pigs - for they are "the husks which the swine did eat," and both like them. They ought to be much more widely planted in California because they grow well and are good to look upon.

Spineless Cactus Fruit.

I have about two acres of high land in Fresno county that can't be irrigated. It is red adobe soil and there is hardpan in it. Which kind of fruit trees will grow and pay best? How near may the hardpan be to the surface before I have to blast it?

It is a hard fruit proposition. Try spineless cactus, the fruits of which are delicious. Blasting would help if there is a moist substratum below the hardpan and might enable you to grow many fruits. If your land is hard and dry all the way down, blasting would not help you unless you can get irrigation. Presumably your rainfall is too small for fruit unless you strike underflow below the hardpan.

Cleaning Fruit Trays.

What do you advise for killing and removing the whitish mold that forms on trays used for drying prunes? Would sunning the trays be effective, or washing in hot water, or is there some suitable fungicide?

Good hot sun and dry wind will kill the mold. The spores of such a common mold are waiting everywhere, so that your fruit would mold anyway if conditions were right. Still, scalding the trays for cleanliness and a short trip through the sulphur box for fungus-killing is commended.

Killing Moss on Old Trees.

I have some Bartlett pear trees that are covered with moss and mold, and the bark is rough and checked. I have used potash (98%), 1 pound to 6 gallons spray. It kills the long moss, but the green mold it does not seem to affect. The trees have been sprayed about one week. Some trees have been sprayed with a 1 pound to 10 gallons solution by mistake. Shall I spray these again with full strength, and when?

You have done enough for the moss at present. Even the weaker solution ought to be strong enough to clean the bark. Wait and see how the bark looks when the potash gets through biting; it will keep at it for some time, taking a fresh hold probably with each new moisture supply from shower or damp air. The spray should have been shot onto the bark with considerable force - not simply sprinkled on.

Shy-Bearing Apples.

I have some apple trees 10 and 12 years old that do not bear satisfactorily, but persist in making 5 to 6 feet of new wood each year. If not cut back this winter, will they be more likely to make fruit buds?

Yes, probably. Certainly you should try it. You should also cultivate less and slow down the growth. If they then take to bearing, you can resume moderate pruning and better cultivation. This is on the assumption that your trees are in too rich or too moist a place. But you should satisfy yourself by inquiry and observation as to whether the same varieties do bear well in your vicinity when conditions are such that slower growth is made. If the variety is naturally shy in bearing, or if it requires cross-pollination, the proposed repressive treatment might not avail anything. In that case you can graft over the tree to some variety which does bear well or graft part of the trees to another variety for cross-pollination.

No Apples on Quince.

How large a tree will the Yellow Bellefleur apple make if grafted or budded on quince root at the age of 15 years? I have been trying to get some information about dwarf fruit trees, but it is difficult to get.

No wonder the information is hard to get. The Yellow Bellefleur will not grow upon the quince at all, or at least not for long. In growing dwarf apples the Paradise stock is used, while the quince is used for dwarfing the pear, and many varieties of pears will accept the quince root which the apple rejects.

Stock for Apples.

Do you recommend French seedling stock as greatly to be preferred to that grown in this country?

French seedling stock is generally used because it is graded and furnished in uniform sizes; also, because it can usually be purchased for less than seedlings can be grown under our labor conditions. Locally grown apple seedlings are apt to be irregular in size and, as already stated, cost more than the properly graded imported stock.

Apples and Alfalfa.

I have recently come across a proposition to sow apple orchards in the interior of southern California with alfalfa. The apples are said to be superior and the crop heavier, to say nothing of a half or two-thirds of an alfalfa crop in addition to the crop of apples. What do you know about it? Is alfalfa being used by others in this way?

It is perfectly rational to grow alfalfa in fruit orchards if the water supply is ample for both the trees and the intercrop and the owner will not yield to the temptation to waterlog his trees for the sake of getting more alfalfa. It is even more desirable in the interior than near the coast, probably. In Arizona some growers have for a number of years practiced growing alfalfa in orchards, cutting the alfalfa without removing it, counting that clippings are worth more to them through their decay and the increase of the humus content of the soil. Even where this is not done, the alfalfa will add to the humus of the soil by its own wastes both from root and stem. The presence of an alfalfa cover reduces the danger of leaf and bark burning either by reflected or radiated heat from a smooth ground surface, and some trees are very much benefited by this protection in regions of high temperature. This might be expected to be the case with the apple, which is somewhat subject to leaf burning in our interior valleys.

Top Grafting.

In grafting over apple and pear trees to some other variety, is it advisable to cut off and graft the entire tree the first year where the trees are from 7 to 15 years old, or would it be better to cut off only a part of the top the first year and the rest the following year?

In the coast region it is a good practice to graft over the whole tree at one time, cutting, however, above the forks and not into the main stem below the forking. This gives many scions which seem able to take care of the sap successfully. In the interior valleys, it is rather better practice to leave a branch or two, cutting them out at the following winter's pruning, for probably the first year's grafts will give you branches enough. This has the effect of preventing the drowning out of the scions from too strong sap-flow. Cutting back and regrafting of old trees should be done rather early, before the most active sap-flow begins. The later in the season the grafting is done, and the warmer the locality, the more desirable it seems to be to leave a branch or two when grafting.

Apple Budding.

What is the best time to bud apples?

Apples are budded in July and August and remain dormant until the following spring.

Mildew on Apple Seedlings.

Why do young apple plants in the seed bed became mildewed? They are in a lath house.

Because too much moisture was associated with too much shade. More sunshine would have prevented mildew, and if they had enjoyed it the seedlings could have made better use of the water probably.

Pruning Apples.

Young apple trees set two years ago were cut back to 14 to 18 inches and cared for as to low branching, proper spacing, etc., but the desired branches were allowed to make full growth to the present time. They have mode great growth and if allowed to continue will make too tall trees.

We understand that your trees have made two summers' growth since pruning. We should cut back to a good lateral wherever you can find one running at the right direction at about three to four feet from the last cut, and shorten the lateral more or less according to the best judgment we could form on sight of the tree. In this way you can take out the branches which are running too high and make the framework for a lower growth. Do not remove the small twigs and spurs unless you have too many such shoots.

Cutting Back Apples and Pears.

"California Fruits" says the "apple does not relish cutting back, nor is it desirable to shorten in the branches." But when a three-year-old tree gets above 12 feet high, as many of mine are doing, what are you going to do? I cut these back same last year, but up they go again with more branches than ever. The pears are getting too tall, also. Should not both apple and pear trees be kept down to about ten feet?

The quotation you make refers to old bearing trees, and indicates that their pruning is not like that of the peach, which is continually shortened in to keep plenty of new wood low down. Of course, in securing low and satisfactory branching on young apples, pears, etc., there must be cutting back, and this must be continued while you are forming the tree. If you mean that these trees are to be permanently kept at ten feet high, you should have planted trees worked on dwarfing stocks. Such a height does not allow a standard tree freedom enough for thrift; as they become older they will require from twice to thrice the altitude you assign to them, probably. Pears can be more successfully kept down than apples, but not to ten feet except as dwarfs.

Pruning Old Apple Trees.

How would you prune apple trees eight or nine years old that have not been cut back? There are a great many that have run up 20 feet high with twelve or fifteen main limbs and very few being more than two or three inches in diameter.

Remove cross branches which are interfering with others and thin out branches which seem to be crowding each other at their attachments to the trunk, by removing some of them at the starting point. Having removed these carefully so as not to knock off spurs from other branches, study the tree as it is thus somewhat opened up and see where remaining branches can be shortened to overcome the tendency to run too high. Do not shear off branches leaving a lot of stubs in the upper part of the tree, but always cut back a main branch to a lateral and shorten the lateral higher up if desirable. This will keep away from having a lot of brush in the top of the tree. Study each tree by itself for symmetry and balance of branches and proceed by judgment rather than by rules anyone can give you.

Top-Grafting Apples.

Can I graft over a few Ben Davis apple trees 25 years old or thereabouts, but thrifty and vigorous?

It is certainly possible, by the old top-grafting method which has been used everywhere with apples for centuries. Graft during the winter. Work on the limbs above the head so as to preserve the advantage of the old forking, using a cleft graft and waxing well. It is usually best to graft over a part of the limbs and the balance a year later.

Will the Apples Be the Same Kind?

I have a mixed orchard, mostly Gravensteins, and I want to graft all the other trees into a Gravenstein top if I can do so and at the same time get the early Gravenstein bloom and the fruit would be as satisfactory as though on other roots.

The new tree grown from the grafts will behave just like the tree from which the scions were taken if similarly thrifty.

Places for Apples.

What quality is it in the soil in the vicinity of Watsonville that makes that country peculiarly adapted to the culture of apples? Are there not other portions of the State where apples could be produced on a commercial basis?

It is not alone quality in the soil, but character of the climate that underlie success in the Watsonville district. Apples can be and are grown on a commercial scale through the coast district of Sonoma, Mendocino, and Humboldt counties; also in suitable situations in the coast counties south of Santa Cruz county. Along the coast, as far as deep retentive soil and the cool air of the ocean extend, one may expect to get apples similar to those produced in the Watsonville district. In the interior valleys, on suitable soils with adequate moisture, early apples are profitably grown, while in the higher foothill and mountain valleys in all parts of the State, where moisture is sufficient, late keeping apples of high quality are produced.

Summer-pruning Apples.

Will summer pruning cause apple trees to bear fruit instead of growing so much new wood?

Over-growth can be repressed by summer pruning, and if done just at the right time bearing is increased and late new growth is avoided, but it is not easy to determine exactly the right time, and it has to be fixed according to local conditions of length of growing season and growth condition of the tree itself also. It is better for some varieties than others, and, in fact, has to be done wisely. A summer slashing of apple trees, simply because some one says so, is not only expensive, but may do more harm than good. Therefore, those inclined to it, should try a few trees at first and note results.

Grafting Apple Seedlings in Place.

I want to plant apple trees for home use. I have an idea to plant apple seeds instead of trees: planting three or four seeds for each hill, right in the place where I would grow the trees, and select the best one to graft on. I will take seed of Bellefleurs, which are vigorous growers. What do you think? Will the seed germinate readily and when is the right time to plant?

Select plump, well ripened seed, keep them in damp sand until the ground begins to get warm in January or February, according to location. But such an undertaking will cost you vastly more in time, in labor, and waste of land than it would to buy well-grown nursery trees budded with the variety which you desire. Such trees would give you practically a uniform lot of trees in your orchard while planting seedlings and grafting afterward would give you very irregular and for the most part unsatisfactory results - providing you get any seeds to grow at all in the open ground, which is doubtful.

Resistant Apple Roots.

A few apple trees which are almost dead from ravages of the woolly aphis. I am going to dig them out and plant in their places other apple trees on woolly aphis-proof root. Will it be necessary to use measures to exterminate the woolly aphis in the old roots or their places in the ground before planting new trees in the places of the removed trees?

It is not necessary to undertake to kill aphis in the ground when you are planting apple trees on resistant roots. It will give your trees a better start to dig large holes, throw out the old soil, and fill in with some new soil from another part of the land to be planted, but it has been demonstrated that these roots are resistant, no matter if planted in the midst of infestation.

Apples and Cherries for a Hot Place.

What kind of apple do you think would do best in a dry, hot climate? What do you think of the Early Richmond cherry in such a place?

Apples most likely to succeed in a dry situation are those which ripen their fruit very early. The Red Astrachan is on the whole the most satisfactory, but there are many places which are altogether too dry and hot for any kind of apple. Whether cherries would succeed or not you can only tell by trying. Possibly the trees would not live through the summer if your soil becomes very dry. The most hardy cherries are the sour or pie cherries and the Early Richmond is one of this group.

Die-back of Apple Trees.

What causes the death of the top shoots in apple trees?

New wood is sometimes diseased by mildew, but die-back is usually due to two different causes: One, the accumulation of water in the soil during the excessive rains of mid-winter; second, the occurrence of low temperatures, including frosts, after the sap has risen. Which of these causes operate in a certain case depends, of course, upon whether the soil was heavy and inclined to retain standing water too long, or whether there were such frosts at about the time when the leaves should start. Sometimes, of course, both of these conditions worked in the same place; sometimes one and sometimes the other, but certainly both of them are capable of causing the trouble. There seems to be no specific disease; it is rather a matter of unfavorable conditions for growth.

Storage of Apples.

We desire to store two or three thousand boxes of apples for three or four months and propose to do it in this way: Make an excavation in dry earth, putting at the bottom of the excavation straw. Upon this straw place the apples, then dry straw over the apples, and upon the top of this two or three feet of dry earth. Will it be a good plan to pour on water from time to time over the top of this to keep the apples and all wet, or should the apples be kept dry?

Putting down loose apples in a straw-lined pit would be very expensive. It would invite decay by bruising the fruit, and the result would probably be a worthless mixture of rotten fruit and straw. The fruit should be stored in boxes or shallow trays to reduce pressure and promote ventilation, and not in bins or large piles. Apples will keep for a long time in good condition if the boxes are put in piles in the shade, covered with straw, which should be slightly moistened from time to time; but in that case there would not be such an accumulation of moisture and there would be ventilation at all times. Apples should be kept dry, but they will shrivel and become unmarketable unless the air in which they are stored is kept reasonably moist. This is generally accomplished by making apple houses with double walls and roof to exclude heat and with an earth or concrete floor which can be sprinkled from time to time with a hose.

Apple Root-grafts.

I have an old apple orchard and would like to have two or three of the best varieties positively identified, so that I can order these kinds from the nursery for next year's planting.

Old California apple orchards have many varieties no longer propagated largely. If you greatly desire to have a few trees of exactly the varieties which you are now growing, you run some risk of mistake in ordering by name, but if you make some root-grafts by taking a piece of the smaller roots of the tree, which you can dig out, say about the size of a pencil, and graft scions upon them, you can secure root-grafts for planting in nursery this year and in that way be sure to have trees of exactly the same kind. Root-grafts can be made in the winter, placed in sand which is kept moist and not wet, planted out as soon as the ground warms up, and you will get immediate and very satisfactory growth in that way.

Pruning Old Apple Trees.

I have an old orchard containing some apple trees about 40 years old - trees well shaped but with plenty of main branches and limbs all very long. The trees bear profusely in alternate years but the fruit is small. In pruning would you advise cutting out some main limbs where there are over three or four and thus making a big wood reduction (where sunburn protection can still be guarded) or would you only shorten in the branches and thin the fruit severely?

Do not remove main branches unless they are clearly too numerous or have been allowed to grow to interference with each other or have become weakened or feeble in some way. In such cases the space is worth more than the branch. If the tree has a fair framework do not disturb it in order to get down to an arbitrary limit of three or four main branches; sometimes the tree can carry more. If the tree is too thick, thin it out by removing side branches of more or less size - saving the best, judging by both vigor and position. Work through the whole top in this way until you reach the best judgment you can form of enough space and light for good interior foliage and fruit. Apple branches should seldom be shortened, and when this seems desirable, cut to a side branch and not to a stub which will make a lot of weak shoots or brush in the top of the tree.

Pruning Apple Trees.

There is a great difference of opinion here regarding the pruning of three-year or older apple trees. Many people cut back three, four and five-year-old trees half the season's growth; others only cut back six inches.

Apple trees are cut back during their early life to cause branching and to secure short distances between the larger laterals on the main branches. This secures a lower, stronger tree. Cutting back twice or three times should secure a good framework of this kind, and then the apple should not be regularly and systematically cut back as the peach and apricot are. It is not possible to prescribe definite inches, because cutting back is a matter of judgment and depends upon how thick the growth is, what its position and relation to other shoots, etc. The chief point in cutting back is to know where you wish the next laterals to come on the shortened shoot, and if you do not wish more laterals at once; do not cut back at all. Treatment, of laterals which come of themselves is another matter. Do not clip the ends of shoots unless laterals are desired. If you keep clipping the ends of apple twigs, you will get no fruit from some varieties.

Grafting Almond on Peach.

I had good success with the peach trees which I grafted to almond last spring, getting about 95 per cent of a stand, and many of the grafts now are one and one-half inches diameter. In each of the trees I left about a quarter of the branches, to keep up the growing process of the tree. The universal practice around here in grafting is to cut the whole top off the tree at the time of grafting, but the increased growth and vigor of the grafts I have has proved to me and other growers around, that much better results are obtained by leaving part of the top on the tree at the time of grafting.

You did exceedingly well with your grafting. It seems a more rational way to proceed than by a total amputation, and yet ample success is often attained by grafting for a whole new top at once.

Pruning Almonds.

Should the main branches be shortened in a three-year-old almond tree? Of course, I intend to thin out the branches. Some growers here advise me to shorten the main branches; others say do not shorten them, as it tends to give the trees a brushy top.

Although some growers are contending for regular shortening - in of the almond as is practiced on the peach, it is not usual to cut back almond trees after they have reached three years of age and have assumed good form. Of course, if cutting back is done, the shoots coming from near the amputation must be thinned out to prevent the brushiness your adviser properly objected to.

Budding and Grafting Almonds.

Is it better to bud or graft bitter almond seedlings of one year's growth, and, as they must be transplanted, would it be proper to do the work this season or defer it for another year's growth?

Your almond seedlings should have been budded in July or August after starting from the nut, which would have fitted them for planting in orchard the following winter as dormant buds, as they cannot stay where they are another season. Now you can transplant to nursery rows in another place: cut back and graft as the buds are swelling, allowing a good single shoot to grow from below on those which do not start the grafts into which you can bud in June, and cut back the stock to force growth as soon as the buds have taken. In this way you will get the whole stock into trees for planting out next winter. Some will be large and some small, but all will come through if planted in good soil and cared for properly. Of course, you can plant out the seedlings and graft and bud in the orchard, but it will be a lot of trouble and you will get very irregular results.

Cutting Back Almonds.

I have some nice thrifty two-year-old almond trees which I did not "top" this spring. The limbs are from about four to seven or eight feet long. Would it not be best to "top" them yet?

Cut them back to a shoot of this year's growth, removing about a third of last year's growth, perhaps. This will give you lower and better branching.

Almond Planting.

I am contemplating the planting of about five to eight acres of almonds: what variety is best to plant?

Before planting so many almonds, you should determine how satisfactory the almond is in bearing in your location. Unless you can find satisfactory demonstration of this fact, it is hazardous to plant such an acreage. On the other hand, if you find that almonds are bearing satisfactorily, the kinds which are perhaps most satisfactory to plant are Nonpareil, Texas Prolific, Ne Plus Ultra and Drake's Seedling. The Texas Prolific and Drake's Seedling are abundant bearers and profitable because of the size of the crop, although the price is lower than the soft-shelled varieties, Nonpareil and Ne Plus Ultra. These two varieties are such energetic pollinizers that they not only bear well themselves, but force the bearing of the larger varieties mentioned. Every third row in your plantation should be either Texas Prolific or Drakes' Seedlings, which would give you two-thirds of the larger varieties and one-third of the smaller. There are, of course, other soft-shelled almonds which are worth planting and are being considerably planted in localities where they do well. This you can ascertain by inquiry among local growers and nurserymen. The planting of a good proportion of active pollinizers is the most important point.

Almond Pollination.

My almond trees look healthy but the fruit seems to be diseased. Is it necessary to have male and female trees, and how can one distinguish them?

The almond is monoecious and has perfect blossoms, therefore, there is no such thing as male and female trees in the case of the almond, but most of the best soft-shelled almonds are self-sterile and need cross-pollination from another variety. This is discussed elsewhere in answer to another question.

Roots for the Almond.

Which is the best root to have the almond grafted on, peach or bitter almond? The soil is sandy.

The bitter almond and the hard-shelled sweet almond are both used and we are not aware that any particular advantage has been demonstrated for either of them. The almond does well on peach roots also, but the almond is a better root where the soil conditions suit it.

Longevity of Almond and Peach.

What is difference in life of peach and almond in California?

The almond is the longer-lived, but we have seen both assuming the aspect of forest trees in abandoned pioneer places. Both are apt to live longer than their planters, if soil and moisture conditions favor.

Almond Seedlings.

I have been told that almond trees raised from seed, no matter what kind of seed planted, will produce bitter almonds. Is this a fact?

It is not a fact. The majority will probably be hard-shell, sweet and bitter, but others will be soft-shell, medium-shell, paper-shell, and everything else you ever heard of in the almond line. The almond has the sportiest kind of seedlings.

Do Not Plant Almonds in Place.

I have 30 acres which I intend to plant to almonds and peaches, and I thought of planting the sprouted nuts and pits where I wanted my trees, and budding the same there in orchard form. As one or two years' use of the land is not considered, what is your advice? My idea is to plant in orchard at start so as not to disturb roots, as when grown in nursery and transplanted in orchard. Would it not progress as rapidly? Would you advise budding peaches on almond roots; if not, why? My idea is that it would give a longer-lived tree.

We would do nothing of the kind. If we decided it better to grow trees than to buy them, we would grow and bud the seedlings in nursery and not in the field. Field budding is open to all kinds of injuries and growth from it, when saved from cultivation and all kinds of intruders, is irregular and uncertain. As for starting the roots from the nut in plate, it is largely a fanciful consideration. We count it no gain for the walnut which makes a tap root, and still less gainful for the almond and peach, which, usually make spreading roots. To cut off a tap root does not prevent the tree from rooting deeply if the soil is favorable. As to use of the land, you lose time by growing the seedlings in place. The peach does well on the almond root if soil conditions favor the almond. Perhaps it gives longer life to the peach, but the profitable life of the peach tree in a proper soil does not depend on the root; it depends upon the treatment of the top in pruning for renewal of branches.

Almond and Peach.

With water-table at 18 feet, which root is best for almond trees? The experience around here is that the peach root starts best. Which root is most durable? What is the life of the peach root and of the almond?

It is not merely a question of depth to water, but of character of the soil above the water. Neither of the roots will stand heavy soil which holds water too long, and both enjoy a free loam which drains readily down to the water-table or bottom water. If the soil is rather sandy, letting the water down very quickly, the almond is better in getting to it than the peach. If it is finer and still well drained the peach will do well, and the almond enjoys that also. The almond probably can be counted on to stand coarser soil and greater drouth than the peach and under such conditions will outlive the peach, probably, but both of them will live twenty to thirty years or more if pruned in the head to get enough new wood and the trunk is kept from sunburn. Aside from this choose the almond root for the almond.

Pollination of Almonds.

I have Drake's Seedling almonds. Some people have told me that I must plant some hardshell variety between them, otherwise they will not bear.

It is not necessary to plant hardshell almonds near Drake's Seedling trees in order to have them bear. Some varieties of almonds will set few nuts unless they are cross-pollinated, but these are the paper-shell varieties, as a rule - the Nonpareil, IXL and Ne Plus Ultra - and for these the Drake's Seedling or Texas Prolific is planted as a pollenizer. The highest-priced nut of all is the Nonpareil, and it is also a good bearer when in a good location and planted with Drake's or Texas Prolific.

Stick-tight Almonds.

I have leased seven acres of bearing almond trees which have the appearance of being reasonably well cared for. I notice a few trees that still have almonds on ("stick-tights"). What is the cause and remedy?

The occurrence of stick-tights is generally due to lack of moisture and thrifty growth, although some trees may be weak from some other cause and therefore deficient in sap-flow, which manifests itself in that way. Single nuts may also fall into that condition of malnutrition. We know no remedy except to keep the trees in good thrift by cultivation or by the use of irrigation if necessary.

Shy-bearing Apricots.

Why do my apricot trees not bring fruit? They seem healthy and are vigorous-looking trees. Five large trees have not borne 100 pounds of fruit in three years. The trees are not over six years old.

You may have a shy-bearing kind of apricot, of which there are many, or the trees may have grown too fast to hold the fruit, or the frost or north wind may have blasted the bloom. Stop winter pruning, and summer prune to prevent excessive growth; reduce irrigation; try to convince the apricot that it is not a "green bay tree" and see what will happen.

Pruning Apricots.

In pruning apricots, if there should be a hollow center of a big branch in center of a seven-year-old tree, should it be cut out with summer pruning? Should heavy growing apricots be summer pruned? Would it be all right to thin out a dense growth of wood in the prune trees in September?

It is always desirable to cut below a hollow in a limb if possible. Where, however, this would necessitate cutting below the desirable laterals, the cavity may be filled with cement and thus rendered serviceable for some years. Summer pruning of the apricot is desirable if the growth is heavy and the tree has reached a bearing age. Thinning out of prune trees can be undertaken in the autumn, providing the tree has practically finished its growth, as indicated by the change in the color and pose of the leaves.

Apricot Propagation.

Can Royal apricots be grafted into seedling apricots? Do the scions do well? What is the best time to graft them?

The apricot is grafted readily by the ordinary cleft grafting, amputating above the forks if the tree is low-headed enough to allow you to work into the limbs instead of the trunk. Grafts will take all right in the trunk by bark grafting, but working in smaller limbs makes a stronger tree. This is for old trees and the grafting is done during the winter. Younger seedlings can be cleft or whip grafted in the stems, but it is better to bud into the young seedlings with plump buds of the current year's growth, in June, and by shortening in the seedling above the buds as soon as they have taken, get a growth on the bud in the latter half of the same growing season. In nursery practice, trees are usually made by budding in July or August into seedlings which are then growing from the seed planted the previous winter. Little seedlings from under old trees may be carefully transplanted to nursery rows in the spring and budded the same summer. Cultivated well and irrigated if necessary, they will not suffer from this transplanting.

Renewing Old Apricots.

Shall I prune back heavily a 15 to 20-year-old apricot tree which did not mature its fruit this season, I think on account of neglect? It was very poorly cultivated and not irrigated, consequently looks very sick.

Cut back all the main branches to six or eight feet from the ground, leaving on whatever small growth there may be below that height. Paint the stubs and thin out the shoots next summer to get the right number of new branches properly distributed. Whether you will get a good renewal of the head depends upon whether the sickness is in the root or not. Cut back just before the buds swell toward the end of the dormant season.

Summer Pruning of Apricots.

Is it feasible to prune five-year-old apricot trees in August? They seem in good growth and have been irrigated three times this season, though they have never been pruned very closely.

Summer pruning would be perfectly proper and advisable. Summer pruning immediately after the fruit is picked, has become much more general, and winter pruning has proportionately decreased. Young trees are winter pruned to promote low branching and short, stout limbs; bearing trees are summer pruned to promote fruit bearing and check wood growth - the excess of bearing shoots being removed by thinning during the winter.

Wild Cherries.

Where do the Mahaleb and Mazzard cherries grow naturally? How large are the trees, and what kind of fruit do they bear?

The Mazzards, of which there are many, and some of them wild in the Eastern States, are counted inferior seedlings of the species avium, and are tall, large trees, the fruit being small and rather acrid and colors various. The Mahaleb is a European type with a smaller tree, fruit inferior to the Mazzards, and used as a root under soil and climatic conditions under which the Mazzard is not hardy and vigorous. Neither of the kinds are worth considering for their fruit.

Pruning Cherries.

I have some cherry trees that have not been pruned. They are beautiful trees, but it a requires a 24-foot ladder to get near the top limbs. The side limbs reach from tree to tree. They had a splendid crop this year. People here tell me never to prune cherry trees. One man who claims considerable experience with fruit says prune them as soon as the crop is off.

Your cherry trees should have been pruned for the first two or three years quite severely, in order to secure better branching and strength in the main branches. If this is done, and the trees come into full bearing, very little pruning has to be done afterward, except removing diseased, interfering or surplus branches, if there are too many. It is perfectly safe to cut back the trees which you now have as you have been advised to do, after the leaves have fallen or after they have begun to turn yellow. The trees can be safely topped and thinned, for the cherry accepts pruning very readily. Even considerable amounts of the tops have been cut off at fruit-picking time from trees which have been running too high, so that the fruit could be secured, and this has not injured the trees, according to our own experience and observation. Cherries can be summer-pruned to check excessive growth and to promote fruit-bearing, but as your trees have already begun to bear well, this treatment does not seem to be necessary. You should do fall and winter pruning for the shape of the trees.

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