Books > The American Woman's Home (1869) > XXXIII. The Cultivation of Fruit

The American Woman's Home

XXXIII. The Cultivation of Fruit.

By a little attention to this matter, a lady with the help of her children can obtain a rich abundance of all kinds of fruit. The writer has resided in families where little boys of eight, ten, and twelve years old amused themselves, under the direction of their mother, in planting walnuts, chestnuts, and hazelnuts, for future time; as well as in planting and inoculating young fruit-trees of all descriptions. A mother who will take pains to inspire a love for such pursuits in her children, and who will aid and superintend them, will save them from many temptations, and at a trifling expense secure to them and herself a rich reward in the choicest fruits. The information given in this work on this subject may be relied on as sanctioned by the most experienced nursery-men.

The soil for a nursery should be rich, well dug, dressed with well-decayed manure, free from weeds, and protected from cold winds. Fruit-seeds should be planted in the autumn, an inch and a half or two inches deep, in ridges four or five feet apart, pressing the earth firmly over the seeds. While growing, they should be thinned out, leaving the best ones a foot and a half apart. The soil should be kept loose, soft, and free from weeds. They should be inoculated or ingrafted when of the size of a pipe stem; and in a year after this may be transplanted to their permanent stand. Peach-trees sometimes bear in two years from budding, and in four years from planting if well kept.

In a year after transplanting, take pains to train the head aright. Straight upright branches produce gourmands, or twigs bearing only leaves. The side branches which are angular or curved yield the most fruit. For this reason, the limbs should be trained in curves, and perpendicular twigs should be cut off if there be need of pruning. The last of June is the time for this. Grass should never be allowed to grow within four feet of a large tree, and the soil should be kept loose to admit air to the roots. Trees in orchards should be twenty-five feet apart. The soil under the top soil has much to do with the health of the trees. If it be what is called hard-pan, the trees will deteriorate. Trees need to be manured and to have the soil kept open and free from weeds.

Filberts can be raised in any part of this country.

Figs can be raised in the Middle, Western, and Southern States. For this purpose, in the autumn loosen the roots on one side, and bend the tree down to the earth on the other; then cover it with a mound of straw, earth, and boards, and early in the spring raise it up and cover the roots.

Currants grow well in any but a wet soil. They are propagated by cuttings. The old wood should be thinned in the fall and manure be put on. They can be trained into small trees.

Gooseberries are propagated by layers and cuttings. They are best when kept from suckers and trained like trees. One third of the old wood should be removed every autumn.

Raspberries do best when shaded during a part of the day. They are propagated by layers, slips, and suckers. There is one kind which bears monthly; but the varieties of this and all other fruits are now so numerous that we can easily find those which are adapted to the special circumstances of the case.

Strawberries require a light soil and vegetable manure. They should be transplanted in April or September, and be set eight inches apart, in rows nine inches asunder, and in beds which are two feet wide, with narrow alleys between them. A part of these plants are non-bearers. These have large flowers with showy stamens and high black anthers. The bearers have short stamens, a great number of pistils, and the flowers are every way less showy. In blossom-time, pull out all the non-bearers. Some think it best to leave one non-bearer to every twelve bearers, and others pull them all out. Many beds never produce any fruit, because all the plants in them are non-bearers. Weeds should be kept from the vines. When the vines are matted with young plants, the best way is to dig over the beds in cross lines, so as to leave some of the plants standing in little squares, while the rest are turned under the soil. This should be done over a second time in the same year.

To Raise Grapes, manure the soil, and keep it soft and free from weeds. A gravelly or sandy soil, and a south exposure are best. Transplant the vines in the early spring, or better in the fall. Prune them the first year so as to have only two main branches, taking off all other shoots as fast as they come. In November, cut off all of these two branches except four eyes. The second year, in the spring, loosen the earth around the roots, and allow only two branches to grow, and every month take off all side shoots. When they are very strong, preserve only a part, and cut off the rest in the fall. In November, cut off all the two main stems except eight eyes. After the second year, no more pruning is needed, except to reduce the side shoots, for the purpose of increasing the fruit. All the pruning of grapes (except nipping side shoots) must be done when the sap is not running, or they will bleed to death. Train, them on poles, or lattices, to expose them to the air and sun. Cover tender vines in the autumn. Grapes are propagated by cuttings, layers, and seeds. For cuttings, select in the autumn well-ripened wood of the former year, and take fire joints for each. Bury them till April; then soak them for some hours, and set them out aslant, so that all the eyes but one shall be covered.

Apples, grapes, and such like fruit can be preserved in their natural state by packing them when dry and solid in dry sand or saw-dust, putting alternate layers of fruit and cotton, saw-dust or sand. Some saw-dust gives a bad flavor to the fruit.

Modes of Preserving Fruit-Trees.

Heaps of ashes or tanner's bark around peach-trees prevent the attack of the worm. The yellows is a disease of peach-trees, which is spread by the pollen of the blossom. When a tree begins to turn yellow, take it away with all its roots, before it blossoms again, or it will infect other trees. Planting tansy around the roots of fruit-trees is a sure protection against worms, as it prevents the moth from depositing her egg. Equal quantities of salt and saltpetre, put around the trunk of a peach-tree, half a pound to a tree, improve the size and flavor of the fruit. Apply this about the first of April; and if any trees have worms already in them, put on half the quantity in addition in June. To young trees just set out, apply one ounce in April, and another in June, close to the stem. Sandy soil is best for peaches.

Apple-trees are preserved from insects by a wash of strong lye to the body and limbs, which, if old, should be first scraped. Caterpillars should be removed by cutting down their nests in a damp day. Boring a hole in a tree infested with worms, and filling it with sulphur, will often drive them off immediately.

The fire-blight, or brulure in pear-trees can be stopped by cutting off all the blighted branches. It is supposed by some to be owing to an excess of sap, which is remedied by diminishing the roots.

The curculio, which destroys plums and other stone-fruit, can be checked only by gathering up all the fruit that falls, (which contains their eggs,) and destroying it. The canker-worm can be checked by applying a bandage around the body of the tree, and every evening smearing it with fresh tar.