Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pruning, Spraying, Harvesting - Three simple things

The day has gone, probably forever, when setting out fruit trees and giving them occasional cultivation,
"plowing up the orchard" once in several years, would produce fruit. Apples and pears and peaches have
occupied no preferred position against the general invasion of the realm of horticulture by insect and fungous
enemies. The fruits have, indeed, suffered more than most plants.

Nevertheless there is this encouraging fact: that, though the fruits may have been severely attacked, the means we now have of fighting fruit-tree enemies, if thoroughly used, as a rule are more certain of accomplishing
their purpose, and keeping the enemies completely at bay, than are similar weapons in any other line of horticultural work.

With fruit trees, as with vegetables and flowers, the most important precaution to be taken against insects and disease is to have them in a healthy, thriving, growing condition. It is a part of Nature's law of the survival of the fittest that any backward or weakling plant or tree seems to fall first prey to the ravages of destructive forces.
For these reasons the double necessity of maintaining at all times good fertilization and thorough cultivation will be seen. In addition to these two factors, careful attention in the matter of pruning is essential in keeping the trees in a healthy, robust condition. As explained in a previous chapter, the trees should be started right by pruning the first season to the open-head or vase shape, which furnishes the maximum of light and air to all parts of the tree. Three or four main branches should form the basis of the head, care being taken not to have them start from directly opposite points on the trunk, thus forming a crotch and leaving the tree liable to splitting from winds or excessive crops. If the tree is once started right, further pruning will give little trouble.

 Cut out limbs which cross, or are likely to rub against each other, or that are too close together; and also any that are broken, decayed, or injured in any way. For trees thus given proper attention from the start, a short jackknife will be the only pruning instrument required.
The case of the old orchard is more difficult. Cutting out too many of the old, large limbs at one time is sure to give a severe shock to the vitality of the tree. A better plan is, first, to cut off close all suckers and all small new-growth limbs, except a few of the most promising, which may be left to be developed into large limbs; and then as these new limbs grow on, gradually to cut out, using a fine-tooth saw and painting the exposed surfaces, the surplus old wood. Apples will need more pruning than the other fruits. Pears and cherries need the least; cutting back the ends of limbs enough to keep the trees in good form, with the removal of an occasional branch for the purpose of letting in light and air, is all the pruning they will require. Of course trees growing on rich ground, and well cultivated, will require more cutting back than those growing under
poorer conditions. A further purpose of pruning is to effect indirectly a thinning of the fruit, so that what is grown will be larger and more valuable, and also that the trees may not become exhausted by a few exceptionally heavy crops. On trees that have been neglected and growing slowly the bark sometimes becomes hard and set. In such cases it will prove beneficial to scrape the bark and give a wash applied with an old broom. Whitewash is good for this purpose.

Where extra fine specimens of fruit are desired, thinning is practiced. It helps also to prevent the tree from being overtaxed by excessive crops. But where pruning is thoroughly done this trouble is usually avoided. Peaches and Japan plums are especially benefited by thinning, as they have a great tendency to overbear. The spread of fruit diseases, especially rot in the fruit itself, is also to some extent checked.
Of fruit-tree enemies there are some large sorts which may do great damage in short order--rabbits and field mice. They may be kept away by mechanical protection, such as wire, or by heaping the earth up to a
height of twelve inches about the tree trunk. Insects and scale diseases are not so easily managed; and that brings us to the question of spraying and of sprays.

For large orchards the spray must, of course, be applied with powerful and expensive machinery. For the small fruit garden a much simpler and very moderate priced apparatus may be acquired. The most practical of these is the brass-tank compressed-air sprayer, with extension rod and mist-spray nozzle. Either of these will be of great assistance not only with the fruit trees, but everywhere in the garden. With care they will last a good many years. Whatever type you get, be sure to get a brass machine; as cheaper ones, made of other metal or plastic , quickly corrode from contact with the strong chemicals used.

For help in determining the type of infestation contact your County Cooperative Extension Service office. County Cooperative Extension Service offices are usually listed in the telephone directory under county
or state government; these offices often have a range of resources on garden care and maintenance, including plant selection, pest control, and soil testing.