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Preparing The Land And Planting

( Originally Published Early 1900's )


Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen : I feel as though I should offer an apology to you for not being here on time, but I was unavoidably detained. I was, also, sorry that I did not hear Prof. Eustace, in his talk in selecting a site for an orchard. I imagine that there is not so very much that needs to be said, but I will consider the topic briefly.

The question of selecting a site is far more important than preparing the land. To begin with, it makes a vast difference what kind of land you are going to prepare; what the previous condition of the land may have been; how it had been handled; state of fertility, etc.

In a general way, however, I would not advocate planting young trees on sod land or land that had been in sod the previous year. As a rule, it is a great deal better to have, if one can, a corn crop or potato crop off the land the year previous to setting out the orchard. If it is sandy land with a light surface or sub-soil, no further preparation is needed except to fertilize it, and perhaps not much of that. It is not a good idea to have land too well fertilized for planting young orchards. As a rule, with good cultivation, we get a sufficient growth the first year without very much fertilizer. If the land is in sod and the sod is plowed under, the trees will make too much growth the first year, growing too late in the fall, and because of this will be liable to winter kill. Young trees of all kinds this year, that were planted on good land, so far as my observation goes are still very green and very soft and not in good shape to go through the winter. It has been my practice, whereever possible to plow, if the land was in corn or potatoes the previous year, to fall plow and plow pretty deep. Then, plow again in the spring, using perhaps a little fertilizer, but not very much.

I have never practiced dynamiting for planting trees, as I do not know enough about it. I do not believe in digging holes for young trees, especially if you have a clay sub-soil. In other words, I would prepare the land so that the entire land as a whole is of a sufficient depth. We can very readily plow eight or ten •inches with any ordinary kind of land and that is deep enough for orchard planting. It has been our practice in planting, to mark out our land as we would for corn. If the trees are to be planted sixteen feet; get on every fourth row, and so on. It has been my practice also, to plant regular distances ; that is, sixteen feet or twenty feet, or twenty-four feet, or twenty-eight feet, or thirty-two feet; so that in rowing the crops, the intervening crops, we have our rowing four feet apart, for the rows, if different crops are to be planted in them. It saves a great deal of trouble. The object of marking with a corn marker instead of lining out, is for convenience. In after-cultivation you will not be bothered by having a wide space and then a narrower space. I remember the very first orchard I ever planted. I lined it up and plowed furrows into which to plant the trees but, instead of 'narking it, I measured it up and followed down and all through that orchard every other space or row was wider than the other. We line up and mark out, getting them as straight as we can, just as you would a corn field—marking both ways. Then, with a good big turning-plow, plowed the furrow of every fourth row. If you are planting sixteen feet, plant on the line the other way. planting cross-wise of the furrow. There is nothing scientific about that, but when you get your orchard planted, you will have a very uniform and straight lot of rows, more so than by any other way that I know of and it will be done with much less expense, in one-fourth of the time and give you a better job. After you have set the rows in this way, there may possibly be some trees a little off the line. If so, then look over every row and have any tree that is not set as it should be, straightened up. You will, in this way, get your orchard out with less exertion, trouble and expense than in any other way. You cannot do that on sod ground. There are no holes to dig. The big furrow is hole enough to set the tree in. Of course, these trees are one or two year old peach, plum or apple. In this way, we get our orchard planted with the minimum of expense and maximum of results. (A Voice–I suppose that means pruned!)

Every tree should be root-pruned. I like to prune from the bottom of the root and not from the top. I like to use a knife and not a pair of shears. Wherever the root is cut it puts out a lot of new roots. If we were to take up a tree which had been planted for. several months it would be found to have put out a bunch of new rootlets. If the roots are cut from the bottom the new roots will start from the bottom and grow down. If they are cut from the top they are on the surface where it is liable to be dry and instead of being where they can have moisture and go down in the earth, they are liable to dry up. Every mutilated and broken root should be removed or cut back to the injury. Top-prune the trees after they are planted and not be-fore. We can do a much better job after the trees are planted than before and with not very much more work-indeed not any more. You have the tree standing in the place in which is going to stand and you can trim it accordingly. In planting a peach that has been budded I always put the buds all one way. Where they start out there is a curve and put that curve so that the top will point to the west, that will make it look nicer, more uniform. That does not hold true of apple trees and some other trees but it does of the peach. If the trees are not too large, in planting the peach we trim to a switch and then cut the switch off. If very large trees it is not always safe to do that because they may not grow, without spurs left on the branches leaving a bud on the branch so that they will start from there.

If the trees are large, leave some spurs with buds; if small, cut to a switch and then cut it off. We grow our trees too high as a rule. I had rather have trees two feet instead of three. What I have said applies more particularly to the peach. Apple, pear, plum and cherry, we do not cut back to the switch, but leave eight inches of the top on the tree. Where we get one-year sprouts we can work it differently. We can trim to a switch; but on ordinary two-year old nursery stock, we must leave some of the old top on. Of course, what I have been saying here is mere A B C of tree planting and is doubtless of the slightest interest to those who are in the habit of growing trees, be-cause you know all about it. It was supposed that this talk was for the beginner, and I have been talking with that idea in view.

When you get the trees planted, they should be cultivated very thoroughly up to the first of August. I like a corn crop in a young orchard the best of any crop I know of. It protects them from strong winds and does not take from the soil. Potatoes would be the last thing I would grow in a young orchard.

A Member—"Do you have an novel way of draining the land?"

Answer—"Ordinarily we would not plant on land that needed much draining. I do not know of any way to prepare wet pieces of land for an orchard. Possibly it can be done, but I do not know just how. The only method of draining an orchard is by under draining. Sometimes we have an orchard that is a little wet in one corner and we take chances on that and put in tiles. However, about the only way is to take a team and scraper and fill up these low places. I have never been very successful in tiling orchard land for the tile will soon fill up with roots making them unsatisfactory.

Question—"Give us your method of putting in tile."

Answer—I have been putting in tile this summer—put in two miles of it. I looked up the scientific method of leveling when I started out, and it seemed to me that it was awfully cumbersome, surveying, etc. So I began thinking about the matter and worked out a scheme of my own and it is perfectly satisfactory. The first thing I determined was which way the water would run. That was not very much trouble this year. Then I went at it and dug the ditches, but instead of having instruments and running a lot of lines and doing a lot of measuring, I took a 10-inch board 10 feet long, nailed a strip from each end so as to form a triangle then I drove a nail for the plumb-bob, where the two pieces meet and then set that triangle on the floor that I knew was absolutely level. I used that for leveling all of my ditches. It was the handiest thing imaginable. It showed any inequalities in the ditch for, if the little weight hung just one side of the mark, there was a little fall to the ditch. We did not have to do any surveying and the work was all done with this home-made device and the tile are working fine.

A Member—I would like to have the answer to question 23 given : "How deep and how far apart should under-drains be placed in sandy, gravelly and clay soil intended for orchard planting?"

Answer—This I think was answered when it was stated that in planting an orchard, ground should be selected that did not have to be drained.

Chairman—Question 1S is called for: "What nursery stock can be successfully set out in the fall?"

A Member—We set out sweet cherry in the fall and like it better than setting out in the spring.

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