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Fruit - The Plum

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

No fruit will replace the plum. It makes the choicest of preserves, and many of the varieties are unsurpassed as dessert fruits. Every farm should have at least a dozen trees of various varieties to extend the season, as Professor Ballou outlines below:

The plum does best in rather strong, rich clayey loam, but even on soils that are rather light it does fairly well, though the tree is less vigorous. In planting orchards, a convenient distance is 16 to 20 feet apart. The ground should be manured regularly and cultivated each year, as the plum, particularly when young, is likely to be injured by weeds. It is desirable that several varieties be planted together to insure fertilization of the bloom. It has also been found useful to plant plums in poultry yards, so that chickens can eat the curculios which attack the fruit. These insects drop to the ground in injured fruit, and bury themselves until mature. They may be caught in what are called "buggers" which are like huge inverted umbrellas mounted on wheelbarrows. On one side a slit is left so the umbrella may be slid under the tree and around the trunk. Then the tree is given a quick tap with a heavy mallet and the insects drop and are caught at the center in a metal box partly filled with kerosene. Early morning is the best time to do collecting.


" Some 20 years ago," writes A. A. Eastman of Penobscot county, Maine, " I took up plum culture, purchasing many plum trees of different kinds of a nurseryman in New York. I had poor results ; trees were short lived, were tender and winter-killed badly. Later I got some horse plum trees and set them out among the others. They grew well, and the next year I grafted them to better sorts. They soon came into bearing, and gave me heavy crops every year for several years, with big profits.

" I can raise better and longer lived trees than I can buy of a nursery company, and they cost me but little labor and no money. The trees soon come into bearing and I get good crops every year. The varieties I raise are Moore's Arctic, Lombard, Shipper's Pride, Niagara, and Imperial Gage. There are many other good varieties, some very good eating plums, but the trees are tender and do not stand our cold winters. The Burbank is a fine plum and a good growing tree, but the fruit buds are tender and winterkill. The Abundance is an-other fine plum, but the tree grows so late in the fall the wood does not harden and get ripe. I should not advise people to set it here in Maine.


According to Prof. F. H. Ballou, " European varieties of plums succeed well in all parts of Ohio and stand alone in their general excellence for culinary purposes: The following list covers the entire season of nearly eight weeks, during which there need be no break in the succession of delicious plums for table use or for market: Clyman,Czar, Lincoln, Bradshaw, Field, Imperial Gage, Spaulding and Missouri Green Gage, Lombard, Empire, Miller, Bavay (Reine Claude), Monarch, Archduke, Golden Drop, and Grand Duke.

" No other class of plums approaches the fine varieties of Europeans for firmness of flesh, richness, mildness, and delicate flavor for culinary purposes, but this same firmness of flesh and richness of quality soon cloys the appetite for these fruits in their fresh state. Not so with the finer varieties of our native plums, which might well be classed with grapes, oranges, melons, etc., and which, while they possess the attributes of delicacy of flavor, juiciness, refreshing sprightliness and healthfulness, do not possess that peculiar combination of solidity and richness of substance which soon satiates the appetite. Indeed, as with grapes, melons, etc., the more excellent varieties of native plums may be eaten freely with relish, enjoyment, and benefit.

" To those who are not familiar with the improved varieties of native plums, and to whom the mention of which recalls to memory the small thick skinned, large seeded, astringent, yet withal tempting, wild plums of some secluded nook on the farm, the real excellence of a basket of great, brilliantly colored Brunswick, Hunt, or Downing would prove a revelation. It is desirable, if not necessary, that in planting a succession of fruits for the home there be included at least a few trees of such excel-lent natives as Poole, Pride, Brunswick, Wilder, Hunt, Downing, Reed, and Honey Drop.

" Japanese varieties, while rapid growers and very beautiful in foliage, blossoms, and fruit, are not to be depended upon for regular fruiting in Ohio. While sufficiently hardy in both tree and bud to endure most winters in this latitude, their tendency to bloom early makes them liable to be caught by the late spring frosts. The quality of Japanese varieties, as a rule, is decidedly inferior to that of either the European or native plums, both for their culinary use and for eating fresh from the tree, though a limited number of the Japanese sorts are good for both purposes. The following brief collection of varieties embraces the cream of the list grown at the station: Berger, Red June, Burbank, Normand, Chabot, October Purple, Apple, Gonzales, and Nona."


"In my plum orchard," writes J. W. Kerr of Caroline county, Maryland, "I depend wholly upon phosphoric acid and green crops turned under, either scarlet clover or cowpeas, or both. Native plums are by far the most profitable with me. Milton, the first to ripen, and ready for market here the first week in July, followed by Wildgoose or Whitaker. These two varieties are similar in every way, ripen at same date, look and taste alike, but I have always thought the latter less liable to speck, and in hot July weather the loss seems less. The finishing up of these carries the marketing to last of July. Then with Mrs. Cleveland to follow carries the picking to August 10 to 15. If these varieties, were self-fertile I would not wish to plant any other kinds, but none of them separately or collectively will pollinate themselves or each other. I use both the Smiley and the Newman as pollinators. The Smiley does not prolong the season as above, but the Newman often extends its ripening from August io to September 2o.

" For reliable crop production, and uniformly paying prices, the above are greatly preferable to any of the Japanese varieties or hybrids that I have tried. I plant 20 feet apart each way, every fourth row a pollinator, branch low, pick as much of the fruit as possibly practical without step-ladders, as pickers cannot make satisfactory wages, by the basket, when not standing on the ground.

"We plow and cultivate as much of the land as we can, but no animal large enough to draw a cultivator can get within 5 feet of the trunk, hence we have overcome what Prof. F. A.. Waugh de-nominates the single tree disease, The varieties above named will average five to eight bushels to the tree, and rarely miss a crop. If they net 2 cents a quart, I am satisfied. If more, which they often do in Baltimore markets, there is no kick! The reader will please observe that I am located on the Chesapeake and Delaware peninsula, and write from that standpoint."

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