Apple Growing

Late Fall And Early Spring Plowing

The common tillage practice in the sections where it is most followed is to plow either in late fall or as early as possible in the spring. Whether fall or spring plowing is best depends on two things: the character

of the soil and convenience. On heavy clay soils where drainage is poor it is not advisable to plow in the fall as the soil is apt to puddle and then to bake when it dries, making it hard to handle. On gravel loams, medium loams, and all well drained soils which are fairly open in texture either fall or spring plowing is practiced depending on which period affords the most time. On the general farm where there are several crops for which the land must be prepared in spring, it would seem best to get as much of the plowing as possible done in the fall. But a large crop of apples or a large and late corn husking or potato digging may interfere with this on some farms and make spring plowing more desirable. Always plan this work in connection with the other farm work so as to give the best distribution of labor. After fall plowing either the spring-tooth harrow or the disk harrow is best to use to work up the soil and no time should be lost in getting at this as soon as the land is dry enough in the spring. Sometimes the disk harrow can be used to work up the soil in the orchard in the spring without any plowing at all, especially on loose loams where there are few stones. But on newly plowed land a disk cuts too deep and there is too great danger of injuring the roots. On spring plowed land the spring-tooth harrow usually gives the best results. After the soil is thoroughly fined and worked into a mellow bed and as soon as the period of excessive moisture in spring is passed, a lighter implement like the smoothing harrow or a light shallow digging cultivator should be used to stir the surface of the soil only. The growing period for an apple tree begins as early as growth starts in the spring and continues up to about midsummer. If cultivation is to stimulate growth as much as possible, it should be done during this period. The first object of cultivation in the early spring is to loosen up, aerate, and dry out the soil, which is usually too wet at that time. As cultivation is continued the soil will become fined and firmed again by the time drier weather comes on. A fairly deep digging and lump crushing tool is the best implement to use up to this time, and a disk or spring-tooth harrow meets these requirements. After this period is passed and during drier weather, cultivation is carried on for a different purpose, namely, to conserve moisture by making a thin dust mulch of soil over the surface. This is best accomplished by shallow-going implements of which the spike-tooth harrow, the acme harrow, or a light wheel cultivator are best. As the season and the amount of rainfall vary, so must tillage operations be varied. In an early dry season begin with the lighter implements earlier. In a late wet season keep the digging tools at work later. As soon as the soil is in good physical condition the principal object of tillage is to modify moisture conditions. As a matter of practice three to four harrowings at intervals of a week to ten days are necessary. Sometimes more, sometimes less are required, according to the character and condition of the soil and the season. The later moisture-conserving tillage should also be carried on every week or ten days, according to weather conditions. It is good practice to stir the soil after every heavy or moderately heavy rain. Use the smoothing tools after light to medium rains and the heavier tools after packing or beating rains. In practice from five to eight or ten of these cultivations are necessary. The drier the season the more necessary does frequent cultivation become. A COVER CROP is so closely associated with tillage that it is usually considered a part of the system. It should be sown in midsummer as soon as tillage ceases. This time will vary from July first to August fifteenth, depending on the locality, the rainfall, the crop of fruit on the trees, and on how favorable the conditions for securing a good stand of the cover crop are. The farther south the locality, or the earlier the fruit, the sooner the crop should be sown. Absence of sufficient rainfall necessitates a continuation of the cultivation, both because it is necessary to conserve all the moisture possible and because it is difficult to get a good stand of a cover crop--especially of one having small seeds--at a dry time in midsummer. In a year when there is a full crop of fruit on the trees cultivation should be continued as late as possible as all the stimulus that can thus be secured will be necessary to help the fruit attain good size and maturity, and at the same time enable the tree properly to mature its fruit and leaf buds for the following year. On the other hand, in a year when there is not a full crop of fruit cultivation should be stopped early so as to avoid forcing a too rank growth of wood and foliage and continuing the growth of the next season's buds so late that they may not mature and therefore may be in danger of winter killing. The different kinds of cover crops which may be used in the apple orchard will be considered in the next chapter as they are so closely associated with fertilization. Strictly speaking, however, a cover crop is used principally to secure its mulching and physical effects on the soil in the intervals between the seasons of tillage. In addition to its physical and feeding effects the cover crop serves to check the growth of trees in the latter part of the season by taking up the nitrates and a part of the moisture, thus helping to ripen the wood.

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Next: Sod Mulch

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