Many a home gardener who has succeeded well with vegetables is, for
some reason or other, still fearsome about trying his hand at growing
his own fruit.
This is all a mistake; the initial expense is very slight (fruit trees
will cost but twenty-five
to forty cents each, and the berry bushes only about four cents each), and the same amount of care that is demanded by vegetables, if given to fruit, will produce apples, peaches, pears and berries far superior to any that can be bought, especially in flavor. I know a doctor in New York, a specialist, who has attained prominence in his profession, and who makes a large income; he tells me that there is nothing in the city that hurts him so much as to have to pay out a nickel whenever he wants an apple. His boyhood home was on a Pennsylvania farm, where apples were as free as water, and he cannot get over the idea of their being one of Nature's gracious gifts, any more than he can overcome his hankering for that crisp, juicy, uncloying flavor of a good apple, which is not quite equaled by the taste of any other fruit. And yet it is not the saving in expense, although that is considerable, that makes the strongest argument for growing one's own fruit. There are three other reasons, each of more importance. First is quality. The commercial grower cannot afford to grow the very finest fruit. Many of the best varieties are not large enough yielders to be available for his use, and he cannot, on a large scale, so prune and care for his trees that the individual fruits receive the greatest possible amount of sunshine and thinning out--the personal care that is required for the very best quality. Second, there is the beauty and the value that well kept fruit trees add to a place, no matter how small it is. An apple tree in full bloom is one of the most beautiful pictures that Nature ever paints; and if, through any train of circumstances, it ever becomes advisable to sell or rent the home, its desirability is greatly enhanced by the few trees necessary to furnish the loveliness of showering blossoms in spring, welcome shade in summer and an abundance of delicious fruits through autumn and winter. Then there is the fun of doing it--of planting and caring for a few young trees, which will reward your labors, in a cumulative way, for many years to come. But enough of reasons. If the call of the soil is in your veins, if your fingers (and your brain) in the springtime itch to have a part in earth's ever-wonderful renascence, if your lips part at the thought of the white, firm, toothsome flesh of a ripened-on-the-tree red apple-- then you must have a home orchard without delay. And it is not a difficult task. Apples, pears and the stone fruits, fortunately, are not very particular about their soils. They take kindly to anything between a sandy soil so loose as to be almost shifting, and heavy clay. Even these soils can be made available, but of course not without more work. And you need little room to grow all the fruit your family can possibly eat. Time was, when to speak of an apple tree brought to mind one of those old, moss-barked giants that served as a carriage shed and a summer dining-room, decorated with scythes and rope swings, requiring the services of a forty-foot ladder and a long-handled picker to gather the fruit. That day is gone. In its stead have come the low-headed standard and the dwarf forms. The new types came as new institutions usually do, under protest. The wise said they would never be practical--the trees would not get large enough and teams could not be driven under them. But the facts remained that the low trees are more easily and thoroughly cared for; that they do not take up so much room; that they are less exposed to high winds, and such fruit as does fall is not injured; that the low limbs shelter the roots and conserve moisture; and, above all, that picking can be accomplished much more easily and with less injury to fine, well ripened fruit. The low-headed tree has come to stay. If your space will allow, the low-headed standards will give you better satisfaction than the dwarfs. They are longer-lived, they are healthier, and they do not require nearly so much intensive culture. On the other hand, the dwarfs may be used where there is little or no room for the standards. If there is no other space available, they may be put in the vegetable or flower garden, and incidentally they are then sure of receiving some of that special care which they need in the way of fertilization and cultivation. As I have said, any average soil will grow good fruit. A gravelly loam, with a gravel subsoil, is the ideal. Do not think from this, however, that all you have to do is buy a few trees from a nursery agent, stick them in the ground and from your negligence reap the rewards that follow only intelligent industry. The soil is but the raw material which work and care alone can transform, through the medium of the growing tree, into the desired result of a cellar well stored each autumn with fruit. Fruit trees have one big advantage over vegetables--the ground can be prepared for them while they are growing. If the soil will grow a crop of clover it is already in good shape to furnish the trees with food at once. If not, manure or fertilizers may be applied, and clover or other green crops turned under during the first two or three years of the trees' growth, as will be described later. The first thing to consider, when you have decided to plant, is the location you will give your trees. Plan to have pears, plums, cherries and peaches, as well as apples. For any of these the soil, of whatever nature, must be well drained. If not naturally, then tile or other artificial drainage must be provided. For only a few trees it would probably answer the purpose to dig out large holes and fill in a foot or eighteen inches at the bottom with small stone, covered with gravel or screened coal-cinders. My own land has a gravelly subsoil and I have not had to drain. Then with the apples, and especially with the peaches, a too-sheltered slope to the south is likely to start the flower buds prematurely in spring, only to result in total crop loss from late frosts. The diagram on the next page suggests an arrangement which may be adapted to individual needs. One may see from it that the apples are placed to the north, where they will to some extent shelter the rest of the grounds; the peaches where they will not be coddled; the pears, which may be had upon quince stock, where they will not shade the vegetable garden; the cherries, which are the most ornamental, where they may lend a decorative effect. And now, having decided that we can--and will--grow good fruit, and having in mind suggestions that will enable us to go out to-morrow morning and, with an armful of stakes, mark out the locations, the next consideration should be the all-important question of what varieties are most successfully grown on the small place. place.] [ED. Unable to recreate in text format.] The following selections are made with the home fruit garden, not the commercial orchard, in mind. While they are all "tried and true" sorts, succeeding generally in the northeast, New England and western fruit sections, remember that fruits, as a rule, though not so particular as vegetables about soil, seem much more so about locality. I would suggest, therefore, submitting your list, before buying, to your State Experiment Station. You are taxed for its support; get some direct result from it. There they will be glad to advise you, and are in the best position to help you get started properly. Above all, do not buy from the traveling nursery agent, with his grip full of wonderful lithographs of new and unheard-of novelties. Get the catalogue of several reliable nurseries, take standard varieties about which you know, and buy direct. Several years ago I had the opportunity to go carefully over one of the largest fruit nurseries in the country. Every care and precaution was taken to grow fine, healthy, young trees. The president told me that they sold thousands every year to smaller concerns, to be resold again through field and local agents. Yet they do an enormous retail business themselves, and of course their own customers get the best trees. The following are listed, as nearly as I can judge, in the order of their popularity, but as many of the best are not valuable commercially, they are little known. Whenever you find a particularly good apple or pear, try to trace it, and add it to your list.
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