Australian enquiry book of household and general information/The Orchard


THE ORCHARD.

PLANTING TREES.

THE best months for planting and transplanting are July and August. Allow quite 20 feet between each tree, and before putting them into the ground cut off all broken and bruised roots, and when planting allow the roots to spread out and lie naturally, do not try to twist long roots into a small hole. The soil should be loose and well-manured with old stuff. Many people make the mistake of putting in fresh manure, which more often than not kills the trees. The oldest stable manure is best, and the droppings from the fowl-house, mixed with the ordinary mould is also very good—one spade of droppings to four of mould.

When the tree is in and the hole half filled up, tread round it firmly and see that the tree is perfectly straight, then fill up, but do not have the tree any deeper in the ground than it was originally. Then drive a good strong stake into the ground beside it, let it be about a foot taller than the tree, and tie it firmly but carefully to the stake near the top, using some soft stuff not likely to hurt or bruise the bark. Strips of old flannel are as good as anything.

When your trees have made one year's growth, prune away where you wish the trunk to be. Often there will be laterals spring out from the roots and near the roots, they must be cut away, and a better way is to break them at their joint to the tree. Choose one strong branch as leader to form the head of your tree; top it at a certain distance and cut away all other laterals, save three, which should be left somewhat shorter than your head. Watch carefully month by month as wood is made, and you can shape your trees to suit your own ideas.

Orange trees are often subject to smut or scale, for the former a simple remedy is a wash made of lime or wood ashes. Mix a quantity with water, let it be pretty thick, and pour over the young trees. It will dry on the leaves, and the first shower will wash it and the smut off together; if very bad repeat the treatment. For scale on the young trees make an emulsion of soft soap and kerosene, as follows: Put about a quart of soft soap into a gallon or a little more of water—an old kerosene tin is a good thing to hold it. Put over the fire, and just as it comes the boil stir in a pint of kerosene; let it boil for a couple of minutes and remove from the fire, when cold, wash the trees with it.

I have seen scale on shrubs and on rose trees treated with a wash made of kerosene and water—eight or nine tablespoonfuls to a gallon of water, well stirred and poured over the plants. Another emulsion for trees is made of kerosene and milk, diluted with water.

All fruit trees require care and attention for the first few years, after then they can get on without much looking after, save just at pruning time and when first beginning to bear. It is not advisable to let a young tree bear too heavily, it weakens them and often spoils them for after years. Peach and nectarine trees are specially given to heavy crops when quite young. Much of the fruit should be knocked off soon after it has formed. All heavily laden trees must be supported where necessary, or branches may break, or if storms are frequent the whole tree may go.

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BUDDING.

THIS is a process that needs some little experience to carry out successfully. It is all very well for me to write out the directions here, to give every detail even, unless you can see it done, or unless you can practise doing it yourself, you will not make a success of budding a fruit tree.

When I was shown how to do it, it happened to be just the time for budding, and it was also a capital season for the work, being warm, yet showery—regular growing weather. I was shown on a rose, and by the end of that season I may tell you there was not a rose tree within a radius of three or four miles which had not budded upon some other variety. I budded everything buddable, trees and shrubs, and made red and white roses grow on the same tree. In short, I practised until I became proficient, and I would advise you to do the same if you would learn from reading.

Budding is the best and most simple method of propagating such fruits as peaches, nectarines and apricots, indeed, all the stone fruits as well as very many flowering shrubs. The easiest and the one most usually followed is called shield budding, and it consists in making a cut in the bark of the plant or tree to be operated on in the form of a T, with the leg of it a little longer than usual. Make the cut in to the wood, and then with the point of the knife (a budding knife is the correct tool to work with, and be sure to choose some tree of good size and easy bark for a first attempt) raise the bark all round the cut, beginning first where they cross at the leg. If the tree or plant is fit to be budded, or a good one to do, there will be no difficulty in raising the bark, it separating easily from the wood. The right place in the tree to choose is where there is a clear space just above or below a branch, and where no knot or twigs will be in the way.

Having raised the bark all round, cut the shield or slip to be budded on from any tree of suitable kind. Slip off the bud with a sharp knife, leaving a piece of bark adhering to it. Slip it as you would cut a chip or shaving from a piece of wood, but be sure that you get the bud whole and without damage. Sometimes there will be a leaf underneath the bud, but that can be cut away, and also remove with the point of the knife any particle of wood that may have come too—all you want is the tiny slip of bark with the bud on it. Then slip it into the cut made previously, and bring the shoulders together at the top and tie the two closely with a strip of worsted or wool in such a way that all air will be kept out as well as rain. In tying, it is as well to start below the long cut, and wind the worsted round and round up to the bud and then on above it, as by this means it is brought more closely to the wood, the idea being to place the inside of the young bud close against the sap wood of the tree. By this means the bud is, as it were, planted in the bark of the tree.

The worsted must not be bound exactly over the bud, or it might bruise or break it. The bud should have the appearance of peeping out between the turns of worsted. When the operation is finished it can be left a week or two, and by that time you will know whether it has taken or not by the appearance of the bud. As soon as you are sure that it has taken, the ties or worsted can be loosened, not taken off; they may want relaxing several times as the little bud swells and grows.

Grafting is merely another way of budding, and just as fascinating to the amateur gardener. The best, or rather the only time to either graft or bud is just before the sap begins to move, when the buds swell and look ready to burst. It is at this season that the trees grow most, make most wood, and therefore almost anything you introduce into the their system will be grown over. I cannot very well explain my meaning, but if you will watch the trees or shrubs at this season you will at once understand.

The reason for grafting is, first, that it is quicker than waiting for a seedling to mature and bear, as when an old wood is grafted on to a younger the latter becomes merged, as it were, in the life of the former, and so bears much sooner than if allowed to grow alone. Another reason is, that by this mode of procedure we can ensure having and keeping the best fruit. For instance, say some neighbour has some specially fine variety of orange or apple, you can secure it by begging a graft from his tree—I think I have explained as clearly as I can. Seedlings of the Seville orange and a variety called the "Poor Man's" are the best for stocks.

The most simple mode of grafting is what is called, I think, the "Splice" graft. I am not sure of the terms, as the old gardener who taught me knew no terms or names for them, he only knew exactly how to do them.

To begin with, you must secure slips of bearing wood from the varieties you prefer and wish to propagate. At pruning time you can have these saved for you or secure them yourself, and plant them in some good ground until the tree or plant you mean to operate on is ready, that is, until the buds on it begin to swell.

Directly this happens it is ready, and to begin you must cut the stock with a sharp knife in a slanting slip—a pretty long one—and having taken your graft up, cut it to correspond so that they will fit to each other. Having got them right, bind the two together, making the two barks meet as well as you can. I have always found a narrow strip of flannel the best for binding, and once I was very successful with a starch bandage, but I had a good many failures first, so perhaps it would be very risky to recommend it. Having bound the graft, now make a mixture of clay and cow-dung; well work the two together and plaster it over the wound or graft—make a good sized knob on the tree. I forgot to say that the stock to be grafted on should be cut pretty near to the ground. I believe some gardeners even remove the earth and cut them below ground. Then instead of putting the clay round, merely tie the slips and fill the earth up above it. I have seen trees that were done in this way, but never tried it myself. There is another way by which you just slip the two slips—the stock and the graft—and insert one in the other instead of laying them flat together, but I have never managed it successfully, so would not advise others to try till they can do the splice graft successfully.

In budding it is often advisable to apply an outer covering of clay round the place, it keeps the wound moist and from the drying winds. I have had a camelia bush with no less than eleven buds at the same time, and I have a lively recollection of rising one morning to find the Kanaka garden boy in the act of knocking my clay coverings off, under the impression that they were the abodes of some new insect pest. There is a particular way of making this clay, and which I have given elsewhere.

In grafting or budding the great thing is to be as quick as possible and not to allow the air to get to the opened wood for longer than one can help.

Propagating by layers is one of the most simple ways. First scoop away the earth from the plant to the depth of a few inches, then choose your branches from the strongest wood, bend them down, and cut a slit as if you were going to cut the branch off, but only cut about half through, and let it be made at the thickest part (the elbow), have small forks to keep the layers in place and cover the earth well over them, forks and all, to its former level. By and bye the layer will break from the parent stem where the cut was made, or if not, when well rooted it can be separated with the spade. You can put down as many layers as you like round a bush. Camelias and Gardenias can be very successfully propagated in this way, as can also many other varieties of shrubs and trees.

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PRUNING.

PRUNING is an art I might almost say, though as a matter of fact every man who has a garden, or knows a peach from an orange tree, thinks he knows how to prune, and will inform you as verification of it that he prunes his own trees. And you do not doubt him when you have looked at the trees denuded of half their fruit-bearing shoots.

To prune, well one requires to have some knowledge of the subject, to know the fruit-bearing shoots, and when to leave, and when to cut them back. Much of this information comes with experience and observation, and the rest from mixing and conversing with other fruit growers, and reading.

THE ORANGE TREE.

As a rule the orange tree does not begin to bear till it is four or five years old, therefore, it requires no pruning till after then, but all shoots that run out far beyond the rest should be cut off, and directly twigs begin to die they must be cut out at once. The orange requires plenty of room, and very deep, rich, loose soil, so that the roots, which are mostly near the surface, can push out freely. Very often the dead wood in a tree can be traced to cramped roots or bad drainage—it is what is called a "greedy grower" from the time it first starts till it withers and dies of old age or disease, and in spite of the most adverse circumstances the orange tree will try to make wood and live. It is one of the easiest trees of all to prune as the chief thing is to trim the branches so that none are in advance of their fellows. A young tree should not be allowed to bear too heavily, as by so doing it will become weakened for future seasons. Therefore, it is as well to go round and pick or shake off some of the blossom, or if the fruit, has formed, some of the fruit must be rubbed off.

One thing to bear in mind in pruning all fruit trees is not to let the branches overweight the trunk. With young trees, particularly peach and nectarine, this is often the case. I have seen beautiful young trees in their second or third season split right down the middle from the weight of fruit on either side. To avoid this, the branches must be cut back.


THE PEACH.

This fruit tree bears when very young, or would bear if allowed I should say, as it is not wise to allow too young a tree to bear. Generally it throws out fruit-bearing shoots as early as the second season after planting. The peach is a very vigorous grower, and frequently develops more fruit than the tree can possibly bring to maturity if left untended in its early years. The fruit is borne on wood of the preceding year's growth. You can know them by the large fresh full buds, and which look green and unripe at the points. These should be cut back in very young trees, leaving only as many fruit spurs as you think the tree can support. In very young trees the fewer the better. Its first year a tree should not be allowed to bear more than 12 or 18 peaches, but instead of cutting away the fruit spurs (which would disfigure and injure the tree) to that extent let them blossom, and then rub off the small peaches when about a week old. Gradually as the trees get older more and more can be left till when it has reached maturity its strength is equal to a very heavy crop, though the peach always requires attention in the matter of rubbing off surplus fruit if in a climate that suits it. As the fruit increases in size and weight, support those branches that require it by placing strong saplings with a fork at the top (like a clothes prop) under them. To prevent the wood getting bruised, wrap a piece of old bagging round where the fork rests. The peach can be raised from seed, though it is as well when planting an orchard to get good grafted trees from some first class nursery.

Bone dust, lime and wood ashes, with stable litter and leaf mould are the best manure for the trees.

There are hundreds of different varieties of peach, but it is best to choose that which grows best in your special climate.

The nectarine is very much the same as the peach, though not so handy or free from disease.

THE QUINCE.

This is a fruit that gives a good return for moderate care and attention. It requires a good rich soil, but does best near water on the banks of creeks or rivers. I remember seeing two trees growing within a few feet of a very deep well and which were every season just loaded with fruit. In pruning, the same care must be taken as with the peach to prevent over-bearing, though the quince wood is not so apt to snap with the weight. All fruit trees are the better for being whitewashed up as far as the branches; it prevents borers and other insect pests.

THE PEAR.

This is a slow grower and so a tardy fruiter. It is generally budded or grafted upon the quince, which is said to improve its size and flavour, though I think it dwarfs the tree. The pear needs a deep loamy soil to do well, and it requires very little pruning beyond thinning out surplus shoots, and trimming off the long straggling branches. Farm and fowl house manure mixed with ashes is best for this tree.

THE APPLE.

This is one of the hardiest fruits grown, and I might say the favorite, for I am sure one sees it on every fruit stall and at every table. It grows in almost every part of these colonies, or rather attempts to, as it does not do over well in the hot parts of Queensland, while about Brisbane and the Downs it grows to perfection. It wants good free soil, doing best where there is some lime in it. Farm yard refuse and ashes is its best manure. In planting an orchard it is best to arrange the same varieties together and those that will ripen at the same time, so as to save time when gathering the fruit for market. One of the best plans I know of to dispose of one's fruit is on the tree, or as is done on some parts of the Hunter, selling the produce of the trees for the season, then the buyer sends his own men to pick the fruits. An orange tree would sell for a few pounds per year; a peach tree the same, and then the grower having no further trouble with the fruit can get on with his other farm work. In this way a large orchard might turn in a very comfortable income.

Land for the orchard should be well worked and manured. Let it be ploughed, cross-ploughed, and ploughed again. One way of arranging the orchard is to prepare it in strips four or five yards wide, so that the trees can be put in and growing while the rest is being ploughed, or if not required the strips of grass can be left in grass. It is well to put as much bone dust into your orchard as possible, as it is good for all trees. Night is the best time to transplant trees, and for oranges and lemons soon after all frost has gone is the best time of year. Make your holes large and deep enough to allow of all the roots spreading to their fullest extent, and trim off any that may have got broken in transit. When the tree is in, and before filling in the earth, pour in some water (soap suds is good if you have it) round the roots of the tree, let it sink in, and then fill in gently round the roots, and press the earth firmly down. Trees subject to blight, or where they are likely to become affected, should be whitewashed. For this purpose there are many washes all no doubt equally good. About the simplest I know of is made by soaking chillies in ordinary lime whitewash. Another is soft soap and kerosene — quarter of a pound of the soap to one gallon of water, and about half a pint of kerosene. Quassia chips and soft soap also make a good wash for blight. In choosing or buying trees it is as well to select them from blight proof stocks, and bud or graft them himself.

In pruning his trees the inexperienced fruit grower often finds a difficulty in distinguishing the fruit buds from the leaf buds, and he may discover when too late that he has cut away all his leaf buds instead of those he should have pruned. The leaf buds of such trees as pear, quince, apple, cherry, are more slender and pointed than the fruit buds — the latter rounded and plump, or what the children call "fat." It is a good plan to pluck one and open it, then compare it with the leaf buds on the tree. The leaf buds on most trees seem to grow closer to the wood, particularly in the apple varieties.

The fruit spurs are merely the shoots that have come from leaf buds and become fruit bearers. Often the leaf buds are in clusters. When pruning a young tree it is sometimes necessary to cut away some of the leaf shoots to prevent it wasting its strength in too much leaf growth. In very warm climates, such as North Queensland, the fruit grower has to adopt a different system of pruning to what he has learned in a colder climate. The short winters and long fruit producing seasons, during which many trees bear two, and even three crops require very vigorous measures.

Many trees if allowed to bear to their full extent so weaken or exhaust themselves that only a whole or a couple of season's rest will restore them. I have known nature herself to rectify this matter by sending forth no fruit buds for several seasons on a young tree that had overborne for two years. And once a grape vine I had which had borne in a most astonishing prolific manner for several seasons running, suddenly stopped bearing altogether for nearly five years.

THE GRAPE.

This is a favorite fruit, and I think quite the most interesting to grow. I have often wondered that women do not take up fruit growing more frequently, it is such a very delightful pursuit, and requires but little study to understand. Any woman might undertake vine culture and she need have no reaching or climbing, which I heard one lady say was her objection when I suggested fruit growing as an occupation for women. The grape requires well drained land, it must have specially good under drainage. A sandy soil is the best, and it need not be particularly rich so long as it is drained well. The side of a hill with a westerly aspect makes a good vineyard, and on a trellis is the best manner of training the vines. The cuttings should be struck first and the strongest selected for planting. For trellising, plant from seven to nine feet apart, and about twelve feet between each row. The first year the vine must be allowed to make as much wood as it will, but allowing but the one strong main stem, and train from this two main arms, a right and a left, starting them at about twenty-two or twenty-three inches from the ground, and leaving spurs at not less than nine or ten inches apart on these arms. In this way, and by careful training and coaxing the shoots into position the vines will have made a good start in the first year. The second year still make wood, and if a few fruit buds show nip them off; they are not very likely to do so unless the vines are old stocks or plants. Do away with all lateral shoots, which are those long shoots springing from the roots or from the sides of the main stem, and when a shoot or branch has grown a certain length top it and let it branch out. In tying up the young shoots it is best to use some soft strips of stuff that cannot cut into the vine.

When a girl, my sisters and myself used to do a good deal of this work among the grape vines in the early morning, which is the best time for it, and we always saved the strips of flannel, selvages, and pieces of soft woollen material for the purpose. Wire makes the best trellis, and three wires are better than four, or if four are used the two lowest should be about six inches apart, and the other two the same, leaving a wide space in the centre between, I have found the best arrangement, as it gives the chance of training the arm of one vine along the top wires, and the next or opposite arm along the lower. Almost every grower has his own pet theory about pruning and how it should be done; the only matter all agree about being the time when it should be done, and which greatly depends upon the season. Generally one is pretty safe to prune in the middle or end of August, or the first week in September, but a sharp look-out must be kept to find out exactly when. Dame Nature is taking a nap preparatory to renewed wakefulness in every joint and section of her big body, just as the vine is thinking of those lovely new shoots she means to put forth, is the time to lop off the old, cut away surplus wood, and so prepare matters for the grand display. As I have just said every one has a pet theory about how to prune, how many eyes or buds to leave, how many main stems, &c., &c. And trivial as the matter may seem to those who know little it really is a very momentous question to those who are interested. In an old well established vine I would leave three buds on each stem, and if on a trellis, from three to four stems. If young vines, say in their first year of bearing, I would leave but two stems, and only one eye or bud on each, and I would nip off all fruit spurs but about three or four, thus paving the way to future supply from the vine. I believe in some places the growers prune one year for a heavy crop and the next for a light. I should think the better plan would be an even bearing each year, and not so trying to the vines. The variety of grape must depend upon your climate, and let me impress upon would-be growers that it does not pay to try new varieties with small experience. Let those who know a lot, experiment, and those who don't can benefit by and bye. The grape has many pests and diseases to trouble it. Oidium is one of the worst, and it must be treated directly it appears, or beforehand, to prevent its appearance at all. It is a species of fungus growth which spreads over both fruit and leaves, mostly in warm damp weather. In appearance it is a sort of mildew, a downy deposit on the leaves, somewhat like, but more defined than, the natural down the leaf has. On the fruit it looks like little specks of mildew. The custom of late years, or ever since this disease first appeared, has been to fumigate from the time the first buds burst on the vines, and with flowers of sulphur and fine lime dust. It is blown over the buds, leaves, etc., from a bellows made for the purpose very early in the morning before the dew is off, or in the evening before the dew begins to fall. This treatment should be repeated periodically, or whenever the vines show signs of the disease. In the winter, and while the vines are at rest, it is as well to paint them with a wash of lime and salt as a preventive against disease and insect life. The proportions of sulphur and for fumigating are, I think, about 20 lbs. of sulphur, 10 lbs. of lime, and about 35 lbs. of sifted wood ashes. This should do a good sized patch of vines. Bone dust, or even old bones buried under the vines make the best manure for grapes, but any ordinary well rotted manure acts beneficially.

GRAFTING WAX.

This is used for covering the new graft in a fruit tree, or when budding trees and plants. Melt together ¾ lb. of bees' wax, ¾ lb. of rosin, and ½ lb. of good tallow or mutton fat. While warm, work it in the hand with a little water.

Another:—Melt over a slow fire 1 lb. of bees' wax with a spoonful of water to prevent burning, stir in 1 lb. of ordinary pitch, mix the two well together, and now stir in nearly 2 lbs. of cow dung, either fresh or else crumbled well up—the fresh is best—boil all this together, stirring well at the same time.

A common and very useful grafting clay can be made by mixing some clay, horse or cow dung, and a little horse hair. It requires beating on a board to make it pliable. When going to use, moisten with a little water.

A WORD ABOUT FRUIT TREES.

Barren fruit trees are constantly met with in almost every orchard. The reason of their non-productiveness is a mystery. Sometimes it may be a want of potash in the soil, or a general poorness. A good plan is to apply ashes to the roots; open up the ground round the roots and dig in two or three barrow loads of wood ashes; also spread them liberally on the surface. Orange trees can often be benefitted by the household soap suds thrown round the tree. To take off smut on orange trees make a wash of wood ashes and water, thick enough to stick to the leaves and branches. It will dry on, but the first shower of rain will take it and the smut off together. When boers attack the trees they should be whitewashed—the wash will generally keep them away.

ORANGE GROWING.

In planting orange seeds the whole orange should be planted. Select a very ripe one, or even let it be rotten, then burst it open and plant. By and bye when the plants come up select those that look strongest, and either transplant or weed out the other. In grafting the orange the common rough skinned lemon is the best. In grafting the Lisbon lemon the common lemon is also the best, and most used as a stock. Both oranges and lemons will bear from pips, but bear quicker when grafted.

A GOOD WASH FOR FRUIT TREES.

Make a strong solution of soft, soap and sulphur or lime, and paint the trunks of the trees affected with blight. It is a very good plan to scrub the trunks of fruit trees the beginning of each season, and to whitewash them all round, from the ground up to the smaller branches.

SCALE AND INSECTS ON TREES.

Many people ignore these pests on their trees at first, because, (as they say) the trees continue to bear and struggle on apparently unharmed against them. But though the trees may do this there comes a time when it is too late to check their ravages, and the trees gradually die. It is wonderful how soon the whole orchard will become affected if one affected tree is in it, therefore, it is only reasonable to say that all tainted trees if not treated at once had better be removed immediately and destroyed. Disease spreads just as fast from a scaley tree as scab will from one scabby sheep in a flock. The best way of all is to avoid the disease by grafting on resistant stock, as then though the trunk and branches may be liable to it, the roots are not.

Scale Insects.—These are the most difficult of all to get rid of, as being so minute they can make their way under the bark and so defy all spraying and washing.

The orange is most affected by these insects, and they appear to attack all trees that are the least weakly and poor in habit. If you examine these tiny creatures under a magnifying glass they will prove of great interest, as they are wonderfully formed for their special mission in life. I have often felt sorry to have to destroy them, they are so—what the Americans call—cunning. One of the best remedies is the following wash :—Cut up ½ lb. of common soap and pour upon it one gallon of boiling water, and stir into it two gallons of kerosene. Mix it all thoroughly together, when it will form a sort of creamy compound, thickening as it cools. Before spraying, dilute the mixture with about eight gallons of milk warm water to each gallon of wash. This is an excellent wash for almost any trees, but care must be taken not to apply it to peach and nectarine trees till late in the season when their leaves have strengthed and toughened. I have given another wash elsewhere in this book.

Mildew on either trees or plants can be cured with sulphide of potash—about 1 ounce to 3 gallons of water. Rose plants when young are very subject to this blight, but if syringed with the above mixture they can be cured in a few days.

HOW TO PLANT STRAWBERRIES.

Dig trenches about 15 or 16 inches deep, and about 16 inches wide, into these put 2 or 3 inches of good manure and then about the same of earth, and continue this until the trench is filled right up. Plant your strawberry plants at each edge of the filled in trench, and about 16 inches apart. When they have fruited the first time you can leave two runners to each plant, which will make them much closer for next season. Keep all weeds down, and work round the plants with a fork in the spring. The second year do not allow any runners, and the third year take up every other row of plants and set in new ones, and this should be done every year after the third, being careful to take up those rows left last year, and no runners should be allowed till the fruit has ripened. Strawberry plants should be dug a few days and left in some cool damp spot before planting, as this plan will allow the sap to draw down to the roots, then when planted it will go to the tops and in a few days small roots will have begun to start.

Always use a line in planting, and the spade, as without the former your rows will not be exactly straight or the same distance apart. Mulch the plants in, and press firmly about the roots—this is a most essential point, as unless firmly placed they are apt to be loosened by the least wind.



TO RUN A BARREL WITHOUT A TRUCK.

This contrivance will be a great boon to those who have to fetch their water by barrel in the bush. You want a good strong barrel with two good heads. Nail a block of wood about four inches square in the centre of each head, fasten it on securely. Insert two three-quarter inch long screws in each block so as to act as axles. To these fasten two pieces of chain, just long enough to reach the chines of the barrel, and then make a short rope fast to the chains. By this means the barrel can be hauled anywhere, and will turn or revolve like a wheel. One person can easily roll a barrel of water in this way.