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 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 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, 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 tractors 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 basement 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.
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
local Cooperative Extension Service. 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 catalogs 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.
APPLESWithout any question, the apple is far and away the most valuable
fruit, both because of its greater scope of usefulness and its longer
season--the last of the winter's Russets are still juicy and firm when
the first Early Harvests and Red Astrachans are tempting the "young
idea" to experiment with colic. Plant but a small proportion of early
varieties, for the late ones are better. Out of a dozen trees, I would
put in one early, three fall, and the rest winter sorts.
Among the summer apples are several deserving special mention: Yellow
Transparent is the earliest. It is an old favorite and one of the most
easily grown of all apples. Its color is indicated by the name, and it
is a fair eating-apple and a very good cooker. Red Astrachan, another
first early, is not quite so good for cooking, but is a delicious
eating-apple of good size. An apple of more recent introduction and
extremely hardy (hailing first from Russia), and already replacing the
above sorts, is Livland (Livland Raspberry). The tree is of good form,
very vigorous and healthy. The fruit is ready almost as soon as Yellow
Transparent, and is of much better quality for eating. In appearance it
is exceptionally handsome, being of good size, regular form and having
those beautiful red shades found almost exclusively in the later
apples. The flesh is quality is fully up to its appearance. The white,
crisp-breaking flesh, most aromatic, deliciously sub-acid, makes it
ideal for eating. A neighbor of mine sold $406 worth of fruit from
twenty trees to one dealer. For such a splendid apple McIntosh is
remarkably hardy and vigorous, succeeding over a very wide territory,
and climate severe enough to kill many of the other newer varieties.
The Fameuse (widely known as the Snow) is an excellent variety for
northern sections. It resembles the McIntosh, which some claim to be
derived from it. Fall Pippin, Pound Sweet and Twenty Ounce, are other
popular late autumns.
In the winter section, Baldwin, which is too well known to need
describing, is the leading commercial variety in many apple districts,
and it is a good variety for home growing on account of its hardiness
and good cooking and keeping qualities; but for the home orchard, it is
far surpassed in quality by several others. In northern sections, down
to the corn line, Northern Spy is a great favorite. It is a large,
roundish apple, with thin, tender, glossy skin, light to deep carmine
over light yellow, and an excellent keeper. In sections to which it is
adapted it is a particularly vigorous, compact, upright grower.
Jonathan is another splendid sort, with a wider range of conditions
favorable for growth. It is, however, not a strong-growing tree and is
somewhat uncertain in maturing its fruit, which is a bright, clear red
of distinctive flavor. It likes a soil with more clay than do most
apples. In the Middle West and Middle South, Grimes (Golden) has made a
great local reputation in many sections, although in others it has not
done well at all.
The Spitzenberg (Esopus) is very near the top of the list of all late
eating-apples, being at its prime about December. It is another
handsome yellow-covered red apple, with flesh slightly yellowish, but
very good to the taste. The tree, unfortunately, is not a robust
grower, being especially weak in its earlier stages, but with good
cultivation it will not fail to reward the grower for any extra care it
may have required.
These, and the other notable varieties, for which there is not room
here to describe, make up the following list, from which the planter
should select according to locality:
Earliest or Summer:--Early Harvest, Yellow Transparent, Red
Astrachan, Benoni (new), Chenango, Sweet Bough, Williams' Favorite,
Early Strawberry, Livland Raspberry.
Early Autumn:--Alexander, Duchess, Porter, Gravenstein, McIntosh
Late Autumn:--Jefferies, Fameuse (Snow), Maiden's Blush,
Wealthy, Fall Pippin, Pound Sweet, Twenty Ounce, Cox Orange,
Winter:--Baldwin, Rhode Island Greening, Northwestern Greening,
Jonathan, Northern Spy, Yellow, Swaar, Delicious, Wagener, King,
Esopus, Spitzenberg, Yellow Bellflower, Winter Banana, Seek-no-further,
Talman Sweet, Roxbury Russett, King David, Stayman's Winesap, Wolf
PEARSPears are more particular than apples in the matter of being adapted to
sections and soils. Submit your list to your local Cooperative Extension Service
before ordering trees. Many of the standard sorts may be had where a
low-growing, spreading tree is desired (for instance, quince-stock
pears might be used to change places with the plums). Varieties
suitable for this method are listed below. They are given approximately
in the order of the ripening:
Wilder: Early August, medium in size, light yellow, excellent quality.
Does not rot at the core, as so many early pears are liable to do.
Margaret: Oblong, greenish, yellow to dull red.
Clapp Favorite: Very large, yellow pear. A great bearer and good
keeper--where the children cannot get at it.
Howell: A little later than the foregoing; large, bright yellow,
strong-growing tree and big bearer.
Duchesse d'Angouleme: Large greenish yellow, sometimes reaching huge
size; will average better than three-quarters of a pound. The quality,
despite its size, is splendid.
Seckel: Small in size, but renowned for exquisite flavor--being
probably the most universally admired of all.
Beurre Superfine: October, medium size, excellent quality.
Bartlett: The best known of all pears, and a universal favorite.
Succeeds in nearly all sections.
Anjou: One of the best keepers, and very productive. One of the best in
flavor, rich and vinous.
For trees of the standard type the following are worthy of note:
Congress (Souvenir du C.): A very large summer sort. Handsome.
Belle Lucrative: September to October.
Winter Nelis: Medium size, but of excellent quality and the longest
Kieffer: Very popular for its productiveness, strength of growth and
exceptional quality of fruit for canning and preserving. Large fruit,
if kept thinned. Should have a place in every home garden.
Josephine de Malines: Not a great yielder but
of the very highest quality, being of the finest texture
and tempting aroma.
PEACHESSuccess with peaches also will depend largely upon getting varieties
adapted to climate. The white-fleshed type is the hardiest and best for
eating; and the free-stones are for most purposes, especially in the
home garden, more desirable than the "clings."
Greensboro is the best early variety. Crawford is a universal favorite
and goes well over a wide range of soil and climate. Champion is one of
the best quality peaches and exceptionally hardy. Elberta, Ray, and
Hague are other excellent sorts. Mayflower is the earliest sort yet
PLUMSThe available plums are of three classes--the natives, Europeans and
Japans; the natives are the longest-lived, hardier in tree and blossom,
and heavier bearers.
The best early is Milton; brilliant red, yellow and juicy flesh.
Wildgoose and Whitaker are good seconds. Mrs. Cleveland is a later and
larger sort, of finer quality. Three late-ripening plums of the finest
quality, but not such prolific yielders, are Wayland, Benson and Reed,
and where there is room for only a few trees, these will be best. They
will need one tree of Newman or Prairie Flower with them to assure
setting of the fruit. Of the Europeans, use Reine Claude (the best),
Bradshaw or Shropshire. Damson is also good. The Japanese varieties
should go on high ground and be thinned, especially during their first
years. My first experience with Japanese plums convinced me that I had
solved the plum problem; they bore loads of fruit, and were free from
disease. That was five years ago. Last spring the last one was cut and
burned. Had they been planted at the top of a small hill, instead of at
the bottom, as they were, and restricted in their bearing, I know from
later experience that they would still be producing fruit. The most
satisfactory varieties of the Japanese type are Abundance and Red June.
Burbank is also highly recommended,
CHERRIESCherries have one advantage over the other fruits--they give quicker
returns. But, as far as my experience goes, they are not as long-lived.
The sour type is hardier, at least north of New Jersey, than the sweet.
It will probably pay to try a few of the new and highly recommended
varieties. Of the established sorts Early Richmond is a good early, to
be followed by Montmorency and English Morello. Windsor is a good sweet
cherry, as are also Black Tartarian, Sox, Wood and Yellow Spanish.
All the varieties mentioned above are proved sorts. But the lists are
being added to constantly, and where there is a novelty strongly
recommended by a reliable nurseryman it will often pay to try
it out--on a very small scale at first.