Fruits[edit | edit source]
Fruit raising can succeed in either of two ways. Either planting the orchard in some one fruit and specializing thereon, or diversifying the operation to cover many varieties. In the first way it is usual to establish orchards in favorable localities without special regard to nearness to market; because in these days of refrigerator car lines the product of an orchard in any part of the country can be sent to market quickly enough to avoid loss. Where many varieties are grown, the best site is usually near a large city where the grower can market his own product on wagons and get the benefit of retail prices.
Remember that it is far more profitable to raise twenty baskets of fine, well-shaped, clean, handsome apples or peaches or any other hand-eaten fruit, than to raise a hundred barrels of stuff that is good only for the common drier or for the mill or hogpen.
Care and common sense are the jackscrews to use in raising fine fruit.
The apple is the great American fruit for extensive orcharding. The question is whether there is a profit in apple growing. The answer is, where the conditions are favorable and when the business is well conducted there is. Under average conditions, with poor business management, there is little or none.
As Professor S. T. Maynard in _Suburban Life _tells us, "In a suburban garden of one of our Eastern cities are seven Astrachan trees, about twenty years old, from which have been sold in a single season over one hundred dollars' worth of fruit. A friend near Boston put three thousand barrels of picked Baldwins into cold storage. None of the fancy apples sold for less than three dollars a barrel, and the others netted more than two dollars. They were the product of less than forty acres of trees which had been planted about twenty-five years. Another fruit grower showed me several returns of commission men of five, six, and even seven dollars a barrel for fancy Baldwins. At such prices, and under such conditions, there is a large profit in apple growing."
"The other side of the picture, however, is the more common one. A friend sent fifty barrels of fancy Baldwins to a commission house,to be shipped to European markets, the returns for which were just enough to pay for the barrels. The majority of apples grown in the United States are sold to buyers, one buyer in each section, for a dollar to two dollars for No. 1 quality, and a dollar for No. 2.
With the cost of barrels at about forty cents, labor for picking,sorting, and packing, these prices leave little or nothing for the use of the land, cost of fertilizers, spraying, thinning, etc., all of which are necessary for growing fruit of the best quality."
Holmes further says, in substance, that we must make the trees grow vigorously, whether upon poor or good soil. Growth is the first requirement. To do this, we need a strong, deep, moist soil,--good grass land well underdrained makes the best. If this is on an elevation with a northern or western exposure, it will be better than a southern or an eastern one. While apple trees will grow on a thin soil, so much care and fertilizing is required that the crop will be of little or no profit upon such land. Lastly, we must protect our fruit from insect and fungous pests.
On land that is free from stones and not too steep, thorough and frequent cultivation will give the quickest and largest returns. On such land, hoed garden or farm crops may be profitable while the trees are small, but after five or six years it will generally be found best to cultivate it entirely for the growth of trees. Organic matter in the form of stable manure or cover crops will be needed,and must be applied in the fall or very early in the spring to keep up the supply of humus in the soil.
Stony land that cannot be plowed or cultivated except at a great cost may be made to grow good crops of fruit.
While the trees are young, the soil should be worked about them for the space of a few feet and then the moisture retained by a mulch system, making use of any waste organic matter like straw, leaves,meadow hay, brush, and weeds cut before they seed. Most of the first prize apples at the Pan-American Exposition at Buffalo were grown under the "turf-culture" system.
Unless you have trees already on your land, it is too long to wait six or seven years for a crop. We can graft good fruit on almost any tree, though the new dwarf trees will bear much sooner, and if we have trees we need not even wait for the harvest of our crop, since the windfalls will keep us in apple sauce, jellies, and pies, for no apple is too green for apple sauce, not even the ones that the boys can't bite.
The greatest difficulty in the profitable growth of the apple is the market. Much of the profit in apple growing, whether in the East or the West, will depend upon the extent of the business done,especially if one is a considerable distance from markets. The above are the essentials noted by this practical scientist. Next to the apple crop, perhaps the most important fruit crop for shipping is the peach. The locality is perhaps the most important consideration in a peach orchard. In the Eastern and Southern states, and in Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia, and, of late years, Georgia, peaches flourish and produce enormous crops. As a general rule, the nearer the orchard is to large bodies of water,the more likely one is to get a crop, as the temperature of the water prevents a too early budding out in the spring and delays killing autumn frosts.
Generally speaking, a sandy, porous soil is best for peaches, but they may be raised on clay lands if provided with plenty of humus.
Another fruit which is profitable in districts suited to its growth is the grape. Bulletin No. 153, Cornell Experiment Station, says: "Grapes are a dessert fruit. They are not used to a large extent in the kitchen (though they might be), so there are few incidental or secondary products; that is, they are not dried, canned, made into jellies, and the like, to any extent, that is, in the United States.
The grape is peculiarly a sectional product. Central New York has a large area devoted to it. In northern Ohio, a strip along Lake Erie,and some of its islands, are devoted almost exclusively to grape vineyards. In districts where grapes are intensively grown, a great part of the crop is used for wine, and American wine is extensively sold m our home markets, although it frequently has foreign labels.
Any one purchasing a farm should plant some grapevines for home use.
Grape juice is easily made and kept and is a pleasing beverage.
Grape jelly is excellent and could be readily marketed in any nearby town, since there is very little, comparatively, on sale. A grape arbor gives shade, needs little care, and can be planted near the house where it will not interfere with the crops. For you cannot cultivate all of your land; some grassy space must be left around the house if only for drying clothes. But if ground is scarce, vines or lima beans can be trained up the back porch or up the sunny side of the house; or a few climbing nasturtiums will give decorations without care, while the young leaves make a good salad.
Of home orchard fruits, the plum, pear, and quince are all profitable specialties, especially for intensive acre raising. In general, the same remark may be made of them as of the other fruits,that they need careful selection of land to get the best results.
The cherry has recently come to be recognized as a good commercial specialty. Mr. George T. Powell, in _The American Agriculturist,_says: "The crop is a precarious one to market.... The risk and loss may be largely reduced by making a proper selection of site for the orchard. This should be on high ground where the air generally circulates freely. This is especially necessary for sweet varieties.
The soil should be rich, with naturally good drainage."
He says: "I have had Rockport trees produce four hundred pounds each and the fruit net ten cents a pound for the entire crop. The English Morello trees may be grown fifteen feet apart each way, which will allow two hundred trees to the acre. The larger trees ought to be planted somewhat thinner.... Cherries are packed largely in eight-pound baskets and in strawberry quarts. Each basket is filled with carefully assorted fruit, every imperfect specimen being taken out, after which they are faced by placing the stems downward so that the cherry shows in regular rows upon the face. Girls and women do this work. The Eastern fruit grower must bear in mind that he has to meet in his market the competition of the Pacific coast growers,who excel in fine packing; and although our Eastern grown cherries are of a finer flavor, they are sent to the market in such a crude manner and in such unattractive condition that they sell for much less than the California fruit."
Regarding bush berries, he says, you will get a small crop the second year after planting and for the third and subsequent years a full crop. The important thing is to keep the dead canes well pruned out, as the cane borer is one of the worst insect pests. When they appear they can be stopped by cutting off the shoot several inches below the puncture as soon as it begins to droop, and burning the part cut off. Again, Mr. Powell says, "Currants require rich soil.
A clay or heavy loam is better than a heavy dry soil. They should be planted in the fall. The average from ten thousand bushes should be about four quarts each. The cherry currant is perhaps the largest in size, but not so prolific as some others. Currants are shipped and sold in thirty-two quart crates and have to be carefully packed to get to market in good condition."
Gooseberries are raised by the acre. Mr. A. M. Brown, Kent County,Delaware, in _The American Agriculturist, _tells of a plantation in Central Delaware where over twenty four thousand pounds were gathered from a scant four acres. The product was sold to the Baltimore canners for six cents a pound, making $1440 in all. In addition to the gooseberries grown on six acres, a large crop each of apples and pears were grown on the same ground. Like currants,the gooseberry must be sprayed to destroy the worms, and cut back and burnt to destroy the cane borer.
There is little special knowledge required, however, in raising this fruit, and it is well adapted for growers with small acreage and little money.
In going into the cultivation of bush fruits, it is usually best to grow them in great variety near the market where they are to be sold. The bush fruits are then uniformly profitable. In _Suburban Life _Mr. E. C. Powell tells us that the spring is the best time for planting raspberries and blackberries, just as soon as the ground is dry enough to work. The first season the plots should be well tilled. It is possible to grow vegetables between the rows the first year before the berries begin to bear, but unless pressed for space,it probably doesn't pay.
Perhaps the best of small fruits, however, and most largely used is the strawberry. The strawberry can be planted by the acre. The ground must be rich loam and plenty of humus, well drained, with a southern exposure. Well-grown plants set out in the open will bear a small crop the first season, but will not become of maximum bearing till the second year. After the crop is taken off in the fall a mulch of straw or leaves should be placed over the plants to protect them during the winter. The strawberries are picked by boys and girls.
The strawberry is an exceedingly profitable crop if properly handled, and is one of the best small fruits for people with little capital. While the price in the general market varies from fifteen to thirty cents per quart, they sometimes run as high as fifty in the early spring; yet it is possible to grow strawberries worth six dollars a quart by intensive culture in greenhouses. Mr. S. W.
Fletcher, in _Country Life in America, _says: "The forcing of strawberries is a specialized industry of the highest type.
Everybody cannot make it pay everywhere.... Strawberries are forced in pots or in benches. The pot method is preferred by those who find a demand for the highest quality of fruit regardless of expense....
If fruit is desired for Christmas, the plants are not checked to any extent, but are kept in continuous growth. The conditions of springtime are simulated as far as possible. At Christmas time a quart box of forced Marshall strawberries sells at from one-fifty to eight dollars per quart, averaging about four dollars."
Our most valuable allies against the insect armies are toads, bats,wasps, dragon flies, and birds; they enjoy the battle.
There cannot be too many toads or bats. Toads will eat all sorts of flies, potato bugs, squash bugs, rose bugs, caterpillars, and almost anything that crawls.
If the wasps become a nuisance, it is easy to poison them; but the birds are often a nuisance--the robins eat the strawberries and cherries the instant they are ripe. They soon get used to scarecrows; and to cover the fruit with nets gives the insects a free hand. Some growers raise sweet cherries or other fruits specially to feed up the birds so that they will let the rest alone.
Early rising and a plenty of cats is about the best remedy. A man,or even a woman, working on the land is the best scarecrow.
There are a few other fruits that grow wild in certain sections and are gathered and sent to market. Among these the cranberry is the most important. It grows in nearly inaccessible bogs, principally in New Jersey, and the usual custom is for owners of land on which there are cranberry bogs to let out the bog to pickers on a percentage basis. Cranberries can be cultivated, and there is a considerable profit in the business. The swampy nature of the ground needed, however, will deter all except the most persistent from this industry. Some cranberry bogs bring as high as a thousand dollars an acre.
The blueberry or huckleberry, or, as we call it in Ireland, the bilberry, or frohen, grows wild in the northerly states, and is much sought after in the market. Many efforts have been made to grow the blueberry commercially; but, as is well said by Mr. J. H. Hale in the _Rural New Yorker,_ "The blueberry proved to be a good deal like Indians--it would not stand civilization, and was never satisfactory, although I monkeyed with it for a period of about ten years." Mr. Fred W. Card, of Rhode Island, in the same issue reports a similar experience. With our present knowledge of the blueberry,it is doubtful if it can be made a commercially cultivated crop.
Lately, however, it is claimed that it can be grown in very poor,non-nitrogenous soil.
A variety, however, called the Garden Blueberry, gives almost incredible yields, five bushels being reported from sixty plants. It keeps all winter _on the branches, _if stored in a cellar, and is of fine flavor and especially good for preserves. A little frost improves it.
But wild berries, crab apples, and elderberries and others, are good to preserve and find a ready sale if attractively put up; they also help out tile table greatly. Then think of the fun!
In recent years, certain varieties of nuts, like the English walnut,the pecan, and the hickory nuts have been grown commercially. In the South particularly, the pecan has been found a good crop to plant on cotton plantations which have been overworked. In the _Rural New Yorker, _Mr. H. E. Vandevan gives an account of an old cotton plantation of 2250 acres Iying on the west bank of the Mississippi River in Louisiana. The pecan tree was indigenous to the land, and the wooded portion of the plantation has thousands of giant pecan trees growing on it. The previous owners of this plantation had done all in their power to destroy these trees, but they flourished in spite of that. Mr. Vandevan, however, saw in the pecan a large profit, and he has planted ten thousand trees on six hundred acres,all in a solid block. The trees are set fifty feet apart both ways,except where a roadway is left. Between the pecan trees Mr. Vandevan has planted fig trees for early returns, with the intention of canning the fruit.
The English walnut is grown principally in California. Its value has been recognized only recently, as all of the nut crops take a good many years before the trees begin to bear. Nut growing on a small scale is not of much value to a man with a little bit of land,except as an additional source of income.
If you find a sweet chestnut tree or a shell-bark hickory or two in your wood lot, they will well repay protection and careful cultivation.
If you don't, why--there are great promises in quick maturing nut trees. There is now an English walnut which is claimed to bear the third or even the second year after setting out. My own small experience with these in New Jersey, however, has not been a success.