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The Renovating of Old Orchards

trees, tree, time, roots and spring


I think it must have been a Connecticut Yankee who first con ceived the idea that there was money in the rejuvenatioii of old orchards. It must have been on sonic long daytime journey in New England, when the neglected mid abandoned orchards flitted in rapid succession past the car window, reminding him of the hopefulness of an earlier gener ation, and the faithlessness of the later ones. Possibly there was no sentiment in his mind as the project took definite shape. Sense of a shrewd sort there certainly was. In the eastern states there are a few men to-day that make a good living in the following way. They rent old and neglected orchards for a term of years, put them into bearing condi tion, and market the fruit at a good profit. There are no new prin ciples involved in the undertakings—only the vigorous application of old and tried ones. Ohl orchards made over can never be as good as new ones carefully tended from the first. But there is a saving of time. An old tree can much more quickly he forced into profit able tearing than a nursery tree can be grown to bearing age. 'Frees live to great age in the eastern states. If one is not badly broken and diseased it is generally worth making over.

To succeed in this enterprise a man needs experience and capital. Ile must understand the care of fruit trees, and he must buy tools, hire men, and give his time to snpervision and actual work. Several orchards must be rented to justify these investments. It is inspiring indeed to note the thorough-going manner in which sonic of these old orchards are overhauled, and to see how they take on new life. In the winter time the trees are stripped of all dead limbs, and their tops are severely cut back and thinned. They are shaped to conform to the ideals of the new husbandman. Splitting forks are clamped together. old wounds are trimmed and scraped, poulticed with graft ing \vax and bandaged with burlaps. Fresh wounds are covered with paint or with Bordeaux mixture. A thorough spraying with kerosene and water, or with a good resin wash, is given if scale insects are found.

With the opening of spring, work on the ground begins. The feeding of the trees is all important. The soil aho•e, and a inof ig their feeding roots must be put into the best possible physical condition, and then it must be enriched by fertilizers. It is no easy matter to tear up the sod and to break the hard cakes of earth that encase the gnarled roots of old apple trees. The st congest plows break under the test unless the greatest caution is exercised in their management. Sometimes corn is buried with crowbars, and hogs are turned in to root for it, and thus plow the land ! By any method much root -pruning is done. But the good effects outweigh the ill in these heroic measures. Tillage fits the land for holding moisture, and this moisture takes up the soil's fertility and carries it into the trees. 'Very often tillage, by rendering available this fertility, makes unnecessary the addition of commercial fertilizers.

Oftener than not, however, the renter of orchards does not wait to see how his trees get on without help. lie sprinkles some nitrate of soda., or other compound_ of nitrogen about their roots, and watches eagerly for results after the rain washes it into the soil. '[I effect is seen at once in the vigor and fine color of the new shoots.

If the varieties are to he changed, the top-working should he (lone as the sap rises in the spring. It is imperative that the trees be thoroughly sprayed with Paris green and Bordeaux mixture just as the buds are swelling. This is the orchardist's Golden Rule. It is his insurance against fungi and insects. This year may turn out to be the one when the bud moth does little damage; but you never can tell. If the insect appears, there is the poison which will be its effectual undoing. The wash of Bordeaux mixture destroys the spores of the fungi that would if unchecked manifest themselves in early spring.

It may be one, or it may be two or three years before these trees yield a paying crop of apples. They are years filled with hard work and thought. Spraying, pruning, tilling, fertilizing—these are operations that demand continuous industry and intelligence. Always problems arise that tax the judgment of the superintendent. For instance, over-feeding sets trees to excessive wood-production. A zeal ous young manager in his anxiety to force the trees to their utmost capacity may iind to his dismay that it is forestry rather than fiwit raising that he is drifting into. Again, a tree may seem to be standing still while its neighbors are growing. It is probably intik bound. A slit or two made by cutting through the bark lengthwise of the trunk and the largest limbs will relieve the trouble. The widen ing seam will gradually be closed by healing tissue, as the tree resumes growth. Sometimes lusty trees that run all to wood may be f•iqhtened into bearing by girdling a limb here and there, or by taking a narrow belt of bark—not too deep—from the trunk. The instinct of race preservation sets the tree to making seeds.

I do not begrudge the Yankee apple tree regenerator one cent of the profits lie makes. I say. rather, "May his tribe increase! and ‘• May others follow his good It. is a worthy thing to turn a waste place into a garden. The neighbor folks who kep an' a-pshawin' when he came a stran,(rer them and began his work now wonder at the quantity and the (luality of the fruit he ships out of those erstwhile good-h».-nothing orchards. There is inspir ation and encouragement for them all in the success lie has achieved.

It is one of the limitations of our frail humanity that we straightway forget the words of the man who tells us how to do (/ thin/. But the lesson taught by the man who does the thing lnfore oar eyes sinks deep. We cannot forget it if we would.