Cultivation of Fruit Trees
APPLES (Pyrus Malus)
All the apples in cultivation are actually varieties of the common Crab apple. They are probably the most popular of all fruits in the home garden, partly because most varieties can be stored for use as required. They can be grown as ordinary bush trees, or as trained cordons, or espaliers. Standards and half-standards are also obtainable, but these are not so commonly planted, and are not recommended except where an ornamental tree is wanted, for instance, a specimen tree on a lawn.
The best aspect for planting apples (and other fruits) is probably on a slightly northern slope. The reason for this is that frost on the trees in the very early morning is far more harmful if sun shines directly on it, so that it thaws quickly. If it thaws out slowly, frost appears to do little damage. A very low-lying valley is unsuitable for fruit culture of most kinds, but a cold windy hill top is equally unsuitable. If possible, therefore, the site for apples should be on the side of a hill, where there is any preference.
Almost any kind ofis suitable for apple growing. That is to say any kind of soil can be made suitable. Good drainage is absolutely essential as the roots of apples penetrate very deeply. Very chalky sub-soils are possibly less desirable than gravel sub-soils, but actually any kind of soil, if it is deeply dug and suitably manured to make the upper layer of soil porous and friable, will produce good fruit.
In preparing the soil, old decayed stable manure should be used if obtainable, and a good dressing of lime should be given to every kind of soil before planting. Chalk is a form of lime that is best suited to gardens where the soil is light and sandy.
The distance apart for apples is according to the type of tree used. Cordons on walls or along side paths are planted 2 ft. apart; espaliers are planted ft. apart against walls; bush trees are planted 10 to 12 ft. apart. (Standards and half-standards would need more room.) Planting should be done in the manner already described, and the trees staked immediately, whatever their kind.
A newly-planted apple tree is most likely to suffer from the effects of long drought, and to avoid this, a mulch of well-rotted stable manure should be spread over the soil surface round each tree. This also ensures that the tree has a good supply of plant food, so that it makes rapid growth the first season. Stable manure after the first year, is given as required, an annual dressing being usually desirable, until the tree is fully grown.
Regulate Food Supplies
The feeding of apples can be taken as typical of the use of fertilizers all over the fruit garden. The tree must be examined each year to see what amount of new growth it makes, and how it fruits. If a tree makes a large quantity of new stems of healthy appearance, but does not fruit well, it is a sign that it is well supplied with nitrogenous food, but not sufficiently supplied with phosphatic food. If, however, the trees fruit well but make very little new growth, stable manure may be given liberally as this supplies a considerable quantity of nitrogen, and thus promotes the formation of leaf and stem. All apples should be given a dressing of potash annually. It is an essential fertilizer for this fruit, and sulphate of potash at the rate of one ounce per square yard, or four ounces for each well-established tree, should be applied to the soil annually. It can be given in the form of kainit in November, or pure sulphate of potash (ie. purified kainit) in spring.
When a young tree is supplied from a nursery during the winter months, it is probable that no pruning is required that season, since any that needs to be done will have been done in the nursery. The second winter it should, however, be pruned fairly drastically. As regards subsequent pruning the point to remember is that hard pruning induces vigorous growth. Light pruning only is practised when the tree is growing well, and more fruit then results.
All that the novice needs to do in order to understand the instructions for pruning, is to distinguish between leaders and side shoots, and between fruit and leaf buds. Leaders are the main branches of a tree, that is to say, they are the top, newly-grown parts of these main branches. The side shoots or laterals are the other growths that come from these branches, and these are for the most part pruned back so as to leave the tree with, as it were, a number of cordon stems, radiating from the main trunk.
Winter pruning consists in cutting the laterals back to about an inch or two from the old wood. This leaves about four or five buds on the lateral growth. Some of these will develop during the growing season into fresh lateral growths, but some should swell into fruit buds. A fruit bud is, of course, fatter and rounder than a leaf bud.
Pruning in later years consists in repeating this operation, always leaving the fruit buds and one or two other buds on the laterals, but cutting away the unwanted ends of the laterals. The leader is treated according to whether an extension of the tree is wanted or not. If the tree is growing healthily, some of the main branches are allowed to remain nearly full length, only the tips being cut off during the winter pruning. When the tree has attained full size the leaders are cut back more severely. The difficulty with apples is that some apples tend to produce fruit buds on the tips of the laterals instead of at the base, near the old wood. As a rule, shortening the laterals in the way described induces the formation of fruit buds near to the old wood, but where these do not readily appear, the laterals are best pruned more lightly, leaving about six buds on them. Fruit buds that are observed at the tops of stems at pruning time are, of course, allowed to remain.