Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

Article Index





     A paper read by JACOB GOOD, of Coffeyville, Kan., before the Kansas State Horticultural Society, at a summer meeting in Coffeyville, June 22, 1898.

Beginning in the early Roman period, the apple has been handed down through the successive ages as the standard fruit. True, the hard, bitter, uneatable crab or wild apple of former times was not much like the tempting apple of to-day; yet it is the parent of all, or nearly all, the varieties of apples so much prized at the present time. From its great hardiness, easy cultivation, and long continuance through the whole twelve months, it may be styled the "king" of all fruits. The apple tree is now one of the most widely diffused of fruit-trees, and in the estimation of many is the most valuable. But what has brought about this great change in tree and fruit? The same cause which makes the man of America or Europe superior to the tribes of northern Africa or India. The same cause by which the most wonderful inventions of any age have been placed before the public, viz., cultivation and constant attention. Having made these questions a study for twenty-five years or more, and having gathered all the points possible from the experience of the fruit-growers with whom we have come in contact, we have become thoroughly convinced that the growth of a perfect fruit is possible in this climate. One of the main difficulties in a general fruit-growing business is encountered in a hard subsoil--too hard when it is dry and too soft and yielding when wet. Deep and thorough draining is therefore a great requisite in tree culture.

The next step would be the means for securing plenty of moisture. We would first open trenches each way not less than twenty-five feet apart. They should be thrown out as deep as can be done with a plow, then followed by subsoiler twelve to eighteen inches deep. Draw the surface earth back into the crosses creating a mound. Plant the trees there and fill up the ditches by back-furrowing, and bring the land to a perfect level. It will not pay to plant trees on hard-pan soil without preparation. It is better to avoid the hard-pan altogether, and select a deep, rich subsoil. Trees planted in river bottoms have been known to be vigorous and productive after twenty-five years; while those on the prairie hard-pan planted at the same time have entirely disappeared. The best time for planting is in November, in order that the fiber roots may be ready for the first warm days of February. Nice, healthy trees, from two to three years old, should be selected; cut the tops back and trim off most of the fiber roots. The reason for cutting the tops back is to make the tree more productive, more easily harvested, and to aid in keeping off the tree borers, of which we will speak later. Our orchards should not be allowed to grow up in waste and neglect, neither should they be planted in those things which sap the life of the soil and leave nothing to sustain the tree. One of the main causes of non-productiveness of the apple orchard is land starvation. An orchard cannot produce fruit in addition to a crop of wheat, oats, rye, etc.; and so, if a man continues to take off crops of these every year, he simply does it at the expense of his trees. There are crops, however, which may be used with good effect, such as corn, peas, hay, potatoes, etc. In this the owner gets the profit of his fruit and also the use of his land. Yet, with all our care of the soil, minuteness in following directions as to setting out and trimming, etc., there are other difficulties still to overcome.

Many kinds of insects may infest the trunks and larger branches of the trees. Among them are the apple-tree louse, round- and flathead borers, San Jose scale, canker-worm, tent-caterpillar, etc. I would name the borers and San Jose scale [None yet found in the state.--Sec.] as being the worst of the pests with which to contend. The borers attack the trunks and larger limbs of the trees; they seek the sunny side of the tree, not being found where the sap is abundant or where there is a continual shade. Under the first they drown, and under the last they weaken and die. This is a strong argument in favor of low heading and shady growth of the trees. The parent of the borer, a long, green or pale brown beetle, may be caught and destroyed, but it is not to be presumed that all the beetles can be caught; it becomes necessary to examine the trees quite often, in order to destroy the worms hatched from the eggs of the uncaptured beetles. To detect the spots which indicate the whereabouts of these worms is, to the inexperienced, quite a difficult undertaking; for during the spring, and until quite late in the summer, there are no external marks save a small speck, or perhaps a dark blue line so fine that it will not attract the attention of those not understanding the cause. When they are first detected a sharp knife may be used to remove them, but if they have entered the wood, about the only way of removing them is by means of a probe made of common broom wire, with which to thrust them through or drag them out of their holes.

The San Jose scale, a native of Australia, was first found on the American continent in California in 1873. It has not troubled Kansas yet, but it is quite prevalent in the Western States, and, as it spreads rapidly, it is much feared. Its detection is almost the work of a specialist, yet there are a few general characteristics which may be detected by the naked eye; for instance, the bark of the tree loses its vigorous, healthy appearance, and takes on a rough, gray, scurfy deposit. As yet I have heard of no permanent cure. Spraying has a great deal to do with keeping off the insects--of which the canker-worm is getting to be one of the worst--from the upper branches of the trees. It is a mistake to think that a tree should not be sprayed because it has not been infested by any insect or fungous growth. The attacks of both are often unnoticed at first, and the man who is not prepared for them often neglects spraying until it is too late to save the crop of that year.

My experience in regard to the varieties of apples grown has been quite varied. My first orchard, in 1871, did well; I took great pains in setting it out, and for five years there were none of the injurious insects which make us so much trouble. In my second orchard, ten years later, I made great mistakes in the varieties I chose, some of them not being adapted to either soil or climate. By the time I set my third orchard, six years from then, my experience had taught me that the varieties which were best for home and commercial purposes, and which were best adapted to both the soil and climate, were the Ben Davis, Missouri Pippin, and Mother, and in these varieties I planted most of my orchard. The habits of the Ben Davis and Missouri Pippin are too well known to need further description. In my orchard I found them both short-lived. My Ben Davis began to die out at twenty years, and a very few reached the age of twenty-six. The Mother is an apple not so well known. It originated at Bolton, Mass. Tree is moderately vigorous, upright, and productive; one of the best apples on the list there, and I consider it equally so here. Thomas, the American fruit culturist, in his description of the apple, says it is rather large, oblong, ovate, approaching conical; slightly and obtusely ribbed; color a light, warm, rich red, on a yellow ground; moderately juicy, rich, very mild subacid, with a mixture of sweet. Growth slow; late autumnal and early winter. However, it ripens earlier in this climate; follows the Maiden's Blush. Downing says no orchard is complete without it.

While the Ben Davis, Missouri Pippin and Mother are my favorites for productiveness, we have other varieties that are quite productive and long-lived trees, such as the Early Margaret or Striped June, that is an annual and profuse bearer and one of our earliest. Duchess of Oldenburg has never failed with me. Maiden's Blush has given good success. We have the Romanite, Rawle's Janet and Limber Twig that are good keepers, but owing to size are not desirable for home use or market. I find more complaint of the Ben Davis than any other apple, though its beauty invariably causes it to sell. My greatest mistake in planting was in selecting Rhode Island Greening and Nonsuch, which have proven almost non-bearers. The trees are healthy and grow almost like an elm or oak. A number of varieties, such as the Mammoth Black Twig, Arkansas Black, Muklen, Rome Beauty, I have not fruited, and cannot tell as to their qualities in this locality. In all my experience in the apple line I find that no orchard will grow and bear without attention, and constant attention at that. The apple tree requires as much interest from its owner as cattle do from the stock-raiser. From a tiny seed, it is subject to disease and pests which, if not destroyed, will destroy it. I would say in conclusion that success in apple raising comes only through eternal vigilance.