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Tillage of the Young Orchard.
bend low with fruit. An implement of the grapehoe type may be used with advantage in some cases to loosen the earth about the trees. A single-horse plow, with a set-over beam (as in Fig. 16), is also most excellent for plowing close to trees and bushes. The objection to medium-low heads to trees arises from the use of the old-fashioned implements of tillage, and also from a misconception of what the plowing of an old orchard should be, for if the orchard is properly cared for in its earlier years, heavy plowing will not be needed in its later life.
This labor of working about trees is greatly facilitated by the use of harnesses which have no metal projections. There should be no hames with elevated tops, and the turrets on the back-pads should be simply leather loops. The back-pad itself should be reduced to a single wide strap entirely devoid of wadding. Harnesses of the Sherwood type, with no traces, but drawing by a single chain between the horses, are excellent in orchards, as they require no whiffletrees, and they are likewise handy and efficient.
The better the plowing and other tillage of the orchard in the first few years of its life, the easier and more efficient the subsequent plowing will be. If care is taken to keep the land friable and well-filled with humus, it may not be necessary to turn furrows at the spring plowing after four or five years. Persons commonly suppose that an orchard must be plowed the same as corn or potato ground is, by inverting the land and running regular furrows; but inasmuch as the object is simply to keep the land
Fig. 17. Roots of a young pear tree in hard, unpleasant soil.
mellow on top, and not to get a crop into it, heavy plowing is not essential. Very often some of the heavier harrows or light gang-plows may be used to tear up the ground in spring, if the land has been got into proper shape when the plantation was young. This is especially true in light lands upon which peaches are generally grown. If cover crops are to be plowed under, these remarks will not apply with equal force. In the first few years, however, it is essential to plow moderately deep in order to break up the soil and to send the roots down, as explained farther on. A world of trouble with the orchard will be saved if the suggestions in this paragraph are fully understood.
Specific remarks.-1. Begin to till when the orchard is planted, and till the entire surface. If trees are prop
Root-growth in Trees.
erly set, and if cultivation is begun the first year, the roots will go deep enough to escape the plow. The roots of trees spread much farther than the tops. I will give some examples from trees of which we have carefully measured the tops and roots. Fig. 17 shows a standard Howell pear tree set in 1889 and photographed in 1895. It grows on a hard clay knoll. The full spread of the top is seven feet. Two roots were laid bare, and they ran off in one direction to a distance of twenty-one feet. Assuming that they ran an equal distance in the other direction, the spread of roots was forty-two feet, or just six times that of the top. And yet it is commonly said that the spread of roots and tops is about equal! Now, these roots were long and whip-like. The soil was SO poor that they were obliged to search far and wide for pasture. Compare Fig. 18. This is a Fall Orange apple, also set in 1889, in rich, well tilled soil. Here the roots are in good pasture, and they remain at home; yet their spread is twice that of the top. The top of this tree had a diameter of eight feet, and we followed the roots eight feet upon the side in which we dug. These object lessons enforce the importance of tilling all the land between trees.
But these figures teach another lesson.
at their highest point, the roots of Fig. 17 are eight inches below the surface. They escape the plow. A like remark applies to Fig. 18. Now look at Fig. 19. This tree is the same age as the others, but has always stood in sod. roots ran ten feet in one direction and the
spread of the top was six feet; but the roots lie just underneath the surface. This land could not be plowed without great injury to the tree. Let us consider the relation
of this tree to moisture: the roots are in the driest part of the soil; the grass is pumping out the water and locking it up in its own tissues and sending it into the atmosphere with great rapidity; the soil is baked, and pulls up the water by capillary attraction and discharges it into the air; there is no tillage to stop this waste by spreading a mulch of loose and dry soil over the earth.
Fig. 18. Roots of a young apple tree in rich tilled land.
one were to sink a well under this tree and were to erect a windmill and pump, he could not SO completely deprive the tree of moisture! And the
Tillage in Young Orchards.
And yet this is a com
less moisture, the less food!
In young orchards, then,
it is commonly best to plow rather deep-say six to eight inches-in order to send the roots down. Of course, the plow should not be run deep close to the trunk of the tree. The careful plowman will turn out his plow when he comes within a couple of feet of the tree. This deep plowing for a few years will ameliorate the land, establish the root-habit of the tree, and obviate the necessity of laborious plowing in after years.
2. Tillage should be begun early in the season, in orchards. Trees complete most of their growth by the first of July. Early tillage saves the