The Scotch fir or pine, which Mr. Fay so highly commends, is a native of the Highlands, a hardy tree, and the most rapid grower of all the evergreens suited to our climate—the Euro-pean larch, a still more rapid grower, being deciduous. It will thrive in the most dissimilar soils and on poorest sands where most other evergreens will not flourish, and makes an excellent wind-break. Its timber is not duly appreciated in this country. In England it is as highly prized as the best Baltic pine, and regarded as superior to our white pine for general purposes. While skeptical on this point, we must at least admit that it is harder, more durable, and more resinous than the white pine. It is light, stiff, and strong, freer from knots than any other fir, easily worked, and well adapted to all kinds of house carpentry. It is extensively used for masts and in naval architecture. In England it yields large quantities of tar, turpentine, and resin. Next to the larch it is the tree most commonly planted in Great Britain. It should be extensively used in Connecticut in reclaiming lands too poor for the larch. It proved a great success in the sandy wastes of Kincorth and Culbin in Scotland, which are now thriving forests.
Among the foresters of largest experience in Europe, I found the planting out system growing in favor, in place of sowing the seed, whether in furrows or broadcast in the fields where the trees are to remain. If sowing is adopted, the land, except on sand barrens, must be well prepared. The general practice abroad is to sow the seed in beds, as beet or onion beds are prepared with us. The Germans speak of the seedlings while in the nursery beds as "in the school," and this phrase happily suggests how they should be treated. The aim is here to start, harden, and root the young plants in a small area where they can be sheltered with brush or otherwise from the scorching sun, and watered if need be in case of drought.
If the seedlings are to be put out close by the garden, they may be planted direct from the mother bed at the end of one or two years. But when they are to be removed to any distance or planted as forests, they should be transplanted at the end of the first or second year and planted for forests one year later. The larch and Scotch pine are usually planted permanently, two years from sowing in beds and one year from the planting, that is three years from the seed. The direction is constantly repeated to let the trees grow up very thickly for a few years, as they will at first thin themselves on the theory of the survival of the fittest, and after the fifth year the value of the poles will pay for the further thinning required. When planted, the rows should not be more than three feet apart, and the plants stand two feet apart in the rows, giving some seven thousand to the acre, varying with the kind of trees. At the outset the trees are planted more thickly in Europe than in America.
Will it pay the average farmer of Connecticut to plant trees ? Certainly not if early profit is essential. The answer depends on various circumstances, such as the size of one's farm, its soil and situation. But in an ordinary Connecticut farm of from sixty to one hundred acres and upwards, I answer yes. If you are looking ahead and seeking an investment for future profit, " trees will make dollars, for they will grow in waste places where nothing else can be profitably cultivated. A soil too thin and rough for cereals may be favorable for trees. Hillsides and plains exhausted and worn out by the plow have often been reclaimed by planting forests. Ravines too steep for cultivation are the favorite seats of timber, and wherever a crevice is found in a rocky ledge, the root of a tree will burrow and spread, taking a hold so firm as to defy the storm, and acting mechanically to disintegrate the rock and change its constituent elements into useful products. By the road-side, the river-bank, along the brook, and on the overhanging cliff, a tree may be always earning wealth for its owners, both in our densest settlements and in the waste places of our most valuable lands." In no way can we ultimately enrich Connecticut more than by planting the choicest trees on our exhausted and unproductive lands. In such situations forests will yield a large percentage of profit. This is a duty we owe to ourselves and to our children.
In many positions forests are of great service as wind-breaks; even narrow strips of trees afford a needful shelter to fruit trees and to various crops, as well as a shield to cattle from piercing winds. Evergreens serve best for screens, as deciduous trees are leafless when their shelter is most needed, especially for stock and around farm buildings. The evergreens most suitable for this purpose are the Norway spruce, white pine, Scotch pine, and Austrian pine ; and next to these are the American arbor vitae, hemlock, and spruce. Sheltered orchards are most productive and less likely to lose their fruit prematurely by violent winds, and the farmer with proper wind-screens consumes less fuel in his house and less forage in his stables. Stated in the order of their obvious advantage to individual farmers, the benefits of tree-planting would be, first, direct profit in timber and fuel; second, the reclamation of waste land ; third, shelter ; fourth, climatic gain and hygienic influence ; and fifth, ornamentation.
The climatic influence of forests has been of late the subject of extensive investigation in Europe, and much evidence gathered showing that forest denudation may result in detriment to the health and welfare of a community. The influence of forests on rainfall, climate, and water supply, has been freely discussed in the schools of forestry and in scientific circles. It is not proved that extensive denudation will cause a marked decrease in the total rainfall of any large country. While this is still an unsettled question, recent observations in France, made with great care and complete sets of instruments at different stations, seem to establish the facts, first, that throughout the year six per cent. more rain falls in the forests than in the open fields ; second, that of the total rainfall ten per cent. in the forest is caught by the leaves and reaches the earth very gradually, or not at all; and, third, that the evaporation in the open country is five times as great as in a forest.