NOVEMBER, which is one of the least interesting months to those who come into the country to admire the freshness of spring or the fulness of summer and early autumn, is one of the most interesting to those who live in the country or who have country places which they wish to improve.
When the leaves have all dropped from the trees, when the enchantment and illusion of summer are over, and "the fall" (our expressive American word for autumn) has stripped the glory from the sylvan landscape, then the rural improver puts on his spectacles, and looks at his demesne with practical and philosophical eyes. Taking things at their worst, as they appear now, he sets about finding out what improvements can be made and how the surroundings which make his home can be so arranged as to offer a fairer picture to the eye or a larger share of enjoyments and benefits to the family in the year that is to come.
The end of autumn is the best month to buy a country place, and the best to improve one. You see it then in the barest skeleton expression of ugliness or beauty, with all opportunity to learn its defects, all its weak points visible, all its possible capacities and suggestions for improvement laid bare to you. If it satisfy you now, either in its present aspect or in what promise you see in it of order and beauty after your moderate plans are carried out, you may buy it with the full assurance that you will not have cause to repent when you learn to like it better as seen in the fresher and fairer aspect of its summer loveliness.
As a season for rural improvements the fall is preferable to the spring, partly because the earth is dryer and more easily moved and worked, and partly because there is more lime to do well what we undertake. In the middle states line autumnal weather is often continued till the middle of December, and as long as the ground is open and mellow the planting of hardy trees may be done with the best chances of success. The surface may be smoothed, drains made, walks and roads laid out, and all the heavier operations on the surface of the earth so requisite as a groundwork for lawns and pleasure grounds, kitchen or flower-gardens may be carried on more cheaply and efficiently than amid the bustle and hurry of spring. And when sharp frosty nights fairly set in, then is the time to commence the grander operations of transplanting. Then is the time for moving large trees, elms, maples, etc., a few of which will give more effect to a new and bare site than thousands of the young things which are the despair of all improvers of little faith and ardent imaginations. With two or three "hands," a pair of horses or oxen, a "stone boat," or low sled, and some ropes or "tackle," the removal of trees twenty-five feet high, and six or eight inches in the diameter of the stem is a very simple and easy process. A little practice will enable a couple of men to do it most perfectly and efficiently; and if only free-growing trees, like elms, maples, lindens, or horse-chestnuts, are chosen, there is no more doubt of success than in planting a currant bush. Two or three points we may, however, repeat, for the benefit of the novice, viz., to prepare the soil thoroughly by digging a large hole, trenching it two-and-a-half feet deep, and tilling it with rich soil; to take up the tree with a good mass of roots inclosed in a ball of frozen earth; * and to reduce the ends of the limbs, evenly all over the top, in order to lessen the demand for sustenance, made on the roots the first summer after removal.
* Original date of December, 1850.
* This is easily done by digging a trench all round, leaving a ball about four or five feet in diameter, undermining it well, and leaving it to freeze for one or two nights. Then turn the tree down, place the uplifted side of the ball upon the "stone boat;" right the trunk, and get the whole ball firmly upon the sled, and then the horses will drag it easily to its new position. A. J. D.
This is not only the season to plant very hardy trees, it is also the time to feed those which are already established and are living on too scanty an income. And how many trees are there upon lawns and in gardens shade trees and fruit trees that are literally so poor that they are starving to death! Perhaps they have once been luxuriant and thrifty and have borne the finest fruit and blossoms so that their owners have smiled and said pleasant words in their praise as they passed beneath their boughs. Then they had a good subsistence, the native strength of the soil passed into their limbs and made them stretch out and expand with all the vigor of a young Hercules. Now, alas, they are mossy and decrepit, the leaves small, the blossoms or fruit indifferent. And yet they are not old. Nay, they are quite in the prime of life. If they could speak to their master or mistress, they would say "First of all, give us something to eat. Here are we, tied hand and foot to one spot where we have been feeding this dozen or twenty years until we are actually reduced to our last morsel. What the gardener has occasionally given us in his scanty top-dressing of manure has been as a mere crust thrown out to a famished man. If you wish us to salute you next year with a glorious drapery of green leaves the deepest, richest green, and start into new forms of luxuriant growth feed us. Dig a trench around us, at the extremity of our roots, throw away all the old worn-out soil you find there, and replace it with some fresh soil from the lower corner of some rich meadow where it has lain fallow for years growing richer every day. Mingle this with some manure, some chopped sods, anything that can allay our thirst and satisfy our hunger for three or four years to come, and see what a new leaf yes, what volumes of new leaves we will turn over for you next year. We are fruit trees, perhaps, and you wish us to bear fair and excellent fruit. Then you must also feed us. The soil is thin, and contains little that we can digest; or it is old, and 'sour' for the want of being aired. Remove all the earth for several yards about us, baring some of our roots, and perhaps shortening a few. Trench the ground where our new roots will ramble next year twenty inches deep. Mingle the top and bottom soil, rejecting the worst parts of it, and making the void good very good by manure, ashes, and decaying leaves. Then you shall have bushels of fair and fine pears and apples where you now have pecks of spotted and deformed fruit".
Such is the sermon which the "tongues in trees" preach to those who listen to them at this season of the year. We do not mean to poets or lovers of nature (for to them they have other and more romantic stories to tell), but to the earnest, practical, working owners of the soil, especially to those who grudge a little food and a little labor, in order that the trees may live contented, healthy, beautiful, and fruitful lives. We have written it down here in order that our readers when they walk round their gardens and grounds and think "the work of the season is all done" may not be wholly blind and deaf to the fact that the trees are as capable, in their way, of hunger and thirst as the cattle in the farmyards; and since, at the oftenest, they only need feeding once a year, now is the cheapest and the best time for doing it. The very frosts of winter creep into the soil, loosened by stirring at this season, and fertilize, while they crumble and decompose it. Walk about, then, and listen to the sermon which your hungry trees preach.*
* The use of commercial fertilizers has developed greatly in more recent years. The best modern practice with elderly fruit trees consists in cultivating the soil, giving a fair allowance of fertilizer or barnyard manure, pruning out dead or diseased wood and giving three or four timely sprayings each year. F. A. W.