Diffusion of the Common Apple-tree.—Period of Cultivation in the United States.—Its Original Nativity.—Its Wild Thrift and General Deportment.—The Many Varieties of its Parentage.— Hinder-ances to its Longevity.—Exceptional Trees, Where Grown.—Soil and Situation Necessary to Perfect its Productiveness.—How Propagated.—Management Necessary when Propagating from Seed.
The common apple-tree is widely diffused over many of the countries of the northern half of the Eastern Hemisphere, where it is found as far north as the sixty-second degree of latitude, and southward in China, Japan, and the southern parts of India. It is also indigenous to North America, where it grows in a wild, stunted state on the borders of woodlands and in hedgerows, but was not brought under culture in the colonies until the seventeenth century, when zeal and rural economy in its cultivation were attended with most successful results. As to its also being a native of the eastern part of the world we can have no doubt, as mention is made of its fruit by the writers of Holy Writ, and authority has since established the estimation in which it was held; and, also, " it has been singularly connected with the first transgression and fall of man, the fruit of which is said to have been eaten by Eve in Paradise." This tree, in its natural state, under favorable nurture, usually attains the height of thirty or forty feet, with a diameter of twelve to eighteen inches. Its natural growth of trunk is crooked and distorted, and that of its branches horizontal and wide spreading, and covered with an abundant foliage. It is the parent of innumerable varieties, called cultivated trees, which have been produced from its seed and by grafting. Of these varieties it is impossible to give an account within our limit, as they are numerous and constantly being multiplied.
Owing to the perishable nature of the wood of the common apple-tree, its length of life is limited; but in a few cases trees have been known to complete their second century. " One of these was growing near Plymouth, in Massachusetts. Another in Hartford, Connecticut, was brought from England in 1645, and grew on the Charter-Oak Place, and consequently must be more than two hundred years old."
The apple-tree under cultivation, in order to perfect its productiveness, requires a soil abounding in marls, marly clays, or calcareous limestone; and will also, especially those of the early sort, produce fruit to perfection in light, rich, sandy soils. Late varieties succeed best when planted in a soil that is strong and clayey.
A position sheltered from the extremes of heat and cold and the influence of high winds, with an undulating surface, is best adapted for apple-orchards, and it has been found that moderately steep declivities have been successful in the production of fruit. Deep-sunk valleys or very elevated or exposed situations are unfavorable to the production of the apple. A southerly direction is a most advantageous one, in view that the trees receive the greatest benefit from the sun, and yet are not fully exposed to its extreme influence; and if the plantation or orchard be in the neighborhood of an extensive body of water, a position facing northward has proved to be decidedly favorable.
The apple-tree is propagated from seed, grafting, and inoculation, and by cuttings and layers; and it has been found that the hardiest and best stocks are those raised from the seed of the wild crab.
In propagating from seed, the pomace should be strewed and covered with earth in shallow trenches about eighteen inches apart, so as to allow of the young plants being cultivated without disturbing them. In the fall thin out the most vigorous and healthy, and transplant in a well-manured soil, in rows eighteen inches apart and the same distance from each other, where they should be allowed to remain until the fourth year, when they will probably have acquired half an inch or more in diameter, and of sufficient growth to bear the operation of grafting or trimming back. During the growth of the plants for the second and third years no knife should be used, especially on those shoots which occur a foot or more from the ground, but the soil upon which they grow should be kept perfectly free from weeds and subjected to repeated hoeings.