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Plum fruit growing

Plum fruit growingConcerning, the general question special Fruit; plum growing, it may be said that the plum 1s emphatically a special; that is, it is one which does not have a regular standing in the market as pears, apples or even peaches have, but is more or less dependent for its sale upon the general supply of other fruits. In other words, it is a fruit of secondary importance, so far as the market is concerned. This being the case, it will readily be seen that it is not a difficult matter to overplant for the plum market.

The plum thrives upon a variety of soils, but it generally does best when planted upon clay loam. It usually thrives best upon lands which are suited to ears, or upon the heavier lands which are adapted to apples. Yet there are many varieties which thrive well upon lands which are comparatively light and sometimes almost sandy.

The stocks upon which plums are grown are various. By far the greater number of the trees in the north are now grown upon the myrobalan stock, which is a species of rather slow-growing plum,
natme to southeastern Europe and southwestern Asia. This is the stock which is sometimes recommended in the older fruit books for the making of dwarf trees; but unless the top is kept well headed in, the trees generally make normal growth upon it. Trees grown upon this root are usually larger and finer at one or two years of age than those grown upon other plum stocks, and the probability is that they are nearly as useful from the grower's standpoint as any other.

However, there are some varieties which overgrow the myrobalan, and the stock is very likely to sprout from the ground and thereby cause trouble. In the southern states the peach is largely used as a stock upon which to grow plums. It is undoubtedly a very excellent stock for sandy lands, and, in fact, is probably more preferable for such lands than the myrobalan itself. Some varieties - of which the Lombard and French Damson are examples - do, not take well upon the peach. The Japanese plums are commonly worked upon the peach stock and they seem to make an excellent union with it and to give every promise of being hardy and durable. The Marianna stock is much recommended in the south.

Many of the varieties of plums are such slow and crooked growers in the nurseries that it is advisable to graft them or bud them upon some strong and straight stock. The Lombard is no doubt the best stock for this purpose which is now grown by nurserymen. The old Union Purple is one of the very best of stocks, but it is not grown much at the present time. All such varieties as Reine Claude, German Prune, Copper, etc., are probably best when top­worked upon some such stock.

Plum trees are usually planted when two years old from the bud, although some of the strong-growing a kinds may be planted at a year old with the very best results. As a rule, plum trees are planted about as far apart as peaches are, that is, from 15 to 18 feet apart each way. Many growers prefer to plant them closer one way, than the other and eventually to stop cultivation in one direction. If this system is used, they may be placed 18 or 20 feet apart one way, and from 10 to 12 feet the other way. The trees are pruned in essentially the same way that apple trees are, when planted. It is generally advisable to start tops as low as possible and yet allow of the working of the curculio catcher below them.

This means that the limbs should start out from three or four feet above the ground. With the modern implements and methods of tillage, there is no, inconvenience in working, the land if tops are started as low as this. The subsequent pruning of the plum tree has no special difficulties. About four or five main limbs are allowed to form the frame­work of the top, and in most varieties, especially those which are not very tall growers, the central trunk or leader may be allowed to remain. There is constant demand for information as to whether young trees should be headed in. There can be no positive answer to this question. If the trees are growing very vigorously, so that they become too tall and whip-like, it is best to head,them in; but it must be remembered that this redundant growth commonly ceases and the tree begins to spread when the bearing time arrives.

If trees are making too vigorous growth, the real corrective of the difficulty is to stop the growth by withholding fertilizers or cultivation rather than by heading in the tree. Vigorous heading in only makes the growth the stronger. All this is a very different matter from the customary heading in of old trees. Some growers prefer to let a plum tree take its natural open, spreading growth, whilst others desire to keep it sheared in to allow the trees to be planted closer together and to keep the fruit nearer the center of the tree.

This is very largely a matter of personal preference and there are probably no very decided advantages in either system when it is carried out systematically and conscientiously. It should be said that the plum tree needs careful attention from year to year to keep the top in shape, to cut out and paint over all injured places and in other ways to protect the tree from accidents and from injuries of storm and insects.

In common with all fruits, the plum demands good tillage and liberal feeding if satisfactory results are to be obtained. The extended remarks upon the tilling and fertilizing of fruit lands apply with full emphasis to the plum, Well-tilled trees should begin to bear when three years set, and, at eight and ten years of age, the prolific varieties should be bearing three bushels of first quality ruit in every good year.

Plum varieties - The most popular variety of the plum, and also one of the poorest, is the Lombard. Its redeeming merits are its great productiveness and the vigor and hardiness of the tree. The fruit is of only fair quality, it comes at a season when the market is full of plums and other fruits, it is very susceptible to the leaf-blight fungus and the fruit-rot, and its color is not of the best. The very fact that it is the commonest and cheapest plum would seem to indicate that it is not the best variety from which to make the greatest commercial success; yet there are many orchards of it which are very successful commercially. The best markets are likely to be found for the early and late plums, and for those which have very pronounced colors, especially those which are dark red or purple. Some of the dark yellows are also very excellent for market fruits. Fruits of, non­descript colors, like those which border on the ill-defined reds, the browns and the lemon yellows, are usually not profitable. There is some exception to all this in the case of the Reine Claude, which is a yellowish-green plum; but its great merit as a culinary variety and its established reputation save it from the general condemnation of plums of that class. There is also an exception in the small Damson plums, which are highly esteemed in some markets for culinary purposes.

It would be impossible to give any list of varieties which would be adapted to any particular orchard. The question of varieties is very largely a personal one. Very much depends upon what ideal the grower has in his mind, and also upon his soil and location and the like. Amongst the plums which can be most confidently recommended for the latitude of New York are the following: Field, Bradshaw, Coe's Golden Drop, Hudson River Purple Egg, Italian Prune, Empire, Grand Duke, Arch Duke, Monarch, Gueii, Peter's Yellow Gage, Reine Claude and Copper. Amongst the Damsons, the French and the Farleigh are perhaps the best: The Japanese plums recommended are the Red June, Abundance, Burbank and Chase. So far as known, the domestica and Japanese plums are self-fertile, but it is always the safest course to plant varieties in alternate rows.