The first trees and bushes for experimental purposes were planted in 1896. The station is under the joint control of the Ontario Agricultural College and the Ontario Fruit Growers’ Association.
Its purpose is to try to determine the varieties of the different kinds of fruits best adapted from a commercial standpoint, to the-soil, situation and climate of this district.
At the present time there are over 250 varieties under test, comprising apples, pears, plums, peaches, grapes, cherries, currants, raspberries and blackberries.- Now, as time and accuracy are the-vital elements in experiments of this nature, results, to be of any value, especially in the tree fruits, are necessarily slow.
In addition, however, to the conclusions reached from the experimental stock proper, the experimenter also draws from his own knowledge as a fruit grower for many years, as well as from the aggregate experience of the leading and most successful local growers.
SoilsAlthough fruits properly cared for will do well on a wide range of soils, still each class seems to have a natural preference. Very heavy, stubborn clays on the one hand, and poor light sands on the other, are not desirable. Loamy lands, however, whether sandy, clay or gravelly, with clay or shale subsoil thoroughly drained, are well adapted for fruits. Apples, plums, currants and raspberries especially thrive on such soils, while probably a light, rich clay loam is the ideal of the pear and grape, owing to their large consumption of potash. Cherries do well on high light soils, while peaches prosper in light rich loams.
Strawberries find a congenial home in soft, mellow sandy loams, while blackberries reach their maximum productiveness on lands having a quicksand bottom.
PlantingThe field should be in good heart and thoroughly prepared, in order that the soil foods may be available for the use of the plants or trees. Stock should be planted deeper than it was in the nursery. Only sturdy, growthy, healthy trees should be used. Pruning both root and top is necessary. The ends of the roots should be cut obliquely so that when the tree is planted they may impact closely with the earth, and thus throw out fresh rootlets as soon as possible.
The head may be formed of three or four main branches which at planting should be cut back from one-half to two-thirds. In short, there should be a balance between the top and root systems, otherwise with little root and much top the tree will be more likely to die.
CultivationYoung trees, bushes or vines should be well cultivated. The moisture is retained in a large measure during times of drouth, air circulates through the soil, plant food is liberated and a good growth is assured. Nature has stored large quantities of food in our soils and we realize upon it chiefly through careful tillage.
In order to maintain the standard of our fruit plantations, however, it is necessary to use fertilizers in some form. Those from the stables satisfy the want well were they procurable in sufficient quantities. They are especially rich in nitrogen, which gives growth both to the tree and fruit.
The clovers, crimson, red and other varieties, as well as peas and vetches ploughed under, also serve the same purpose. Wood ashes too, are valuable, especially in the lighter soils furnishing potash which fruits feed upon heavily. Nitrate of soda, muriate of potash, bone meal and salt also have a distinct value in the special culture of fruits.
Before applying fertilizers, however, it is well to study what the soil and plant require. If more growth be wanted, use nitrogen in some form, and cultivate freely. On the other hand, if growth be checked, the tendency is to form more fruit buds. It is also desirable to bear in mind that the productiveness of a fruit plantation is based upon the minimum available plant food in the soil. An orchard might be rich in potash and phosphoric acid, and yet deficient in nitroget. The result would probably be a large quantity of small, unsaleable fruit. Thus very briefly a few of the problems involved in the fruit growing industry have been indicated. There are others as wellspraying, packing, marketingall of prime importance and receiving the earnest, critical attention of the progressive fruit grower.