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Lectures on Fruit Culture.


Lectures on Fruit Culture. The first of a series of ten free public lectures on the principles and practices of Fruit Culture." was given "in the dairy class room of the college by Mr. Pickard, Intructor in Hortculture. on Friday evening. Professor Middleton occupied the chair and in introducing the lecturer on the subject stated that for the past eight or nine years the Gollege Authorities had been working very success- fully on the sabjcct of agriculture and they now thought it was time to turn their earnest attention to the horticultural requirements of Mid-Wales, and with a view of arousing greater attention in gardening they had secured the services of Mr. Pickard who, he was sure, would do his best to interest all those who had gardens to put them to the best possible use. There were, he said, three classes of gardeners in the district, whom be hoped would benefit by the course of lectures they were about to have; first, the professional gardener who devoted all his time to the work; secondly, the cottager who had small plots of garden attached to their homes and thirdly, those like himself who had gardens, but did not know very well what to do with them, and so styled themselves Amateurs," but in his experience they all agreed on one point, they were all keen on fruit" when ripe, and he hoped to see the day when more and better fruit would be grown in the neighbourhood of Aberystwyth (hear. hear). Mr. Pickard, in commencing his lecture, said that the importance of horticulture in our national life was at present receiving very great attention, and during recent years vast improvements have been made in many branches of gardening, particularly so in the cases of vegetables, chrysanthemums, begonias, tomatoes, and other things in which gardeners took special interest, but he was sorry to say that the cultivation of hardy fruits had not so far generally shared in the improve- ment that was taking place. This was all the more suiuiising when the fact is considered that gardeners usually regard fruit growing as one of the higher branches of his art. When a gardener has a portion of his fruit under glass he gives it every care and attention that his experience can suggest wi- 'I the result that they produce some of the finest and most luscious grapes and peaches and n<v+n?iT!es in the whole world,yet if we inspect th3 fruit out of doers we usually find evidences of unskilful treatment or utter neglect ? Now, this should not be, for there is no part of the garden can return higher profits, or the produce of which is more welcome than the portion devoted to fruit crops, provided skill and knowledge of the habits and requirements of the plants are used in their cultivation. '1 L- Many clever ana ctsiiipetont gardeners no Knew had a profound contempt for what they described as the theory of gardening," and in the main be believed they were right, aw few gardeners had either the time or the ability to form and work out theories, and for his part he would promise not to intentionally advance one word of theory during the whole course of the lectures. He, however, did believe in science being combined with practice. There is absolutely nothing to be frightened at in the term Science," he said, when it was stripped of the high-sounding difficult names attached to it, it simply meant. exact knowledge," and surely it is worth while trying to gain this by all who have the interests of their garden at heart, quite apart from the increased crops it would bring. Take a simple operation like pruning. Every one thinks he knows bow to prune an apple tree, yet there are dozens of wrong ways in which it can be done, but only one riuht way. If the operator knows the right way he knows all that science can teach him upon this particular work, but if he does not know the one right method, for each particular tree it is obviously impossible for him to practise it. Science is every bit as important in the garden as it is in the engineering workshop, in the textile factory, and in the leather and othar important industries in which it plays so important a part. This fact is slowly becoming recognised in all parts of the Kingdom, and we shall find in the near future that the gardener who has the broadest grasp of the technical aspect of his profession will be able to obtain the best situations and the highest remuneration for his services exactly as they do in other trades or professions, and he who best under- stands the habits and requirements of his plants, and intelligently supplies the plant with all it requires, at the same time encouraging its desirable habits ;cnd restraining its undesirable or.cs. will certain; y reap a rich reward of the best that the plant can give, whether it be flowers or fruit. The lecturer said he could conceive of no greater treat that a gardener could have-and in the. t.T) gardener he included all n.-hn t,.I active interest in. 'rn"ri<r f'fõu1d he procure a pair of glorified Spectacles by whose aid he could pfep inside his trees to see how they grow, what they require, how they get it, and what they do with it; unfortunately such spectacles could not be bought. We must go to the tree itself for information on these interesting and important points. If we place a tiny seed in the ground under favourable conditions it will grow in size and bulk, and it becomes our business to find out where this material comes from, and what it consists of. If we were building a house we should he particularly careful to provide a sufficiency of the various materials required for every part of the house, and should take care in selecting the most suitable materials for the purpose. We ought to exercise just as much care in seeing that the tree has a sufficiency of suitable material for its purpose in as far as we can influence the supply. All plants obtain their building material from two sources, some from the air, and some from the ground. That which is taken from the air is chiefly beyond our influence, but we can, and do. largely influence the supply from the soil. Roots are adapted for taking food from the ground and are provided with moans for seeking it, and taking it up as required by the plant. If we carefully examine the roots of a plant we shall find a number of fine hairs aggre- gated near the growing point of each piece of root; these hairs are simple tubes for the purpose of absorbing food material. Their life is a very short one when the plant is actively at work, they live, perform their work, and die in the space of a very few days, but a fresh supply grows as the roots increase in length, so we must keep the roots grow- ing in order to keep the top growing, as nearly all the food fror .1: p soil is taken up by root hairs in a solid state. it has to be dissolved in the soil eitl-ier by w: or by the rost itself. The root hairs have the power of dissolving the soil, but we must bear in mind the fact that this solvent action occurs upon whatever the root comes in contact with, whether it is good or bad; they have no power of selection but simply dissolve what they can. If we allow the roots to poke their noses into sour, uncongenial material, the whole plant must necessarily 8nffer. All the dissolved material is passed up from the roots to the leaves by the aid of water. Plants have to take np a large quantity of water in order to get enough material for the work they have to do. The plant has however to get rid of the greater part of the water, it is only a carrier, so the plants eject it through tiny openings in the leaves, retaining all the food which has been brought up in solution for future use. Roots haye a further important duty to perform in addition to providing food. It is commonly said that the leaves are the lungs of plants. This is only partially true. The stems breathe. The flowers breathe and, most important of all, roots breathe and are the lungs of the plant quite as much as the leaves are, and in order that the roots may be kept healthy, air must be supplied in abundance. We should bear this in mind when digging for planting, and at all subsequent stages of the plants growth. If the land is too wet there is no room for air, and the best and most useful part of the roots become suffocated, the tree is weakened and becomes an easy prey to disease and pe^ts, and finally becomes unproductive or dies. Air is also required in the soil to decompose and combine with food materials already in the soil or thj:.e which we may add to it. This brings us to the first great principle in fruit growing as well as all other kinds of plants, that m; must thoroughly dig and break up every inch of laud we expect the roots to occupy in order to qit air, to allow the roots to spread freely, and to keep the soil in a sweet and open condition. It is a principle of hard work, but if it is neglected C, all the other principles are of little avail. It is not sufficient that the surface merely should be dug, but. we should dig quite as deeply as we expect the roots to go down. Take the case of strawberries, whoso roots naturally go down eighteen inches or two feet into the ground, and keep in mind the fact that 1he chief of the food is taken up by the extreme growing points of the roots, what right have we to expect satisfactory crops of good fruit if we are too thoughtless or too lazy to dig deeper than eight or nine inches. The term ■'Soil" is rather a complex one and difficult to understand by those who have not given the matter very close attention. Soil, as the gardener understands it, is a combination of inorganic chemical substance in a greater or less proportion. By far the greatest bulk of it is of no d: service as plant food, though it serves to h ild the plant in position, and to hold the water and air which prepares the small proportion of food material contained in th,) soil. TK- tirst and probably most important of these su1. ,r:c.i is -'Nitrogen." Every plant must oM; tm- -ubstance out of the ground to keep it fÇ its supply of nitrogen were cut off by any :.•• iu; the would stop growing, while, on ih hand if too much is supplied we get a too rapid srrowth of foliage at the expense of fruit and fh, .vers. Every plant requires a supply of -'Phosphates," as this substance makes plants sturdier and riper, and it is especially concerned in the production of flowers and fruit and bulbs and tubers. Potash" is also an essential plant food. Its particular work is to look after the formation of all new parts of a plant. If a new bit of root is to be formed down goes a bit of potash to look after it If a new bud, or a seed, or a flower is to be started, away goes a bit of potash to look after the formation, and when we reflect that the new flower may be the fruit for the season, or the new bud may be the branch of years hence, we can realize the importance of the work being properly done at its commencement, If the new parts start off with a weekly constitution no amount of after cultivation will entirely remove the defect. All plants require Lime and Sulphate and "Iron" and "Magnesia," and these substances, together with water, are all taken up from the ground. One other substance required by all plants is taken from the air, and this, strange to say, supplies fully one half the total dried weight of the plants. Carbon is taken in through the leaves as a gas. It is combined with Oxygen and known as Carbon dioxide. The plants keep the Carbon and return the oxygen to the air. All this material is taken into the leaf in a raw state, it is simply inert, inactive, inorganic matter, incapable of undergoing anv of the changes which we associate with life or decav, and in this state it cannot increase the size of the plants. But in the leaf a marvellous change takes place, a change which it is impossible to imitate. It is manufactured from raw inorganic material into organic material, and life depends for its existence upon this process. Now let us see how this affects us as fruit growers. The first change that takes place in the leaf so far as we know at present is from raw material into starch, and this change only takes place under the influence of light, and brighter and more direct the light is, the quicker does the change take place. When, therefore, we allow the branches and leaves of our trees to overcrowd and overshade each other, we stop the very manufacturing process that gives them life and healthy vigour. Starch is largely composed of Carbon and water, but if potash is deficient not much starch will be made by the leaf. This is plainly evinced by plants in our garden which are not directly supplied with potash. Although starch is the organic substance formed in the plant, it is by no means the only change that has to take place. Starch is insoluble in water and it is in this state it cannot pass out of the leaf. During the night, however, the starch that has been manufactured during the daytime changes into" sugar and in this state it can leave the leaf. Sugar is of the same chemical composition as starch, viz., carbon and water, but, as the sugar is leaving the leaf, at least, some of it unites with a little bit of nitrogen and a very little bit of sulphur to form Albuminoids," and this in turn changes into protoplasm," the basis of all life. Mr. Pickard said he was afraid all these particulars would sound dry and uninteresting, yet it was important to master them before we could thoroughly understand the subject of scientific fruit culture. There were a few points which he was particularly anxious to impress his hearers. The first was, that Nitrogen was the motive power which made the leaves work, hard in preparing food for the remainder of the tree. The next that phosphates made the plants and trees sturdier and riper and better able to produce flowers and fruit. And that potash looks after the formation of starch, and all new parts of the trees.. We must remember, he said, that the leaves pre- pare all the food of which the plant is composed. Second, we want the leaves to prepare the proper sort of food, the sort that flowers and fruit are composed of, and third. we must see that the leaves give up a proper proportion of the food after it is made. How far we can influence these matters he hoped to show in fhture lectures. A hearty vote of thanks to the lecturer for the very interesting way in which he had dealt with his subject, and to Professor Middleton for pre- siding was proposed by Mr. H. Austin, gardener, Abermad, and seconded by Mr. Pateman, gardener, Llanbadarn, and carried unanimously by those present. The Chairman in responding congratulated the Aberystwyth gardeners on the recently formed Paxton Society, and said that he would not only gladly become a member himself and render the Society all the help he could, but would also interest his collegues in the Society (applause).