Protecting peaches in the 1800's during winter

franktank232(z5 WI)February 21, 2012

A lot of interesting stuff here for us that grow peaches in cold climates. I'm to the point where I'm moving everything into pots if/when the in ground peaches finally get killed off although after reading this, I may have to rethink that and possibly look into using some techniques below. I can't help but think the Dr. in MA at the end reminds me of Fruitnut :)

"Shelter, said J. F. C. Hyde, before the Massachusetts Board of Agriculture, in 1868, is of the greatest importance with this fruit. It is said that very cold weather will kill the fruit buds, and so it will when they are exposed to the cold winds; but in sheltered places they will withstand a great degree of cold without injury. One-year-old trees are the best to plant; and they should be cut back one half or more, and so every year the new wood should be shortened in. The tree so treated becomes more compact and symmetrical, and is less liable to be broken down by the winds, ice, and snows of Winter. They should, when planted in an orchard, be set from ten to twelve feet apart each way. Both peaches and cherries are injured, and often destroyed outright, by excessive manuring.

At the same meeting of the Board, I. K. Brown related that a farmer in Acton, Massachusetts, has a peach orchard of two hundred trees on an acre of ground, planted between apple trees, on land that is high, stony, and gravelly. One year he received $350 net for his peaches; another year they netted him $400. Mr. Brown mentioned a peach orchard of eight hundred trees he had visited in New Hampshire, set about twenty feet apart, that bore well. They were thoroughly mulched. They were about eight feet high, and so level that you could look across the tops of the trees. They were almost as level as a floor, he takes ■such pains to head them in. The branches were eighteen inches long, but the peaches were up next to the stem of the tree. The owner cuts out the middle shoot, and lets the two side shoots go ahead. He keeps the whole tree headed in, and the top twigs come down within eight inches of the ground.

A correspondent of the Iowa Homestead, states: "I raised this season one bushel of

[merged small][ocr errors]

choice peaches on one tree four years old. By the same method I have seen one tree in Iowa bearing every year for the last ten years. Any one can do the same by strictly following these directions, viz.: When quite voting, set the tree in the ground with all the roots running north and south, and thin the tree to a fan shape, with edge in the same direction as the roots. When the tree is past three years old, after the leaves are off in the Fall, lean it toward the west until the branches nearly touch the ground. This can be done easily, as the roots which run north and south will be only slightly twisted. This should be the permanent position of the tree, and it should never be righted up. The suckers, or water-sprouts, should be kept stripped off during the Summer, or the vitality of the tree will run to sprouts.

"The end of all the branches should be clipped about the first of August to force the sap into the fruit buds. Every Fall, before cold weather sets in, cover the tree with brush, to keep it close to the ground, and with straw over the brush, to protect fruit buds from the cold�and uncover in the Spring about the 10th of May.

"Thus, by a little care and labor, every year, an abundance of that delicious fruit can be raised at home, affording a great pleasure, and saving expense of exportation from a distance." At the meeting of the Illinois Horticultural Society, in 1864, G. W. MiNrER, of that State, aaid, that he once accidentally put corn stalks in the Fall around a peach tree, which were not removed till in April, the fruit buds were thns protected, and the tree bore peaches; and Sttei, Foster, of Muscatine, Iowa, observed, that a neighbor of his has been in the habit, for a few years, of bending down some lateral branches of his peach trees, and laying brush npon them, and has succeeded in raising peaches from these branches when no others were grown in that vicinity.

Mr. Clement related, at a meeting of the Massachusetts Board of Agriculture in' 1867, that a farmer in Middlesex county, in that State, had a tree, one of the branches of which lay almost horizontal, very near the ground. and in the Autumn he threw a load of corn ■"hacks all over it, and hence the fruit buds were not killed. When Spring came, he uncovered it, and that one branch bore a fine crop of peaches. Before the same Board, in 1868, I. K. Brown said: "Most of us get peaches, almost every year, from branches that lie on the

ground and are covered with snow. Therefore the tree needs protection."

There is no doubt that peach trees in the open ground may be so dwarfed as to be laid down and covered in the Winter. The best way is. probably, to form fine straight branches taken as near the ground as possible, and keep them closely pruned and tied down to stakes, so that the outer ends will rise but two or three feet above the ground, according to the length. Mr. Camp, of Pennsylvania, has thirty trees laid down every Winter.

At a recent meeting of the Northern Illinois Horticultural Society, Mr. Bingham, of Freeport, stated that he lays down his peach trees for the Winter, by digging under one side a pit large enough to contain the whole tree; into this he lays the tree, compacted by hay ropes, and covers all over with earth and mulch, taking up in Spring when the blossoms begin to open. His success for three years has been complete.

The late Edwin B. Quiner, author of the History of Witcomin in the War of the Rebellion, who had devoted many years to fruit culture and experiments in Wisconsin, gave his plan for peach raising in the Northwest: Head in the new growth of the tree toward the close of Summer so as to harden the balance of the limbs, and better perfect the fruit buds; cut a trench two feet deep some three feet from the tree, and encircling it for water, ice, and snow to gather in during the Winter; and as Spring approaches, fill the trench, if not already full, with snow and ice, and bank around the trunk with the same, covering the whole with a thick mulch, so as to keep the blossoms back till after the late frosts.

A fruit grower in Marquette county, in northern Wisconsin, has succeeded in raising peaches by having a rude sort of a sentry-box placed around each tree, top and body, and filled in closely with straw or litter, and removing the whole after the Spring frosts.

George P. Peffer, an experienced fruit grower of Waukesha county, Wisconsin, stated at the February meeting, 1869, of the Wisconsin Horticultural Society, that he had grown peaches for several years on the north side of a hill, without any protection but the snow banks, but somewhat shaded from the sun in Winter; but he had always noticed whenever the thermometer fell below sixteen degrees below zero, that the peach buds were always killed, though the trees were uninjured, and whenever a Winter passed in which the thermometer did not reach that point, then his trees would bear.

L. Bartlett, of Warner, New Hampshire, states that he obtains regular crops of peaches by keeping the branches bent down near the earth, where they are confined by hooked wooden pins. The covering of snow�for they have it in plenty there�protects the fruit buds from the cold. He has found that trees so treated, ripen fruit ten days earlier than when entirely exposed. Covering such prostrate branches with corn-fodder, or with a dense mass of evergreen boughs, in the absence of snow, has answered equally well. It is more difficult to protect those limbs some feet above ground, as they are exposed on all sides to the wind, and do not receive the warmth of the earth.

It is thought in the South that the peach tree is killed on the southwest side by the vicissitudes of heat and cold in the early part of the season. The Springs advance very slowly in those temperate latitudes, making a barely perceptible advance in the course of a week. The warm days of February start the sap on the southwest side by or before the middle of the month, if not protected from the sun, after which, even to the first of March, as far south as Montgomery, Alabama, they are liable to sharp frosts, sometimes sufficient to freeze the sap, which, in its expansion, bursts the bark on that side of the tree, and the scorching sun and dry winds of Summer complete the work of destruction. They suffer from unseasonable heat, followed by unseasonable cold in Spring, and excessive heat and dry winds in Summer.

So great a luxury is the peach, that there are some persons who are willing to take unusual pains to raise them. "Cultivating peaches in pots, and taking them into a cellar or hothouse in Winter," said Asa Clement before the Massachusetts Board of Agriculture, in 1867, "is safe, but is of course somewhat expensive. Still, it is worth trying. If by planting a dozen trees in tubs or pots�any cheap article�so that they can be taken in during the Winter, and placed where they shall not be injured by our severe seasons, we can secure a crop, I think it would be better to have them. My experience is, that a little freezing will not hurt them, but I am not sure of that. I know peaches are raised in that way. I have seen them on the tables of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, and it was a very beautiful sight�exceedingly ornamental. A little tree,

the size of a whip-stock, three feet high, trained symmetrically and handsomly, with four or five dozens of early Crawfords upon it, looks beautifully. I do not know why people who raise things for ornament should not go in for peaches as well as every thing else. They certainly would be ornamental, and I have no doubt profitable for the Boston market, where I learn some of the fairest peaches sell for a dollar a piece." "Three dollars," responded Mr. Hyde; and I. K. Brown added, "I have raised them in pots, and am doing it still. Very fine peaches can be raised in that way, but they require greater care than a common farmer, who is engrossed by his every-day duties about his farm, can bestow upon them."

Dr. Nathan Durfee, of Fall River, Massachusetts, related his experience in growing peaches under glass, at the meeting of the Agricultural Society of that State, in 1868: "It is something like fifteen years since I commenced. I h?.d a house seventy-two feet long. I put a trellis against the wall of that house, and planted six trees, spreading them out fanlike upon the wall. I then had a trellis built in front, upon which I put six more. These trees, with the exception of one or two which have decayed, have borne every year from the first year they were set out, and I have had an abundance of fruit from those trees, of the finest quality. It has been said that you can not get the peach in perfection under glass; that the fruit is watery, and insipid to the taste, but I think I can say that as fine poaches as ever grew have been 'grown under that glass for now something like fifteen years, and in great abundance; for I have had, every year, to thin them out more or less to prevent injury to the trees. Oftentimes I have taken off fiv� out of six of every lot that exhibited itself on the trees, and then had an abundance of fruit.

That is the only way in which I have been able to cultivate the peach at all. I tried its cultivation on a trellis against a wall out of doors, and I found a Northwest exposure was far better for the crop than any other exposure. I think a hot, scorching sun injures our peach trees more than anything else, especially after a rain. I have noticed that when we had a shower of rain, followed by a hot sun, it almost invariably killed the buds, and I had no crop. I think, if any one desires to cultivate the peach, the best way is to try it under glass. I think it may be made profitable. I do not make it profitable, because I prefer to have the pleasure of giving them away, rather than to fell them. But I do not think the yellow peach, under glass, can be brought to that perfection that a white peach can."

Google Books

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


I don't think of Mass. as having the type of climate that would be problematic for peach culture, except perhaps in the coldest, highest elevation portions of the Berkshires in the western part of the state. Most of MA. is either Z. 7 or 6 depending upon proximity to the coast.

I wonder if the genetics of peaches has changed that much in the last 150 years, or if the climate has changed that much?

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 9:30PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
franktank232(z5 WI)

I think the "little ice age" ended around 1850, so my guess is that there was some pretty nasty winters during that century. Weather records here in La Crosse only go back to about the 1870's... 6 out of the 10 coldest years were in the late 1800's (some were tied with other years). I know in 1835, Florida had their worst freeze ever. Orange trees were flash frozen and killed to the ground. Jacksonville, FL hit 8F.

I think its just cool how these folks were able to beat that climate. Think of how much we take the current food system for granted. Right now I can go buy a huge assortment of fruits, fresh, dried, canned, frozen 365 days of the year, back then I doubt in Wisconsin you could find many peaches even during the peak of the harvest in summer. I know they sent a lot of peaches north from the south to areas like NYC, but I doubt outside of Chicago, it was hard to find much unless you grew it yourself.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 10:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

I found this statement of most interest:

"It has been said that you can not get the peach in perfection under glass; that the fruit is watery, and insipid to the taste, but I think I can say that as fine poaches as ever grew have been 'grown under that glass for now something like fifteen years, and in great abundance"

I've wondered if the more temperate climate in a greenhouse might not be conducive to overwatering. The statement above might be taken as evidence of that. Apparently he learned how to water properly as I have.

Under "glass" is the way to go. But only with good climate controls as I'm still learning.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 10:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
franktank232(z5 WI)

A $1 in 1868 was worth about $16.18 in 2010... One peach was selling for that.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 10:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
alan haigh

I found the late summer pruning being conducive to better winter hardiness the most interesting thing here because I've long suspected that the often given advice of the opposite affect was off base. I will now be confident to do as much late summer pruning of peaches as I want (at least on my own trees). This could actually help my business if I can prune stone fruit in Sept when I'm slow.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 5:51AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

The whole growing under glass was a major trend in the mid/late 1800's, both in the northeast US and in northern Europe. For peaches the extra heat afforded in the summer under glass helped ripening times, same for grapes and citrus. It was a rich persons hobby apparently, along with race horses etc.

As far as (re)-learning old lessons from these books, that one cuts both ways. There is a ton of knowledge that got lost over the years so there is a lot we can (re)-learn from them, but on the other hand they had some significant misconceptions, for example they talk on and on about this supposed disease called "peach yellows" which is now believed to just be nutritional. Re: the late summer pruning I also believe the old authors have that one right. I should pull out a few of these old books and re-read them, I was reading many of them 4-5 years ago but have not done too much lately. Check out Wright's Fruit Grower's Guide, thats one of my favorites. Fruitnut, you would enjoy reading the long sections on growing fruit under glass. I also learned a lot from their pruning descriptions, it is surprising how advanced their pruning methods were 150 years ago.


    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 9:11AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Most interesting. Thanks for sharing it.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 3:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Dear Frank, this information is fabulous. Living in RI, I do know that living by the sea has its advantage and that is warmth from the sea. Inland in RI and MA it can be 10 to 20 degrees cooler than living on the coast of either state. Glass house growing was the way to go in the late 1800's, no question about it. Having an 'Orangerie' was truly deluxe. Thanks for the great read. Mrs. G

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 12:40AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The 1835 freeze was terrible and wiped out the Spanish orange groves of northern Florida. But I think I have been in Jacksonville at 11 degrees, just three degrees warmer, in the early '80s. The '80s freezes just about finished off central Florida's orange groves.

Writers after the ones quoted above widely warn against burying trees with leaves, stalks, shucks, and other debris because it shelters mice and such who girdle the trees for the nutritious bark. Burial with dirt is generally recommended but of course is a lot more difficult.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 8:31AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I was gonna say - they must not have had squirrels back then.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 4:27PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Growing Anything Under A Black Walnut Tree
Hi Gang.....maybe someone here has a solution or idea,...
My Spupreme plum turns into Alderman!
At Plant Hill Nursery! They don't have a email address,...
Looking for Carmine Jewel Cherries?
I know a lot of people are looking for carmine jewel...
Wisconsin honeyberry/haskap growers?
I'm combining the two as it seems with continued breeding...
Water and other issues with young peach tree
I have a peach tree that was transplanted last spring...
Sponsored Products
Mocha Clara Clark 1800 Series Sheet Set
$32.99 | zulily
Granite Peak Bold Stripe Ovo Floor Lamp
Lamps Plus
Go Pedic 8-inch Twin-size Gel Memory Foam Mattress
Modern Style PE Material LED Mobile Lamp in Dice Shape
Red Arka Rechargeable Lantern/Flashlight
$37.99 | zulily
Safavieh Handmade Celebrations Light Blue Grey N. Z. Wool Rug (7'6 x 9'6)
Plateau de Brie Giclee Set of Four Shades 3x6x5 (Clip-On)
$49.99 | Lamps Plus
Hudson Valley Hayden Modern Contempo Wall Sconce
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™