ONE THOUSAND QUESTIONS IN CALIFORNIA AGRICULTURE ANSWERED
ONE THOUSAND QUESTIONS IN CALIFORNIA AGRICULTURE ANSWERED
By E. J. Wickson
Professor of Horticulture University of California; Editor of Pacific
Rural Press; Author of "California Fruits and How to Grow Them" and
"California Vegetables in Garden and Field" etc.
This brochure is not a systematic treatise in catechetical form intended
to cover what the writer holds to be most important to know about
California agricultural practices. It is simply a classified arrangement
of a thousand or more questions which have been actually asked and to
which answers have been undertaken through the columns of the Pacific
Rural Press a weekly journal of agriculture published in San Francisco.
Whatever value is claimed for the work is based upon the assumption that
information which about seven hundred people have actually asked for
would be also interesting and helpful to thousands of other people. If
you do not find in this compilation what you desire to know submit your
question to the Pacific Rural Press San Francisco in the columns of
which answers to agricultural questions are weekly set forth at the rate
of five hundred or more each year.
This publication is therefore intended to answer a thousand questions
for you and to encourage you to ask a thousand more.
E. J. Wickson.
Part I. Fruit Growing
Part II. Vegetable Growing
Part III. Grain and Forage Crops
Part IV. Soils Irrigation and Fertilizers
Part V. Live Stock and Dairy
Part VI. Feeding Animals
Part VII. Diseases of Animals
Part VIII. Poultry Keeping Part IX. Pests and Diseases of Plants
Part X. Index
Part I. Fruit Growing
Depth of Soil for Fruit.
Would four feet of good loose soil be enough for lemons?
Four feet of good soil providing the underlying strata are not charged
with alkali would give you a good growth of lemon trees if moisture was
regularly present in about the right quantity neither too much nor too
little and the temperature conditions were favorable to the success of
this tree which will not stand as much frost as the orange.
Temperatures for Citrus Fruits.
What is the lowest temperature at which grapefruit and lemons will
The grapefruit tree is about as hardy as the orange; the lemon is much
more tender. The fruit of citrus trees will be injured by temperature at
the ordinary freezing point if continued for some little time and the
tree itself is likely to be injured by a temperature of 25 or 27? if
continued for a few hours. The matter of duration of a low temperature
is perhaps quite as important as the degree which is actually reached by
the thermometer. The condition of the tree as to being dormant or active
also affects injury by freezing temperatures. Under certain conditions
an orange tree may survive a temperature of 15? Fahrenheit.
Roots for Fruit Trees.
I wish to bud from certain trees that nurseries probably do not carry
as they came from a seedling. Is there more than one variety of
myrobalan used and if so is one as good as another? If I take sprouts
that come up where the roots have been cut will they make good trees? I
have tried a few now three years old and the trees are doing nicely so
far but the roots sprout up where cut. I am informed that if I can
raise them from slips they will not sprout up from the root. Will
apricots and peaches grafted or budded on myrobalan produce fruit as
large as they will if grafted on their own stock?
Experience seems to be clear that from sprouts you will get sprouts. We
prefer rooted cuttings to sprouts but even these are abandoned for
seedling roots of the common deciduous fruits and of citrus fruits also.
The apricot does well enough on the myrobalan if the soil needs that
root; they are usually larger on the peach root or on apricot seedlings.
The peach is no longer worked on the myrobalan in this State. One
seedling of the cherry plum is about as good a myrobalan as another.
What Will the Sucker Be?
I have a Japanese plum tree which bears choice plums. Three years ago a
strong young shoot came up from the root of it which I dug out and
planted. Will it make a bearing tree in time and be of like quality with
It will certainly bear something when it gets ready. Whether it will be
like the parent tree depends upon the wood from which the sucker broke
out. If the young tree was budded very low or if it was planted low or
if the ground has been shifted so as to bring the wood above the bud in
a place to root a sucker the fruit will be that of the parent tree. If
the shoot came from the root below the bud you will get a duplication
of whatever stock the plum was budded on in the nursery. It might be a
peach or an almond or a cherry plum. Of course you can study the foliage
and wood growth of the sucker and thus get an idea of what you may
Tree Planting on Coast Sands.
I wish to plant fruit trees on a sandy mesa well protected from winds
about a mile from the coast. The soil is a light sandy loam. I intend to
dig the holes for the trees this fall each hole the shape of an
inverted cone about 4 feet deep and 5 feet across and put a half-load
of rotten stable manure in each hole this fall. The winter's rains would
wash a large amount of plant food from this manure into the ground. In
March I propose to plant the trees shoveling the surrounding soil on
top of the manure and giving a copious watering to ensure the compact
settling of the soil about and below the roots. The roots would be about
a foot above the manure.
On such a light sandy soil you can use stable manure more safely than
you could elsewhere providing you have water handy to use if you should
happen to get too much coarse matter under the tree which would cause
drying out of the soil. If you do get plenty of water to guard against
this danger you are likely to use too much and cause the trees to grow
too fast. Be very sure the manure is well rotted and use one load to ten
holes instead of two. Whether you kill the trees or cause them to grow
aright depends upon how you use water after planting.
A Wrong Idea of Inter-Planting.
What forage plant can I grow in a newly planted orchard? The soil is on
a gently inclined hillside - red decomposed rock very deep mellow
fluffy and light and deep down is clayish in character. It cannot be
irrigated therefore I wish to put out a drought-resisting plant which
could be harvested say in June or July or even later. I find the
following plants but I cannot decide which one is the best: Yellow soja
bean speltz Egyptian corn Jerusalem corn yellow Milo maize or one
of the millets. What do you think?
Do not think for a moment about planting any such plant between orchard
trees which are to subsist on rainfall without irrigation. Your trees
will have difficulty enough in making satisfactory growth on rainfall
and would be prevented from doing so if they had to divide the soil
moisture with crops planted between them. The light deep soils which
you mention resulting from decomposed rock are not retentive enough
and even with the large rainfall of your region may require irrigation
to carry trees through the latter summer and early fall growth.
What Slopes for Fruit?
I want to plant some apples and berries. One man says plant them on the
east or south slope of the hill and they will be ripe early. Another man
says not to do that for when the sun hits the trees or vines in the
morning before the frost is off it will kill all the blossoms and as
they would be on the warm side of the hill they would blossom earlier
and there will be more frosts to injure them. I am told to plant them on
the north or west side of the hill where it is cold and they will
blossom later and will therefore have less frosts to bother them and
the frost will be almost off before the sun hits them in the morning.
Fruit is grown on all slopes in our foothills depending on local
conditions. On the whole we should choose the east and north slopes
rather than the east and south because there is less danger of injury
from too great heat. In some cases what is said to you about the less
danger of injury from frosts on the north and west slopes would be true.
All these things depend upon local conditions because there is so much
difference in heat and frost and similar slopes at different elevations
and exposures. There can never be a general rule for it in a State so
endowed with varying conditions as California is.
Trees Over Underflow.
I have planted fruit trees near the creek where they do not have to be
irrigated as the ground there holds sufficient moisture for them but a
neighbor tells me that on account of the moisture being so near the
surface the trees will not bear fruit well although they will grow and
have all the appearances of health.
Shallow soil above standing water is not good for fruit trees. A shallow
soil over moving water or underflow such as you might expect from a
creek bank is better. The effect of water near the surface depends also
upon the character of the soil being far more dangerous in the case of
a heavy clay soil than in the case of a light loam through which water
moves more readily and does not rise so far or so rapidly by capillary
action. If the trees are thrifty they will bear when they attain a
sufficient age and stop the riotous growth which is characteristic of
young trees with abundant moisture. If trees have too much water for
their health it will be manifested by the rotting of their roots the
dying of their branches the cropping out of mushroom fungi at the base
and other manifestations of distress. So long as the tree is growing
well maintains good foliage to the tip of the branches and is otherwise
apparently strong it may be expected to bear fruit in due time.
The "June Drop."
I am sending four peaches which are falling off the trees. Can you tell
me how to prevent falling of the fruit next year and what causes it?
It is impossible to tell from the peaches which you send what caused
their falling. Where fruit passes the pollination stage successfully as
these fruits have the dropping is generally attributed to some
conditions affecting the growth of the tree which never have been fully
determined. It is of such frequent occurrence that it is called the June
drop and it usually takes place in May in California. As the cause is
not understood no rational preventive has been reached. A general
treatment which consists in keeping the trees in good growing condition
late enough during the previous season that is by seeing to it that
they do not suffer from lack of moisture which causes them to close
their growing season too soon before preparation for the following
year's crop is made is probably the best way to strengthen the tree for
Trees Over a Gravel Streak.
I have an apricot orchard seven years old. Most of the land is a fairly
heavy clay with a strip of gravel in the middle running nearly north and
south. The trees on the clay bear good crops but those on the gravel
are usually much lighter in bearing and this year had a very light crop.
Can you tell me of anything I can do to make them bear? The trees are
large and healthy looking and grow big crops of brush.
We should try some water in July on the gravel streak hoping to
continue activity in the tree later to induce formation of strong fruit
for the following year. On the clay loam the soil does this by its
Fruit and Overflow.
I have 16 acres of rich bottom-land that overflows and is under water
from 24 to 48 hours. I would like to set the ground to fruit trees
either prunes pears apricots or peaches. Would it be safe to set them
on such land?
Fruit trees will endure overflowing providing the water does not
exclude the air too long and providing the soil is free enough so that
the soil does not remain full of water after the surface flow
disappears. If the soil does not naturally drain itself and the water is
forced to escape by surface evaporation probably the situation is not
satisfactory for any kind of fruit trees. Overflow is more likely to be
dangerous to fruit trees during the growing season than during the
dormant season and yet on well-drained soil even a small overflow may
not be injurious on a free soil if not continued too long. Prunes on
plum root and pears will endure wet soil better than apricots or
Fruit Trees and Sunburn.
How long is it wise to leave protection around young fruit trees set out
in March in this hot valley? The trees are doing well but we could not
tell when to take away protection.
It is necessary to maintain the protection from sunburn all through the
autumn for the autumn sun is often very hot and as the sap flow
lessens the danger of burning is apparently greater. The bark also must
be protected against the spring sunshine even before the leaves appear.
So long as the sun has a chance at the bark you must protect it from
Replanting in Orchard.
Is it considered a good plan to set the tree at once in the place where
one has died or is it better to wait a year before replacing?
It is not necessary to wait a year in making a replanting. Get out all
the old roots you can by digging a large hole fill in with fresh soil
and your tree will accept the situation.
Whole Roots or Piece Roots.
For commercial apple orchards which is preferable trees grafted on
piece roots or on whole roots? On behalf of the piece-root trees it is
claimed they sprout up less around the tree. On the other hand it is
claimed they never make a vigorous tree. What is the truth?
Value depends rather upon what sort of a growth the tree makes afterward
than upon what it starts upon. Theoretically perhaps a whole-root tree
may be demonstrated to be better; practically we cannot see that it
becomes so necessarily because we have trees planted at a time when the
root graft on a piece was the general rule in propagation. After all is
it not more important to have soil conditions and culture of such
character that a great root can grow in the orchard than to have a whole
nursery concentrated in the root of the yearling tree? As for the claim
that a root graft on a piece-root never makes a vigorous tree we know
that is nonsense.
Planting Deciduous Fruit Trees.
In order to gain time I have thought of planting apples and pears this
fall in the belief I would be just that much nearer a crop than though
I waited until next spring. The land is sandy loam; no irrigation. Would
you advise fall or spring planting? If fall would it be best to plow
the land now turning in the stubble from hay crop or wait until time
to plant before plowing?
You will not be any nearer a crop for next summer's growth will be the
first in either case. On land not liable to be too wet in winter it is
however best to plant early say during the month of December if the
ground is in good condition and sufficiently moist. If the year's
rainfall has been scant wait until the land is well wet down for it is
never desirable to plant when the soil is not in the right condition no
matter what the calendar may say. On a sandy loam early planting is
nearly always safe and desirable. On lands which are too wet and liable
to be rendered very cold by the heavy January rains planting had better
be deferred until February or as soon as the ground gets in good
condition after these heavy rains. Whenever you plant it will be
desirable to plow the land either in advance of the rains if it is
workable or as soon as rain enough comes to make it break up well. It
is very seldom desirable to postpone plowing until the actual time of
Budding Fruit Trees.
Is it better to bud in old bark of an old tree or in younger wood bark?
How do you separate old bark without breaking it in lifting the bark?
Buds may be placed in old bark of fruit trees to a certain extent. The
orange and the olive work better that way than do the deciduous trees
although buds in old bark of the peach have done well. They should
however be inserted early in the season while the sap flow is active
and the old bark capable of lifting; if the bark sticks do not try
budding. In spite of these facts nearly all budding of deciduous trees
is done in bark of the current year's growth.
Starting Fruit Trees from Seed.
How shall I start and when the following seeds: Peach plums
apricots walnuts olives and cherries? In the East we used to plant
them in the fall so as to have them freeze; as it does not freeze
enough here what do I have to do?
Do just the same. In California heat and moisture cause the parting of
the seed-cover more slowly perhaps but just as surely as the frost at
the East. Early planting of all fruit pits and nuts is desirable for two
reasons. First it prevents too great drying and hardening and other
changes in the seed because the soil moisture prevents it; second it
gives plenty of time for the opening and germination first mentioned.
But early planting must be in ground which is loamy and light rather
than heavy because if the soil is so heavy as to become water-logged
the kernel is more apt to decay than to grow. Where there is danger of
this the seed can be kept in boxes of sand continually moist but not
wet by use of water and planted out as sprouting seeds after the
coldest rains are over say in February. Cherry and plum seeds should be
kept moist after taking from the fruit; very little is usually had from
dry seeds. The other fruits will stand considerable drying. Very few
olives are from the seed because of reversion to wild types - also
because it is so much easier to get just the variety you want by growing
trees from cuttings.
Which is the best way to send scions by mail?
Wax the ends of mature cuttings remove the leaves and enclose in a
tight tin canister with no wet packing material.
Nursery Stock in Young Orchard.
How will it do to raise for two or three years a lot of orange
seedlings between the rows of young three-year-old orange trees? I see
that a nurseryman near me has done this and his trees are more
flourishing than mine.