fruit and bugs

The time has come for another of life’s little gifts: Magner’s enlightened take on fruit trees, berries, and plant disease and insect prevention. The complete list of downloads for Magner’s Farm and Stock Book and Complete Instructor can always be found at the literature link. Be sure to read the discussion of the first two parts here.

Part 2: Fruit Tree Propagation; Grafting/Budding; Berries

Magner provides the reader with an overview of several methods for reproducing fruit trees on pages 175-179. His graphic depiction of the sexual reproduction of plants through the use of flowers was assuredly controversial during its time of writing, and may still be banned from some elementary schools. He does, however, pass quickly over the concept of reproducing by seeds, “as it is familiar to every one” (179). Pages 180-181 make grafting sound easy, except for the necessity of “grafting-wax” or “grafting-clay,” both of which are likely difficult to obtain for the casual farmer.

Budding, according to Magner, offers several distinct advantages over grafting (185), so the inclusion of the previous method must surely have been for the sake of completeness alone. He concludes the tree management section with a word on pruning. Although Magner presents a series of pictures capable of instructing the reader on proper pruning technique, it is important to not overlook his superb text on the matter, containing directions such as “the object should be also to so prune as to avoid crotches” (188).

Magner begins his section on berries with “the most delicious and wholesome of all berries” (193), the strawberry. Few would argue with Magner’s glorification of these simple yet delicious fruits, especially when only two acres can produce up to $800 profit in a year (193). Again, great detail is used in telling the lay farmer just how to properly set and nurture the plants on pages 194-197. Pages 198-200 deal with raspberries, although “raspberries are generally grown by suckers…” (198). “Two or three suckers are generally planted together to form a group, or stool” (198); Magner’s language ignores social norms and continues its clarity over the century. I did not include his section on grapes.

Part 3: Plant Disease and Insect Prevention

Although Magner spends many pages discussing at length the intricacies of insects, included on pages 236-239 is the meat of the matter: how to properly spray your plants to prevent disease. It’s a straightforward proposition; for instance, ridding your pears of leaf-blight, scab-slug, and codling-moth simply requires the use of copper-sulfate solution when buds start and Bordeaux just before blossoms open (237). Other treatments are provided for the black-rot mildew, flea-beetle, anthracnose, blight, and scab (237-239), and are easily administered through the use of a knapsack sprayer or Leggett powder gun, available from 301 Pearl Street, New York.

Beginning on page 242, Magner offers some “odds and ends of suggestions” for further combating insects, mildew, and fungi. He reminds us to “keep the orchard clean and free from dead or diseased wood, and rubbish of all kinds” to prevent against insect attacks (245). On page 248 he relates the expertise of Mr. Slingerland of the “New York experiment station,” who has studied the cabbage maggot extensively.

Perhaps the most useful portion of the chapter is that of the “San Jose Scale,” which is “probably one of the most serious scourges to the orchardist” (253). He outlines four steps to rid an orchard of this mite-borne affliction. Then, suddenly, his remedies reach even greater levels of practicality: Magner attacks clothes moths, cockroaches, spiders, mosquitoes, ants, fleas, and bed-bugs (253-259). Here are his solutions, outlined succinctly:

  • Cockroaches: Pour hot water on them, or mix a tablespoonful of red lead and Indian meal with molasses and put the batter all around your home (254).
  • Spiders: Bring a kerosene lamp underneath the spider at evening and he’ll jump right into it and die (256).
  • Bee stings & spider bites: Apply ammonia and water, or borax and warm water (256).
  • Mosquitoes: Leave an uncorked bottle of “the oil of pennyroyal” in the room to keep them out (256).
  • Ants: Soak a sponge in syrupy water and place it where ants can reach it. Soon it will be filled with ants; take the sponge (carefully) and put it in some boiling water. Rinse and repeat (257).
  • Fleas: Rub your dog and cat in olive oil, then wash with warm water and soap (258).
  • Bed-bugs: It’s important to note that Mr. Goeze of Germany has kept bed-bugs alive in a jar without any nourishment for six years (259). Hot water and benzine, unpurified petroleum, or corrosive sublimate are good cures (259).

Coming up next time: how to tame wild horses, and even more about horses than you’d ever want to know.

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