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Willow wands have for some time been in fair demand, and our markets can by no means be sufficiently supplied from our home produce. The amount of wands annually imported from Germany and France, is variously stated to be from five to six millions of dollars worth.
It will be seen with regard to willow trees, that they readily grow in the vicinity of swamps or pools, or properly speaking, in places that can hardly be used for anything else.
The prairie soil must, to a certain extent, be very well adapted for willows, as there are many marshes or "sloughs” within the prairie region.
There is a variety called the “ Osier Willow,” which is used in the manufacturing of baskets, chairs, cradles, &c. The raw material for all this work is imported from Europe. The manufacture is mostly confined to foreigners. If our enterprising farmers would commence its culture they would find it very useful for many purposes. As the material for a hedge or fence, it could be used with advantage, by weaving together the stalks and branches.
Before concluding this chapter, it will not be amiss to make a few remarks about the right season for cutting timber. The method frequently pursued in woodlands, is to girdle or deaden the trees, in July or August, when the sap is up, and after a few years the decay in their limbs and body will be so great, that the trees can be cleared up, and the land put in corn. When girdled during the winter months, when the sap is down, the decay will not be half so rapid. Hickory and ash timber for wagon-work is generally cut in July, and left on the ground for use until winter. The peeling of timber designed for rails has sometimes been advocated, as improving the durability, but the durability may perhaps depend on the period at which the timber is cut; for it has been ascertained that timber cut towards the end of May, or at the beginning of June, is exempt from the worms, whether it be peeled or left with the bark on.
THE MACLURA HEDGE.
THE first settlers of the country, who took good care to locate as near the groves as practicable, had no difficulty in enclosing their farms with the heavy worm-fence. But when the prairies became settled, rail-timber soon began to grow scarce and dear, and in many places it was plain there was not timber to be had for reconstructing the fences already built. The great and only remedy for this want of timber is now seen to be the formation of live hedges, in the place of rails or boards. And after a fair trial of various shrubs and trees, foreign and native, it is now universally conceded that the Maclura, or Osage Orange, is the best known plant for a living hedge on the prairies. This opinion is not founded upon mere theory, or partial experiments. Hedge planting has already become a regular branch of business.* The Maclura hedges which have been planted four years or more, have become a fixed, tangible, and well established reality. There is no mistake about their being respectable barriers against the intrusion of domestic animals of every kind. This wild orange, of which the hedges are made, is very similar in appearance to the orange of the tropics.
* Among the gentlemen whose business is Osage Orange planting, we note Messrs. McGrew, Leas & Co., of Kankakee City, and Messrs. W. A. Allender & Co., of Lawrence Co. The first named firm charges for plants of one and two years growth, from $2 to $3 per thousand, according to quality and amount. 100,000 plants to one order, boxed and delivered at railroad depot, for $2 per thousand, for those of one year; $2 50 per thousand, for two years old. The latter firm charges for setting, resetting, (if necessary) pruning, cultivating, and completing a perfect hedge, 60 cents per rod, payable in rates of 20 cents at the time of setting, and yearly 10 cents, the balance when completed. The farmer has to prepare the ground, to board hands while setting and attending the hedge, and to protect it from all damage by stock, of other injury.
The leaves are a little more pointed, but have the rich gloss, and deep green peculiar to the cultivated plant. They are, in truth, very beautiful. The fruit is not edible, but is large, showy, and very full of seeds. The oldest plants in Illinois are now in full bearing. Branches full of fruit were exhibited at the recent State Fair, so that the necessity of importing seeds from Arkansas and Texas, will soon be abolished.
The merits of the Osage Orange as a hedge-plant, may be briefly summed up as follows: í 1st. The seeds may be obtained in any desirable quantity, at a cost of ten to twenty dollars per bushel, and a bushel of seeds will produce from 80,000 to 120,000 plants.
2d. The seeds, when properly treated, are as certain to germinate as seed-corn.
3d. The young plants are rarely, if ever, attacked by insects, and will grow large enough in one season to plant out in hedge-rows.
4th. No plant bears removal better than the Osage Orange. Hence an even and uniform start in the hedge-row is attained without difficulty.
5th. The growth of the hedge where the land has been properly prepared and cultivated, is very rapid. A good fence, fit to line the public highway, is often obtained in two years and a half after planting.
6th. The wood is durable, as much so as cedar, and both the leaves and the wood are as yet free from the depredations of insects.
7th. When pruned, it will always throw out sprouts from the extreme points of the living wood.
8th. It never throws up any suckers from the roots, but always sprouts at or above the collar—of course it will never spread off on each side of the hedge-row, as many varieties of hedge-plants will do.
9th. The spines are strong, durable, and very offensive to all domestic animals. Hence no animal familiar with its appearance will touch it.
10th. It will grow on any soil, where any description of timber will grow.
Regarding the culture of the plant itself for the purpose of hedging, the following rules and directions, laid down by practical farmers, and evidently the fruit of much observation and experiment, should be ad. hered to.
Seed should only be procured from a responsible source, and great care should be taken in its selection. The most certain way of testing it is to take a tumbler and fill it two-thirds full of warm water, then put cotton enough into it to keep whatever seed you put on it just above the surface of the water; the cotton in this way will remain yet, and keep the seed moist, and get the seed will get air, and if kept in a warm room it will soon vegetate. The water may have to be renewed several times during the process.
The best method of sprouting seed is as follows: Soak the seed in warm water at least for forty hours ; (an entire week, if possible,) then put it in shallow boxes, not more than four or five inches deep. To every bushel of seed put one half bushel of sand, (smaller quantities in proportion), then mix it thoroughly, keep it in a warm place, and wet it as often as twice per day with warm water, and stir it thoroughly, as often as three times a day. A more frequent stirring would be better. The seed should be put to soak about the fifteenth or twentieth of April, at a temperature of from sixty-five to seventy degrees. Seed attended to as above described, and kept in a warm place, at a proper temperature, would sprout sufficiently in ten days to be put into the ground. It is necessary, however, to have the seed well separated before planting. Much care should be taken in the selection of a good piece of ground for the nursery, or place of planting the seed. The ground should be fresh, fertile, and free from the seed of weeds and grass. It should be mellow, not subject to bake, and rather inclined to be wet than otherwise. Good prairie, that has been broken the year previous, is undoubtedly preferable to any other ground. The ground should be well ploughed, harrowed, and rolled, if necessary. When the ground has been thus prepared and well pulverized, the. most expeditious way of making the drills is to obtain a common wheat drill, and take out one-half of the planters. Have large points put upon those that are used in making the drills; the points or shovels upon the planters, about five inches in width, of the same shape as the common points. The drills made in this way will be sixteen inches apart, and by putting weights upon the drag bars, the drills can be made of sufficient size and depth. They will be regular, and it is
a very expeditious manner of making the drills. The seed must then be drilled in the above described drills or furrows, by hand, putting one quart to three or four square rods, which would amount to from one and a quarter to one and a half bushels per acre. The covering can best be done with light steel rakes. The hands engaged in covering should walk upon the side where the seed is covered; by so doing, they would draw all the earth one way, in filling up the drills and covering the seed. When the planting, as above described, has been finished, nothing more is necessary to be done until the plants begin to come up in sufficient numbers to indicate the situation of the drills. The space between the drills should then be hoed, and the weeds and grass in the rows, among the plants, pulled out by hand. This process of hoeing the spaces between the rows, and weeding the rows, should be repeated as often as necessary to keep the weeds down, and the ground loose, and in good condition. If the soil is good, the sea son favorable, and the proper cultivation given them, they will be sufficiently large for transplanting the following spring.
The process of taking them up is as follows: A subsoil plough should be used to cut them off; the share of the plough should be steel, quite large, and as flat as possible; the depth of its running can be regulated by a wheel in front, at the end of the beam. Cutting them off in this way, the larger portion of them will remain standing in their place until they are gathered by hand. They should be cut off about eight or ten inches below the surface of the ground. They can then be gathered into bundles, and the roots covered to keep them moist, after which they can be taken out, assorted, tied up in bundles of fifty or a hundred, and the tops cut off upon a block with an axe, or hatchet. They are then ready for boxing and shipping. In boxing them, the boxes should not be too tight, for some air is necessary to prevent them from moulding. Small boxes, and those of moderate size, are best—say about eighteen or twenty inches wide, about the same depth, and three or three and a half feet long. The plants may be packed in the most convenient way.
We now come to the setting of the hedge. The ground should be thoroughly broken up, to the depth of twelve or fourteen inches; the space broken at least ten feet wide, and the hedge set in the centre, would leave five feet to be cultivated upon each side. When a hedge