THE CULTURE OF VEGETABLES AND FLOWERS FROM SEEDS AND ROOTS
SUTTON AND SONS READING
SIMPKIN, MARSHALL, HAMILTON, KENT & CO; LTD.
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PRINTED BY SPOTTISWOODE, BALLANTYNE AND CO. LTD. LONDON, COLCHESTER AND ETON
THE CULTURE OF VEGETABLES 1
A YEAR'S WORK IN THE VEGETABLE GARDEN 151
THE ROTATION OF CROPS IN THE VEGETABLE GARDEN 198
THE CHEMISTRY OF GARDEN CROPS 202
ARTIFICIAL MANURES AND THEIR APPLICATION TO GARDEN CROPS 210
THE CULTURE OF FLOWERS FROM SEEDS 216
THE CULTURE OF FLOWERING BULBS 317
FLOWERS ALL THE YEAR ROUND 355
THE PESTS OF GARDEN PLANTS (illustrated) 414
THE FUNGUS PESTS OF CERTAIN GARDEN PLANTS (illustrated) 434
THE FUNGUS PESTS OF CERTAIN FLOWERS (illustrated) 447
THE CULTURE OF VEGETABLES
Horticulture has a full share in the progressive character of the age. Changes have been effected in the Kitchen Garden which are quite as remarkable as the altered methods of locomotion, lighting and sanitation. Vegetables are grown in greater variety, of higher quality, and are sent to table both earlier and later in the season than was considered possible by gardeners of former generations.
When Parkinson directed his readers to prepare Melons for eating by mixing with the pulp 'salt and pepper and good store of wine,' he must have been familiar with fruit differing widely from the superb varieties which are now in favour. A kindred plant, the Cucumber, is more prolific than ever, and the fruits win admiration for their symmetrical form.
The Tomato has ceased to be a summer luxury for the few, and is now prized as a delicacy throughout the year by all classes of the community.
As a result of the hybridiser's skill modern Potatoes produce heavier crops, less liable to succumb to the attacks of disease, than the old varieties, and the finest table quality has been maintained.
Peas are not what they were because they are so immensely better. While the powers of the plant have been concentrated, with the result that it occupies less room and occasions less trouble, its productiveness has been augmented and the quality improved. All the pulse tribe have shared in the advance, and a comparison of any dozen or score of the favourite sorts of Peas or Beans grown to-day with the same number of favourites of half or even a quarter of a century since will at once prove that progress in horticulture is no dream of the enthusiast.
Among the Brassicas, such as Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage and Cauliflower, a series of remarkable examples might be mentioned; and roots such as Beet, Carrot, Onion, Radish and Turnip afford other striking instances of improvement. Salads also, including Celery, Chicory, Endive and Lettuce, have participated in the beneficial change and offer a large choice of dainties, adapted to various periods of the year. Indeed it may be truly said that none of the occupants of the vegetable garden have refused to be improved by scientific crossing and selection.
The vegetables which are available for daily use offer a wide and most interesting field to the expert in selecting and hybridising. For past achievements we are indebted to the untiring labours of specialists, and to their continued efforts we look for further results. Whether the future may have in store greater changes than have already been witnessed none can tell. One thing only is certain, that finality is unattainable, and the knowledge of this fact adds to the charm of a fascinating pursuit. Happily, innovations are no longer received with the suspicion or hostility they formerly encountered. In gardens conducted with a spirit of enterprise novelties are welcome and have an impartial trial. The prudent gardener will regard these sowings as purely experimental, made for the express purpose of ascertaining whether better crops can be secured in future years. For his principal supplies he will rely on those varieties which experience has proved to be suitable for the soil and adapted to the requirements of the household he has to serve. By growing the best of everything, and growing everything well, not only is the finest produce insured in abundance, but every year the garden presents new features of interest.
In considering the general order of work in the Kitchen Garden, the first principle is that its productive powers shall be taxed to the utmost. There need be no fallowing—no resting of the ground; and if it should so happen that by hard cropping perplexity arises about the disposal of produce, the proverbial three courses are open—to sell, to give, or to dig the stuff in as manure. The last-named course will pay well, especially in the disposal of the remains of Cabbage, Kale, Turnips, and other vegetables that have stood through the winter and occupy ground required for spring seeds. Bury them in trenches, and sow Peas, Beans, &c., over them, and in due time full value will be obtained for the buried crops and the labour bestowed upon them. But hard cropping implies abundant manuring and incessant stirring of the soil. To take much off and put little on is like burning the candle at both ends, or expecting the whip to be an efficient substitute for corn when the horse has extra work to do. Dig deep always: if the soil be shallow it is advisable to turn the top spit in the usual manner, and break up the subsoil thoroughly for another twelve or fifteen inches. Where the soil is deep and the staple good, trench a piece every year two spits deep, the autumn being the best time for this work, because of the immense benefit which results from the exposure of newly turned soil to rain, snow, frost, and the rest of Nature's great army of fertilising agencies.
In practical work there is nothing like method. Crop the ground systematically, as if an account of the procedure had to be laid before a committee of severe critics. Constantly forecast future work and the disposition of the ground for various crops, keeping in mind the proportions they should bear to each other. Be particular to have a sufficiency of the flavouring and garnishing herbs always ready and near at hand. These are sometimes wanted suddenly, and in a well-ordered garden it should not be difficult to gather a tuft of Parsley in the dark. Change crops from place to place, so as to avoid growing the same things on the same plots in two successive seasons. This rule, though of great importance, cannot be strictly followed, and may be disregarded to a certain extent where the land is constantly and heavily manured. It is, however, of more consequence in connection with the Potato than with aught else, and this valuable root should, if possible, be grown on a different plot every year, so that it shall be three or four years in travelling round the garden. Lastly, sow everything in drills at the proper distances apart. Broadcasting is a slovenly mode of sowing, and necessitates slovenly cultivation afterwards. When crops are in drills they can be efficiently thinned, weeded and hoed—in other words, they can be cultivated. But broadcasting pretty well excludes the cultivator from the land, and can only be commended to the idle man, who will be content with half a crop of poor quality, while the land may be capable of producing a crop at once the heaviest and the best.
The Globe Artichoke is grown mainly for the sake of its flower-heads which make a delightful dish when cooked while immature. The plant is easily raised from seed, although not quite hardy in some districts. It will grow on almost any soil, but for the production of large fleshy heads, deep rich ground is requisite. The preparation of the soil should be liberal, and apart from the use of animal manure the plant may be greatly aided by wood-ashes and seaweed, for it is partial to saline manures, its home being the sandy seashores of Northern Africa.
The simplest routine of cultivation consists in sowing annually, and allowing each plantation to stand to the close of the second season. Seed may be sown in February in boxes of light soil, or in the open ground in March or April. In the former case, put in the seeds one inch deep and four inches apart, and start them in gentle heat. Grow on the seedlings steadily, and thoroughly harden off preparatory to planting out at the end of April, giving each a space of three to four feet apart each way. Under favourable conditions the plants from the February sowing will produce heads in the following August, September, and October. In the second year, the heads will be formed during June and July. This arrangement not only insures a supply of heads from June to October, but admits of a more effective rotation of crops in the garden.
Sowings in the open ground should be made in March or April, in drills one foot apart. Thin out the plants to six inches apart in the rows and allow them to stand until the following spring, when they may be transplanted to permanent beds.
Globe Artichokes may also be grown from suckers planted out in April when about nine inches high. Put them in rather deep, tread in firmly, and lay on any rough mulch that may be handy. Should the weather be dry they will require watering, and during a hot dry spell water and liquid manure should be given freely to insure a good supply of large heads. Seedlings that are started well in a suitable bed take better care of themselves than do plants from suckers, especially in a dry season. Vigorous seedlings send down their roots to a great depth.
To advise on weeding and hoeing for the promotion of a clean and strong growth should be needless, because all crops require such attention. But as to the production of large heads, a few words of advice may be useful. It is the practice with some growers to twist a piece of wire round the stem about three inches below the head. This certainly does tend to increase the size, but the same end may be accomplished by other means. In the first place, a rich deep bed and abundant supplies of water will encourage the growth of fine heads. Further aid in the same direction will be derived from the removal of all the lateral heads that appear when they are about as large as an egg. Up to this stage they do not tax the energies of the plants in any great degree; but as the flowers are forming within them their demands increase rapidly. Their removal, therefore, has an immediate effect on the main heads, and these attain to large dimensions without the aid of wire. The small heads will be valued at many tables for eating raw, as they are eaten in Italy, or cooked as 'artichauts frits.' The larger main heads are the best for serving boiled in the usual way. After the heads are used the plants should be cut down.
Chards are the blanched summer growth of Globe Artichokes, and are by many preferred to blanched Cardoons. In the early part of July the plants selected for Chards must be cut over about six inches above the ground. In a few days after this operation they will need a copious watering, which should be repeated weekly, except when heavy rains occur. By the end of September the plants will have made much growth and be ready for blanching. Draw them together, put a band of hay or straw around them, and earth them up, finishing the work neatly. The blanching will take fully six weeks, during which time there will be but little growth made—hence the necessity for promoting free growth before earthing up. Any Chards not used before winter sets in may be lifted and preserved by packing in sand in a dry shed.
The Artichoke is hardy on dry soils when the winter is of only average severity. But on retentive soils, which are most favourable to the production of fine heads, a severe winter will destroy the plantations unless they have some kind of protection. The usual course of procedure is to cut down the stems and large leaves without touching the smaller central leaves, and, when severe frost appears probable, partially earth up the rows with soil taken from between; this protection is strengthened by the addition of light dry litter loosely thrown over. With the return of spring the litter is removed, the earth is dug back, and all the suckers but about three removed: then a liberal dressing of manure is dug in, care being taken to do as little injury to the plants above and below ground as possible. At the end of five years a plantation will be quite worn out; in somewhat poor soil it will be exhausted in three years. But on any kind of soil the cultivation of this elegant vegetable is greatly simplified by sowing annually, and allowing the plants to stand for two years only, as already advised.
The Jerusalem Artichoke is a member of the Sunflower tribe, quite hardy, and productive of wholesome roots that are in favour with many as a delicacy, and by others are regarded as worthless. It is said that wise men learn to eat every good thing the earth produces, and this root is a good thing when properly served; but when cooked in the same way as a Potato it certainly is a very poor vegetable indeed. It is a matter of some interest, however, that in respect of nutritive value it is about equal to the Potato; therefore, in growing it for domestic use nothing is lost in the way of food, though it needs to be cooked in a different way.
The Jerusalem Artichoke will grow anywhere; indeed, it will often yield a profitable return on land which is unsuitable for any other crop, but to insure a fine sample it requires a deep friable loam and an open situation. We have grown immense crops on a strong deep clay, but it is not a clay plant, because it soon suffers from any excess of moisture. To prepare the ground well for this crop is a matter of importance, for it roots freely and makes an immense top-growth, reaching, when very vigorous, a height of ten or twelve feet. Trench and manure in autumn, and leave the land rough for the winter. Plant in February or March, using whole or cut sets with about three eyes to each, and put them in trenches six inches deep and three feet apart, the sets being one foot apart in the trenches. When the plants appear, hoe the ground between, draw a little fine earth to the stems, and leave the rest to Nature. Take up a portion of the crop in November and store in sand and dig the remainder when wanted, as recommended in the case of Parsnips. The tubers must be dug with a fork by opening trenches and cleaning out every scrap of the roots, for whatever remains will grow and become troublesome in the following season.
Asparagus is a liliaceous plant of perennial duration, and it demands more generous treatment than the majority of Kitchen Garden crops. Under favourable conditions it improves with age to such an extent as to justify the best possible cultivation. Plantations that have stood and prospered for twenty or even thirty years are not uncommon, but a fair average term is ten years, after which it is generally advisable to break up a bed, the precaution being first taken to secure a succession bed on fresh soil well prepared for the purpose. Plantations are made either by sowing seeds or from transplanted roots; and although roots are extremely sensitive when moved, success can, as a rule, be insured by special care and prompt action, assuming that the proper time of year is chosen for the operation. The advantage of using roots is the saving of time, and in most gardens this is an important consideration. Fortunately roots may be planted almost as safely when two or three years old as at one year.
Soil.—Asparagus will grow in any soil that is well cultivated; a deep rich sandy loam being especially suitable. Calcareous soil is by no means unfavourable to Asparagus; still, a sand rich in humus is not the less to be desired, as the finest samples of European growth are the produce of the districts around Paris and Brussels. The London Asparagus, which is prized by many for its full flavour and tenderness, is for the most part grown near at hand, in deep alluvial soils enriched with abundance of manure. Nature gives us the key to every secret that concerns our happiness, and on the cultivation of Asparagus she is liberal in her teaching. The plant is found growing wild on the sandy coasts of the British Islands—a proof that it loves sand and salt.
Preparation of Ground.—The routine cultivation must begin with a thorough preparation of the ground. Efficient drainage is imperative, for stagnant water in the subsoil is fatal to the plant. But a rich loam does not need the extravagant manuring that has been recommended and practised. Deep digging and, where the subsoil is good, trenching may be recommended, but an average manuring will suffice, because Asparagus can be effectually aided by annual top-dressings, and proper surface culture is of great importance in the subsequent stages. It is necessary to choose an open spot for the plantation. Preparation of the ground should commence in the autumn and be continued through the winter, a heavy dressing of half-rotten stable manure being put on in the first instance, and trenched in two feet deep. In the course of a month the whole piece should be trenched back. If labour is at command a third trenching may be done with advantage, and the surface may be left ridged up until the time arrives to level it for seeding. It will be obvious that this routine is of a somewhat costly character, but we are supposing the plantation is to remain for many years, making an abundant return for the first investment. Still we are bound to say that a capital supply for a moderate table may be obtained by preparing a piece of good ground in an open situation in a quite ordinary manner with one deep digging in winter, adding at the time some six inches or so of fat stable manure, and leaving it thus until the time arrives for sowing the seed. Then it will be well to level down and point in, half a spade deep, a thin coat of decayed manure to make a nice kindly seed-bed.
Where soil known to be unsuitable, such as a damp clay or pasty loam, has to be prepared for Asparagus, it will be found an economical practice to remove the top spit, which we will suppose to be turf or old cultivated soil, and on the space so cleared make up a bed of the best possible materials at command. Towards this mixture there is the top spit just referred to. Add any available lime rubbish from destroyed buildings, sand, peat, leaf-mould, surface soil raked from the rear of the shrubberies, &c., and the result should be a good compost obtained at an almost nominal cost.
Size of Bed, and Sowing Seed.—At this juncture several questions of considerable importance arise. And first, whether the crop shall be grown on the flat or in raised beds. Where the soil is sufficiently deep, and the drainage perfect, the flat system answers well. The advantages of raised beds are that they deepen the soil, assist the drainage, promote warmth, and thus aid the growth of an early crop. In fact, raised beds render it possible to grow Asparagus on soils from which this vegetable could not otherwise be obtained. The preparation is the same in either case, and therefore we shall make no further allusion to flat beds, but leave those to adopt them who find their soil and requirements suitable. Now comes the question of distance, on which depends the width of the beds. The first point may be settled by the measure of the plant, and the second by the measure of the man. Monster sticks are valued at some tables, and we shall refer to these later on, but an abundant crop of handsome, though not abnormal, Asparagus meets the requirements of most households. After many experiments, we have come to the conclusion that the best mode of insuring a full return of really good sticks, with the least amount of labour, is to lay out the land in three-feet beds, with two-feet alleys between. In some instances, no doubt, five-feet beds, containing three rows of roots, one down the middle and one on each side at a distance of eighteen inches, are preferable. For the majority of gardens, however, the three-feet bed is a distinct advantage, were it only for the fact that all excuse for putting a foot on the bed is avoided. On this narrow bed only two rows of plants will be necessary. Put down the line at nine inches from the edge on both sides, and at intervals of fifteen inches in the rows dibble holes two inches deep, dropping two or three seeds in each. This will give a distance between the rows of eighteen inches. In very strong land, heavily manured, the holes may be eighteen inches apart instead of fifteen. April is the right month for sowing.
Thinning.—When the 'grass' from seeds has grown about six inches high, only the strongest plant must be left at each station, and they should finally stand at a distance of fifteen or eighteen inches in the row. Much of the injury reported to follow from close planting has been the result of carelessness in thinning. The young plant is such a slender, delicate thing, that, to the thoughtless operator, it seems folly to thin down to one only. The consequence is that two or three, or perhaps half a dozen, plants are left at each station to 'fight it out,' and these become so intermixed as to appear to be one, though really many, and of course amongst them they produce more shoots than can be fed properly by the limited range of their roots. Severe, or may we say mathematical, thinning is a sine qua non, and it requires sharp eyes and careful fingers; but it must be done if the Asparagus beds are to become, as they should be, the pride of the Kitchen Garden.
Blanching.—The grave question of white versus green Asparagus we cannot entertain, except so far as concerns the cultivator only. On the point of taste, therefore, we say nothing; and it is a mere matter of management whether the sticks are blanched to the very tip, or allowed to become green for some few inches. Blanching is effected in various ways. The heaping up of soft soil, such as leaf-mould, will accomplish it. On the Continent many contrivances are resorted to, such as covering the heads with wooden or earthen pipes. In a few districts in France champagne-bottles with the bottoms cut away are employed. But a strong growth being secured, the cultivator will find it an easy matter to regulate the degree of colour according to the requirements of the table he has to serve. As a rule, a moderately stout growth, with a fair show of purple colour, is everywhere appreciated, and is the easiest to produce, because the most natural.
There is, however, an interesting point in connection with the production of green Asparagus, and it is that if wintry weather prevails when the heads are rising (as unfortunately is often the case) the tender green tops may be melted by frost and become worthless, or may be rendered so tough as to place the quality below that of blanched Asparagus; for the blanching is also a protective process, and quickly grown white Asparagus is often more tender and tasty than that which is green, but has been grown slowly. As the season advances and the heads rise rapidly the green Asparagus acquires its proper flavour and tenderness, and thus practical considerations should more or less influence final decisions on matters of taste. The business of the cultivator is to produce the kind of growth that is required, whether white or green, or of a quality intermediate between the two. This is easily done, making allowance for conditions. When green Asparagus is alone in demand, the cultivator may be advised to have in readiness, as the heads are making their first show, a sufficient supply of some rough and cheap protecting material, such as grass and coarse weeds, cut with a sickle from odd corners of the shrubbery and meadow land, or clean hay and straw perfectly free from mildew; but for obvious reasons stable litter should not be used. A very light sprinkling of material over an Asparagus bed that is making a first show of produce will ward off the morning frosts, and amply compensate for the little trouble in saving many tender green sticks that the frosts would melt to a jelly and render worthless. After the second or third week in May the litter may be removed if needful; but if appearances are of secondary importance, it may be left to shrink away on the spot.
Cutting.—Asparagus as supplied by market growers is needlessly long in the stem. The bundles have an imposing appearance, no doubt, but the useless length adds nothing to the comfort of those at table, and is a wasteful tax on the energy of the plant. For home consumption it will generally suffice if the white portion is about four inches long, and this determines the depth at which the sticks should be cut. Here it may be useful to remark that deeply buried roots do not thrive so well as those which are nearer the surface, nor do they produce such early crops. The sticks are usually cut by thrusting down a stiff narrow-pointed knife, or specially made saw, close to each shoot; and it is necessary to do this with judgment, or adjacent shoots, which are not sufficiently advanced to reveal their presence by lifting the soil, may be damaged. To avoid this risk of injury by the knife it is possible from some beds to obtain the sticks without the aid of any implement by a twist and pull combined, but the process needs a dexterous hand and is impracticable in tenacious soils. The sticks of a handsome sample will be white four or five inches of their length; the tops close, plump, of a purplish-green colour, and the colour extending two or at most three inches down the stems. Both size and degree of colouring are, however, so entirely questions of taste that no definite rule can be stated. It is more to the purpose to say that, if liberally grown, the plant may be cut from in the third year; and that cutting should cease about the middle of June, or early in July, according to the district. For the good of the plant the sooner cutting ceases the better, as the next year's buds have to be formed in the roots by the aid of the top-growth of the current season.
Weeding and Staking.—Two other points relating to the general management are worthy of attention. Some crops get on fairly well when neglected and crowded with weeds. Not so with Asparagus. The plant appears to have been designed to enjoy life in solitude, being unfit for competition; and if weeds make way in an Asparagus bed, the cultivator will pay a heavy penalty for his neglect of duty. The limitation of the beds to a width of three feet, therefore, is of consequence, because it facilitates weeding without putting a foot on them. The other point arises out of the necessity of affording support to the frail plant in places where it may happen to be exposed to wind. When Asparagus in high summer is rudely shaken, the stems snap off at the base, and the roots lose the service of the top-growth in maturing buds for the next season. To prevent this injury is easy enough, but the precautions must be adopted in good time. A free use of light, feathery stakes, such as are employed for the support of Peas, thrust in firmly all over the bed, will insure all needful support when gales are blowing. In the absence of pea-sticks, stout stakes, placed at suitable distances and connected with lengths of thick tarred twine, will answer equally well. In sheltered gardens the protection of the young growth with litter, and of the mature growth with stakes, need not be resorted to, but in exposed situations these precautions should not be neglected.
Manuring Permanent Beds.—The management of Asparagus includes a careful clean-up of the beds in autumn. The plants should not be cut down until they change colour; then all the top-growth may be cleared away and the surface raked clean. Give the beds a liberal dressing of half-decayed manure, and carefully touch up the sides to make them neat and tidy. It is usual at the same time to dig and manure the alleys, but this practice we object to in toto, because it tends directly to the production of lean sticks where fat ones are possible; for the roots run freely in the alleys, and to dig is to destroy them. In the spring clear the beds of the autumn dressing by raking any remnant of manure into the alleys, and the beds and the alleys should then be carefully pricked over with a fork two or three inches deep only, and with great care not to wound any roots.
The application of salt requires judgment. For a time it renders the bed cold, and when followed by snow the two combine to make a freezing mixture which arrests the growth of established plants. On a newly made bed salt is unnecessary, and may prove destructive to the roots. The proper time for applying salt must be determined by the district and the character of the season; but in no case should the mineral be used until active growth has commenced, although it is not needful to wait until the growth is visible above the surface. In the southern counties a suitable opportunity may generally be found from the beginning to the middle of April. Second and third dressings may follow at intervals of three weeks, which not only stimulate the roots but keep down weeds.
Planting Roots.—In many gardens where there is space for two or three beds only there will be the very natural desire to secure Asparagus in a shorter time than is possible from seed, and we therefore proceed to indicate the best method of planting roots. Asparagus roots do not take kindly to removal, especially old and established plants. The mere drying of the roots by exposure to the atmosphere is distinctly injurious to them. They will travel safely a long distance when well packed, but the critical time is between the unpacking and getting them safely into their final home. Everything should be made ready for the transfer before the package is opened, and the actual task of planting should be accomplished in the shortest time possible.
A three-feet bed should be prepared by taking out the soil in such a manner as to leave two ridges for the roots. The space between ridges to be eighteen inches, and the tops of the ridges to be so far below the level of the bed that when the soil is returned, and the bed made to its normal level, the crowns will be about five inches beneath the surface. This may be understood from the following illustration of a section cut across the bed.
A, A represent the alleys between the beds, and B the top of one bed. The dotted lines show the ridges on which the roots are to rest at C, C. When the bed is ready, open the package and place the Asparagus on the ridges at fifteen or eighteen inches apart, allowing about half the roots of each plant to fall down on either side of the ridge. As a rule it will be wise to have two pairs of hands engaged in the task. The soil should be filled in expeditiously, and a finishing touch be given to the bed. Very rarely will it be safe to transplant Asparagus until the end of March or beginning of April, for although established roots will pass unharmed through a very severe winter, those which have recently been removed are often killed outright by a lengthened period of cold wet weather, and especially by thawed snow followed by frost.
Giant Asparagus.—Some of the most critical judges of Asparagus in the country are extremely partial to giant sticks. Their preference is not based on mere superiority in size, but on the special flavour which is the peculiar merit of these extra-large Asparagus when they are properly grown. Although there is no difficulty whatever in producing them, it must be admitted that to insure specimens weighing nearly or quite half a pound, plenty of space must be allowed for the full development of each plant and a prodigal use of manure is imperative. Where drainage is effectual, the soil of any well-tilled garden can be made suitable. The roots may be grown in clumps or in rows. Clumps are planted in triangular form, two feet being allowed between the three plants of each group, with a distance of five feet between the groups. The more usual method, however, is to plant in rows. In both cases the cultural details are almost identical, and to obtain the finest results it is wise to get the preparatory work done at convenient times in advance of the planting season. Assuming that rows are decided on, commence operations by digging a broad deep trench, throwing out the soil to the right and left to form sloping sides until there is a perpendicular depth of twenty-seven inches from the top of the ridge. About one foot of prepared soil should be placed in the bottom of the trench. This may be composed of such material as the trimmings of hedges, sweepings of shrubberies, twigs from a faggot pile, wood ashes and leaf-mould. The constituents must to some extent depend on the materials at command. What is wanted is a light compost, consisting almost wholly of vegetable matter in a more or less advanced state of decomposition. Add three or four inches of rich loam, and on this, at the beginning of April, plant strong one-year roots of a robust-growing variety. Between the plants it is customary to allow a space of at least two feet, and some growers put them a full yard apart. Cover the crowns with three inches of rich soil, previously mixed with manure and laid up for the purpose. The second and following rows are to be treated in the same way, and the work must be so managed that an equal distance of four and a half or five feet is left between the rows. When the foliage dies down in autumn, a layer of fertile loam mixed with rotten manure should be spread over the surface. In the succeeding spring remove just the top crust of soil and give a thick dressing of decayed manure alone, upon which the soil can be restored. During the autumn of the second year the furrow must be filled with horse manure for the winter. Remove this manure in March, and substitute good loam containing a liberal admixture of decayed manure previously incorporated with the soil. The slight ridges that remain can then be levelled down. By this treatment large handsome sticks of Asparagus may be cut in the third year. To maintain the plants in a high state of efficiency, it must be clearly understood that forcing with horse manure will be necessary every subsequent year. Blanching may be carried out by any of the usual methods, and Sea Kale pots are both convenient and effectual. Not a weed should be visible on the beds at any time.
Forcing is variously practised, and the best possible system, doubtless, is to force in the beds, and thereby train the plants to their work so that they become used to it. The growers who supply Paris with forced Asparagus produce the white sample in the beds, and the green by removal of the roots to frames. Forcing in beds may be accomplished by means of trenches filled with fermenting material or by hot-water pipes, the beds in either case being covered with frames. Where the demand for forced Asparagus is constant, there can be no doubt the hot-water system is the cheapest as well as the cleanest and most reliable; for a casual supply forcing in frames answers very well, but it is attended with the disadvantage that when the crop has been secured the roots are worthless. The practice of forcing may be said to commence with the formation of the seed-bed, for if it is to be carried on in a systematic and profitable manner, every detail must be provided for in the original arrangements. The width of the beds and of the alleys, and the disposition of the plants, will have to be carefully considered, so as to insure the best results of a costly procedure, and it will be waste of time to begin forcing until the plants have attained their fourth year. The rough method of market growers consists in the employment of hot manure in trenches, and also on the beds, after the frames are put on. The beds are usually four feet wide, the alleys two feet wide and twenty inches deep, and the plants not more than nine inches apart in the row, there being three or four rows of plants in the bed. The frames are put on when forcing commences, but the lights are withheld until the shoots begin to appear. Then the fermenting material is removed from the beds, the lights are put on, and no air is given, mats being added in cold weather, both to retain warmth and promote blanching. This method produces a fair market sample, but a much better growth may be obtained by a good hot-water system, as will be understood from a momentary consideration of details. By the employment of fermenting material the temperature runs up rapidly, sometimes extravagantly, so that it is no uncommon event for the growth to commence at 70 deg. to 80 deg. Fahr., which may produce a handsome sample, but it will be flavourless. The hot-water system allows of perfect control, and the prudent grower will begin at 50 deg., rise slowly to 60 deg., and take care not to exceed 65 deg.; the result will be a sample full of flavour, with a finer appearance than the best obtainable by the rougher method.
Forcing in frames is systematically practised in many gardens, and as it exhausts the roots there must be a corresponding production of roots for the purpose. The first requisite is a good lasting hot-bed, covered with about four inches of light soil of any kind, but preferably leaf-mould. The roots are carefully lifted and planted as closely as possible on this bed, and covered with fine soil to a depth of six inches. The sashes are then put on and kept close; but a little air may be given as the heads rise, to promote colour and flavour. The heat will generally run to 70 deg., and that figure should be the maximum allowed. Experienced growers prefer to force at 60 deg. or 65 deg., and to take a little more time for the advantage of a finer sample.
The Broad Bean is a thrifty plant, as hardy as any in the garden, and very accommodating as to soil. It is quite at home on heavy land, but in common with nearly all other vegetables it thrives on a deep sandy loam. Considering the productive nature of the plant and its comparatively brief occupation of the ground, the common Bean must be regarded as one of our most profitable garden crops. Both the Longpod and Windsor classes should be grown. For general work the Longpods are invaluable; they are early, thoroughly hardy, produce heavy crops, and in appearance and flavour satisfy the world at large, as may be proved by appeal to the markets. The Windsor Beans are especially prized for their superior quality, being tender, full of flavour, and, if well managed, most tempting in colour when put upon the table.
For early crops the Longpods claim attention, and sowings may be made towards the end of October or during November on a dry soil in a warm situation, sheltered from the north. Choose a dry day for the operation. On no account should the attempt be made while the soil conditions are unfavourable, even if the sowing is thereby deferred for some time. The distance must depend upon the sorts, but two feet will answer generally as the distance between the double rows; the two lines forming the double rows may be nine inches apart, and the seed two inches deep. On strong ground a distance of three feet can be allowed between the double rows, but it is not well to give overmuch space, because the plants protect each other somewhat, and earliness of production is the matter of chief moment. Thoroughly consolidate the soil to encourage sturdy hard growth which will successfully withstand the excessive moisture and cold of winter. It is an excellent practice to prepare a piece of good ground sloping to the south, and on this to make a plantation in February of plants carefully lifted from the seed rows, wherever they can be spared as proper thinnings. These should be put in double rows, three feet apart. If transplanted with care they will receive but a slight check, and will give a successional supply.
Main Crops.—Another sowing may be made towards the end of January, but for the main crop wait until February or March. For succession crops sowings may be made until mid-April, after which time there is risk of failure, especially on hot soils. A strong soil is suitable, and generally speaking a heavy crop of Beans may be taken from a well-managed clay. But any deep cool soil will answer, and where there is a regular demand for Beans the cultivator may be advised to grow both Longpods and Windsors—the first for earliness and bulk, the second for quality. The double rows of maincrop Beans should be fully three feet apart, and the plants quite nine inches apart in the rows. The preparation of the seed-bed must be of a generous nature. Where grass land or land of questionable quality is broken up and trenched, it will be tolerably safe to crop it with Beans as a first start; and to prepare it for the crop a good body of fat stable manure should be laid in between the first and second spits, as this will carry the crop through, while insuring to the subsoil that has been brought up a time of seasoning with the least risk of any consequent loss.
There is not much more to be said about growing Beans; the ground must be kept clean, and the hoe will have its work here as elsewhere. The pinching out of the tops as soon as there is a fair show of blossom is a good plan, whether fly is visible or not, and it is also advisable to root out all plants as fast as they finish their work, for if left they throw up suckers and exhaust the soil. The gathering of the crop is often so carelessly performed that the supply is suddenly arrested.
Sowings under Glass.—In an emergency, Beans may be started in pots in the greenhouse, or on turf sods in frames for planting out, in precisely the same way as Peas for early crops. This practice is convenient in cases where heavy water-logged ground precludes outdoor sowing in autumn and early spring. In all such cases care must be taken that the forcing is of the most moderate character, or the crop will be poor and late, instead of being plentiful and early. When pushed on under glass for planting out, the young stock must have as much light and air as possible consistent with safety, and a slow healthy growth will better answer the purpose than a rapid growth producing long legs and pale leaves, because the physique of infancy determines in a great degree that of maturity, not less in plants than in animals.
DWARF FRENCH BEAN
Among summer vegetables Dwarf French Beans are deservedly in high favour, and are everywhere sown at the earliest moment consistent with reasonable expectations of their safety. This early sowing is altogether laudable, for although it occasionally entails the loss of a plantation, the aggregate result is advantageous, and a very little protection suffices to carry the early plant through the late spring frosts. But those who supply our tables with green delicacies do not all recognise the importance of late sowings of Dwarf Beans. Here, again, a risk must be incurred, but the cost is trifling, and when the summer is prolonged to October the late-sown Beans are highly prized. Even if they produce plentifully through September there is a great point gained, but that cannot be secured from the earliest sowings; it is impossible. After July it is useless to sow Beans, but where the demand is constant, two or three sowings may be made in this month, choosing the most sheltered nooks that can be found for them. For late sowings the earliest sorts should have preference.
Dwarf Beans for main crops require a good though somewhat light soil; but any fairly productive loam will answer the purpose, and the crop will yield an ample return for such reasonable digging and dressing as a careful cultivator will not fail to bestow. At the same time, it is a matter of some practical importance that the poorest land ever put under tillage will, in an average season, yield serviceable crops of these legumes, and on a rich soil of some depth the Dwarf Bean will endure summer drought better than any other crop in the Kitchen Garden. Earliness of production is of the highest importance up to a certain point; but an early crop being provided for, abundance of production next claims consideration, the heaviest bearers being of course best adapted for main-crop sowing. As regards the sowing and general culture, it is too often true that Dwarf Beans are crowded injuriously, even in gardens that are usually well managed. Nothing is gained by crowding. On the contrary, loss always ensues when the individual plant, through deficiency of space, is hindered in its full development.
For early crops which are eventually to come to maturity in the open ground, the first sowings may be made in the month of April, either in boxes in a gentle heat, or better still in a frame on a sunny border without artificial heat. In districts where frost frequently prevails in May, and on heavy soils where early sowings outdoors are impracticable in a wet spring, the forwarding of plants under glass is very desirable, but the actual date for sowing must depend on local conditions. The tender growth that is produced by a forcing process is not well adapted for planting out in May; but a plant produced slowly, with plenty of light and air, will be stout and strong, and if put out with care as soon as mild weather occurs in May, will make good progress and yield an early crop. The seed for this purpose should be sown in rather light turfy soil, as the plants may then be lifted without injury to their fleshy roots. Careful treatment will be desirable for some time after they are planted, such as protection from sun and frost, and watering, if necessary, although the less watering the better, provided the plants can hold their ground. The plot to which these early sowings are to be transplanted should be light and rich, and lying towards the sun; open the lines with the spade or hoe in preference to using the dibber, and as fast as the roots are dropped into their places with their balls of earth unbroken, carefully restore the fine soil from the surface. Rough handling will seriously interfere with the ultimate result, but ordinary care will insure abundant gatherings of first-class produce at a time when there are but few in the market. On dry soils a small sowing may be made about the second week of April on a sheltered south border. Sow in double rows six inches apart, and allow a distance of two feet between the double rows. When the seedlings appear give protection if necessary, and in due course thin the plants to six inches apart in the rows.
Main crops are sown from the last week in April to the middle of June. The distance for the rows may be from one and a half to two feet apart, according to the vigour of the variety, the strongest growers requiring fully two feet, and the distance between the plants may be eight to twelve inches; therefore it is well to sow the seed two to three inches apart, and thin out as soon as the rough leaves appear. The ground being in fairly good condition, it will only be necessary to chop over the surface, if at all lumpy, and with the hoe draw drills about two inches deep, which is far better than dibbling, except on very light soil, when dibbling about three inches deep is quite allowable. Generally speaking, if the plot be kept clean, the Beans will take care of themselves; but in droughty weather a heavy watering now and then will be visibly beneficial, for although the plant bears drought well, it is like other good things in requiring something to live upon. In exposed situations and where storms are prevalent, it is an excellent practice to support the plants with bushy twigs.
Late Crops.—To extend the outdoor supply sowings may be made early in July. When the ground has become dry and hard, it is advisable to soak the seed in water for five or six hours; the drills should also be watered, and, if possible, the ground should be covered with rotten dung, spent hops, or some other mulchy stuff to promote and sustain vegetation.
The gathering of the crop should be a matter of discipline. Where it is done carelessly, there will very soon be none to gather, for the swelling of a few seeds in neglected pods will cause the plants to cease bearing. Therefore all the Beans should be gathered when of a proper size, whether they are wanted or not; this is the only way to insure a long-continued supply of good quality both as to colour and tenderness.
Autumn, Winter and Spring Supplies.—By successional sowings under glass a continuous supply of Beans may be obtained through autumn, winter, and spring. The earliest sowings should be made at fortnightly intervals, from mid-July to mid-September, in cold frames filled with well-manured soil. Put in the seeds two inches deep and six inches apart, in rows one foot apart. Water copiously during the hot months and give protection when the nights become cold. After mid-September crops of dwarf-growing varieties should be raised in heated pits, or in pots placed in a warm temperature. In pits the beds should be one foot deep, the drills one foot apart, and the plants six inches asunder in the rows. When pots are used the ten-inch size will be found most convenient. Only three-parts fill the pots with a good compost, and insure perfect drainage. Place eight or nine beans one and a half inches deep in each pot, eventually reducing the number of plants to five. As the plants progress soil may be added to within an inch and a half of the rims. Air-giving and watering will need careful management, for the most robust growth possible is required, but there must be no chill, and any excess of either moisture or dryness will be immediately injurious. When a few pods are formed feed the plants with alternate applications of soot water and liquid manure, commencing with highly diluted doses. Thoroughly syringe the plants twice daily to combat Red Spider. At night a temperature of from 55 deg. to 60 deg. must be maintained. In mid-February sowings may be made in frames in which six inches of fertile soil has been placed over a good layer of litter or leaves. From these sowings heavy crops may be secured in spring and early summer before the outdoor supplies are ready.
Flageolets is the name given to the seeds of certain types of Dwarf and Climbing Beans when used in a state intermediate between the green pods (Haricots verts) and the fully ripe seeds (Haricots secs), and they are strongly to be recommended for culinary purposes. The use of Bean seeds as Flageolets, although so little known in this country, is very largely practised abroad, and in the vegetable markets of many French towns the shelling of the beans from the semi-ripe pods by women, in readiness for cooking in the manner of green peas, is a very familiar sight. The seeds of almost all varieties are suitable for use in this way, irrespective of colour, as this is not developed as would be the case if the seeds were quite ripe.
CLIMBING FRENCH BEAN
The Climbing French Bean has all the merits of the Dwarf French Bean, and the climbing habit not only extends the period of bearing but results in a yield such as cannot be obtained from the most prolific strains in the Dwarf section. Although the modern Climbing Bean is less vigorous in growth than the ordinary Runner, the former may generally be had in bearing before the most forward crop of Runners is ready. For an early supply out of doors seed should be sown under glass in April, in the manner advised for early crops of the Dwarf class. Gradually harden off the plants and transfer to permanent quarters on the first favourable opportunity. In the open ground successive sowings may be made from the end of April to June. The outdoor culture of Climbing French Beans is practically the same as for the Dwarf varieties, except that the former are usually grown in double rows about four to five feet apart. Allow the plants to stand finally at nine to twelve inches each way, and support them with bushy sticks such as are used for Peas, for Climbing Beans will run far more readily on these than on single sticks.
The Climbing French Bean is especially useful for producing crops under glass in spring and autumn, and the plants do well when grown in narrow borders with the vines trained close to the roof-glass by means of wire or string to which the growth readily clings. The general treatment may be much the same as that recommended for the Dwarf varieties, special care being taken with regard to watering and the giving of air. During the autumn months atmospheric moisture must be cautiously regulated or much of the foliage will damp off, while in spring a humid atmosphere should be maintained and systematic watering practised. Cucumber, Melon, and Tomato beds from which the crops have been cleared may often be used to advantage for raising a crop of Climbing Beans, and generally these beds are in excellent condition for the plants without the addition of manure.
Although in France the term Haricot is given to all types of Beans, except those of the English Broad Bean, in this country the word Haricot is generally applied only to the dried seeds of certain Dwarf and Climbing Beans, notably those which are white. Almost any variety, however, may be used as Haricots, but the most popular are those which produce self-coloured seeds, such as white, green, and the various shades of brown. Seed should be sown early in May and the plants treated as advised for French Beans. The pods should not be removed from the plants until the seeds are thoroughly ripe. If ripening cannot be completed in the open, pull up the plants and hang them in a shed until the seeds are quite dry.
Runner beans need generous cultivation and will amply repay for the most liberal treatment. The main point to be borne in mind is that the plant possesses the most extensive root-system of any garden vegetable. Deep digging and liberal manuring are therefore essential where the production of the finest crops is aimed at. If possible the whole of the ground to be allotted to Runners should be deeply tilled and well manured in autumn or winter. But where this is inconvenient, trenching must be carried out in March or early April. Remove the soil to a depth of two feet, and the trench may be two feet wide for a double row of Beans. Thoroughly break up the subsoil, half-fill the trench with well-rotted manure, and restore the surface soil to within a few inches of the level.
Time of Sowing.—It is seldom advisable to sow Runners in the open before the month of May is fairly in, for they are less hardy than Dwarf Beans, but as late supplies are everywhere valued it is important to sow again in June. Of course these late crops are subject to the caprices of autumnal weather, although they often continue in bearing until quite late in the season. In districts where spring frosts are destructive, and on cold soils or in very exposed situations, plants may be raised in boxes for transferring to the open ground, as advised for Dwarf Beans, but in the case of Runners allow a space of three inches between the seeds.
Distances for Rows, &c.—Frequently the rows of Runner Beans are injuriously close, and the total crop is thereby diminished. On deep, well-prepared soils, single rows generally prove most productive, and they should be not less than five feet apart. But where the soil is shallow and generous preparation is not possible, and in wind-swept positions, double rows, set nine inches apart, are more satisfactory. Between the double rows allow a space of from six to eight feet, on which Cauliflower, Lettuce, or other small-growing subjects may be planted out. Two inches is the proper depth for putting in the seed, and it is a wise policy to sow liberally and eventually to thin the plants to a distance of from nine to twelve inches apart in the rows.
Staking.—It will always pay to give support by stakes, but where these are not available wire netting or strands of stout string make efficient substitutes. Immediately the plants are a few inches high, insert the sticks on either side of the rows and tie them firmly to the horizontal stakes placed in the fork near to the top. The means of support should be decided upon and erected in advance of planting out Runners which have been raised in boxes, thus avoiding any risk of injury to the roots.
But Runners make a good return when kept low by topping, and without any support whatever, a system adopted by many market gardeners. For this method of culture space the plants one foot apart in single rows set three feet apart. Pinch out the tips when the plants are eighteen inches high and repeat the operation when a further eighteen inches of growth has formed.
General Cultivation.—As slugs and snails are particularly partial to the young plants, an occasional dusting of old soot, slaked lime, or any gritty substance should be given to render the leaves unpalatable to these pests. During drought copious watering of the rows is essential, especially on shallow soils; spraying the plants in the evening with soft water is also freely practised and this assists the setting of flowers in dry weather. A mulch of decayed manure will prove of great benefit to the plants and will prolong the period of bearing.
In some gardens Runners are grown in groups running up rods tied together at the top, and when these groups are arranged at regular intervals on each side of a path, the result is extremely pleasing. This mode of culture interferes to a very trifling extent with other crops, and the ornamental effect may be enhanced by growing varieties which have white, red, and bicolor flowers.
Preserving the roots of Runners is sometimes recommended. We can only say that it is a ridiculous proceeding. The utmost care is required to keep the roots through the winter, and they are comparatively worthless in the end. A pint of seed will give a better crop than a number of roots that have cost great pains for their preservation.
Runner Beans for Exhibition.—Although fine specimens fit for exhibition may frequently be gathered from the general garden crop, a little extra attention to the cultivation of Runner Beans for show work will be well repaid. When staged the pods must possess not only the merit of mere size, but they should be perfect in shape and quite young. Rapid as well as robust growth is therefore essential to success. Select the strongest-growing plants in the rows, and for a few weeks before the pods are wanted give alternate applications of liquid manure and clear water. Pinch out all side growths, and limit the number of pods to two in each cluster.
Many visitors to the Continent have learned to appreciate the fine qualities of the Waxpod Beans, sometimes known as Butter Beans, the pods of which are usually cooked whole. There are two types, the dwarf and the runner, for which respectively the culture usual for Dwarf French Beans and Runner Beans will be quite suitable.
As a food plant the Beet scarcely obtains the attention it deserves. There is no lack of appreciation of its beauty for purposes of garnishing, or of its flavour as the component of a salad; but other uses to which it is amenable for the comfort and sustenance of man are sometimes neglected. As a simple dish to accompany cold meats the Beet is most acceptable. Dressed with vinegar and white pepper, it is at once appetising, nutritive, and digestible. Served as fritters, it is by some people preferred to Mushrooms, as it then resembles them in flavour, and is more easily digested. It makes a first-rate pickle, and as an agent in colouring it has a recognised value, because of the perfect wholesomeness of the rich crimson hue it imparts to any article of food requiring it.
Frame Culture.—Where the demand for Beet exists the whole year through, early sowings in heat are indispensable. For this method of cultivation the Globe variety should be employed, and two sowings, the first in February and another in March, will generally provide a good supply of roots in advance of the outdoor crops. Sow in drills on a gentle hot-bed and thin the plants from six to nine inches apart in the rows. As soon as the plants are large enough, give air at every suitable opportunity. Fresh young Beets grown in this way find far more favour at table than those which have been stored for several months. They are also of great service for exhibition, especially in collections of early vegetables.
Preparation of Ground.—The cultivation of Beet is of the most simple nature, but a certain amount of care is requisite for the production of a handsome and profitable crop. Beet will make a fair return on any soil that is properly prepared for it; but to grow this root to perfection a rich light loam is necessary, free from any trace of recent or strong manure. A rank soil, or one to which manure has been added shortly before sowing the seed, will produce ugly roots, some coarse with overgrowth, others forked and therefore of little value, and others, perhaps, cankered and worthless. The soil should be well prepared by deep digging some time before making up the seed-bed, and it is sound practice to grow Beet on plots that have been heavily manured in the previous year for Cauliflower, Celery, or any other crop requiring good cultivation. If the soil from an old Melon or Cucumber bed can be spared, it may be spread over the land and dug in, and the piece should be broken up in good time to become mellow before the seed is sown. Seaweed is a capital manure for Beet, especially if laid at the bottom of the trench when preparing the ground. A moderate dressing of salt may be added with advantage, as the Beet is a seaside plant.
Early Crops.—Where frames are not available for providing early supplies of Beetroot, forward crops may often be obtained from the open ground by making sowings of the Globe variety from the end of March to mid-April, in a sheltered position. Of course, the earlier the sowing the greater the risk of destruction by frost, and birds may take the seedlings. A double thickness of fish netting, however, stretched over stakes about one foot above the soil, will afford protection from the former and prevent the depredations of the latter. Set the drills about twelve inches apart and sow the seed one and a half to two inches deep. Thin the plants early and allow them to stand finally at nine inches in the rows.
Main Crop.—The most important crop is that required for salading, for which a deep-coloured Beet of rich flavour is to be preferred, and the aim of the cultivator should be to obtain roots of moderate size and of perfect shape and finish. The ground having been trenched two spades deep early in the year, may be made up into four-and-a-half-feet beds some time in March, preparatory to sowing the seed. The main sowing should never be made until quite the end of April or beginning of May. For a neat crop, sow in drills one and a half to two inches deep, and spaced from twelve to fifteen inches apart. When finally thinned the plants should stand about nine inches apart in the rows. Hand weeding will have to follow soon after sowing, and perhaps the hoe may be required to supplement the hand. The thinning should be commenced as early as possible, but it is waste of time to plant the thinnings, and it is equally waste of time to water the crop. In fact, if the ground is well prepared, weeding and thinning comprise the whole remainder of the cultivation.
Some of the smaller and more delicate Beets, of a very dark colour, may be sown in drills a foot or fifteen inches apart and thinned to six inches distance in the drills. We have, indeed, lifted pretty crops of the smaller Beets at four inches, but it is not prudent to crowd the plants, as the result will be thin roots with long necks.
On stony shallow soils, where it is difficult to grow handsome long Beets, the Globe and Intermediate varieties may be tried with the prospect of a satisfactory result. We have in hot seasons found these most useful on a damp clay where fine specimens of long Beet were rarely obtainable. From this same unkind clay it is possible to secure good crops of long Beets, by making deep holes with a dibber a foot apart and filling these with sandy stuff from the compost yard and sowing the seed over them. It is a tedious process, but it benefits the land for the next crop, and the Beets pay for it in the first instance.
Late Crops.—By sowing the Globe or Turnip-rooted varieties in July, useful roots may be obtained during the autumn and winter. Space the drills as advised for early crops. Seed may also with advantage be thinly sown broadcast; the young plants will thus protect one another, and the roots may be pulled as they mature.
Lifting and Storing.—A Beet crop may be left in the ground during the winter if aided by a covering of litter during severe frost. But it is safer out of the ground than in it, and the proper time to lift is when a touch of autumn frost has been experienced. Dry earth or sand, in sufficient quantity, should be ready for the storing, and a clamp in a sheltered corner will answer if shed room is scarce. In any case, a dry and cool spot is required, for damp will beget mildew, and warmth will cause growth. In cutting off the tops before storing, take care not to cut too near the crown, or injurious bleeding will follow. On the other hand, the long fang-like roots may be shortened without harm, for the slight bleeding that will occur at that end will not affect more than the half-inch or so next to the cut part. A little experience will teach anyone that Beets must be handled with care, or the goodness will run out of them. Many cooks bake Beets because boiling so often spoils them; but if they are in no way cut or bruised, and are plunged into boiling water and kept boiling for a sufficient length of time—half an hour to two hours, according to size—there will be but a trifling difference between boiling and baking.
The Silver, or Sea Kale, Beet is grown principally for the stalk and the midrib of the leaf, considered by some to be equal to Asparagus. In a rank soil, with plenty of liquid manure, the growth is quick, robust, and the plant of good quality, without the necessity of earthing up. Sow in April and May, thinly in drills, and allow the plants eventually to stand at about fifteen inches apart each way. The leaves should be pulled, not cut. As the stalks often turn black in cooking, it is advisable to add a few drops of lemon-juice to the water in which they are boiled, and, of course, soda should never be used. They should be served up in the same manner as Asparagus. The remainder of the leaf is dressed as Spinach.
BORECOLE, or KALE
Brassica oleracea acephala
The Borecoles or Kales are indispensable for the supply of winter vegetables, and their importance becomes especially manifest when severe frost has made general havoc in the Kitchen Garden. Then it is seen that the hardier Borecoles are proof against the lowest temperature experienced in these islands; and, while frost leaves the plants unharmed, it improves the tops and side sprouts that are required for table purposes.
As regards soil, the Borecoles are the least particular of the whole race of Brassicas. They appear to be capable of supplying the table with winter greens even when grown on hard rocky soil, but good loam suits them admirably, and a strong clay, well tilled, will produce a grand sample. Granting, then, that a good soil is better than a bad one, we urge the sowing of seed as early as possible for insuring to the plant a long season of growth. But early sowing should be followed by early planting, for it is bad practice to leave the plants crowded in the seed-bed until the summer is far advanced. This, however, is often unavoidable, and it is well to consider in time where the plants are to go, and when, according to averages, the ground will be vacant to receive them. The first sowing may be made early in March, and another in the middle of April. These two sowings will suffice for almost all the purposes that can be imagined. A good seed-bed in an open spot is absolutely necessary. It is usual to draw direct from the seed-bed for planting out as opportunities occur, and this method answers fairly well. But when large enough it is better practice to prick out as a preparation for the final planting, because a stouter and handsomer plant is thereby secured. If it is intended to follow the rough and ready plan, the seed drills should be nine inches apart; but for pricking out six inches will answer, and thus a very small bed will provide a lot of plants. When pricked out, the plants should be six inches apart each way, and they should go to final quarters as soon as the leaves touch one another. On the flat, a fair distance between Borecoles is two feet apart each way, but some vigorous kinds in good ground will pay for another foot of space, and will yield enormous crops when their time arrives. Transplanting is usually done in June and July, and in many gardens Kales are planted between the rows of second-early or maincrop Potatoes. The work should be done during showery weather if possible, but these Brassicas have an astonishing degree of vitality. If put out during drought very little water is required to start them, and as the cool weather returns they will grow with vigour. But good cultivation saves a plant from extreme conditions; and it is an excellent practice to dig in green manure when preparing ground for Kales, because a free summer growth is needful to the formation of a stout productive plant.
We have suggested that two sowings may be regarded as generally sufficient, but we are bound to take notice of the fact that the late supplies of these vegetables are sometimes disappointing. In a mild winter the Kales reserved for use in spring will be likely to grow when they should stand still, and at the first break of pleasant spring weather they will bolt, very much to the vexation of those who expected many a basket of sprouts from them. A May sowing planted out in a cold place may stand without bolting until spring is somewhat advanced. Kale of the 'Asparagus' type, such as Sutton's Favourite, will often prove successful when sown as late as July.
As regards the varieties, they agree pretty nearly in constitution, although they differ much in appearance and in the power of resisting the excitement of spring weather. But in this section of vegetables there are a few very interesting subjects. The Variegated and Crested Kales are extremely ornamental and eminently useful in large places for decorative purposes. These do not require so rich a soil as Sutton's A1 or Curled Scotch, and they must have the fullest exposure to bring out their peculiarities. It is found that in somewhat dry calcareous soils these plants acquire their highest colour and most elegant proportions. When planted by the sides of carriage drives and in other places where their colours may be suitably displayed, it is a good plan to cut off the heads soon after the turn of the year, as this promotes the production of side shoots of the most beautiful fresh colours. A crop of Kale may be advantageously followed by Celery.
Brassica oleracea botrytis asparagoides
The great importance of this crop is indicated by the long list of varieties and the still longer list of synonyms. As a vegetable it needs no praise, and our sole business will be to treat of the cultivation.
Of necessity we begin with generalities. Any good soil will grow Broccoli, but it is a strong-land plant, and a well-tilled clay should yield first-class crops. But there are so many kinds coming into use at various seasons, that the cultivation may be regarded as a somewhat complex subject. We will therefore premise that the best must be made of the soil at command, whatever it may be. The Cornish growers owe their success in great part to their climate, which carries their crops through the winter unhurt; but they grow Broccoli only on rich soil, and keep it in good heart by means of seaweed and other fertilisers. All the details of Broccoli culture require a liberal spirit and careful attention, and the value of a well-grown crop justifies first-class treatment. On the other hand, a badly-grown crop will not pay rent for the space it covers, to say nothing of the labour that has been devoted to it.
The Seed-bed.—Broccoli should always be sown on good seed-beds and be planted out; the seed-beds should be narrow, say three or three and a half feet wide, and the seed must be sown in drills half an inch deep at the utmost—less if possible; and where sparrows haunt the garden it will be well to cover the beds with netting, or protect the rows with wire pea guards. A quick way of protecting all round seeds against small birds is to put a little red lead in a saucer, then lightly sprinkle the seed with water and shake it about in the red lead. Not a bird or mouse will touch seed so treated.
The seed-beds must be tended with scrupulous care to keep down weeds and avert other dangers. It is of great importance to secure a robust plant, short, full of colour, and free from club at the root. Now, cleanliness is in itself a safeguard. It promotes a short sturdy growth, because where there are no weeds or other rubbish the young plant has ample light and air. Early thinning and planting is another important matter. If the land is not ready for planting, thin the seed-bed and prick out the seedlings. A good crop of Broccoli is worth any amount of trouble, although trouble ought to be an unknown word in the dictionary of a gardener.
Manuring Ground.—As a rule, Broccoli should be planted in fresh ground, and, in mild districts, if the soil is in some degree rank with green manure the crop will be none the worse for it. But rank manure is not needful; a deep, well-dug, sweet loam will produce a healthy growth and neat handsome heads. However, it is proper to remark, that if any rank manure is in the way, or if the ground is poor and wants it, the Broccoli will take to it kindly, and all the rankness will be gone long before they produce their creamy heads. Still, it must be clearly understood that the more generous the treatment, the more succulent will be the growth, and in cold climates a succulent condition may endanger the crop when hard weather sets in.
Method of Planting.—Broccoli follows well upon Peas, early Potatoes, early French Beans, and Strawberries that are dug in when gathered from for the last time. But it does not follow well upon Cabbage, Turnip, or Cauliflower; if Broccoli must follow any of these, dig deeply, manure heavily, and in planting, dust a little freshly slaked lime in the holes. The times of planting will depend on the state of the plants and the proper season of their heading in. But everywhere and always the plants should be got out of the seed-bed into their permanent quarters as soon as possible, for the longer they stay in the seed-bed the more likely are they to become drawn above and clubbed below. As regards distances, too, the soil, the variety, and the season must be considered. For all sorts the distances range from two to two and a half feet; and for most of the medium-sized sorts that have to stand out through the winter for use in spring, a distance of eighteen to twenty-four inches is usually enough, because if they are rather close they protect one another. But with strong sorts in strong soils and kind climates, two feet and a half every way is none too much even for safe wintering. Plant firmly, water if needful, and do not stint it; but, if possible, plant in showery weather, and give no water at all. Watering may save the crop, but the finest pieces of Broccoli are those that are secured without any watering whatever.
Autumn Broccoli.—To grow Autumn Broccoli profitably, sow in February, March, and April, the early sowings in a frame to insure vigorous growth, and the later sowings in the open ground. Plant out as soon as possible in fresh land that has been deeply tilled. If the soil is poor, draw deep drills, fill them with fat manure, and plant by hand, taking care to press round each root crumbs from the surface soil. This will give them a good start, and they will take care of themselves afterwards. When they show signs of heading in, run in shallow drills of Prickly Spinach between them, and as this comes up the Broccoli will be drawn, leaving the Spinach a fair chance of making a good stolen crop, needing no special preparation whatever. Another sowing of Broccoli may be made in May, but the early sowings, if a little nursed in the first instance, will pay best, because early heads are scarce, whereas late Broccoli are plentiful.
Winter Broccoli should not be sown before the end of March and thence to the end of April. As a rule, the April sowing will make the best crop, although much depends on season, soil, and climate. Begin to plant out early, and continue planting until a sufficient breadth of ground is covered. Within reasonable limits it will be found that the time of planting does not much affect the date when the heads turn in, and only in a moderate degree influences the size of them.
Spring Broccoli are capricious, no matter what the world may say. It will occasionally happen that sorts planted for cutting late in spring will turn in earlier than they are wanted, and the sun rather than the seedsman must be blamed for their precocity. In average seasons the late sorts turn in late; but the Broccoli is a sensitive plant, and unseasonable warmth results in premature development. Sow the Spring Broccoli in April and May, the April sowing being the more important. It will not do, however, to follow a strict rule save to this effect, that early and late sowings are the least likely to succeed, while mid-season sowings—say from the middle of April to the middle of May—will, as a rule, make the best crops. Where there is a constant demand for Broccoli in the early months of the year, two or three small sowings will be better than one large sowing.
Summer Broccoli are useful when Peas are late, and they are always over in time to make way for the glut of the Pea crop. Late Queen may, in average seasons, be cut at the end of May and sometimes in June, if sown about the middle of May in the previous year, and carefully managed. This excellent variety can, as a rule, be relied on, both to withstand a severe winter in an exposed situation and to keep up the supplies of first-class vegetables until the first crop of Cauliflower is ready, and Peas are coming in freely. Generally speaking, smallish heads, neat in shape and pure in colour, are preferred. They are the most profitable as a crop and the most acceptable for the table. An open, breezy place should be selected for a plantation of late Broccoli, the land well drained, and it need not be made particularly rich with manure. But good land is required, with plenty of light and air to promote a dwarf sturdy growth and late turning in.
Protection in Winter.—Various plans are adopted for the protection of Broccoli during winter. Much is to be said in favour of leaving them to the risk of all events, for certain it is that finer heads are obtained from undisturbed plants than by any interference with them, provided they escape the assaults of winter frost. But in such a matter it is wise to be guided by the light of experience. In cold districts, and on wet soils where Broccoli do not winter well, heeling over may be adopted. There are several ways of accomplishing the task, the most successful method being managed thus. Open a trench at the northern end, and gently push over each plant in the first row so that the heads incline to the north. Put a little mould over each stem to settle it, but do not earth it up any more than is needful to render it secure. Push over the next row, and the next, and so on, finishing off between them neatly and leaving the plants nearly as they were before, save that they now all look northward, and their sloping stems are a little deeper in the earth than they were in the first instance. This should be done during fine weather in November, and if the plants flag a little they should have one good watering at the roots. In the course of about ten days it will be scarcely perceptible that they have been operated on. They may be lifted and replanted with their heads to the north, but this is apt to check them too much. In exceptionally cold seasons cover the plot with straw or bracken, but this must be removed in wet weather. When it is seen that the heads are forming and hard weather is apprehended, some growers take them up with good balls of earth and plant them in a frame, or even pack them neatly in a cellar, and the heads finish fairly well, but not so well as undisturbed plants. It is impossible, however, to cut good heads in a very severe winter without some such protective measures. In many gardens glass is employed for protecting Winter Broccoli, in which case the plantations are so shaped that the frames will be easily adapted to them without any disturbance of the plants whatever. There must be allowed a good space between the beds to be covered, and the plants must be fifteen to eighteen inches apart, with the object of protecting the largest number by means of a given stock of frames.
Sprouting Broccoli, both white and purple, are invaluable to supply a large bulk of a most acceptable vegetable in winter and early spring. Sow in April and the plants may be treated in the same way as other hardy winter greens. They should have the most liberal culture possible, for which they will not fail to make an ample return. The Purple Sprouting Broccoli is a favourite vegetable in the kitchen, because of its freedom from the attacks of all kinds of vermin.
Brassica oleracea bullata gemmifera
Brussels Sprouts are everywhere regarded as the finest autumnal vegetable of the strictly green class. They are, however, often very poorly grown, because the first principle of success—a long growing season—is not recognised. It is in the power of the cultivator to secure this by sowing seed at the end of February, or early in March, on a bed of light rich soil made in a frame, and from the frame the plants should be pricked out into an open bed of similar light fresh soil as soon as they have made half a dozen leaves. From this bed they should be transferred to their permanent quarters before they crowd one another, the object being at each stage to obtain free growth with a sturdy habit, for mere length of stem is no advantage; it is a disadvantage when the plant is deficient of corresponding substance. The ground should be made quite firm, in order to encourage robust growth which in turn will produce shapely solid buttons. This crop is often grown on Potato land, the plants being put out between the rows in the course of the summer. It is better practice, however, to plant Kales or Broccoli in Potato ground, because of the comparative slowness of their growth, and to put the Sprouts on an open plot freely dressed with somewhat fresh manure. If a first-class strain, such as Sutton's Exhibition, is grown, it will not only pay for this little extra care, but will pay also for plenty of room, say two and a half feet apart every way at the least; and one lot, made up of the strongest plants drawn separately, may be in rows three feet apart, and the plants two and a half feet asunder. For the compact-growing varieties two feet apart each way will generally suffice. Maintain a good tilth by the frequent use of the hoe during summer, and as autumn approaches regularly remove all decaying leaves. Those who have been accustomed to treat Sprouts and Kales on one uniform rough plan will be surprised at the result of the routine we now recommend. The plants will button from the ground line to the top, and the buttons will set so closely that, once taken off, it will be impossible to replace them. Moderate-sized, spherical, close, grass-green Sprouts are everywhere esteemed, and there is nothing in the season more attractive in the markets.
Crops treated as advised will give early supplies of the very finest Sprouts. For successional crops it will be sufficient to sow in the open ground in the latter part of March, or early in April, and plant out in the usual manner; in other words, to treat in the commonplace way of the ordinary run of Borecoles. With a good season and in suitable ground there will be an average crop, which will probably hold out far into the winter. It is important to gather the crop systematically. The Sprouts are perfect when round and close, with not a leaf unfolded. They can be snapped off rapidly, and where the quantity is considerable they should be sorted into sizes. The season of use will be greatly prolonged, and the tendency of the Sprouts to burst be lessened, if the head is cut last of all.
Brassica oleracea capitata
The Cabbage is a great subject, and competes with the Potato for pre-eminence in the cottage garden, in the market garden, and on the farm, sometimes with such success as to prove the better paying crop of the two. It may be said in a general way that a Cabbage may be grown almost anywhere and anyhow; that it will thrive on any soil, and that the seed may be sown any day in the year. All this is nearly possible, and proves that we have a wonderful plant to deal with; but it is too good a friend of man to be treated, even in a book, in an off-hand manner. The Cabbage may be called a lime plant, and a clay plant; but, like almost every other plant that is worth growing, a deep well-tilled loam will suit it better than any other soil under the sun. It has one persistent plague only. Not the Cabbage butterfly; for although that is occasionally a troublesome scourge, it is not persistent, and may be almost invisible for years together. Nor is it the aphis, although in a hot dry season that pest is a fell destroyer of the crop. The great plague is club or anbury, for which there is no direct remedy or preventive known. But indirectly the foe may be fought successfully. The crop should be moved about, and wherever Cabbage has been grown, whether in a mere seed-bed or planted out, it should be grown no more until the ground has been well tilled and put to other uses for one year at least, and better if for two or three years. There are happy lands whereon club has never been seen, and the way to keep these clear of the pest is to practise deep digging, liberal manuring, and changing the crops to different ground as much as possible. A mild outbreak of club may generally be met by first removing the warts from the young plants, and then dipping them in a puddle made of soot, lime, and clay. But when it appears badly amongst the forward plants, their growth is arrested, the plot becomes offensive, and the only course left is to draw the bad plants, burn them, and give up Cabbage growing on those quarters for several years. The question as to why the roots of brassicaceous plants are subject to this scourge on some soils, while plants from the same seed-bed remain healthy when transferred to different land, is deeply interesting, and the subject is discussed later on in the chapter on 'The Fungus Pests of certain Garden Plants.' Here it is sufficient to say that the presence of the disease is generally an indication that the soil is deficient in lime. A dressing at the rate of from 14 to 28 or even 56 pounds per square pole may be necessary to restore healthy conditions. The outlay will not be wasted, for lime is not merely a preventive, it has often an almost magical influence on the fertility of land.
For general purposes Cabbages may be classified as early and late. The early kinds are extremely valuable for their earliness, but only a sufficient quantity should be grown, because, as compared with mid-season and late sorts, they are less profitable. In the scheme of cropping it may be reckoned that a paying crop of Cabbage will occupy the ground through a whole year; for although this may not be an exact statement, the growing time will be pretty well gone before the ground is clear. After Cabbage, none of the Brassica tribe should be put on the land, and, if possible, the crop to follow should be one requiring less of sulphur and alkalies, for of these the Cabbage is a great consumer, hence the need for abundant manuring in preparation for it. The presence of sulphur explains the offensiveness of the exhalations from Cabbage when in a state of decay.
Spring-sown Cabbage for Summer and Autumn use.—To insure the best succession of Cabbage it will be necessary to recognise four distinct sowings, any of which, save the autumnal sowing, may be omitted. Begin with a sowing of the earliest kinds in the month of February. For this, pans or boxes must be used, and the seed should be started in a pit or frame, or in a cool greenhouse. When forward enough, prick out in a bed of light rich soil in a cold frame, and give plenty of air. Before the seedlings become crowded harden them off and plant out, taking care to lift them tenderly with earth attached to their roots to minimise the check. These will heart quickly and be valued as summer Cabbages. The second sowing is to be made in the last week of March, and to consist of early kinds, including a few of the best type of Coleworts. As these advance to a planting size, they may be put out a few at a time as plots become vacant, and they will be useful in various ways from July to November or later. A third sowing may be made in the first or second week of May of small sorts and Coleworts; and these again may be planted out as opportunities occur, both in vacant plots for hearting late in the year, and as stolen crops in odd places to draw while young. The second and third sowings need not be pricked out from the seed-bed, but may be taken direct therefrom to the places where they are to finish their course.
In planting out, the spacing must be regulated according to the size of the variety grown. If put out in beds, the plants may be placed from one to two feet apart, and the rows one and a half to two feet asunder. All planting should be done in showery weather if possible, or with a falling barometer. It may not always be convenient to wait for rain, and happily it is a peculiarity of Brassicas, and of Cabbage in particular, that the plants will endure, after removal, heat and drought for some time with but little harm, and again grow freely after rain has fallen. But good cultivation has in view the prevention of any such check. At the best it is a serious loss of time in the brief growing season. Therefore in droughty weather it will be advisable to draw shallow furrows and water these a day in advance of the planting, and if labour and stuff can be found it will be well to lay in the furrows a sprinkling of short mulchy manure to follow instantly upon the watering; then plant with the dibber, and the work is done. If the mulch cannot be afforded, water must be given, and to water the furrows in advance is better than watering after the planting, as a few observations will effectually prove. If drought continues, water should be given again and again. The trouble must be counted as nothing compared with the certain loss of time while the plant stands still, to become, perhaps, infested with blue aphis, and utterly ruined. As a matter of fact, a little water may be made to go a long way, and every drop judiciously administered will more than repay its cost. The use of the hoe will greatly help the growth, and a little earth may be drawn towards the stems, not to the extent of 'moulding-up,' for that is injurious, but to 'firm' the plants in some degree against the gales that are to be expected as the days decline.
Autumn-sown Cabbage for Spring and Summer use.—The fourth, or autumn, sowing is by far the most important of the year, and the exact time when seed should be put in deserves careful consideration. A strong plant is wanted before winter, but the growth must not be so far advanced as to stand in peril from severe and prolonged frost. There is also the risk that plants which are too forward may bolt when spring arrives. In some districts it is the practice to sow in July, and to those who find the results entirely satisfactory we have nothing to say. Our own experiments have convinced us that, for the southern counties, August is preferable, and it is wise to make two sowings in that month, the first quite early and the second about a fortnight later. Here it is necessary to observe that the selection of suitable varieties is of even greater consequence than the date of sowing. A considerable number of the Cabbages which possess a recognised value for spring sowing are comparatively useless when sown in August. Success depends on the capability of the plant to form a heart when the winter is past instead of starting a seed-stem, and this reduces the choice to very narrow limits. Among the few Cabbages which are specially adapted for August sowing, Sutton's Harbinger, April, Flower of Spring, Favourite, and Imperial may be favourably mentioned, and even in small gardens at least two varieties should be sown. Where Spring Cabbages manifest an unusual tendency to bolt, sowing late in August, followed by late planting, will generally prove a remedy, always assuming that suitable varieties have been sown.