Home Vegetable Gardening
F. F. Rockwell
Part 2 out of 4
but is more economical of manure. The manure in either case should be
that of grain-fed horses, and if a small amount of straw bedding, or
leaves--not more, however, than one-third of the latter--be mixed among
it, so much the better. Get this manure several days ahead of the time
wanted for use and prepare by stacking in a compact, tramped-down heap.
Turn it over after three or four days, and re-stack, being careful to
put the former top and sides of the pile now on the inside.
Having now ready the heating apparatus and the superstructure of our
miniature greenhouse, the building of it is a very simple matter. If
the ground is frozen, spread the manure in a low, flat heap--nine or
ten feet side, a foot and a half deep, and as long as the number of
sash to be used demands--a cord of manure thus furnishing a bed for
about three sash, not counting for the ends of the string or row. This
heap should be well trodden down and upon it should be placed or built
the box or frame upon which the sash are to rest. In using this method
it will be more convenient to have the frame made up beforehand and
ready to place upon the manure, as shown in one of the illustrations.
This should be at least twelve inches high at the front and some half a
foot higher at the back. Fill in with at least four inches--better six
--of good garden soil containing plenty of humus, that it may allow
water to soak through readily.
The other method is to construct the frames on the ground before severe
freezing, and in this case the front should be at least twenty-four
inches high, part of which--not more than half--may be below the ground
level. The 2 x 12 in. planks, when used, are handled as follows: stakes
are driven in to support the back plank some two or three inches above
the ground,--which should, of course, be level. The front plank is sunk
two or three inches into the ground and held upright by stakes on the
outside, nailed on. Remove enough dirt from inside the frame to bank up
the planks about halfway on the outside. When this banking has frozen
to a depth of two or three inches, cover with rough manure or litter to
keep frost from striking through. The manure for heating should be
prepared as above and put in to the depth of a foot, trodden down,
first removing four to six inches of soil to be put back on top of the
manure,--a cord of the latter, in this case, serving seven sashes. The
vegetable to be grown, and the season and climate, will determine the
depth of manure required--it will be from one to two feet,--the latter
depth seldom being necessary. It must not be overlooked that this
manure, when spent for heating purposes, is still as good as ever to
enrich the garden, so that the expense of putting it in and removing it
from the frames is all that you can fairly charge up against your
experiment with hotbeds, if you are interested to know whether they
The exposure for the hotbeds should be where the sun will strike most
directly and where they will be sheltered from the north. Put up a
fence of rough boards, five or six feet high, or place the frames south
of some building.
The coldframe is constructed practically as in the hotbed, except that
if manure is used at all it is for the purpose of enriching the soil
where lettuce, radishes, cucumbers or other crops are to be grown to
maturity in it.
If one can put up even a very small frame greenhouse, it will be a
splendid investment both for profit and for pleasure. The cost is lower
than is generally imagined, where one is content with a home-made
structure. Look into it.
PREPARING THE SOIL
All this may seem like a lot of trouble to go to for such a small thing
as a packet of seed. In reality it is not nearly so much trouble as it
sounds, and then, too, this is for the first season only, a well built
frame lasting for years--forever, if you want to take a little more
time and make it of concrete instead of boards.
But now that the frame is made, how to use it is the next question.
The first consideration must be the soil. It should be rich, light,
friable. There are some garden loams that will do well just as taken
up, but as a rule better results will be obtained where the soil is
made up specially as follows: rotted sods two parts, old rotted manure
one part, and enough coarse sand added to make the mixture fine and
crumbly, so that, even when moist, it will fall apart when pressed into
a ball in the hand. Such soil is best prepared by cutting out sod, in
the summer, where the grass is green and thick, indicating a rich soil.
Along old fences or the roadside where the wash has settled will be
good places to get limited quantities. Those should be cut with
considerable soil and stacked, grassy sides together, in layers in a
compost pile. If the season proves very dry, occasionally soak the heap
through. In late fall put in the cellar, or wherever solid freezing
will not take place, enough to serve for spring work under glass. The
amount can readily be calculated; soil for three sash, four inches
deep, for instance, would take eighteen feet or a pile three feet
square and two feet high. The fine manure (and sand, if necessary) may
be added in the fall or when using in the spring. Here again it may
seem to the amateur that unnecessary pains are being taken. I can but
repeat what has been suggested all through this book, that it will
require but little more work to do the thing the best way as long as
one is doing it at all, and the results will be not only better, but
practically certain--and that is a tremendously important point about
all gardening operations.
SOWING THE SEED
Having now our frames provided and our soil composed properly and good
strong tested seed on hand, we are prepared to go about the business of
growing our plants with a practical certainty of success--a much more
comfortable feeling than if, because something or other had been but
half done, we must anxiously await results and the chances of having
the work we had put into the thing go, after all, for nothing.
The seed may be sown either directly in the soil or in "flats." Flats
are made as follows: Get from your grocer a number of cracker boxes,
with the tops. Saw the boxes lengthwise into sections, a few two inches
deep and the rest three. One box will make four or five such sections,
for two of which bottoms will be furnished by the bottom and top of the
original box. Another box of the same size, knocked apart, will furnish
six bottoms more to use for the sections cut from the middle of the
box. The bottoms of all, if tight, should have, say, five three-
quarter-inch holes bored in them to allow any surplus water to drain
off from the soil. The shallow flats may be used for starting the seed
and the three-inch ones for transplanting. Where sowing but a small
quantity of each variety of seed, the flats will be found much more
convenient than sowing directly in the soil--and in the case of their
use, of course, the soil on top of the manure need be but two or three
inches deep and not especially prepared.
Where the seed is to go directly into the frames, the soil described
above is, of course, used. But when in flats, to be again transplanted,
the soil for the first sowing will be better for having no manure in
it, the idea being to get the hardest, stockiest growth possible. Soil
for the flats in which the seeds are to be planted should be, if
possible, one part sod, one part chip dirt or leaf mould, and one part
The usual way of handling the seed flats is to fill each about one-
third full of rough material--screenings, small cinders or something
similar--and then fill the box with the prepared earth, which should
first be finely sifted. This, after the seeds are sown, should be
copiously watered--with a fine rose spray, or if one has not such,
through a folded bag to prevent the washing of the soil.
Here is another way which I have used recently and, so far, with one
hundred per cent, certainty of results. Last fall, when every bit of
soil about my place was ash dry, and I had occasion to start
immediately some seeds that were late in reaching me, my necessity
mothered the following invention, an adaptation of the principle of
sub-irrigation. To have filled the flats in the ordinary way would not
have done, as it would have been impossible ever to wet the soil
through without making a solid mud cake of it, in which seeds would
have stood about as good a chance of doing anything as though not
watered at all. I filled the flats one-third full of sphagnum moss,
which was soaked, then to within half an inch of the top with soil,
which was likewise soaked, and did not look particularly inviting. The
flats were then filled level-full of the dust-dry soil, planted, and
put in partial shade. Within half a day the surface soil had come to
just the right degree of moisture, soaked up from below, and there was
in a few days more a perfect stand of seedlings. I have used this
method in starting all my seedlings this spring--some forty thousand,
so far--only using soil screenings, mostly small pieces of decayed sod,
in place of the moss and giving a very light watering in the surface to
make it compact and to swell the seed at once. Two such flats are shown
[ED., unable to recreate in typed format], just ready to transplant.
The seedlings illustrated in the upper flat had received just two
waterings since being planted.
Where several hundred or more plants of each variety are wanted, sow
the seed broadcast as evenly as possible and fairly thick--one ounce of
cabbage, for instance, to three to five 13 x 19 inch flats. If but a
few dozen, or a hundred, are wanted, sow in rows two or three inches
apart, being careful to label each correctly. Before sowing, the soil
should be pressed firmly into the corners of the flats and leveled off
perfectly smooth with a piece of board or shingle. Press the seed
evenly into the soil with a flat piece of board, cover it lightly, one-
eighth to one-quarter inch, with sifted soil, press down barely enough
to make smooth, and water with a very fine spray, or through burlap.
For the next two days the flats can go on a pretty hot surface, if one
is available, such as hot water or steam pipes, or top of a boiler, but
if these are not convenient, directly into the frame, where the
temperature should be kept as near as possible to that indicated in the
In from two to twelve days, according to temperature and variety, the
little seedlings will begin to appear. In case the soil has not been
made quite friable enough, they will sometimes "raise the roof" instead
of breaking through. If so, see that the surface is broken up at once,
with the fingers and a careful watering, as otherwise many of the
little plants may become bent and lanky in a very short time.
From now on until they are ready to transplant, a period of some three
or four weeks, is the time when they will most readily be injured by
neglect. There are things you will have to look out for, and your
attention must be regular to the matters of temperature, ventilation
VEGETABLE DATE TO SOW SEED WILL BEST TEMPERATURE TO
KEEP GERMINATE (ABOUT)
Beets Feb. 15-Apr. 1 5 years 55 degrees
Broccoli Feb. 15-Apr. 1 5 years 55 degrees
Sprouts Feb. 15-Apr. 1 7 years 55 degrees
Cabbage Feb. 1-Apr. 1 7 years 55 degrees
Cauliflower Feb. 1-Apr. 1 7 years 55 degrees
Celery Feb. 15-Apr. 1 8 years 50 degrees
Corn Apr. 1-May 1 2 years 65 degrees
Cucumber Mar. 15-May 1 10 years 75 degrees
Egg-plant Mar. 1-Apr. 15 7 years 75 degrees
Kohlrabi Mar. 1-Apr. 1 7 years 55 degrees
Lettuce Feb. 15-Apr. 1 5 years 55 degrees
Melon, musk Apr. 1-May 1 7 years 75 degrees
Melon, water Apr. 1-May 1 7 years 75 degrees
Okra Mar. 15-Apr. 15 3 years 65 degrees
Onion Jan. 15-Mar. 15 3 years 50 degrees
Pepper Mar. 1-Apr. 15 5 years 75 degrees
Squash Mar. 15-Apr. 15 7 years 75 degrees
Tomato Mar. 1-Apr. 15 5 years 75 degrees
The temperatures required by the different varieties will be indicated
by the table above. It should be kept as nearly as possible within ten
degrees lower and fifteen higher (in the sun) than given. If the nights
are still cold, so that the mercury goes near zero, it will be
necessary to provide mats or shutters (see illustrations) to cover the
glass at night. Or, better still, for the few earliest frames, have
double-glass sash, the dead-air space making further protection
VENTILATION: On all days when the temperature within the frame runs up
to sixty to eighty degrees, according to variety, give air, either by
tilting the sash up at the end or side, and holding in position with a
notched stick; or, if the outside temperature permits, strip the glass
WATERING: Keep a close watch upon the conditions of the soil,
especially if you are using flats instead of planting directly in the
soil. Wait until it is fairly dry--never until the plants begin to
wilt, however--and then give a thorough soaking, all the soil will
absorb. If at all possible do this only in the morning (up to eleven
o'clock) on a bright sunny day. Plants in the seedling state are
subject to "damping off"--a sudden disease of the stem tissue just at
or below the soil, which either kills the seedlings outright, or
renders them worthless. Some authorities claim that the degree of
moisture or dampness has nothing to do with this trouble. I am not
prepared to contradict them, but as far as my own experience goes I am
satisfied that the drier the stems and leaves can be kept, so long as
the soil is in good condition, the better. I consider this one of the
advantages of the "sub-irrigation" method of preparing the seed flats,
TRANSPLANTING: Under this care the little seedlings will come along
rapidly. When the second true leaf is forming they will be ready for
transplanting or "pricking off," as it is termed in garden parlance. If
the plants are at all crowded in the boxes, this should be done just as
soon as they are ready, as otherwise they will be injured by crowding
and more likely to damp off.
Boxes similar to the seed-flats, but an inch deeper, are provided for
transplanting. Fill these with soil as described for frames--sifted
through a coarse screen (chicken-wire size) and mixed with one-third
rotted manure. Or place an inch of manure, which must be so thoroughly
rotted that most of the heat has left, in the bottom, and fill in with
Find or construct a table or bench of convenient height, upon which to
work. With a flat piece of stick or one of the types of transplanting
forks lift from the seedling box a clump of seedlings, dirt and all,
clear to the bottom. Hold this clump in one hand and with the other
gently tear away the seedlings, one at a time, discarding all crooked
or weak ones. Never attempt to pull the seedlings from the soil in the
flats, as the little rootlets are very easily broken off. They should
come away almost intact. Water your seed-flats the day previous to
transplanting, so that the soil will be in just the right condition,
neither wet enough to make the roots sticky nor dry enough to crumble
Take the little seedling by the stem between thumb and forefinger, and
with a small round pointed stick or dibber, or with the forefinger of
the other hand, make a hole to receive the roots and about half the
length--more if the seedlings are lanky--of the stem. As the seedling
drops into place, the tips of both thumbs and forefingers, by one
quick, firm movement, compress the earth firmly both down on the roots
and against the stem, so that the plant sticks up firmly and may not be
readily pulled out. Of course there is a knack about it which cannot be
put into words--I could have pricked off a hundred seedlings in the
time I am spending in trying to describe the operation, but a little
practice will make one reasonably efficient at it.
In my own work this spring, I have applied the "sub-irrigation" idea to
this operation also. The manure placed in the bottom of the boxes is
thoroughly watered and an inch of soil put in and watered also, and the
box then filled and the plants pricked in. By preparing a number of
flats at one time, but little additional work is required, and the
results have convinced me that the extra trouble is well worth while.
Of the early cabbage and cauliflower, not two plants in a thousand have
Ordinarily about one hundred plants are put in a 13 x 19 inch flat, but
if one has room and is growing only a few plants for home use, somewhat
better plants may be had if fifty or seventy-five are put in. In either
case keep the outside rows close to the edges of the flats, as they
will have plenty of room anyway. When the flat is completed, jar the
box slightly to level the surface, and give a thorough watering at
once, being careful, however, to bend down the plants as little as
possible. Set the flats close together on a level surface, and, if the
weather is bright, shade from the sun during the middle of the day for
two or three days.
From now on keep at the required temperature and water thoroughly on
bright mornings as often as the soil in the flats gets on the dry side,
as gardeners say--indicated by the whitening and crusting of the
surface. Above all, give all the air possible while maintaining the
necessary temperature. The quality of the plants will depend more upon
this than anything else in the way of care. Whenever the temperature
allows, strip off the sash and let the plants have the benefit of the
rains. A good rain seems to do them more good than any watering.
Should your plants of cabbage, lettuce, beets or cauliflower by any
chance get frozen, do not give them up for lost, for the chances are
that the following simple treatment will pull them through: In the
first place, shade them thoroughly from the sun; in the second, drench
them with cold water, the coldest you can get--if you have to break the
ice for it, so much the better. Try, however, to prevent its happening
again, as they will be less able to resist subsequent injury.
In hot weather, where watering and ventilation are neglected, the
plants will sometimes become infested with the green aphis, which under
such conditions multiplies with almost incredible rapidity.
HARDENING OFF: For five days or a week before setting plants in the
field they should be thoroughly hardened off. If they have been given
plenty of air this treatment will mean little change for them--simply
exposing them more each day, until for a few nights they are left
entirely without protection. They will then be ready for setting out in
the open, an operation which is described in the next chapter.
STARTING PLANTS OUTSIDE
Much of the above is applicable also to the starting of plants out-of-
doors, for second and for succession crops, such as celery and late
cabbage. Select for the outside seed-bed the most thoroughly pulverized
spot to be found, enriched and lightened with fine manure. Mark off
rows a foot apart, and to the necessary depth; sow the seed evenly;
firm in if the soil is dry, cover lightly with the back of the rake and
roll or smooth with the back of the spade, or of a hoe, along the
drills. The seed, according to variety, will begin to push through in
from four to twenty days. At all times keep the seed-bed clear of
weeds; and keep the soil between the rows constantly cultivated. Not
unless it is very dry will watering be necessary, but if it is
required, give a thorough soaking toward evening.
As the cabbage, celery and similar plants come along it will add to
their sturdiness and stockiness to shear off the tops--about half of
the large leaves--once or twice after the plants have attained a height
of about six inches.
If the precautions concerning seed and soil which I have given are
heeded and the details of the work of planting, transplanting and care
are carried out, planting time (April) will find the prospective
gardener with a supply of good, stocky, healthy plants on hand, and
impatient to get them into that carefully prepared garden spot. All of
this work has been--or should have been--interesting, but that which
follows in the next chapter is more so.
SOWING AND PLANTING
The importance of having good seeds has already been declared. They
must not only grow, but grow into what we have bought them for--be true
to name. Without the latter quality we cannot be sure of good gardens,
and without the former they will not be full ones. A meagre "stand"
from seeds properly sown is a rather exasperating and discouraging
experience to encounter. The cost for fertilizing and preparing the
land is just as much, and the cost of cultivating very nearly as much,
when the rows are full of thrifty plants or strung out with poor ones.
Whether you use ten cents' worth or ten dollars' worth, the best seed
to be had will be the most economical to buy--to say nothing of the
satisfaction that full rows give.
And yet good seedsmen are more thoughtlessly and unjustly abused in the
matter of seed vitality than in any other. Inexperienced gardeners seem
universally to have the conviction that the only thing required in seed
sowing is to cover the seed with soil. What sort of soil it is, or in
what condition, or at what depth or temperature the seed is planted,
are questions about which they do not trouble themselves to think.
Two conditions--moisture and warmth--are necessary to induce
germination of seeds, no matter how full of life they may be; and as
was shown in the preceding chapter the different varieties have some
choice as to the degree of each, especially of temperature. This means
of course that some commonsense must be used in planting, and when
planting outdoors, where we cannot regulate the temperature to our
need, we simply must regulate our seed sowing to its dictates, no
matter how impatient we may be.
To insure the best possible germination, and thus the best gardening,
we must, first of all then, settle the question of temperature when
sowing out-of-doors. For practical work it serves to divide the garden
vegetables into two groups, though in planting, the special suggestions
in the following chapter should be consulted.
WHEN TO SOW OUTDOORS
Sow from the end of March to the beginning of May, or when plum and
peach trees bloom, the following:
Beet Cabbage Carrot Cauliflower
Celery Endive Kale Kohlrabi
Lettuce Onions Parsley Parsnip
Peas Radish Spinach Turnip
Sow from the beginning of May to the middle of June, or when apple
trees bloom, the following:
Beans Corn Cucumber Melon, musk
Melon, water Okra Pumpkin Squash
Getting the seed to sprout, however, is only the first step in the
game; they must be provided with the means of immediately beginning to
grow. This means that they should not be left to germinate in loosely
packed soil, full of air spaces, ready to dry out at the first
opportunity, and to let the tiny seed roots be shriveled up and die.
The soil should touch the seed--be pressed close about it on all sides,
so that the first tiny tap root will issue immediately into congenial
surroundings where it can instantly take hold. Such conditions can be
found only in a seed-bed fine but light enough to pack, reasonably rich
and sufficiently moist, and where, in addition to this, the seed has
been properly planted.
METHODS OF PLANTING
The seed-bed, as it is called, is the surface prepared to receive the
seed, whether for a patch of radishes or an acre of onions. For crops
to be sown directly where they are to go, the chapter on Preparation of
the Soil takes us to this point, and as stated at the conclusion of
that chapter, the final preparation of the bed should be made only
immediately prior to its use.
Having, then, good seeds on hand and the soil properly prepared to
receive them, the only problem remaining is what way they shall be put
in. The different habits of growth characteristic of different plants
make it patent at the outset that there must be different methods of
planting, for very evidently a cabbage, which occupies but three or
four square feet of space and stays in one place to make a head, will
not require the same treatment as a winter squash, roaming all over the
garden and then escaping under the fence to hide some of its best fruit
in the tall grass outside.
The three systems of planting usually employed are known as "drills,"
"rows" and "hills." I do not remember ever seeing a definition giving
the exact distinctions between them; and in horticultural writing they
seem to be used, to some extent at least, interchangeably. As a rule
"drills" refer to the growing of plants continuously in rows, such as
onions, carrots or spinach. "Rows" refer to the growing of plants at
fixed distances apart in the rows such as cabbage, or potatoes--the
cultivation, except hand weeding and hoeing, being all done in one
direction, as with drills. "Hills" refer to the growing of plants
usually at equal distances, four feet or more apart each way, with
cultivating done in both directions, as with melons and squashes. I
describe the different methods at length so that the reader may know
more definitely just what is meant by the special instructions given in
the following text.
SOWING THE SEED
If one observes the suggestions as to temperature just given, and the
following precautions in placing the seed within the soil, failure of
good seed to germinate is practically impossible. In the first place,
plant _on a freshly prepared surface_, always just before a rain
if possible, except in the case of very small seeds, when just after a
rain will be better. If the soil is at all dry, or likely to be
followed by a spell of hot, dry weather, always firm by using the back
of the hoe for small seed, or the ball of the foot for larger ones,
such as peas, beans or corn, to press the seed firmly and evenly into
the soil before covering. Then when the soil is covered in over the
seed, firm along the top of the row very lightly, just enough to mark
it and hold the soil in place.
The depth of the drill furrow in which the seed is to be sown will
depend (1) on the variety of vegetable, (2) on the season of planting,
and (3) on weather conditions. Remember that the seed must be supplied
with moisture both to germinate and to continue to exist after
germination; and also that it must have soil through which the air can
to some extent penetrate. Keeping these things in mind, common sense
dictates that seed planted in the spring, or during a wet spell of
weather, will not need to be put in as deeply as should the same seed
in summer or early autumn, or during a hot, dry spell.
The old general rule is, to cover seed planted under glass, where the
moisture can be controlled, to a depth of two or three times its
diameter; and out-of-doors, to four or five times. I should say these
depths were the minimums desirable. In other words, the smallest seed,
such as onion, carrot, lettuce, will go in one-quarter to one-half inch
deep. Beets, spinach, parsnips and other medium-sized seed one-half to
one inch deep, and peas, beans, corn, etc., two to four inches deep--
usually near the first figure.
After the seed is sown it is of course desirable to keep the ground
from baking or crusting on top, as it is likely to do after a morning
rain followed directly by hot sun. If the seed sprouts have not yet
reached the surface of the soil, rake very lightly across the rows with
an iron rake; if they have broken through, work as close as possible to
the row. The best implement I have ever seen for this purpose is the
disc attachment of the double wheel hoe--see Implements. An ordinarily
good garden loam, into which the desirable quantity of short manure has
been worked, will give little trouble by raking. In a clay soil, it
often will pay, on a small scale, to sift leaf mould, sphagnum moss, or
some other light porous covering, over the rows, especially for small
seed. The special seed-bed, for starting late cabbage or celery, may
easily be sheltered. In very hot, dry weather this method will be a
SETTING OUT PLANTS
The reader has not forgotten, of course, that plants as well as seeds
must go into the well managed garden. We have already mentioned the
hardening-off process to which they must be subjected before going into
the open ground. The flats should also be given a copious watering
several hours, or the day before, setting out. All being ready, with
your rows made straight and marked off at the correct distances, lift
out the plants with a trowel or transplanting fork, and tear or cut
them apart with a knife, keeping as much soil as possible with each
ball of roots. Distribute them at their positions, but not so many at a
time that any will dry out before you get them in place. Get down on
your hands and knees, and, straddling the row, proceed to "set." With
the left hand, or a trowel or dibber if the ground is not soft, make a
hole large enough to take the roots and the better part of the stem,
place the plant in position and firm into place by bearing down with
the backs of the knuckles, on either side. Proceed so to the end of the
row, being careful to keep your toes from undoing your good work behind
you, and then finish the job by walking back over the row, still
further firming in each plant by pressing down the soil at either side
of the stem simultaneously with the balls of the feet. When all the
rows are completed, go over the surface with the iron rake, and you
will have a job thoroughly done and neatly finished.
If the weather and soil are exceptionally dry it may be necessary to
take the additional precautions, when planting, of putting a pint or so
of water in each hole (never on the surface) previous to planting; or
of puddling the roots in a thick mixture of rich soil and water. The
large leaves also should be trimmed back one-half. In the case of
plants that are too tall or succulent, this should be done in any case
--better a day or two previous to setting out.
Transplanting should be done whenever possible in dull weather or
before rain--or even during it if you really would deserve the name of
gardener! If it must be done when the sun continues strong, shade the
plants from, say, ten to three o'clock, for a day or two, with half
sheets of old newspapers held in tent-shaped position over the plants
by stones or earth. If it is necessary to give water, do it toward
evening. If the plants have been properly set, however, only extreme
circumstances will render this necessary.
Keep a sharp lookout for cut-worms, maggots or other enemies described
in Chapter XIII.
And above all, CULTIVATE.
Never let the soil become crusted, even if there is not a weed in
sight. Keep the soil loosened up, for that will keep things growing.
THE CULTIVATION OF VEGETABLES
Before taking up the garden vegetables individually, I shall outline
the general practice of cultivation, which applies to all.
The purposes of cultivation are three--to get rid of weeds, and to
stimulate growth by (1) letting air into the soil and freeing
unavailable plant food, and (2) by conserving moisture.
As to weeds, the gardener of any experience need not be told the
importance of keeping his crops clean. He has learned from bitter and
costly experience the price of letting them get anything resembling a
start. He knows that one or two days' growth, after they are well up,
followed perhaps by a day or so of rain, may easily double or treble
the work of cleaning a patch of onions or carrots, and that where weeds
have attained any size they cannot be taken out of sowed crops without
doing a great deal of injury. He also realizes, or should, that every
day's growth means just so much available plant food stolen from under
the very roots of his legitimate crops.
Instead of letting the weeds get away with any plant food, he should be
furnishing more, for clean and frequent cultivation will not only break
the soil up mechanically, but let in air, moisture and heat--all
essential in effecting those chemical changes necessary to convert non-
available into available plant food. Long before the science in the
case was discovered, the soil cultivators had learned by observation
the necessity of keeping the soil nicely loosened about their growing
crops. Even the lanky and untutored aborigine saw to it that his squaw
not only put a bad fish under the hill of maize but plied her shell hoe
over it. Plants need to breathe. Their roots need air. You might as
well expect to find the rosy glow of happiness on the wan cheeks of a
cotton-mill child slave as to expect to see the luxuriant dark green of
healthy plant life in a suffocated garden.
Important as the question of air is, that of _water_ ranks beside
it. You may not see at first what the matter of frequent cultivation
has to do with water. But let us stop a moment and look into it. Take a
strip of blotting paper, dip one end in water, and watch the moisture
run up hill, soak up through the blotter. The scientists have labeled
that "capillary attraction"--the water crawls up little invisible tubes
formed by the texture of the blotter. Now take a similar piece, cut it
across, hold the two cut edges firmly together, and try it again. The
moisture refuses to cross the line: the connection has been severed.
In the same way the water stored in the soil after a rain begins at
once to escape again into the atmosphere. That on the surface
evaporates first, and that which has soaked in begins to soak in
through the soil to the surface. It is leaving your garden, through the
millions of soil tubes, just as surely as if you had a two-inch pipe
and a gasoline engine, pumping it into the gutter night and day! Save
your garden by stopping the waste. It is the easiest thing in the world
to do--cut the pipe in two. And the knife to do it with is--
_dust_. By frequent cultivation of the surface soil--not more than
one or two inches deep for most small vegetables--the soil tubes are
kept broken, and a mulch of dust is maintained. Try to get over every
part of your garden, especially where it is not shaded, once in every
ten days or two weeks. Does that seem like too much work? You can push
your wheel hoe through, and thus keep the dust mulch as a constant
protection, as fast as you can walk. If you wait for the weeds, you
will nearly have to crawl through, doing more or less harm by
disturbing your growing plants, losing all the plant food (and they
will take the cream) which they have consumed, and actually putting in
more hours of infinitely more disagreeable work. "A stitch in time
saves nine!" Have your thread and needle ready beforehand! If I knew
how to give greater emphasis to this subject of thorough cultivation, I
should be tempted to devote the rest of this chapter to it. If the
beginner at gardening has not been convinced by the facts given, there
is only one thing left to convince him--experience.
Having given so much space to the _reason_ for constant care in
this matter, the question of methods naturally follows. I want to
repeat here, my previous advice--by all means get a wheel hoe. The
simplest sorts cost only a few dollars, and will not only save you an
infinite amount of time and work, but do the work better, very much
better than it can be done by hand. You _can_ grow good
vegetables, especially if your garden is a very small one, without one
of these labor-savers, but I can assure you that you will never regret
the small investment necessary to procure it.
With a wheel hoe, the work of preserving the soil mulch becomes very
simple. If one has not a wheel hoe, for small areas very rapid work can
be done with the scuffle hoe.
The matter of keeping weeds cleaned out of the rows and between the
plants in the rows is not so quickly accomplished. Where hand-work is
necessary, let it be done at once. Here are a few practical suggestions
that will reduce this work to a minimum, (1) Get at this work while the
ground is soft; as soon as the soil begins to dry out after a rain is
the best time. Under such conditions the weeds will pull out by the
roots, without breaking off. (2) Immediately before weeding, go over
the rows with a wheel hoe, cutting shallow, but just as close as
possible, leaving a narrow, plainly visible strip which must be hand-
weeded. The best tool for this purpose is the double wheel hoe with
disc attachment, or hoes for large plants. (3) See to it that not only
the weeds are pulled but that _every inch_ of soil surface is
broken up. It is fully as important that the weeds just sprouting be
destroyed, as that the larger ones be pulled up. One stroke of the
weeder or the fingers will destroy a hundred weed seedlings in less
time than one weed can be pulled out after it gets a good start. (4)
Use one of the small hand-weeders until you become skilled with it. Not
only may more work be done but the fingers will be saved unnecessary
The skilful use of the wheel hoe can be acquired through practice only.
The first thing to learn is that it is necessary to watch _the wheels
only:_ the blades, disc or rakes will take care of themselves. Other
suggestions will be found in the chapter on Implements.
The operation of "hilling" consists in drawing up the soil about the
stems of growing plants, usually at the time of second or third hoeing.
It used to be the practice to hill everything that could be hilled "up
to the eyebrows," but it has gradually been discarded for what is
termed "level culture"; and the reader will readily see the reason,
from what has been said about the escape of moisture from the surface
of the soil; for of course the two upper sides of the hill, which may
be represented by an equilateral triangle with one side horizontal,
give more exposed surface than the level surface represented by the
base. In wet soils or seasons hilling may be advisable, but very seldom
otherwise. It has the additional disadvantage of making it difficult to
maintain the soil mulch which is so desirable.
ROTATION OF CROPS
There is another thing to be considered in making each vegetable do its
best, and that is crop rotation, or the following of any vegetable with
a different sort at the next planting.
With some vegetables, such as cabbage, this is almost imperative, and
practically all are helped by it. Even onions, which are popularly
supposed to be the proving exception to the rule, are healthier, and do
as well after some other crop, _provided_ the soil is as finely
pulverized and rich as a previous crop of onions would leave it.
Here are the fundamental rules of crop rotation:
(1) Crops of the same vegetable, or vegetables of the same family (such
as turnips and cabbage) should not follow each other.
(2) Vegetables that feed near the surface, like corn, should follow
(3) Vines or leaf crops should follow root crops.
(4) Quick-growing crops should follow those occupying the land all
These are the principles which should determine the rotations to be
followed in individual cases. The proper way to attend to this matter
is when making the planting plan. You will then have time to do it
properly, and will need to give it no further thought for a year.
With the above suggestions in mind, and _put to use_, it will not
be difficult to give the crops mentioned in the following chapter those
special attentions which are needed to make them do their very best.
THE VEGETABLES AND THEIR SPECIAL NEEDS
The garden vegetables may be considered in three groups, in each of
which the various varieties are given somewhat similar treatment: the
root crops, such as beets and carrots; the leaf crops, such as cabbage
and lettuce; the fruit crops, such as melons and tomatoes.
Under the first section we will consider:
Beet Carrot Kohlrabi
Leek Onion Parsnip
Potato Salsify Turnip
Any of these may be sown in April, in drills (with the exception of
potatoes) twelve to eighteen inches apart. The soil must be rich and
finely worked, in order that the roots will be even and smooth--in poor
or ill-prepared soil they are likely to be misshapen, or "sprangling."
They must be thinned out to the proper distances, which should be done
if possible on a cloudy day, hand-weeded as often as may be required,
and given clean and frequent cultivation. All, with the exception of
leeks and potatoes, are given level culture. All will be greatly
benefited, when about one-third grown, by a top dressing of nitrate of
_Beet:_--Beets do best in a rather light soil. Those for earliest
use are started under glass (as described previously) and set out six
to seven inches apart in rows a foot apart.
The first outdoor sowing is made as soon as the soil is ready in
spring, and the seed should be put in thick, as not all will come
through if bad weather is encountered. When thinning out, the small
plants that are removed, tops and roots cooked together, make delicious
The late crop, for fall and winter use, sow the last part of June. For
this crop the larger varieties are used, and on rich soil will need six
to eight inches in the row and fifteen inches between rows.
_Carrot:_--Carrots also like a soil that is rather on the sandy
side, and on account of the depth to which the roots go, it should be
deep and fine. The quality will be better if the soil is not too rich.
A few for extra early use may be grown in the hotbeds or frame. If
radishes and carrots are sown together, in alternating rows six inches
apart, the former will be used by the time the carrots need the room,
and in this way a single 3 x 6 ft. sash will yield a good supply for
the home garden. Use Chantenay or Ox-Heart (see Chapter XII) for this
The late crop is sometimes sown between rows of onions, skipping every
third row, during June, and left to mature when the onions are
harvested; but unless the ground is exceptionally free from weeds, the
plan is not likely to prove successful.
_Kohlrabi:_--While not truly a "root crop"--the edible portion
being a peculiar globular enlargement of the stem--its culture is
similar, as it may be sown in drills and thinned out. Frequently,
however, it is started in the seed-bed and transplanted, the main crop
(for market) being sown in May or June. A few of these from time to
time will prove very acceptable for the home table. They should be used
when quite young; as small as two inches being the tenderest.
_Leek:_--To attain its best the leek should be started in the
seed-bed, late in April, and transplanted in late June, to the richest,
heaviest soil available. Hill up from time to time to blanch lower part
of stalk; or a few choice specimens may be had by fitting cardboard
collars around the stem and drawing the earth up to these, not touching
the stalk with earth.
_Onions:_--Onions for use in the green state are grown from white
"sets," put out early in April, three to four inches apart in rows
twelve inches apart; or from seed sown the previous fall and protected
with rough manure during the winter. These will be succeeded by the
crop from "prickers" or seedlings started under glass in January or
February. As onions are not transplanted before going to the garden,
sow directly in the soil rather than in flats. It is safest to cover
the bed with one-half inch to one inch of coarse sand, and sow the seed
in this. To get stocky plants trim back twice, taking off the upper
half of leaves each time, and trim back the roots one-half to two-
thirds at the time of setting out, which may be any time after the
middle of April. These in turn will be succeeded by onions coming from
the crop sown from seed in the open.
The above is for onions eaten raw in the green state when less than
half grown. For the main crop for bulbs, the home supply is best grown
from prickers as described above. Prize-taker and Gibraltar are mostly
used for this purpose, growing to the size of the large Spanish onions
sold at grocery stores. For onions to be kept for late winter and
spring use, grow from seed, sowing outdoors as early as possible.
No vegetable needs a richer or more perfectly prepared soil than the
onion; and especial care must be taken never to let the weeds get a
start. They are gathered after the tops dry down and wither, when they
should be pulled, put in broad rows for several days in the sun, and
then spread out flat, not more than four inches deep, under cover with
plenty of light and air. Before severe freezing store in slatted
barrels, as described in Chapter XIV.
_Parsnip:_--Sow as early as possible, in deep rich soil, but where
no water will stand during fall and winter. The seed germinates very
slowly, so the seed-bed should be very finely prepared. They will be
ready for use in the fall, but are much better after the first frosts.
For method of keeping see Chapter XIV.
_Potato:_--If your garden is a small one, buy your main supply of
potatoes from some nearby farmer, first trying half a bushel or so to
be sure of the quality. Purchase in late September or October when the
crop is being dug and the price is low.
For an extra early and choice supply for the home garden, start a peck
or so in early March, as follows: Select an early variety, seed of good
size and clean; cut to pieces containing one or two eyes, and pack
closely together on end in flats of coarse sand. Give these full light
and heat, and by the middle to end of April they will have formed dense
masses of roots, and nice, strong, stocky sprouts, well leaved out. Dig
out furrows two and a half feet apart, and incorporate well rotted
manure in the bottom, with the soil covering this until the furrow is
left two to three inches deep. Set the sprouted tubers, pressing firmly
into the soil, about twelve inches apart, and cover in, leaving them
thus three to four inches below the surface. Keep well cultivated, give
a light top dressing of nitrate of soda--and surprise all your
neighbors! This system has not yet come extensively into use, but is
practically certain of producing excellent results.
For the main crop, if you have room, cut good seed to one or two eyes,
leaving as much of the tuber as possible to each piece, and plant
thirteen inches apart in rows three feet apart. Cultivate deeply until
the plants are eight to ten inches high and then shallow but
frequently. As the vines begin to spread, hill up moderately, making a
broad, low ridge. Handle potato-bugs and blight as directed in Chapter
XIII. For harvesting see Chapter XIV.
While big crops may be grown on heavy soils, the quality will be very
much better on sandy, well drained soils. Planting on well rotted sod,
or after green manuring, such as clover or rye, will also improve the
looks and quality of the crop. Like onions, they need a high percentage
of potash in manures or fertilizers used; this may be given in sulphate
of potash. Avoid planting on ground enriched with fresh barnyard manure
or immediately after a dressing of lime.
_Salsify:_--The "vegetable oyster," or salsify, is to my taste the
most delicious root vegetable grown. It is handled practically in the
same way as the parsnip, but needs, if possible, ground even more
carefully prepared, in order to keep the main root from sprangling. If
a fine light soil cannot be had for planting, it will pay to hoe or
hand-plow furrows where the drills are to be--not many will be needed,
and put in specially prepared soil, in which the seed may get a good
_Radish:_--To be of good crisp quality, it is essential with
radishes to grow them just as quickly as possible. The soil should be
rather sandy and not rich in fresh manure or other nitrogenous
fertilizers, as this tends to produce an undesirable amount of leaves
at the expense of the root. If the ground is at all dry give a thorough
wetting after planting, which may be on the surface, as the seeds
germinate so quickly that they will be up before the soil has time to
crust over. Gypsum or land-plaster, sown on white and worked into the
soil, will improve both crop and quality. They are easily raised under
glass, in autumn or spring in frames, requiring only forty to fifty
degrees at night. It is well to plant in the hotbed, after a crop of
lettuce. Or sow as a double crop, as suggested under _Carrots_.
For outside crops, sow every ten days or two weeks.
_Turnip:_--While turnips will thrive well on almost any soil, the
quality--which is somewhat questionable at the best--will be much
better on sandy or even gravelly soil. Avoid fresh manures as much as
possible, as the turnip is especially susceptible to scab and worms.
They are best when quite small and for the home table a succession of
sowing, only a few at a time, will give the best results.
Under leaf crops are considered also those of which the stalk or the
flower heads form the edible portion, such as celery and cauliflower.
Asparagus Brussels Sprouts Cabbage
Cauliflower Celery Endive
Kale Lettuce Parsley
The quality of all these will depend largely upon growing them rapidly
and without check from the seed-bed to the table. They are all great
nitrogen-consumers and therefore take kindly to liberal supplies of
yard manure, which is high in nitrogen. For celery the manure is best
applied to some preceding crop, such as early cabbage. The others will
take it "straight." Most of these plants are best started under glass
or in the seed-bed and transplanted later to permanent positions. They
will all be helped greatly by a top-dressing of nitrate of soda, worked
into the soil as soon as they have become established. This, if it
fails to produce the dark green healthy growth characteristic of its
presence, should be followed by a second application after two or three
weeks--care being taken, of course, to use it with reason and
restraint, as directed in Chapter VI.
Another method of growing good cabbages and similar plants, where the
ground is not sufficiently rich to carry the crop through, is to
"manure in the hill," either yard or some concentrated manure being
used. If yard manure, incorporate a good forkful with the soil where
each plant is to go. (If any considerable number are being set, it will
of course be covered in a furrow--first being trampled down, with the
plow). Another way, sure of producing results, and not inconvenient for
a few hundred plants, is to mark out the piece, dig out with a spade or
hoe a hole some five inches deep at each mark, dilute poultry manure in
an old pail until about the consistency of thick mud, and put a little
less than half a trowelful in each hole. Mix with the soil and cover,
marking the spot with the back of the hoe, and then set the plants. By
this method, followed by a top-dressing of nitrate of soda, I have
repeatedly grown fine cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce and sprouts.
Cotton-seed meal is also very valuable for manuring in the hill--about
a handful to a plant, as it is rich in nitrogen and rapidly decomposes.
The cabbage group is sometimes hilled up, but if set well down and
frequently cultivated, on most soils this will not be necessary. They
all do best in very deep, moderately heavy soil, heavily manured and
rather moist. An application of lime some time before planting will be
a beneficial precaution. With this group rotation also is almost
The most troublesome enemies attacking these plants are: the flea-
beetle, the cabbage-worm, the cabbage-maggot (root) and "club-root";
directions for fighting all of which will be found in the following
_Asparagus:_--Asparagus is rightly esteemed one of the very best
spring vegetables. There is a general misconception, however--due to
the old methods of growing it--concerning the difficulty of having a
home supply. As now cared for, it is one of the easiest of all
vegetables to grow, when once the beds are set and brought to bearing
condition. Nor is it difficult to make the bed, and the only reason why
asparagus is not more universally found in the home garden, beside that
mentioned above, is because one has to wait a year for results.
In selecting a spot for the asparagus bed, pick out the earliest and
best drained soil available, even if quite sandy it will do well. Plow
or dig out trenches three feet apart and sixteen to twenty inches deep.
In the bottoms of these tramp down firmly six to eight inches of old,
thoroughly rotted manure. Cover with six to eight inches of good soil--
not that coming from the bottom of the trench--and on this set the
crowns or root-clumps--preferably one-year ones--being careful to
spread the roots out evenly, and covering with enough soil to hold in
position, making them firm in the soil. The roots are set one foot
apart. Then fill in level, thus leaving the crowns four to six inches
below the surface. As the stalks appear give a light dressing of
nitrate of soda and keep the crop cleanly cultivated. (Lettuce, beets,
beans or any of the small garden vegetables may be grown between the
asparagus rows during the first part of the season, for the first two
years, thus getting some immediate return from labor and manure). The
stalks should not be cut until the second spring after planting and
then only very lightly. After that full crops may be had.
After the first season, besides keeping cleanly cultivated at all
times, in the fall clear off and burn all tops and weeds and apply a
good coating of manure. Dig or lightly cultivate this in the spring,
applying also a dressing of nitrate of soda, as soon as the stalks
appear. If the yield is not heavy, give a dressing of bone or of the
basic fertilizers mentioned earlier. It is not difficult to grow plants
from seed, but is generally more satisfactory to get the roots from
some reliable seedsman.
_Broccoli:-The broccoli makes a flower head as does the cauliflower.
It is, however, inferior in quality and is not grown to any extent
where the latter will succeed. It has the one advantage of being
hardier and thus can be grown where the cauliflower is too uncertain to
make its culture worth while. For culture directions see _Cauliflower_.
_Brussels Sprouts:_--In my opinion this vegetable leaves the
cabbage almost as far behind as the cauliflower does. It is, if
anything, more easily grown than cabbage, except that the young plants
do not seem able to stand quite so much cold. When mature, however, it
seems to stand almost any amount of freezing, and it is greatly
improved by a few smart frosts, although it is very good when
succeeding the spring crop of cauliflower. It takes longer to mature
than either cabbage or cauliflower.
_Cabbage:_--Cabbage is one of the few vegetables which may be had
in almost as good quality from the green-grocer as it can be grown at
home, and as it takes up considerable space, it may often be advisable
to omit the late sorts from the home garden if space is very limited.
The early supply, however, should come from the garden--some people
think it should stay there, but I do not agree with them. Properly
cooked it is a very delicious vegetable.
What has already been said covers largely the conditions for successful
culture. The soil should be of the richest and deepest, and well
dressed with lime.
Lettuce is grown with advantage between the rows of early cabbage, and
after both are harvested the ground is used for celery. The early
varieties may be set as closely as eighteen inches in the row, and
twenty-four between rows. The lettuce is taken out before the row is
The late crop is started in the outside seed-bed about June 1st to
15th. It will help give better plants to cut back the tops once or
twice during growth, and an occasional good soaking in dry weather will
prove very beneficial. They are set in the field during July, and as it
often is very dry at this time, those extra precautions mentioned in
directions for setting out plants, in the preceding chapter, should be
taken. If the newly set plants are dusted with wood ashes, it will be a
wise precaution against insect pests.
_Cauliflower:_--The cauliflower is easily the queen of the cabbage
group: also it is the most difficult to raise. (1) It is the most
tender and should not be set out quite so early. (2) It is even a
ranker feeder than the cabbage, and just before heading up will be
greatly improved by applications of liquid manure. (3) It must have
water, and unless the soil is a naturally damp one, irrigation, either
by turning the hose on between the rows, or directly around the plants,
must be given--two or three times should be sufficient. (4) The heads
must be protected from the sun. This is accomplished by tying up the
points of leaves, so as to form a tent, or breaking them (snap the mid-
rib only), and folding them down over the flower. (5) They must be used
as soon as ready, for they deteriorate very quickly. Take them while
the head is still solid and firm, before the little flower tips begin
to open out.
_Celery:_--This is another favorite vegetable which has a bad
reputation to live down. They used to plant it at the bottom of a
twelve-inch trench and spend all kinds of unnecessary labor over it. It
can be grown perfectly well on the level and in the average home
As to soil, celery prefers a moist one, but it must be well drained.
The home supply can, however, be grown in the ordinary garden,
especially if water may be had in case of injurious drouth.
For the early crop the best sorts are the White Plume and Golden Self-
blanching. Seed is sown in the last part of February or first part of
March. The seed is very fine and the greatest pains must be taken to
give the best possible treatment. The seed should be pressed into the
soil and barely covered with very light soil--half sifted leaf-mould or
moss. Never let the boxes dry out, and as soon as the third or fourth
leaf comes, transplant; cut back the outside leaves, and set as deeply
as possible without covering the crown. The roots also, if long, should
be cut back. This trimming of leaves and roots should be given at each
transplanting, thus assuring a short stocky growth.
Culture of the early crop, after setting out, is easier than that for
the winter crop. There are two systems: (1) The plants are set in rows
three or four feet apart, six inches in the row, and blanched, either
by drawing up the earth in a hill and working it in about the stalks
with the fingers (this operation is termed "handling"), or else by the
use of boards laid on edge along the rows, on either side. (2) The
other method is called the "new celery culture," and in it the plants
are set in beds eight inches apart each way (ten or twelve inches for
large varieties), the idea being to make the tops of the plants supply
the shade for the blanching. This method has two disadvantages: it
requires extra heavy manuring and preparation of soil, and plenty of
moisture; and even with this aid the stalks never attain the size of
those grown in rows. The early crop should be ready in August. The
quality is never so good as that of the later crops.
For the main or winter crop, sow the seed about April 1st. The same
extra care must be taken as in sowing under glass. In hot, dry weather,
shade the beds; never let them dry out. Transplant to second bed as
soon as large enough to develop root system, before setting in the
When setting in late June or July, be sure to put the plants in up to
the hearts, not over, and set firmly. Give level clean culture until
about August 15th, when, with the hoe, wheel hoe or cultivator, earth
should be drawn up along the rows, followed by "handling." The plants
for early use are trenched (see Chapter XIV), but that left for late
use must be banked up, which is done by making the hills higher still,
by the use of the spade. For further treatment see Chapter XIV.
Care must be taken not to perform any work in the celery patch while
the plants are wet.
_Corn salad or Fetticus:_--This salad plant is not largely grown.
It is planted about the middle of April and given the same treatment as
_Chicory:_--This also is little grown. The Witloof, a kind now
being used, is however much more desirable. Sow in drills, thin to five
or six inches, and in August or September, earth up, as with early
celery, to blanch the stalks, which are used for salads, or boiled.
Cut-back roots, planted in boxes of sand placed in a moderately warm
dark place and watered, send up a growth of tender leaves, making a
_Chervil:_--Curled chervil is grown the same as parsley and used
for garnishing or seasoning. The root variety resembles the stump-
rooted carrot, the quality being improved by frost. Sow in April or
September. Treat like parsnip.
_Chives:_--Leaves are used for imparting an onion flavor. A clump
of roots set put will last many years.
_Cress:_--Another salad little grown in the home garden. To many,
however, its spicy, pungent flavor is particularly pleasing. It is
easily grown, but should be planted frequently--about every two weeks.
Sow in drills, twelve to fourteen inches apart. Its only special
requirement is moisture. Water is not necessary, but if a bed can be
started in some clean stream or pool, it will take care of itself.
Upland cress or "pepper grass" grows in ordinary garden soil, being one
of the very first salads. Sow in April, in drills twelve or fourteen
inches apart. It grows so rapidly that it may be had in five or six
weeks. Sow frequently for succession, as it runs to seed very quickly.
Dandelion:_--This is an excellent "greens," but as the crop is not
ready until second season from planting it is not grown as much as it
should be. Sow the seed in April--very shallow. It is well to put in
with it a few lettuce or turnip seed to mark the rows. Drills should be
one foot apart, and plants thinned to eight to twelve inches.
The quality is infinitely superior to the wild dandelion and may be
still further improved by blanching. If one is content to take a small
crop, a cutting may be made in the fall, the same season as the sowing.
_Endive:_--This salad vegetable is best for fall use. Sow in June
or July, in drills eighteen to twenty-four inches apart, and thin to
ten to twelve inches. To be fit for use it must be blanched, either by
tying up with raffia in a loose bunch, or by placing two wide boards in
an inverted V shape over the rows; and in either case be sure the
leaves are dry when doing this.
_Kale:_--Kale is a non-heading member of the cabbage group, used
as greens, both in spring and winter. It is improved by frost, but even
then is a little tough and heavy. Its chief merit lies in the fact that
it is easily had when greens of the better sorts are hard to get, as it
may be left out and cut as needed during winter--even from under snow.
The fall crop is given the same treatment as late cabbage. Siberian
kale is sown in September and wintered-over like spinach.
_Lettuce:_--Lettuce is grown in larger quantities than all the
other salad plants put together. By the use of hotbeds it may be had
practically the year round. The first sowing for the spring under-glass
crop is made in January or February. These are handled as for the
planting outside--see Chapter VIII.--but are set in the frames six to
eight inches each way, according to variety. Ventilate freely during
the day when over 55° give 45° at night. Water only when needed, but
then thoroughly, and preferably only on mornings of bright sunny days.
The plants for first outdoor crops are handled as already described.
After April 1st planting should be made every two weeks. During July
and August the seed-beds must be kept shaded and moist. In August,
first sowing for fall under-glass crop is made, which can be matured in
coldframes; later sowings going into hotbeds.
In quality, I consider the hard-heading varieties superior to the
loose-heading sorts, but of course that is a matter of taste. The
former is best for crops maturing from the middle of June until
September, the latter for early and late sowings, as they mature more
quickly. The cos type is good for summer growing but should be tied up
to blanch well. To be at its best, lettuce should be grown very
rapidly, and the use of top-dressings of nitrate are particularly
beneficial with this crop. The ground should be light, warm, and very
rich, and cultivation shallow but frequent.
_Mushroom:_--While the mushroom is not a garden crop, strictly
speaking, still it is one of the most delicious of all vegetables for
the home table, and though space does not permit a long description of
the several details of its culture, I shall try to include all the
essential points as succinctly as possible, (1) The place for the bed
may be found in any sheltered, dry spot--cellar, shed or greenhouse--
where an even temperature of 53 to 58 degrees can be maintained and
direct sunlight excluded. (Complete darkness is _not_ necessary;
it is frequently so considered, but only because in dark places the
temperature and moisture are apt to remain more even.) (2) The material
is fresh horse-manure, from which the roughest of the straw has been
shaken out. This is stacked in a compact pile and trampled--wetting
down if at all dry--to induce fermentation. This process must be
repeated four or five times, care being required never to let the heap
dry out and burn; time for re-stacking being indicated by the heap's
steaming. At the second or third turning, add about one-fifth, in bulk,
of light loam. (3) When the heat of the pile no longer rises above 100
to 125 degrees (as indicated by a thermometer) put into the beds,
tramping or beating very firmly, until about ten inches deep. When the
temperature recedes to 90 degrees, put in the spawn. Each brick will
make a dozen or so pieces. Put these in three inches deep, and twelve
by nine inches apart, covering lightly. Then beat down the surface
evenly. After eight days, cover with two inches of light loam, firmly
compacted. This may be covered with a layer of straw or other light
material to help maintain an even degree of moisture, but should be
removed as soon as the mushrooms begin to appear. Water only when the
soil is very dry; better if water is warmed to about 60 degrees. When
gathering never leave stems in the bed as they are likely to breed
maggots. The crop should appear in six to eight weeks after spawning
_Parsley:_--This very easily grown little plant should have at
least a row or two in the seed-bed devoted to it. For use during
winter, a box or a few pots may be filled with cut-back roots and given
moderate temperature and moisture. If no frames are on hand, the plants
usually will do well in a sunny window.
Parsley seed is particularly slow in germinating. Use a few seeds of
turnip or carrot to indicate the rows, and have the bed very finely
_Rhubarb:_--This is another of the standard vegetables which no
home garden should be without. For the bed pick out a spot where the
roots can stay without interfering with the plowing and working of the
garden--next the asparagus bed, if in a good early location, will be as
good as any. One short row will supply a large family. The bed is set
either with roots or young plants, the former being the usual method.
The ground should first be made as deep and rich as possible. If poor,
dig out the rows, which should be four or five feet apart, to a depth
of two feet or more and work in a foot of good manure, refilling with
the best of the soil excavated. Set the roots about four feet apart in
the row, the crowns being about four inches below the surface. No
stalks should be cut the first season; after that they will bear
abundantly many years.
In starting from seed, sow in March in frames or outside in April; when
well along-about the first of June--set out in rows, eighteen by twelve
inches. By the following April they will be ready for their permanent
Manuring in the fall, as with asparagus, to be worked in in the spring,
is necessary for good results. I know of no crop which so quickly
responds to liberal dressings of nitrate of soda, applied first just as
growth starts in in the spring. The seed stalks should be broken off as
fast as they appear, until late in the season.
_Sea-Kale:_--When better known in this country, sea-kale will be
given a place beside the asparagus and rhubarb, for, like them, it may
be used year after year. Many believe it superior in quality to either
asparagus or cauliflower.
It is grown from either seed or pieces of the root, the former method,
being probably the more satisfactory. Sow in April, in drills fourteen
inches apart, thinning to five or six. Transplant in the following
spring as described for rhubarb--but setting three feet apart each way.
In the fall, after the leaves have fallen--and every succeeding fall--
cover each crown with a shovelful of clean sand and then about eighteen
inches of earth, dug out from between the rows. This is to blanch the
spring growth. After cutting, shovel off the earth and sand and enrich
with manure for the following season's growth.
_Spinach:_--For the first spring crop of this good
and wholesome vegetable, the seed is sown in September,
and carried over with a protection of hay
or other rough litter. Crops for summer and fall
are sown in successive plantings from April on, Long-Standing
being the best sort to sow after about May
15th. Seed of the New Zealand spinach should be
soaked several hours in hot water, before being
For the home garden, I believe that the Swiss chard beet is destined to
be more popular, as it becomes known, than any of the spinaches. It is
sown in plantings from April on, but will yield leaves all season long;
they are cut close to the soil, and in an almost incredibly short time
the roots have thrown up a new crop, the amount taken during the season
Spinach wants a strong and very rich soil, and dressings of nitrate
show good results.
THE FRUIT CROPS
Under this heading are included:
Bean, dwarf Bean, pole
Melon, musk Melon, water
Most of these vegetables differ from both the preceding groups in two
important ways. First of all, the soil should not be made too rich,
especially in nitrogenous manures, such as strong fresh yard-manure;
although light dressings of nitrate of soda are often of great help in
giving them a quick start--as when setting out in the field. Second,
they are warm-weather loving plants, and nothing is gained by
attempting to sow or set out the plants until all danger from late
frosts is over, and the ground is well warmed up. (Peas, of course, are
an exception to this rule, and to some extent the early beans.) Third,
they require much more room and are grown for the most part in hills.
Light, warm, "quick," sandy to gravelly soils, and old, fine, well
rotted manure--applied generally in the hill besides that plowed under,
make the best combination for results. Such special hills are prepared
by marking off, digging out the soil to the depth of eight to ten
inches, and eighteen inches to two feet square, and incorporating
several forkfuls of the compost. A little guano, or better still
cottonseed meal, say 1/2 to 1 gill of the former, or a gill of the
latter, mixed with the compost when putting into the hill, will also be
very good. Hills to be planted early should be raised an inch or two
above the surface, unless they are upon sloping ground.
The greatest difficulty in raising all the vine fruits--melons, etc.--
is in successfully combating their insect enemies--the striped beetle,
the borer and the flat, black "stink-bug," being the worst of these.
Remedies will be suggested in the next chapter. But for the home
garden, where only a few hills of each will be required, by far the
easiest and the only sure way of fighting them will be by protecting
with bottomless boxes, large enough to cover the hills, and covered
with mosquito netting, or better, "plant-protecting cloth," which has
the additional merit of giving the hills an early start. These boxes
may be easily made of one-half by eight-inch boards, or from ordinary
cracker-boxes, such as used for making flats. Plants so protected in
the earlier stages of growth will usually either not be attacked, or
will, with the assistance of the remedies described in the following
chapter, be able to withstand the insect's visits.
_Beans, dwarf:_--Beans are one of the most widely liked of all
garden vegetables--and one of the most easily grown. They are very
particular about only one thing--not to have a heavy wet soil. The
dwarf or bush sorts are planted in double or single drills, eighteen to
twenty-four inches apart, and for the first sowing not much over an
inch deep. Later plantings should go in two to three inches deep,
according to soil. Ashes or some good mixed fertilizer high in potash,
applied and well mixed in at time of planting, will be very useful.
As the plants gain size they should be slightly hilled--to help hold
the stalks up firmly. Never work over or pick from the plants while
they are wet. The dwarf limas should not be planted until ten to
fourteen days later than the early sorts. Be sure to put them in
edgeways, with the eye down, and when there is no prospect of immediate
rain, or the whole planting is fairly sure to be lost.
_Beans, pole:_--The pole varieties should not go in until about
the time for the limas. Plant in specially prepared hills (see above)
ten to twenty seeds, and when well up thin, leaving three to five.
Poles are best set when preparing the hills. A great improvement over
the old-fashioned pole is made by nailing building laths firmly across
2 x 3-in. posts seven or eight feet high (see illustration). To secure
extra early pods on the poles pinch back the vines at five feet high.
_Corn:_--For extra early ears, corn may easily be started on sod,
as directed for cucumbers. Be sure, however, not to get into the open
until danger from frost is over--usually at least ten days after it is
safe for the first planting, which is seldom made before May 1st.
Frequent, shallow cultivation is a prime necessity in growing this
crop. When well up, thin to four stalks to a hill--usually five to
seven kernels being planted. A slight hilling when the tassels appear
will be advisable. Plant frequently for succession crops. The last
sowing may be made as late as the first part of July if the seed is
well firmed in, to assure immediate germination. Sweet corn for the
garden is frequently planted in drills, about three feet apart, and
thinning to ten to twelve inches.
_Cucumber:_--This universal favorite is easily grown if the
striped beetle is held at bay. For the earliest fruits start on sod in
the frames: Cut out sods four to six inches square, where the grass
indicates rich soil. Pack close together in the frame, grass side down,
and push seven or eight seeds into each, firmly enough to be held in
place, covering with about one and a half inches of light soil; water
thoroughly and protect with glass or cloth, taking care to ventilate,
as described in Chapter VIII. Set out in prepared hills after danger of
frost is over.
Outside crop is planted directly in the hills, using a dozen or more
seeds and thinning to three or four.
_Egg-plant:_--The egg-plant is always started under glass, for the
Northern States, and should be twice transplanted, the second time into
pots, to be of the best size when put out. This should not be until
after tomatoes are set, as it is perhaps the tenderest of all garden
vegetables as regards heat. The soil should be very rich and as moist
as can be selected. If dry, irrigating will be necessary. This should
not be delayed until the growth becomes stunted, as sudden growth then
induced is likely to cause the fruit to crack.
Watch for potato-bugs on your egg-plants. They seem to draw these
troublesome beetles as a magnet does iron filings, and I have seen
plants practically ruined by them in one day. As they seem to know
there will not be time to eat the whole fruit they take pains to eat
into the stems. The only sure remedy is to knock them off with a piece
of shingle into a pan of water and kerosene. Egg-plants are easily
burned by Paris green, and that standard remedy cannot be so
effectively used as on other crops; hellebore or arsenate of lead is
good. As the season of growth is very limited, it is advisable, besides
having the plants as well developed as possible when set out, to give a
quick start with cotton-seed meal or nitrate, and liquid manure later
is useful, as they are gross feeders. The fruits are ready to eat from
the size of a turkey egg to complete development.
_Melon, musk:_--The culture of this delicious vegetable is almost
identical with that of the cucumber. If anything it is more particular
about having light soil. If put in soil at all heavy, at the time of
preparing the hill, add sand and leaf-mould to the compost, the hills
made at least three feet square, and slightly raised. This method is
also of use in planting the other vine crops.
_Melon, water:_--In the warm Southern States watermelons may be
grown cheaply, and they are so readily shipped that in the small home
gardens it will not pay to grow them, for they take up more space than
any other vegetable, with the exception of winter squash. The one
advantage of growing them, where there is room, is that better quality
than that usually to be bought may be obtained. Give them the hottest
spot in the garden and a sandy quick soil. Use a variety recommended
for your particular climate. Give the same culture as for musk melon,
except that the hill should be at least six to ten feet apart each way.
By planting near the edge of the garden, and pinching back the vines,
room may be saved and the ripening up of the crop made more certain.
_Okra:_--Although the okra makes a very strong plant--and
incidentally is one of the most ornamental of all garden vegetables--
the seed is quickly rotted by wet or cold. Sow not earlier than May
25th, in warm soil, planting thinly in drills, about one and a half
inches deep, and thinning to a foot or so; cultivate as with corn in
drills. All pods not used for soup or stems during summer may be dried
and used in winter.
_Peas:_--With care in making successive sowings, peas may be had
during a long season. The earliest, smooth varieties are planted in
drills twelve to eighteen inches apart, early in April. These are,
however, of very inferior quality compared to the wrinkled sorts, which
may now be had practically as early as the others. With the market
gardener, the difference of a few days in the maturing of the crop is
of a great deal more importance than the quality, but for the home
garden the opposite is true.
Another method of planting the dwarf-growing kinds is to make beds of
four rows, six to eight inches apart, with a two-foot alley between
beds. The tall-growing sorts must be supported by brush or in other
ways; and are put about four feet apart in double rows, six inches
apart. The early varieties if sown in August will usually mature a good
fall crop. The early plantings should be made in light, dry soil and
but one inch deep; the later ones in deep loam. In neither case should
the ground be made too rich, especially in nitrogen; and it should not
be wet when the seed is planted.
_Pepper:_--A dozen pepper plants will give abundance of pods for
the average family. The varieties have been greatly improved within
recent years in the quality of mildness.
The culture recommended for egg-plant is applicable also to the pepper.
The main difference is that, although the pepper is very tender when
young, the crop maturing in the autumn will not be injured by
_Pumpkin:_--The "sugar" or "pie" varieties of the pumpkin are the
only ones used in garden culture, and these only where there is plenty
of ground for all other purposes. The culture is the same as that for
late squashes, which follows.
_Squash:_--For the earliest squash the bush varieties of Scallop
are used; to be followed by the summer Crookneck and other summer
varieties, best among which are the Fordhook and Delicata. For all,
hills should be prepared as described at the beginning of this section
and in addition it is well to mix with manure a shovelful of coal
ashes, used to keep away the borer, to the attack of which the squash
is particularly liable. The cultivation is the same as that used for
melons or cucumbers, except that the hills for the winter sorts must be
at least eight feet apart and they are often put twelve.
_Tomato:_--For the earliest crop, tomatoes are started about March
1st. They should be twice transplanted, and for best results the second
transplanting should be put into pots--or into the frames, setting six
to eight inches each way. They are not set out until danger of frost is
over, and the ground should not be too rich; old manure used in the
hill, with a dressing of nitrate at setting out, or a few days after,
will give them a good start. According to variety, they are set three
to five feet apart--four feet, where staking or trellising is given, as
it should always be in garden culture, will be as much as the largest-
growing plants require. It will pay well, both for quality and quantity
of fruit, to keep most of the suckers cut or rubbed off. The ripening
of a few fruits may be hastened by tying paper bags over the bunches,
or by picking and ripening on a board in the hot sun. For ripening
fruit after frost see Chapter XIV.
A sharp watch should be kept for the large green tomato-worm, which is
almost exactly the color of the foliage. His presence may first be
noticed by fruit and leaves eaten. Hand-picking is the best remedy.
Protection must be made against the cutworm in localities where he
All the above, of course, will be considered in connection with the
tabulated information as to dates, depths and distances for sowing,
quantities, etc., given in the table in Chapter IV, and is supplemented
by the information about insects, diseases and harvesting given in
Chapters XIII and XIV, and especially in the Chapter on Varieties which
follows, and which is given separately from the present chapter in
order that the reader may the more readily make out a list, when
planning his garden or making up his order sheet for the seedsman.
BEST VARIETIES OF THE GARDEN VEGETABLES
It is my purpose in this chapter to assist the gardener of limited
experience to select varieties sure to give satisfaction.
To the man or woman planning a garden for the first time there is no
one thing more confusing than the selection of the best varieties. This
in spite of the fact that catalogues should be, and might be, a great
help instead of almost an actual hindrance.
I suppose that seedsmen consider extravagance in catalogues, both in
material and language, necessary, or they would not go to the limit in
expense for printing and mailing, as they do. But from the point of
view of the gardener, and especially of the beginner, it is to be
regretted that we cannot have the plain unvarnished truth about
varieties, for surely the good ones are good enough to use up all the
legitimate adjectives upon which seedsmen would care to pay postage.
But such is not the case. Every season sees the introduction of
literally hundreds of new varieties--or, as is more often the case, old
varieties under new names--which have actually no excuse for being
unloaded upon the public except that they will give a larger profit to
the seller. Of course, in a way, it is the fault of the public for
paying the fancy prices asked--that is, that part of the public which
does not know. Commercial planters and experienced gardeners stick to
well known sorts. New varieties are tried, if at all, by the packet
only--and then "on suspicion."
In practically every instance the varieties mentioned have been grown
by the author, but his recommendations are by no means based upon
personal experience alone. Wherever introductions of recent years have
proved to be actual improvements upon older varieties, they are given
in preference to the old, which are, of course, naturally much better
It is impossible for any person to pick out this, that or the other
variety of a vegetable and label it unconditionally "the best." But the
person who wants to save time in making out his seed list can depend
upon the following to have been widely tested, and to have "made good."
_Asparagus:_--While there are enthusiastic claims put forth for
several of the different varieties of asparagus, as far as I have seen
any authentic record of tests (Bulletin 173, N. J. Agr. Exp. Station),
the prize goes to Palmetto, which gave twenty-eight per cent. more than
its nearest rival, Donald's Elmira. Big yield alone is frequently no
recommendation of a vegetable to the home gardener, but in this
instance it does make a big difference; first, because Palmetto is
equal to any other asparagus in quality, and second, because the
asparagus bed is producing only a few weeks during the gardening
season, and where ground is limited, as in most home gardens, it is
important to cut this waste space down as much as possible. This is for
beds kept in good shape and highly fed. Barr's Mammoth will probably
prove more satisfactory if the bed is apt to be more or less neglected,
for the reason that under such circumstances it will make thicker
stalks than the Palmetto.
_Beans (dwarf):_--Of the dwarf beans there are three general
types: the early round-podded "string" beans, the stringless round-
pods, and the usually more flattish "wax" beans. For first early, the
old reliable Extra Early Red Valentine remains as good as any sort I
have ever tried. In good strains of this variety the pods have very
slight strings, and they are very fleshy. It makes only a small bush
and is fairly productive and of good quality. The care-taking planter,
however, will put in only enough of these first early beans to last a
week or ten days, as the later sorts are more prolific and of better
quality. Burpee's Stringless Greenpod is a good second early. It is
larger, finer, stringless even when mature, and of exceptionally
handsome appearance. Improved Refugee is the most prolific of the
green-pods, and the best of them for quality, but with slight strings.
Of the "wax" type, Brittle Wax is the earliest, and also a tremendous
yielder. The long-time favorite, Rust-proof Golden Wax, is another fine
sort, and an especially strong healthy grower. The top-notch in quality
among all bush beans is reached, perhaps, in Burpee's White Wax--the
white referring not to the pods, which are of a light yellow, and flat
--but to the beans, which are pure white in all stages of growth. It has
one unusual and extremely valuable quality--the pods remain tender
longer than those of any other sort.
Of the dwarf limas there is a new variety which is destined, I think,
to become the leader of the half-dozen other good sorts to be had. That
is the Burpee Improved. The name is rather misleading, as it is not an
improved strain of the Dreer's or Kumerle bush lima, but a mutation,
now thoroughly fixed. The bushes are stronger-growing and much larger
than those of the older types, reaching a height of nearly three feet,
standing strongly erect; both pods and beans are much larger, and it is
a week earlier. Henderson's new Early Giant I have not yet tried, but
from the description I should say it is the same type as the above. Of
the pole limas, the new Giant-podded is the hardiest--an important
point in limas, which are a little delicate in constitution anyway,
especially in the seedling stage--and the biggest yielder of any I have
grown and just as good in quality--and there is no vegetable much
better than well cooked limas. With me, also, it has proved as early as
that old standard, Early Leviathan, but this may have been a chance
occurrence. Ford's Mammoth is another excellent pole lima of large
size. Of the other pole beans, the two that are still my favorites are
Kentucky Wonder, or Old Homestead, and Golden Cluster. The former has
fat meaty green pods, entirely stringless until nearly mature, and of
enormous length. I have measured many over eight and a half inches
long--and they are borne in great profusion. Golden Cluster is one of
the handsomest beans I know. It is happily named, for the pods, of a
beautiful rich golden yellow color, hang in generous clusters and great
profusion. In quality it has no superior; it has always been a great
favorite with my customers. One need never fear having too many of
these, as the dried beans are pure white and splendid for winter use.
Last season I tried a new pole bean called Burger's Green-pod
Stringless or White-seeded Kentucky Wonder (the dried seeds of the old
sort being brown). It did well, but was in so dry a place that I could
not tell whether it was an improvement over the standard or not. It is
claimed to be earlier.
_Beets:_--In beets, varieties are almost endless, but I confess
that I have found no visible difference in many cases. Edmund's Early
and Early Model are good for first crops. The Egyptian strains, though
largely used for market, have never been as good in quality with me.
For the main crop I like Crimson Globe. In time it is a second early,
of remarkably good form, smooth skin and fine quality and color.
_Broccoli:_--This vegetable is a poorer cousin of the cauliflower
(which, by the way, has been termed "only a cabbage with a college
education"). It is of little use where cauliflower can be grown, but
serves as a substitute in northern sections, as it is more hardy than
that vegetable. Early White French is the standard sort.
_Brussels sprouts:_--This vegetable, in my opinion, is altogether
too little grown. It is as easy to grow as fall and winter cabbage, and
while the yield is less, the quality is so much superior that for the
home garden it certainly should be a favorite. Today (Jan. 19th) we had
for dinner sprouts from a few old plants that had been left in
transplanting boxes in an open coldframe. These had been out all
winter--with no protection, repeatedly freezing and thawing, and, while
of course small, they were better in quality than any cabbage you ever
ate. Dalkeith is the best dwarf-growing sort. Danish Prize is a new
sort, giving a much heavier yield than the older types. I have tried it
only one year, but should say it will become the standard variety.
_Cabbage:_--In cabbages, too, there is an endless mix-up of
varieties. The Jersey Wakefield still remains the standard early. But
it is at the best but a few days ahead of the flat-headed early sorts
which stand much longer without breaking, so that for the home garden a
very few heads will do. Glory of Enkhuisen is a new early sort that has
become a great favorite. Early Summer and Succession are good to follow
these, and Danish Ballhead is the best quality winter cabbage, and
unsurpassed for keeping qualities. But for the home garden the Savoy
type is, to my mind, far and away the best. It is not in the same class
with the ordinary sorts at all. Perfection Drumhead Savoy is the best
variety. Of the red cabbages, Mammoth Rock is the standard.
_Carrots:_--The carrots are more restricted as to number of
varieties. Golden Ball is the earliest of them all, but also the
smallest yielder. Early Scarlet Horn is the standard early, being a
better yielder than the above. The Danvers Half-long is probably grown
more than all other kinds together. It grows to a length of about six
inches, a very attractive deep orange in color. Where the garden soil
is not in excellent condition, and thoroughly fined and pulverized as
it should be, the shorter-growing kinds, Ox-heart and Chantenay, will
give better satisfaction. If there is any choice in quality, I should
award it to Chantenay.
_Cauliflower_;--There is hardly a seed catalogue which does not
contain its own special brand of the very best and earliest cauliflower
ever introduced. These are for the most part selected strains of either
the old favorite, Henderson's Snowball, or the old Early Dwarf Erfurt.
Snowball, and Burpee's Best Early, which resembles it, are the best
varieties I have ever grown for spring or autumn. They are more likely
to head, and of much finer quality than any of the large late sorts.
Where climatic conditions are not favorable to growing cauliflower, and
in dry sections, Dry-weather is the most certain to form heads.
_Celery:_--For the home garden the dwarf-growing, "self-blanching"
varieties of celery are much to be preferred. White Plume and Golden
Self-blanching are the best. The former is the earliest celery and of
excellent quality, but not a good keeper. Recent introductions in
celery have proved very real improvements. Perhaps the best of the
newer sorts, for home use, is Winter Queen, as it is more readily
handled than some of the standard market sorts. In quality it has no
superior. When put away for winter properly, it will keep through
_Corn:_--You will have to suit yourself about corn. I have not the
temerity to name any best varieties--every seedsman has about half a
dozen that are absolutely unequaled. For home use, I have cut my list
down to three: Golden Bantam, a dwarf-growing early of extraordinary
hardiness--can be planted earlier than any other sort and, while the
ears are small and with yellow kernels, it is exceptionally sweet and
fine in flavor. This novelty of a few years since, has attained wide
popular favor as quickly as any vegetable I know. Seymour's Sweet
Orange is a new variety, somewhat similar to Golden Bantam, but later
and larger, of equally fine quality. White Evergreen, a perfected
strain of Stowell's Evergreen, a standard favorite for years, is the
third. It stays tender longer than any other sweet corn I have
_Cucumbers:_--Of cucumbers also there is a long and varied list of
names. The old Extra Early White Spine is still the best early; for the
main crop, some "perfected" form of White Spine. I myself like the
Fordhood Famous, as it is the healthiest strain I ever grew, and has
very large fruit that stays green, while being of fine quality. In the
last few years the Davis Perfect has won great popularity, and
deservedly so. Many seedsmen predict that this is destined to become
the leading standard--and where seedsmen agree let us prick up our
ears! It has done very well with me, the fruit being the handsomest of
any I have grown. If it proves as strong a grower it will replace
Fordhood Famous with me.
_Egg-plant:_--New York Improved Purple is still the standard, but
it has been to a large extent replaced by Black Beauty, which has the
merit of being ten days earlier and a more handsome fruit. When once
tried it will very likely be the only sort grown.
_Endive:_--This is a substitute for lettuce for which I personally
have never cared. It is largely used commercially. Broad-leaved
Batavian is a good variety. Giant Fringed is the largest.
_Kale:_--Kale is a foreigner which has never been very popular in
this country. Dwarf Scott Curled is the tenderest and most delicate (or
least coarse) in flavor.
_Kohlrabi:_--This peculiar mongrel should be better known. It
looks as though a turnip had started to climb into the cabbage class
and stopped half-way. When gathered young, not more than an inch and a
half in diameter at the most, they are quite nice and tender. They are
of the easiest cultivation. White Vienna is the best.
_Leek:_--For those who like this sort of thing it is--just the
sort of thing they like. American Flag is the best variety, but why it
was given the first part of that name, I do not know.
_Lettuce:_--To cover the lettuces thoroughly would take a chapter
by itself. For lack of space, I shall have to mention only a few
varieties, although there are many others as good and suited to
different purposes. For quality, I put Mignonette at the top of the
list, but it makes very small heads. Grand Rapids is the best loose-
head sort--fine for under glass, in frames and early outdoors. Last
fall from a bench 40 x 4 ft., I sold $36 worth in one crop, besides
some used at home. I could not sell winter head lettuce to customers
who had once had this sort, so good was its quality. May King and Big
Boston are the best outdoor spring and early summer sorts. New York and
Deacon are the best solid cabbage-head types for resisting summer heat,
and long standing. Of the cos type Paris White is good.
_Muskmelon:_--The varieties of muskmelon are also without limit. I
mention but two--which have given good satisfaction out of a large
number tried, in my own experience. Netted Gem (known as Rocky Ford)
for a green-fleshed type, and Emerald Gem for salmon-fleshed. There are
a number of newer varieties, such as Hoodoo, Miller's Cream, Montreal,
Nutmeg, etc., all of excellent quality.
_Watermelon:_--With me (in Connecticut) the seasons are a little
short for this fruit. Cole's Early and Sweetheart have made the best
showing. Halbert Honey is the best for quality.
_Okra:_--In cool sections the Perfected Perkins does best, but it
is not quite so good in quality as the southern favorite, White Velvet.
The flowers and plants of this vegetable are very ornamental.
_Onion:_--For some unknown reason, different seedsmen call the
same onion by the same name. I have never found any explanation of
this, except that a good many onions given different names in the
catalogues are really the same thing. At least they grade into each
other more than other vegetables. With me Prizetaker is the only sort
now grown in quantity, as I have found it to outyield all other
yellows, and to be a good keeper. It is a little milder in quality than
the American yellows--Danvers and Southport Globe. When started
under glass and transplanted out in April, it attains the size and the
quality of the large Spanish onions of which it is a descendant.
Weathersfield Red is the standard flat red, but not quite so good in
quality or for keeping as Southport Red Globe. Of the whites I like
best Mammoth Silver-skin. It is ready early and the finest in quality,
to my taste, of all the onions, but not a good keeper. Ailsa Craig, a
new English sort now listed in several American catalogues, is the best
to grow for extra fancy onions, especially for exhibiting; it should be
started in February or March under glass.
_Parsley:_--Emerald is a large-growing, beautifully colored and
mild-flavored sort, well worthy of adoption.
_Parsnip:_--This vegetable is especially valuable because it may
be had at perfection when other vegetables are scarce. Hollow Crown
("Improved," of course!) is the best.
_Peas:_--Peas are worse than corn. You will find enough
exclamation points in the pea sections of catalogues to train the vines
on. If you want to escape brain-fag and still have as good as the best,
if not better, plant Gradus (or Prosperity) for early and second early;
Boston Unrivaled (an improved form of Telephone) for main crop, and
Gradus for autumn. These two peas are good yielders, free growers and
of really wonderfully fine quality. They need bushing, but I have never
found a variety of decent quality that does not.
_Pepper:_--Ruby King is the standard, large, red, mild pepper, and
as good as any. Chinese Giant is a newer sort, larger but later. The
flesh is extremely thick and mild. On account of this quality, it will
have a wider range of use than the older sorts.
_Pumpkins:_--The old Large Cheese, and the newer Quaker Pie, are
as prolific, hardy and fine in quality and sweetness as any.
_Potato:_--Bovee is a good early garden sort, but without the best
of culture is very small. Irish Cobbler is a good early white. Green
Mountain is a universal favorite for main crop in the East--a sure
yielder and heavy-crop potato of excellent quality. Uncle Sam is the
best quality potato I ever grew. Baked, they taste almost as rich as
_Radish:_--I do not care to say much about radishes; I do not like
them. They are, however, universal favorites. They come round, half-
long, long and tapering; white, red, white-tipped, crimson, rose,
yellow-brown and black; and from the size of a button to over a foot
long by fifteen inches in circumference--the latter being the new
Chinese or Celestial. So you can imagine what a revel of varieties the
seedsmen may indulge in. I have tried many--and cut my own list down to
two, Rapid-red (probably an improvement of the old standard, Scarlet
Button), and Crimson Globe (or Giant), a big, rapid, healthy grower of
good quality, and one that does not get "corky." A little land-plaster,
or gypsum, worked into the soil at time of planting, will add to both
appearance and quality in radishes.
_Spinach:_--The best variety of spinach is Swiss Chard Beet (see
below). If you want the real sort, use Long Season, which will give you
cuttings long after other sorts have run to seed. New Zealand will
stand more heat than any other sort. Victoria is a newer variety, for
which the claim of best quality is made. In my own trial I could not
notice very much difference. It has, however, thicker and "savoyed"
_Salsify:_--This is, to my taste, the most delicious of all root
vegetables. It will not do well in soil not deep and finely pulverized,
but a row or two for home use can be had by digging and fining before
sowing the seed. It is worth extra work. Mammoth Sandwich is the best
_Squash:_--Of this fine vegetable there are no better sorts for
the home garden than the little Delicata, and Fordhook. Vegetable
Marrow is a fine English sort that does well in almost all localities.
The best of the newer large-vined sorts is The Delicious. It is of
finer quality than the well known Hubbard. For earliest use, try a few
plants of White or Yellow Bush Scalloped. They are not so good in
quality as either Delicata or Fordhook, which are ready within a week
or so later. The latter are also excellent keepers and can be had, by
starting plants early and by careful storing, almost from June to June.
_Tomato:_--If you have a really hated enemy, give him a dozen seed
catalogues and ask him to select for you the best four tomatoes. But
unless you want to become criminally involved, send his doctor around
the next morning. A few years ago I tried over forty kinds. A good many
have been introduced since, some of which I have tried. I am prepared
to make the following statements: Earliana is the earliest quality
tomato, for light warm soils, that I have ever grown; Chalk's Jewel,
the earliest for heavier soils (Bonny Best Early resembles it);
Matchless is a splendid main-crop sort; Ponderosa is the biggest and
best quality--but it likes to split. There is one more sort, which I
have tried one year only, so do not accept my opinion as conclusive. It
is the result of a cross between Ponderosa and Dwarf Champion--one of
the strongest-growing sorts. It is called Dwarf Giant. The fruits are
tremendous in size and in quality unsurpassed by any. The vine is very
healthy, strong and stocky. I believe this new tomato will become the
standard main crop for the home garden. By all means try it. And that
is a good deal to say for a novelty in its second year!
_Turnip:_--The earliest turnip of good quality is the White Milan.
There are several others of the white-fleshed sorts, but I have never
found them equal in quality for table to the yellow sorts. Of these,
Golden Ball (or Orange Jelly) is the best quality. Petrowski is a
different and distinct sort, of very early maturity and of especially
fine quality. If you have room for but one sort in your home garden,
plant this for early, and a month later for main crop.
Do not fail to try some of this year's novelties. Half the fun of
gardening is in the experimenting. But when you are testing out the new
things in comparison with the old, just take a few plants of the latter
and give them the same extra care and attention. Very often the
reputation of a novelty is built upon the fact that in growing it on
trial the gardener has given it unusual care and the best soil and
location at his command. Be fair to the standards--and very often they
will surprise you fully as much as the novelties.
INSECTS AND DISEASES AND METHODS OF FIGHTING THEM
I use the term "methods of fighting" rather than the more usual one,
"remedies," because by both experience and study I am more and more
convinced that so long as the commercial fields of agriculture remain
in the present absolutely unorganized condition, and so long as the
gardener--home or otherwise--who cares to be neglectful and thus become
a breeder of all sorts of plant pests, is allowed so to do--just so
long we can achieve no remedy worth the name. When speaking of a remedy
in this connection we very frequently are putting the cart before the
horse, and refer to some means of prevention. Prevention is not only
the best, but often the only cure. This the gardener should always
This subject of plant enemies has not yet received the attention from
scientific investigators which other branches of horticulture have, and
it is altogether somewhat complicated.
Before taking up the various insects and diseases the following
analysis and list will enable the reader to get a general comprehension
of the whole matter.
Plant enemies are of two kinds--(1) insects, and (2) diseases. The
former are of two kinds, (a) insects which chew or eat the leaves or
fruit; (b) insects which suck the juices therefrom. The diseases also
are of two kinds--(a) those which result from the attack of some
fungus, or germ; (b) those which attack the whole organism of the plant
and are termed "constitutional." Concerning these latter practically
nothing is known.
It will be seen at once, of course, that the remedy to be used must
depend upon the nature of the enemy to be fought. We can therefore
reduce the matter to a simple classification, as follows:
Covered boxes........... 1
Kerosene emulsion....... 5
Whale-oil soap.......... 6
Miscible oils........... 7
Tobacco dust............ 8
Carbolic acid emulsion.. 9
Corrosive sublimate.... 10
Bordeaux mixture....... 11
Paris green............ 12
Arsenate of lead....... 13
It will be of some assistance, particularly as regards quick reference,
to give the following table, which shows at a glance the method of
fighting any enemy, the presence of which is known or anticipated.
While this may seem quite a formidable list, in
practice many of these pests will not appear, and
under ordinary circumstances the following six
remedies out of those mentioned will suffice to keep
them all in check, _if used in time:_ Covered boxes,
hand-picking, kerosene emulsion, tobacco dust, Bordeaux
mixture, arsenate of lead.
ENEMY | ATTACKING | CLASS | REMEDY
Aphis (Plant-lice) | Cabbage and other plants, | b | 5,8,6
| especially under glass | |
Asparagus-beetle | Asparagus | a | 13, 12
Asparagus rust | Asparagus | c | 11
Black-rot | Cabbage and the cabbage | d | 10
| group | |
Borers | Squash | b | 4
Caterpillars | Cabbage group | a |12, 14, 4
Caterpillars | Tomato | a | 4
Club-root | Cabbage group | c | see text
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