The Home Acre by Edward Payson Roe
Chapter IX. The Kitchen-Garden (concluded)
In the last chapter I dwelt somewhat at length on two vegetables for which thorough and enduring preparation is profitable. There is one other very early garden product which requires our attention during the first warm days of spring--rhubarb; sold in some instances under the name of "wine-plant." Wine is made from the juicy stalks, but it is an unwholesome beverage. The people call rhubarb "pie-plant;" and this term suggests its best and most common use, although when cooked as if it were a fruit, it is very grateful at a season when we begin to crave the subacid in our food.
Its cultivation is very simple. Those who propose to produce it largely for market will find it to their advantage to raise this plant from the seed; but for the Home Acre enough plants can be procured, at a moderate cost, from almost any nurseryman. In this instance, also, thorough preparation of the soil is essential, for the rhubarb bed, under good care, will last eight or ten years. A rich, deep, clean, warm soil is the chief essential. It belongs to that class of vegetables known as "gross feeders." During the first year, however, I would apply the fertiliser directly to the hills or plants. These are obtained by dividing the old roots, which may be cut to pieces downward so as to leave a single bud or "eye" surmounting a long tapering portion of root. Each division will make a new, vigorous plant, which should be set out so that the bud or crown is three inches below the surface in light soils, and two inches in heavy soils. The plants should be four feet apart each way, and two or three shovelfuls of rich compost worked into the soil where the plant is to stand. You cannot make the ground too rich; only remember that in this, as in all other instances, light, fermenting manures should not be brought into immediate contact with the roots. Plant in either autumn or spring. In this latitude and southward I should prefer autumn; northward, perhaps spring is the best season. Keep the intervening ground clean and mellow, and pull no stalks the first year, unless it be in the autumn if the plants have become very strong. In the fall, when the foliage has died down, cover the crowns with two or three shovelfuls of rich manure--any kind will do in this instance--and work in a heavy top-dressing all over the ground early in spring. Unless seed is required, always cut down the seed-stalks as soon as they appear. The best early variety is the Linnaeus. The Victoria is a little later, but much larger, and is the kind that I have usually grown.
Radish-seed may be sown one inch deep as soon as the ground is dry enough in spring, and if the vegetable is a favorite, the sowing may be repeated every two weeks. A common error is to sow the seed too thickly. A warm, rich soil is all that is necessary to secure a crop.
What has been said about radishes applies equally to early turnips, with the exception that the plants when three inches high should be thinned so as to stand four inches apart. The ground for these vegetables should be very rich, so as to secure a very rapid growth; for otherwise they are attacked by a little white worm which soon renders them unfit for use. Mr. Harris recommends the following varieties of early radishes, and his selection coincides with my own experience: Bound Scarlet Turnip, French Breakfast, Rose (olive-shaped), Long Scarlet Short-top. Winter radishes: California Mammoth White, and Chinese Rose. For spring sowing of turnips, Mr. Henderson recommends Red-top Strap-leaf, and Early Flat Dutch. The earlier they are sown the better.
Beets--a much more valuable vegetable--require similar treatment. The ground should be clean, well pulverized, and very rich. I prefer to sow the seed the first week in April, unless the soil is frozen, or very cold and wet. The seed may be sown, however, at any time to the first of July; but earliness is usually our chief aim. I sow two inches deep and thickly, pressing the soil firmly over the seed. Let the rows be about fifteen inches apart. Referring to the manure which had been left to decay in a sheltered place until it became like fine dry powder, let me say here that I have always found it of greater advantage to sow it with the beet-seed and kindred vegetables. My method is to open the drill along the garden-line with a sharp-pointed hoe, and scatter the fertilizer in the drill until the soil is quite blackened by it; then draw the pointed hoe through once more, to mingle the powdery manure with the soil and to make the drill of an even depth; then sow the seed at once. This thoroughly decayed stable-manure has become the best of plant-food; it warms the ground, and carries the germinating seed and young plants with vigor through the first cold, wet weeks.
In the home garden there are several reasons for sowing beet-seed thickly. Unfavorable weather and insects will be less apt to cause a thin, broken stand of plants. In order to produce good roots, however, the plants should be thinned out so as to stand eventually three or four inches apart I do not advise very large, coarse roots for the table. For home use I think only three varieties are essential. The Egyptian Turnip Beet is the best very early variety, and can be planted closely, as it has a small top; the Bassano is next in earliness, and requires more room; the Early Blood Turnip is the best for a general crop and winter use. The beet is a root which deteriorates rapidly from age; I therefore advise that the seed of the winter supply be sown the last of June or first of July in our latitude.
Parsnips should be sown at the same time with early beets and in the same way, with the exception that the seed should be covered only an inch deep. I doubt whether there are any marked distinctions in variety, and would advise that only the Long Smooth or Hollow-crowned be sown.
The carrot is not quite so hardy as the parsnip, and the seed may be sown a week or two later, or indeed at any time up to the middle of June. Its culture and treatment are precisely like those of the parsnip; but the roots should be gathered and stored before a severe frost occurs. For home use a short row of the Early Horn will answer; for the general crop, sow the Long Orange.
Vegetable-oyster, or salsify, is another root-crop which may be treated precisely like the parsnip, and the seed sown at the same time. The seed should be sown in a deep, rich, mellow soil, which is all the better for being prepared in autumn. Plant, as early in April as possible, in the same manner as described for beets, thin out to four inches apart, and keep the soil clean and mellow throughout the entire season; for this vegetable grows until the ground freezes. There is only one variety.
The pea is another crop which may be put into the ground as soon as the frost is out--the earlier the better, if the smooth, hardy varieties are sown. There are so many varieties that the novice to-day may well be excused for perplexity in choice. Thompson, the English authority, gives forty kinds, and one hundred and forty- eight synonyms. Mr. Gregory recommends the American Wonder, Bliss's Abundance, Bliss's Ever-bearing, McLean's Advancer, Yorkshire Hero, Stratagem, and Champion of England. Mr. Henderson's list includes Henderson's First of All, American Wonder, Bliss's Abundance, Champion of England, and Pride of the Market. Mr. Harris in his catalogue marks first and best, American Wonder, and also says, "For the main crop there is nothing better than the Champion of England." My own experience would lead me to plant the Tom Thumb either just before the ground froze in the fall, or as early in March as possible. It is almost perfectly hardy, and gives me the earliest picking. I should also plant Henderson's First of All as soon as the frost was out, on a warm, well-drained soil. For second crops, American Wonder and Premium Gem; and for the main and most satisfactory crop of all, Champion of England. The Champion requires brush as a support, for it grows from four to six feet high; but it is well worth the trouble. I plant the other kinds named because they are much earlier, and so dwarf as to need no brush; they are also productive, and excellent in quality if not left to grow too old. For the dwarf kinds the soil cannot be too rich, and the warmer the ground and exposure, the earlier the crop. For the tall late sorts the soil may easily be made too fertile; they should also be planted in cooler, moister, and heavier ground. In the case of the dwarfs I put a fertilizer in with the seed as I have already explained. Cover the dwarfs about two and a half inches deep, and the tall late sorts from three to four inches according to the nature of the soil. Plant the Champion of England every ten days until the middle of June, and thus secure a succession of the best of all.
We all know how numerous have been the varieties of potato introduced into this country of late years--many kinds sent out at first at the rate of one or more dollars per pound. I amuse myself by trying several of these novelties (after they become cheap) every year, and one season raised very early crops of excellent potatoes from the Vanguard and Pearl of Savoy. The Early Rose and Early Vermont have long been favorites. They resemble each other very closely. I have had excellent success with the Beauty of Hebron. It is a good plan to learn what varieties succeed well in our own neighborhood, and then to plant chiefly of such kinds; we may then add to our zest by trying a few novelties.
Not only much reading on the subject, but also my own observation, and the general law that "like produces like," lead me to indorse the practice of planting large tubers cut into sets containing one or more eyes, or buds. The eye of a potato is a bud from which the plant grows; and the stronger backing it has, the stronger and more able is the plant to evolve new fine tubers through the action of its roots and foliage. A small potato has many immature buds, which as a rule produce feeble plants.
The potato will grow on almost any soil; but a dry, rich, sandy loam gives the best, if not the largest, yield. I do not think the potato can be planted too early after the ground is fit to work. One spring I was able to get in several rows the 15th of March, and I never had a finer yield. I observe that Mr. Harris strongly indorses this plan.
Nearly every one has his system of planting. There is no necessity for explaining these methods. I will briefly give mine, for what it is worth. I prefer warm, well-drained soils. Plow deeply in autumn, also in spring; harrow and pulverize the ground as completely as possible; then open the furrows with the same heavy plow, sinking it to the beam, and going twice in the furrow. This, of course, would make too deep a trench in which to place the sets, but the soil has been deepened and pulverized at least fourteen inches. A man next goes along with a cart or barrow of well-decayed compost (not very raw manure), which is scattered freely in the deep furrows; then through these a corn-plow is run, to mingle the fertilizer with the soil. By this course the furrows are partially filled with loose, friable soil and manure, and they average four or five inches in depth. The sets are planted at once eight inches apart, the eye turned upward, and the cut part down. The sets are then covered with three or four inches of fine soil, not with sods and stones. When the plants are two or three inches high, they receive their first hoeing, which merely levels the ground evenly. The next cultivation is performed by both corn-plow and hoe. In the final working I do not permit a sharp-slanting slope from the plants downward, so that the rain is kept from reaching the roots. There is a broad hilling up, so as to have a slope inward toward the plants, as well as away from them. This method, with the deep, loosened soil beneath the plants, secures against drought, while the decayed fertilizers give a strong and immediate growth.
Of course we have to fight the potato, or Colorado, beetle during the growing season. This we do with Paris green applied in liquid form, a heaping teaspoonful to a pail of water.
In taking up and storing potatoes a very common error is fallen into. Sometimes even growing tubers are so exposed to sun and light that they become green. In this condition they are not only worthless, but poisonous. If long exposed to light after being dug, the solanine principle, which exists chiefly in the stems and leaves, is developed in the tubers. The more they are in the light, the less value they possess, until they become worse than worthless. They should be dug, if possible, on a dry day, picked up promptly and carried to a dry, cool, dark cellar. If stored on floors of outbuldings, the light should be excluded. Potatoes that are long exposed to light before the shops of dealers are injured. Barrels, etc., containing them should be covered; if spread on the barn-floor, or in places which can not be darkened, throw straw or some other litter over them.
There is no occasion to say much about lettuce. It is a vegetable which any one can raise who will sow the seed a quarter of an inch deep. I have sowed the seed in September, wintered the plants over in cold-frames, and by giving a little heat, I had an abundance of heads to sell in February and March. For ordinary home uses it is necessary only to sow the seed on a warm, rich spot as soon as the frost is out, and you will quickly have plenty of tender foliage. This we may begin to thin out as soon as the plants are three or four inches high, until a foot of space is left between the plants, which, if of a cabbage variety, will speedily make a large, crisp head. To maintain a supply, sowings can be made every two weeks till the middle of August. Hardy plants, which may be set out like cabbages, are to be obtained in March and April from nurserymen. Henderson recommends the following varieties: Henderson's New York, Black-seeded Simpson, Salamander, and All the Year Round. I would also add the Black-seeded Butter Lettuce.
We have now, as far as our space permits, treated of those vegetables which should be planted in the home garden as early in spring as possible. It is true the reader will think of other sorts, as cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, etc. To the professional gardener these are all-the-year-round vegetables. If the amateur becomes so interested in his garden as to have cold-frames and hot-beds, he will learn from more extended works how to manage these. He will winter over the cabbage and kindred vegetables for his earliest supply, having first sown the seed in September. I do not take the trouble to do this, and others need not, unless it is a source of enjoyment to them. As soon as the ground is fit to work in spring, I merely write to some trust-worthy dealer in plants and obtain twenty-five very early cabbage, and twenty-five second early, also a hundred early cauliflower. They cost little, and are set out in half an hour as soon as the ground is fit to work in spring. I usually purchase my tomato, late cabbage, and cauliflower, celery and egg-plants, from the same sources. Cabbages and cauliflowers should be set out in rich warm soils, free from shade, as soon as the frost is out. After that they need only frequent and clean culture and vigilant watchfulness, or else many will fall victims to a dirty brown worm which usually cuts the stem, and leaves the plant lying on the ground. The worm can easily be found near the surface the moment it begins its ravages, and the only remedy I know is to catch and kill it at once. In this latitude winter cabbage is set out about the fourth of July. I pinch off half the leaves before setting. Good seed, deep plowing or spading, rich soil, and clean culture are usually the only requisites for success. Experience and consultation of the books and catalogues enable me to recommend the Jersey Wakefield for first early, and Henderson's Summer Cabbage and Winningstadt as second early. As a late root I ask for nothing better than Premium Flat Dutch. The Savoy is the best flavored of the cabbage tribe. Henderson recommends the Netted Savoy, which may be treated like other late cabbage.
The cauliflower is ranked among the chief delicacies of the garden, and requires and repays far more attention than cabbage. Even the early sorts should have a richer, moister soil than is required for very early cabbage. I advise two plantings in spring, of first and second early; I also advise that late varieties be set out on rich ground the last of June. As with cabbage, set out the plants from two and a half to three feet apart, according to the size of the variety, from trial I recommend Early Snowball, Half-early Paris, and Large Late Algiers.
Spinach thrives in a very rich, well-drained, fine, mellow soil. I prefer a sunny slope; but this is not necessary. Sow the seed from the first to the fifteenth of September, so as to give the plants time to become half grown by winter. Cover the seeds--three to an inch--two inches deep, and pack the ground well over them; let the rows be three inches apart. When the plants are three inches high, thin out to three inches apart, and keep the soil clean and mellow about them. Just before hard freezing weather, scatter about three inches of straw, old pea-vines, or some light litter over the whole bed. As soon as the days begin to grow warm in spring, and hard frost ceases, rake this off. The hardy vegetable begins to grow at once, and should be cut for use so as to leave the plants finally six inches apart, for as fast as space is given, the plants fill it up. By those who are fond of spinach it may be sown in spring as soon as the frost is out. It quickly runs to seed in hot weather, and thinnings of young beets may take its place where space is limited. The Round or Summer is good for fall or spring planting.
Those who need much instruction in regard to bush-beans should remain in the city and raise cats in their paved back yards. We shall only warn against planting too early--not before the last of April in our region. It does not take much frost to destroy the plants, and if the soil is cold and wet, the beans decay instead of coming up. If one has a warm, sheltered slope, he may begin planting the middle of April. As a rule, however, bush-beans may be planted from the first of May till the middle of July, in order to keep up a succession. Cover the first seed planted one inch deep; later plantings two inches deep. I think that earliest Red Valentine, Black Wax or Butter, Golden Wax, and the late Refugee are all the varieties needed for the garden.
The delicious pale Lima bean requires and deserves more attention. I have always succeeded with it, and this has been my method: I take a warm, rich, but not dry piece of ground, work it deeply early in spring, again the first of May, so that the sun's rays may penetrate and sweeten the ground. About the tenth of May I set the poles firmly in the ground. Rough cedar-poles, with the stubs of the branches extending a little, are the best. If smooth poles are used, I take a hatchet, and beginning at the butt, I make shallow, slanting cuts downward, so as to raise the bark a little. These slight raisings of the bark or wood serve as supports to the clambering vines. After the poles are in the ground I make a broad, flat hill of loose soil and a little of the black powdery fertilizer. I then allow the sun to warm and dry the hill a few days, and if the weather is fine and warm, I plant the seed about the fifteenth, merely pressing the eye of the bean downward one inch. If planted lower than this depth, they usually decay. If it is warm and early, the seed may be planted by the fifth of May. After planting, examine the seed often. If the beans are decaying instead of coming up, plant over again, and repeat this process until there are three or four strong plants within three or four inches of each pole. Let the hills be five feet apart each way, hoe often, and do not tolerate a weed. The Long White Lima and Dreer's Improved Lima are the only sorts needed.
The Indians in their succotash taught us long ago to associate corn with beans, and they hit upon a dish not surpassed by modern invention. This delicious vegetable is as easily raised as its "hail-fellow well met," the bean. We have only to plant it at the same time in hills from three to four feet apart, and cover the seed two inches deep. I have used the powdery fertilizers and wood-ashes in the hill to great advantage, first mingling these ingredients well with the soil. We make it a point to have sweet- corn for the table from July 1 until the stalks are killed by frost in October. This is easily managed by planting different varieties, and continuing to plant till well into June. Mr. Gregory writes: "For a succession of corn for family use, to be planted at the same time, I would recommend Marblehead Early, Pratt's, Crosley's, Moore's, Stowell's Evergreen, and Egyptian Sweet." Mr. Harris names with praise the Minnesota as the best earliest, and Hickox Improved as an exceedingly large and late variety. Mr. Henderson's list is Henderson Sugar, Hickox Improved, Egyptian, and Stowell's Evergreen. Let me add Burr's Mammoth and Squantum Sugar--a variety in great favor with the Squantum Club, and used by them in their famous clam-bakes.
The cucumber, if grown in the home garden and used fresh, is not in league with the undertaker. The seed may be planted early in May, and there are many ways of forcing and hastening the yield. I have had cucumbers very early in an ordinary hotbed. Outdoors, I make hills in warm soil the first of May, mixing a little of my favorite fertilizer with the soil. After leaving the hill for a day or two to become warm in the sun, I sow the seed in a straight line for fifteen inches, so that the hoe can approach them closely. The seed is covered an inch deep, and the soil patted down firmly. It is possible that a cold storm or that insects may make partial planting over necessary; if so, this is done promptly. I put twenty seeds in the hill, to insure against loss. For a succession or long-continued crop, plant a few hills in rich moist land about the last of May. The young plants always run a gauntlet of insects, and a little striped bug is usually their most deadly enemy. These bugs often appear to come suddenly in swarms, and devour everything before you are aware of their presence. With great vigilance they may be kept off by hand, for their stay is brief. I would advise one trial of a solution of white hellebore, a tablespoonful to a pail of water. Paris green-- in solution, of course--kills them; but unless it is very weak, it will kill or stunt the plants also. My musk and watermelons were watered by too strong a solution of Paris green this year, and they never recovered from it. Perhaps the best preventive is to plant so much seed, and to plant over so often, that although the insects do their worst, plenty of good plants survive. This has usually been my method. When the striped bug disappears, and the plants are four or five inches high, I thin out to four plants in the hill. When they come into bearing, pick off all the fruit fit for use, whether you want it or not. If many are allowed to become yellow and go to seed, the growth and productiveness of the vines are checked. The Early White Spine and Extra Long White Spine are all the varieties needed for the table. For pickling purposes plant the Green Prolific on moist rich land. The other varieties answer quite as well, if picked before they are too large.
The cultivation of the squash is substantially the same as that of the cucumber, and it has nearly the same enemies to contend with. Let the hills of the bush sorts be four feet apart each way, and eight feet for the running varieties. The seed is cheap, so use plenty, and plant over from the first to the twenty-fifth of May, until you have three good strong plants to the hill. Three are plenty, so thin out the plants, when six or seven inches high, to this number, and keep the ground clean and mellow. I usually raise my running squashes among the corn, giving up one hill to them completely every seven or eight feet each way. Early bush sorts: White Bush Scalloped, Yellow Bush Scalloped. The Perfect Gem is good for both summer and winter, and should be planted on rich soil, six feet apart each way. The Boston Marrow is one of the best fall sorts; the Hubbard and Marblehead are the best winter varieties.
When we come to plant musk-melons we must keep them well away from the two above-named vegetables, or else their pollen will mix, producing very disagreeable hybrids. A squash is very good in its way, and a melon is much better; but if you grow them so near each other that they become "'alf and 'alf," you may perhaps find pigs that will eat them. The more completely the melon-patch is by itself, the better, and the nearer the house the better; for while it is liable to all the insects and diseases which attack the cucumber, it encounters, when the fruit is mature, a more fatal enemy in the predatory small boy. Choose rich, warm, but not dry ground for musk-melons, make the hills six feet apart each way, and treat them like cucumbers, employing an abundance of seed. As soon as the plants are ready to run, thin out so as to leave only four to fruit. Henderson recommends Montreal Market, Hackensack, and Netted Gem. Gregory: Netted Gem, Boston Pet, Bay View, Sill's Hyrbid, Casaba, and Ward's Nectar. He also advocates a remarkable novelty known as the "Banana." Harris: Early Christiana and Montreal Market.
Water-melons should be planted eight feet apart; but if one has not a warm, sandy soil, I do not advise their culture. The time of planting and management do not vary materially from those of the musk variety. The following kinds will scarcely fail to give satisfaction where they can be grown: Phinney's Early, Black Spanish, Mammoth Ironclad, Mountain Sprout, Scaly Bark, and Cuban Queen.
The tomato has a curious history. Native of South America like the potato, it is said to have been introduced into England as early as 1596. Many years elapsed before it was used as food, and the botanical name given to it was significant of the estimation in which it was held by our forefathers. It was called Lycopersicum-- a compound term meaning wolf and peach; indicating that, notwithstanding its beauty, it was regarded as a sort of "Dead Sea fruit." The Italians first dared to use it freely; the French followed; and after eying it askance as a novelty for unknown years, John Bull ventured to taste, and having survived, began to eat with increasing gusto. To our grandmothers in this land the ruby fruit was given as "love-apples," which, adorning quaint old bureaus, were devoured by dreamy eyes long before canning factories were within the ken of even a Yankee's vision. Now, tomatoes vie with the potato as a general article of food, and one can scarcely visit a quarter of the globe so remote but he will find that the tomato-can has been there before him. Culture of the tomato is so easy that one year I had bushels of the finest fruit from plants that grew here and there by chance. Skill is required only in producing an early crop; and to secure this end the earlier the plants are started in spring, the better. Those who have glass will experience no difficulty whatever. The seed may be sown in a greenhouse as early as January, and the plants potted when three inches high, transferred to larger pots from time to time as they grow, and by the middle of May put into the open ground full of blossoms and immature fruit. Indeed, plants started early in the fall will give in a greenhouse a good supply all winter. Tomatoes also grow readily in hot-beds, cold-frames, or sunny windows. We can usually buy well-forwarded plants from those who raise them for sale. If these are set out early in May on a sunny slope, they mature rapidly, and give an early yield. The tomato is very sensitive to frost, and should not be in the open ground before danger from it is over. Throughout May we may find plants for sale everywhere. If we desire to try distinct kinds with the least trouble, we can sow the seed about May 1, and in our climate enjoy an abundant yield in September, or before. In the cool, humid climate of England the tomato is usually grown en espalier, like the peach, along sunny walls and fences, receiving as careful a summer pruning as the grape-vine. With us it is usually left to sprawl over the ground at will. By training the vines over various kinds of supports, however, they may be made as ornamental as they are useful. The ground on which they grow should be only moderately fertile, or else there is too great a growth of vine at the expense of fruit. This is especially true if we desire an early yield, and in this case the warmest, driest soil is necessary.
But comparatively a few years ago the tomato consisted of little more than a rind, with seeds in the hollow centre. Now, the only varieties worth raising cut as solid as a mellow pear. The following is Gregory's list of varieties: Livingston's Beauty, Alpha, Acme, Canada Victor, Arlington, General Grant. I will add Trophy and Mikado. If a yellow variety is desired, try Golden Trophy.
If the tomato needs warm weather in which to thrive, the egg-plant requires that both days and nights should be hot. It is an East Indiaman, and demands curry in the way of temperature before it loses its feeble yellow aspect and takes on the dark green of vigorous health. My method is simply this: I purchase strong potted plants between the twentieth of May and the first of June, and set them out in a rich, warm soil. A dozen well-grown plants will supply a large family with egg-fruit. Of course one can start the young plants themselves, as in the case of tomatoes; but it should be remembered that they are much more tender and difficult to raise than is the tomato. Plants from seed sown in the open ground would not mature in our latitude, as a rule. The best plan is to have the number you need grown for you by those who make it their business. Eggplants are choice morsels for the potato- beetle, and they must be watched vigilantly if we would save them. There is no better variety than the New York Improved.
The pepper is another hot-blooded vegetable that shivers at the suggestion of frost. It is fitting that it should be a native of India. Its treatment is usually the same as that of the egg-plant. It matures more rapidly, however, and the seed can be sown about the middle of May, half an inch deep, in rows fifteen inches apart. The soil should be rich and warm. When the plants are well up, they should be thinned so that they will stand a foot apart in the row. The usual course, however, is to set out plants which have been started under glass, after all danger from frost is over. Henderson recommends New Sweet Spanish and Golden Dawn, The Large Bell is a popular sort, and Cherry Red very ornamental.
From the okra is made the famous gumbo soup, which ever calls to vision a colored aunty presiding over the mysteries of a Southern dinner. If Aunt Dinah, so well known to us from the pages of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," could have left her receipt for this compound, her fame might have lasted as long as that of Mrs. Stowe. The vegetable furnishing this glutinous, nutritious, and wholesome ingredient is as easily raised as any product of the garden. We have only to sow the seed, from the first to the tenth of May, two inches deep, and let the plants stand from two to three feet apart each way, in order to have an abundant supply. The new Dwarf Prolific is about the best variety.
Fall turnips are so easily grown that they require but few words. They are valuable vegetables for utilizing space in the garden after early crops, as peas, beans, potatoes, etc., are removed. The seed of ruta-baga, or Swedish turnips, should be planted earliest--from the twentieth of June to the tenth of July in our latitude. This turnip should be sown in drills two feet apart, and the plants thinned to eight inches from one another. It is very hardy, and the roots are close-grained, solid, and equally good for the table and the family cow. The Yellow Aberdeen is another excellent variety, which may be sown early in July, and treated much the same as the foregoing. The Yellow Stone can be sown on good ground until the fifteenth of July in any good garden soil, and the plants thinned to six inches apart. It is perhaps the most satisfactory of all the turnip tribe both for table use and stock. The Bed-top Strap-leaf may be sown anywhere until the tenth of August. It is a general custom, in the middle of July, to scatter some seed of this hardy variety among the corn: hoe it in lightly, and there is usually a good crop. Every vacant spot may be utilized by incurring only the slight cost of the seed and the sowing. It may be well, perhaps, to remember the advice of the old farmer to his son. He said, "Stub your toe and spill half the seed before sowing it; for scattered broadcast it is usually much too thick." If this proves true, thin out the plants rigorously. This turnip is good for table and stock as long as it is solid and crisp; but it grows pithy toward spring. There are other kinds well worth a trial.
Perhaps no vegetable is more generally appreciated than celery. Like asparagus, it was once, and is still by some, regarded as a luxury requiring too much skill and labor for the ordinary gardener. This is a mistake. Few vegetables in my garden repay so amply the cost of production. One can raise turnips as a fall crop much easier, it is true; but turnips are not celery, any more than brass is gold. Think of enjoying this delicious vegetable daily from October till April! When cooked, and served on toast with drawn butter sauce, it is quite ambrosial. In every garden evolved beyond the cabbage and potato phase a goodly space of the best soil should be reserved for celery, since it can be set out from the first to the twentieth of July in our latitude; it can be grown as the most valuable of the second crops, reoccupying space made vacant by early crops. I find it much easier to buy my plants, when ready for them, than to raise them. In every town there are those who grow them in very large quantities, and, if properly packed, quickly transported, and promptly set out in the evening following their reception, and watered abundantly, they rarely fail.
There are decided advantages, however, in raising our own plants, especially if midsummer should prove dry and hot, or the plants must be long in transit. When they are growing in our own garden, they can be moved with very slight check to their growth. In starting the seed there is no necessity for hot-bed or cold-frame. It may be put in the ground the first week of April, and the best plants are thus secured. Much is gained by preparing a warm but not dry plot of ground in autumn, making it very rich with short, half-decayed stable-manure. This preparation should be begun as soon as possible after the soaking September rains. Having thoroughly incorporated and mixed evenly in the soil an abundance of the manure described, leave the ground untouched for three weeks. The warm fertilizer will cause great numbers of weed-seeds to germinate. When these thrifty pests are a few inches high, dig them under and bring up the bottom soil. The warmth and light will immediately start a new and vigorous growth of weeds, which in turn should be dug under. If the celery seed bed be made early enough, this process can be repeated several times before winter-- the oftener the better; for by it the great majority of weed-seeds will be made to germinate, and thus are destroyed. The ground also becomes exceedingly rich, mellow, and fine--an essential condition for celery seed, which is very small, and germinates slowly. This thorough preparation does not involve much labor, for the seed-bed is small, and nothing more is required in spring but to rake the ground smooth and fine as soon as the frost is out. The soil has already been made mellow, and certainly nothing is gained by turning up the cold earth in the bottom of the bed. Sow the seed at once on the sunwarmed surface. The rows should be nine inches apart, and about twelve seeds sown to every inch of row. The drills should be scarcely an eighth of an inch deep. Indeed, a firm patting with the back of a spade would give covering enough. Since celery germinates so slowly, it is well to drop a lettuce- seed every few inches, to indicate clearly just where the rows are. Then the ground between the rows can be hoed lightly as soon as the weeds start, also after heavy rains, so as to admit the vivifying sun-rays and air. Of course when the celery plants are clearly outlined, the lettuce should be pulled out.
If the bed is made in spring, perform the work as early as possible, making the bed very rich, mellow, and fine. Coarse manures, cold, poor, lumpy soil, leave scarcely a ghost of a chance for success. The plants should be thinned to two inches from one another, and when five inches high, shear them back to three inches. When they have made another good growth, shear them back again. The plants are thus made stocky. In our latitude I try to set out celery, whether raised or bought, between the twenty- fifth of June and the fifteenth of July. This latitude enables us to avoid a spell of hot, dry weather.
There are two distinct classes of celery--the tall-growing sorts, and the dwarf varieties. A few years ago the former class was grown generally; trenches were dug, and their bottoms well enriched to receive the plants. Now the dwarf kinds are proving their superiority, by yielding a larger amount of crisp, tender heart than is found between long coarse stalks of the tall sorts. Dwarf celery requires less labor also, for it can be set on the surface and much closer together, the rows three feet apart, and the plants six inches in the row. Dig all the ground thoroughly, then, beginning on one side of the plot, stretch a line along it, and fork under a foot-wide strip of three or four inches of compost, not raw manure. By this course the soil where the row is to be is made very rich and mellow. Set out the plants at once while the ground is fresh and moist. If the row is ten feet long, you will want twenty plants; if fifteen, thirty plants; or two plants to every foot of row. Having set out one row, move the line forward three feet, and prepare and set out another row in precisely the same manner. Continue this process until the plot selected is occupied. If the plants have been grown in your own garden, much is gained by soaking the ground round them in the evening, and removing them to the rows in the cool of the morning. This abundant moisture will cause the soil to cling to the roots if handled gently, and the plants will scarcely know that they have been moved. When setting I usually trim off the greater part of the foliage. When all the leaves are left, the roots, not established, cannot keep pace with the evaporation. Always keep the roots moist and unshrivelled, and the heart intact, and the plants are safe. If no rain follows setting immediately, water the plants thoroughly--don't be satisfied with a mere sprinkling of the surface--and shade from the hot sun until the plants start to grow. One of the chief requisites in putting out a celery plant, and indeed almost any plant, is to press the soil firmly round, against, and over the roots. This excludes the air, and the new rootlets form rapidly. Neither bury the heart nor leave any part of the root exposed.
Do not be discouraged at the rather slow growth during the hot days of July and early August. You have only to keep the ground clean and mellow by frequent hoeings until the nights grow cooler and longer, and rains thoroughly moisten the soil. About the middle of August the plants should be thrifty and spreading, and now require the first operation, which will make them crisp and white or golden for the table. Gather up the stalks and foliage of each plant closely in the left hand, and with the right draw up the earth round it. Let no soil tumble in on the heart to soil or cause decay. Press the soil firmly, so as to keep all the leaves in an upright position. Then with a hoe draw up more soil, until the banking process is begun. During September and October the plants will grow rapidly, and in order to blanch them they must be earthed up from time to time, always keeping the stalks close and compact, with no soil falling in on the developing part. By the end of October the growth is practically made, and only the deep green leaves rest on the high embankments. The celery now should be fit for use, and time for winter storing is near. In our region it is not safe to leave celery unprotected after the tenth of November, for although it is a very hardy plant, it will not endure a frost which produces a strong crust of frozen soil. I once lost a fine crop early in November. The frost in one night penetrated the soil deeply, and when it thawed out, the celery never revived. Never handle celery when it is frozen. My method of preserving this vegetable for winter use is simply this. During some mild, clear day in early November I have a trench ten inches wide dug nearly as deep as the celery is tall. This trench is dug on a warm dry slope, so that by no possibility can water gather in it. Then the plants are taken up carefully and stored in the trench, the roots on the bottom, the plants upright as they grew, and pressed closely together so as to occupy all the space in the excavation. The foliage rises a little above the surface, which is earthed up about four inches, so that water will be shed on either side. Still enough of the leaves are left in the light to permit all the breathing necessary; for plants breathe as truly as we do. As long as the weather keeps mild, this is all that is needed; but there is no certainty now. A hard black frost may come any night. I advise that an abundance of leaves or straw be gathered near. When a bleak November day promises a black frost at night, scatter the leaves, etc., thickly over the trenched celery, and do not take them off until the mercury rises above freezing-point. If a warm spell sets in, expose the foliage to the air again. But watch your treasure vigilantly. Winter is near, and soon you must have enough covering over your trench to keep out the frost--a foot or more of leaves, straw, or some clean litter. There is nothing better than leaves, which cost only the gathering. From now till April, when you want a head or more of celery, open the trench at the lower end, and take out the crisp white or golden heads, and thank the kindly Providence that planted a garden as the best place in which to put man, and woman also.
GARNISHING AND POT HERBS
"There's fennel for you; there's rue for you." Strange and involuntary is the law of association! I can never see the garnishing and seasoning herbs of the garden without thinking of the mad words of distraught Ophelia. I fancy, however, that we are all practical enough to remember the savory soups and dishes rendered far more appetizing than they could otherwise have been by these aromatic and pungent flavors. I will mention only a few of the popular sorts.
The seeds of fennel may be sown in April about three-quarters of an inch deep, and the plants thinned to fifteen inches apart. Cut off the seed-stalks to increase the growth of foliage.
Parsley, like celery seed, germinates slowly, and is sometimes about a month in making its appearance. The soil should therefore be made very rich and fine, and the seed sown half an inch deep, as early in spring as possible. When the plants are three inches high, thin them to eight inches apart.
Sweet-basil may be sown in early May, and the plants thinned to one foot apart. The seeds of sweet-marjoram are very minute, and must be covered very thinly with soil finely pulverized; sow in April or May, when the ground is in the best condition. Sage is easily raised from seeds gown an inch deep the latter part of April; let the soil be warm and rich; let the plants stand about one foot apart in the row. Thyme and summer-savory require about the same treatment as sage. I find that some of the mountain mints growing wild are quite as aromatic and appetizing as many of these garden herbs.