Special Cultures Described in Alphabetical Order #
In this portion of the work the various methods of culture practised in French gardens is detailed. Each crop is dealt with separately, so that its special needs may not be overlooked. While the functions of all green-leaved plants are the same, it is important for the gardener to bear in mind that many modifications of general principles are rendered necessary according to the period of the year at which he desires his crops to mature. Thus, what may be perfectly sound practice in January and December, may be quite erroneous in June and July. The state of the weather and the various seasons must always be taken into account, and conditions have to be modified almost with every rise and fall in the barometer. Rain, snow, hail, frost, sun, and wind—all have important influences on vegetation, and the intelligent cultivator must keep a steady eye on these to see that his special cultures are in no way adversely affected. He must be, in fact, a kind of weather-prophet and be able to gauge climatic changes with a fair amount of accuracy if he is to succeed.
Globe Artichokes #
There are many varieties of Globe Artichokes (Cynara Scolymus), but the Parisian market-gardeners prefer the one called Gros Vert de Laon. Another variety, called Camus de Bretagne, is grown in Brittany, and is often eaten in an uncooked state. Other kinds are grown in the middle and south of France that would be quite unsuitable for either a Parisian or English climate.
Globe Artichokes may be raised from seeds, but are more generally increased by carefully detaching suckers from the old roots in March or April. The suckers are planted in a warm bed, and if kept watered as required, they soon make nice plants fit for the open air. The soil should be rich, deeply dug, and well manured. During the summer months the plants should be given plenty of water at the roots if particularly fine heads are desired. This, coupled with abundance of manure and the frequent use of the hoe, constitute the chief features of cultural care.
Although not grown in England at present to such an extent as in France, there is no reason why the taste for the floral bracts of the Globe Artichoke should not increase.
When it is desired to force the plants, the operation is performed much in the same way as described for Asparagus (see p. 76). The plants are taken up carefully in November, and placed in a hot-bed, the heat of which is maintained, if necessary, by lining the frames with hot manure.
Although each year Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) is becoming more and more popular in the British Islands, its consumption is chiefly confined to those who are in no danger of receiving an old age pension from the Government. In France it is otherwise. Almost every one, even the cottager—eats Asparagus and such Asparagus! thick, succulent, well-flavoured shoots.
That fine Asparagus can be grown in the British Islands there is no doubt whatever. It is not a matter of soil and climate. In either respect we are quite as well off as our French brethren. It is simply a question of careful attention to the minor details of cultivation that enables the French gardener to produce, even on comparatively poor soil, some of the finest Asparagus in the world. There are three methods of growing Asparagus in French gardens, the culture on a large scale of course being carried on quite apart from that of early salads and vegetables. First of all, there is what is known as “white” or “blanched” Asparagus; then “green” Asparagus; after which comes the “Argenteuil” Asparagus.
White Asparagus #
Raising the Plants #
To secure good Asparagus it is essential in the first place to obtain seeds of a good strain from a reliable source. The roots that produce clean, thick, well-formed shoots, terminating in a good point that colours easily, are those from which seeds should be saved when ripe. The best variety for the purpose is Early Argenteuil.
The seeds are sown about the middle of January on a nicely prepared hot-bed under lights, and sufficiently thick to allow of a second selection being made later on.
When the young plants are a few inches high, the very best are selected and carefully pricked out in another frame 2 or 3 in. apart. This will admit about three or four hundred plants under each light. After a gentle watering, the young plants are kept “close” for a few days, after which a little air may be given on all fine days. As the season advances, more and more air may be given, until at length, say about May, the lights may be taken off. altogether when frosts are no longer feared. Previous to this, care must be taken to protect the plants from frost during the night by spreading mats or litter over the lights when necessary.
About the middle of July these young plants will be ready for planting in their final quarters. At this period it will be easy to distinguish the finest-looking plants; and these only should be chosen for the plantation. To secure a sufficient supply, it is necessary to sow larger quantities of seed and to prick out more plants than are actually needed, so that there may be no difficulty in making a good selection the first year.
Experienced growers have remarked that clumps which produce thin shoots at first continue to do so year after year. Such shoots are produced more freely than the larger and more succulent ones, it is true; but one fat shoot is more highly valued than five thin ones. Besides, there is more sense in growing the best and most saleable shoots, as their cultivation entails no more attention than the poorer kinds.
The soil in which the Asparagus plants are to be placed should if possible be light, rich, deeply trenched and well manured in advance. It should also slope more or less towards the south so as to receive the full benefit from the sun.
The ground between the young plants is not left idle. Short Carrots, Lettuces, Spinach, Corn Salad, Radishes, or any other dwarf and quick-growing crop may be grown between the rows without the slightest danger to the Asparagus. Even Cabbages and Cauliflowers may be grown on the edges of each bed, and in the pathways between them—each crop, of course, at its proper season. The necessary hoeings and waterings that must be given these crops, instead of being detrimental to the young Asparagus, are in reality of great benefit, so much so that very often they make as much progress in one season as Asparagus plants grown in the ordinary way in the open air do in two or three seasons.
After the plants have flowered, no seed capsules are allowed to form, as they exhaust a certain amount of reserve material from the tissues. About the end of October or in November the stems are cut down within an inch or two of the soil, the surface of which is hoed or lightly pricked up with the fork. A good layer of fine rich soil is then spread over the bed, and on this again a good layer of manure. Each autumn this work is renewed to give a fresh supply of nourishment to the roots.
As the plants will be ready for forcing at the end of two years’ growth, although it is better to wait till the end of the third year, it is advisable to mark out the beds wide enough to accommodate the frames and lights which are to go over them. The length of these beds will, of course, be determined according to the extent of the ground or the requirements of the grower. As a rule the beds are 4 ft. 5 in. in width, as this is the usual size of the frames and lights used. The beds should run lengthways from east to west, so that the lights will slope towards the south; and it will be found more convenient if each bed does not exceed 100 ft. in length.
Between one Asparagus bed and another a pathway about 2 ft. or 2 ft. 6 in. in width should be left (see fig. 16).
Having marked out the Asparagus beds by lines or pegs, about a foot of soil is taken off the surface of the first one, and wheeled to the end of the last bed. The trench thus made is then filled in with a mixture of good horse and cow manure, and, if possible, a little night soil all of which should have been prepared three or four weeks beforehand, and should be in a half-decomposed and homogeneous condition. In “light” soils the quantity of cow manure may be increased a little, but in “heavy” soils the horse manure should predominate. With this manure many growers mix also old rags, horn-shavings, shoddy, etc.—taking care, however, not to add too much. The manure in the trenches having been trodden down well with the feet, so that it is about a foot thick, about 6 or 8 in. of soil from the adjoining bed is then spread evenly over the surface.
Four rows are marked out in the bed lengthways. The two outer rows are about 8 in. from each margin, the two centre ones being about 13 in. apart. If wider or narrower frames are used the distance between the rows would be regulated accordingly; but in any case it would be necessary to keep the two outer rows at least 8 or 9 in. away from the edges of the beds.
Everything being now ready, so far as the beds are concerned, one may proceed to lift the young plants from the bed in which they were pricked out from the seed-bed. It may be advisable, however, to give them a good soaking an hour or two beforehand so that they may be lifted more easily and with some soil still adhering to the roots. Having lifted them carefully with a fork, a selection of the very best plants is again made. From twelve to twenty “crowns” or clumps may be placed in each light—although sixteen is recommended as the best number.
If the frames have not been placed in position before the actual planting, it will be necessary to allow more space between the plants at the end of one frame and the beginning of the next. For this reason it is perhaps advisable to place the frames temporarily in position as soon as the beds have been made. One can then arrange the plants in the rows so that the Asparagus crowns do not come directly under the division or sash bars, but are properly placed beneath the glass itself.
In the spot where each plant is to be placed, a little heap of soil is made with the hands, so as to fill the cavity on the under-side of the crown, and permit the roots being spread out in all directions from the centre. After this, it is only necessary to cover the crowns with fine rich soil to a depth of 3 or 4 in., and then give the whole a good soaking with water.
The young plants soon commence to make new growths, and only require to be kept free from weeds, in addition to which the stems should be tied up to sticks if necessary.
Forcing White Asparagus #
When the young plants have finished their second—or preferably their third—season of growth, they will be sufficiently strong to stand being forced into early growth. This takes place from November to February, although some growers commence as early as the middle of October.
The work is carried out as follows: Having placed the frames on the beds which are to be forced, a layer of fine rich soil and old manure is spread over the plants. The pathways are then dug out to a depth of 12 to 18 in. The soil thus obtained is broken up into a fine condition with the spade or the fork, and is spread evenly over the mould in the frames to a depth of 10 or 12 in. This is done to secure longer and finer stalks later on.
The sunken pathways are now filled up with good fresh manure that has been turned over two or three times in advance. This manure should reach to the top of the frames and lights, and after being trodden down, it should be well watered so as to accelerate the generation of heat.
Before placing the lights on the frames the soil should be watered if inclined to be dry, and even a layer of manure may be spread over the beds to hasten the growth of the Asparagus. Care, however, should be taken to remove this manure as soon as the tender shoots appear above the surface of the soil.
During the period of growth a temperature of 60° to 70° Fahr. should be maintained, but no air whatever is given. Watering is, however, attended to when necessary, as a humid atmosphere is essential to secure the best results.
Every ten days or a fortnight the frames should be banked up or “lined” with large or small quantities of fresh manure according to the state of the weather, the object being to maintain an even temperature within the frames.
Light is excluded during the daytime with mats; and during the night-time the lights must also be covered with one or more mats according to the state of the weather. The temperature inside the frames should never fall below 55° Fahr., otherwise the shoots will be attacked with “rust” and become unsaleable.
Under these conditions fine shoots of Asparagus will be ready at the end of twenty to twenty-five days after forcing has commenced, and then cutting may take place every two or three days until the crop is exhausted, which takes place in from four to six weeks. After each cutting it is a good plan to stand the shoots in clean water, and place them in a cellar for a short time so that the tips may become tinged with colour.
When the crop is finished, the beds and linings of manure may be left untouched for several days to allow the heat to subside gradually, and also so that the plants may not be exposed too suddenly from a high to a low temperature. The frames and lights are then taken off, the manure from the pathways is utilised for dressing the ground for other vegetables, and the upper soil from the beds is returned to the pathways from which it was originally taken.
In practice, it is found more economical to force two beds of Asparagus running parallel than one, as the hot manure in the pathway then serves to heat both beds at the same time, and also to supply moisture by capillary attraction. To secure a succession of produce to the end of the season, an interval of from four to six weeks may be allowed between each bed, or group of beds, to be forced.
As a rule only half the beds are forced one year, so that the other half shall have a rest, thus allowing the plants to recover from the strain placed upon them by the forcing process.
Summer Treatment #
During the summer months the plants that have been forced are allowed to grow naturally without further picking, while those that are to be forced the following year are also allowed to grow naturally and without being cut.
Treated in this way Asparagus beds made in the way described will continue to yield good crops for twelve to fifteen years of what is known as “white” or “blanched” Asparagus.
Green Asparagus #
The plants used for the production of “green” Asparagus should be at least two, if not three, years old, to secure the best results.
These may be raised from seeds and transplanted in the way already described at p. 72, remembering that a good annual top-dressing of manure in the autumn or early winter months is necessary. A few good soakings during^dry seasons are also advisable, and care should be taken to have the tall stems staked up before they begin to lie upon the ground.
When raising plants in this way for forcing later on, no young shoots whatever must be cut from them, as it is essential to develop strong, sturdy crowns with as many growths as possible. Of course each autumn the flowering stems are cut down to the ground, except the last year, when the crowns are to be forced. Then it is better to leave a few inches of the stems showing well above the soil to indicate the exact position of the plants, and to render the lifting as easy as possible.
Forcing “Green” Asparagus #
Forcing is practised from the middle of September till the beginning of March. The clumps or crowns are carefully lifted with a flat-tined fork, and are placed side by side on a few inches of rich mould that has previously been spread over the prepared hot-bed, or in a heated frame or warm greenhouse.
Each season large growers of Asparagus advertise two or three year-old crowns, for forcing purposes, at reasonable rates, so there is realty no necessity for the intensive cultivator to devote time, labour, and land to the development of the plants.
When a bed is used for forcing, it is made up of good manure until it is 2 to 3 ft. thick, and developing a temperature of 70° to 80° Fahr. An excellent hot-bed may be made from equal parts of fresh stable manure, old manure, and cow manure—all of which should be well mixed together, and watered if inclined to be dry.
The frames are placed on the beds when ready, and the pathways between are filled half-way up with manure. On the surface of each bed 2 to 3 in. of mould is spread, so that the roots of the Asparagus shall not come in direct contact with the manure, and so that their growth shall be hastened without running the risk of being burned.
When the heat of the bed has sunk to 70° or 80° Fahr., the Asparagus crowns are placed side by side without having the roots shortened or mutilated in any way. The larger and taller clumps are placed near the top of the frame, and the smallest towards the bottom, and from 500 to 600 crowns can be packed in under each light, according to their size. When arranging the clumps it is important that the tops should be at the same distance from the glass, sloping gradually from top to bottom with the fall of the lights. Some fine rich and gritty mould is then carefully worked in between the crowns, and washed down amongst the roots with plenty of water; after which some of the same mould should be spread over the tops of the crowns to a depth of a few inches.
The work in the frames being finished, the pathways are then filled with manure up to the top of the frames if there is an inclination for the heat within to diminish. Manure is added or taken away from the pathways according as to whether the temperature is too low or too high. Towards night one, two, or three mats, according to the weather, should be placed over the lights for protection and to keep the heat constant by night as well as by day.
As soon as the shoots begin to grow, a little air may be admitted during the day if the weather is favourable, and sprinklings with tepid water must be given from time to time. At the end of about a fortnight, the first shoots will be ready for cutting, and others will continue to appear for about eight or ten weeks, during which they are gathered every day or two, the crop from each light varying from 6,000 to 8,000 shoots. These, being exposed to the light, develop green colouring, differing in this way from the white Asparagus produced in darkness.
When the crowns cease to produce any more growths the beds may be dismantled, or they may be made up again if it is still worth while to force another crop the same season. Once the roots have been forced in this way to produce “Green” Asparagus, they should be taken up and thrown away, as they are practically useless afterwards.
Open-air Culture #
It may be useful to English readers if the French method of growing Asparagus in the open air is described. So long as the soil is light and rather chalky, deeply cultivated and well manured at the beginning, the difficulties in the way of securing good Asparagus are not insuperable. A piece of land well exposed towards the south, and free from trees and shrubs, may be regarded as the most suitable place for an Asparagus plantation. At the same time shelter from the north and east by walls, fences, or hedges is a great boon, as the wind from those quarters has a retarding if not chilling effect upon the young growths in spring.
Preparing and Planting the Beds #
Having selected the site, the soil is dug about 18 in. deep and a good dressing of manure is incorporated with it, so that it decays completely during the winter months.
In the spring—about February—the ground is marked out in beds, each one being a metre (39 in.) in width, except the first and last beds, which are only half the width of the others. The soil in the second, fourth, sixth, and the following even-numbered beds is then dug a good spit deep, and “ridged up,” half of it being placed on the odd beds 1, 3, 5, 7, etc., on one side, and half on the other as shown in the diagram (fig. 17). The trenches marked A, B, C, etc., thus formed are well manured and deeply dug. Three “drills,” or shallow furrows, are then drawn from one end to the other, one being exactly in the centre, and the two others each about 8 or 9 in. from the sides. More modern growers, however, draw only two drills in each trench about 9 in. from each side, so that more space is given to the plants. The best one-year-old “crowns” are then planted in each row so as to be from 24 to 30 in. apart, the plants in one row being angled with those in the other.
At the spot where each crown is to be planted a small heap of soil, about 2 in. high, is raised with the hands, and on this the young Asparagus plant is placed, taking care at the time to spread the roots out radially from the central tuft. A small stake is placed to each clump, to mark its position, after which the crowns are carefully covered by hand with a couple of inches of rich gritty soil. Some of the soil from the ridges on each side (see fig. 17) is then spread over the trenches to a depth of 5 or 6 in.
Summer Treatment #
During the summer months it will be necessary to keep the weeds down between the rows by frequent and careful use of the hoe, and occasional soakings with water will also be beneficial during very dry weather. About the end of September or early in October, when the stems have begun to wither, they may be cut down almost level with the ground. The soil is then carefully scooped away from the crown of each plant so as to form a circular basin about 8 in. in diameter. A little heap of some rich gritty soil and well-decayed manure and night soil is then placed in the basin over each crown, to serve as a fresh supply of nourishment for the roots, and also to throw off cold and heavy rains during the winter months. When performing this operation the spots where any plants have failed should be marked with a stick so that fresh plants may take their place the following year.
The ridges between the beds (see fig. 17) may be utilised during the first season for the production of early Potatoes, Dwarf Beans, Lettuces, and other salads if necessary, but late-maturing crops should be avoided.
Second Years Work #
At the end of March or early in April, all vacant places having been replanted, the surface of the beds is lightly pricked up with a flat-tined fork so as to bury the manure placed over the crowns in the autumn. At the same period the ridges between the Asparagus trenches are dug over and manured, and prepared for such crops as early Carrots, early Potatoes, Dwarf Beans, Lettuces, Onions, and even Cabbages.
About the end of April or early in May, a few inches of soil should be drawn up round each clump of Asparagus shoots. As these are now numerous, it is necessary to place a stake about a foot away from the base of each clump, inserting it obliquely at an angle of about 45°, so that when the shoots become long enough they may be readily secured to the stakes. This not only prevents them from being blown about by the wind, but also enables the thread-like leaves (botanically known as “cladodes”) to be more fully exposed to the sunshine under whose influence only they can assimilate carbonic nourishment from the atmosphere to be stored up in the subterranean crowns.
Hoeings and waterings are to be attended to as in the first year during the summer months. In the autumn the stems are again cut down within a few inches of the soil, the stakes are taken away, and a good dressing of rich soil and manure is spread over each plant after the old soil has been scraped away from the top of it in the way already described (see p. 80).
Third Year’s Work #
About the middle of March an examination of the old stems sticking above the surface of the soil will enable one to see which are the stronger and which the weaker plants. A mound of rich soil about 6 or 8 in. high is then placed over those with the stoutest stems, as these indicate greatest strength. The weaker crowns, with more feeble stems, are not treated in this way, but are to be allowed another year’s growth before any shoots are gathered from them; they are, however, staked and otherwise attended to as already described for the first and second years.
The stronger crowns over which the mounds of soil have been placed will each yield three or four fine shoots. When these are 1 or 2 in. through the mound of soil, and their tops have assumed a purplish tint, they are fit to be removed. This may be done with a special Asparagus knife, or perhaps better still, by inserting a finger behind the stalk required so that when bent forward it easily snaps off. In this way there is not the same danger of injuring the other shoots as there is when a knife is used. Shoots from these plants may be gathered as long as they appear until the middle of June, but not later. All cutting should cease at midsummer, so that the plants shall not become exhausted too much. Stakes should be placed to the plants as already described, but before doing so, the little mounds of soil placed over the clumps in March should be spread evenly over the beds. In the autumn, the stems are cut down again, the soil is carefully removed from the crowns to the ridges, and in November a thin layer of rich manure and a little gritty soil is placed over the plants.
During this third year of growth the ridges between the beds should be dug and manured in the spring and prepared for such crops as Early Potatoes, Carrots, Lettuces, Spinach, or Dwarf Beans, etc., as in previous years.
Fourth and Succeeding Years’ Work #
This is precisely the same as already described for the first three years. It must be borne in mind, however, that there will be more crowns to cover with mounds of soil in spring of the fourth year than there were in the third; and there will be still more crowns for cutting in the fifth and sixth years than in those preceding them—until every clump of Asparagus is in full bearing and thoroughly established.
Each year the stout shoots only should be gathered from the strongest plants, the weakest shoots and plants being given another season of growth to enable them to gather more strength. And in any case no shoots should be gathered after the middle of June, as each plant must be allowed to develop a certain number of shoots to store up nourishment in the crowns before the autumn.
From the sixth year onwards, the mounds placed over the crowns in March may be a foot or a little more in height, and also wider at the base, to completely cover the clump or “stool” of the plant beneath. When the shoots have pushed their way a couple of inches through the mounds they will have become tipped with rose, violet, or purple, and are then ready for gathering—a process that may have to be repeated almost every day, according to the rapidity of the growth. After cutting has ceased, the mounds are levelled, and the plants are securely staked and tied in the way already described. In October the stems are to be cut down, leaving a few inches sticking out of the soil to indicate their position. Some of the old soil is taken away from the crowns, and a nice compost of manure and a little gritty soil is substituted for it. Once the plants are in full bearing, an extra special dressing of manure may be given about every third or fourth year, and plantations treated in the way described will produce thousands of shoots for fifteen to twenty years.
As the clumps, “stools,” or crowns of Asparagus increase in diameter, the ridges between the beds gradually diminish in width each succeeding year, so that it becomes impossible sooner or later to cultivate other crops on them as during the first years of forming the plantation.
Argenteuil Asparagus #
Argenteuil an ancient town about six miles north-west of Paris has been famous for centuries for its Asparagus plantations, and in the twentieth century the industry is as active as ever, if not more so. The methods of culture described in the preceding pages are followed pretty closely, but the Argenteuil growers have their own system, which, however, differs only in detail.
When starting an Asparagus plantation the site chosen is first of all given a liberal dressing of manure—about 24 tons to the acre—in the autumn months. In February or March drills or furrows about 4 in. deep are drawn from one end of the ground to the other, 3 ft. and often 4 ft. apart. The soil is then drawn up on each side so as to form ridges. Between these the Asparagus crowns are planted in March or April, 1 metre (39 in.) apart. A circular basin, about a foot wide, is made, 4 or 5 in. deep, and in the centre of it a little mound of soil is raised with the hands. The Asparagus plant is then placed on the top of the mound, the roots are spread out in all directions, after which the crown is covered with a few handfuls of rich soil and well-decayed manure—the latter often being night soil. During the summer months, the staking of the plants, hoeing, and watering, and other operations already described, are carried on until the stems are cut down in the autumn (see p. 80). When the beds have been established six years they are in full bearing, but from the third year onwards a few of the best shoots are gathered each season from the “crowns” that have been specially moulded up for the purpose. When in full bearing, the beds produce shoots for six or eight weeks, and these are generally gathered early in the morning, as they then retain their freshness for a much longer period. From the sixth year onwards, it is necessary to give a good dressing of manure every other year, and with proper attention the beds may continue to yield good crops of Asparagus for twenty-five or even thirty years. Special attention, however, must be paid to the following cultural details:
- The plants should be 3 ft. or 4 ft. apart at the beginning.
- Manure every autumn until the sixth year; afterwards every other year.
- Earth up the crowns in spring (see p. 81).
- Never gather the shoots after the middle of April.
- Level the mound of soil over the crowns in July.
- Expose the top roots to the air in October by drawing the soil away from them carefully with the hoe.
- In spring, clean each clump or crown from old or dead shoots and stems.
- Stake the plants every year (see p. 81).
- Cut only in accordance with the size and vigour of the plant.
- Always pick by hand instead of cutting with the Asparagus knife.
By intelligent attention to these details the Argenteuil growers have made themselves famous in the Asparagus world.
Cutting Asparagus #
When the shoots of Asparagus are sufficiently advanced in growth to be picked, some little care is necessary in detaching them from the parent rootstock hidden beneath the soil. The professional grower scorns to use any instrument except his fingers. Having scraped a little of the soil away, he inserts one or two fingers carefully behind the required shoot, gently bends it forward, and in this way snaps it off without injury to the other shoots. Various knives are used, however. One kind has a long shank inserted in a wooden handle, while the cutting blade is curved like a small scythe, and has a saw-like edge. Flat-bladed and semi-circular bladed gouges are also used. Whatever instrument is used should be pushed carefully down amongst the shoots. A dexterous twist is then given with the wrist, by means of which the shoot is severed at the base, and is brought above the soil.
Bunching Asparagus #
To make the Asparagus shoots into nice bundles as seen in the shops and markets, special frames, moulds, or “bunchers” are used, as shown in fig. 18. It is quite an art, making and tying the bundles. The shoots are first of all picked over, and all those too small or too thin for the mould are rejected, and afterwards made into bundles by themselves, and sold as “Sprue.” The best shoots are again graded into firsts, seconds, and thirds. The “firsts” or best shoots are first of all placed in the frame so that they shall be on the outside of the bundle when tied. The next best shoots are added, and the smallest are placed in the centre. When the required number has been placed in the frame, the bundle is tied up firmly with two osier twigs. These are previously steeped in water to make them more pliable for the purpose. When complete, a bundle of Asparagus measures from 5 to 7 in. in diameter. Some growers, and probably the most sensible ones, do not mix thick and thin shoots in the same bundle, but make them up separately after having graded them. In any case, the neater the bundles are made, and the fresher and more equal in size the individual shoots in them, the more likely are they to realise a ready sale; whilst badly made bundles consisting of irregular shoots are likely to leave the grower a sadder if not wiser man.
When one bears in mind that the best Asparagus fetches from 6s. to 15s. per bundle in market in the season, there is every incentive to select only the best shoots, and pack them carefully.
As the shoots do not retain their freshness beyond five or six days, they should be spread out on fresh-cut rye or other grass in a cool dark place free from draughts.
Asparagus Pests and Diseases #
The larvae of the “Asparagus Beetle” (Crioceris asparagi) often do much mischief to young Asparagus plants.. The beetles lay their eggs on the stalks, and in due course the young maggots feed upon the more tender portions, doing great damage to the growth. The beetles themselves may be picked off by hand, or knocked from the stems by tapping with a stick, so that they are not allowed to lay their eggs. By syringing the plants once or twice a week from April to June with soft soap and quassia chip and nicotine solution, or any other well-known insecticide, they will be rendered distasteful to the pests, and these latter will be killed if they happen to be feeding at the time of spraying. Slugs and snails are also to be guarded against, as they eat the tender young shoots when pushing through the soil. They may be destroyed by dusting with lime and soot three or four mornings or evenings in succession and by keeping the beds cleared of any refuse in which they conceal themselves.
The “Asparagus rust” (Puccinia Asparagi), which sometimes attacks forced crowns when the temperature is irregular, rarely appears on properly grown open-air crops. As a preventive, the attacked shoots are detached and burnt; and in the autumn when the stems have been cut down, but before removing the soil from the crowns, the beds are watered with a copper sulphate solution—about 1 lb. of sulphate of copper being used to 100 pints of water.
Dwarf, French or Haricot Beans #
Although Haricot Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) are not now grown so extensively, as a forced crop, by gardeners near Paris as they were formerly, it may be worth while describing the process. Being so easily grown in the open air during the summer months, it is obvious that unless a commercial gardener can produce his crops early in the year long before the open-air ones, he stands no chance whatever of being remunerated for his labour.
Although there are now many varieties of Dwarf Beans, those suitable for early or forced crops are somewhat restricted. Amongst the best for the purpose are: Early Dwarf Frame Haricot (flageolet nain triomphe des châssis), which grows 6 to 7 in. high, is very early, and has green seeds. As it is rather fastidious, care must be taken not to keep the seeds too moist when germinating. The Early Black Belgian Haricot (H. noir hâtif de Belgique) is a black-seeded variety, next in earliness to the first named, and a much stronger grower requiring more space. The Early Chalandray (H. tres-hâtif de Chalandray) has yellow seeds; the Early Dwarf Etampes (H. flageolet très-hâtif d’Étampes), a strong grower, with white seeds; and H. flageolet à feuilles cloquées may also be grown. Formerly the Dwarf Dutch Haricot (nain de Hollande) was a popular kind for early forcing, but has been superseded largely by those mentioned. One variety with yellow seeds I think likely to succeed in England is known as “Six Weeks.” I have grown it in the open air in the usual way, and much to my astonishment I picked the first pod exactly six weeks after the seeds were sown.
About the middle of December a hot-bed varying from 12 to 24 in. in thickness is prepared, and on which a temperature of 65° to 70° Fahr. is maintained. A compost made up of two-thirds gritty loam and one-third old manure or leaf-soil is spread over the bed to a depth of 6 or 7 in. The seeds are then either sown where the plants are to develop, allowing sixteen or twenty-four plants to each light eventually; or they may be sown in pots or pans in a hot-bed or greenhouse, from which they are afterwards to be transplanted. This operation takes place as soon as the seed-leaves are well developed, and is considered to be an advantage, because the plants do not grow so tall and yield a larger supply of pods. Each young Bean plant is buried up to the seed-leaves in the soil; if this is inclined to dryness, a gentle watering must be given, and the lights must not be opened for a couple of days until growth has recommenced. Afterwards, air must be given on all fine days to keep the plants green and sturdy. Protection from frost is secured by covering with mats at night-time, the same being removed at the earliest moment each morning. In the event of severe weather, the frames must be banked up or “lined” with manure, more or less fresh, to maintain the requisite temperature within.
When the plants touch the glass they may be bent gently towards the top of the frame, and kept in that position by thin bamboo or other sticks placed across them. Apart from this, the frames may also be raised a little on pots or bricks, taking care, however, that the linings are made up well to prevent the cold outside air from entering at the base.
By this method of cultivation—somewhat costly and tedious apparently—the first pods may be picked six, eight, or ten weeks after the seed has been sown. As the season advances, succession crops will appear more quickly. The pods should be picked regularly and systematically before they get too old, as this is the only way to induce the plants to continue to yield for a long time. After March it is not worth while growing Dwarf Beans on hot-beds in this way, as the crops for the open air are being prepared.
Both “dwarf” and “runner” Beans have long been grown in greenhouses in England during the earlier months of the year—the plants being either in pots, or placed in beds. A temperature of 65° to 75° Fahr. must be maintained, and care must be taken to keep the atmosphere just in the right state of humidity—not too saturated on the one hand, or too dry on the other.
Cloche Culture #
Early crops in the open air may be secured by sowing seeds in gentle heat in April, afterwards transferring the plants to the open air when the seed-leaves are developed, placing three plants under every cloche. No air is given for a few days, to give the plants a fresh start, but afterwards as much as possible is given, until at length the cloches are taken off altogether when there is no longer any fear of frost. For good early Beans as much as 9d. and 1s. per lb. is often realised in market.
To have Dwarf Beans from October onwards, seeds may be sown in the open air on warm sunny borders. A sharp eye, however, must be kept on the early frosts in September and October. To guard against them, a light trellis of sticks should be made, and placed over the plants. At night-time, mats may be spread over the trellis to protect the plants from frost.
Cabbages for Spring #
Nice Cabbages in the early spring are always highly appreciated, and when in market early are almost sure to command good prices. Amongst the best varieties for the purpose, mention may be made of the large and small forms of “Ox Heart,” or Cœur de Bœuf, (fig. 19) and “Early York.” There are several varieties of “Ox-Heart” Cabbages, one particularly early being called Pomme de Paris.
Other good sorts are “Express” (fig. 20), “Very Early Étampes” (fig. 21), and “St. Denis.”
About the end of August, or early in September, seeds are sown, and these dates are very strictly adhered to. If sown much earlier or later the plants afterwards are inclined to run to seed instead of forming heads. About the end of September the young plants are ready for pricking out into beds, care being taken at the time to reject all blind, deformed, or diseased plants.
During November, sometimes even at the end of October, the plants thus pricked out will be ready for final planting. The ground is deeply dug, well manured, and levelled in advance, and the young plants have the stems buried until the lower leaves rest on the surface of the soil. They are spaced out 18 in. to 2 ft. apart in shallow furrows about a foot apart.
The soil in which the Cabbages are to mature should be deeply dug and well-manured, whether light or heavy in its nature. Parisian gardeners are particularly fond of night soil as a manure, especially for Cabbage crops; but nearly all decayed vegetable refuse is also worked into the soil to enrich it in humus.
In the case of light soils, however, the sowing and final planting may be done a week or even a fortnight later than in the case of soils that are naturally inclined to be heavy or chalky.
From the same batch of seedlings it is possible to arrange for two distinct crops. This is done by placing some of the plants on warm and sheltered borders that have been deeply dug and well manured, as already described. Furrows 4 to 5 in. deep are drawn, and into these the Cabbages are planted. The soil thus drawn up in little ridges on each side of the shallow furrow serves to protect the “collar” of the young plant during the winter months. In the course of time the soil from the ridges gradually crumbles down, and, coming in contact with the plants, keeps them warmer than would otherwise be the case with plants on a perfectly level piece of ground.
The distance between the rows for winter planting varies according to the nature of the soil and the growth of the varieties planted. For the “York” Cabbages and “Early Express” varieties, the rows may be about 12 in. apart. In these the plants should be 15 to 18 in. apart. For the larger-growing varieties, however, such as the “Large Ox Heart,” “Large York,” “St. Denis,” and “Market Ox Heart” (moyen de la Halle) (fig. 22), the rows may be 16 or 18 in. apart and the plants in them 16 to 20 in. asunder.
Planting, of course, is done in mild weather, many growers preferring to use the trowel for the purpose instead of the dibber. If possible a good watering is also given after planting to settle the soil nicely round the roots of each plant.
In cold or bleak localities the soil on the south side of the rows is drawn up carefully to the lower leaves of the plants, thus making a protecting bank so that the plants shall not suffer from quick thawings after a severe frost, or from the effects of a fall of snow. Some growers even go to the trouble during very severe frosts to cover their Cabbages with litter, or the straw from a manure heap, bracken, or anything else that is light and handy. Short dry manure may also be worked in between the rows, as still further protection against severe frosts and subsequent thawings.
During the spring months the plants are hoed well, and at the same time the mould is drawn up carefully about the stems. This not only serves as a protection for the plants, but it also helps them to resist strong winds and at the same time encourages the development of still more roots from the joints. From March onwards, if the weather is at all genial, a good watering now and then will be beneficial if the rains have not already made the soil sufficiently damp. When the plants are well-established, a little nitrate of soda—about 1 lb. to every 40 square yards—may be sprinkled over the soil, and afterwards worked in with the hoe.
Cabbages grown in the way described commence to turn in on the warm, sheltered borders during April and early in May, and are followed by the others grown in the open ground.
Some growers, when they see the earlier Cabbages beginning to heart, gently raise the large outer leaves upwards to the top, and tie them round the centre with a piece of raffia or rye grass. This makes the hearts eventually more tender and of a better flavour, while it accelerates hearting up. It is also an advantage to have the Cabbages thus tied up when one comes to pack them for market.
Early Summer Cabbages #
For a supply of Cabbages during the summer months an early variety called “Plat de Paris” (fig. 23) is much favoured. It is so short stemmed that the large, flat heads appear to sit on the ground. Seeds of this variety are sown under cloches or in a gentle hot-bed about the middle of February, and are afterwards pricked out in nice soil at the rate of 400 plants to a light, or 30 under a cloche, when the seed-leaves are well developed. A little air is given when they have recovered, to keep them sturdy. Early in April these young Cabbages will be ready for the open air, and may be planted by themselves or between rows of Lettuces that are to be cut in May. After the Lettuces are taken off, the soil is hoed well, and if inclined to be dry, a good soaking of water is given occasionally. These Cabbages are ready by the middle of June.
The Cardoon (Cynara Cardunculus) is a perennial composite, native of Southern Europe. It grows from 4 to 6 ft. high or more, and has large pinnate leaves, grey-green on the upper surface and almost white beneath. In many varieties there is a yellow or brown spine, often over ½ in. long, in the angle of each division of the leaves. The fleshy leaf-stalks, when blanched, form the eatable portion of the plant, as well as the thick, fleshy main roots.
In many French gardens the Cardoon is an important crop. There are several varieties grown, such as the “Prickly Tours,” “Ivory-white,” “Spanish,” and “Artichoke-leaved” or “Puvis,” etc. Of these the first-named—“Prickly Tours”—is most highly appreciated by the market-gardeners of Tours and Paris, notwithstanding the fact that it is more spiny than any other kind. It is, however, also the hardiest and keeps better than the others, although all are susceptible to frost.
Cardoons are always raised from seeds, never from suckers. These are usually sown out-of-doors in May, in holes or pockets filled with rich gritty mould—three or four seeds being placed in each pocket. Or seeds may be sown in the latter half of April on a hot-bed with a temperature of 65° to 70° Fahr. The seedlings appear in about 10 days on the hot-bed, those in the open air taking from 15 to 18 days to germinate in May.
When the young plants in the hot-bed have developed their seed-leaves, they are potted up singly into small pots and plunged in the hot-bed again. They are lightly sprinkled and kept rather close for some time, and are generally ready for planting in the open air about the middle of May, or a little later according to the weather.
In the case of the plants raised in the open air, when the seedlings are well developed all but the best one in each little hole are destroyed.
Whether the plants are raised in hot-beds or in the open air, it is essential to have them in rows at least 4 ft., but if possible 5 ft. apart. In all cases the young plants are placed in holes or trenches about a foot deep. The soil should be deeply dug and heavily manured in advance, the finest leaves being obtained on a sandy or chalky clay.
As the plants grow slowly at first the space between them may be utilised for raising such quick crops as Radishes, Carrots, Lettuces, Dwarf Beans, Spinach, early Cabbages, etc. The soil in the meantime is kept perfectly clean with the frequent use of the hoe, while the Cardoons are supplied with an abundance of water during the summer months.
This is essential. The leaf-stalks are tied up in two or three places according to length, in the same way as Celery, bearing in mind that the fierce and sharp spines on the leaves are capable of causing some trouble. To avoid being pricked with the spines, a strong stake, with a piece of stout string attached, is driven into the ground near the plant. The string is then wound round and round the plant, pulling the spiny leaves together into a bundle; or, “three sticks are used, one of them short, and connected with the other two by strong twine. The workman, standing at a safe distance, pushes the two handles under the plant, and then going to the other side and seizing them, soon gathers up the prickly leaves. Another workman then ties it up in three places, and straw is placed round and tied so as quite to exclude the light. In three weeks the vegetable is as well blanched and as tender as could be desired. To blanch the Cardoon properly and render the leaves perfectly tender, it should be deprived of light and air for at least three weeks. It is then cut just below the surface of the earth, and divested of its straw covering; the withered leaves are sliced off and the root trimmed up neatly” (Robinson) .
This work is done during October. If it is desired to preserve Cardoons, the stems are tied up as described, the entire plant is taken up carefully with a ball of soil round the roots, and is plunged in well-decayed manure or leaf mould in a dark cellar free from frost.
The Carrot (Daucus Carota) is brought to great perfection in French gardens, and vast quantities of juicy, tender roots are grown year after year. The smaller-rooted varieties are preferred especially by intensive growers, as they are easily forced, are far superior to the larger kinds, and find a more ready sale not only in the central markets of Paris, but also in Covent Garden and other English markets. The kinds chiefly grown are—
Paris Forcing Carrot #
(syn. “Carotte rouge à forcer Parisienne”)
This is a comparatively new variety, considered to be somewhat earlier than the “French Forcing” or “Early Forcing Horn Carrot.” The roots are somewhat similar in shape, but the skin is of a deep orange-red colour. It is highly recommended for forcing.
The French Forcing or Early Forcing Horn Carrot #
(syns.: “C. grelot,” “C. Toupie," fig. 24)
This is the smallest and one of the earliest Carrots grown in hot-beds. The roots are almost round, 1½ to 2 in. in diameter, suddenly narrowed into a long slender thread-like extremity. When forced in hot-beds the skin is generally pale or straw-yellow in colour; but it assumes a scarlet tint when grown in the open air. The roots are very tender and of excellent flavour.
Scarlet Horn Carrot or Dutch Horn Carrot #
(syns.: “Carotte rouge courte hâtive,” “C. rouge courte d’Hollande,” “C. Bellot," fig. 25)
This excellent and tender variety is usually grown as a first-early crop in the open air. The roots are about 3 in. long, and between 1 and 2 in. thick, the skin being deep scarlet, while the shape is cylindrical or long top-shaped, abruptly ending in a thread-like rootlet. It may be grown in hot-beds in the same way as French Forcing Carrot, but does not mature so quickly.
Half-long Scarlet Carentan #
This is an early and finely coloured Carrot, excellent for later forced crops or for first crops in the open. The roots are narrowly cylindrical, suddenly ending in a thread-like tail (fig. 26).
Half-long Nantes Scarlet Carrot #
(syns.: “Carotte rouge demi-longue nantaise,” “Carotte sans cœur”).
This tender and fine-flavoured Carrot is good for early crops in the open air, but is scarcely profitable enough for forcing. The roots are bluntly cylindrical in shape, 4 in. or so long, and between 1½ to 2 in. thick, with a deep red skin. It has very little core or heart, hence one of the French names, “sans cœur” (fig. 27).
There are many other varieties of Carrots, but as they are chiefly for open-air culture they need no special mention here.
First Crops #
Seeds of Paris Forcing or Early Forcing Horn are sown for the first crop during October, on finely prepared mould about 6 in. deep on the surface of the mild hot-bed. After sowing the seeds and slightly covering them with soil, they should be gently beaten down with a piece of flat board. Very often, if not always indeed, Radishes are sown at the same time, but before the Carrots and a little deeper. Germination takes place in about a fortnight, and from this time onwards air is given on all occasions when the weather is favourable, if only for half an hour or so each day. This prevents etiolation or yellowing, and encourages the proper development of the leaves and roots.
In November, and again in December, sowings of the same varieties may be made on hot-beds about 18 in. thick, coated with fine mould to a depth of 6 in., and with a temperature ranging from 65° to 80° Fahr. At this period the seeds are sown rather thickly, about 3 oz. to 100 square yards. The mould covering the manure is mostly humus from old hot-beds; it gives the skins of the Carrots a much brighter colour and a more tender flavour than can be obtained from ordinary garden soil.
Over Carrot seed Radishes may be also sown; and from 30 to 36 Black Gotte Cabbage Lettuces may be planted over them in each light. These Lettuces will be fit to cut in January. As the Radishes develop quickly they are gathered before any damage is likely to be done either to the Carrots or the Lettuces—the latter of course being mature long before the Carrots which will not be ready until early in April. A reference to the chapters on Cauliflowers, Radishes, Lettuces, etc., will show that Carrots are nearly always covered in the early stages with crops of a different character—usually just after the seed has been sown.
During growth attention must be given to watering, taking care that the beds are never allowed to become too dry. By keeping the manure in the pathways well moistened, there is no need to water the beds in the early stages, as sufficient moisture is absorbed by capillary attraction (see p. 15).
If the weather is very severe and frosty, hot manure must be placed between and around the frames to maintain the requisite temperature within. In mild weather, of course, less manure will be required between the frames than in cold weather.
Towards the end of March, if the weather is considered mild enough, the frames are taken off the Carrots and placed over other crops such as Melons; but then the Carrots will not mature quite so quickly.
During February and March, seeds of “Scarlet Horn” or “Half-long Nantes Scarlet” Carrots may be sown on open beds, without the protection of lights. Straw mats will afford sufficient protection from frost for these sowings. To keep the mats off the Carrots, two rails are fixed on stakes driven into the bed on each side. These Carrots succeed those from the earlier sowings, and fill in the gap between those sown in the open ground.
After the Carrots sown in February and March have been gathered, Radishes are sown on the same beds; and when the Radishes have been pulled, their place may be taken with Celeriac (Turnip-rooted Celery) or some other crop.
Thinning Carrots #
It is essential to thin out Carrots when they are 2 or 3 in. high, otherwise they would choke each other in time. The weakest seedlings are pulled up by hand, and about 3 in. of space is left between the first crops in frames, and one or two inches more between the out-door crops.
The Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea Botrytis cauliflora) is an important and often a lucrative crop to the intensive cultivator. Amongst the Cauliflowers proper (as distinguished from the hardier white-headed Broccoli) three sections are generally recognised, viz. the tender, the half-hardy, and the hardy the varieties of which follow each other in natural succession. They may also be described as “early,” “second early” or “mid-season,” and “late.” From the intensive cultivator’s point of view the tender and half-hardy varieties are most valuable, as they come to maturity at a season when prices are generally high, and when the produce itself is most appreciated.
Early Crops or “Primeurs” #
Amongst the “tender” Cauliflowers the following varieties are considered best for “primeurs” or early crops, viz.:
Express, considered to be the earliest Cauliflower of all, with short stems.
Dwarf Early Erfurt (nain hdtif d’ Erfurt), a very early variety well suited for frame culture (fig. 28).
Early Paris (tendre de Paris or Petit Salomon), a good variety for spring crops.
Early Snowball (Boule de neige), one of the best for frames, especially in favoured localities.
Second Early Crops #
The varieties of Cauliflower best suited to follow the above are
Lenormand, short-stalked, a fine summer Cauliflower highly favoured by Parisian market-gardeners. It has a very short stem, large firm head of great purity, and keeps a long time (fig. 29).
Second Early Paris (Demi-dur de Paris, or Gros Salomon). This variety is highly esteemed for spring and early summer crops, on account of its large beautiful white heads (fig. 30).
Late or Open-air Crops #
There are several varieties adapted for this purpose, being characterised by their large leaves, sturdy stems, and large heads produced late in the summer or during autumn. Amongst the best-known kinds are
Autumn Giant, with very large firm heads. If sown in February or March it comes into use in October and November.
Walcheren, a well-known variety with large white heads. It is very hardy and is best sown about April to produce heads in autumn and winter.
Early London or Early Dutch, a hardy variety much grown in Holland, but well adapted for English gardens. The heads are not particularly large, but they are hard and firm
Culture of Early Cauliflowers #
After the ist and before September 20, seeds of early kinds like “Express,” “Dwarf Early Erfurt,” “Early Snowball” or “Early Paris” should be sown on an old hot-bed, or even on open ground that has been deeply dug and levelled, and afterwards covered with a good layer of rich gritty mould. Seeds may also be sown at the same period, if the weather is un favourable, under cloches or lights. In all cases the seeds should be lightly covered with gritty soil, and the seed-bed should be gently beaten down with the back of the spade or a piece of flat board, afterwards giving it a gentle watering through a fine-rosed can; and the seed-bed must be kept in a moist condition afterwards otherwise the germinating seeds may suffer considerably.
When the seeds are sown under cloches or lights, air must be given more or less freely, according to the state of the weather, when the young plants are well through the soil. This will keep them strong and sturdy, otherwise they are apt to become weak and lanky.
Pricking out and Transplanting #
When the seedlings have made two leaves beyond the seed-leaves or cotyledons, they are ready for pricking out. This is done under lights or cloches, under which they are kept until ready for the final planting.
Some growers transfer the young Cauliflowers direct from the seed-bed to the ground on which the plants are to mature, and do not go to the trouble of moving them twice. But in this case they sow the seeds thinly, so that the young plants may not be too close, and may thus remain longer in the seed-bed if necessary.
Having marked out as much ground as is necessary, it is dug and prepared for the reception of the frames, which are to slope towards the south. The interior is filled up within 6 in. of the top with fine rich mould evenly spread over the surface and gently trodden down for the reception of the young plants. These should be well watered an hour or two previous to lifting, so as to have a good ball of soil to the roots. They are best taken up with a spade, great care being taken when separating the plants to retain as much soil as possible round the roots of each. The planting is done either with the finger or a small dibber, taking care to bury the young plants up to the seed-leaves, as this encourages adventitious roots to spring from the stems beneath the surface of the soil. About 3 to 4 in. space is left between each plant; in other words, from 150 to 220 plants are placed under each light.
The planting finished, a nice sprinkling is given overhead, and the outside air is shut out for a few days until the plants pick up again. After this, air must be given on all fine days by tilting the lights with a piece of wood, brick, or flower-pot whichever happens to be most convenient.
When Cauliflowers are pricked out under cloches, raised sloping beds (see fig. i) wide enough to accommodate three rows of glasses, are prepared and covered with fine rich mould. An impression of the cloches having been made on the surface by pressing down in the required spots, nineteen plants are usually placed under each one. The treatment is then the same as under lights.
It sometimes happens that the young plants under lights and cloches grow too quickly and would very soon stifle each other if not moved. Other beds for lights and cloches must then be prepared as in the first case. The plants are carefully taken up and transferred to these new quarters, but naturally at a greater distance from each other than before so that each light holds only 80 to 140 plants, and each cloche about 14 instead of 19 as at first. This second pricking out retards the plants, and makes them generally hardier and more sturdy. It is also considered to make the plants mature earlier and to develop smaller “heads.”
From November onwards the young Cauliflower plants must be protected from severe frosts by means of mats spread over the frames or cloches at night. These, however, must be taken off as early as possible every morning, and air must be given freely on all genial days. In very severe weather, not only are mats used, but manure is also heaped round the frames, and leaves or litter are placed round the cloches.
When the temperature is so low that it is unsafe to take off the mats, or to give light and air to the plants, one must be careful not to uncover afterwards when the sun is too bright, nor yet to give too much air. It is better to avoid rapid changes in temperature, and to admit light and air carefully after a long period of darkness and a close atmosphere.
Final Planting of First Crop #
Early in December the hot-beds are made up, and a layer about 7 in. thick of rich sandy loam and leaf -mould, or old manure and sandy soil (three parts of manure to one of soil), is spread evenly over the surface.
Before taking the young plants from the beds or cloches in which they were pricked out, they should be well watered. They are then easily lifted, each one with a nice ball of soil attached to the roots. The plants should be carefully examined, so that only clean healthy ones shall be planted. “Blind” plants that is, those in which the centre has been destroyed and has come malformed and any that are too coarse in growth, besides those affected with disease at the base, are to be discarded. Six Cauliflowers are then planted under each light, three in a row at the top or north side, and three in a row at the bottom or south side. After planting, they are watered well and air is excluded for two or three days until they recover from the transplanting.
Afterwards air must be given on all favourable occasions and watering must be given more and more freely as the plants increase in vigour and approach maturity. Later on, as the leaves begin to touch the glass, if the weather is mild enough the frames and lights are taken away and placed over other crops. If, owing to the weather, it is risky to shift the frames, they may be lifted by placing blocks of wood or bricks beneath the legs at the corners. In this way more head room will be given the plants.
Early in March the heads begin to appear. To keep them perfectly white, as they increase in size one of the large leaves near the top is cracked at the base, and bent over the head. The exposure to light tends to make the heads yellowish in colour a fact which lowers their market value.
The heads are fit to cut from about March 20 onwards and well into April, those which are just at the right stage being of course cut before the others.
Early in January another batch of young Cauliflowers from the same seed-bed may be planted; and still another batch a fortnight later, in beds on which Carrots and Radishes have been sown, and upon which Cos and Cabbage Lettuces are growing. Under favourable conditions “heads” are often fit to cut about the end of April and during May.
In December when the young Cauliflowers six in each light are planted, there is much vacant space. This is often utilised for other crops, such as Cabbage Lettuces and Radishes. Seeds of the latter are sown and covered, and afterwards three rows of Gotte Lettuce are planted between the two rows of Cauliflowers. As the temperature of the frames at this period should be between 65 and 75 Fahr., the Radishes germinate quickly and mature long before they interfere with the Lettuces. The latter also, being quicker in growth than the Cauliflowers, will be fit to cut before the Cauliflowers will require more space.
Spring and Summer Cauliflowers #
In the first half of September seeds of a variety like “Lenormand” or “Second Early Paris” (Gros Salomon) may be sown in the same way as the first crops. When the young plants have developed two leaves beyond the seed-leaves, they are pricked out under lights, and grown on until large enough for the final transplanting in due course. This may take place in frames specially set apart for Cauliflowers, in which case Lettuces may be planted between, after another sowing of Radishes has been made in the way already mentioned. Or the young Cauliflowers may be planted amongst the Carrots in other frames, placing three plants on the north side and three on the south side in each frame—with the Carrots in the centre.
Cauliflowers may also be planted in the spaces between the cloches that are sheltering Cos and Cabbage Lettuces, as shown at p. 153 in the diagram
Between the beginning of February and the middle of March, other batches of Cauliflowers from the autumn sowings may be planted on warm sunny beds or borders, upon which Carrots and Radishes have previously been sown. The Cauliflowers should be placed about 2½ ft. apart in rows 3 ft. apart, and should be “angled”—that is, so as not to be opposite each other in the rows. At the same time a Cos (Romaine) Lettuce may be planted between each Cauliflower, and Cos Lettuces may also be planted between the rows. The margins of the beds or borders may then be planted with Cabbage Lettuces as shown in the annexed diagram, in which a * represents Cauliflowers, an o Cos Lettuces, and an x Cabbage Lettuces.
Succession Crops #
Seeds of the second-season varieties may be sown in February and March under similar conditions, or seedlings from the September sowing may be held over somewhat later than those that are to produce the second crop. The plants will be ready for planting in their final quarters in March or in April, when there is no longer need for artificial heat. Old beds may be used for these crops, or the young Cauliflowers (which should have been gradually hardened off in the frames) may be planted out on the warm, sheltered borders on which Cos and Cabbage Lettuces may have been already planted some time previously. These Cauliflowers will be ready at the end of May and during June and July.
If another sowing is made about the end of April or early in May of the same varieties—“Lenormand” and “Second Early Paris” (Gros Salomon)—the young plants will be ready for the open ground early in June. The soil in which they are placed, about 2 ft. apart every way, should have been deeply dug and well enriched with manure in advance, if it is not already an old hot-bed. The plants must be kept watered well, and during August and September ought to yield fine heads. When first planted out in June, the ground between the Cauliflowers may be utilised for Cos or Cabbage Lettuces.
Late Cauliflowers #
To secure the latest Cauliflowers, seeds of “Autumn Giant,” “Walcheren,” or “Early London” may be sown at intervals from February and March to May or June in an old hot-bed or on a somewhat sheltered border. The last of the young plants, after pricking out in the usual way or even transferring direct from the seed-bed will be ready for final planting about July. They must be constantly watered to keep them growing steadily with soft and tender tissues. According to the period of sowing and the variety, the heads will come into use from August to October and November.
Late Cauliflowers may be intercropped much in the same way as those preceding them. Fine- and broad-leaved Endives, Radishes, Spinach, or Corn Salad are recommended as suitable for the purpose.
Covering the Heads #
This is essential in open-air crops. When the heads are forming up nicely, one or two large healthy leaves may be cracked low down, and then bent over them to protect them from the sun. These coverings should be examined each day in case caterpillars attack the heads, and in showery weather a watch must be kept for slugs. Indeed, from start to finish Cauliflowers are beset by many insect foes, one of the worst being the Turnip Beetle (Haltica nemorum). By frequently watering the plants, however, it may be kept in check. During early growth, if the plants are syringed occasionally with a little weak paraffin emulsion, the foliage will be rendered noxious to the various pests. About an egg-cupful of paraffin to three or four gallons of warm water, well mixed up with a little soft soap, will make a good solution. It should be applied in a fine spray morning or evening.
The Celery (Apium graveolens) is a native biennial plant that has become of great garden value by selection and cultivation for centuries, and as a salad the leaf-stalks are highly esteemed. For intensive cultivation French gardeners favour a variety called “Chemin” or “Plein blanc dore,” and known to us as “Paris Golden.” This has leaves and stems of a golden-yellow colour, and matures quickly. It is, however, somewhat susceptible to frosts, and therefore is more valued for early crops. Other forms of this Celery are known as “Plein blanc d’Amerique,” or “White Plume,” and “Plein blanc a cotes roses,” or “Pink Plume,” both of which are also much grown in France for early crops, owing to the fact that the stems blanch readily without being “earthed up” very much.
From the end of January until about the middle of March seeds of the varieties mentioned may be sown on hot-beds having a temperature of 60 to 70 Fahr. To encourage rapid germination, frequent sprinklings are given, and when the young plants appear as much air as possible is given in accordance with the state of the weather, so that the plants may become sturdy. If the seedlings (from seeds sown in January) are too close together, they may be either “thinned out” or “pricked out,” 3 to 4 in. apart, on an old hot-bed, when four or five leaves have developed. Seedlings from later growings in February and March may be pricked out when large enough in cold frames, under cloches, or even on warm south borders.
In April, when the earlier crops of Turnips, Carrots, Radishes, etc., have been taken from the frames, the young Celery plants may take their places. They will then be about 5 or 6 in. high. The plants are placed opposite each other, and not “angled,” about I ft. apart in rows a similar distance from each other. After planting, the soil should be well watered to settle it about the roots, and a little litter or dry manure may be spread over the surface of a soil likely to dry rapidly. During growth attention must be paid to weeding and hoeing, and plenty of water must be given as the weather becomes warmer and growth more vigorous. As soon as the plants are about 1 8 in. high, they are ready for “blanching.” If, however, the stems are more or less spreading, they should be tied together in one or two places, taking care, however, not to tie the tops too tightly, or the centres may be crippled and prevented from developing further. Plants from the earlier sowings will be ready for cutting about the end of July and during August; while later sowings in April and May will produce plants for succession in autumn and winter. The green-stemmed varieties of Celery (verts) are best for winter use, owing to their hardiness; while the blonds (sown in May) are recommended for autumn use, as they are easily blanched simply by spreading mats over them when nearly fully developed.
Blanching Celery #
This operation has the effect of excluding the light from the stems, which are thus rendered sweeter and more tender by the absence or non-development of the green colouring matter called chlorophyll. Different methods of blanching are adopted, but as the main object is the same in all cases, they differ only in details.
To blanch the earliest crops of Celery, dry leaves, straw, moss, or clean litter is placed between the plants where they are growing. A slender, wooden frame is slid in between the rows of Celery first of all so as to keep the leaves up and close together. The light-excluding material is worked in between the rows until about two-thirds of the stems are hidden. The frame is then withdrawn and placed between other rows that are to be treated in a similar manner. About fifteen days after this operation the Celery stems will be sufficiently blanched; in addition, mats are often thrown over the tops of the plants at the same time to hasten the process.
Some growers, instead of placing straw or litter between the rows in the way described, make bands of the straw and then twist them round the Celery stalks from the base upwards for two-thirds of their length. This is an economical but less expeditious method of blanching. Other growers, again, use a kind of earthenware pipe 15 to 16 in. long, and about 6 in. wide at the base, tapering to about 4 in. at the top. The Celery stems are brought together by twisting a piece of string round them spirally from the bottom upwards; a pipe is then placed over each plant tied up thus, and the string is carefully unwound by pulling it through the upper hole in the pipe.
Another method of blanching Celery is adopted for the second or autumn crops as follows. A trench, 3 or 4 ft. wide, is dug out 12 to 15 in. deep, and of any required length, the soil being thrown up on both sides of the trench. The bottom is then broken up to ensure better drainage. The Celery plants are taken up, each with a ball of soil adhering to the roots. Each plant is “picked over” that is, any dead or yellow leaves or basal suckers are detached, and the stems are fastened with one or two raffia or rye-grass ties, to prevent the soil getting into the crowns or hearts of the plants. The latter are then planted in the trench about 6 in. apart, in rows 8 to 10 in. wide, the ball of soil being just covered over. After planting, a good watering is given to settle the soil, and if the weather is dry the watering is renewed a few times’ so as to encourage the plants to become established quickly in their new quarters, which generally takes a week or ten days according to circumstances.
The blanching, or “earthing up,” is then done either in one operation or in two. If the former, the Celery stems are certainly whiter but not so firm and crisp as when the work is done on two separate occasions; and the latter is recommended. The finely prepared soil is worked in between the rows of plants in the trenches, and the operation is facilitated by using a frame to hold the leaves up as described for blanching the early crops. About 6 in. of soil is worked in between the plants on the first occasion, and about a fortnight afterwards the operation is again performed. This time, however, the space between the rows is filled up with soil so that the stems are completely buried except for the leaves at the top. These stick out 5 or 6 in. above the soil, and as long as growth continues they carry on the work of assimilation. When danger from frost is feared the plants are covered with straw or litter, or mats, for protection at night, taking care, however, to uncover them as early as possible in the morning. About three or four weeks after the final earthing up the Celery will be fit for use, and will keep in good condition in the trenches until the end of February.
A third method of blanching Celery where it is grown is practised in the neighbourhoods of Meaux and Viroflay. Celery is planted in every other bed, and in the intervening spaces crops of Lettuces, Endive, Chicory, or some other vegetable are grown during the summer months. They must, however, be taken off the ground by September, as the soil on which they have been growing will then be required to “earth up” the Celery on each side. The work is best done on two occasions, with an interval of about a fortnight between; the stems are then firmer and of a better flavour than if earthed up completely at one operation.
The English method of growing Celery is also adopted in some places. Trenches about a yard wide and 6 to 12 in. deep are prepared. In May or June two rows of Celery are planted in each trench. In due course the plants are “earthed up” by having the soil from the sides of the trench brought up to the stems in the course of two or three different operations. If necessary the stems are tied up, and any dead or yellow leaves are picked off the plants before the work begins.
The worst disease of Celery is caused by the Celery Fly (Tephritis Onopordinis), the maggots of which enter the tissues of the leaves and destroy them, causing unsightly blotches. The best way to check the pest is to syringe the healthy young plants frequently with the paraffin emulsion wash mentioned above under Cauliflowers (see p. 115).
Celeriac or Turnip-Rooted Celery #
Celeriac (Apium graveolens rapacea) is known in French gardens as “Celeri rave” (fig. 31), and differs from the ordinary Celery in having swollen stems. These are cut up into slices and used in salads, and for flavouring soups, etc. For early crops seeds are sown at the end of February or early in March. The young plants will be ready for pricking out in April, either on an old hot-bed or on a warm south border, allowing 3 or 4 in. between them every way. Three or four weeks later, the young Celeriacs may be pricked out again in similar situations, this time about 6 in. apart.
Final planting takes place about the end of May, in the open air or in open beds, the plants being 12 to 14 in. apart and “angled” (i.e. planted quincuncially) in the rows. Sometimes they are grown between Lettuces or Cauliflowers, but this is not advisable. A succession may be kept up by making a second sowing in May, and planting out in due course after the seedlings have been pricked out twice, as already mentioned.
During growth weeds should be kept down by the hoe, and when the plants are about half-grown copious waterings may be given, especially during dry seasons.
To hasten the swelling of the stem in autumn, the lower leaves are removed as soon as they begin to look yellowish. When mature, the swollen stems freed from leaves and roots may be stored in dry, airy cellars, etc., where they will be free from frost.
Celeriac is now becoming better known in England, and it deserves attention on the part of market growers.
Chicory, Barbe de Capucin, and Witloof #
Under these names, plants of Cichorium Intybus are largely grown for salading. To raise the plants, seeds may be sown in shallow drills in the open air in March or April, and if the green leaves only are used for salads, the seedlings need not be thinned out. The leaves are cut off close to the ground several times during the year when required.
When “Barbe de Capucin” is wanted, seeds are sown in the same way and at the same time. The seedlings, however, are thinned out about 6 in. apart.
About October the long thick roots are taken up, and are placed in close dark cellars or frames, with a little soil over them. Market growers place the roots upright on a hot-bed side by side, after clearing off the old leaves. They are covered with about a foot of gritty soil. In about three weeks’ time, long narrow leaves, 10 to 12 in. long, are produced in the dark, and, being beautifully blanched, form an excellent salad. When leaves cease to develop, the roots are taken out, and replaced with fresh ones from time to time during the winter months. The soil is watered occasionally if inclined to be dry.
Another form of Chicory is that known as “Witloof” (i.e. white leaf) or “Brussels Chicory” (fig. 32). It has thicker roots, and larger and wider leaves than the Barbe de Capucin. The roots are lifted about the end of October, and onwards during the winter, in the way already described. The old leaves are taken off, and trimmed within ij in. of the top of the root, and any side roots are also suppressed. The main roots are then shortened to 8 or 10 in. in length. A trench, about 18 in. deep and 4 ft. or more wide, is then made, and afterwards filled up with light, rich, gritty soil. In this the roots are planted, so that the crowns are about 8 or 10 in. below the surface. To secure quick growth, about i ft. of hot manure is then spread over the bed, and about a month afterwards beautiful pale yellowish heads of excellent flavour are produced. The heads are gathered before the tips reach the manure when within i in. or so from it, in fact otherwise they would become discoloured and spoiled. A little raffia may be tied round the tops to keep the blanched leaves together. Witloof is eaten in a raw or cooked state.
Corn Salad or Lamb’s Lettuce #
This native annual (Valerianella olitoria) is becoming more and more highly esteemed as a salad in England each year, but it has long been common in France.
The Round-leaved variety (” Ronde “) is the one most highly favoured by the Parisian market-gardeners ( n g- 33) but there are several others, perhaps the best being the large-leaved Italian Corn Salad, or Regence. About the end of July or early in August seeds for the first crop are sown “broadcast,” and then at intervals of three or four weeks until the end of October at the rate of about 3 or 4 oz. to 120 square yards. Before sowing, of course, the ground is lightly dug, trodden down again, and nicely levelled. After the seeds are sown, the surface is raked over, and some growers also add a light sprinkling of finely sifted mould. If the weather is very dry, a good watering will hasten germination, and is indeed essential to avoid failure altogether.
Many growers sow seeds of Chervil or Radishes at the same time as the Corn Salad, as one does not interfere with the other. Others, again, sow Corn Salad among such crops as Chicory, Endive, Cauliflowers, and Cabbages.
By sowing the Italian Corn Salad, or Regence, in October, either by itself or with the Round-leaved, a good succession will be kept up during the winter months, if mild.
The long- fruited green Cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) , as seen in England, are cultivated also by the Parisian market-gardeners, and much in the same way as in our glass-houses. In addition to these, however, “White” Cucumbers and small Prickly Cucumbers, or “Cornichons,” are more or less extensively grown.
The first early crops of long- fruited Cucumbers can only be brought to perfection under glass during the early months of the year, and although they may realise a good price, it must not be forgotten that a great deal of the profit is eaten up by the high price of the coke or coal used in heating the boilers.
Frame Culture #
In the first half of February, and again a month later in the first half of March, Cucumber seeds may be sown on a gentle hot-bed, with a temperature of 60 to 65 Fahr., placing the seeds either in rows in the soil covering the bed, or in pots, or “pockets” (i.e. small holes made in the surface). A gentle watering is given, air is excluded, and mats are put on the lights at night for protection.
About ten or twelve days after sowing, when the seed leaves and first true leaves are well developed, the young Cucumber plants will be ready for moving into another bed with a similar temperature, allowing about 3 in. between each. The plants are sprinkled overhead, as before, with tepid water, no air is given for a few days, and shading is given from the sun. In a few days growth recommences, and the lights are tilted a little more and more each day, so that the air may harden the young plants and keep them sturdy. Towards evening, of course, “air is taken off” that is, the lights are closed, and mats are spread over them in case of frost.
While the pricked- out plants are growing on, another hot-bed, 18 in. or 2 ft. thick, should be prepared for those that are fit for moving about the second week in March. From 6 to 8 in. of rich mould is spread over the surface of the bed, and when the rank steam has passed away, and the heat has subsided to about 70 or 65 Fahr., the bed will be ready for planting. Each little Cucumber is then carefully lifted, with a ball of soil adhering to the roots, and by means of a trowel, or even by hand, it is planted in the new frame up to the seed-leaves. Four Cucumbers are placed under each light, and when planting is finished tepid water is sprinkled over the plants before closing up the lights. No air is given for two or three days, so as to encourage the plants to “pick up” again quickly, and strong sunlight is also excluded for a few days for the same reason. Nor must covering up with mats at night be forgotten. Once growth has started, air is given on all fine days, and a sprinkling with tepid water is given in the morning and afternoon to encourage active growth.
When four or five leaves are borne on the main stem, the latter is pinched off i or 2 in. above the second leaf. This will cause two side branches to develop in due course. Before this takes place, however, a layer of straw or clean litter is spread over the surface of the bed. When the side branches are about i ft. long, these are also shortened back a little, in front of the second or third leaf. A third set of shoots will then commence to develop from these, and when they are about i ft. long, they must also be shortened back to the second or third leaf in the same way.
As soon as the young fruits have commenced to swell, the best and most shapely one is selected, and the shoot carrying it is pinched or shortened back to two leaves beyond the fruits. All others are sup pressed. When this first fruit has grown about two-thirds of its natural size, a second fruit is chosen in the same way as the first, and when this attains two-thirds of its growth a third fruit is selected to keep up the succession; and so on with other fruits, so that each plant may develop a dozen or more one after the other. All long shoots are then pinched back from time to time.
Watering, of course, must be attended to each day if necessary, taking care to use water having the same temperature as that in the frame. If very cold water is used, the plants are likely to be chilled and stopped in growth. Air is given by “tilting” the frames on all fine days until the afternoon, when the lights should be closed to keep in the warmth during the night.
Cucumbers grown in this way, from seeds sown in February, are fit for cutting in April; in May and June from seeds sown a month or so later.
Cucumbers under Cloches #
Seeds may be sown in the first half of April in gentle hot-beds in the way already described, afterwards placing the young plants out in frames, and keeping them close and shaded for two or three days, until they start again into growth. Towards the end of April trenches and holes, each about 2 ft. wide, i ft. deep, and about 2^ ft. apart, are made in a straight line on a warm sheltered border. These holes or trenches are filled with good manure to make a little hot-bed about 1 8 in. deep. The soil taken out is then spread over the heaps of manure in a layer about 8 in. thick, and a basin is made on top of each to accommodate a few handfuls of rich mould. When the rank heat has subsided, a young Cucumber plant is placed in the centre of each heap up to the seed-leaves, taking care beforehand to lift each plant with a nice ball of soil round the roots. The plants are watered well to settle the soil round them, after which each one is covered with a cloche, the upper two-thirds of which has been smeared with liquid whiting, lime, or clay, to serve as a shading against the sun. For three or four days the cloches are kept shut down on the soil, to encourage new growth. After this, however, the plants are ventilated on all fine days by raising the cloches one, two, or three notches on the “tilts” in the way shown at p. 42. At night-time it may be necessary to cover the cloches with mats for protection against frost. When the plants have commenced to grow freely, the main shoot at first, and the others afterwards, must be pinched or shortened back in the same way as recommended for the plants grown under lights in frames, the only difference being that the shoots are left somewhat longer. The plants are watered well when necessary, and the cloches are taken off the plants altogether on fine days, replacing them towards evening. In due course the shoots will extend beyond the circumference of the cloches, and the latter may then be placed on three tilts to allow the shoots to spread naturally while protecting the main portion of the plant. As the weather is usually fine by the time the plants reach this stage, there is little danger from frosts, and the first fruits from Cucumbers grown in this way will be ready from the middle of June and onwards till the end of August. Open-air Culture. Cucumbers grown in the open air are generally raised from seeds sown in April in gentle hot-beds, afterwards transplanting in the way described about the end of May on little hot-beds for each plant. Seeds are often sown in such beds in May, and the plants from them are allowed to grow on without being disturbed. In the early stages it is wise to cover the plants with cloches until they are well established. While developing their growth, the vacant soil between the plants and along the margins of the beds may be utilised for a “catch crop” of Lettuces or Radishes. “White-fruited” Cucumbers, although practically unknown in British gardens, form a marketable crop in Paris. From inquiries made in the “Halles,” as the Covent Garden of Paris is called, I was told that “White” Cucumbers were not grown anything like so extensively as the long green-fruited varieties although the quantity grown found a ready sale. The fruits are somewhat similar in shape to the green ones, and at first are of the same colour. In the course of time, however, they pass from green to greenish-yellow, and ultimately to a kind of waxy or creamy white.
The raising, planting, and general cultivation is precisely the same as already described for the green varieties.
Prickly Cucumbers or “Cornichons” #
The small green Cucumbers chiefly used in pickles in England are extensively grown in the neighbourhood of Paris, and large quantities of them may be seen in the Paris markets during the summer months. These little Cucumbers must not be confounded with the small stunted fruits of the ordinary long green Cucumber. They are obtained from a special variety called “Cornichon vert petit de Paris.” This is strong and hardy, and easily grown. The seeds are generally sown in gentle hot-beds early in May. In due course the young plants are pricked out in frames, and by the end of May or early in June they are again lifted with a nice ball of soil, and planted in little heaps of soil in the same way as Cucumbers. The shoots must be pinched to the third or fourth leaf, and when the branches are well developed a layer of straw or litter is placed on the soil for them to ramble over. The first fruits are ready by the middle or end of July, and may be picked every two or three days until the crop is finished. The fruits are usually fit to gather about a week or ten days after the flowers have set well.
Insect Pests, etc. #
Cloches, and in the open air are not so subject to attacks of insect pests and fungoid diseases as those grown in hot-houses. At the same time a watch must be kept at all times for slugs, who are very fond of them, and can only be kept in check by sprinkling a little lime and soot on the soil, and also by severing the bodies with a knife blade whenever they are seen. “Red spider” is a well-known Cucumber pest causing the under-surface of the leaves to assume a rusty appearance. As a dry atmosphere is the chief cause of “red spider,” the natural remedy is to keep the surroundings fairly moist by watering and syringing as frequently as the growth of the plant and the weather necessitates. The “eel-worms” which are such a terrible pest in hot-houses, where they attack the roots of the Cucumbers, are not so prevalent in frames or the open air. When they appear, the plants are rendered useless and crops should not be grown in the same soil or in the same place a second time. The old soil also should be burned before using for other crops.
This well-known plant (Taraxacum Dens-Leonis) is usually treated with scant respect in the British Islands, although a few sensible market-gardeners are well aware of its value as a salad plant. The market- gardeners of Paris have paid attention to its cultivation for at least half a century, and it is now regarded as a regular garden crop by many notwithstanding its abundance as a wild plant. Selection and cultivation have produced a better kind of Dandelion altogether, and plants are now to be obtained as large as small Cabbage Lettuces. Cultivation is simple. The seeds are sown in March and April, and the young plants are pricked out from May to August in rows, 12 to 15 in. apart, in a deep rich soil, the richer the better. During growth the hoe is frequently used, and plenty of water is given during dry seasons. The leaves may be picked during the autumn and winter months. If the roots are covered with a layer of soil in October, and forced in the same way as recommended for Barbe de Capucin (see p. 121), the Dandelion makes an excellent salad.
Egg-plants or Aubergines #
The long violet-fruited Aubergine or Egg-plant (Solanum Melongena) is seen so regularly in the French and Belgian markets that it is astonishing the taste for this easily-grown fruit or vegetable has not yet spread to British gardens. The variety called Violette de Tokio is considered to be earlier than the ordinary kind. It is, moreover, dwarf er in habit and has larger fruits.
The plant is an annual, and is a native of India, and is also found in Africa and subtropical America.
To secure the first-early crops, seeds are sown about the end of November in the neighbourhood of Paris, on a hot-bed when the temperature is about 70 to 75 Fahr., covering them lightly with gritty mould.
No air is given for a week or so and the lights are covered with mats to accelerate germination. When this takes place, light must be admitted, and the mats are only put on at night for protection.
A month or six weeks after sowing, the young plants are pricked out on similar hot-beds, allowing 3 to 4 in. between each. A gentle watering is given. The lights are kept closed for a few days, and the young plants are shaded from the sunshine. As soon as signs of fresh growth appear, a little air is given in fine weather to keep the plants sturdy.
Where space, manure, and lights are available, Egg- plants may be pricked out a second time a fortnight or so after the first one, at least 6 in. being left between the plants on this occasion.
From eight to ten weeks after the seeds have been sown that is to say, about the end of January, or early in February the plants should be placed in their fruiting frames. The beds in these need not be quite so hot as those first made, as the temperature outside is gradually increasing each day. The bed is covered with about 8 in. of a compost half of which is sandy loam and half rich old manure. About six or nine plants are then carefully placed in each light, and a good watering completes the work. The lights are kept closed and the plants shaded for a few days, until they become re-established.
Intercropping. The space between the Egg-plants need not be wasted. Seeds of " Gotte " or " George " Lettuces and Radishes may be sown between them, or young Lettuces of the varieties mentioned may be pricked out in the rows.
As soon as the Egg-plants have again started into growth, air must be given on all favourable occasions, otherwise the plants will become " drawn " and weak.
When the main shoot carries two fertile flowers (not double or semi-double ones), the top may be pinched out. This results in the development in due course of four or five branches, each one of which is shortened back a little above the second flower. From -ten to twelve fruits are thus secured on each plant, or from sixty to a hundred or more in each light. After the branches have been stopped in growth by pinching, all other side shoots are rigorously suppressed as they appear, so that the sap shall not be deflected from the swelling fruits.
The general cultural treatment consists in giving plenty of air on all mild days, to keep the plants as dwarf and sturdy as possible ; watering in the morning as required by the freedom of growth, and an occasional syringing with soapy water in the event of insect attacks. If any of the plants are too weak to stand alone, a stake must be placed to such, and the main stem and branches tied to it with raffia. In the event of the plants becoming too tall for the lights before it is safe to remove these altogether, extra height is secured by placing a second frame on top of the first.
The fruits from the first crop sown at the end of November generally ripen about five months after sowing the seeds, which brings the season to about the end of April or early in May.
A succession of fruits may be kept up by sowing seeds every month or six weeks according to require- ments. With each succeeding crop less heat is re- quired in the beds, and at the end of May onwards the lights may be removed altogether if fine weather prevails.
It is doubtful if it would be worth the while of any British market-grower to devote space to the culture of Egg-plants, as even in France the prices realised of late years have declined a good deal.
Endive (Cichorium Endivia), supposed to have come originally from India, is an excellent salad plant, and as such is extensively grown by French market-gardeners. Although treated as an annual, Endive is really a biennial, and may be divided into two distinct kinds—one having the leaves broad and entire, the other having the leaves finely cut into crisped and narrow segments. The broad-leaved Endives are known as “Scaroles” or “Escaroles” to French gardeners, while the varieties with finely cut and divided leaves are called “Chicorées frisées.” Of the latter there are many varieties, the best-known being the Italian, or “Chicorée fine d’été,” one of the quickest growing and much cultivated in frames. Others are the “Stag’s Horn,” or Rouen, Picpus, Ruffec, Meaux (Fine-curled Winter), Passion, and Reine d’hiver (Winter Queen), La Parisienne or Green Curled Paris (fig. 34)—all excellent varieties for growing in the open air, although the first-named (the Rouen) is grown in frames in spring.
Frame Culture #
Early in September, and again in October, seeds of the Italian Endive (Chicorée fine d’été) are sown under cloches, but not on hot-beds. When large enough to handle, the seedlings are pricked out—a dozen under each cloche. About the end of October or early in November plants are also pricked out into cold frames, giving as much air as possible after the first few days, so as to prevent the young plants rotting or “damping off.” These plants will be fit to gather in January and February, and, if necessary, the frames which have been utilised for their culture then become available for forcing Asparagus (see p. 76) .
Hot-bed Culture #
About the middle of October a hot-bed is made up, and when the heat has subsided until the temperature is about 75° to 85° Fahr., about 5 in. of gritty mould is spread over the surface—which should be not more than 2 or 3 in. away from the glass. The seeds are then sown, some growers afterwards covering them lightly with a little fine gritty mould, others contenting themselves by patting them down with a piece of board. In either case a gentle watering is given, the lights are put on the frames, and are covered with mats. This is to ensure rapid germination, which is necessary to prevent the plants running to seed afterwards, and takes place in about forty-eight hours or less, if the seeds are not too old. Once the young plants appear, the mats are put on at night and taken off as early as possible in the morning, and the lights are tilted a little to admit fresh air on all occasions when the weather is favourable.
Pricking out #
About ten or fifteen days after the seeds have been sown, the young plants will be ready for pricking out, either with the finger or a small stick. For this purpose another hot-bed, similar to the first, must have been prepared, the only difference being that the surface of the mould spread over the manure must be from 4 to 5 in. away from the glass. The young plants are spaced out 2 to 3 in. from each other all ways, and are buried up to the seed-leaves in the soil. The seedlings are gently watered with a fine-rosed waterpot, and after the lights are put on the frames they are not opened for two or three days, until the young plants have recovered. The mats, of course, are put on every night and taken off every day, and a little air is given to strengthen the plants on fine days.
From two to three weeks—that is, about the middle of November—after the young Endives have been pricked out as above, they will be large enough for transplanting finally. This will be done on another prepared bed having a temperature of 70° to 80° Fahr. The manure in the hot-bed should be covered with a compost about 6 in. thick, made up of two-thirds leaf-soil or old manure and one-third gritty loam or good garden soil. The surface now should be about 5 or 6 in. from the glass, to allow the plants sufficient space to heart up. About three dozen plants are placed under each light, after which they are nicely watered and kept “close” for a few days, and also slightly shaded.
Once established, air is given on all fine days on the leeward side, and the plants are given water whenever they require it, judging by the condition of the soil, etc. At night-time mats must be spread over the lights—sometimes two or three thick in very frosty weather. They should, however, be removed as early as possible in the morning.
In the event of the heat declining in the beds, it will also be necessary to “line” the frames with fresh manure.
About the end of January—that is about three months and a half from the date of sowing the seeds in mid-October—the Endives will be ready to gather.
Seeds of Endive may also be sown in the way de scribed about the middle of January, to be ready by the middle of March; and again in the middle of February for gathering in May. As the season advances and becomes naturally warmer, it will not be necessary to make the hot-beds so thick or with so much fresh manure as for those used during the colder months of the year.
From the middle of March, fine-leaved Endives may be sown under cloches or in cold frames, pricking out the seedlings and transplanting in due course in the way already described. As the season advances, the lights or cloches may be taken off the plants altogether in fine weather. They must be kept growing steadily by giving plenty of water, almost every day it does not rain, otherwise there is a danger of the plants running to seed or “bolting.”
During the summer months Endives in the open air are intercropped with Cos and Cabbage Lettuces, and later on in the season Spinach or Corn Salad is often sown between the rows. I have seen such plantations in the neighbourhood of Vitry in August, and was astonished at the use made of every square inch of ground.
The broad-leaved or “Scarole” Endives possess a hardy constitution and are finely flavoured. The most popular varieties are the “Batavian” or “Scarole ronde,” “Green-market” or “Verte maraîchère,” chiefly grown for autumn and winter use; while the “Scarole blonde,” or “Lettuce-leaved Endive,” is an early variety that comes into use in June and July from seeds sown about the middle of April on a bed having a temperature of 65° to 70° Fahr. The “blonde” Endives are planted about 1 ft. apart every way, but the “Batavian” (fig. 35) ("ronde") or “Verte maraîchère” kinds require another 2 in. Another large variety called “Scarole géante” or “Giant Batavian,” owing to its size and vigour, requires about 18 in. between each plant, to allow it to reach its proper size.
The autumn plantations should be made not later than the first week in September as a rule; and then it would be wise to have the plants in beds of the same width as the lights and frames generally in use, as these are handy for protection if necessary.
Blanching and Tying #
There are many ways of blanching Endives, but one of the simplest is to tie the plants up in the same way as recommended for Lettuces when they are sufficiently developed—say when more than three-fourths of their growth has been made. When the frosts appear, the plants may be lifted carefully with a spade and transferred to cellars or placed in frames—spreading some dry litter or straw over the plants in the latter to exclude the light. In the open air, after the plants are tied up, they must be liberally watered when necessary, to encourage the whitening “hearts” in the centre to mature as rapidly as possible.
The Leek (Allium Porrum) constitutes an important crop in French as well as in English market-gardens, and it is probable that, so far as open-air culture is concerned, there is but little difference in methods employed on both sides of the Channel.* Ideas, however, differ a good deal, and the French prefer the smaller and more quickly grown tender-stemmed Leeks to the excessively large specimens seen in England.
The varieties selected for early crops by the Parisian gardeners are known as the " Rouen,” the " Long Winter Paris " (Long d’hiver de Paris), the " Large Yellow Poitou " (Gros Jaune du Poitou), and the " Gros Court " or " Ete,” to which may be added the well- known ' ' Lyon ' ' and ' ' Musselburgh ' ' varieties. Which- ever variety is chosen, the main object in view is to secure Leeks of medium size in the early days of June.
Seeds are sown thickly in the latter half of December on a hot-bed about 15 in. deep and with a temperature of 60 to 65 Fahr. To hasten germination, it is a good plan to soak the seeds in luke-warm water for about twelve hours more or less in advance. If the primary root in the seed begins to show, it may be taken for granted that the seeds have soaked long enough. They should then be sown at once, on a layer about 4 in. deep of rich gritty soil that has been spread over the manure in the beds, and lightly covered with gritty mould. Each day the soil should be sprinkled with tepid water until the plants are well above the surface. At this stage a little air may be given by tilting the lights on all fine days, but care must be taken not to subject the seedlings to cold draughts of air, as these cause a chill and consequent stagnation of growth. At night it will be found more or less necessary to spread a mat or two over the lights according to the weather, but such coverings must be taken off as early as possible the morning following.
This treatment is kept up with occasional waterings until about the end of February or early in March. The young Leeks are then fit for pricking out into another fairly good hot-bed. Only the very best plants are selected, and these may have the roots and the leaves cut back in the same way as recom- mended for Spring Onions (see p. 186). A space of 3 or 4 in. is left between the little Leeks, and care is taken to bury them deeply leaving only an inch or two showing above the surface, because deep planting means beautiful white stems later on. A good soaking is given, and no air is admitted for a few days until the plants have recovered. Afterwards air is given more or less freely on all favourable occa- sions, and the Leeks will be ready early in June.
From the same seed-bed Leeks may also be planted early in March on warm, sheltered borders in the open air, after cutting the roots and tops, and they will succeed those planted in the frames. They should be kept nicely watered in dry weather to keep the growth active.
Open-air Culture. The soil for Leeks in the open air cannot be too rich and deep to secure the best results. Seeds may be sown at four different periods to keep up a succession, namely, (i) in February or March sow " Gros Court " or " Jaune du Poitou " to yield Leeks in August and September ; (ii) in April and May sow " Rouen " to yield from October on- wards ; (iii) in July sow " Long Winter Paris " to yield at the end of winter and early spring ; and (iv) sow the same variety in the first half of September to yield in April and May and June the following year.
In all cases except the September sowing the seeds should be sown thickly, as the plants are thus kept very straight by crowding. When the stems are about as thick as an ordinary slate-pencil they should be lifted carefully, and the best selected for transplanting, after the roots and tops have been cut as described for Onions (see p. 186). The seeds sown in September should be sown thinly in drills, and as the weather is generally unfavourable, the Leeks are allowed to develop to the required size in the seed-beds.
An excellent way to secure nice Leeks from the earlier sowings is to select a piece of ground that has been deeply dug or trenched, and heavily manured the previous season. Drills about 2 in. deep and i ft. apart are drawn running north and south if possible. In these drills the best Leeks are planted deeply and 6 in. apart, after the tips of the roots and tops have been cut off. After planting, the soil is given a good watering, and when the Leeks are in full growth afterwards, attention must be given to watering when necessary. Indeed, weak liquid manure from the stables or cow-sheds, or made from guano and soot, etc., given two or three times a week will keep the plants in an active state o ; * growth until they are required for use.
As a salad, perhaps, there is no other plant equal in importance and popularity to the Lettuce (Lactuca sativa). It is quite as popular in the British Islands as on the Continent, and it is not too much to say that millions of plants are grown in market-gardens alone in England to meet the great demand there is for them—especially in hot seasons.
There are two distinct kinds of Lettuces grown, namely, (i) the “Cabbage Lettuce” (Lactuca capitata), and (ii) the “Cos” or “Romaine” Lettuce (Lactuca sativa). Each kind has several varieties, some being more suitable for frame and bell-glass culture, while others nourish in the open air.
They may be classified as follows for intensive cultivation:
I. Cabbage Lettuces #
(a) Early or “Primeur” Cabbage Lettuces #
The seeds of the varieties belonging to this group are generally sown between September 1 and the end of February, and again in March for a succession on warm borders.
The varieties most in favour with Parisian growers are:
The Crêpe or Petite noire Lettuce (white and black-seeded varieties). Both kinds are grown extensively for the first-early crops, for which they are specially adapted, as they “heart up” without much air or water.
Gotte Lettuce (white and black-seeded varieties). The White-seeded Gotte (syn. Tennis Ball, Boston Market) is an excellent small-hearted frame Lettuce, but is not so early as the Black-seeded Gotte (syn. Paris Market Forcing). Good sub-varieties of the Gotte Lettuce are Tom Thumb, Jaune d’Or (syn. Golden Frame), the George, and another form of the Paris market forcing variety, Gotte lente à monter (or Black-seeded Tom Thumb).
(b) Second Early or Summer Cabbage Lettuces #
Blond d’été or Royale (syn. White-seeded All-the-Year-Round). An excellent variety, nearly all “heart,” small, but very prolific and early, and much grown.
Palatine (syn. Brown Genoa), a large-hearted, quick-growing variety, the leaves of which are washed with coppery red beneath.
Grosse brune paresseuse (syn. Black-seeded Giant Summer Lettuce or Mogul). A hardy and very productive Lettuce, forming a high centre, tinged with brown (fig. 44).
Grosse blonde paresseuse (syn. White Stone or Nonpareil Cabbage Lettuce). An excellent summer Lettuce, with large tender long-standing heads (fig. 36).
Blonde de Chavigny (syn. Chavigny White-seeded Lettuce). A quick-hearting variety with pleasing yellowish-tinted green leaves.
Merveille des Quatre Saisons (syn. All the Year Round). An excellent Cabbage Lettuce for all seasons if a red-tinted variety is required.
To the above may be added the Brown or Red Dutch Cabbage Lettuce (Rousse de Hollande), the Presbytery, Brown Champagne, and the White Batavian.
For “outdoor” crops in the British Islands, it may probably be safer, if not wiser at first, to rely upon standard varieties that have been well proved. At the same time the sensible grower will test several varieties in the hope of securing something better than he has already.
(c) Winter Cabbage Lettuces #
The varieties in this group naturally follow those produced in the summer and autumn, and are raised from seeds sown in August and September, to be grown on during the winter months with or without protection. The most popular varieties are:
The Passion. There are two varieties of this—the white-seeded and the black-seeded. The former (called “blonde") is recognised by the reddish tint of the foliage, while the black-seeded variety has pale green foliage without the reddish tint (see fig. 45).
Grosse blonde d’hiver (syn. Winter White Cabbage Lettuce) is a hardy variety, and produces its large tender hearts early.
Morine (syn. Hammersmith, or Hardy Green Winter Cabbage Lettuce). This is a small, but very hardy and productive Lettuce of good quality.
Winter Trémont. A good and very hardy variety with large white hearts, the outer leaves, however, being tinted with rusty brown (see fig. 46) .
Culture of the “Crêpe” or “Petite Noire” Lettuces #
The first sowing of these Lettuces takes place early in September, and may be made either on a warm sheltered border, a raised bed, or an old hot-bed protected by cloches or lights. When sown on a border the soil is first of all deeply dug and then levelled with the rake. The surface is covered over with a good inch or more of mould made up of old manure and gritty soil passed through a sieve.
The seeds are sown fairly thick, and lightly covered with the gritty mould, after which the seed-bed is gently patted down to bring the soil and seeds into closer contact. If inclined to be too dry, the seed-bed is gently watered to settle the soil and encourage germination.
When the seeds are to be sown under cloches, each little seed-bed is marked out by pressing down a cloche upon the prepared surface of the soil so that the imprint of its circumference is plainly seen. After sowing, the seeds are lightly covered with fine soil. The cloches are then placed over them, taking care to press the rims firmly into the soil to exclude air and to check evaporation. Germination at this period of the year usually takes place under the cloches in a few days. If the sun happens to be too ardent at the time, the cloches should be shaded with litter or mats, but no air is given. When, however, the young plants appear, shading must only be given when the sun becomes too hot, otherwise the plants become “drawn” and pale in colour.
Pricking out #
When the seed-leaves or cotyledons are well developed and the first true leaves begin to form, French gardeners prepare to prick out the young plants, either on a raised bed or “ados” (see p. 13), or under cloches or lights.
In the case of a raised bed this should be well exposed to the south if possible, and be higher at the back than at the front, the width being the regulation one of 4½ ft.
Three rows of cloches are placed on each raised bed. Under each cloche twenty-four or thirty Lettuces are pricked out (see figs. 37-8), the outer row being about 2 in. away from the rim of the glass so that the young plants may not be injured by frost. In the event of any becoming frosted they should be pulled out and thrown away, as they rarely heart up properly afterwards.
The young plants are usually pricked out with the finger, as there are fewer failures in this way than if a dibber or a pointed stick is used. It is also a quicker way of pricking out a large number of plants, and French gardeners are often whole days at a time on their knees at this particular work.
When the work is finished, the young plants are lightly sprinkled over with tepid water, and no air is given for a few days.
When frames are used, they are placed in a position sloping towards the south. They are filled up with mould to within 3 or 4 in. of the lights. A layer of fine sifted sandy mould about an inch thick is then spread over the soil, and the young plants are pricked out with the finger about 2½ to 3 in. apart, after which they are gently watered, and kept “close,” i.e. without air, for a few days until growth recommences.
Of course the little plants are carefully raised from the seed-bed so that as little injury as possible is done to the tender rootlets.
Whether the young plants are under cloches or under lights, it is advisable during the first few days to shade them from strong sunshine. Once they have recovered a little air may be given to keep them sturdy. On the approach of early frosts the lights and cloches must be covered with mats during the night, and dry leaves and litter must be placed round the cloches.
First Crop of “Crêpe” Lettuces #
About the middle of October, or even earlier, the Lettuces that have been pricked out under cloches or in frames in the way described above will be ready for transplanting to their final quarters. Beds about 4½ ft. wide are prepared by digging and levelling, but there is no need to use raised beds or “ados” at this period. Old beds from which other crops have been gathered are often used for this purpose, and as the plants require but little heat, the old manure and soil is simply turned over and made up afresh.
When cloches are used, three rows as usual are arranged, and under each one four plants of these “Crêpe” Lettuces are planted. In frames about 49 (in rows 7 by 7) or 56 (in rows 8 by 7) plants are placed under each light.
Each plant is lifted with a “ball” of soil round the roots, and any dead or decaying leaves at the base are carefully picked off. Care must also be taken not to place the “collar” of the plant too low in the soil, otherwise the lower leaves come in contact with the moist earth, and may be attacked by mildew.
After the plants are in position, a sprinkling of tepid water may be given to settle the soil round them. No air, however, is given to these early crops of “Crêpe” Lettuces, and once established it is even dangerous to give them water overhead. If the manure in the pathways is kept wet they will secure sufficient moisture by capillary attraction (see p. 15). Protection from frost by covering with mats at night and by placing dry manure or litter round the cloches or frames must also be attended to as required.
This first crop of “Crêpe” Lettuces ought to be ready for sale by the beginning of December, or even by the end of November, according to the season.
The Lettuce plants are frequently examined and any decaying leaves are carefully removed to prevent the spread of mildew.
Second and Successive Crops of “Crêpe” Lettuces #
About every fortnight seeds may be sown to keep up a succession. Many growers, however, substitute the “George” Gotte Lettuce for the “Crêpe” for the sowings at the end of February and during March.
The sowings of “Crêpe” Lettuce made in October, November, and December are always made by themselves; but those made at the end of December, January, February, and beginning of March may be intercropped with Cauliflowers. Besides, they are made on the same beds as the preceding, which will have been re-made by adding about one-third of fresh manure to the old.
About the middle of February the old beds are sometimes re-made with a little fresh manure for the third crop. If, however the plants appear to stand still the frames must be “lined” or “banked up” with hot manure, no matter what the period of the year may be. Of course the mats are taken off the lights and cloches every morning as early as possible to admit light to the plants. It is well, however, before uncovering altogether to make sure that the plants have not been frosted. If they have, instead of taking off the mats, others are added so that the thawing may take place as slowly as possible. By this means injury to the plants is avoided.
In December, many growers, instead of making up special beds for Lettuces, plant the “Crêpe” variety on top of the Carrots which have been sown, and they are ready about fifty days afterwards—that is, some time in January.
If the frost increases in severity, the frames are kept warm by filling the pathways with hot manure up to the top of the lights, and it may be necessary to have a double covering of mats during the night.
The last crop of “Crêpe” Lettuce is planted in January or February according to the weather. A hot-bed 12 to 14 in. thick is prepared. The surface is covered with a layer about 4 in. thick of nice gritty mould, and then the cloches are placed in position in three rows as usual. Under each cloche four “Crêpe” Lettuces with one Cos (Romaine) in the centre are planted (see fig. 39). During the night they are covered with mats as usual, and generally attended to, with the result that the plants are mature by the end of February or during March.
Culture of “Gotte” Lettuce #
As already stated there are two varieties of “Gotte” Lettuce—the black-seeded or “Paris Market,” and the white-seeded or “Tennis Ball.” The latter is larger and later in hearting up than the former (fig. 40).
The general cultivation of “Gotte” Lettuces differs but little from that of the “Crêpe” or “Petite noire” varieties. The first sowing may be made during the second half of October or during the early days of November, under cloches or on raised sloping beds. The soil should be rather more sandy than for “Crêpe” Lettuces. When large enough, the young plants are pricked out under cloches and on the raised beds. Being larger in growth than the “Crêpe” varieties, only twenty-four plants of “Gotte” Lettuce should be placed under each cloche instead of thirty—the young plants being sprinkled and kept close for two or three days afterwards until they pick up again. Afterwards air is given more or less freely according to the weather, as “Gotte” Lettuces do not heart up well if kept too close. Besides, it is not necessary to shut the cloches right down until two or three degrees of frost appear. If, however, the weather remains cold and the frosts become severe, the plants must be protected by dry litter or mats.
About the end of January or early in February the “Gotte” Lettuces will be ready for planting under cloches or in frames, the soil and beds in which have been prepared for their reception in the meantime. The cloches having been arranged on beds—which should be at least 1 ft. thick, about 4½ ft. wide, and with about 4 in. of nice gritty mould on top—three “Gotte” Lettuces are planted under each glass, as shown in the diagram (fig. 47), without a Cos Lettuce in the centre, however.
In the frames, from which probably the “Crêpe” varieties have been gathered, and which have been re-made, 36 or 42 plants may be placed under each light. They are then gently watered in and air is excluded for three or four days to encourage root action and new growth. Afterwards air is given as freely as the weather will permit, until ready for market, which is generally about the end of March for those planted in January, and in April for those planted in February.
Very often before the earlier crops of Lettuce are planted, Radishes are sown on the beds; while with the later crops, Radishes and Carrots are also sown, although some prefer to intercrop with Cauliflowers. As soon as the first crops have been gathered, the beds are re-made and prepared for those to follow them.
For the crops that are planted in March, many growers substitute cloches for frames, if Carrots have not been sown previously. Four Cabbage Lettuces and one Cos Lettuce in the centre are planted beneath each cloche. The spaces between the cloches are occupied by Cauliflowers as shown in the diagram. Before planting the Lettuces and covering with cloches, a sowing of Carrots may also be made. This method of cultivation enables one to secure four or five different crops from the same soil—Radishes, Cabbage Lettuces, Romaine or Cos Lettuces, Carrots, and Cauliflowers.
Cultivation of the “George” Lettuce #
Just as the “Gotte” Lettuces naturally succeed the “Crêpe” or “Petite noire” varieties, they are themselves succeeded by the “George” Lettuce at the end of February or beginning of March. The “George” Lettuce is a form of the “Gotte” but is larger in growth. The first “George” Lettuces are ready for planting in February on the beds or under cloches from which a crop of “Crêpe” Lettuces have been taken, the treatment as to watering, shading, protection from frost, and ventilation being the same as already described. The “George” Lettuces planted in February are generally fit for “pulling” by the end of March. At this period the “George” Lettuces may also be planted in the open air on a warm and sheltered border, the young plants having been previously raised and pricked out under cloches. These open-air Lettuces “heart up” during May.
The “Palatine” or “Red” Cabbage Lettuce #
This Lettuce (fig. 42) with which may be associated other varieties known as the “All the Year Round” (Merveille des Quatre Saisons) and “Brown Champagne” (brune de Champagne)—is sown in the latter half of October under sloping beds, the treatment being precisely the same as for the “Gotte” and “George” Lettuces. Air is given freely on all favourable occasions when the young plants have become established, and the cloches are even taken off altogether on fine days so as to keep the plants strong and sturdy.
During March the young plants are taken from their winter quarters and transferred to warm sheltered borders; and towards the end of the same month or early in April plantations may be made in the open or on old beds. The soil beforehand should have been deeply dug and levelled, and if a good layer of old mould has been spread over it, so much the better. The plants are spaced out about a foot apart in straight lines, and should receive a good watering if the weather is fine, so as to settle the soil around the roots. This crop of Lettuces is generally fit to gather about the end of May.
Other sowings of the same varieties may be made at the end of February or early in March, and then every fortnight until August, in due course planting out about a foot apart, or intercropping with other vegetables. Such crops take from fifty to seventy days to mature, according to the season.
During the period of growth it will be necessary to run the hoe between the plants to stir up the soil, not only to keep the weeds down, but to encourage quicker growth. In the event of very dry weather, frequent waterings will be necessary, or a mulching from the old manure beds may be placed on the surface of the soil to retain the moisture.
Other Cabbage Lettuces that may be sown at the same time as the “Palatine” and treated in the same way, are “White-seeded All the Year Round” (blonde d’été) or “Royal,” (fig. 43) an early and productive kind; “Brown Chavigny,” a strong-growing kind; the “Large Brown Paresseuse” or “Grise” Lettuce of the Paris market-gardeners; and the “Brown Champagne”—all varieties of first-rate quality. With them may be associated the “Dutch Red” (Rousse de Hollande) and the “Presbytery” Lettuce.
English growers should bear in mind the difference in taste between French and English people. Generally speaking, brown or red-tinted Lettuces—no matter how excellent they may be—do not sell so readily in the English markets as they do in Paris.
“Grise” or Large Brown Paresseuse Lettuces #
Under these names the French market-gardeners grow thousands of Cabbage Lettuces, which are apparently the same as those known in England as “Giant Summer Lettuces” (fig. 44). The first crop is sown about the end of February or beginning of March on a hot-bed or in a frame. As there is no necessity for such care at this season of the year as is necessitated by the autumn crops, the young plants may be transferred when ready direct from the seed-bed to their final quarters in the open frames. The labour of pricking out is thus saved. The plants are 15 to 18 in. apart, and during dry weather are kept well watered or mulched with old manure, so as to keep them crisp and tender. Sowings of “Grise” Lettuces may be made every fortnight until July, those during the summer being made in shady places in the open.
Winter Cabbage Lettuces #
There are now about half a dozen kinds of Cabbage Lettuce grown in frames or under cloches during the winter months. Perhaps the best-known at present is that called the “Passion”—of which there are two varieties, the “Red” and the “White,” so called from the colour of the foliage. The name of “Passion” Lettuce has been given simply because this variety is usually fit for gathering in Passion Week, i.e. second week before Easter. When grown in the open air, “Passion” Lettuces are not likely to be ready much before May if the spring is cold and sunless (fig. 45).
Other kinds of winter Lettuces are “Large White Winter” (blonde d’hiver), a strong-growing variety that produces a very white and tender heart early in the season; “Winter Brown” (brune d’hiver), a somewhat smaller variety, the outer leaves of which are washed with brown; the “Morine” or “Hammersmith Green Winter,” a small sturdy Lettuce; “Winter Red” (rouge d’hiver), a hardy variety with reddish foliage and a raised “heart”; and “Winter Tremont” (fig. 46), which has a large, firm, very white heart, and outer leaves washed with rusty brown.
“Passion” and other winter Lettuces may be sown from the middle of August to the middle of September. About a month after sowing, the young plants will be ready for pricking out in warm sheltered positions. In ordinary mild winters they require no special protection, nevertheless it is wise to have a supply of straw or litter handy in case of severe frosts, so that the plants can be covered up when necessary. According to the prevailing climatic conditions, the straw or litter is put on or taken off, bearing in mind that the more the plants are exposed to the light the better—otherwise they are apt to become pale in colour, and loose and flabby in habit.
II. Cos or Romaine Lettuces #
The Cos Lettuces are quite distinct in form from the Cabbage varieties, and are always called “Romaines” or “Chicons” in France. There are many varieties, the following being generally considered the best by Parisian growers, viz.:
Plate à cloches (syn. Dwarf Frame Cos Lettuce), an early variety with leaves at first spreading.
Blonde maraîchère (syn. Paris White Cos), an excellent Cos Lettuce, which hearts up quickly and is very extensively grown.
Grise maraîchère (syn. Paris Market Cos), a variety highly esteemed for cloche culture in the neighbourhood of Paris.
Verte maraîchère (syn. Green Paris Market), a variety not quite so large as the “blonde maraîchère” but somewhat earlier, and useful either for cloches or the open air.
The first sowing of Cos or Romaine Lettuces under cloches may be made at the end of August, without the use of hot-beds. The soil should be deeply dug and well prepared, and afterwards covered with an inch or two of fine mould (old manure and gritty soil passed through a sieve). The surface is made flat and sufficiently firm either by patting with the back of the spade or a piece of board.
Imprints of a cloche are taken on the surface as many times as there are seed-beds to be sown. The seeds are then sown within the circumference of each, and lightly covered with fine soil, and gently watered.
If the sun is too hot, the cloches covering the little seed-beds should be covered with mats to encourage quick germination. When this has taken place, however, the mats must be removed, and if the sun is still too strong a little whiting, chalk, or lime mixed up in water may be smeared over the cloches on the sunny side. The whitening of the cloches is to prevent the young plants from being scorched, and at the same time to allow sufficient light to percolate through the shading so that the leaves shall not turn yellow or become drawn. A little milk, or a piece of butter, added to the whiting, lime, or chalk will make the liquid adhere more firmly to the glass, and will not wash off with the first shower of rain.
The varieties of Cos Lettuce sown at this period are the “Dwarf Frame Cos” (known as Plate à cloches) and the “Paris Market Cos” (Grise maraîchère). The last-named kind is chiefly useful for planting between the cloches that are covering plants of the first-named.
A well-known variety of Cos Lettuce, called “verte maraîchère” or “Green Paris Market Cos,” is not now grown so largely by the market-gardeners of Paris as formerly, chiefly because it has failed to realise the best prices in market. It is, however, hardier than either Plate à cloches or the Grise maraîchère, and in cold or bleak localities it may still be regarded as a profitable, and even desirable, crop.
Early in September, the seedlings will have developed two or three young leaves. They are then carefully pricked out under cloches, so as to be ready for planting in their final quarters in October. About twenty-four or thirty young plants are usually pricked out under each cloche, as shown in the diagrams (figs. 37-8). Early in October one Cos Lettuce is planted under each cloche, and not more than one, if the very best plants and prices are desired. Air is excluded for a few days after planting, and shading from strong sunshine may be necessary with mats, but once the plants have taken hold of the new ground, air may be given freely on all fine days—more than is usually given to Cabbage Lettuces at the same period.
At the beginning of November hot-beds should be prepared for Cos Lettuces that are to be “cloched.” These beds are made of the hottest and best manure, to ensure a steady heat during the severe weather. In addition, it will be necessary, perhaps, to place dry manure between the cloches, and also to fill up the narrow pathways between the beds. Severe frosts at night must be kept out by double or treble coverings of mats if necessary.
When the beds are prepared, and covered with 4 or 5 in. of nice mould, one Grise maraîchère Cos Lettuce, and three “Black Gotte” Cabbage Lettuces are to be planted under each cloche, the Cos in the centre and the Cabbage Lettuces at the points of an equilateral triangle, as shown in fig. 47. These Lettuces are from seeds sown in September.
It should be noted that the variety of Cos Lettuce known as “Dwarf Frame Cos” or “Plate à cloches” is considered unsuitable for planting with Cabbage Lettuces in the same way as “Paris Market Cos” (Grise maraîchère), because its leaves at first spread out so much towards the circumference of the cloche that the Cabbage Lettuces would not have a fair chance of developing. Towards maturity, however, the leaves rise up to the top of the cloche, and then bend inwards one over the other.
Spring Lettuces #
For spring crops, seeds of Cos Lettuce are sown in the latter half of September, or early in October, in the open air, or on raised sloping beds, or under cloches. The plants are pricked out in due course, placing twenty-four or thirty under each cloche (see figs. 37-8). After shading and keeping close for a few days, air is then given on all favourable occasions. In the event of the plants becoming “drawn,” they should be taken up carefully, have the old or dead leaves taken off, and be replanted immediately on a fresh bed, placing, however, only eighteen or twenty plants under each cloche. They are afterwards treated in a similar way to Cabbage Lettuces sown at the same period.
At the end of December or early in January planting under cloches or lights takes place. Under each cloche one Cos and four Cabbage Lettuces may be planted, as shown in the diagram (fig. 41) , while Cos and Cabbage Lettuces may be planted alternately in rows in the frames. Early in February these Lettuces are fit to gather. When the beds under the cloches and in the frames have been cleared, the surface is prepared for a second crop.
About the end of February or early in March, if the weather is at all favourable, six rows of “Paris Market Cos” Lettuces (Grise maraîchère) may be planted between the cloches under each of which a Lettuce is already well established. It will be seen from the diagram that each row of cloches is flanked by two rows of Lettuces—one in front and one behind—and that the exposed Lettuces are planted in the spaces between the cloches. It thus happens that there are nine rows of Lettuces on each bed—six being open and three under cloches (see fig. 48).
As soon as the Lettuces marked (1) under cloches have been cut, the glasses thus rendered free are placed over the Lettuces in rows numbered (2) in the diagram—leaving rows of Lettuces numbered (3), of course, uncovered for the time being. When the No. 1 Lettuces are mature, which is generally about three weeks after covering, the cloches are then available for covering the plants in rows marked (2), which ripen about a fortnight afterwards. The cloches from rows marked (2) are then placed upon the rows marked *3.
The shifting of the cloches from one row on to another is done easily, and more expeditiously if the first cloche at the beginning is taken away to the other end of the bed. The vacant space thus left enables one to move the cloches forward (in what may be called a north-westerly direction, as shown in the diagram) so as to cover the required rows marked (2) as shown.
The last Lettuces from these beds become mature in April, or early in May, according to the mildness or otherwise of the season.
When planting between the cloches in February or March in the way described above, it is also advisable to plant out rows of “Paris Market Cos” Lettuces (Grise maraîchère) on warm sheltered borders, allowing a foot of space between each plant. These Lettuces are usually fit for market at the end of April or during May. After planting on the borders, some growers also sow seeds of Carrots, Radishes, and Leeks among the Cos Lettuces, and keep the whole bed well watered when necessary.
Another variety of Cos Lettuce called “Paris White” (Blonde maraîchère) is extensively cultivated in the French market-gardens, and finds a ready sale. It hearts up quickly, stands a good time, and is of fine quality (fig. 49).
Seeds of this variety are usually sown in the latter half of October, the young plants being pricked out under cloches in the way already described. When large enough they are planted under cloches.
Summer and Autumn Lettuces #
From the middle of March until the end of July or middle of August Lettuces are grown in the open air. In March a sowing of “Giant Summer” Cabbage Lettuce (the Grise or Grosse brune paresseuse) (fig. 44) and “Paris White” Cos should be made, either under cloches or frames. When large enough about twenty young plants may be put under each light, or ten Cos Lettuces and ten Cabbage Lettuces may be planted alternately in the same space. When established, air must be given freely during genial weather, and attention must be paid to watering, so as to keep the plants tender and growing.
Every second or third week from March until August, seeds may be sown in the open air on nicely prepared soil. The seedlings are pricked out and transplanted in due course. The chief cultural details during the summer months consist of frequent hoeings between the plants and a plentiful supply of water. If the plants are allowed to suffer from drought they are almost sure to “bolt”—i.e. run to seed—during the summer months. They should therefore be copiously watered every day except when it rains heavily.
It is as well, however, to mention that watering is best done during the warm weather either in the morning or in the evening, as the wetting of plants exposed to the sun scorches the leaves and spoils their appearance.
For summer and autumn Lettuces the secret of success appears to be—sow the seeds thinly; keep the young plants growing and tender by copious waterings; and plant out as early as possible after the first true leaves form after the cotyledons or seed-leaves. Other varieties as well as those mentioned may of course be sown for summer and autumn crops.
Tying Cos Lettuces #
Although many varieties of Cos Lettuce hardly require tying at all, it generally pays to perform the operation, whether the plants are grown under cloches, frames, or in the open. It makes them swell earlier, and gives a greater purity and crispness to the hearts. The tying is done when the plants have made three-fourths of their growth, and the material used may be raffia or rye grass. If steeped in water for about twenty minutes the tying material becomes more pliable and is more easily handled, even by experts.
Diseases and Pests #
Lettuces under intensive cultivation are subject to attacks from numerous pests and diseases. Amongst the most common insect pests are aphides, or green fly, which attack the plants at the “collar”—the point where the leaves and roots join. The Cock-chafer Grub (Melolontha vulgaris) preys upon the roots. The soil should be searched as soon as the leaves of a plant are seen to droop, and very often the grub will be found at the base. Wireworms (Elater lineatus) and other grubs also play havoc with the plants in the open air, and can only be kept in check by the use of traps made of pieces of potato or carrot, which should be examined frequently.
Mildew (Peronospora gangliformis)—the “meunier” or miller of the French gardener—is one of the worst pests amongst early Lettuces, and where it is anticipated, the young plants, and also the surrounding soil, should be sprinkled with flowers of sulphur. A weak solution of sulphate of copper has also been found useful as a preventive by watering the soil after sowing the seeds, or before planting out the seedlings. The same remedy applies to the rust fungus that also attacks Lettuces. About 1 lb. sulphate of copper to 100 pints of water makes a good solution. Where young Lettuces are attacked with mildew, the wisest course to adopt is to lift the plants carefully and burn them, afterwards mending the rows with healthy plants from the seed-bed. If a little more sand or grit were mixed with the mould on the surface, it is possible that mildew would not be so prevalent amongst early Lettuces as it is, when the old mould only is used.
Slugs are also very fond of young Lettuces, but may be checked by sprinkling powdered lime and soot over the plants and soil on several successive evenings or early mornings.
The cultivation of early Melons (Cucumis Meld) forms one of the greatest industries in Parisian market- gardens. Every one in Paris, apparently, eats Melons, and when the fruits are cheap in August about zd. or %d. per Ib. one may see great barrow-loads of them being hawked in the street, where they sell readily. Early in the season, however, similar fruits realise as much as 2os. to 255. in Paris, while even the " second choice " fetch 6s. or 8s. each.
The varieties grown are quite distinct from the netted varieties one is accustomed to see in English hothouses. The French people prefer what are known as " Cantaloup " Melons, and the varieties which find most favour with the market-gardeners of Paris are those known as " Can- taloup Early Frame " or Prescott hatif a chassis (fig. 50) and Prescott * IG ' fond blanc. The latter is a strong- growing variety, with large roundish compressed fruits, often nearly a foot in diameter, with irregular ribs and furrows, and a mottled grey-green and yellowish appearance when ripe. The flesh is reddish, and the flavour is excellent. A Silver variety called " argentS " (fig. 51) is also much grown. Another form, Prescott fond gris, is often seen in the French markets.
The” Cantaloup” Melon was introduced from Armenia to Italy about the fifteenth century, and was brought into France in 1495 by Charles VIII.
Culture. To obtain the first-early crops of Melons, seeds are sown in January. The plants from these, however, require frames heated with hot-water pipes as well as manure, as the chief trouble during the winter months is to secure as much light as possible for the plants.
The cultivation of early " Cantaloup " Melons may well be recommended to those market nurserymen in the British Islands who have already suitable glass- houses well equipped with hot-water apparatus. If seeds are sown about the middle of November, it is possible to secure nice fruits (which would probably command high prices) about the end of March, The seeds for this purpose should be well ripened and saved from fruits of the preceding year, to secure the best results.
The main crop in frames is generally sown in February and March. A hot-bed 2-J to 3 ft. thick is made of quite fresh and old manure in equal propor- tions. It is trodden down and made firm and level, and if necessary well watered. Then, before placing the frame upon it, the bed is covered with 6 to 8 in. of fine and rich gritty mould that has been passed through a sieve. The frame is placed in position, and is banked up or " lined " all round with a good layer of manure to keep the cold out and the heat constant within.
When the heat of the bed has sunk to 75 or 80 F., the seeds are sown about I in. apart in shallow drills. They are lightly covered with soil, and gently watered. For two or three days until the seeds begin to sprout the frame is kept close and covered with mats. After germination, the mats are taken off during the day- time, but placed on again at night, and a little air is given for an hour or two each day when the weather is genial.
Should the temperature within the frame fall below 68 or 70 F., the old manure outside the frame must be removed, and fresh hot manure should take its place.
At the end of fourteen or eighteen days, when the seed-leaves are well developed, another hot-bed to accommodate a three-light frame should be made up in the same way as the first. The young Melons are then either pricked out of the seed-bed into the new soil about 4 or 5 in. apart, making a hole with the finger instead of a dibber, or, better still, each one is placed in a 3-in. pot, using a compost of rich gritty loam and a little leaf soil. When the young plants are being put into pots, they should be handled carefully so as not to injure the roots too much, and the soil also should not be pressed too firmly around them. Whether the plants are pricked out or potted up, care should be taken in either case to bury the young stems in the soil up to the seed- leaves.
After potting, the young plants should be " plunged " in the compost up to the rim of the pots, before which they should have been watered with a fine-rosed water- pot to settle the soil.
Another method of treating the seedling Melons is as follows : A 3-in. pot is taken and a wisp of straw or litter is twisted round it firmly so as to acquire the shape. Pot and straw are then placed where the young Melons are to grow as many pots and wisps of straw being used as are necessary, and placed firmly side by side. When finished a gentle twist and pull of the pot will free it from the straw, in which a hole or pocket corresponding to the form of the pot is left. Each hole is then filled with rich loamy compost, in which the young Melon is planted. The advantage of this method appears to be that when the roots have absorbed the nourishment from the soil surrounding them, they are then at liberty to pierce their way through the litter in search of more, whereas in pots they would be unable to travel in this way.
Whichever method is employed, it is essential to keep the lights covered with mats for three or four days until the young plants recover from the shifting. Afterwards, the mats are taken off during the day, and a little air is given in genial weather by tilting the lights on one side or another, or at the top or bottom according to the direction of the wind always taking care to open only on the leeward side.
Pinching. When the plants have developed three or four leaves (beyond the seed-leaves) the stem is pinched off about an inch or a little more, beyond the second leaf; and the seed-leaves themselves are also suppressed, so that when decaying they shall not injure the main stem. Pinching should always be done before the young Melons are planted out finally, as it would be unwise to injure the tops and bottoms of the plants at the same time. After the pinching process, a little air should be given, just for two or three hours in the middle of the day during mild or sunny weather. If necessary, slight sprinklings with tepid water may also be given, but one must guard against too much moisture and too much air at this particular period.
Planting. When the two side branches that usually result from the first pinching have two or three leaves each, the plants are then ready for placing in their fruiting quarters.
When several rows of frames are being used for Melon culture, the beds are made in the following way : In the first row of frames, the soil is taken out about 2ft. wide and i ft. deep, and placed outside the beds or moved to the end where the last trench is to be made. The trench is then filled with two-thirds fresh manure and one-third old manure, all well mixed and trodden down. The first bed being thus made, the soil from the trench in the second bed is spread over it evenly. In the same way after the trench in the second bed has been filled with manure, the soil from the third bed is spread over it ; and so on till all the beds are made.
When the heat has sunk to about 75 or 80 Fahr., two or three Melon plants are then placed under each light in the centre of the frame. A hole is scooped out of the compost with the hands and a young Melon plant is carefully turned out of its pot or lifted from its position with a nice ball of soil. Each plant is carefully placed in the hole thus made, arranging one shoot to point to the top of the frame and the other towards the bottom. Injury to the roots must be avoided, and the mould should be packed round them carefully by hand.
A little tepid water is then given to each plant, the frames are closed up and shaded with mats for three or four days until the plants have recovered. When they show signs of new growth, the mats may be taken off during the day unless the sun gets too hot. They are, however, put on again at night-time for protection.
Ventilation and Watering. About a week after planting a little air may be given, very little at first, but gradually increasing the amount as the weather becomes warmer and the plants stronger. Attention must be paid to watering, the supply being regulated largely by the vigour of growth and the weather. When the plants are growing freely and the weather is warm, more water will be required than when reverse conditions prevail. About the end of May, or during June, if the weather is fine the lights may be taken off the plants altogether during the daytime. They should, however, be handy to cover up immediately in case of a sudden storm or a dangerous faU in the temperature.
Stopping or Pinching. When the side shoots (that were stopped some time before planting) are a foot or more in length, it will be necessary to pinch out the tops of each an inch or so beyond the third, fourth, or even fifth leaf, according to the vigour of the shoots. This stopping causes side shoots to develop from each branch, but these shoots or “laterals” must^be also checked in their turn.
At this stage it is a good plan to spread straw or litter over the bed before new branches develop.
In due course side shoots will appear on the branches that were last " stopped " by pinching. When about a foot long this third set of shoots should also be pinched back a little above the third leaf. At this stage any flowers on the shoots should be suppressed, as they are generally male (or staminate) blossoms and are quite useless for the formation of Melons. If by chance the shoots are bearing any female (or pistillate) flowers easily recognised by the roundish swelling behind the corolla these are also best destroyed, as the plants are still too young and lack the necessary force to develop fruits worth having from these first blossoms.
After this stopping and pinching, as growth con- tinues, a watch is kept for the appearance of female flowers. When the young fruits are forming behind these, a selection of those best situated should be made. Those on the main stem or too near the centre of the plant should be removed. Later on, when the fruits are about as large as a hen’s or even a pigeon’s egg, two of the very best are selected and all the others are taken off the plant. When the fruits have grown somewhat larger say about the size of a cricket ball or a man’s fist the shoots bearing them should be shortened back an inch or so beyond the leaf in front of the fruit, so that the sap may be drawn as far as this without being wasted.
The best fruit on each plant is then decided upon whether it be on the shoot pointing to the top of the frame or on the shoot pointing to the bottom and the other is suppressed. One fruit only is thus allowed to ripen on each plant, as it is considered better to have one large fine fruit than two smaller ones.
As each pinching and stopping of the shoots causes a certain amount of injury, it is well to give the plants a slight sprinkling and to keep them shaded from bright sunshine for a day or two.
As the fruits increase in size and weight it is a good plan to place a piece of glass, slate, or board beneath each one so that the under-side shall not become dis- coloured. Uniformity of colour may also be secured by slightly turning the fruits from time to time, or by standing them upright on their stalks.
Occasionally a fruit is inclined to become irregular or deformed. This may be avoided or overcome by making a vertical and transverse slit in the skin, (thus : -f ) in the place where there is a hollow. The effect of these slits is to draw the sap to the injured portion, thus causing it to fill up the hollow that at first seemed imminent.
During the development of the fruits, attention is given to watering and ventilation. While the soil must be kept moist and the plants kept growing steadily, care must be taken not to give too much water ; and the water itself should be tepid or of the same temperature at least as the atmosphere in the frame. Watering is always best done in the morning say before ten o’clock before the sun becomes too powerful to scorch the wetted foliage ; otherwise it should be done late in the afternoon.
Under certain conditions, as, for instance, when the plants are growing more vigorously than usual, and are inclined to develop too many shoots and leaves, water should be withheld almost entirely, or given only very sparingly. This causes a check to the growth of stems and leaves, and results in better development of the fruits.
Late Crops. For a later crop of Melons, seeds should be sown in April. It will not be necessary, however, at that period of the year to go to the trouble of making up such deep hot-beds as was necessary for the earlier crops, as the weather is far more genial, and the prevailing temperature is naturally higher. Having marked out the place to be occupied by the frames, a trench in the centre about 18 in. wide and i ft. deep is taken out with the spade. The trench is then filled with good fresh manure that has been previously well turned over. When trodden down, it is covered with a layer of nice mould about 6 in. deep taken from the adjoining frames ; and so on with each bed in succession.
Rotation. It should be borne in mind that it is not good practice to grow Melons two years running on the same ground. The principles of rotation should be applied to intensive cultivation, as the benefits arising therefrom are just as great as in the open ground.
Gathering the Fruit. It is important to know exactly when a Melon fruit is fit to cut from the plant. If left too long, or cut before the proper time, a loss may result to the grower. The best time to cut the fruit is when the skin commences to change colour. Fruits cut at this time should be placed in a cool, dark, airy place where they will ripen gradually without losing in quality or flavour. When the fruits assume a dis- tinctly yellow tinge they should be eaten without delay.
MELONS UNDER CLOCHES. The kinds best suited for growing under cloches are known as " Chypre " or " Kroumir,” although the " Fresco tt " varieties may be also grown.
Seeds are sown early in April on hot-beds prepared as for the " Prescott " varieties (see p. 169), and in ten or fifteen days the young plants are fit to be pricked out on beds about i ft. in thickness. They may be covered either with frames or cloches. By the first or second week in May the young plants will be large enough to transfer to their fruiting quarters. A trench about 2 ft. wide and i ft. deep is prepared, and filled with good manure. Over this 6 or 8 in. of good rich loam and leaf soil is placed, and the Melons are carefully planted about 2 ft. apart. Each one is covered with a cloche, and air and light are excluded for several days until the plants recover. Shading is done either with mats or by white-washing the cloches on the sunny side.
About a week or a fortnight after planting accord- ing to the weather and the state of the plant a little air may be given, gradually raising the cloche more and more on the tilt as the plants increase in size and vigour.
About the end of May the cloche is no longer large enough to hold the entire plant. The branches must, therefore, be allowed to run outside as soon as weather permits.
Some straw or litter may be spread over the beds before this to keep them moist, and the cloches may be raised off the soil by placing three small pots or tilts beneath them. In this way the main stem will be protected against cold or against heavy waterings or drenching rains.
The tips of the shoots are pinched in the same way as recommended for the " Prescott” varieties (see p. 173), but eight or nine leaves may be left on the two branches that develop after the first stem has been stopped. The shoots arising from these two branches should be shortened to four leaves ; and the branches arising from these, again, may be shortened to three leaves.
As soon as fruits appear a selection should be made of the best. Those that are allowed to ripen should be protected by cloches, or each fruit at least should be covered with a large leaf to protect it from the sun. About the middle of July the cloches may be removed altogether if the weather is fine, and early in August the " Chypre " or " Kroumir " Melons should be ripe.
Diseases. Melons are afflicted occasionally with several diseases. The worst apparently in French gardens is the " nuile " a disease which causes the leaves, young stems, and fruits to rot. It is brought about by a fungus known as Scolecotrichum mcloph- thorum, and is due to cold, wet, and erratic seasons, and is checked naturally by keeping the plants warm and dry during such periods, and dusting with flowers of sulphur. Canker sometimes attacks the plants and is best cured by cutting away the injured portions, and rubbing powdered lime or ashes on the wounds. Black Aphis, Red Spider, and Thrips are best checked by frequently syringing the under-surface of the leaves with a quassia-chip and soft-soap solution, or any of the advertised insecticides.
A treatise on French market-gardening would be scarcely complete without some reference to the French method of cultivating Mushrooms. The system of culture adopted by growers in the outskirts of Paris differs in so many ways from that practised in England, that it may be worth while recording it somewhat fully. Last summer (1908) I had the pleasure of meeting a Parisian mushroom grower, and he very kindly showed me not only his own " cultures,” but also introduced me to some friends of his in the neigh- bourhood of Montrouge.
It has been estimated by M. Cure a writer on French market-gardening that 10,000,000 francs (or 400,000) are earned by the cultivation of Mushrooms and the sale of old beds every year in the neighbourhood of Paris alone. This is sufficient to indicate what an important industry mushroom-growing is, and also accounts for the establishment of the " Syndicat des Champignonnistes,” a society formed to protect the interests of mushroom-growers in France. The British mushroom-grower or " Champignonniste,” as he ought to call himself perhaps prefers to work out his salvation on independent, instead of on co-operative lines, and has, therefore, something yet to learn from his French competitor.
In the neighbourhood of Paris Mushrooms are mostly grown in underground quarries from which stone has been excavated in years gone by. These quarries, or carrier es, are from 60 to 80 ft. below the surface, a fact that ensures a fairly equable temperature from 60 to 70 Fahr. all the year round. Some of these quarries are entered by a sloping roadway, but ad- mission to many is only obtained by descending a more or less shaky pole, with rungs thrust through it to make a ladder. It is like descending an old and deep well, and it is with some trepidation and curiosity that the stranger makes his first descent in this way.
Arrived at the bottom one finds himself in a large opening, from which what look like dark tunnels radiate in every direction. Small lamps, fixed to a stick about 18 in. long, are used to enable the workmen to see what they are doing. Colza oil is now burned in these little lamps in preference to paraffin, as it was found that the fumes from the latter caused headaches and other troubles that prevented the workmen from attending to their duties for more than two or three hours at a time.
The tunnels or galleries are just as they were left by the quarrymen, except where the mushroom- growers have collected irregular masses of stone and piled them up as supports to the roof, or to fill some great gap in the side walls. The general appearance is well shown in the accompanying illustrations (figs. 52, 53), from The Parks and Gardens of Paris.
Fresh air being essential, not only for human life but also for the sake of the Mushrooms is secured by lighting fires beneath some of the openings that communicate with the outer air. This causes an upward current at one place and a downward current at another, and in this way the air is constantly kept in a fresh state as in a coal mine.
It is no easy matter traversing these mushroom galleries, as many of them are only a few feet wide, and often only 4 or 5 ft. high. The inky blackness is only just dispelled by the glow from the lamp, while one has to plant his feet carefully on the ground to avoid slipping on the wet or greasy and irregular floors.
The manure used for these mushroom beds is the best that can be got from the Parisian stables. It is brought to the mouth of the caves overhead, and thrown down to the bottom. Here it is mixed and turned, and brought into the proper state for making up the beds. These run along the floors and at the base of the walls of the tunnels, and vary in length according to the space available. Sometimes several beds run side by side, as shown in fig. 53, with only a narrow alley between them wide enough to allow a man to walk by putting one foot in front of the other. Each bed is generally about 18 in. wide at the base, and about 18 in. high, tapering upwards so that the top is only about 4 in. wide.
In such restricted places, it is obvious that carrying or wheeling the manure from one place to another is by no means easy work, and there is always plenty to do. As soon as beds cease to produce a crop the old manure is taken away and hauled up to the surface ; and fresh manure is brought in for new beds.
The beds themselves are made up by placing the prepared manure in heaps and layers, and then pressing it firmly with the feet and knees until the required degree of solidity is secured. All loose pieces of manure or litter are then " combed " away from the surface with the hands, to give a finished and tidy appearance.
When the temperature has sunk to 80 Fahr. the beds are ready for " spawning.” This work is generally done by a more experienced workman. He breaks the loose cake of spawn into pieces about 3 or 4 in. square, and pushes each piece well into the manure- bed about 6 in. from the other.
The beds thus " spawned " are then ready to be " cased over " with a layer of soil. The Parisian growers prefer for this purpose a mixture of rich loamy soil and mortar rubble, or old plaster of Paris. This is passed through a half-inch sieve, and is well mixed up in advance. A layer of this compost, from i-J- to 2j in. thick, is then spread over the beds with a little flat wooden shovel, the back of which is used to make the surface even and regular.
Two or three weeks after these various operations have been performed satisfactorily, the young Mush- rooms begin to appear on the surface of the soil. When large enough 2 in. or a little more across the tops they are picked and sent to market.
In these Parisian caves, owing, no doubt, to the equable temperature and the proper degree of humidity in the atmosphere, the beds will produce mushrooms for eight or nine weeks, and often longer under very favourable circumstances. The mushrooms are picked every day, and not once or twice a week, as in the case of larger beds made in the open air ; and as the prices vary from 6d. to 2s. per lb., according to circumstances and seasons, one may form some idea as to whether the industry is remunerative or not. At the same time the enormous expenses entailed in the production must not be overlooked.
It sometimes happens that the beds become too dry. They are then moistened with tepid water ; and it is necessary to apply it by means of a fine-rosed water-can, so that the soil shall not be broken down from the manure it is encasing.
Diseases. The mushroom-growers of Paris have to contend with a fungoid disease called the " molle " that attacks the Mushrooms sometimes so badly that the caves have to be abandoned for some time, and thoroughly cleaned out. One of the chief causes .of trouble, apparently, is the lack of fresh air. It is, therefore, of the greatest importance that fires should be kept going constantly so that the air in remote ends of the tunnels may be kept as pure as possible.
Tiny black flies, like Pear-midges or mites, often find their way into the mushroom caves, and play havoc with the crop occasionally. The best way to get rid of them is to burn sulphur or brimstone in the caves before starting a new crop.
Preparation of Mushroom Spawn. The spawn used by the Parisian grower is quite different in appearance from that used in England. Here the spawn is made up in solid bricks or cakes, 8 or 9 in. long, 4 or 5 in. wide, and about i-J- in. in thickness a fair quantity of cow-manure being used in its preparation. In Paris, on the other hand, cow-manure is never used for making mushroom spawn. Only the best horse- manure is used, and bricks or cakes of spawn are much looser and lighter than the English ones.
Almost every grower in Paris prepares his own spawn in the following way : In the month of July some good manure is turned over a few times until it becomes short and crisp, and well heated, just in the same condition as for making up mushroom beds. A trench about 2 ft. wide and 2 ft. deep is then dug out in a shady place generally in some position facing north. Some small pieces of spawn are then placed about a foot apart in two rows along the bottom of the trench thus made, from one end to the other. After this the trench is filled up with the prepared manure, and this is trodden down firmly with the feet. The soil taken out of the trench is now spread over the manure in the trench. A piece of board, however, is placed near the centre of the trench, before the soil is placed on top, and this may be lifted up when it is desired to see what progress the spawn is making in the manure beneath. Three or four weeks, as a rule, are allowed for the spawn to spread throughout the manure in the trench. The soil is then removed, and the compressed manure, now saturated with the mycelium or spawn of the mushrooms, is cut into flat cakes. These are spread out in cool, dry, airy sheds or barns, on shelves made of battens, where they remain until required for use,
This seems such a simple and clean method of preparing mushroom spawn that it is a wonder it is not adopted in England. It is, of course, possible that as most of our Mushrooms are grown in beds in the open air, spawn in horse-manure would not last nearly so long in our climate as that prepared with the addition of cow-manure.
Another method of preparing mushroom-spawn has been adopted by the Pasteur Institute in Paris. Briefly, it consists in developing the spawn or mycelium direct from the spores of the mushroom. The best speci- mens are selected and placed on sheets of paper. As the spores ripen on the " gills,” or lamellae, of the mushroom, they fall on the surface of the paper, and if undisturbed, mark the outline of the mushroom cap. Some manure, nicely prepared as described above, and a few mushroom spores, are then placed in a test tube, the mouth of which is hermetically sealed. The tube is placed in a warm stove, the spores germinate readily, and in about a fortnight the mycelium threads (or spawn) have spread throughout the manure in the test tube. " Spawn " obtained in this way has been used for the production of Mushrooms, but it is said that the results, so far, have not been quite so satisfactory as were anticipated.
Although there are many varieties of Onion (Allium Cepa) in cultivation, there is now only one specially adapted for intensive cultivation as practised by the Parisians market-gardeners, that is, the variety known as " Blanc hdtif de Paris’’ or " Early White Paris.” Formerly another variety, the " Jaune des Vertus,” was extensively cultivated, but has been discarded as it is not sufficiently remunerative.
Seeds are sown in beds about the middle of August. If sown earlier, or at least before August 15, in Paris, the plants are liable to run to seed instead of developing bulbs. The soil should be deeply dug and well prepared, and the seeds should be sown fairly thickly, after the soil has been pressed down with the feet, especially if inclined to be " light " or gritty. A good watering should be given after the seeds have been worked into the soil with the rake, and a light covering of mould has been spread over the surface of the seed-bed. This will hasten germination. As dry weather often prevails at this period, the seed-bed should be watered frequently if necessary, as the sprouting seeds would be fatally injured by a spell of drought.
In September or early in October the young plants will be ready for pricking out of the seed-bed into beds of fine rich and gritty soil. The plants are lifted by passing a spade horizontally beneath the roots, so that these may not be injured. The best seedlings are then selected one by one, and the inferior ones are thrown away. A small bunch is made so that the baby bulbs are all level. Then the roots are cut back within half an inch or so of the bulbs, and the leaves also are cut back leaving only 2 or 3 in. the whole plant after shortening being only about 4 in. altogether from one extremity to the other. Onions treated in this way are carefully placed in a basket with the bulbs lying the same way. When as many plants as are required for one day’s planting have been thus prepared, the basket containing them is immersed in water, so that the injured plants may be freshened up somewhat. The Parisian gardeners carry out this practice with all the plants during hot weather, even if it happens to rain. If by chance it is not possible to plant all the Onions the same day as they have been prepared, they are covered with a board on which a fairly heavy weight is placed. This is to keep the plants straight ; otherwise they would be likely to curl or twist, and this would make it more difficult to plant them, and also hinder them becoming established quickly afterwards.
These blanc hdtif or " Early White Onions " are at first planted very thickly by market-gardeners, who allow little more than i or i in. between them. Great care is taken not to plant too deeply, about f in. deep being considered quite deep enough for all kinds of Onions. If planted much deeper, the plants do not develop so freely or so well. Some growers plant the young Onions in rows, allowing 3 or 4 in. from plant to plant. In either case they are not allowed to reach their full size, but are sold as soon as the bulbs are an appreciable size. In this w r ay the Onions are cleared as quickly as possible and the soil becomes available for another crop.
During October seedling Onions may be pricked out in the way described, but if the work is not finished by the first week in November, it is advisable to leave the plants in the seed-beds until the following February, as the winter frosts would be almost sure to kill transplanted seedlings.
In the event of severe weather setting in before the plants have taken a good hold, it is advisable to protect them at night with a sprinkling of straw or litter, taking this off as early as possible in the morning. About the end of April, or early in May, these autumn sown Onions are fit for market, coming into use at the same time as the " Ox-Heart " Cabbages (see p. 92).
If a further supply of early Onions is required, or if the rows have to be " made up " where plants of the previous sowing have failed, seeds are sown again to provide for these contingencies in January and February. At this season the seeds are sown on hot- beds under lights, or under cloches, and sometimes between other crops. The plants will be ready some- what later than those sown in August, but they will make a good succession crop.
Many growers also sow seeds of the " Early White " (blanc hdtif) Onion at intervals from February to June in the open air. The beds are dug, manured, and prepared in the usual way, and after the seeds have been sown a layer of nice rich mould is spread over the surface of each bed. When the Onions appear they are " thinned out " in due course, if too thick. Afterwards they are watered well from time to time when necessary, according to the state of the weather. As soon as the young bulbs begin to swell, they are almost ready for pulling, as it does not pay to leave them to mature on ground for which high rents have to be paid. An excellent little Onion for spring sowing is the blanc tres hdtif de la Reine (Early White Queen). When sown in March it is ready in May, but as it is little more than an inch when fully developed, it is grown more in private than in market gardens.
There are now many varieties of small Radishes (Raphanus sativus) suitable for cultivation either in the open air or on hot-beds with other crops. They vary in colour from the purest white to the deepest crimson, passing through light and dark rose, and almost scarlet. Growers for market, however, gener- ally confine themselves to a few well-established varieties. For early crops the Turnip or Round red forms known to us as " Forcing Scarlet " Radishes- are favoured (fig. 54). These are followed with the " French Breakfast " and white-tipped kinds (fig. 55), and after these it really matters little which variety is grown.
The first sowing of Radishes is made about the middle of September. Raised sloping beds are pre- pared as described at p. 12, and the seeds are then sown broadcast and covered with about an inch of fine gritty soil. At night-time if frosts are likely to occur, mats or litter are placed over the beds for protection, and taken off each morning as early as possible. Radishes from this sowing are generally fit to pull about the end of November or early in December.
In December Radishes (round red varieties) are sown under lights on nicely prepared soil, and often among other crops such as Carrots, Cauliflowers, Lettuces, and Leeks all of which require air to be given in the same way as the Radishes.
When sown with other crops, it is better to sow Radishes in little patches between them rather than broadcast. Each little patch will yield a dozen or two of Radishes, which, as they develop rapidly, do not harm either Carrots, Lettuces, or Cauliflowers.
Early in February, or at the end of January, Radishes are sown again on open beds i.e. beds not covered with lights. These beds are made up of manure 12 to 15 in. deep, on the surface of which about 4 in. of fine mould is spread. The seeds are covered with about an inch of soil, and mats or litter are afterwards spread over them to hasten germination. After this, as much light as possible must be given, but if frost is anticipated at night, the beds must be protected with mats or litter. The Rose variety with white tips, " French Breakfast,” and the " Early Red Scarlet " are the best varieties for sowing on beds.
At this period thick sowings of Radishes may also be made on warm sheltered borders, and protected from frosts with mats or litter when necessary. Sowings in the open air may be made fortnightly until about the middle of September or October according to the season. It is not essential to sow them in beds by themselves. The spaces between the rows of Lettuces or Cauliflowers may be utilised when these plants are still small and not too close together.
To secure nice Radishes, they should be sown in rich moist soil, and during the hot summer days a good watering in the morning and in the evening will be highly beneficial. As Radishes mature in from twenty-five to thirty days after sowing, one may judge when they are to be sown on any vacant spaces.
In sowing Radishes there is one important point to bear in mind if nice roots are desired, and that is that the seeds should be sown somewhat deeper than most other small seeds. In other words, they should be covered more thickly with fine mould say about an inch thick to encourage them to develop regularly and symmetrically. Being embedded in the soil in this way the skin retains its colour, and the Radishes do not become hard, hot and woody, as they are likely to do when the seeds are only slightly covered with soil.
It is, perhaps, scarcely necessary to mention that all early sowings of Radishes in the open air require protection from the depredation of birds, by means of fish-netting, black cotton or other devices.
BLACK RADISHES. In the Paris markets a black- skinned Radish is frequently seen. The roots are something like the pointed " Croissy " Turnip in shape, and look as if they had been rolled in dry soot. They are about 6 in. long, tapering to a fine tip. The two varieties of Black Radish best known are " Round Winter " and the " Long Winter.”
Salsafy and Scorzonera #
Salsafy (Tragopogon porri folium] and Scorzonera (Scorzonera hispanica) two members of the Chicory and Dandelion family now find their way into the English markets in small quantities, and are valued chiefly for their long thickish roots. These are white in Salsafy and blackish in Scorzonera. The former is a biennial, and in growth has long narrow grey- green leaves with a whitish midrib, and produces violet flowers. Scorzonera, on the other hand, is a perennial, has broad lance-shaped oblong leaves, and bright yellow flowers.
Both plants are cultivated in almost precisely the same way, and if the soil has been deeply dug and well manured in advance, nice shapely roots are produced. In March or ApriJ the seeds are sown in shallow drills about a foot apart. When the seedlings are about 2 in. high, they should be thinned out about 4 in. apart. During the season growth is encouraged by frequent hoeings and copious supplies of water, especially in hot, dry weather. This will prevent the Salsafy plants running to seed, and thus failing to produce roots.
About October the roots are lifted, and if stored in sand or dry soil will remain fit for use during the winter months. As Scorzonera is a hardier plant than Salsafy, its roots may be left in the soil, giving pro- tection if necessary from severe frosts with litter, etc.
For market purposes the roots of both Salsafy and Scorzonera are tied up into neat bundles. They are used in a boiled state, and those of Salsafy are popu- larly known as " Vegetable Oyster.”
It is astonishing the amount of Sorrel (Rumex Acetosa) that is grown and consumed in Paris. In the markets large bundles of bright green leaves are always seen, and women are often engaged in picking them off and grading them according to size and freshness. For over five centuries Sorrel has .been a favourite dish with the French, and yet it is scarcely known in British gardens.
There are several varieties, but those with large juicy leaves are the best. Those known as " large de Belleville” (or " Broad-leaved Belleville “), “Lyons,” and " blonde de Sarcelles " are grown, as well as others.
A variety, however, called " Maiden " or Dutch Sorrel (Oseille vierge} has become noteworthy. It is supposed to be a form of Rumex montanus instead of R. Acetosa, and has large round leaves. As it rarely flowers or seeds, the popular name " Maiden " (vierge) has been given to it. It grows in strong tufts and continues to produce luscious leaves for many years. It is generally propagated by dividing the tufts, while the other kinds of Sorrel are raised from seeds when necessary.
Early Sorrel can only be secured by forcing estab- lished clumps in hot-beds. These are prepared early in November, with a temperature of 55 to 60 Fahr. After placing the frames in position a couple of inches of mould is spread over the surface. The Sorrel plants are then lifted from the open ground with a fork, and after the crowns have been cleaned from old leaves and stems, they are placed side by side in the frames, putting the larger or taller clumps near the top, and the smaller or shorter at the bottom. Some fine rich gritty mould is then worked in between and slightly over the crowns, and is settled down with a gentle watering. After growth commences all that is necessary is to give occasional moistenings with tepid water, and ventilation according to the state of the weather.
When the leaves are large enough they should be picked by hand every third or fourth day the largest always being picked first. About eight days after placing in the hot-bed, the plants commence to yield, and will continue to produce tender leaves for a month or six weeks, according to their vigour. When the plants cease to develop leaves they may be thrown away ; others are then lifted and placed in their stead.
Another method of obtaining early Sorrel is to force the plants where they are growing instead of lifting them and placing in hot-beds. The Sorrel is planted in beds wide enough to take the lights and frames generally in use. The plantation should have been made originally in deeply dug or trenched and heavily manured soil. As a rule each Sorrel bed has five rows of plants the two outer ones being about 6 in. from the margins and the others equidistant from each other.
In the first half of November the plants are cleared of old leaves and stems, and the frames are placed over them. About half an inch of rich gritty soil is then spread uniformly over the crowns, and well watered in before the lights are put on.
The pathways between the beds are afterwards dug out 8 to 10 in. deep, the soil being placed at the end of the rows until it is again required. The trenches thus made in the pathways are filled with three parts of fresh manure to one part of old manure or leaves. The heat generated from the manure in the pathways causes the Sorrel plants to grow, and forcing has commenced. Watering with tepid water occasionally, and giving more or less air according to the state of the weather, constitute the principal points to which attention must be given.
About fifteen or eighteen days after the manure has been placed between the frames, leaves will be ready to pick and will continue to appear for about two months. Sorrel beds forced in this way will give a fair yield the second year, but afterwards the plants .do not possess sufficient vitality to give a reasonable crop.
When the crop is finished, the manure is removed from the trenches, and these are refilled with the soil taken from them at first, after which the frames and lights are used for other purposes, and the Sorrel bed is again open to the air.
Seakale (Crambe maritima) the " Chou mar in " of the French growers although now so extensively cultivated by market-gardeners in England for the blanched leaf-stalks, is curiously enough not yet a great article of commerce in France, owing probably to the difficulty in securing sufficiently large tracts of land, that are so necessary to raise a quantity of plants for forcing purposes. The English method of cultivation may be briefly described as follows :
An open sunny situation is essential, and the soil for Seakale should be trenched 2 to 3 ft. deep in autumn and be heavily manured. Planting is usually done early in March. Pieces of the thick roots 4 in. to 6 in. long, called ' thongs ' by gardeners, are cut from the old root-stalks in March, and are planted 12 in. apart in rows ij to 2 ft. apart. This operation may be performed annually ; but if plants are to remain for a few years in the same place, it will be necessary to give more space so as to permit the free use of the hoe or fork between the rows, and also to afford more air and light. Instead of raising plants from cuttings of the roots in this way, seeds may also be sown in drills i4- to 2 ft. apart, afterwards thinning the seedlings out so as to leave about a foot between each plant, In autumn, when the large grey-green wavy leaves have decayed, it may be advisable to cover the crowns with a little heap of ashes or sand, or litter.
Blanching. This operation consists in excluding the light from the young shoots when they commence to grow in spring.
A box, large pot, hand-light, or even a heap of leaves placed over each crown will serve the purpose in the open air, but ashes or sand over the crowns should be removed first. When the shoots are long enough, a little light may be given just to give a tinge of colour to the tips. Where one has a warm green- house or moist hot-bed, the roots may be lifted from December to February, and placed in the warmth and in the dark. In this way blanched shoots can be secured very early in the season.
Market-gardeners in England commence forcing Sea- kale from the end of October till the end of February. The best and earliest crowns are first selected and planted side by side in beds 4 to 5 ft. across, and heated underneath by hot -water pipes. The roots are embedded in the soil to the tops, and after planting receive a good drenching with water to settle the soil round them. They are afterwards covered with clean strawy litter to a depth of 12 or 18 in., and in severe weather mats are placed overhead on cross- bars. From fourteen to twenty-one days according to the time of year are required to produce the leaf-stalks. The litter is then taken off, and all the crowns that are ready are taken from the bed, and prepared for market. As soon as one set of crowns is finished, others are ready to take their place, and thus a constant supply is kept up till the plants forced in the open air begin to yield.
French growers plant the Seakale roots in beds the same width as the frames generally in use for forcing Carrots, Radishes, Lettuces, etc. The beds are thus 4 ft. 5 in. wide, and have an alley or path- way between them. Five furrows about 4 in. deep are drawn, and the plants are placed in them at the end of March or early in April, the two outer rows being about 7 or 8 in. from the margin. This allows about twenty-five " crowns " to each light. After planting, the crowns are freely watered when necessary, and the soil which had been drawn up in little rdges when making the furrows or drills is gradually washed down, and eventually covers the crowns. Towards the end of June or early in July the waterings cease, as the plants will be then established and well furnished with their large wavy grey-green leaves.
About the end of October or early in November, the dead and dying leaves are removed, and the beds are cleaned up and hoed lightly, preparatory to having the frames placed over them. The pathways are also dug out 10 or 12 in. deep, some of the soil being placed in the frames for " earthing up " the Seakale crowns, the remainder being placed close at hand for filling the trenches after the forcing is finished.
When the temperature in the frames falls to 60 Fahr., the trenches between the frames are filled with good manure. Each crown is covered with a heap of soil about 6 to 7 in. deep, and the entire portion to be forced is covered with dry leaves or straw to hasten vegetation. About a month afterwards the first shoots may be cut, taking care to sever each one about half an inch above the " collar " of the plant. A second crop may be secured from the same plants by covering the crowns again, and treating in the same way. After the second forcing the crowns are of little use, and should be destroyed. The frames and old manure are then removed, and the pathways are filled up again with soil.
Another method of forcing Seakale is to lift the plants in October or November, and place them side by side on a manure bed giving a heat of 60 to 65 Fahr., which has been covered with about 6 in. of mould before the frames are placed on it. About sixty-four crowns are thus forced under each light, and the frames are " lined " with manure in the way described above, to secure a steady temperature. The plants are given a gentle watering after some nice rich sandy mould has been worked in between them, and also over them to a depth of 2 or 3 in. A covering with straw, leaves, or litter completes the work, and shoots may be cut at the end of eighteen or twenty days.
Seakale may also be forced in warm cellars at the same period. The crowns are lifted, cleaned, and planted on a few inches of rich mould, and are after- wards covered 2 or 3 in. deep with the same compost. More or less water is necessary, according to the dryness or humidity of the atmosphere, and at the end of three or four weeks shoots will be ready for cutting.
The Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is an annual plant, native of Persia, whence it was introduced to Spain in the middle of the sixteenth century by the Arabs. According as to whether the seeds (really the " fruits “) are “prickly” or “smooth,” two distinct kinds of Spinach are recognised, each with several varieties all highly valued for their soft bright green leaves.
At one time French gardeners used to grow Spinach on hot-beds, on which young plants were pricked out about 4 in. apart in November, so as to be ready for gathering from December to March. This system of forced cultivation is, however, no longer adopted or rarely practised. I have, however, seen young plants lifted from the open ground in February or early in March. All the leaves were cut off, and the plants thus mutilated were placed in frames between Gotte Lettuces that were nearing maturity on the top of Early Carrots. Spinach grown in this way branches out a good deal, and produces fine foliage in about three weeks after planting. The entire plant is pulled up when ready, and is fit for sale when the roots have been cut off. It realises a much higher price than open-air Spinach at the same period.
About the middle of August seeds of the variety known as " Monstrous Viroflay " may be sown on nicely prepared, but not deeply dug, soil, either in drills, 9 to 12 in. apart and about 2 in. deep, or " broad-cast " at the rate of about i Ib. of seed to 160 square yards or a little over 5 poles or " rods " of ground. After sowing, the soil should be trodden down firmly and raked over. To hasten germination, a good watering may be given, especially if the soil is inclined to be dry, or the seeds may have been soaked in water three or four times before sowing. Under favourable conditions Spinach leaves may be picked from this first sowing about the end of Sep- tember, taking care that only the largest leaves at the bottom are picked first, and by hand.
Another sowing of Spinach may be made in October for gathering in spring, using the varieties known as “Flanders “or " Prickly Long Standing” on this occasion.
Some growers sow Spinach in December amongst Carrots in frames, picking the leaves with care when ready.
About the middle of February Spinach may be sown at intervals of two or three weeks, until the end of July. The early sowings should be made on warm sunny borders, while the later ones in summer are best on north borders, or between rows of other vegetables which will shade them from strong sun- shine.
If the plants show signs of running to seed during the summer months, they are best destroyed, and replaced with other crops.
The chief care with Spinach is to give the plants plenty of water, either morning or evening, during dry weather.
Turnips (Brassica napus) are now grown as a forced or " primeur " crop on hot-beds more than formerly. Early in January a bed is made up to give a tem- perature about 70 to 80 Fahr. The surface is then covered with a layer, about 7 or 8 in. thick, of rich mould, made up of two parts of old manure and one part of rich loamy soil passed through a sieve.
The seeds are usually sown neither broad-cast nor in drills, but in small holes made in the compost with the finger. About every 6 in. a hole i in. deep is made with the finger, and into each one or two Turnip seeds are dropped making about eighty to one hundred to every light.
The surface is then levelled with a piece of wood and lightly watered, after which mats are spread over the lights until germination has taken place generally in four or five days.
As soon as the first leaves after the seed-leaves have developed, the young Turnips must be thinned out, so that only one plant is left in each little hole. About a month or six weeks after sowing, that is, about the middle of February, the lights are taken away to place over a second sowing of Turnips. The first crop must then be protected during the night with mats thrown over the frames. If, however, the weather at this period is very severe, it is safer to leave the lights some time longer until all danger is over.
To ensure active growth in the frames, the young Turnips should be watered frequently almost every day and at the same time abundance of air must be given on all favourable occa- sions by tilting up the lights on the leeward side.
In about seven or eight weeks after sowing the seeds, and treat- ing as above described, the young Turnips are fit to pull.
About the middle of February another sowing of Turnips may be made on a somewhat cooler bed than the first crop, and in the same way. If the weather is favourable, the lights from the first crop may now be taken off, and placed over the second just sown. These lights in turn are taken off the second crop in due course and placed over the third sowing of Turnips.
A fourth sowing of Turnips may be made about the middle of April on the bed from which the second crop has been gathered, the same set of lights being used for protection successively. It will be noted that only two different beds are used for the four crops. When these are cleared, the beds may be utilised for the culture of Melons.
Making holes with the finger is rather a primitive method, and has been discarded by some growers. These have a frame made exactly the size of each light. As many cross-pieces as there are to be rows of Turnips are fixed to these frames, and in each cross-piece as many pegs are fixed as there are to be Turnips in a row. All that is necessary is to press the frame with the pegs downwards upon the pre- pared soil, and each peg makes a hole in which the Turnip seeds are then sown.
The variety of Turnip favoured by the Parisian grower is called " Marteau " or " Half -long Vertu " (fig. 56), owing to its quick growth and excellent quality. It is the variety par excellence for the first early crops, and Parisian gardeners have made thousands of pounds by its cultivation. The " Half- long White Forcing " Turnip (fig. 57) is also an early variety well suited for frame culture. " Red Flat Milan " and " White Flat Milan " are suitable either for early crops under lights or for later crops in the open air.
One of the most popular Turnips for market is the " Long Vertu " or " Pointed Croissy,” of which large quantities are sold in the Paris markets during the summer months. Indeed, it was the only variety I saw in the market in August.