Onion.—The plants raised under glass in January or February should be ready for planting out on some favourable day about mid-April. If any mishap has befallen the sowings made in the open in March there must be no delay in resowing early in the present month, for Onions should have good hold of the ground before hot weather comes. Onions for pickling should be grown thickly on poor ground made firm. The plants are not to be thinned, but may be allowed to stand as thick as pebbles on the seashore. The starving system produces abundance of small handsome bulbs that ripen early, which are the very things wanted for pickling. The Queen and Paris Silver-skin are adapted for the purpose.
Parsley to be sown in quantity for summer and autumn supply; thin as soon as up, to give each plant plenty of room.
Peas to be sown again for succession.
Potato.—Take the earliest opportunity of completing the planting of main crops.
Salsify.—This delicious root, which is sometimes designated the 'Vegetable Oyster,' requires a piece of ground deeply trenched, with a thick layer of manure at the bottom of the trench, and not a particle of manure in the body of soil above it. The roots strike down into the manure, and attain a good size combined with fine quality. If carelessly grown, they become forked and fibrous, and are much wasted in the cooking, besides being of inferior flavour. Sow in rows fifteen inches apart, any time from the end of March to the beginning of May. Two sowings will generally suffice.
Spinach.—Sow the Long-standing variety, which does not run so soon as the ordinary kind. If a plantation of Spinach Beet has not been secured, sow at once, as there is ample time yet for a free growth and a valuable plant.
Turnip to be sown in quantity.
Vegetable Marrow.—An early sowing to be made in pots, in readiness for planting out immediately weather admits of it. Three plants in a pot are enough, and they must not be weakened by excessive heat.
Winter Greens.—A sowing of Borecole should be made, and if a supply is required in spring, it will be well to sow again in the first week of May.
High-Pressure times continue, for the heat increases daily, and the season of production is already shortened by two months. The most pressing business is to repair all losses, for even now, if affairs have gone wrong, it is possible to get up a stock of Winter Greens, and to sow all the sorts of seeds that should have been sown in March and April, with a reasonable chance of profitable results. It must not be expected, however, that the most brisk and skilful can overtake those who have been doing well from the first dawn of spring, and who have not omitted to sow a single seed at the proper time from the day when seed-sowing became requisite. The heat of the earth is now sufficient to start many seeds into growth that are customarily sown in heat a month or two earlier; and, therefore, those who cannot make hot-beds may grow many choice things if they will be content to have them a week or two later than their more fortunate neighbours. In sowing seeds of the more tender subjects, such as Capsicums, Marrows, and Cucumbers, it will be better to lose a few days, in order to make sure of the result desired, rather than to be in undue haste and have the seed destroyed by heavy rains, or the young plants nipped off by frost. Do not, therefore, sow any of these seeds in the open ground until the weather is somewhat settled and sunny, for if they meet with any serious check they will scarcely recover during the whole of the season.
Asparagus in seed-beds to be thinned as soon as possible, so that wherever two or three plants rise together, the number should be reduced to one. But there is time yet for seedlings to appear. The bearing beds are more attractive, for they show their toothsome tops. The cutting must be done in a systematic manner, and if practicable always by the same person. It is better to cut all the shoots as fast as they attain a proper size, and sort them for use according to quality, rather than to pick and choose the fat shoots and throw the whole plantation into disorder. Green-topped Asparagus is in favour in this country; but those who prefer it blanched have simply to earth it up sufficiently, and cut below the surface, taking care to avoid injuring the young shoots which have not pushed through. It is not for us to decide on any matter of individual taste, but we will give a word of practical advice that may be of value to many. It is not the custom to protect Asparagus in open beds, but it should be; for the keen frosts that often occur when the sticks are rising destroy a large number. This may be prevented by covering with any kind of light, dry litter, which will not in the least interfere with that full greening of the tops which English people generally prefer, because the light and air will reach the plant; but the edge of the frost will be blunted by the litter. If there is nothing at hand for this purpose, let a man go round with the sickle and cut a lot of long grass from the rough parts of the shrubbery, and put a light handful over every crown in the bed. The sticks will rise with the litter upon them like nightcaps, and will be plump and green and unhurt by frost.
Bean, Dwarf French.—The main crops should be got in this month, and successional sowings may be made until the early part of July. Dwarf Beans are but seldom allowed as much space as they require, and the rows therefore should be thinned early, for crowded plants never bear so well as those that enjoy light and air on all sides. In Continental cookery a good dish is made of the Beans shelled out when about half ripe. These being served in rich gravy, are at once savoury and wholesome. Almost all the varieties of the Dwarf and Climbing sections may be used in this way, and the Beans should be gathered when full grown, but not yet ripe. The self-coloured varieties are also grown for use as dry Haricots, in which case the pods should not be removed until perfectly ripe.
Bean, Climbing French.—Sow this month for the main crop, and onwards until June according to requirements. In a general way the treatment usual for Runners will answer well for outdoor crops of the Climbing French Bean.
Bean, Runner.—In the open ground sowings may be made as soon as conditions appear safe, but it is well to sow again at the end of the month or in June.
Beet.—The main crop should be sown in the early part of the month. Thin and weed the early sown, and if the ground has been suitably prepared, it will be needless to give water to this crop. As Beet is not wanted large, it is not advisable to sow any great breadth until the beginning of May, or it is liable to become coarse.
Broccoli to be sown for succession. Plant out from frames and forward seed-beds at every opportunity. About the middle of the month sow for cutting in May and June of next year.
Brussels Sprouts.—For the sake of a few fine buttons in the first dripping days of autumn, when Peas and Runners and Marrows are gone, put out as soon as possible some of the most forward plants, giving them a rich soil and sunny position.
Cabbage.—Plant out from seed-beds at every opportunity, choosing, if possible, the advent of showery weather. Sow the smaller sorts and Coleworts, especially in favoured districts where there is usually no check to vegetation until the turn of the year.
Capsicum can be sown out of doors about the middle of the month, and nice green pods for pickling may be secured in the autumn.
Carrot.—Thin the main crops early, and sow a few rows of Champion Horn or Intermediate, for use in a small state during late summer, when they make an elegant and delicate dish.
Cauliflowers must have water in dry weather; they are the most hungry and thirsty plants in the garden, but pay well for good living. Plant out from frames as fast as ready, for they do no good to stand crowded and starving.
Celery trenches must be prepared in time, though, strange to say, this task is generally deferred until the plants have really become weak through overcrowding. In a small garden it is never advisable to have Celery very forward, for the simple reason that trenches cannot be made for it until Peas come off and other early crops are over. To insure fine Celery the cultivator must be in advance of events rather than lag behind them. Plenty of manure must be used; it is scarcely possible, in fact, to employ too much, and liberality is not waste, because the ground will be in capital condition for the next crop. There are many modes of planting Celery, but the simplest is to make the trenches four feet apart and a foot and a half wide, and put the plants six to nine inches apart, according to the sorts. This work must be done neatly, with an artistic finish. In planting take off suckers, and if any of the leaves are blistered, pinch the blisters, and finish by dusting the plantation with soot. As Celery loves moisture, give water freely in dry weather.
Cucumbers of excellent quality may be grown on ridges or hills, should the season be favourable. Suppose the cultivator to have the means of obtaining plenty of manure, ridges, which are to run east and west, are preferable to hills. The soil should be thrown out three feet wide and two feet deep, and be laid up on the north side. Then put three feet of hot manure in the trench, and cover with the soil that was taken out, so as to form an easy slope to the south, and with a steep slope on the north side carefully finished to prevent its crumbling down before the season ends. The plants should be put out on the slope as soon as possible after the ridges are made ready, under the protection of hand-lights, until there is free growth and the weather has become quite summery. It is a good plan to grow one or two rows of Runner Beans a short distance from the ridge on the north side to give shelter, and in case of bad weather after the plants are in bearing, pea-sticks or dry litter laid about them lightly will help them through a critical time, but stable manure must not be used. In case manure is not abundant, make a few small hills in a sheltered, sunny spot, with whatever material is available in the way of turf, rotten manure, or leaf-mould, taking care that nothing injurious to vegetation is mixed with it. Put several inches of a mixture of good loam and rotten manure on the hills, and plant and protect as in the case of ridges. If plants are not at hand, sow seeds; there will still be a chance of Cucumbers during July, August, and September; for if they thrive at all, they are pretty brisk in their movements. Three observations remain to be made on this subject. In the first place, what are known as 'Ridge' Cucumbers only should be grown in the open air; the large sorts grown in houses are unfit. In the second place, the plants should only be pinched once, and there is no occasion for the niggling business which gardeners call 'setting the bloom.' Provide for their roots a good bed, and then let them grow as they please. In the third place, as encouragement, we feel bound to say that, as Cucumbers are grown to be eaten as well as to be looked at, those from ridges are less handsome than house Cucumbers, but are quite equal to them in flavour.
Dandelion somewhat resembles the Endive, and is one of the earliest and most wholesome additions to the salad-bowl. Sow now and again in June, in drills one foot asunder, and thin out the plants to one foot apart in the rows. These will be ready for use in the following winter and spring.
Gourd and Pumpkin.—An early show of fruit necessitates raising seeds under glass for planting on prepared beds, and the plants must be protected by means of lights or any other arrangement that can be improvised as a defence against late frosts. Of course the seeds can be sown upon the actual bed, but it is a loss of time. The rapidity with which the plants grow is a sufficient indication that generous feeding and copious supplies of water in dry weather are imperative.
Lettuce.—Sow for succession where the plants are to remain, and plant out the earlier sowings at every opportunity. To insure a quick growth, and prevent the plants from running to seed, extra care in giving water and shade will be necessary after transplanting. The larger Cabbage Lettuces will prove useful if sown now.
Maize and Sugar Corn may be grown in this country as an ornament to the garden, and also for the green cobs which are used as a vegetable. Sow early in the month on rich light soil, and in a hot season, especially when accompanied by moisture, there will be rapid growth. The cobs to be gathered for cooking when of full size, but while quite green.
Melon.—It is not too late to grow Melons in frames, provided a start can be made with strong plants.
Pea.—Sow Peas again if there is any prospect of a break in the supply. It is a good plan to prepare trenches as for Celery, but less deep, and sow Peas in them, as the trenches can be quickly filled with water in case of dry weather, and the vigorous growth will be proof against mildew.
Savoy sown now will produce small useful hearts for winter use. By many these small hearts will be preferred to large ones, as more delicate, and therefore a sowing of Tom Thumb may be advised.
Spinach, New Zealand, can be sown in the open ground in the early part of this month and should be thinned to about a yard apart. The growth somewhat resembles that of the Ice Plant. The tender young tops are pinched off for cooking, and they make an elegant Spinach, which is free from bitterness, and is therefore acceptable to many persons who object to the sooty flavour of ordinary Spinach.
Tomato.—By the third week in May the plants for the open border should be hardened. In a cold pit or frame they may be gradually exposed until the lights can be left off altogether, even at night. A thick layer of ashes at the bottom of the frame will insure drainage and keep off vermin. If the plants are allowed plenty of space, and are well managed, they will possess dark, healthy foliage, needing no support from sticks until they are in final quarters. Do not put them out before the end of the month or the beginning of June, and choose a quiet day for the work. If possible, give them a sunny spot under the shelter of a wall having a southern or western aspect. On a stiff soil it is advisable to plant on ridges, and not too deeply; for deep planting encourages strong growth, and strong growth defers the production of fruit. Tomatoes are sometimes grown in beds, and then it is necessary to give them abundant room. For branched plants three feet between the plants in the rows, and the rows four feet apart, will afford space for tying and watering. Each plant should have the support of a stout stake firmly fixed in the soil, and rising four feet above it; and once a week at least the tying should be attended to. As to stopping, the centre stem should be allowed to grow until the early flowers have set. It is from these early flowers that outdoor Tomatoes can be successfully ripened, and the removal of the main shoot delays their production. But after fifteen or twenty fruits are visible the top of the leading stem may be shortened to the length of the stake. The fruiting branches should also be kept short beyond the fruit, and large leaves must be shortened to allow free access of sunshine. Should the single-stem system be adopted, three feet between the rows and two feet between plants in the rows will suffice. On a light soil and in dry weather weak liquid manure may, with advantage, be alternated with pure water, but this practice must not be carried far enough to make the plants gross, or ripening will be delayed. Fruit intended for exhibition must be selected with judgment, and with this end in view four to six specimens of any large variety will be sufficient for one plant to bring to perfection.
Turnip to be sown for succession. It is well now to keep to the small white early sorts.
Vegetable Marrow.—In cottage gardens luxuriant vines may every year be seen trailing over the sides of heaps of decayed turf or manure. All forward vegetables are prized, and Marrows are no exception to the rule. An early supply from the open ground is most readily insured by raising strong plants in pots and putting them on rich warm beds as early as the season and district will permit. Late frosts must be guarded against by some kind of protection, and slugs must be deterred from eating up the plants.
To some extent the crops will now take care of themselves, and we may consider the chief anxieties and activities of the season over. Our notes, therefore, will be more brief. We do not counsel the cultivator to 'rest and be thankful.' It is better for him to work, but he must be thankful all the same, if he would be happy in his healthy and entertaining employment. Watering and weeding are the principal labours of this month, and both must be pursued with diligence. But ordinary watering, where every drop has to be dipped and carried, is often injurious rather than beneficial, for the simple reason that it is only half done. In such cases it is advisable to withhold water as long as possible, and then to give it in abundance, watering only a small plot every day in order to saturate the ground, and taking a week or more to go over a piece which would be done in a day by mere surface dribblings.
Asparagus should be in full supply, and may be cut until the middle or end of the month. When cutting should cease depends on the district. In the South of England the 14th is about the proper time to make the last cut; north of the Trent, the 20th may be soon enough; and further north, cutting may be continued into July. The point to be borne in mind is that the plant must be allowed time to grow freely without any further check, in order to store up energy for making robust shoots next year. It is a good plan to insert stakes, such as are used for Peas, in Asparagus beds, to give support to the green growth against gales of wind; for when the stems are snapped by storms, as they often are, the roots lose their aid, and are weakened for their future work.
Beans, both Dwarf and Runner, may be sown about the middle of the month, to supply tender pods when those from the early sowings are past. A late crop of Runners will pay well almost anywhere, for they bear until the frost cuts them down, which may not happen until far into November.
Broccoli.—- Take advantage of showers to continue planting out.
Cabbage.—Towards the end of the month sow a good breadth of small Cabbages and Coleworts. They will be immensely valuable to plant out as the summer crops are cleared away.
Capsicums may be planted out in a sunny sheltered spot.
Cauliflowers that are transferred now from seed-beds must have plentiful supplies of water, and be shaded during midday for a week. When the heads are visible it is customary to snap one of the inner leaves over them for protection.
Celery to be planted out without loss of time, in showery weather if possible; but if the weather is hot and dry, shade the plants and give water. The work must be well done, hence it is advisable to lift no more plants than can be quickly dealt with, for exposure tends to exhaustion, and Celery ought never to suffer a check in even the slightest degree. When planted, dust lightly with soot or wood-ashes. Pea-sticks laid across the trenches will give shade enough with very little trouble.
Chicory.—This wholesome esculent is used in a variety of ways, and is very much prized in some households. The blanched heads make an acceptable accompaniment to cheese, and are much appreciated for salading; they may also be stewed and served with melted butter in the same manner as Sea Kale. To grow large clean roots a deep rich soil is required. If manure must be added, use that which is well decayed, and bury it at least twelve inches, for near the surface it will produce fanged roots. Prepare the seed-bed as for Parsnips, sow in drills twelve inches apart, and thin the plants to nine inches in the rows. In October the roots will be ready for lifting, preparatory to being packed in dark quarters for blanching.
Cucumbers for Pickling may be sown on ridges.
Endive is not generally wanted while good Lettuces abound, but it takes the place of Lettuce in autumn and winter, when the more delicate vegetable is scarce. Sow in shallow drills six inches apart. Thin the plants, and transfer the thinnings to rich light soil. They must be liberally grown on well-manured land, with the aid of water in dry weather.
Lettuce to be sown and planted at every opportunity. A few rows of large Cos varieties should be sown in trenches prepared as for Celery, there to be thinned and allowed to stand. They will form fine hearts, and be valued at a time when Lettuces are scarce.
Melon.—For a final crop in houses sow as previously directed, and grow the plants on in pots, until the house can be cleared of the former set for their reception. The growth should be pushed forward to insure ripe fruit before the end of September. In the event of dull weather at the finish, there will be all the greater need of abundant but judicious ventilation, and of a warm dry atmosphere at night. Before they become heavy every fruit should have the support of nets or thin pieces of board suspended by wires from the corners.
Mushrooms may be prepared for now. The first step towards success is to accumulate a long heap of horse-droppings with the least possible amount of litter. Let this ferment moderately, and turn it two or three times, always making a long heap of it, which keeps down the fermentation. When the fire is somewhat taken out of it, make up the bed with a mixture of about four parts of the fermented manure and one part of turfy loam, well incorporated. Beat the stuff together with the flat of the spade as the work proceeds, fashioning the bed in the form of a ridge about three feet wide at the base, and of any length that may be convenient. Give the work a neat finish, or the Mushrooms will certainly not repay you. Put in rather large lumps of spawn when the bed is nicely warm, cover with a thin layer of fine soil, and protect with mats or clean straw. This is a quick and easy way of growing Mushrooms, and by commencing now the season is all before one. Nine times in ten, people begin preparations for Mushroom growing about a month too late, for the spawn runs during the hot weather, and the crop rises when the moderate autumnal temperature sets in.
Onions to be sown for salading. Forward beds of large sorts to be thinned in good time. The best Onions for keeping are those of moderate size, perfectly ripened; therefore the thinning should not be too severe.
Peas may still be sown, and as the season advances preference should be given to quick-growing early varieties.
Turnips may be sown in variety and in quantity after Midsummer Day. Sow on well-prepared ground, and put a sprinkle of artificial manure in the drills with the seed. By hastening the early growth of the plant the fly is kept in check.
For gardeners July is in one respect like January; everything depends on the weather. It may be hot, with frequent heavy rains, and vegetation in the most luxuriant growth; or the earth may be iron and the heavens brass, with scarcely a green blade to be seen. The light flying showers that usually occur in July do not render watering unnecessary; in fact, a heavy soaking of a crop after a moderate rainfall is a valuable aid to its growth, for it requires a long-continued heavy downpour to penetrate to the roots.
Summer-sown Vegetables for Autumn and Winter use. As the month advances early crops will be finished and numerous plots of ground become vacant. In many gardens it is now the practice to sow in July and August seeds of quick-growing varieties of Vegetables and Salads to furnish supplies through the autumn and early winter months, and this system is strongly to be commended. These sowings not only increase the cropping capacity of the garden but they extend the use of many favourite Vegetables which from spring sowings customarily cease at the end of summer. Two things are essential to success. Early-maturing varieties only should be sown and the plants must be thinned immediately they appear (thus avoiding transplanting), so that they receive no check in growth. The following subjects are especially suited for the purpose: Dwarf French Beans (sow early in July), Beet, Cabbage, Carrot, Cauliflower (sow early in July), Italian Corn Salad, Cress, Endive, Kohl Rabi, Lettuce, Onion, Parsley, Peas, Radish, Spinach, and Turnip. Potatoes may also be planted in July, but only tubers of early varieties saved from the preceding year should be used.
Garden Rubbish is apt to accumulate in odd corners and become offensive. The stumps of Cabbages and Cauliflowers give off most obnoxious odours, and neighbours ought not to be annoyed by want of thought in one particular garden. The short and easy way with all soft decaying rubbish is to put it at the bottom of a trench when preparing land for planting. There it ceases to be a nuisance and becomes a valuable manure.
Beans.—A few Dwarf French Beans may still be sown to extend outdoor crops to the latest possible date. For autumn and winter supplies sowings of the Dwarf and Climbing classes may be made from mid-July to mid-September, the dwarfs in cold frames and the climbers on narrow borders in any house that can be spared for the purpose.
Broccoli to be planted out as before; many of the plants left over from former plantings will now be stout and strong, and make useful successions.
Cabbage.—The sowing of Cabbage seed at this period of the year entails consequences of such grave importance as to merit reconsideration. When the crop has passed the winter there is a danger that the plants may bolt, instead of forming hearts. In the great majority of such cases the loss is attributable to an unwise selection of sorts. For sowing in spring there is quite a long list of varieties, many of them possessing distinctive qualities which meet various requirements. It is otherwise now. The Cabbages that can be relied on to finish well in spring are comparatively few in number. But repeated experiments have demonstrated that loss and disappointment can be avoided by sowing only those varieties which show no tendency to bolt. Another, but minor, cause of Cabbages starting seed-stems is premature sowing. The exact date for any district must be determined by the latitude and the aspect of the place. In the North sowing will, of necessity, be earlier than in the Midlands or the South. Assuming, however, that suitable varieties are chosen, the whole difficulty can be disposed of, even on soils where Cabbages show an unusual tendency to send up seed-stems prematurely, by sowing in August instead of in July. The seed-bed should be nicely prepared, and any old plaster, or other rubbish containing lime, should be dug in. Sow thinly, for a thick sowing makes a weak plant, no matter how severely it may be thinned afterwards.
Cardoons to be thinned to one plant in each station, and that, of course, the strongest.
Carrot.—Frame culture of small sorts should commence, to produce a succession of young Carrots for table.
Celery to be planted out in showery weather. It is too late to sow now, except for soups, and for that purpose only a small sowing should be made, as it may not come to anything.
Chards.—Those who care for Chards must cut down a number of Globe Artichokes about six inches above ground, and, if necessary, keep the plants well watered to induce new growth, which will be ready for blanching in September.
Cucumbers on ridges generally do well without water, but they must not be allowed to suffer from drought. If watering must be resorted to, make sure first of soft water well warmed by exposure to the sun, and water liberally three or four evenings in succession, and then give no more for a week or so.
Endive to be sown for winter. It will be well to make two sowings, say on the first and last days of the month.
Garlic and Shallots to be taken up in suitable weather, and it may be necessary to complete the ripening under shelter.
Leeks to be planted out; and on dry soils, in trenches prepared as for Celery.
Parsley to be sown for winter use. It is a most important matter, even in the smallest garden, to have a constant supply.
Peas.—Only quick-growing early varieties should be sown now.
Potatoes.—Where there is a good crop of an early variety it should be lifted without waiting for the shaws to die down. The tender skins will suffer damage if the work is done roughly, but will soon harden, and the stock will ripen in the store as perfectly as in the ground. It needs some amount of courage to lift Potatoes while the tops are still green and vigorous, and it should not be done until the roots are fully grown and beginning to ripen. Quick-growing sorts may be planted to dig as new Potatoes later in the year.
Radish.—Sow the large-growing kinds for winter use.
Spinach.—Sow the Prickly-seeded to stand the winter, selecting for the seed-bed ground lying high and dry that has been at least twice dug over and has had no recent manure. The twice digging is to promote the destruction of the 'Spinach Moth' grub, which the robins and thrushes will devour when exposed by digging. These grubs make an end of many a good breadth of Winter Spinach every year, and are the more to be feared by the careless cultivator.
Turnips to be sown in quantity in the early part of the month; thin advancing crops, and keep the hoe in action amongst them.
Winter Greens of all kinds to be planted out freely in the best ground at command, after a good digging, and to be aided with water for a week or so should the weather be dry.
The importance of summer-sown Vegetables and Salads is dealt with under July, and seeds of most of the subjects there named may still be put in as ground becomes vacant. The supplies of the garden during the next winter and spring will in great part depend upon good management now, and the utmost must be made of the few weeks of growing weather that remain. One great difficulty in connection with sowing seed at this period of the year is the likelihood of the ground being too dry; yet it is most unwise to water seeds, and it is always better if they can be got up with the natural moisture of the soil alone. However, in an extreme case the ground should be well soaked before the seed is sown, and after sowing covered with hurdles, pea-sticks, or mats until the seeds begin to sprout.
Artichokes, Globe, to be cut down as soon as the heads are used.
Broccoli to be planted out. As the Sprouting Broccoli, which belongs to the class of 'Winter Greens,' does not pay well in spring unless it grows freely now, plant it far enough apart; if crowded where already planted to stand the winter, take out every alternate plant and make another plantation.
Cabbage.—In many small gardens the August sowing of Cabbages is made to suffice for the whole year, and in the largest establishments greater breadths are sown now than at any other period. But whether the garden be small or large, it is not wise to rely exclusively on the sowing of any one kind. At least two varieties should be chosen, and as a precaution each variety may be sown at two dates, with an interval of about a fortnight between. The wisdom of this arrangement will be evident in nine seasons out of ten. It allows for contingencies, prolongs the season of supply, and offers two distinct dishes of a single vegetable—the mature hearts, and the partially developed plants, which differ, when served, both in appearance and in flavour. Where the demand is extensive, or great diversity is required, three or four kinds should be sown, including Red Cabbage to produce fine heads for pickling next year.
Cardoon.—Commence blanching if the plants are ready.
Cauliflower.—Seed sown now will produce finer heads in spring and early summer than are generally obtained from a January or February sowing. The time to sow must be determined by the climate of the district. In cold, late localities, the first week is none too early; from the 15th to the 25th is a good time for all the Midland districts; and the end of the month, or the first week of September, is early enough in the South. In Devon and Cornwall the sowing is later still. But whatever date may suit the district, the seed should be sown with care, in order that a healthy growth may be promoted from the first. Winter the plants in frames or by other convenient means, but it is important to keep them hardy by giving air at every favourable opportunity.
Celery to be carefully earthed up as required. It takes five weeks or more to blanch Celery well, and as the earthing up checks growth, the operation should not be commenced a day too soon. Take care that the earth does not get into the hearts.
Corn Salad should be sown during this month and September to produce plants fit for use in early spring. In the summer months the whole plant is edible, but in winter or spring the outer leaves only should be used.
Cucumber.—For a supply of Cucumbers during the winter months the general principles of management are identical with those given under January and March, with one important exception. At the commencement of the year a continued increase of light and warmth may be relied on. Now there will be a constant diminution of these vital forces. Hence the progress of the plants will gradually abate as the year wanes, and due allowance must be made for the fact. So much depends on the character of the autumn and winter that it will be unwise to risk all on a single sowing. Seed put in on two or three occasions between the end of August and the end of October will provide plants in various stages of growth to meet the exigencies of the season. The production of Cucumbers will then depend on care and management. In very dull cold weather it may be dangerous to syringe the foliage, but the necessary moisture can be secured by sprinkling the floor and walls.
Endive.—Make a final sowing, and plant out all that are large enough, selecting, if possible, a dry, sloping bank for the purpose.
Lettuce to be sown to stand the winter, choosing the hardiest varieties. In cold districts the middle of the month is a good time to sow; in favoured places the end of the month is preferable.
Onion.—For many years the Tripoli section enjoyed pre-eminence for sowing at this season, the opinion prevailing that other kinds were unsuitable. But it is found that several varieties which may with propriety be described as English Onions are as hardy as the Tripolis, and therefore as well adapted for sowing at this season. Thus, instead of sorts that must be used quickly, we may command for summer sowing the best of the keepers, and the result will be heavier crops and earlier ripening, with plentiful supplies of 'thinnings' for salads all through the autumn and winter. Two sowings—one at the beginning, the other at the end of the month—may be adopted with advantage. The storage of Onions is often faulty, and consequently losses occur through mildew and premature growth. If any are as yet unripe, spread them out in the sun in a dry place, where they can be covered quickly in case of rain. In wet, cold seasons, it is sometimes necessary to finish the store Onions by putting them in a nearly cold oven for some hours before they are stored away.
Pea.—Crops coming forward for late bearing should have attention, more especially to make them safe against storms by a sufficiency of support, and in case of drought to give abundance of water.
Strawberry Plants may be put in should the weather prove favourable; but next month will answer. In burning weather it is well worth while to bed the plants closely in a moist shady place until rain comes, and then plant out.
Tomatoes to be gathered as soon as ripe. If bad weather interferes with the finishing of the crop, cut the full-grown fruit with a length of stem attached, and hang them up in a sunny greenhouse, or some other warm spot in full daylight. Seed sown now or in September will produce plants that should afford fine fruit in March, and it will need care and judgment to carry them safely through the winter.
Turnip may be sown in the early part of the month. The best sorts now are White Gem, or Snowball. All the Year Round will please those who like a yellow Turnip.
Weeds will be troublesome to the overworked and the idle gardener, while the best-kept land will be full of seeds blown upon it from the sluggard's garden, and the first shower will bring them up in terrific force. All that we have to say about them is that they must be kept down, for they not only choke the rising crops in seed-beds and spoil the look of everything, but they very much tend to keep the ground damp and cold, when, if they were away, it would get dry and warm, to the benefit of all the proper crops upon it. Neglect will make the task of eradication simply terrible, and, in the meantime, every crop on the ground will suffer. The two great months for weeds are May and September; but often the September weeds triumph, because the mischief they do is not then so obvious to the casual eye. As there are now many used-up crops that may be cleared away, large quantities of Cabbage, Endive, Lettuce, and even thinnings of Spinach may be planted out to stand the winter.
Cabbage.—We advocate crowding the land now with Cabbage plants, for growth will be slow and the demands of the kitchen constant. Crowding, however, is not quite the same thing as overcrowding, and it is only a waste of labour, land and crop to put the plants so close together that they have not space for full development. The usual rule in planting out the larger sorts of Cabbage at this time of the year is to allow a distance every way of two feet between the plants. The crowding principle may be carried so far as to put miniature Cabbages between them, but only on the clear understanding that the small stuff is all to be cleared off before spring growth commences, and the large Cabbages will then have proper space for development.
Cauliflower.—Sow again in a frame or in a pan in the greenhouse.
Celery.—Continue to earth up, selecting a dry time for the task.
Chards take quite six weeks to blanch by means of straw, covered with earth.
Cucumbers for the winter need careful management and suitable appliances. See the remarks on this subject under August.
Endive to be planted out as directed last month. Plant a few on the border of an orchard-house, or in a ground vinery, or in old frames for which some lights, however crazy, can be found.
Lettuces should be coming in from the garden now in good condition, but the supply will necessarily be running short. Sowings of two or three sorts should be made partly in frames and partly on a dry open plot from which a crop has been taken. The ground should be well dug but not manured. Sow thinly, so that there will not be much need for thinning, and confine the selection to sorts known to be hardy. The August sowings will soon be forward enough for putting out, and it will be advisable to get the work done as early as possible, to insure the plants being well established before winter.
Parsley.—The latest sowing will require thinning, but for the present this must not be too strictly carried out; between this and spring there will be many opportunities. Thin the plot by drawing out complete plants as Parsley is demanded for the kitchen. If no late sowing was made, or, having been made, has failed, cut down to the ground the strongest plants, that a new growth may be secured quickly. A few plants potted at the end of the month, or lifted and placed in frames, may prove exceedingly valuable in winter.
Potatoes that are ready should be taken up with reasonable care. It is not wise to wait for the dying down of the shaws, because, when the tubers are fully grown, they ripen as well in the store, out of harm's way, as in the ground, where they are exposed to influences that are simply destructive.
Spinach.—In favourable seasons and forward localities Winter Spinach sown in the first half of this month will make a good plant before winter. Thin the plants that are already up to six inches apart.
Weeds and falling leaves are the plagues of the season. It may seem that they do no harm, but assuredly they are directly injurious to every crop upon the ground, for they encourage damp and dirt by preventing a free circulation of air amongst the crops, and the access of sunshine to the land. Keep all clean and tidy, even to the removal of the lower leaves of Cabbages, where they lie half decayed upon the ground.
The heavy rains of this month interfere in a material degree with outdoor work, and are often a great impediment to the orderly management that should prevail. The accumulation of rubbish anywhere, even if out of sight, is to be deplored as an evil altogether. The injury to vegetation is as great as that inflicted on our own health when dirt poisons the air and damp hastens the general dissolution. It is therefore above all things necessary to keep the garden clean from end to end. All decaying refuse that can be put into trenches should be got out of sight as soon as possible, to rot harmlessly instead of infecting the air, and leaves should be often swept up into heaps, in which form they cease to be injurious, although, when spread upon the ground and trodden under foot, they are breeders of mischief. If in want of work, ply the hoe amongst all kinds of crops, taking care not to break or bruise healthy leaves, or to disturb the roots of any plant. Dig vacant plots, and lay the land up in ridges in the roughest manner possible. Heavy land may be manured now with advantage, but it is not desirable to manure light land until spring.
Cabbages to be planted out as advised last month.
Cardoon.—Blanching must be continued.
Carrots.—Lift the roots and store in sand.
Cauliflowers to be prepared for the winter.
Celeriac.—Part of the crop should be lifted and stored in sand; the plants left in the ground to be protected by earthing over.
Celery must be earthed up, and protecting material got ready to assure its safety during frost.
Chicory.—Raise about a dozen plants at a time as required, cut or wrench off the foliage, and pack the roots, crown upwards, in boxes with moist leaf-mould or soil. They must be stored in absolute darkness in some cellar or Mushroom-house which is safe from frost, but a forcing temperature is detrimental to the flavour. Gathering may commence about three weeks after storing. The yield is abundant, and is of especial value for salading through the autumn and winter months.
Endive to be blanched for use as it acquires full size, but not before, as the blanching makes an end of growth.
Lettuce.—Continue to plant as before advised, and make a final sowing in frames not later than the middle of the month.
Parsnips may be dug all the winter as wanted. Although a slight frost will not injure them when left in the ground, protection by rough litter is needful in very severe weather. It often happens that they grow freely soon after the turn of the year, and then become worthless.
Potatoes to be taken up and stored with all possible speed.
Rhubarb for forcing should be taken up and laid aside in a dry, cool place, exposed to the weather. This gives the roots a check, and constitutes a kind of winter, which in some degree prepares them for the forcing pit.
Roots, such as Beet, Salsify, and Turnip, to be taken up as soon as possible, and stored for the winter.
Winter Greens may still be transplanted, and it is often better to use up the remainder of the seed-beds than to let the plants stand. In the event of a severe winter, these late-planted Greens may not be of much value; but in a mild growing winter they will make some progress, and may prove very useful in the spring.
The remarks already made on the necessity for tidiness and the quick disposal of all decaying refuse apply as forcibly to this month as to October. The leaves are falling, the atmosphere is moist, and there should be the utmost care taken not to make things worse by scatterings of vegetable rubbish. Now we are in the 'dull days before Christmas' the affairs of the garden may be reviewed in detail, and this is the best period for such a review. Sorts that have done well or ill, wants that have been felt, mistakes that have been made, are fresh in one's memory, and in ordering seeds, roots, plants, &c., for next season's work, experience and observation can be recorded with a view to future benefit. Consistently with the revision of plans by the fireside, revise the work out of doors. Begin to prepare for next year's crops by trenching, manuring, planting, and collecting stuff to burn in a 'smother.' Land dug now for spring seeds and roots, and kept quite rough, will only require to be levelled down and raked over when spring comes to be ready for seed, and will produce better crops than if prepared in a hurry. Protecting material for all the needs of the season must be in readiness, in view of the fact that a few nights of hard frost may destroy Lettuces, Endives, Celery, and Cauliflowers worth many pounds, which a few shillings'-worth of labour and litter would have saved. Earthwork can generally be pushed on, and it is good practice to get all road-mending and the breaking up of new ground completed before the year runs out, because of the hindrance that may result from frost, and the inevitable pressure of other work at the turn of the spring. The weather is an important matter; but often the month of November is favourable to outdoor work, and labour can then be found more readily than at most other seasons.
Artichokes, Globe, must be protected ere frost attacks them. Cut off the stems and large leaves to within a foot of the ground; then heap up along each side of the rows a lot of dry litter consisting of straw, pea haulm, or leaves, taking care in so doing to leave free access to light and air. The hearts must not be covered, or decay will follow.
Artichokes, Jerusalem, may be dug as wanted, but some should be lifted and stored in sand for use during frosts.
Asparagus beds not yet cleaned must have prompt attention. Cut down the brown grass and rake off all the weeds and rubbish, and finish by putting on a dressing of seaweed, or half-rotten stable manure.
Bean, Broad.—It is customary on dry warm soils to sow Beans at the end of October or during November for a first crop, and the practice is to be commended. On cold damp soils, and on clay lands everywhere, it is a waste of seed and labour to sow now, but every district has its peculiar capabilities, and each cultivator must judge for himself. In any case, Beans sown during this month should be put on well-drained land in a sheltered spot.
Broccoli.—In inclement districts lay the plants with their heads facing the north.
Carrot to be sown in frames, and successive sowings made every three or four weeks until February.
Cauliflowers will be turning in, and possibly those coming forward will be all the better off for being covered with a leaf to protect the heads from frost. If the barometer rises steadily and the wind goes round to north or north-east, draw all the best Cauliflowers, and put them in a shed or any out-of-the-way place safe for use.
Celery.—Hard frost coming after heavy rain may prove destructive to Celery; and it is well, if there is a crop worth saving, to cut a trench round the plantation to favour escape of surplus water. If taken up and packed away in a dry shed, the sticks will keep fresh for some time.
Horse-radish to be taken up and stored ready for use, and new plantations made as weather permits and ground can be spared.
Pea.—The sowing of Peas outdoors now is not recommended for general practice, but only for those who are so favourably circumstanced as to have a fair prospect of success. If it is determined to sow, select for the purpose a dry, light, well-drained sunny border, and make it safe from mice, slugs, and sparrows. The quick-growing round-seeded varieties must be chosen for the purpose, and it will be advisable to sow two or three sorts rather than one only. Peas to be grown entirely under glass may be started now.
Sea Kale to be lifted for forcing. This delicious vegetable may, indeed, be forced for the table in this month; but it is not advisable to be in such haste, for a fine sample cannot be secured so early. Sea Kale is the easiest thing in the world to force; the only point of importance is to have strong roots to begin with. Any place such as Mushroom-houses, cellars, pits, or old sheds, where it is possible to maintain a temperature of 45 deg. to 55 deg., may be utilised for the purpose. Put the plants thickly into pots or boxes, or plant them in a bed, and it is essential to exclude light to insure blanching. By these simple means a regular supply may be obtained until the permanent beds in the open ground come into use.
The best advice that can be given for this month is to be prepared for either heavy rain or sharp frost, so that extreme variations of temperature may inflict the least possible injury in the garden. Let the work be ordered with reference to the weather, that there may be no 'poaching' on wet ground, or absurd conflict with frost. Accept every opportunity of wheeling out manure; and as long as the ground can be dug without waste of labour, proceed to open trenches, make drains, and mend walks, because this is the period for improving, and the place must be very perfect which affords no work for winter weather. Dispose of all rubbish by the simple process of putting it in trenches when digging plots for early seeds. In sheds and outhouses many tasks may be found, such as making large substantial tallies for the garden; the little paltry things commonly used being simply delusive, for they are generally missing when wanted, from their liability to be trodden into the ground or kicked anywhere by a heedless foot. Make ready pea-sticks, stakes of sizes, and at odd times gather up all the dry stuff that is adapted for a grand 'smother.' A careful forecasting of the next year's cropping will show that even now many arrangements may be made to increase the chances of success.
Warm Border to be prepared for early work by digging and manuring. All the refuse turf and leaf-mould from the potting-shed and the soil knocked out of pots may be usefully disposed of by adding it to this border, which cannot be too light or too rich, and a good dressing of manure will give it strength to perform its duties.
Beans, Broad, to be earthed up for protection and support.
Celery to be earthed up for the last time. In case of severe weather, have protecting material at hand in the shape of dry litter or mats. Pea-sticks make a capital foundation on which to throw long litter, mats, &c., for quickly covering Celery, the protection being as quickly removed when the frost is over, and costing next to nothing.
Endive will be valued now, and must be blanched as required. Place a few in frames and other protected spots. In the unused corners of sheds and outhouses they may be safer than out of doors.
Parsley.—In all cold districts it is wise to secure a bed of Parsley, in a frame or pit, or if a few plants were potted in September, they may be wintered in any place where they can have light and air freely. It is so important to have Parsley at command as wanted, that it may be worth while to put a frame over a few rows as they stand in the open quarter, rather than risk the loss of all in the event of severe weather.
Radish.—Sow one of the long sorts for a first supply in some warm spot, to secure quick growth.
Underground Onions to be planted in rows one foot apart. They should not be earthed up, for the young bulbs form round the stems in full daylight.
THE ROTATION OF CROPS IN THE VEGETABLE GARDEN
This is a subject worthy the attention of those who aim at the largest possible production and the highest possible quality of every kind of kitchen-garden crop, for it concerns the natural relations of the plant and the soil as to their several chemical constituents. The principle may be illustrated by considering the demands of two of the most common kitchen-garden crops. If we submit a Cabbage to the destructive agency of fire, and analyse the ashes that remain, we shall find in them, in round numbers, eight per cent. of sulphuric acid, sixteen per cent. of phosphoric acid, four per cent. of soda, forty-eight per cent. of potash, and fifteen per cent. of lime. It is evident that we cannot expect to grow a Cabbage on a soil which is destitute of these ingredients, to say nothing of others. The obnoxious odour of sulphur emitted by decaying Cabbages might indicate, to anyone accustomed to reflect on ordinary occurrences, that sulphur is an important constituent of Cabbage. If we submit a Potato tuber to a similar process, the result will be to find in the ashes fifty-nine per cent. of potash, two per cent. of soda, six per cent. of sulphuric acid, nineteen per cent. of phosphoric acid, and two per cent. of lime. The lesson for the cultivator is, that to prepare a soil for Cabbage it is of the utmost importance to employ a manure containing sulphates, phosphates, and potash salts in considerable quantity; as for the lime, that can be supplied separately, but the Cabbage must have it. On the other hand, to prepare a soil for Potatoes it is necessary to employ a manure strongly charged with salts of potash and phosphates, but it need not be highly charged with soda or lime, for we find but a small proportion of these ingredients in the Potato. There are soils so naturally rich in all that crops require, that they may be tilled for years without the aid of manures, and will not cease to yield an abundant return. But such soils are exceptional, and those that need constant manuring are the rule. One point more, ere we proceed to apply to practice these elementary considerations. In almost every soil, whether strong clay, mellow loam, poor sand, or even chalk, there are comminglings of all the minerals required by plants, and, indeed, if there were not, we should see no herbage on the downs, and no Ivies climbing, as they do, to the topmost heights of limestone rocks. But usually a considerable proportion of those mineral constituents on which plants feed are locked up in the staple, and are only dissolved out slowly as the rain, the dew, the ever-moving air, and the sunshine operate upon them and make them available. As the rock slowly yields up its phosphates, alkalies and silica to the wild vegetation that runs riot upon it, so the cultivated field (which is but rock in a state of decay) yields up its phosphates, alkalies and silica for the service of plants the more quickly because it is the practice of the cultivator to stir the soil and continually expose fresh surfaces to the transforming power of the atmosphere. It has been said that the air we breathe is a powerful manure. So it is, but not in the sense that is applicable to stable manure or guano. The air may and does afford to plants much of their food, but it can only help them to the minerals they require by dissolving these out of pebbles, flints, nodules of chalk, sandstone, and other substances in the soil which contain them in what may be termed a locked-up condition. Every fresh exposure of the soil to the air, and especially to frost and snow, is as the opening of a new mine of fertilisers for the service of those plants on which man depends for his subsistence.
The application to practice of these considerations is an extremely simple matter in the first instance, but it may become very complicated if followed far enough. Here we can only touch the surface of the subject, yet we hope to do so usefully. Suppose, then, that we grow Cabbage, or Cauliflower, or Broccoli, on the same plot of ground, one crop following the other for a long series of years, and never refresh the soil with manure, it must be evident that we shall, some day or other, find the crop fail through the exhaustion of the soil of its available sulphur, phosphates, lime, or potash. But if this soil were allowed to lie fallow for some time, it would again produce a crop of Cabbage, owing to the liberation of mineral matters which, when the crops were failing, were not released fast enough, but which, during the rest allowed to the soil, accumulated sufficiently to sustain a crop. Obviously this mode of procedure is unprofitable and tends of necessity to exhaustion, although it must be confessed that utter exhaustion of any soil is a thing at present almost unknown. But, instead of following a practice which impoverishes, let us enrich the soil with manure, and change the crops on the same plot, so that when one crop has largely taxed it for one class of minerals, a different crop is grown which will tax it for another class of minerals. Take for a moment's consideration one of the necessary constituents of a fertile soil, common salt (chloride of sodium). In the ash of a Cabbage there is about six per cent. of this mineral, in the Turnip about ten per cent., in the Potato two to three per cent., in the Beet eighteen to twenty per cent. On the other hand the Beet contains very little sulphur, but both Turnip and Beet agree in being strongly charged with potash and soda. It follows that if we crop a piece of ground with Cabbage, and wish to avoid the failure that may occur if we continue to crop with Cabbage, we may expect to do well by giving the ground a dressing of common salt and potash salts, and then crop it with Beet.
The whole subject is not exhausted by this mode of viewing it, for all the facts are not yet fully understood by the ablest of our chemists and physiologists, and crops differ in their methods of seeking nourishment. We might find two distinct plants nearly agreeing in chemical constitution, and yet one might fail where the other would succeed. Suppose, for instance, we have grown Cabbage and other surface-rooting crops until the soil begins to fail, even then we might obtain from it a good crop of Parsnips or Carrots, for the simple reason that these send their roots down to a stratum that the Cabbage never reached; and it is most instructive to bear in mind that although the Parsnip will grow on poor land, and pay on land that has been badly tilled for years, yet the ashes of the Parsnip contain thirty-six per cent. of potash, eleven per cent. of lime, eighteen per cent. of phosphoric acid, six per cent. of sulphuric acid, three per cent. of phosphate of iron, and five per cent. of common salt. How does the Parsnip obtain its mineral food in a soil which for other crops appears to be exhausted? Simply by pushing down for it into a mine that has hitherto been but little worked, though Cabbage might fail on the same plot because the superficial stratum has been overtaxed.
Having attempted a general, we now proceed to a particular application. In the first place, good land, well tilled and abundantly manured, cannot be soon exhausted; but even in this case a rotation of crops is advisable. It is less easy to say why than to insist that in practice we find it to be so. The question then arises—What is a rotation of crops? It is the ordering of a succession in such a manner that the crops will tax the soil for mineral aliments in a different manner. A good rotation will include both chemical and mechanical differences, and place tap-roots in a course between surface roots, as, for example, Carrot, Parsnip, and Beet, after Cabbage, Cauliflower, and Broccoli; and light, quick surface crops, such as Spinach, to serve as substitutes for fallows. The cropping of the kitchen garden should be, as far as possible, so ordered that plants of the same natural families never immediately succeed one another; and, above all things, it is important to shift from place to place, year after year, the Cabbages and the Potatoes, because these are the most exhaustive crops we grow. In a ton of Potatoes there are about twelve pounds of potash, four pounds of sulphuric acid, four pounds of phosphoric acid, and one pound of magnesia. We may replace these substances by abundant manuring, and we are bound to say that the best rotation will not obviate the necessity for manuring; but even then it is well to crop the plot with Peas, Spinach, Lettuce, and other plants that occupy it for a comparatively brief space of time, and necessitate much digging and stirring; for these mechanical agencies combine with the manure in preparing the plot to grow Potatoes again much better than if the land were kept to this crop only from year to year. If we could mark out a plot of ground into four parts, we should devote one plot to permanent crops—such as Asparagus, Sea Kale, and Rhubarb—and on the other three keep the crops revolving in some such order as this: No. 1, Potatoes, Celery, Leek, Carrot, Parsnip, Beet, &c. No. 2, Peas, Beans, Onions, Summer Spinach, &c., followed by Turnips for winter use, Cabbage for spring use, and Winter Spinach. No. 3, Brassicas, including Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Kale, &c. In the following year the original No. 1 would be cropped as No. 2, and No. 2 as No. 3. In the third season corresponding changes would be made, constituting a three-course system. The cultivator must use discretion in cropping vacant ground. As an example it will be obvious that land cleared of Early Potatoes will be very suitable for planting Strawberries. Another point is worth attention: Peas sown on the lines where Celery has been grown will thrive without any preparation beyond levelling the ground and drawing the necessary drills. This is a West of England custom, and it answers exceedingly well.
THE CHEMISTRY OF GARDEN CROPS
A Consideration of the chemistry of the crops that engage attention in this country will afford an explanation of one great difference between farming and gardening. And this difference should be kept in mind by all classes of cultivators as the basis of operations in tillage, cropping, and the order and character of rotations. The first thing to discover in the cropping of a farm is the kind of vegetation for which the land is best adapted to insure, in a run of seasons, fairly profitable results. If the soil is unfit for cereals, then it is sheer folly to sow any more corn than may be needful for convenience, as, for example, to supply straw for thatching and litter, and oats for horses, to save cost of carriage, &c. On large farms that are far removed from markets it is often necessary to risk a few crops that the land is ill fitted for, in order to satisfy the requirements of the homestead, and to save the outlay of money and the inconvenience of hauling from distant markets. But everywhere the cropping must be adapted to the soil and the climate as nearly as possible, both to simplify operations and enlarge to the utmost the chances of success. In the cropping of a garden this plain procedure cannot be followed. We are compelled certainly to consider what the soil and climate will especially favour amongst garden crops, but, notwithstanding this, the gardener must grow whatever the household requires. He may have to grow Peas on a hot shallow sand; and Potatoes and Carrots on a cold clay; and Asparagus on a shallow bed of pebbles and potsherds. To the gardener the chemistry of crops is a matter of great importance, because he cannot restrict his operations to such crops as the land is particularly adapted for, but must endeavour to make the land capable of carrying more or less of all the vegetables and fruits that find a place in the catalogue of domestic wants. That he must fail at certain points is inevitable; nevertheless his aim will be, and must be, of a somewhat universal kind, and a clear idea of the relations of plants to the soil in which they grow will be of constant and incalculable value to him.
We are bound to say at the outset that a complete essay on the chemistry of vegetation is not our purpose. We are anxious to convey some useful information, and to kindle sufficient interest to induce those who have hitherto given but slight attention to this question to inquire further, with a view to get far beyond the point at which we shall have to quit the subject.
Plants consist of two classes of constituents—the Inorganic, which may be called the foundation; and the Organic, which may be considered the superstructure. With the former of these we are principally concerned here. A plant must derive from the soil certain proportions of silica, lime, sulphur, phosphates, alkalies, and other mineral constituents, or it cannot exist at all; but, given these, the manufacture of fibre, starch, gum, sugar, and other organic products depends on the action of light, heat, atmospheric air, and moisture, for the organic products have to be created by chemical (or vital) action within the structure, or, as we sometimes say, the tissues of the plant itself. To a very great extent the agencies that conduce to the elaboration of organic products are beyond our control (though not entirely so), whereas we can directly, and to a considerable degree, provide the plant with the minerals it more particularly requires; first, by choosing the ground for it, and next by tilling and manuring in a suitable manner. A clay soil, in which, in addition to the predominating alumina, there is a fair proportion of lime, may be regarded as the most fertile for all purposes; but we have few such in Britain, our clays being mostly of an obdurate texture, retentive of moisture, and requiring much cultivation, and containing, moreover, salts of iron in proportions and forms almost poisonous to plants. But there are profound resources in most clays, so that if it is difficult to tame them, it is also difficult to exhaust them. Hence a clay that has been well cultivated through several generations will generally produce a fair return for whatever crop may be put upon it. Limestone soils are usually very porous and deficient of clay, and therefore have no sustaining power. Many of our great tracts of mountain limestone are mere sheep-walks, and would be comparatively worthless except for the lime that may be obtained by burning. On the other hand, chalk, which is a more recent form of carbonate of lime, is often highly productive, more especially where, through long cultivation, it has been much broken up, and has become loamy through accumulation of humus. Between the oldest limestone and the latest chalk there are many intermediate kinds of calcareous soils, and they are mostly good, owing to their richness in phosphates, the products of the marine organisms of which these rocks in great part, and in some cases wholly, consist. For the growth of cereals these calcareous soils need a certain proportion of silica, and where they have this we see some of the finest crops of Wheat, Trifolium, Peas and Beans in these islands. If we could mix some of our obdurate clays with our barren limestones, the two comparatively worthless staples would probably prove remarkably fertile. Although this is impossible, a consideration of the chemistry of the imaginary mixture may be useful, more especially to the gardener, who can in a small way accomplish many things that are impracticable on a great scale. Sandy soils are characterised by excess of silica, and deficiency of alumina, phosphates and potash. Here the mechanical texture is as serious a matter as it is in the case of clay. The sand is too loose as the clay is too pasty, and it may be that we have to prevent the estate from being blown away. It is especially worthy of observation, however, that sandy soils are the most readily amenable of any to the operation of tillage. If we cannot take much out of them, we can put any amount into them, and it is always necessary to calculate where the process of enrichment is to stop. It is not less worthy of observation that sandy soils can be rendered capable of producing almost every kind of crop, save cereals and pulse, and even these can be secured where there is some basis of peat or loam or clay with the sand. The parks and gardens of Paris, Versailles, and Haarlem are on deep sands that drift before the wind when left exposed for any length of time with no crop upon them; and not only do we see the finest of Potatoes and the most nutritious of herbage produced on these soils, but good Cauliflowers, Peas, Beans, Onions, fruits, and big trees of sound timber.
Garden soils usually consist of loam of some kind, the consequence of long cultivation. Natural loams are the result of the decay and admixture of various earths, and they are mostly of a mellow texture, easily worked and highly productive. They are, as a rule, the best of all soils, and their goodness is in part due to the fact that they contain a little of everything, with no great predominance of any one particular earth. Cultivation also produces loam. On a clay land we find a top crust of clayey loam, and on a lime or chalk land a top crust of calcareous loam. Where cultivation has been long pursued the staple is broken and manures are put on, and the roots of plants assist in disintegration and decomposition. Thus there is accumulation of humus and a decomposition of the rock proceeding together, and a loam of some sort is the result. Hence the necessity of caution in respect of deep trenching, for if we bury the top soil and put in its place a crude material that has not before seen daylight, we may lose ten years in profitable cropping, because we must now begin to tame a savage soil that we have been at great pains to bring up, to cover a stratum of a good material prepared for us by the combined operations of Nature and Art during, perhaps, several centuries. But deep and good garden soils may be safely trenched and freely knocked about, because not only does the process favour the deep rooting of the plants, but it favours also that disintegration which is one of the causes of fertility. Every pebble is capable of imparting to the soil a solution—infinitesimal, perhaps, but not the less real—of silica, or lime, or potash, or phosphates, or perhaps of all these; but it must be exposed to light and air and moisture to enable it to part with a portion of its substance, and thus it is that mechanical tillage is of the first importance in all agricultural and horticultural operations.
The principal inorganic or mineral constituents of plants are potash, soda, lime, iron, phosphorus, sulphur, chlorine, and silica. Clays and loams are generally rich in potash, sulphur, and phosphates, but deficient in soluble silica and lime. Limestone and chalk are usually rich in lime and phosphates, but deficient in humus, silica, sulphur, and alkalies. Sandy soils are rich in silica, but are generally poor in respect of phosphates and alkalies. Therefore, on a clay or loam, farmyard manure is invaluable, because it contains ingredients that all crops appreciate, and also because it is helpful in breaking up the texture of the soil. The occasional application of lime also is important for its almost magical effect on garden soil that has been liberally manured and heavily cropped for a long term of years. Calcareous soils are greatly benefited by a free application to them of manure from the stable and cow-byre; but as a rule it would be like carrying coals to Newcastle to dress these soils with lime. Clay may be put on with advantage; and nothing benefits a hot chalky soil more than a good dose of mud from ponds and ditches, which supplies at once humus, alumina, and silicates, and gives 'staple' to the soil, while preventing it also from 'burning.' In the manuring of sandy soils great care is requisite, because of their absorbing power. In the bulb-growing districts of Holland, manure from cowsheds is worth an enormous price for digging into loose sand for a crop of Potatoes, to be followed by bulbs. Sandy soils are generally deficient in phosphates and alkalies; hence it will on such soils be frequently found that kainit (a crude form of potash) and superphosphate of lime will conjointly produce the best results, more especially in raising Potatoes, Onions, and Carrots, which are particularly well adapted for sandy soils. Probably one of the best fertilisers is genuine farmyard manure from stall-fed cattle, for it contains phosphates, alkalies, and silicates in available forms. For similar reasons Peruvian Guano is often useful on such soils. Artificial manure should be selected with a view to correct the deficiencies of the soil, and to satisfy the requirements of the crops to be grown on it.
While we have thus dealt principally with the Inorganic or mineral constituents of plants, and the way in which the deficiencies of the soil in respect of any of them may be supplied by artificial applications, we must not ignore the other class of constituents, the Organic. These are supplied almost entirely from the atmosphere itself, though, to a limited extent, the presence in the soil of humus or vegetable matter contributes also. Yet this latter, as seen in the case of land heavily dressed with farmyard or stable manure, vegetable refuse, &c, exercises important functions in other directions. Not only are mineral constituents, in forms available for assimilation, supplied, but soils so treated derive peculiar advantages as regards their mechanical state and improved physical conditions, chiefly in respect of retention of moisture, warmth, &c. Thus, sandy soils, which are very apt, through poverty in humus, to lose their moisture readily and to 'burn,' are rendered more retentive of moisture and fertilising constituents by the use of farmyard manure, &c., and have more 'staple' or substance given to them, while heavy, tenacious clays are opened out, lightened, and rendered more amenable to the influences of drainage, aeration, &c., and so become less cold and inactive.
For the present purpose the principal garden crops may be grouped in two classes, in accordance with their main characteristics and the predominance of certain of their mineral elements. The figures given on the following page show the average percentage proportions of the several minerals in the ashes of the different plants.
In Class I. Phosphates and Potash predominate. This class consists of the less succulent plants, and includes the following: The Pea: containing, in 100 parts of the ashes, phosphates, thirty-six; potash, forty. Bean: phosphates, thirty; potash, forty-four. Potato (tubers only): phosphates, nineteen; potash, fifty-nine; soda, two; lime, two; sulphuric acid, six. Parsnip: phosphates, eighteen; potash, thirty-six; lime, eleven; salt, five. Carrot: phosphates, twelve; potash, thirty-six; soda, thirteen; sulphuric acid, six. Jerusalem Artichoke: phosphates, sixteen; potash, sixty-five.
In Class II. Sulphur, Lime and Soda Salts are predominant. This class consists of the more succulent plants, and includes the following: Cabbage: containing, in 100 parts of the ashes, phosphates, sixteen; potash, forty-eight; soda, four; lime, fifteen; sulphuric acid, eight. Turnip: phosphates, thirteen; potash, thirty-nine; soda, five; lime, ten; sulphuric acid, fourteen. Beet: phosphates, fourteen; potash, forty-nine; soda, nineteen; lime, six; sulphuric acid, five.
As a matter of course, Lentils and other kinds of pulse agree more or less with Peas and Beans in the predominance of phosphates and potash. So, again, all the Brassicas, whether Kales, Cauliflower, or whatever else, agree nearly with the Cabbage in the prominent presence of lime and sulphur; ingredients which fully account for the offensive odour of these vegetables when in a state of decay. Fruits as a rule are highly charged with alkalies, and are rarely deficient in phosphates; moreover, stone-fruits require lime, for they have to make bone as well as flesh when they produce a crop. As regards the alkalies, plants appear capable of substituting soda for potash under some circumstances, but it would not be prudent for the cultivator to assume that the cheaper alkali might take the place of the more costly one as a mineral agent, for Nature is stern and constant in her ways, and it can hardly be supposed that a plant in which potash normally predominates can attain to perfection in a soil deficient in potash, however well supplied it may be with soda. The cheaper alkali in combination as salt (chloride of sodium) may, however, be usually employed in aid of quick-growing green crops; and more or less with tap-roots and Brassicas. Salt, too, is very useful in a dry season by reason of its power of attracting and retaining moisture. As regards Potatoes, it is worthy of observation that they contain but a trace of silica, and yet they generally thrive on sand, and in many instances crops grown on sand are free from disease and of high quality, although the weight may not be great. The mechanical texture of the soil has much to do with this; and when that is aided by a supply of potash and phosphates, whether from farmyard manure or artificials, sandy soils become highly productive of Potatoes of the very finest quality. On the other hand, Potatoes also grow well on limestone and chalk, and yet there is but little lime in them. Here, again, mechanical texture explains the case in part, and it is further explained by the sufficiency of potash and phosphates, as also of magnesia, which enters in a special manner into the mineral constitution of this root.
Thus far we have not even mentioned nitrogen, or its common form of salts of ammonia; nor have we mentioned carbon, or its very familiar form of carbonic acid. These are important elements of plant growth; and they account for the efficacy of manures derived directly from the animal kingdom, as, for example, the droppings of animals, including guano, which consisted originally of the droppings of sea-birds. Some of the nitrogen in these substances, however, is of an evanescent character, and rapidly flies away in the form of carbonate of ammonia; hence, a heap of farmyard manure, left for several years, loses much of its value as manure, and guano should be kept in bulk as long as possible, and protected from the atmosphere, or its ammonia will largely disappear. One difficulty experienced by chemists and others in preparing artificial manures is that of 'fixing' the needful ammonia, so that it may be kept from being dissipated in the atmosphere, and at the same time be always in a state in which it can be appropriated by the plant. In all good manures, however, there is a certain proportion of it in combination, and in many instances the percentage of nitrogen is made the test of the value of a manure.
The importance of humus—the black earthy substance resulting from the decay of vegetation—in a soil is that it contains in an assimilable form many of the ingredients essential to plant life. Humus when it decomposes gives off carbonic acid, which breaks up the mineral substances in the soil and renders them available as plant food. When vegetable refuse is burned, the nitrogen—one of the costliest constituents—is dissipated and lost. But by burying the refuse the soil gets back a proportion of the organic nitrogen it surrendered and something over in the way of soluble phosphatic and potassic salts; and as this organic nitrogen assumes ultimately the form of nitric acid, it can be assimilated by the growing plant, to the great benefit of whatever crop may occupy the ground.
The practical conclusion is, that in the treatment of the soil a skilful gardener will endeavour to promote its fertility by affording the natural influences of rain, frost and sun full opportunity of liberating the constituents that are locked up in the staple; by restoring in the form of refuse as much as possible of what the soil has parted with in vegetation; and by the addition of such fertilising agents as are adapted to rectify the natural deficiencies of the soil. Thus, instead of following a process of exhaustion, the resources of the garden may be annually augmented.
ARTIFICIAL MANURES AND THEIR APPLICATION TO GARDEN CROPS
Plants, like animals, require food for their sustenance and development, and when this is administered in insufficient quantities, or unsuitable foods are supplied, they remain small, starved, and unhealthy.
The chemical elements composing the natural food of ordinary crops are ten in number, viz.—carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, sulphur, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron. These are obtained from the soil and air, and unless all of them are available plants will not grow. The absence of even one of them is as disastrous as the want of all, and a deficiency of one cannot be made up by an excess of another; for example, if the soil is deficient in potassium the crop suffers and cannot be improved by adding iron or magnesium. All the food-elements are found in adequate quantities in practically all soils and the surrounding air, except three—nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. These are often present in reduced amount, or in a state unsuited to plants; in such cases the deficiency must be made up before remunerative healthy crops can be grown, and it is with this express object that manures are added to the soil.
One of the best known substances employed in this way is farmyard manure, which is indirectly derived from plants and contains all the elements needed for the growth of crops. It is, however, of very variable composition and rarely, or never, contains these elements in the most suitable proportions, and its value can always be greatly improved by supplementing its action with one or other of the so-called artificial manures or fertilisers. Although it is strongly advisable to add farmyard manure or vegetable composts to the soil of all gardens now and again, in order to keep the texture of the soil in a satisfactory condition, excellent crops can be grown by the use of artificial fertilisers alone. To obtain the best results from these some experience is of course necessary, but the following details regarding the nature and application of the commoner and more useful kinds should prove a serviceable guide in the majority of cases.
Artificial manures may be divided into three classes:—
1. The Nitrogenous class, of which nitrate of soda and sulphate of ammonia are examples.
2. The Phosphatic class, such as superphosphate, basic slag, and steamed bone flour.
3. The Potash class, including kainit and sulphate of potash. The several examples of each class contain only one of the three important plant food-elements, and as a single element can only be of use when the others are present in the soil, it is generally advisable to apply one from each class, either separately or mixed, in order to insure that the crop is supplied with nitrogen, phosphates, and potash.
Nitrogenous manures specially stimulate the growth of the foliage, stems, and roots of plants, and are therefore of the greatest benefit to Carrots, Parsnips, Turnips, Beet, Celery, Asparagus, Rhubarb, all the Cabbage tribe, and leafy crops generally.
Nitrate of soda supplies the single plant food-element, nitrogen, and the soda for all practical purposes may be disregarded. It dissolves very easily in water and is taken up immediately by growing plants, its effect being plainly seen a few days after application. As this artificial readily drains away from uncropped land it should only be administered to growing plants. It is best applied in spring and summer and in small quantities; for example, at the rate of one pound per square rod, repeated at intervals of two or three weeks, rather than in a single large dose. Nitrate of soda must not be mixed with superphosphate, but it may be added to basic slag and the potash manures.
Sulphate of ammonia is another nitrogenous fertiliser, similar in its effects to nitrate of soda, but slower in action since its nitrogen must undergo a change into nitrate before it is available for plants. It is held by the soil, and can therefore be applied earlier in spring than nitrate of soda without fear of loss. The continued use of this manure, however, is liable to make the soil sour, and consequently it should only be employed on ground containing lime, or to which lime has been added. Never mix sulphate of ammonia with basic slag or with lime, but it may be mixed with superphosphate and the potash manures.
Phosphatic manures have the opposite effect to the nitrogenous fertilisers, checking rampant growth and encouraging the early formation of flowers, fruit, and seeds. They are comparatively inexpensive and should be liberally applied to all soils for all crops. Superphosphate is an acid manure and best suited for use on soils containing lime. Basic slag is a better material for ground deficient in lime, or where 'club-root' is prevalent. It is less soluble and therefore slower in action than superphosphate. Both these fertilisers should be dug into the soil some time before the crop is planted or seed sown—superphosphate at the rate of two to three pounds per square rod; basic slag in larger amount, five to six pounds per square rod. Superphosphate may also be employed as a top-dressing and worked into the surface around growing plants with the hoe. Steamed bone meal or flour is another useful phosphatic fertiliser, valuable on the lighter classes of soil.
Potash manures are of benefit to plants in all stages of growth. They are particularly valuable to Potatoes, leguminous crops, Carrots, Parsnips, Turnips, and Beet. Like the phosphatic manures they should be worked into the soil before seeds are sown or plants are put out. Kainit is best applied in autumn, for it contains a considerable amount of common salt and magnesium compounds which are sometimes deleterious and best washed away in the drainage water during winter. It should be dug in at the rate of about three pounds per square rod. Sulphate of potash is three or four times as rich in potash as kainit, and is correspondingly more expensive; apply in spring and summer, a little in advance of sowing or planting, at the rate of about one pound per square rod.
Lime.—- A word or two must be said about lime, which is a natural constituent of all soils. In many instances there is sufficient for the needs of most plants, but where lime is deficient in quantity it must be added before healthy crops can be raised. Old gardens to which dung has been freely applied annually require a liberal dressing of lime every few years, or the ground becomes sour and incapable of growing good crops of any kind. To insure the proper action of whatever manures are used and to secure healthy crops, an application of slaked quicklime, at the rate of fourteen to twenty pounds per square rod, is strongly recommended. As a remedy against 'clubbing' or 'finger-and-toe' disease of the Cabbage tribe of plants it is indispensable; it also neutralises the baneful acidity of the land, and opens up stiff soils, making them more easily tilled, more readily penetrated by the air, and warmer by the better drainage of water through them.
The following suggestions for the manuring of the different crops mentioned will be found effective. It is, however, not intended that they should be slavishly followed, for useful substitutions may be made in the formulae given, if the nature of the various fertilisers is understood and an intelligent grasp is obtained of the principles of manuring enunciated in this and the preceding chapter.
In place of nitrate of soda, a similar quantity of sulphate of ammonia may be used.
Instead of superphosphate, the following may be advantageously employed: phosphatic guano, or mixtures of basic slag and superphosphate, or bone meal and superphosphate; or basic slag may be applied alone on land deficient in lime.
Four pounds of kainit may also take the place of one pound of sulphate of potash in the suggested mixtures mentioned below.
Where dung is recommended, twenty to twenty-five loads per acre is meant; larger quantities are frequently applied, but these are uneconomical and much less efficient than more moderate amounts supplemented with artificial fertilisers.
All the manures should be worked into the soil before sowing or planting out, except the nitrate of soda, which is best applied separately to the growing plants, preferably in small doses at intervals of two to four weeks.
In all cases the quantities of artificials named are intended for use on one square rod or pole of ground.
PEAS AND BEANS.—These leguminous plants are able to obtain all the nitrogen they need from the air. They should, however, be amply supplied with potash and phosphates, a good dressing being:—
2-3/4 to 3-1/2 lb. superphosphate 3/4 lb. sulphate of potash
DWARF BEANS are sometimes benefited by the addition of 1/2-lb. to 1 lb. of nitrate of soda.
A dressing of dung 2 lb. nitrate of soda 3-1/2 to 4 lb. superphosphate 3 lb kainit
The kainit contains a considerable amount of salt, which is of value to this crop.
BEET.—For a fine crop a moderate amount of well-decayed dung applied in autumn is almost essential, as well as 3 to 4 lb. of superphosphate per square rod in spring. On land previously dressed with dung for a former crop, the following may be used, especially on the lighter class of soils:—
1-1/2 lb. nitrate of soda when the plants are well up, and a similar amount a fortnight after singling 4 to 5 lb. superphosphate 4 lb. kainit BROCCOLI AND CAULIFLOWER.
With dung. 2 to 3 lb. nitrate of soda 2 to 3 lb. superphosphate 3/4 lb. sulphate of potash
Without dung. 4 to 5 lb. nitrate of soda 4 to 5 lb. superphosphate 3/4 lb. sulphate of potash
CABBAGE, KALE, AND BRUSSELS SPROUTS.—These Brassicas require considerable quantities of nitrogen and phosphates. For spring Cabbage planted in autumn, land well dunged for the previous crop gives good results with the addition of the artificials mentioned below: for the autumn crop, dung should be applied before planting out in the early part of the year.
With dung. 2 to 3 lb. nitrate of soda 4 to 5 lb. superphosphate 3/4 lb. sulphate of potash
Without dung. 4 lb. nitrate of soda 5 to 6 lb. superphosphat 3/4lb. sulphate of potash
CARROT AND PARSNIP.—A good dressing of dung applied to the previous crop is a valuable preparation where Carrots and Parsnips are to be grown. In addition, one of the following mixtures should be used:—
(1) 3/4 lb. nitrate of soda 3 to 4 lb. superphosphate 3/4 lb. sulphate of potash
3/4 lb. nitrate of soda 2 lb. superphosphate 1 to 2 lb. basic slag 3 lb. kainit
CELERY requires the use of dung more than almost any other crop, and it is little affected by artificial manures, except phosphates, which may be given in the form of superphosphate at the rate of 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 lb per square rod.
With dung. 3 to 4 lb. superphosphate 1/2 to 1 lb. nitrate of soda
Without dung. 3 to 4 lb. superphosphate 1 to 1-1/2 lb. nitrate of soda 1 lb. sulphate of potash
ONIONS never succeed without an ample supply of potash. This crop should therefore have farmyard dung, or the special potash fertilisers in adequate quantity.
With dung. 3/4 lb. nitrate of soda 4 to 5 lb. superphosphate 3/4 lb. sulphate of potash
Without dung. 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 lb. nitrate of soda 5 lb. superphosphate 1 lb. sulphate of potash
LEEKS require the same fertilisers as Onions, but will need little or no nitrate if good dung is used.
POTATO.—For good yield, high quality, and freedom from disease, Potatoes are dependent upon a good supply of potash. They do best when supplied with a moderate amount of farmyard manure, supplemented by suitable artificials, but can be grown on some soils with artificials alone.
With dung. 3/4 lb. sulphate of ammonia 3 lb. superphosphate 3/4 lb. sulphate of potash
Without dung. 1-1/2 lb. sulphate of ammonia 3-1/2 lb. superphosphate 1 to 1-1/2 lb. sulphate of potash
Instead of superphosphate, a mixture of this fertiliser with an equal amount of bone meal or basic slag may be used, and either 4 lb. of kainit and 1 lb. of muriate of potash instead of 1 lb. of sulphate of potash.
RHUBARB.—An annual dressing of dung is beneficial, together with 6 lb. of basic slag, 1 lb. of sulphate of potash, and 4 lb. of nitrate of soda, half the nitrate being applied when growth commences and the remainder a fortnight later.
With dung. 3 to 4 lb. superphosphate 2 to 3 lb. nitrate of soda
Without dung 4 to 5 lb. superphosphate 1 lb. sulphate of potash 3 to 4 lb. nitrate of soda
TOMATOES need large supplies of potash and phosphates to induce stocky growth and abundance of flowers and fruit. Nitrogenous manures should be withheld until the flowering stage, for they stimulate the production of rank succulent stems and leaves which are specially liable to attacks of fungus pests. After the fruit is set the application of small doses of nitrate of soda, or sulphate of ammonia, as advised below, greatly assists the swelling of the crop. The following mixtures worked into the soil will be found beneficial for Tomatoes:—
5 to 6 lb. superphosphate 7 to 8 lb. basic slag 1 lb. sulphate of potash or 1 lb. sulphate of potash
Nitrate of soda, or sulphate of ammonia, at the rate of 1-1/2 to 2 lb. per square rod, may be given with advantage as soon as the fruit is set.
TURNIP AND SWEDE.—For the development of fine roots a liberal supply of phosphates is essential.
With dung. 1 lb. nitrate of soda 3 to 4 lb. superphosphate 3/4 lb. sulphate of potash
Without dung 2 lb. nitrate of soda 4 to 5 lb. superphosphate 1 lb. sulphate of potash
THE CULTURE OF FLOWERS FROM SEEDS
Whether the modern demand for flowers has created the supply, or the supply has found an appreciative public, we need not stay to discuss. The fact remains that the last four or five decades have witnessed a phenomenal extension in the use of flowers by all classes of the community, for the decoration of the house no less than for beautifying the garden. Primarily, this advance of refinement in the popular taste is traceable to the skill and enthusiastic devotion of the florists who have supported in all their integrity the true canons of floral perfection, and whose labours will continue to be imperative for maintaining the standards of quality. By their severe rules of criticism the florists further the ends of floriculture subjectively, and by the actual results of their labours they render objective aid, their finest flowers serving not only as types, but as the actual stud for perpetuating each race. Hence the decline of floriculture would imply the deterioration of flowers, and the prosperity of floriculture involves progress not only in those subjects which lie within the florists' domain, but of many others to which they have not devoted special attention. Yet the acknowledgment must be made that, brilliant as their triumphs have been, the methods they practised have in some instances entailed very severe penalties. Continuous propagation for many generations, under artificial conditions, so debilitated the constitution of Hollyhocks, Verbenas, and some other subjects, that the plants became victims of diseases which at one time threatened their existence. To save them from annihilation it was necessary to desert the worn path of propagation, and raise plants possessing the initial vigour of seedlings. In stamina these seedlings proved eminently satisfactory, although in other respects they were at first sadly disappointing. It then became clear that before show flowers could be obtained from seedlings judgment and skill must be devoted to the art of saving seed. This was necessarily a work of time, demanding great patience and rare scientific knowledge. The task was undertaken with enthusiasm in many directions, and the results have more than justified this labour of love. Formerly, the universal mode of perpetuating named Hollyhocks was by the troublesome process of cuttings, or by grafting buds on roots of seedlings in houses heated to tropical temperature. In many places it was the custom to lift the old plants, pot them, and keep them through the winter in pits. All this was found requisite to insure fine flowers. While the burden of the work was thus rendered heavy, the constitution of the plant became enfeebled, and at one time the fear was entertained that its extinction was at hand. But the new system has preserved the Hollyhock, and at the same time afforded a striking example of the principle that seed saved scientifically is found to reproduce the varieties it was taken from. Seedling Hollyhocks now give double flowers of the finest quality; and the seedling plants are less liable to disease. So with the Verbena. From suitable seed plants can be raised that will produce the most resplendent flowers, and instead of propagating a stock to keep over winter, to be stricken with mildew and cost no end of care, only to become diseased at last, a pinch of seed is sown in January or February, and soon there is a stock of healthy plants possessing the vigour peculiar to seedlings. These, being bedded out at a proper time, flower far more freely than plants from cuttings, and produce trusses twice the size.