THE VEGETABLES AND THEIR SPECIAL NEEDS
The garden vegetables may be considered in three groups, in each of which the various varieties are given somewhat similar treatment: the root crops, such as beets and carrots; the leaf crops, such as cabbage and lettuce; the fruit crops, such as melons and tomatoes.
Under the first section we will consider:
Beet Carrot Kohlrabi
Leek Onion Parsnip
Potato Salsify Turnip
Any of these may be sown in April, in drills (with the exception of potatoes) twelve to eighteen inches apart. The soil must be rich and finely worked, in order that the roots will be even and smooth—in poor or ill-prepared soil they are likely to be misshapen, or “sprangling.” They must be thinned out to the proper distances, which should be done if possible on a cloudy day, hand-weeded as often as may be required, and given clean and frequent cultivation. All, with the exception of leeks and potatoes, are given level culture. All will be greatly benefited, when about one-third grown, by a top dressing of nitrate of soda.
_Beet:_--Beets do best in a rather light soil. Those for earliest use are started under glass (as described previously) and set out six to seven inches apart in rows a foot apart.
The first outdoor sowing is made as soon as the soil is ready in spring, and the seed should be put in thick, as not all will come through if bad weather is encountered. When thinning out, the small plants that are removed, tops and roots cooked together, make delicious greens.
The late crop, for fall and winter use, sow the last part of June. For this crop the larger varieties are used, and on rich soil will need six to eight inches in the row and fifteen inches between rows.
_Carrot:_--Carrots also like a soil that is rather on the sandy side, and on account of the depth to which the roots go, it should be deep and fine. The quality will be better if the soil is not too rich. A few for extra early use may be grown in the hotbeds or frame. If radishes and carrots are sown together, in alternating rows six inches apart, the former will be used by the time the carrots need the room, and in this way a single 3 x 6 ft. sash will yield a good supply for the home garden. Use Chantenay or Ox-Heart (see Chapter XII) for this purpose.
The late crop is sometimes sown between rows of onions, skipping every third row, during June, and left to mature when the onions are harvested; but unless the ground is exceptionally free from weeds, the plan is not likely to prove successful.
_Kohlrabi:_--While not truly a “root crop”—the edible portion being a peculiar globular enlargement of the stem—its culture is similar, as it may be sown in drills and thinned out. Frequently, however, it is started in the seed-bed and transplanted, the main crop (for market) being sown in May or June. A few of these from time to time will prove very acceptable for the home table. They should be used when quite young; as small as two inches being the tenderest.
_Leek:_--To attain its best the leek should be started in the seed-bed, late in April, and transplanted in late June, to the richest, heaviest soil available. Hill up from time to time to blanch lower part of stalk; or a few choice specimens may be had by fitting cardboard collars around the stem and drawing the earth up to these, not touching the stalk with earth.
_Onions:_--Onions for use in the green state are grown from white “sets,” put out early in April, three to four inches apart in rows twelve inches apart; or from seed sown the previous fall and protected with rough manure during the winter. These will be succeeded by the crop from “prickers” or seedlings started under glass in January or February. As onions are not transplanted before going to the garden, sow directly in the soil rather than in flats. It is safest to cover the bed with one-half inch to one inch of coarse sand, and sow the seed in this. To get stocky plants trim back twice, taking off the upper half of leaves each time, and trim back the roots one-half to two-thirds at the time of setting out, which may be any time after the middle of April. These in turn will be succeeded by onions coming from the crop sown from seed in the open.
The above is for onions eaten raw in the green state when less than half grown. For the main crop for bulbs, the home supply is best grown from prickers as described above. Prize-taker and Gibraltar are mostly used for this purpose, growing to the size of the large Spanish onions sold at grocery stores. For onions to be kept for late winter and spring use, grow from seed, sowing outdoors as early as possible.
No vegetable needs a richer or more perfectly prepared soil than the onion; and especial care must be taken never to let the weeds get a start. They are gathered after the tops dry down and wither, when they should be pulled, put in broad rows for several days in the sun, and then spread out flat, not more than four inches deep, under cover with plenty of light and air. Before severe freezing store in slatted barrels, as described in Chapter XIV.
_Parsnip:_--Sow as early as possible, in deep rich soil, but where no water will stand during fall and winter. The seed germinates very slowly, so the seed-bed should be very finely prepared. They will be ready for use in the fall, but are much better after the first frosts. For method of keeping see Chapter XIV.
_Potato:_--If your garden is a small one, buy your main supply of potatoes from some nearby farmer, first trying half a bushel or so to be sure of the quality. Purchase in late September or October when the crop is being dug and the price is low.
For an extra early and choice supply for the home garden, start a peck or so in early March, as follows: Select an early variety, seed of good size and clean; cut to pieces containing one or two eyes, and pack closely together on end in flats of coarse sand. Give these full light and heat, and by the middle to end of April they will have formed dense masses of roots, and nice, strong, stocky sprouts, well leaved out. Dig out furrows two and a half feet apart, and incorporate well rotted manure in the bottom, with the soil covering this until the furrow is left two to three inches deep. Set the sprouted tubers, pressing firmly into the soil, about twelve inches apart, and cover in, leaving them thus three to four inches below the surface. Keep well cultivated, give a light top dressing of nitrate of soda—and surprise all your neighbors! This system has not yet come extensively into use, but is practically certain of producing excellent results.
For the main crop, if you have room, cut good seed to one or two eyes, leaving as much of the tuber as possible to each piece, and plant thirteen inches apart in rows three feet apart. Cultivate deeply until the plants are eight to ten inches high and then shallow but frequently. As the vines begin to spread, hill up moderately, making a broad, low ridge. Handle potato-bugs and blight as directed in Chapter XIII. For harvesting see Chapter XIV.
While big crops may be grown on heavy soils, the quality will be very much better on sandy, well drained soils. Planting on well rotted sod, or after green manuring, such as clover or rye, will also improve the looks and quality of the crop. Like onions, they need a high percentage of potash in manures or fertilizers used; this may be given in sulphate of potash. Avoid planting on ground enriched with fresh barnyard manure or immediately after a dressing of lime.
_Salsify:_--The “vegetable oyster,” or salsify, is to my taste the most delicious root vegetable grown. It is handled practically in the same way as the parsnip, but needs, if possible, ground even more carefully prepared, in order to keep the main root from sprangling. If a fine light soil cannot be had for planting, it will pay to hoe or hand-plow furrows where the drills are to be—not many will be needed, and put in specially prepared soil, in which the seed may get a good start.
_Radish:_--To be of good crisp quality, it is essential with radishes to grow them just as quickly as possible. The soil should be rather sandy and not rich in fresh manure or other nitrogenous fertilizers, as this tends to produce an undesirable amount of leaves at the expense of the root. If the ground is at all dry give a thorough wetting after planting, which may be on the surface, as the seeds germinate so quickly that they will be up before the soil has time to crust over. Gypsum or land-plaster, sown on white and worked into the soil, will improve both crop and quality. They are easily raised under glass, in autumn or spring in frames, requiring only forty to fifty degrees at night. It is well to plant in the hotbed, after a crop of lettuce. Or sow as a double crop, as suggested under Carrots. For outside crops, sow every ten days or two weeks.
_Turnip:_--While turnips will thrive well on almost any soil, the quality—which is somewhat questionable at the best—will be much better on sandy or even gravelly soil. Avoid fresh manures as much as possible, as the turnip is especially susceptible to scab and worms. They are best when quite small and for the home table a succession of sowing, only a few at a time, will give the best results.
Under leaf crops are considered also those of which the stalk or the flower heads form the edible portion, such as celery and cauliflower.
Asparagus Brussels Sprouts Cabbage
Cauliflower Celery Endive
Kale Lettuce Parsley
The quality of all these will depend largely upon growing them rapidly and without check from the seed-bed to the table. They are all great nitrogen-consumers and therefore take kindly to liberal supplies of yard manure, which is high in nitrogen. For celery the manure is best applied to some preceding crop, such as early cabbage. The others will take it “straight.” Most of these plants are best started under glass or in the seed-bed and transplanted later to permanent positions. They will all be helped greatly by a top-dressing of nitrate of soda, worked into the soil as soon as they have become established. This, if it fails to produce the dark green healthy growth characteristic of its presence, should be followed by a second application after two or three weeks—care being taken, of course, to use it with reason and restraint, as directed in Chapter VI.
Another method of growing good cabbages and similar plants, where the ground is not sufficiently rich to carry the crop through, is to “manure in the hill,” either yard or some concentrated manure being used. If yard manure, incorporate a good forkful with the soil where each plant is to go. (If any considerable number are being set, it will of course be covered in a furrow—first being trampled down, with the plow). Another way, sure of producing results, and not inconvenient for a few hundred plants, is to mark out the piece, dig out with a spade or hoe a hole some five inches deep at each mark, dilute poultry manure in an old pail until about the consistency of thick mud, and put a little less than half a trowelful in each hole. Mix with the soil and cover, marking the spot with the back of the hoe, and then set the plants. By this method, followed by a top-dressing of nitrate of soda, I have repeatedly grown fine cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce and sprouts. Cotton-seed meal is also very valuable for manuring in the hill—about a handful to a plant, as it is rich in nitrogen and rapidly decomposes.
The cabbage group is sometimes hilled up, but if set well down and frequently cultivated, on most soils this will not be necessary. They all do best in very deep, moderately heavy soil, heavily manured and rather moist. An application of lime some time before planting will be a beneficial precaution. With this group rotation also is almost imperative.
The most troublesome enemies attacking these plants are: the flea-beetle, the cabbage-worm, the cabbage-maggot (root) and “club-root”; directions for fighting all of which will be found in the following chapter.
_Asparagus:_--Asparagus is rightly esteemed one of the very best spring vegetables. There is a general misconception, however—due to the old methods of growing it—concerning the difficulty of having a home supply. As now cared for, it is one of the easiest of all vegetables to grow, when once the beds are set and brought to bearing condition. Nor is it difficult to make the bed, and the only reason why asparagus is not more universally found in the home garden, beside that mentioned above, is because one has to wait a year for results.
In selecting a spot for the asparagus bed, pick out the earliest and best drained soil available, even if quite sandy it will do well. Plow or dig out trenches three feet apart and sixteen to twenty inches deep. In the bottoms of these tramp down firmly six to eight inches of old, thoroughly rotted manure. Cover with six to eight inches of good soil— not that coming from the bottom of the trench—and on this set the crowns or root-clumps—preferably one-year ones—being careful to spread the roots out evenly, and covering with enough soil to hold in position, making them firm in the soil. The roots are set one foot apart. Then fill in level, thus leaving the crowns four to six inches below the surface. As the stalks appear give a light dressing of nitrate of soda and keep the crop cleanly cultivated. (Lettuce, beets, beans or any of the small garden vegetables may be grown between the asparagus rows during the first part of the season, for the first two years, thus getting some immediate return from labor and manure). The stalks should not be cut until the second spring after planting and then only very lightly. After that full crops may be had.
After the first season, besides keeping cleanly cultivated at all times, in the fall clear off and burn all tops and weeds and apply a good coating of manure. Dig or lightly cultivate this in the spring, applying also a dressing of nitrate of soda, as soon as the stalks appear. If the yield is not heavy, give a dressing of bone or of the basic fertilizers mentioned earlier. It is not difficult to grow plants from seed, but is generally more satisfactory to get the roots from some reliable seedsman.
_Broccoli:-The broccoli makes a flower head as does the cauliflower. It is, however, inferior in quality and is not grown to any extent where the latter will succeed. It has the one advantage of being hardier and thus can be grown where the cauliflower is too uncertain to make its culture worth while. For culture directions see Cauliflower.
_Brussels Sprouts:_--In my opinion this vegetable leaves the cabbage almost as far behind as the cauliflower does. It is, if anything, more easily grown than cabbage, except that the young plants do not seem able to stand quite so much cold. When mature, however, it seems to stand almost any amount of freezing, and it is greatly improved by a few smart frosts, although it is very good when succeeding the spring crop of cauliflower. It takes longer to mature than either cabbage or cauliflower.
_Cabbage:_--Cabbage is one of the few vegetables which may be had in almost as good quality from the green-grocer as it can be grown at home, and as it takes up considerable space, it may often be advisable to omit the late sorts from the home garden if space is very limited. The early supply, however, should come from the garden—some people think it should stay there, but I do not agree with them. Properly cooked it is a very delicious vegetable.
What has already been said covers largely the conditions for successful culture. The soil should be of the richest and deepest, and well dressed with lime.
Lettuce is grown with advantage between the rows of early cabbage, and after both are harvested the ground is used for celery. The early varieties may be set as closely as eighteen inches in the row, and twenty-four between rows. The lettuce is taken out before the row is needed.
The late crop is started in the outside seed-bed about June 1st to 15th. It will help give better plants to cut back the tops once or twice during growth, and an occasional good soaking in dry weather will prove very beneficial. They are set in the field during July, and as it often is very dry at this time, those extra precautions mentioned in directions for setting out plants, in the preceding chapter, should be taken. If the newly set plants are dusted with wood ashes, it will be a wise precaution against insect pests.
_Cauliflower:_--The cauliflower is easily the queen of the cabbage group: also it is the most difficult to raise. (1) It is the most tender and should not be set out quite so early. (2) It is even a ranker feeder than the cabbage, and just before heading up will be greatly improved by applications of liquid manure. (3) It must have water, and unless the soil is a naturally damp one, irrigation, either by turning the hose on between the rows, or directly around the plants, must be given—two or three times should be sufficient. (4) The heads must be protected from the sun. This is accomplished by tying up the points of leaves, so as to form a tent, or breaking them (snap the mid-rib only), and folding them down over the flower. (5) They must be used as soon as ready, for they deteriorate very quickly. Take them while the head is still solid and firm, before the little flower tips begin to open out.
_Celery:_--This is another favorite vegetable which has a bad reputation to live down. They used to plant it at the bottom of a twelve-inch trench and spend all kinds of unnecessary labor over it. It can be grown perfectly well on the level and in the average home garden.
As to soil, celery prefers a moist one, but it must be well drained. The home supply can, however, be grown in the ordinary garden, especially if water may be had in case of injurious drouth.
For the early crop the best sorts are the White Plume and Golden Self-blanching. Seed is sown in the last part of February or first part of March. The seed is very fine and the greatest pains must be taken to give the best possible treatment. The seed should be pressed into the soil and barely covered with very light soil—half sifted leaf-mould or moss. Never let the boxes dry out, and as soon as the third or fourth leaf comes, transplant; cut back the outside leaves, and set as deeply as possible without covering the crown. The roots also, if long, should be cut back. This trimming of leaves and roots should be given at each transplanting, thus assuring a short stocky growth.
Culture of the early crop, after setting out, is easier than that for the winter crop. There are two systems: (1) The plants are set in rows three or four feet apart, six inches in the row, and blanched, either by drawing up the earth in a hill and working it in about the stalks with the fingers (this operation is termed “handling”), or else by the use of boards laid on edge along the rows, on either side. (2) The other method is called the “new celery culture,” and in it the plants are set in beds eight inches apart each way (ten or twelve inches for large varieties), the idea being to make the tops of the plants supply the shade for the blanching. This method has two disadvantages: it requires extra heavy manuring and preparation of soil, and plenty of moisture; and even with this aid the stalks never attain the size of those grown in rows. The early crop should be ready in August. The quality is never so good as that of the later crops.
For the main or winter crop, sow the seed about April 1st. The same extra care must be taken as in sowing under glass. In hot, dry weather, shade the beds; never let them dry out. Transplant to second bed as soon as large enough to develop root system, before setting in the permanent position.
When setting in late June or July, be sure to put the plants in up to the hearts, not over, and set firmly. Give level clean culture until about August 15th, when, with the hoe, wheel hoe or cultivator, earth should be drawn up along the rows, followed by “handling.” The plants for early use are trenched (see Chapter XIV), but that left for late use must be banked up, which is done by making the hills higher still, by the use of the spade. For further treatment see Chapter XIV.
Care must be taken not to perform any work in the celery patch while the plants are wet.
_Corn salad or Fetticus:_--This salad plant is not largely grown. It is planted about the middle of April and given the same treatment as spinach.
_Chicory:_--This also is little grown. The Witloof, a kind now being used, is however much more desirable. Sow in drills, thin to five or six inches, and in August or September, earth up, as with early celery, to blanch the stalks, which are used for salads, or boiled. Cut-back roots, planted in boxes of sand placed in a moderately warm dark place and watered, send up a growth of tender leaves, making a fine salad.
_Chervil:_--Curled chervil is grown the same as parsley and used for garnishing or seasoning. The root variety resembles the stump-rooted carrot, the quality being improved by frost. Sow in April or September. Treat like parsnip.
_Chives:_--Leaves are used for imparting an onion flavor. A clump of roots set put will last many years.
_Cress:_--Another salad little grown in the home garden. To many, however, its spicy, pungent flavor is particularly pleasing. It is easily grown, but should be planted frequently—about every two weeks. Sow in drills, twelve to fourteen inches apart. Its only special requirement is moisture. Water is not necessary, but if a bed can be started in some clean stream or pool, it will take care of itself.
Upland cress or “pepper grass” grows in ordinary garden soil, being one of the very first salads. Sow in April, in drills twelve or fourteen inches apart. It grows so rapidly that it may be had in five or six weeks. Sow frequently for succession, as it runs to seed very quickly.
Dandelion:_--This is an excellent “greens,” but as the crop is not ready until second season from planting it is not grown as much as it should be. Sow the seed in April—very shallow. It is well to put in with it a few lettuce or turnip seed to mark the rows. Drills should be one foot apart, and plants thinned to eight to twelve inches.
The quality is infinitely superior to the wild dandelion and may be still further improved by blanching. If one is content to take a small crop, a cutting may be made in the fall, the same season as the sowing.
_Endive:_--This salad vegetable is best for fall use. Sow in June or July, in drills eighteen to twenty-four inches apart, and thin to ten to twelve inches. To be fit for use it must be blanched, either by tying up with raffia in a loose bunch, or by placing two wide boards in an inverted V shape over the rows; and in either case be sure the leaves are dry when doing this.
_Kale:_--Kale is a non-heading member of the cabbage group, used as greens, both in spring and winter. It is improved by frost, but even then is a little tough and heavy. Its chief merit lies in the fact that it is easily had when greens of the better sorts are hard to get, as it may be left out and cut as needed during winter—even from under snow. The fall crop is given the same treatment as late cabbage. Siberian kale is sown in September and wintered-over like spinach.
_Lettuce:_--Lettuce is grown in larger quantities than all the other salad plants put together. By the use of hotbeds it may be had practically the year round. The first sowing for the spring under-glass crop is made in January or February. These are handled as for the planting outside—see Chapter VIII.—but are set in the frames six to eight inches each way, according to variety. Ventilate freely during the day when over 55° give 45° at night. Water only when needed, but then thoroughly, and preferably only on mornings of bright sunny days.
The plants for first outdoor crops are handled as already described. After April 1st planting should be made every two weeks. During July and August the seed-beds must be kept shaded and moist. In August, first sowing for fall under-glass crop is made, which can be matured in coldframes; later sowings going into hotbeds.
In quality, I consider the hard-heading varieties superior to the loose-heading sorts, but of course that is a matter of taste. The former is best for crops maturing from the middle of June until September, the latter for early and late sowings, as they mature more quickly. The cos type is good for summer growing but should be tied up to blanch well. To be at its best, lettuce should be grown very rapidly, and the use of top-dressings of nitrate are particularly beneficial with this crop. The ground should be light, warm, and very rich, and cultivation shallow but frequent.
_Mushroom:_--While the mushroom is not a garden crop, strictly speaking, still it is one of the most delicious of all vegetables for the home table, and though space does not permit a long description of the several details of its culture, I shall try to include all the essential points as succinctly as possible, (1) The place for the bed may be found in any sheltered, dry spot—cellar, shed or greenhouse— where an even temperature of 53 to 58 degrees can be maintained and direct sunlight excluded. (Complete darkness is not necessary; it is frequently so considered, but only because in dark places the temperature and moisture are apt to remain more even.) (2) The material is fresh horse-manure, from which the roughest of the straw has been shaken out. This is stacked in a compact pile and trampled—wetting down if at all dry—to induce fermentation. This process must be repeated four or five times, care being required never to let the heap dry out and burn; time for re-stacking being indicated by the heap’s steaming. At the second or third turning, add about one-fifth, in bulk, of light loam. (3) When the heat of the pile no longer rises above 100 to 125 degrees (as indicated by a thermometer) put into the beds, tramping or beating very firmly, until about ten inches deep. When the temperature recedes to 90 degrees, put in the spawn. Each brick will make a dozen or so pieces. Put these in three inches deep, and twelve by nine inches apart, covering lightly. Then beat down the surface evenly. After eight days, cover with two inches of light loam, firmly compacted. This may be covered with a layer of straw or other light material to help maintain an even degree of moisture, but should be removed as soon as the mushrooms begin to appear. Water only when the soil is very dry; better if water is warmed to about 60 degrees. When gathering never leave stems in the bed as they are likely to breed maggots. The crop should appear in six to eight weeks after spawning the bed.
_Parsley:_--This very easily grown little plant should have at least a row or two in the seed-bed devoted to it. For use during winter, a box or a few pots may be filled with cut-back roots and given moderate temperature and moisture. If no frames are on hand, the plants usually will do well in a sunny window.
Parsley seed is particularly slow in germinating. Use a few seeds of turnip or carrot to indicate the rows, and have the bed very finely prepared.
_Rhubarb:_--This is another of the standard vegetables which no home garden should be without. For the bed pick out a spot where the roots can stay without interfering with the plowing and working of the garden—next the asparagus bed, if in a good early location, will be as good as any. One short row will supply a large family. The bed is set either with roots or young plants, the former being the usual method. The ground should first be made as deep and rich as possible. If poor, dig out the rows, which should be four or five feet apart, to a depth of two feet or more and work in a foot of good manure, refilling with the best of the soil excavated. Set the roots about four feet apart in the row, the crowns being about four inches below the surface. No stalks should be cut the first season; after that they will bear abundantly many years.
In starting from seed, sow in March in frames or outside in April; when well along-about the first of June—set out in rows, eighteen by twelve inches. By the following April they will be ready for their permanent position.
Manuring in the fall, as with asparagus, to be worked in in the spring, is necessary for good results. I know of no crop which so quickly responds to liberal dressings of nitrate of soda, applied first just as growth starts in in the spring. The seed stalks should be broken off as fast as they appear, until late in the season.
_Sea-Kale:_--When better known in this country, sea-kale will be given a place beside the asparagus and rhubarb, for, like them, it may be used year after year. Many believe it superior in quality to either asparagus or cauliflower.
It is grown from either seed or pieces of the root, the former method, being probably the more satisfactory. Sow in April, in drills fourteen inches apart, thinning to five or six. Transplant in the following spring as described for rhubarb—but setting three feet apart each way. In the fall, after the leaves have fallen—and every succeeding fall— cover each crown with a shovelful of clean sand and then about eighteen inches of earth, dug out from between the rows. This is to blanch the spring growth. After cutting, shovel off the earth and sand and enrich with manure for the following season’s growth.
_Spinach:_--For the first spring crop of this good and wholesome vegetable, the seed is sown in September, and carried over with a protection of hay or other rough litter. Crops for summer and fall are sown in successive plantings from April on, Long-Standing being the best sort to sow after about May 15th. Seed of the New Zealand spinach should be soaked several hours in hot water, before being planted.
For the home garden, I believe that the Swiss chard beet is destined to be more popular, as it becomes known, than any of the spinaches. It is sown in plantings from April on, but will yield leaves all season long; they are cut close to the soil, and in an almost incredibly short time the roots have thrown up a new crop, the amount taken during the season being wonderful.
Spinach wants a strong and very rich soil, and dressings of nitrate show good results.
THE FRUIT CROPS
Under this heading are included:
Bean, dwarf Bean, pole
Melon, musk Melon, water
Most of these vegetables differ from both the preceding groups in two important ways. First of all, the soil should not be made too rich, especially in nitrogenous manures, such as strong fresh yard-manure; although light dressings of nitrate of soda are often of great help in giving them a quick start—as when setting out in the field. Second, they are warm-weather loving plants, and nothing is gained by attempting to sow or set out the plants until all danger from late frosts is over, and the ground is well warmed up. (Peas, of course, are an exception to this rule, and to some extent the early beans.) Third, they require much more room and are grown for the most part in hills.
Light, warm, “quick,” sandy to gravelly soils, and old, fine, well rotted manure—applied generally in the hill besides that plowed under, make the best combination for results. Such special hills are prepared by marking off, digging out the soil to the depth of eight to ten inches, and eighteen inches to two feet square, and incorporating several forkfuls of the compost. A little guano, or better still cottonseed meal, say ½ to 1 gill of the former, or a gill of the latter, mixed with the compost when putting into the hill, will also be very good. Hills to be planted early should be raised an inch or two above the surface, unless they are upon sloping ground.
The greatest difficulty in raising all the vine fruits—melons, etc.— is in successfully combating their insect enemies—the striped beetle, the borer and the flat, black “stink-bug,” being the worst of these. Remedies will be suggested in the next chapter. But for the home garden, where only a few hills of each will be required, by far the easiest and the only sure way of fighting them will be by protecting with bottomless boxes, large enough to cover the hills, and covered with mosquito netting, or better, “plant-protecting cloth,” which has the additional merit of giving the hills an early start. These boxes may be easily made of one-half by eight-inch boards, or from ordinary cracker-boxes, such as used for making flats. Plants so protected in the earlier stages of growth will usually either not be attacked, or will, with the assistance of the remedies described in the following chapter, be able to withstand the insect’s visits.
_Beans, dwarf:_--Beans are one of the most widely liked of all garden vegetables—and one of the most easily grown. They are very particular about only one thing—not to have a heavy wet soil. The dwarf or bush sorts are planted in double or single drills, eighteen to twenty-four inches apart, and for the first sowing not much over an inch deep. Later plantings should go in two to three inches deep, according to soil. Ashes or some good mixed fertilizer high in potash, applied and well mixed in at time of planting, will be very useful.
As the plants gain size they should be slightly hilled—to help hold the stalks up firmly. Never work over or pick from the plants while they are wet. The dwarf limas should not be planted until ten to fourteen days later than the early sorts. Be sure to put them in edgeways, with the eye down, and when there is no prospect of immediate rain, or the whole planting is fairly sure to be lost.
_Beans, pole:_--The pole varieties should not go in until about the time for the limas. Plant in specially prepared hills (see above) ten to twenty seeds, and when well up thin, leaving three to five. Poles are best set when preparing the hills. A great improvement over the old-fashioned pole is made by nailing building laths firmly across 2 x 3-in. posts seven or eight feet high (see illustration). To secure extra early pods on the poles pinch back the vines at five feet high.
_Corn:_--For extra early ears, corn may easily be started on sod, as directed for cucumbers. Be sure, however, not to get into the open until danger from frost is over—usually at least ten days after it is safe for the first planting, which is seldom made before May 1st. Frequent, shallow cultivation is a prime necessity in growing this crop. When well up, thin to four stalks to a hill—usually five to seven kernels being planted. A slight hilling when the tassels appear will be advisable. Plant frequently for succession crops. The last sowing may be made as late as the first part of July if the seed is well firmed in, to assure immediate germination. Sweet corn for the garden is frequently planted in drills, about three feet apart, and thinning to ten to twelve inches.
_Cucumber:_--This universal favorite is easily grown if the striped beetle is held at bay. For the earliest fruits start on sod in the frames: Cut out sods four to six inches square, where the grass indicates rich soil. Pack close together in the frame, grass side down, and push seven or eight seeds into each, firmly enough to be held in place, covering with about one and a half inches of light soil; water thoroughly and protect with glass or cloth, taking care to ventilate, as described in Chapter VIII. Set out in prepared hills after danger of frost is over.
Outside crop is planted directly in the hills, using a dozen or more seeds and thinning to three or four.
_Egg-plant:_--The egg-plant is always started under glass, for the Northern States, and should be twice transplanted, the second time into pots, to be of the best size when put out. This should not be until after tomatoes are set, as it is perhaps the tenderest of all garden vegetables as regards heat. The soil should be very rich and as moist as can be selected. If dry, irrigating will be necessary. This should not be delayed until the growth becomes stunted, as sudden growth then induced is likely to cause the fruit to crack.
Watch for potato-bugs on your egg-plants. They seem to draw these troublesome beetles as a magnet does iron filings, and I have seen plants practically ruined by them in one day. As they seem to know there will not be time to eat the whole fruit they take pains to eat into the stems. The only sure remedy is to knock them off with a piece of shingle into a pan of water and kerosene. Egg-plants are easily burned by Paris green, and that standard remedy cannot be so effectively used as on other crops; hellebore or arsenate of lead is good. As the season of growth is very limited, it is advisable, besides having the plants as well developed as possible when set out, to give a quick start with cotton-seed meal or nitrate, and liquid manure later is useful, as they are gross feeders. The fruits are ready to eat from the size of a turkey egg to complete development.
_Melon, musk:_--The culture of this delicious vegetable is almost identical with that of the cucumber. If anything it is more particular about having light soil. If put in soil at all heavy, at the time of preparing the hill, add sand and leaf-mould to the compost, the hills made at least three feet square, and slightly raised. This method is also of use in planting the other vine crops.
_Melon, water:_--In the warm Southern States watermelons may be grown cheaply, and they are so readily shipped that in the small home gardens it will not pay to grow them, for they take up more space than any other vegetable, with the exception of winter squash. The one advantage of growing them, where there is room, is that better quality than that usually to be bought may be obtained. Give them the hottest spot in the garden and a sandy quick soil. Use a variety recommended for your particular climate. Give the same culture as for musk melon, except that the hill should be at least six to ten feet apart each way. By planting near the edge of the garden, and pinching back the vines, room may be saved and the ripening up of the crop made more certain.
_Okra:_--Although the okra makes a very strong plant—and incidentally is one of the most ornamental of all garden vegetables— the seed is quickly rotted by wet or cold. Sow not earlier than May 25th, in warm soil, planting thinly in drills, about one and a half inches deep, and thinning to a foot or so; cultivate as with corn in drills. All pods not used for soup or stems during summer may be dried and used in winter.
_Peas:_--With care in making successive sowings, peas may be had during a long season. The earliest, smooth varieties are planted in drills twelve to eighteen inches apart, early in April. These are, however, of very inferior quality compared to the wrinkled sorts, which may now be had practically as early as the others. With the market gardener, the difference of a few days in the maturing of the crop is of a great deal more importance than the quality, but for the home garden the opposite is true.
Another method of planting the dwarf-growing kinds is to make beds of four rows, six to eight inches apart, with a two-foot alley between beds. The tall-growing sorts must be supported by brush or in other ways; and are put about four feet apart in double rows, six inches apart. The early varieties if sown in August will usually mature a good fall crop. The early plantings should be made in light, dry soil and but one inch deep; the later ones in deep loam. In neither case should the ground be made too rich, especially in nitrogen; and it should not be wet when the seed is planted.
_Pepper:_--A dozen pepper plants will give abundance of pods for the average family. The varieties have been greatly improved within recent years in the quality of mildness.
The culture recommended for egg-plant is applicable also to the pepper. The main difference is that, although the pepper is very tender when young, the crop maturing in the autumn will not be injured by considerable frost.
_Pumpkin:_--The “sugar” or “pie” varieties of the pumpkin are the only ones used in garden culture, and these only where there is plenty of ground for all other purposes. The culture is the same as that for late squashes, which follows.
_Squash:_--For the earliest squash the bush varieties of Scallop are used; to be followed by the summer Crookneck and other summer varieties, best among which are the Fordhook and Delicata. For all, hills should be prepared as described at the beginning of this section and in addition it is well to mix with manure a shovelful of coal ashes, used to keep away the borer, to the attack of which the squash is particularly liable. The cultivation is the same as that used for melons or cucumbers, except that the hills for the winter sorts must be at least eight feet apart and they are often put twelve.
_Tomato:_--For the earliest crop, tomatoes are started about March 1st. They should be twice transplanted, and for best results the second transplanting should be put into pots—or into the frames, setting six to eight inches each way. They are not set out until danger of frost is over, and the ground should not be too rich; old manure used in the hill, with a dressing of nitrate at setting out, or a few days after, will give them a good start. According to variety, they are set three to five feet apart—four feet, where staking or trellising is given, as it should always be in garden culture, will be as much as the largest-growing plants require. It will pay well, both for quality and quantity of fruit, to keep most of the suckers cut or rubbed off. The ripening of a few fruits may be hastened by tying paper bags over the bunches, or by picking and ripening on a board in the hot sun. For ripening fruit after frost see Chapter XIV.
A sharp watch should be kept for the large green tomato-worm, which is almost exactly the color of the foliage. His presence may first be noticed by fruit and leaves eaten. Hand-picking is the best remedy. Protection must be made against the cutworm in localities where he works.
All the above, of course, will be considered in connection with the tabulated information as to dates, depths and distances for sowing, quantities, etc., given in the table in Chapter IV, and is supplemented by the information about insects, diseases and harvesting given in Chapters XIII and XIV, and especially in the Chapter on Varieties which follows, and which is given separately from the present chapter in order that the reader may the more readily make out a list, when planning his garden or making up his order sheet for the seedsman.