Author of "The Farmers' Friend" "The Family Gardener," etc.
Garden lights and frames are a positive necessity in any well-conducted market garden. True, they need not be purchased for use the first season, when capital is slender; but, at the same time, the sooner they are provided the better, for they will speedily pay for themselves.
In the majority of market gardens it is customary to work with frames twelve feet in length by six feet in width; at the rear of the frame they rise eighteen inches from the ground, whilst at the front they are exactly a foot in height. Such a frame as this will bring on a considerable amount of seedlings, and will be in use during the greater part of the year. It should be divided so that there are three lights, but actual interior partitions are not essential. The cost of such a frame must depend upon local circumstances. The writer owns one for which he paid a village carpenter forty-five shillings, but there are firms who advertise in the newspapers, and who charge three guineas for a similar article, which, though it may be more highly finished, can be of no more actual service.
The interior of the frame should be tarred, and the exterior painted, except for the lower six inches, which had better be also tarred. If the paintwork is white, so much the better, and the glass in the lights should be so arranged that the panes at the top overlap those below, so that the water may run off, and not percolate into the frame itself, as would happen were they placed the reverse way.
As for the uses of a frame, their name is legion. First of all, frames are employed as covers for hot-beds, and their utility, without this bottom heat, is also considerable. In the height of summer they may be made up without lights to accommodate vegetable marrows and ridge cucumbers, in the autumn they will serve as receptacles in which to strike cuttings.
To deal with the hot-bed, it will be as well
To make up a cold frame, well-decayed manure should be used, and should be thoroughly mingled with the soil. Cold frames are invaluable for bringing on early seedlings and protecting them from frost to explain that fresh stable manure, stacked up tightly, generates what is known as "bottom heat," and under these conditions seeds will rapidly germinate. The art of making up an efficient hot-bed consists of obtaining the manure in a green state, and of turning it with a garden fork at least once a day for three consecutive days, so that the waste gases may escape; it is then built up in an oblong heap about a foot larger on each side than the actual frame, care being taken that the manure is laid perfectly evenly and well trodden down so that displacement is impossible as the stack settles. Upon this heap of manure the frame is placed, and inside some well-broken soil to the depth of six inches is provided.
Under these conditions the seed sown will quickly shoot, and the only attention necessary, except judicious watering, is to open the lights on genial days and to keep them tightly closed during a spell of inclement weather. Lettuce, cauliflower, peas, carrots, cucumber, French beans, early cabbage, cress (to cut young), radishes, and seedling tomatoes are the subjects usually dealt with in a hot-bed, and experience will quickly teach the amount of heat required. Some of the crops named will grow so quickly as to mature in the hot-bed, but the majority will have to be afterwards transplanted to the open ground, and in these cases hardening off will be necessary, this operation being attended to by adjusting the lights daily.
A cold frame is of inestimable value for bringing on early seedlings, and tiding them over the period of frosts and keen winds, when, if they were in the open, they would be destroyed. The subjects named above are also brought on in a cold frame, which, as its name implies, has no bottom heat, though there is no advantage in sowing carrots in this way, as they do not readily transplant. Generally speaking, a hot-bed is used for very early forced crops, and a cold frame for the later produce.
So far as science has gone at present, artificial manures cannot be employed to take the place of farmyard or stable refuse. The artificials may, however, be made of inestimable value if used in the nature of a pick-me-up, or stimulant, and most crops may be improved to a tremendous extent by using the right chemical fertiliser.
When to Use Artificial Manure
Briefly, root crops improve under the influence of mineral superphosphate or basic slag; peas, beans, and leguminous plants benefit from basic slag; the cabbage family asks for nitrate of soda. Basic slag is best if applied at the time of sowing, and it must be evenly distributed at the rate of six cwt. to the acre for general market crops. Superphosphate is best when applied to the ground at the time of sowing the seed, and in market gardens four cwts. to the acre is sufficient. Nitrate of soda is provided for a crop that is making rapid growth, and consequently is in danger of calling upon its roots to supply more nutriment than the ground will yield. A convincing experiment is to top-dress a crop of cabbages with the nitrate, leaving one row undressed, and to mark the disparity. Two cwt. of nitrate of soda per acre for general market crops is about the correct proportion, but land in good heart should not require so much, and the fertiliser is scattered broadcast among the crops, and either hoed in or allowed to lie and be washed in by the rain.
As for the cost of artificial manures, basic slag averages 6s., nitrate of soda 14s., and superphosphate (mineral) 7s. each per cwt. If in doubt as to the actual proportion of one cwt. to the acre, it may be mentioned that reduced it gives roughly a third of an ounce to the square yard. Generally speaking, the proportion may be judged by lightly dusting over the ground with the hand, reckoning a small handful according to experiment actually made with the fertiliser and scales.
Just one word of caution in the matter of artificial manures. It is highly advisable to make frequent changes with the fertiliser employed. Obviously, if you apply one manure for a number of years, the land becomes burdened with that manure, and the component parts of the soil are overbalanced. Where you give lime for a period you must change to nitrogen, and vice versa. Artificial manuring is a science demanding careful thought and patient reasoning.
Onions (continued). The thinnings from an onion-bed are disposed of for saladings. and during the spring months command a good price; indeed, many gardeners grow supplies entirely to meet this demand, the variety White Lisbon being used for the purpose.
To ensure large onions of the "Spanish" class, sowing should take place as early in August as possible. During the winter months the crop is kept free from weeds, and in March the seedlings are bedded out in rich land twelve inches apart all ways. From that time they are kept well hoed, with the bed in clean tilth, till the early autumn, when the crop is lifted and stored in a dry; airy place that is frost proof. It is a good plan just before the final ripening to bend down the tops of the onion plants so that the "neck" is broken.
The spring sowing is principally to obtain salading, pickling, and the smaller flavouring varieties. The seedlings are bedded out seven or eight inches apart all ways, and lifted when they have ripened off.
Varieties: For autumn sowing: Giant Rocca, White Lisbon (for early spring use), and Giant Tripoli. For spring sowing: Ailsa Craig, James's Long Keeping, and Bedfordshire Champion.
Parsnip. A very deep, firm seed-bed is required for this crop, which will not bear transplanting. In the autumn the ground should be dressed with manure fairly free from long straw, and well dug over, so that the surface may lie rough during the winter. In the early spring the ground should be levelled, and sowing should take place in February or March, when the ground is fairly dry and will work well. The drills should be fourteen inches apart, and the seed sown an inch deep. Sow thinly, and when the seedlings are two inches high, hoe out till at the final thinning there are ten inches from plant to plant. Keep the hoe going through the summer months, and early in November lift the first supplies, allowing the remainder of the crop to occupy the ground till it is required for use, unless, of course, there is a danger of the site becoming waterlogged.
Varieties: The Student, Hollow Crown, and Lisbonnais.
Peas. There are many market gardeners who devote themselves almost entirely to peas, but, in the writer's opinion, insufficient attention is paid to the individuality of this crop, and a lady gardener working for a family hamper connection should be able to supply better produce than the average greengrocer has at his disposal. Much depends upon successional sowing to get the best results, and this is a crop that really pays for painstaking cultivation.
In the case of the dwarf early varieties the soil should be well dug and liberally manured, but with the stronger-growing main-crop kinds the trench system is imperative. The trenches should be cut so that they run north and south, and when the top spit of soil has been thrown out the substratum should be turned completely over with the garden fork, well-decayed manure being mingled with it. The top spit, with which manure has been mixed, should then be returned, and the whole trodden, for peas abominate a loose seed-bed., The seed should be covered with two inches of soil, and should be sown thinly; if the majority of the seeds germinate, actual thinning must take place. When the plants of the tall-growing varieties have reached six inches in height, sticks should be provided. Hard wooded sticks are by far the better, the softer woods encouraging fungus pests. The sticks should be set up firmly, sloping slightly to left or right, but the tops should be partially open and not leaning towards one another like an inverted letter V. With the main-crop varieties a surface mulch of well-decayed manure will tide them over a possible drought. As for the sticks, they are no mean item of expense; at the same time, they are obtainable everywhere, the average charge being from 4d. to 5 1/2d. per bundle of about 25 sticks. When growing for market purposes, where bulk counts more than high individual quality, all varieties of peas grown should be of dwarf habit, on account of the cost of sticks. Even the main-crop marrowfat peas are cultivated in dwarf varieties for market gardens.
Varieties: Early (no sticks required) Sherwood, Little Marvel and Little Gem; second early (average height 3 feet) Senator, Fillbasket, and Yorkshire Hero. Main-crop: (height five to six feet) Quite Content. Telephone, and Alderman. Ne Plus Ultra is a splendid late wrinkled pea, growing six feet in height, and the writer has gathered from this variety in mid-september. To be continued.