Liquid manure plays a most important part in the work of a floral farm. In deed , liquid manure is essential to bring blossom to perfection, to hurry it when it is flagging, and to save a possible failure now and again. The usual plan is to keep an old tub in which manure may be placed and allowed to stand; the tub is kept full of water, and about a quarter full of the manure. Liquid manure from a tub must only be applied to the roots of plants, and in every case should be diluted thoroughly with clear water before use.
Soot-water is another form of liquid manure that is most effective. Soot contains a goodly proportion of nitrogen, which is an invaluable fertiliser, and it also promotes good colouring with the aid of the carbon it contains. To make soot-water, fill a bag with soot, and suspend it in a tub or bath of water for at least twenty-four hours, stirring from time to time. Even soot-water requires to be diluted slightly before it is applied; and with all kinds of stimulants and fertilisers one should be exceedingly careful to guard against an overdose, feeling one's way and only administering a strong tonic when positive that it will be beneficial.
The creed of breed counts for a very great deal in flower-growing; and if success is to follow one's efforts, nothing but the very latest and best must be raised. For this reason the lady flower-farmer must purchase her seed from the most reliable source, for economy in this direction would be fatal. Get good seed, cultivate it well, and you will at least deserve to be successful.
The simplest way of making soot-water, a liquid fertiliser much used in the cultivation of flowers
Naturally, with professional gardening, one should save as much seed as possible at home. True, change of seed is advisable from time to time, but for several seasons one may work with the home-grown product if the initial stock is fresh and good. The usual plan with seed-saving is for the master or mistress to go through the ranks of the flowers, and to pick out those that are remark-able either for size, beauty, or richness of colouring; against these specimens a piece of stick is set, or bast is tied to the plant to differentiate it from the others, and to signify to those who pick the blooms that it is to be saved for its seed to ripen.
To ripen seed to perfection, it must remain in the open to be sun-dried, though the final drying may take place under cover. Directly the seed-pods are dry, and the seeds appear to have ripened sufficiently, they should be collected and stored away in paper bags till required for sowing. Upon the bags should be written particulars of the flower; and if the bags can be suspended in a dry, airy place from a line so much the better.
Even on a holding where flowers are the mainstay, there is certain to be a good deal of waste plant matter. The best possible plan is to institute a rubbish heap in some out-of-the-way corner where all such matter may be carted and stored. From time to time it should be turned with a fork, and if a little lime be mingled with it so much the better. When the heap has completely rotted, it may be dug into the ground, and its effect will be to enrich and feed the soil.
Begonias. This is a showy enough plant in the garden, but there is little demand for the blooms. It is a tuberous-rooted plant, the roots being bedded out late in May about ten inches apart. Greenhouse heat is required to nurse the tubers through the early spring when growth is commencing.
Campanula. There are several sorts of campanula, many of them too small to be of use for marketing. There are one or two perennial kinds, however, that may be grown, particularly the large white, and there is also the familiar Canterbury bell. This latter subject is treated as a biennial; that is to say, seed should be sown in early summer for blooming the following spring. The cup-and-saucer variety sells well if grown in large, showy spikes, but it is not a good market flower.
Chrysanthemum. Without a doubt this is one of our most profitable flowers, even when grown without heat, and it may almost be called a rent-payer in a small holding. Certainly, as much as sixpence per bloom may be expected from extra fine flowers grown under glass, and even the outdoor varieties may be made most remunerative.
To start outdoor chrysanthemum culture one must purchase a selection of rooted cuttings of the best varieties, preferably from a nurseryman who makes a speciality of this plant. The larger growing varieties should be planted a yard apart all ways, whilst the smaller sorts may be crowded rather closer together. The principal demand is for the wavy, Japanese varieties, with their straggly, shaggy blooms; and the most certain sellers are the white sorts.
The cuttings should be bedded out in May, and should be stopped back when about eight inches in height - that is to say, the tips should be pinched out so that bushy growth may be ensured. As soon as the flower buds appear a proportion of them should be removed, according to the strength of the plant, and this disbudding should continue from time to time as required. The fewer the blooms that are allowed to mature, within reason, the better will be the individual blooms.
The chrysanthemum is a plant that requires a rich, well-dug soil, and plenty of leaf mould should be provided. Liquid manure should be given at the time of blossoming, and the taller growing varieties will require to be strongly staked on account of the late summer winds. It is an easy matter, comparatively speaking, to strike cuttings of chrysanthemums, but a light, sandy compost must be used. With outdoor varieties, the clumps must be lifted in the late spring, and divided by carefully breaking them asunder with the fingers. Almost each section removed from the clump will root, but regular watering is essential in dry weather.
The clumps of outdoor chrysanthemums are lifted in the spring, and broken apart. Each of the sections will then make a separate plant
The cultivation of chrysanthemums under glass is a science and an art, and a good deal of practical experience and personal tuition are required to instil the rudiments into a beginner's mind. At the same time, there are few floral subjects that pay better.
Coreopsis. Like most members of the daisy family, the coreopsis sells well, for the simple reason that it lasts for a long time in water. Then, again, it is always bright, and the fact that it has long stems is very much in its favour. Coreopsis grandiflora is the variety usually grown. It is a perennial, and if one elects to buy plants, they should be bedded out, rather more than a foot apart, in April. Seed should be sown in May, and the resulting plants will bloom the following season.
Dahlia. Everyone knows the dahlia, but, strangely enough, it is not a market favourite. Whether it is the unwieldiness or the propensity for encouraging earwigs that is against it, it is hard to say, but it is far more likely that it has been robbed of its popularity by the chrysanthemum. The best-selling dahlia in most of our markets is the improved single variety, which is more like an overgrown but brightly coloured daisy. The cactus dahlia comes next in market estimation, but, in the South of England at all events, the somewhat clumsy pom-pom finds few customers.
The dahlia is a hungry subject, revelling in extremely rich land, and in dry weather it requires an abundance of water. Bedding out takes place the first week in June, and a basin-like hollow should be left about the plant for the purpose of watering. At the time of planting a stout stake must be provided; for were the stick driven into the ground later, there is a strong probability that it would pierce the newly formed tuber.
The large growing dahlias require to be bedded out five feet apart, but the dwarf varieties may be set much closer together. The ingrowing shoots, and the side shoots towards the base should be pinched out; and if well-decayed manure is laid about the roots in August, the bearing period will be extended until the first frosts have blackened the foliage. To be continued.