In the Northern States fall-plowing best fits the soil for spring-planting. The soil is fined by the winter frosts and the chance of injury of the plants by cut-worms is much lessened. In the spring the soil is fitted for planting by merely harrowing the surface. For what is known as the matted-row system set the plants eighteen inches apart in the rows and make the rows four feet apart. In setting, reject all plants with dark-colored roots. The new plants of the previous year's growth should alone be planted, and they always have light-colored roots. The usual directions for planting are to prune the roots and spread them out in natural position as in planting a tree. In practice this is not found to be necessary or profitable. Planting with a narrow spade really gives better results. If the soil is in moist but not wet condition the spade is thrust down by a man walking backward. He draws the handle towards him until there is room to drop in the plant with roots spread out in fan shape. The assistant holds the plant in place while the spade is withdrawn and then presses the dirt firmly in the cavity and levels the surface so that the lower leaves are not buried. If the soil is a little sticky the man places the spade with its back away from him and presses it down six inches, moves it from him and then withdraws it. The assistant follows and places a plant with roots spread out laterally in the cavity, and it is firmed by another movement of the spade downward and toward the plant, when the boy again firms and levels the surface with his hands. This plan does not place the roots in natural position, but it gets them down to moisture, and when the plant begins to grow a new set of roots will start in natural position. Those with most experience favor planting the roots wet so that the fine earth will adhere to them, which is accomplished by keeping the plants in a pail with about two inches of water in the bottom. As the assistant picks up a plant for planting the dead leaves and surplus live ones are picked off.
From the start the soil should be kept mellow around the plants with a pronged hoe and the cultivator should be started soon after planting. The first runners are trained out in the line of the rows to fill up the vacancies and to be out of the way of close culture. As the season advances the rows are allowed to spread out as they fill up in the centre, and before culture ceases they should form matted rows from twelve to fourteen inches wide. Late in the fall, after the ground freezes the matted rows should be lightly covered with marsh hay if obtainable. If not, straw will answer the purpose, or any litter that does not lie in lumps and is fairly free from weed-seeds. The covering is not thick enough to exclude frost, but it prevents the alternate freezing and thawing of the winter period and lessens evaporation. If left on quite late in the spring, it also retards the period of blossoming, which is an advantage in some localities. Sometimes at the West, when a late frost is apprehended, the covering raked between the rows is returned as a protection. It is best to leave the raked-off covering between the row's until after the crop is picked. The coarsest of the straw is then taken out and the tramped-up particles are cultivated into the soil.