This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
It is but within these last few years that this admirable class of flowers has been brought into general notice, and during that time great improvement has taken place in the symmetry and substance of the blossoms, which has added much to their beauty, and rendered them still more attractive. The present mode of cultivating them as specimens, together with the peculiar fragrance they possess, unlike any other plant in cultivation, has deservedly won for them a place in the conservatory and the greenhouse, as well as the flower-border, where, under scientific treatment, they form a conspicuous and interesting feature, when studded with their noble blossoms of varied colours. The following successful mode of their culture from seed will, I trust, be acceptable to those of your numerous readers who admire the Petunia. About the beginning of March I prepare as much compost as I expect will be wanted for the season, by a mixture of one part decomposed leaf-mould, two parts rich peat, and a portion of silver-sand. At the same time I cleanse the pots or pans intended for use, that all may be sweetened and fit by the time the seed is to be sown, which is about the latter part of the month.
I commence operations by first sifting a little of the soil for sowing the seed upon, and carefully picking out all grubs and worms before using the same. I then put one inch of crocks at the bottom of the pan for drainage, and cover them with a little moss or coarse peat, to prevent the fine earth from running between, and fill up with the above compost, gently pressing it down with the hand till a smooth surface is obtained, when I sprinkle on the seed, distributing it as regularly as possible, and place the pan in a pit or frame where the heat ranges from 60° to 65°, with a sweet and humid atmosphere. In ten days, or a fortnight, the young plants will make their appearance, when care must be taken to preserve them from slugs, woodlice, etc, or the whole pan of plants may be devoured in one night. Give plenty of air; and, in order to keep them strong and stocky, raise the pans close up to the glass.
As soon as the plants begin to get crowded, I prepare more pans, filled after the manner described above; prick out all the largest, and return them to the same pit or frame, taking care to shade, and give air as often as necessary, till the plants have drawn fresh fibre. In a short time they will be fit to plant separately into 3-inch pots; they may then be removed to a cold frame, and a full supply of air must be given. As soon as they come into flower, select the best: those that are most circular, smooth on the edge, with the outline free from indentation, a stout corolla, and in colour the greatest novelty combined with quality. W. Young.
Manor House, New Cross.