This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
Your correspondent "Alpha" deserves credit for his endeavours to substitute a neat for a cumbrous article, in the employment of oiled calico instead of bast matting. I do not think it would resist quite so much cold; but probably the difference of protection (and protection is now out of fashion) would not be great, and certainly, in every other respect, it has greatly the advantage. And as he hopes to improve his composition, I would suggest to him one I have used about ten years, which is light in weight, of a lemon colour, and dries quickly without much disagreeable smell:
Well-boiled linseed-oil, one quart; Soft soap, one ounce.
It will dry more quickly if three pints of oil are used to the ounce of soap, but I think the fabric is more likely to tear at the creases, and therefore I prefer the above proportions. When I first used it, I put it on in the way " Alpha " mentions; but I have since, where practicable, adopted the simpler plan of soaking the calico in the mixture and wringing it out, beginning at one end, and drawing it gradually through a small pancheon; by which method a large carriage-cloth is finished in a quarter of an hour, and less oil is used. It should be remembered that the cloth must be made into whatever form it is to have before using the composition, otherwise it will not be watertight at the seams, and therefore if nailed to a frame, the brush must be used.
I use it somewhat extensively, and find it answers many purposes well, and, where not exposed much to the sun, will last many years. I have a conducting tube of it to carry water to the other end of my garden.
Glass is now so cheap that no one need take this for a substitute; nevertheless I use a pent-house covering of this prepared calico to strike my Pelargonium and other cuttings, and have no reason to complain of the result. Even my Crusaders were trusted to it last season, and so will my Gipsy Brides be this; probably, also,.my In-comparables next.
Sailors occasionally employ it for waterproofing jackets, caps, leggings, bags, and other boating gear; but the composition for such purposes should be, Unboiled linseed-oil, one quart; Soft soap, one ounce: which takes longer drying; and when dry, the articles should be painted lightly over with highly boiled oil, to give them a shining appearance without impairing their pliability.
Now is the time to think of preparing these things.