I have, in several pages of "the Young Gardener's Assistant," reminded my readers that the various species of plants which are cultivated in our gardens and fields, require each their peculiar aliment, they having been collected from all the diversified climates and soils in our globe; and I would here add, that it is a matter of astonishment, that so large a proportion of the fruits of the earth should be produced in perfection in any one climate, especially in unfavourable weather, to which every part of the earth is at times liable.
In page 26 of the first part, I have furnished a classification of the most important vegetables cultivated in our gardens, in which I have shown that the most essential aliment to natives of warm climates is heat, and of temperate climates moisture, and that the three elements heat, air, and moisture, constitute the food of plants in general. I have also recommended my readers to make choice of the seasons best adapted to the various articles they may wish to cultivate, as it is an indubitable fact that the element essential to the production of some vegetables is destructive to others, which in reality cannot be raised at all under unpropitious circumstances In proof of the above assertion, I would remind the reader that various kinds of fruit are deficient in unfavourable seasons. Cherries for instance, in the event of a single week's rain, in a certain stage of growth, will rot on the trees; and it must be admitted that other fruits deteriorate, or lose their most essential flavour in the absence of suitable aliment. Why, then, I would ask, 6hould we expect potato crops to be uniformly good every year.
It would be difficult to name any production of the earth, that yields full and perfect crops annually; on the contrary, it is well known that famine has been of frequent occurrence in many populous countries, through short or defective supplies of the necessaries of life.
It is conceded by the generality of those who have investigated the subject of disease in potatoes, that the tubers soon become defective after the tops cease to grow; and common observation teacheth that when plants of a succulent nature are deprived of their functions or means of growing luxuriantly, they continue to deteriorate until their juices become so corrupt, that they not only die, but contaminate the earth in which they were planted, to the destruction of their neighbouring inmates of the garden or field; and even potato tubers, after being taken from the earth, will injure those which come in contact with them by the emission of their corrupt juices
Mr. Teschemacher, in a communication published in "the New England Farmer," observes, "That the potato decays previous to the appearance of worms, and that worms are never found in the sound part of the potato either eating their way in, or depositing their eggs, nor have 1 seen the worms in that part of the potato in which the fungus have already commenced vegetating; it is only in the rotten part that the worms exist after the fungus has caused the decay. These worms are uniform, and appear to be of the same species from whatever cause the decay may arise."
It is precisely the case with other kinds of vegetables, and also with fruit; and it is evident that all those worms, insects, and reptiles which prey upon the vegetable family, are more partial to that particular kind of vegetable matter which first generated them, than to any other; hence the Peach insects feed on its fruit in embryo, as well as in a state of, and even beyond maturity; the Cabbage worms also prey on plants of the same genera or species; and when those enemies of the vegetable family cannot obtain the parts which are the most palatable to them, or congenial to their nature, they will feed upon diseased trees, plants, or other matter, which contain similar juices, or nutriment, in preference to any other description of food.
It is generally allowed that the early planted potatoes have for the last two years, yielded as well as usual, and that they have been of very superior quality. It is only the late crops which are complained of. Now, it must be admitted that if the seed potatoes planted in June or July, whether raised here, or imported, had been diseased, they would have shown it at the time of their being cut and prepared for planting, as it is notorious that the discovery of defect is generally made at the time of gathering the crop, or soon after they are heaped together.
it must, however, be conceded, that seed potatoes kept until July for the purpose of late planting, may have become deteriorated, because those roots being biennial cannot be expected to retain their health and vigour to so late a period; which, in some measure, accounts for early varieties being more seriously affected by the extreme heat than the late keeping red-skinned varieties, which will retain their vegetative properties even in dry seasons, so as to produce a good crop if not retarded by being over heated, to which they are liable, especially if placed in contact with acrid manure, which is destructive to all descriptions of plants in hot dry weather. New land without manure generally produces the best crops in dry seasons
It may be observed farther, that when the leaves or vines of the potato wither prematurely through extreme heat, the tubers become af-fected to such a degree, that rain late in the season hastens their destruction instead of nurturing them, they consequently return to their native element.
From the above considerations, as well as from the knowledge I have acquired of the nature of plants in general, I have come to the conclusion that the alleged disease in potatoes was not occasioned by defective seed, but by the extreme heat of the Summer, followed by the excessive rain in Autumn.* In some instances the defect may have been accelerated by an injudicious use of acrid manure, and in others from their being planted in low undrained ground. It often happens that potatoes deteriorate from not being properly dried when taken from the ground, which on being heaped together, become heated, and consequently rot
All which is respectfully submitted.
New-York, February 1st, 1845
*As this review was elicited by the discussions relative to the defect in potatoes the last two years, the conclusion has special reference thereto. It must, however, be acknowledged, that the extremes of heat, cold, and moisture, are alike detrimental to vegetation in all seasons; and that hot dry summers are often attended with results as fatal to vegetable productions as the coldness of winter.