Potatoes. This is one of our staple vegetables, and with careful cultivation it can be made most profitable. When sowing on a large scale, ten cwts. of seed tubers are required to the acre, and the system of planting is to use the plough to open the trenches; workers, women mostly, follow the plough, dropping in the seed, and the furrows are then closed by the same means as they were opened. When following this plan, the rows are usually slightly over two feet apart, the setts, as the tubers are called, being from a foot to fifteen inches asunder.
When growing on a smaller scale, however, different methods must be followed. During the winter months the ground should be well and deeply dug, and liberally manured with stable or farmyard refuse. At the end of February or the beginning of March, a sowing of first earlies may be made, other sowings following at intervals with the second varieties, till, by the first or second week in April, the main-crop classes are in the ground. First early sorts are set in rows twenty-four inches apart; seconds, twenty-six inches apart; main-crop, twenty-eight inches apart. The space between the setts is usually from fifteen to eighteen inches, according to variety. At the time of sowing a drill is opened with a large hoe, at least three inches deep, into which the seed is placed; it is then covered in by the same means, and earth drawn up in ridge form till the seed is covered with five inches of soil.
When the green tops are well through, the ground is broken down and hoed, and as soon as the plants are six or eight inches in height, earth is drawn up to them in the way familiar to everyone who has been in a kitchen garden in the summer time. The art of ridging up consists of keeping the base firm and drawing up the earth not too steeply, so that rain would wash it down, and yet sufficiently high to give due support to the plants. As soon as the flowering period has passed and the haulm begins to die down, digging may commence with the early varieties.
When sowing potatoes, rub off the shoots from the tuber till only the two or three strongest remain; buy good, firm seed; do not over-enrich the land, or your crop will be all haulm and little tuber; keep down the weeds assiduously. Dig potatoes from day to day as required during the summer months; it is a mistake to dig a week's supply at once.
Varieties: First early - Ninetyfold, Sharpe's Victor, and Early Rose; second early-beauty of Hebron, Myatt's Ashleaf, and British Queen. Main-crop and late-the Factor, King Edward VII, and Up-to-date. Scotch and Irish seed is to be highly recommended, and a change of seed should be made every second season.
Radish. There is a steady demand for small radishes for salading, but this is more a poor man's crop, better in keeping with the cottage garden. Successional sowings of seed are advisable every third week in drills a foot apart, and the seedlings need thinning when large enough to handle. The ground should be in good heart, but not freshly manured. From February to August is the period of sowing.
Rhubarb. Rhubarb is always popular, particularly early in the season, when it commands a good price. Though it may be grown from seed, the plant is usually raised by dividing the crowns, an operation that should be performed every third year, or the stools will become too crowded. A very rich, deeply worked soil is required for rhubarb, and an open situation is advisable. The usual plan is to plant out the crowns in rows a yard apart, with a yard between each crown, and during January littery manure is scattered over the entire bed. The greatest care must be taken when gathering rhubarb, especially in the early spring, when the sticks are as brittle as glass. Grasp the stick low down near the crown between the finger and thumb, and then with a firm, steady pressure pull it away. If a stick is broken it will "bleed," and lose its flavour, and the same remark applies to the removal of the green top, which must not be cut too close to the stalk.
Rhubarb may well be forced by raising a crown or two late in December, and placing it under the stage in a greenhouse or in a deep frame. Many gardeners use pots for forcing outdoor rhubarb, and at most brickworks special pots are made for the purpose, costing half-a-crown or three shillings apiece. The writer, however, finds ordinary chimney-pots equally serviceable, and the cost is but half, a pot nearly two feet in height retailing at fifteenpence. Whether a rhubarb-pot or a flower-pot be used, a little loose straw should be placed inside, and a piece of slate laid across the mouth.
Spinach. This is a regular market-garden crop, easy of cultivation, and quickly grown and cleared. It makes a capital catch crop, and is often grown between rows of peas. The spring spinach is sown in drills a foot apart from March to June, and the seedlings, when they appear, thinned till they are six inches asunder. Prickly spinach is sown in August and September, and matures during the late autumn; the treatment is much the same as for the round-seeded spring variety, except that it is not thinned so hard.
Varieties: (Spring) Early Giant; and (Autumn) Longstanding Prickly.
Shallot. The shallot belongs to the onion family, and there is an old saying that it should be planted on the shortest day, and lifted on the longest. Certainly this crop should be in the ground by January, and it is grown in drills a foot apart, with the seed bulbs nine inches apart in the row. The soil should be rich and well worked, and there are few subjects that appreciate bonfire ashes more than the shallot. Keep the crop well hoed during its period of growth, and lift and dry off in July, when the "grass" has withered.
Tomato. Plants may be bought late in May, and bedded out with a sporting chance of success. The plants should be set out if possible under the shelter of a south wall, and the growth should be confined as far as possible to a single stem, lateral shoots being pinched out as they appear. This is a crop that should be mulched with littery manure, during the prevalence of hot, dry weather. When sowing tomato seed in boxes in the spring set the seeds an inch apart.
Varieties: Carter's Sunrise, Challenger, and Abundance. To be continued.
Sowing vegetable marrow! in 3-inch pots. Only one seed must be put in a pot, and the soil should be light and sandy