One of the most beautiful colour-effects I saw in Ireland was a small lake planted with great clumps of Dog-wood, with its crimson branches beside the bright yellow of the Golden Willow.
A great deal might be done by a study of the most suitable Apple-trees to grow in Ireland. There seemed to me no reason why they should not do as well there as in Herefordshire or Normandy, but I have been since told that the want of sun does interfere with their ripening. This, however, only means that extra study must be given as to which kinds should be planted. The chief requirements of Apple-trees are slight pruning in the winter and tying round the stem in October a band of sticky paper, to prevent the female moth, who has no wings, from crawling up and laying her eggs in the branches, to come to life the following spring and devour leaves and blossoms. Apples are most excellent wholesome food. An Apple is quite as nourishing as a Potato, and a roast Apple with brown sugar is a far more palatable dinner for a sick child. Apples very likely might be plentiful in seasons when Potatoes did badly, and in districts near to markets they would fetch a much more fancy price. The following I must have copied out of some old book or newspaper: 'Chemically, the Apple is composed of vegetable fibre, albumen, sugar, gum, chlorophyll, malic acid, gallic acid, lime, and much water. Furthermore, the Apple contains a larger percentage of phosphorus than any other fruit or vegetable. This phosphorus, says the "Family Doctor," is admirably adapted for renewing the essential nervous matter, lethicin, of the brain and spinal cord. It is perhaps for the same reason, rudely understood, that old Scandinavian traditions represent the Apple as the food of the gods, who, when they felt themselves to be growing feeble and infirm, resorted to this fruit for renewing their powers of mind and body. Also the acids of the Apple are of great use for men of sedentary habits whose livers are sluggish in action, these acids serving to eliminate from the body noxious matters which, if retained, would make the brain heavy and dull, or bring about jaundice or skin eruptions and other allied troubles. Some such experience must have led to our custom of taking Apple sauce with roast pork, rich goose, and like dishes. The malic acid of ripe Apples, either raw or cooked, will neutralise any excess of chalky matter engendered by eating too much meat. It is also the fact that such fresh fruit as the Apple, the Pear, the Plum, when taken ripe and without sugar, diminish acidity in the stomach, rather than provoke it. Their vegetable salts and juices are converted into alkaline carbonates, which tend to counteract acidity. A ripe, raw Apple is one of the easiest vegetable substances for the stomach to deal with, the whole process of its digestion being completed in eighty-five minutes. Gerarde found that the "pulpe of roasted Apples mixed in a wine quart of faire water, and labored together until it comes to be as Apples and ale - which we call lambes-wool - never faileth in certain diseases of the raines, which myself hath often proved, and gained thereby both crownes and credit. The paring of an Apple cut somewhat thick, and the inside whereof is laid to hot, burning, or running eyes at night, when the party goes to bed, and is tied or bound to the same, doth help the trouble very speedily, and contrary to expectation - an excellent secret."'
Many people must have asked themselves how, in the old days long ago, before the Potato came from America, even the sparse population of Ireland fed itself. I feel no doubt that the good monks who brought the art of illuminating and of making the lovely old carved crosses, also grew their vegetables, and did not find the climate unfavourable. Probably, however, no other vegetable will ever now take the place, as an article of food, of the much-loved Potato; nor is this in any way to be desired. Curiously enough, the other day a great London physician remarked to me, quite independently of Ireland and its troubles, that in his estimation the ideal food for the human race was Potatoes and skimmed or separated milk, all the nourishing properties of milk being there, the cream containing nothing but the fat, which stout people are better without. It is quite curious how few even educated people know or believe this. Skimmed or separated milk is constantly thrown away as useless, or given to the pigs; whereas it is very much better for adults than new milk, if they are eating other foods.
Modern science has made it quite easy, by using preventives in time, to keep down the Potato disease; but in spite of all this certain losses of crops are sure to occur, and the all-important thing is to cultivate the vegetables which would probably succeed best in the mild wet autumns so dangerous to the Potato crop.
Where land and manure are forthcoming, seeds - which should be of the best - represent the principal outlay in the growing of vegetables. It is much more prudent to make many sowings in succession than to sow a great quantity at once. It is said that a Cabbage may grow anywhere and anyhow, that it will thrive on any soil, and that the seed may be sown every day in the year. All this is nearly true, and proves that we have a wonderful plant to deal with, and that it is one of man's best friends. Linnaeus, the great botanist, mentions that he found it the only vegetable growing on the borders of the Arctic Circle. The Cabbage has one persistent plague only, and that is club or anbury, for which there is no direct remedy or preventive known; and the best indirect way of fighting the enemy is our old friend elbow-grease or hard work. The crop should constantly be moved; never grown twice in the same place, either as a seed bed or planted out, without well digging or tilling the ground, putting it to other uses and well manuring it. All the Cabbage tribe are great consumers, hence the need for abundant manuring. Wherever there are manure heaps near houses or stables, or in farmyards, it is very desirable to sink a tub in the ground on the lowest side of the heap, where the manure has a tendency to drain, cutting out a nick in the tub to guide in the liquid, which can be constantly emptied out with a can. This liquid makes very valuable nourishment for young vegetables, pot-plants, and in fact all garden produce - strength in youth being naturally a great help to the whole crop. Besides its usefulness, this prevents the untidy wasting of a manure heap.