This section is from the book "The Gardener V1", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
It is now two years past in March last since I became the proud possessor of a small greenhouse 10 feet by 10. For a year previous to that I had a one-light frame, and although I found it a good deal better than to have nothing in which to try and preserve a few of those garden plants that are too tender to endure with impunity the icy embrace of stern winter, yet I determined to give a little scope to ambition, and the result was the greenhouse above mentioned.
Having got this, I next made preparations for having a slight hotbed in which to sow seeds of such things as Cineraria, Calceolaria, and even Cockscomb. Having got a pit dug 2½ feet deep the size of my frame, I sent to a tanyard in a neighbouring town and obtained two loads of bark that had been for a short time out of the tan-pit, and that, consequently, was not very hot. Having put it in the pit, and set the frame over it, I considered that all things were now ready for sowing seed and making an attempt to raise a few plants for the shelves of my small greenhouse. One of the seed-pans I sowed with Cineraria: and I now proceed to record my experience in the growth of this plant; and I have to crave the indulgence of any "practicals" who may read these lines for any mistakes I may make, begging them to remember that I am giving the results arrived at by an amateur.
The soil in which the Cineraria-seed was sown was composed of well-decomposed leaf-mould, a little well-rotted stable-manure, mould from rotted turf, and some sand - all mixed together, but not in any particular proportion. In a few days after sowing the seed, I had the pleasure of seeing the young plants breaking through the soil, and day by day I watched with eager eyes their development. When water was required at this early stage, it was given by means of a syringe with a very fine rose, and so used as to make the water fall in a very gentle shower on the tiny seedlings. By-and-by, as soon as these had four leaves, I pricked them out as carefully as I could in another pan, and kept the frame pretty close for a few days. In a very short time the plants had acquired sufficient strength to be potted off singly in small pots in soil the same as was used for sowing, but with the addition of a little more of the rotted manure. In this soil they grew very fast, and as soon as the roots had reached the sides of the pots the plants were shifted into a size larger. Occasionally a little weak guano-water was given, which had the effect of making the plants grow very vigorously and with leaves of a large size.
With this treatment they were, by the month of August, in their blooming-pots, and some were pushing for bloom. All this time (from the end of March) they had been kept in the frame, but they were now transferred to the shelves of the greenhouse.
Now began my acquaintance with green-fly. I soon found that these insects are most partial to the foliage of the Cineraria, and that if stringent measures are not taken to keep them in check, they soon make a handsome plant - the pride, it maybe, of the amateur's heart - a thing to be looked on only with disgust. I now had recourse to fumigation by tobacco to get rid of the unwelcome intruder; and so, having procured a small quantity of shag-tobacco, I took a flower-pot, and, having put a few red-hot cinders in the bottom, I put over them some of the tobacco, and, using a pair of house bellows to keep the tobacco burning by a puff or two of air occasionally, I soon managed to fill the house so full of smoke that I was glad to beat a hasty retreat into the open air. This smoking was done in the evening, and next morning I made my way as early as possible to see the effect of the fumigation, and was very well pleased indeed to find the greater part of the enemy either dead or dying. Some few days after this I noticed a few of the largest bottom leaves withered-looking, which I attributed to the smoke, and which subsequent experience has proved to be the case.
But here I must say that the same thing may be caused by neglect in giving water when the plants require it, and in the full vigour of their growth they require a good supply to support their abundant foliage.
After having got rid of green-fly, I found there was another enemy at work on the large leaves of some of the plants. The path he had taken was marked out by the green colour of the leaf being completely gone, leaving a seared and withered track. This enemy, being perhaps aware of the smoking the green-fly had got, was found to have taken up his station between the upper and under surfaces of the leaf, and could be seen by transmitted light. When seen, instead of removing the leaf altogether,that part where the grub was, was subjected to a good squeeze.
Notwithstanding these drawbacks, I had soon the satisfaction of seeing my plants come one by one into bloom, and delight the eye by their beauty, and the sense of smell by their fragrance. It was the month of April in the year following that in which the seed was sown before the last plant had done blooming, and I considered that the satisfaction I had had, and the pleasure in seeing the fine heads of bloom, amply repaid me for the attention I had to bestow upon them. I have never wanted Cinerarias in my little greenhouse since that time, and I find that the treatment I have described above answers completely. When the plants are done blooming they are consigned to the manure-heap, as the strain is now so good that sufficiently good plants for general purposes may be got from any packet of good seed.