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.
Although I have previously written at considerable length under the heading of "Useful Successional Crops," I may perhaps be allowed to briefly recapitulate my experience, adding any fresh hints that may occur to me. With me, the object in view is not only to secure as many crops from the borders as possible, but also to crop them evenly and neatly. Peas are the only tall-growing vegetables grown, and these are either sown at one end of a long border, or, as at present, completely fill one border. As soon as these have ceased bearing, they will be cleared off, and the ground at once filled with early and second early Broccoli - such as Snow's Winter White, and the more dwarf-growing Osborn's Winter White. The ground will not be dug for the Broccoli, both because they will make sturdier, and therefore hardier, growth on solid ground, and also for the simple reason of its being almost an impossibility to get the ground in good working order after being much trampled when occupied by the Peas. At the same time, seeing that early Peas invariably leave the soil in a dry impoverished state, I find it advisable to cut out drills for the Broccoli, lengthways of the border (the Peas were-across) with a heavy half-mattock hoe.
These, if liquid manure is available, will be soaked with it prior to planting, and failing liquid manure, with water. This will enable us to plant with a trowel - our plants being previously pricked out, - and therefore in the hottest of weather, without any very serious check to their growth. The drills can easily be filled with water when necessary; afterwards, when the Broccoli is well established, the soil, immediately after the last watering, can be returned to the drills, thereby enclosing the moisture and steadying the plants. To crowd Broccoli, wherever grown, is a decided mistake; and in the above case our drills will be drawn about 3 feet apart, the plants of Snow's variety will be 24 inches asunder in the drills, and Osborn's somewhat thicker. None of these will be lifted, at all events till the heads have formed - the aim being to get them as early as possible, preferring to lay in and thereby check those grown in the open.
It is scarcely possible to crop a garden as one would wish during the first, or even the second, year of management. And here, for instance, on taking charge, I found the wall-border so occupied, that it was impossible to plant, as I like to do, a good length of early Potatoes. These, by being cleared off early, liberate a good piece of border for such crops as early Strawberries, late Cauliflowers, Carrots, Tripoli Onions, etc. When lifting, the ground is forked over, levelled, and all clods broken - this preventing undue drying, and also preserving neatness.
Few require to be told that the earliest Strawberries are usually to be had on a south border : but if it is generally known that the youngest plants give the earliest pickings, the knowledge is not always acted upon. According to my experience, it is unprofitable to crop Strawberries a second season on a sheltered border: invariably plant afresh, thereby securing valuable early fruit, and also a quantity of strong early runners. Some of the strongest of the latter, when well established in the pots, layered in, are taken off, and at once planted on part of the ground previously occupied by the Potatoes. It cannot be too often stated that the soil for Strawberries should be made as firm as possible; loose planting on light poor soil resulting in weakly growth, and on rich soils exuberance of growth - of course at the expense of the crops in both instances. Plants to be fruited for one year only are disposed in lines 2 feet apart, and 12 or 15 inches asunder in the rows, and the soil is rammed firmly about them, as with plants potted for forcing. In dry seasons it is advisable to water the ground some hours prior to planting, and to frequently water the plants till well established. They will repay the trouble taken.
The site of the old bed is not dug, but prepared and planted as advised in the case of the Pea ground. Savoys succeed admirably when planted in this fashion.
In this position good even beds may often be seen, whereas those in the open are, at the same time, very patchy and poor. Our seasons being so variable it is advisable, in the southern districts at all events, to make at least three sowings - the first early in August, the next towards the end of the month, and the last early in September. As a rule, the intermediate sowing proves the best, but in 1879 the two last sowings were profitless. The round or summer Spinach appears to be quite as hardy as the prickly or winter variety; and where the summer crops of any vegetables are cleared off early, rather than waste seed, or allow land to be idle, I much prefer to sow this Spinach. If the produce is not wanted it can easily be dug in for manure whenever the ground is wanted. Spinach delights in a tolerably rich soil, and to stand the winter should be sown in drills 15 inches apart, and thinned lightly in the first instance, and at the second thinning (using the thinnings) to about 9 or 10 inches asunder.
Leeks, I should imagine, are most valued in the northern districts; but the past severe winter will have converted many southerners into Leek admirers. In many instances Leeks were the only "bit of green" left in the garden, thus demonstrating their value as a hardy vegetable by no means to be despised when served up as a "vegetable." Where but few have been grown previously, they will, if the lesson has not been taught in vain, be grown extensively, even if it be at the expense of a breadth of the uncertain Broccoli. If extra fine Leeks are required they may be grown in a manner similar to Celery; but they can be had good enough for ordinary purposes from well-manured deeply-dug ground. They succeed admirably on an east border, and may be planted according as the early Turnips are cleared off this site. The young plants should be carefully lifted from the seed-bed with a fork, and may be either dug in in lines across the border - as Potatoes are sometimes planted, freely working in the manure at the bottom of the trenches - or, what is a better plan, be dibbled in.
The rows in this case may run lengthways of the border and about 18 inches apart, and the holes made with a blunt dibble, about 9 inches asunder, 6 inches deep, and 3 to 4 inches in diameter; the Leeks to be dropped into these holes, working in only just sufficient soil to cover the roots. Unless the soil be rather stiff, no further moulding up will be required, otherwise a little fine soil should, as the plants develop, be worked in. One good watering to fix the plants is all that is usually administered. I have also grown excellent Broccoli, Savoys, and Coleworts on east borders. They were planted after early Turnips, without redigging the ground.
A few early White Tripoli Onions fully deserve a place on a south border. The ground for these should be heavily manured, deeply dug, and afterwards trodden firm. Early in August is a good time to sow the seed, and the drills may be 12 inches apart. The seedlings when large enough to handle, should, if at all crowded, be thinned out slightly, deferring the final thinning till the spring, when the thinnings may be either transplanted or used for culinary purposes. The Onions may be disposed from 4 to 6 inches asunder in the rows, according to the size of bulb required. Early White Naples or its synonym the early White Italian, are the best early varieties; and their flavour is much appreciated by some employers not fastidious.