Had any one foretold that a small tuber occupying an insignificant space - and scarcely, if at all, used for human food - in the newly-discovered regions of South America, should become in the comparatively short time of two centuries one of the most important items in the daily food of millions of the human race for succeeding generations, it would have sounded very incredible. Such, however, has been the career of the Potato, which, as a tuber, is one of the most essential importance; so much so, that it ranks next to the cereals in its influence as a vegetable product on the populations of temperate climates. Yet, strange to say, its introduction to Europe was met with the most obstinate prejudice and opposition, particularly from the French, and it was not till a time of great scarcity and necessity during the great Revolution that the culture of the Potato was anything like general in France. It has been affirmed that the Potato has added millions to the populations of Europe, and that, owing to its extensive cultivation, famines have been rendered far less frequent.

It is, however, well known that too great a dependence on it as a substitute for corn - as, for instance, in Ireland and the western isles of Scotland - during the time the murrain so much prevailed, has led to famine and hardships of the severest kind. Still it continues to be a crop of the greatest importance as far as remunerative farming is concerned, and in not a few districts the farmer's balance-sheet is very much affected by the Potato crop and market. To meet the wants of our large cities, the cultivation of the Potato has increased thirty-fold in some localities within as many years. At one time, four or five acres on one of the far-famed East Lothian farms was considered a sufficient proportion, while now eighty to a hundred acres is quite common.

The remarks which I shall make on the culture of the Potato are more referable to it as a garden crop, while some general remarks will apply to its cultivation on a more extensive scale; for the most intelligent agriculturists admit that it is to the cultivation of the garden, more than to any other source, that they must look for improved methods of cultivating their farms.

Most gardeners are expected to furnish new or early Potatoes throughout the early part of the year, onwards to the time when they can be dug from the open borders without any protection. There are two or three methods which may all be adopted with advantage in keeping up the supply when Potatoes are required very early. The stemless or pitting system, by which young tubers are produced very early, is sometimes practised, although the produce obtained in this way has little to recommend it beyond its earliness, and, perhaps, novelty. By selecting a quantity of the largest of last season's produce, keeping them in a cool place, rubbing off every signs of sprouting at frequent intervals, and thus preventing their ever making a growth, the stored-up elements of the tubers are not expended, and all that is then necessary is to place them in circumstances which will cause the energies of the parent tuber to be expended in producing new ones, without making any tops at all. This is effected by taking them in September, and mixing them up among finely-sifted and rather dry soil, in the corner of some dark shed or cellar.

A layer of the soil, about 4 inches deep, is first placed on the floor, then a layer of the tubers about 2 inches apart, then another layer of soil and Potatoes alternately, till the desired quantity is so pitted. Under these conditions, young tubers are formed from the eyes of the old ones, and may be sent to table at the New Year. This is, however, a method which is seldom practised, which does certainly produce young Potatoes, and that is about all that can be said in its favour.

The practice generally pursued is, to select a quantity of the finest of the earliest-ripened sets at the end of the year, which, even in a cool place, will then be starting into growth. These are potted singly into small pots, rubbing off all the buds except the earliest and strongest terminal one, and are then placed in a pit or any other structure where they can have a temperature of 55° and a slight bottom-heat. Here they soon start into growth, and when 3 or 4 inches high, they are shifted into 8-inch pots, in which they mature their crop. The soil used should be free, and water should be supplied moderately, or the tendency will be towards a drawn and sickly growth. As the tubers become fit for table they should be kept dry, otherwise they will be watery and insipid. In this way an early crop or two come in early before those in pits and frames are ready.

For moderately early crops, the best way is to grow them in pits which have hot-water pipes which can supply top-heat, and 2 or 3 feet of leaves for bottom-heat. When grown in this way, a portion of the space at command is prepared in the end of December, or early in January, to receive a planting previously started in small pots in some of the forcing-houses or pits. They should be planted out when 2 or 3 inches high. To succeed these another lot should be planted at the same time, which have commenced to spring on the shelves of a storeroom. In all these cases none of the buds should be allowed to grow, except the earliest and strongest terminal bud. And Potatoes, especially when intended for early forcing, should not be stored in heaps, but be kept in a light place in single layers. In this way there is no danger of the buds becoming elongated and weak when they commence to grow. After being planted, air on all favourable opportunities should be admitted to them; for if allowed to become drawn and sickly in a close damp atmosphere, no after-treatment will cause them to produce a satisfactory crop.

When coming to maturity, the soil should be allowed to become dry, and the lights drawn off for a portion of the clay when the weather is fine, which will help to give quality to the tubers. It may be remarked that if the Potatoes are planted 7 inches deep, they will require little or no moulding up, for that is an operation attended with more or less injury to the stems and leaves; and if the tubers are covered with sufficient soil to prevent greening, it is sufficient.