This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V18", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Many of our readers have only a few window plants. These are often kept too warm, too wet, have too little sunlight, and have too many insects. In towns, in addition to all these, they have often too ranch of the fumes of burning gas. Leaks or escapes from the gas pipe are well-known to be an injury to plants, but it is not so well known that plants suffer, though in a less degree, from the common burning of coal gas. The trouble with most room cultivators is to know when plants get too much attention. Too many insects are easily known, one - a single one - is by far too many. We still think there is nothing like coal oil to destroy all kinds of insects. A very little, just enough to make a colored scum on the surface of a tub of water, is sufficient, and in this the insect covered plant may be dipped, inverting the pot and plunging only the plant, and not the pot of course. If too much oil is used the plant may be injured. Too wet, is when a plant seldom gets dry - a healthy plant should get dry, and have light dry looking surface soil, every too or three days. As to heat, a temperature of about 55° or 60° is best for room plants; below that they do not flower freely; above they grow weak, especially if they have not a great deal of sunlight.
Indeed heat should be in proportion to direct sunlight on the plants.
Roses, when they are forced, do much better when the pots are plunged in some damp material. When no better plan offers, they may be set inside of a large pot, with moss between the space around. All plants that come into flower through winter should have those positions afforded them that have the most sunlight, especially the early morning light.
Ferneries are now so deservedly popular, that we must have a word to-.say for them at times, though their management is so simple, there is little one can say. It is probably their ease of management, and the great results obtained for the little outlay of care, that has rendered them so popular. It should not, however, be forgotten that the cases in which they are enclosed are not to keep out the air, but to keep in the moisture, as ferns will not thrive in the dry atmosphere of heated rooms. A few minutes airing every day will, therefore, be of great benefit to them. Decayed wood (not pine), mixed with about half its bulk of fibrous soil of any kind, and a very small proportion (say a tenth of the bulk) of well-rotted stable-manure, makes a good compost Most kinds particularly like well-drained pots. This is usually effected by filling a third of the pots in which the ferns are to grow with old pots broken in pieces of about half an inch square, on which a thin layer of moss is placed, before filling the pots, to keej) out the soil from choking the drainage.
Many very pretty ferneries are made up entirely of native ferns, some species, of which, are within the reach.of every one. Of the exotic ones, however, that are now general in most florists' establishments, and are remarkable for their elegance and beauty, we may name, Selaginellas (formerly Lycopodiums) S. stoloni-fera, S. densa, S. Mertensii, S. denticulata. S. cordifolia, S. flabellaris; Adiantuni concinuum, A. pubescens, A. cuneatum; Pteris longifolia, P. serrulata, P. hastata; Polypodium Sieboldii, P glaucum; Doodia caudata, Gymnagramma chry-sophylla, Platyloma rotundifolia, Nothoclaena nivea, Pteris geraniifolia, Hemionites palmata. This will form a good and easily obtained collection to commence with. .Ferns are easily raised from seed. Shallow pans of very sandy soil should be procured and filled within an inch of the rim. The seed, which is obtained from the brown lines or spots (called by botanists, Sporangia) on the under surface of most mature fronds, should be sown on the surface of the soil, well watered with a very fine rose, window-glass placed closely over the pans, to keep in. the noisture and keep out small insects, and the pans themselves set in a heat of about. 50°, when the spores will germinate in about two months.
Where the air is dry, if in rooms or greenhouses, frequent syringings are of much benefit to plants. Besides, cleanliness keeps down insects and checks disease in plants as in animals. Most oldfashioned lady gardeners (and may we ever bless them for the many lessons they have taught us ) take every opportunity to set their window-plants out of doors when a warm shower happens to occur. In winter a rain at a temperature of 40° or 45°, which often occurs, might be called a " warm shower." Cold water does not have half the injurious effect on plants that cold air has. When plants get accidentally frozen, the best remedy in the world is to dip them at once in cold water and set them in the shade to thaw.
It is better to keep in heat in cold weather by covering, where possible, than to allow it to escape, calculating to make it good by fire-heat, which is, at best, but a necessary evil. Where bloom is in demand, nothing less than 55° will accomplish the object; though much above that is not desirable, except for tropical hot-house plants. Where these plants are obliged to be wintered in a common greenhouse, they should be kept rather dry, and not be encouraged much to grow, or they may rot away.
After Cyclamens have done blooming, it is usual at this season to dry them off; but we do best with them by keeping them growing till spring, then turning them out in the open border, and re-pot hi August for winter flowering.
Mignonette is much improved by occasional waterings with liquid manure.
In managing other plants, where there are several plants or varieties of one species, and command of different temperatures, it is a common plan .to bring some forward a few weeks earlier than others in the higher heat, thus lengthening the season of bloom. This applies particularly to camellias and azalias; the former are however, not so easily forced as the latter, being liable to drop their buds, unless care be taken to regulate the increased temperature gradually.