This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V20", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Great care should be taken by authors in the use of words to convey their meaning, for disastrous results may sometimes follow by using the wrong word, or not sufficiently explaining it so that it may be understood as it is intended.
In a much valued work on grape culture under glass, now lying before me, directions are given for the use of sulphur as a remedy for red spider and mildew, using these words,"There need be no fear of sulphur doing harm to the foliage, so long as ignition does not take place; it may be used with confidence;" and in another place these words are used, "Without being ignited;" also in another work it is recommended to scatter sulphur upon the brick flues, but care must taken not to let it ignite. Now I do not believe there is any harm intended in the use of the word ignite, but I have met intelligent people who have an idea that to ignite means to blaze; that sulphur or any other substance is not ignited when it comes in contact with fire unless it blazes. I will cite a case to the point: A wealthy lady of this town sent her gardener to me last Fall to see if I knew of a. remedy that would destroy red spider in the hot-grapery. I gave him one in which sulphur was to be used, but cautioned him to use great care and not let it come in contact with fire under any circumstances whatever. I saw no more of him for nearly two weeks, when he came back with a very long face and said that he had done as I had advised him, but it had not destroyed the largest of the red spiders.
His employer had been reading in a work on grape culture that sulphur could be used as I have quoted above; so in order to finish up the business, she ordered him to burn a very small quantity to try it, but he must be very careful not to let it ignite. Now you see she had been misled into this error by the use of that baneful word ignite, and the consequence was the gas or fumes from the burning sulphur destroyed every leaf in both the hot and cold graperies, for she ordered him to treat both houses to this dose. A little while after this happened I went to see those graperies, and I must say that it was about the sorriest sight I ever beheld; every leaf was as brown as a piece of leather. The grapes in the hot grapery had ripened off in very good order (quite a large number of bunches still hanging on the vines) before the igniting process had been applied, and were not much injured, but those in the cold grapery had just begun to color, and, of course, were completely ruined. It was a scene of desolation I do not wish to see very soon again.
There is another case of a neighbor whom I met on the street one day last Fall, and wished I would go with him and tell him what was the matter with his grapery. As soon as I entered the house I thought it looked as if sulphur had been burnt, and asked him if it was not so. He said he had only burnt about as much as would lay on a five-cent piece. He had heard some one say that it was a good plan to burnit,and did not suppose it would do any harm. He wanted to get rid of those white thrips that were tormenting him so much. I told him that a small quantity of burning sulphur was enough to destroy everything that was green in a house of that size, and if he had used the remedy I gave him in the early part of the season, he would have been all right.
I have written this article to show how easily people may be led astray, and hope it may be the means of saving some one the experience of the two cases cited above; and would say that if sulphur must be used in a grapery or greenhouse, never let it come in contact with fire, for ruin will certainly follow such use of it.