This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Agreeably to your request I forward a plan of my Winter Forcing and Propagating House, hoping it-may prove useful to the class for whom it is designed, viz., the amateur and market gardener.
Although I cannot claim the merit of first introducing the novel mode of tank heating which I am about to describe, (that being due to the Messrs. Hendersons, London, England,) I can say that to the best of my knowledge I was the first to carry it into practice in this country. I will at once proceed to state what I consider to be its advantages over all other kinds of forcing houses, which have come under my notice. First, the bottom heat is much more regular, steady, and effectual, than from the common tank, or dung bed. Hence, it is much more congenial for the full development of roots, foliage, and fruit, than by any other method. Secondly, a much greater variety of plants can be grown together with advantage. Hence, the adaptation of such a house for the amateur and market gardener, whose dependence must of necessity be upon early productions. The raising grape vines from single eyes in such a structure, is attended with the most complete success; the eyes put in by the first week in March, will under ordinary care attain the height of from six to eight feet by the fall, with the wood perfectly ripened.
The strawberry can be cultivated and its fruit ripened to great perfection; there is no fruit we possess of so much value to the market gardener. A great deal might be said here upon the forcing and culture of this universal favorite, but 1 feel that I am already trespassing too much upon your space. Those who are desirous of having early Cucumbers, Melons, Tomatoes, Rhubarb, Sea Kale, etc, can be gratified to their heart's content in such a structure.
There is no subject connected with decorative gardening, of so much importance, as being provided with the means of raising a good supply of summer bedding plants; here all kinds of soft wooded green-house matters can be raised with the greatest facility.
In conclusion I wish to make a few remarks, which I hope will be of service to the amateur; it is an indubitable fact that more plants are annually killed by over kindness, than by neglect; over watering in winter, using a soil of too stimulating a nature, and by keeping up the temperature too high, are a few of the many evils which the over anxious amateur is likely to fall into; in visiting such a house notwithstanding it may have cost hundreds of dollars, and be attended with the most assiduous care, you may perceive death written upon the lanky visages of nearly all the inmates.
WINTER FORCING AND PROPAGATING HOUSE.
The grand secret of managing the winter forcing-house is good air, good soil for the plants, and good tepid water when necessary. To enter into detail upon the management of the house, and of each tribe of plants would occupy too much space, but should a few practical remarks be deemed desirable upon them at some future time, I shall be pleased to comply.
In the construction of the tanks which I have used, I have found it essential to differ somewhat from those of the Messrs. Henderson in the filling up size of the pipes, etc. The tanks are made with well seasoned 1 1/2 inch white pine, being careful to select such boards as are quite free from knots; they are carefully tongued and grooved and put together with white lead.
Size of the tanks 15 inches deep, 3 1/2 or 4 feet wide, according to circumstances. After the circulation is proved to be perfect, the tank is filled up as follows; first with a layer of clean stones about the size of a medium sized nutmeg melon; upon these a layer not as large; and then a layer about the size of a pigeon's egg, then a layerof rough gravel, then more not so rough, and so on, until the top is of the finest sand. Here I would add a word of caution in selecting sand for rooting cuttings, in being very careful to select such as contain no acid of iron or any vegetable matter; to effect this the sand should be washed till the water can be poured away quite clean; unless the washing is well attended to, the rooting of the cuttings may be attended with very unfavorable results; the part used for plunging the pots containing cucumbers, etc, should be filled the same as for propagating, but the sand will not require washing.
After the tanks are filled up, one foot of water may be let in and the pipes will heat the entire mass to from 10° to 85°, more or less, and once that heat is obtained a few hours' firing, morning and evening, according to the state of the external atmosphere will be sufficient to keep it up. Four inches of sand will be sufficient to keep down all the vapor in midwinter, the water can be withdrawn by means of a. cock, and then a most congenial and beautiful dry bottom heat will be the result. The kind of material used in the construction of such a house will of course depend on circumstances; those which 1 have put up, for the walls I have used good oak or cedar posts four inches square, close boarded on either side and filled in with lath and plaster; the roof is two-thirds a fixture, the upper parts swing on pivots or hinges, and are opened and closed by the 6ame means as described by Mr. Chorlton, on page 52 of his valuable work, the Grape Growers' Guide.
Much might be said upon the location for such structures, the adaptation of the tank for other kinds of houses than span roofed, the kind of boiler, etc. But should any of your readers require any further information upon the plan, etc, it will afford me much pleasure to render them all within my power, privately or otherwise. •