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.
Mr. Editor: I have often found it difficult to preserve this vegetable through the winter, and have no doubt that others have too. We have often grown it very fine in trenches or single rows, and then in the fall of the year, just before hard frost conies, taken it up and placed it in a cellar, in rows, and covered it with sand or earth; but it invariably failed to be good for much through the winter, either tough and stringy, or rotten, especially the latter, if it got a little frost on it previous to taking it up in the fall.
Now repeated failures make what some people call good practical gardeners; but we think it makes experienced gardeners, if we do happen to get it at some one else's expense. We presume every one knows how to grow celery, therefore it will be useless to talk about that which is already known. We called the other day upon a friend of ours who is a stirring amateur, reads every letter of the Horticulturist, and several other periodicals into the bargain, including the world-renowned "Gardener's Monthly." He had got a new idea. "Good," 1 replied. "Well," said he, "come and see my celery plot. There, that is on a new and scientific plan. Do you ever read the Horticulturist?" he inquired. "Sometimes," said I, "when the post-office department thinks proper to seud it me." "Well, sir, this is what they call the 'Flat culture' system. What do you think of it?" "Think it is a very appropriate name for this you have been doing." "There, that is just like all you professional men, always laughing at us amateurs. You think you know enough, without reading and properly studying an article to understand its theory or philosophy. Now 1 know you have not read that article on Flat Culture, or else you would not laugh so.
You see the philosophy is good - a labor-saving principle - a dollar-saving principle - a principle by which these celery plants can grow and be supplied with water in the hottest and dryest weather. Here is the advantage derived from science over our common plodding practice". " Ah, I was not aware of this." "1 thought so. You see, the philosophy is this:
"The leaves of plants condense the moisture of the atmosphere, and in different modes shed it on the ground, but principally by means of the stalk, that is, the water runs down the stalk to the root; but if you ridge up the earth around the stalk, of course the water is thrown off." "Where to?" "Anywhere. It can't get to the roots if there is a ridge of earth on each side of it"
"Oh, I did not know. Well, sir, you have not shown me yet where the great amount of saving is made." "True: you know the old-fashioned way of digging trenches and filling them with manure, etc., and the constant bother of earthing up with soil, to have it all froze down and become rotten some day. Again: the absurdity of earthing up the celery all the time it is growing, to keep it eternally dry, when it is said that the plant originally belonged to the bogs and quagmires, which naturally suggests a plentiful supply of water rather than barn-yard manure; so upon this principle I have selected this good piece of ground, dug it up well, put in no manure, made the ground perfectly 'Flat? planted the celery out in rows two feet apart, and don't intend to earth up at all; and when the plants do not condense water enough from the atmosphere to supply their needy wants, you see, under this 'Flat system,' why we can pour on them, or over them, just so much as we please. Here is where the money is saved - no manure - no ridging up." "But about the blanching?"
"Oh, take it all up and keep it in a dark cellar, and it will soon turn white enough for use. But you do things rather different from most people. How do you do it? Old ridge, though, 1 suppose".
"Not just that,for 1 agree with you or your theory in several points. First, then, it is true that celery is half an aquatic. In the second place, the earthing up keeps it dry, or rather prevents water being applied artificially to the root; and in the third place it prevents the foliage and stems from fulfilling their natural offices, condensation, absorption, etc, which is highly requisite to increase the size of the stem, which forms the bulk of the plant.
" All this is rational logic; but when you advance the theory of the farmer who manured all his farm by a special fertilizer he carried in his waistcoat pocket, I also believe you will be like him in bringing home all the crops in the other. But I will compromise this matter with you in relation to growing celery. First, then, to prepare a bed, we measure off, say six to twelve feet wide, and run this width as long as convenient; then throw out on each side the soil to the depth of six to nine inches, and fill up the trench nearly to its surface with thoroughly decomposed manure, and start at one end and thoroughly incorporate soil and manure together; plant out the plants say nine inches by twelve on this surface, and thoroughly soak the whole with water; if the weather is very hot, shade for a few days. Now I want you to understand the process that is to follow this, and adopt it at once, for we are about publishing this Theory, and of course it will be copy righted, and can not be afterwards used without special permission:
"Form an embankment twelve inches high all around this trench, and keep it constantly saturated with water. If manure water, so much the better. Have not got it? Then put guano in the water and make it; for depend upon it, 'Good things come out of good conditions.' As the plants grow, keep them loosely tied up with bass matting, and rub off all the young suckers that grow out at the base of the leaves. The very small leaves or stems at the bottom of the plant, should be taken off also; this facilitates the removal, and enables you to watch the growth of suckers, which if left on waste the substance and deteriorate the growth. You will remember the trench must not be allowed to become dry. It should be always like what the little boys call 'puddle.' If proper attention is paid to this point, and also to planting it out early, celery can be grown to a very large size before the month of November. It should not be earthed up at all till about three weeks before it is required for use. Four weeks' time at the utmost, will blanch it as white as a lily. In order to blanch it, of course the soil from the sides is thrown between the plants and nearly up to the tops of the leaves.
So soon as the leaves fall from the trees, we collect them and cover these beds entirely all over, about twelve or eighteen inches thick, placing over them a few corn-stalks to prevent the wind blowing the leaves away. From these beds you can dig sweet, crisp celery all the winter; not a particle of frost near it; and in April and May we often see the white stems pushing up through the leaves far better in every respect than any celery you can get in the fall. We have seen single sticks of celery grown his way, after being washed and dressed for table, weigh eight pounds"!
"You have?" "Yes, sir." "Well, I will tell the Editor of the Horticulturist that the first time I see him".
[We take peculiar pleasure in recording the above as the "first fruits" of our article on " Flat Culture." Growing Celery in this way had not occurred to us; but its advantages, to our apprehension, are manifest and decided, and we shall make a bed accordingly. Fox Meadow did just right in coming to the editor, and telling him all about it, for in this way he has told it to thousands. A good spirit moved him then, whatever kind of spirit may move him at other times. And then, too, the humor; that, certainly, is not on the flat system ! - Ed].