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.
To get the general summer supply, and likewise as early as possible in the open ground, it is advisable to have strong and healthy plants ready to be turned out in a warm aspect, so soon as all danger of frost is over; or where there is the convenience of glass box frames, a portion may be planted therein two or three weeks earlier, some at the distance apart that it is intended they should remain. A good start is a great advantage, and fine plants will furnish fruit much earlier, and in more abundance through the summer, than those which are weak and stunted to begin with; consequently the little extra trouble required, is more than repaid. The common plan of sowing on a hot-bed, and leaving the plants to crowd each other up till planting time, and then removing, almost without roots, only partakes of the "penny wise and dollar foolish" action that is too often practiced, and always ends in keeping the per centage profits small. Yet we see persons who ought to know better, still drawing along in the old way; and when things go wrong, blaming everything bat their own want of observation and foresight. All kitchen vegetables, without exception, are of the best quality when well grown, and nothing deteriorates this quality more than starving the young plants in the seed bed.
Do not be in too great hurry to begin, but when started, take care that there is no check until ready for use, is abvice that all vegetable growers ought continually to act up to Where a large stock is required, this advice will seem to the "laggard" somewhat out of place; but is it not much more profitable to obtain double produce by one-fourth more labor and a little foresight, than to be grumbling about short crops and cheap prices! In the present instance, the seed may be sown about the middle of February, on the surface of a gentle hot-bed, upon which is three or four inches of good friable mold, and covered over with a box frame; or in boxes in a hot-house, where a temperature of 50° to 65° by night is obtained. When the plants are two or three inches high, transplant, either into another or the same bed, or into boxes about six inches apart. Where the required supply is not large; they may be put singly into pint pots; and after planting, give a light watering, to settle the soil around the roots. Admit all the light possible, and in mild days, let in a good supply of fresh air, but avoid cold winds and frost; the object being to keep a moderate temperature, without checking the progress of growth, and yet not so warm as to draw plants up weak.
As the weather milds off the glasses may, in fine days, be entirely removed. Pots or boxes are only necessary when the hot-house is used; and in the former case, when they become filled with, roots, the plants ought to be moved into those of a larger size, - say two quarts. By the first week in April, both may be removed into a cold frame, and kept close for a day or two; after which air should be freely admitted during warm days, and gradually increased, until the glasses are entirely pushed down, but be careful to cover at night when frost is apprehended.
It is often amusing, and sometimes even anoying, at the beginning of summer, to see our neighbouring cottagers scouring over the country in search of Tomato plants. Almost everybody who has a patch of ground wants them, and in many cases they are not to be had "for love or money;" yet they have the means at command to raise for themselves; every house has its window, and the only space required, is enough room for a box two feet long by six inches wide and four inches deep, and anybody of ordinary ingenuity can fix a little glass frame over this, to counteract the dry atmosphere of a dwelling room; such a simple contrivance will accommodate as many plants as will be required, and be less expense, than the loss of time and shoe leather, that is expended in troubling other persons, who too often have only time and convenience for their own stock.
Almost any kind of soil will answer for the Tomato; but it prospers the beat and produces fruit of a finer quality, in a well-drained, tolerably fertile, but not over rich loose mold. So soon as all danger of frost is past, begin to plant out; loosen up the soil well, dig holes four feet apart, six inches deep, and as many across; lift each plant with a ball of earth, do not keep the roots exposed longer than is necessary, and in fixing the plants in the holes, let them be placed about the same depth as they were previously; cover up, and press the soil somewhat around the neck, and lift a little extra up to it, which will encourage fresh roots and strengthen the plant If the weather be dry, give a good soaking of water; and so far all is finished.
A few words may be said about training.' The most common mode is to spread out the branches, and let them trail along the ground, in which case, if cleanliness be cared for, there ought to be a covering 6f marsh hay or straw placed over the surface. Sometimes brush-wood is laid flat, and the branches allowed to lay over the top of it, which elevates the fruit above the soil, and prevents it from rotting, if the season, should happen to be wet; but there is no other advantage in the method, and it is inconvenient when gathering. The neatest and cleanest plan, and one which may be adopted in all private establishments, is to sink poles in an upright position along each row, leaving the tops five feet above ground, (if placed four yards apart, it will be close enough,) and fasten wires horizontally to them, which will form a cheap trellis to train upon. As the branches elongate, they may be tied loosely to these wires, and a kind of hedge-row is formed with very little labor, the fruit is free to the action of air and light, and is unquestionably of much better flavor.