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.
More failures in vegetable culture are attributable to the poor seed than to any other cause - either by the seeds not germinating, or by their turning out to be different varieties than for what they were purchased. There is no excuse for it, for reliable seed growers and dealers are plenty, and send their seeds to all parts of the country. Let this be remembered, in purchasing seed, that "the cheapest is not always the best," and that " whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap," and buy seeds only directly from responsible men.
Perhaps, a better illustration of the loss that ensues from incorrect seed, could not be given, than my own experience in tomato growing, when, having bought (as I supposed) seed for five acres of Tilden Tomato, the standard market sort, they proved to be Lester's perfectod, a variety totally worthless for shipping purposes - entailing a loss of several hundred dollars. Many Inarket gardeners raise their own seed, and are thus certain of keeping the varieties unmixed; but this cannot always be done, and is at all times more expensive than buying of responsible growers, who make seed raising a specialty.
Having secured good seed, it must be put in properly and at the proper time. Do not sow in the hot-bed on the same day, lettuce and pepper, cabbage and tomatoes, or in the open ground, peas and beans, radishes and cucumbers, but plant or sow each kind at the proper time, sowing thickly and covering only as deep as the size of the seed requires. Many seeds fail to germinate on account of being covered too deeply.
In the family garden the sowing will of course be done by hand; but the market gardener will find it of advantage to use a hand seed drill, of which there are several that do their work perfectly.
The seeds sown, and the young plants up, they must, to insure a quick, healthy, and vigorous growth, have constant and thorough cultivation, not only to kill weeds (they should not be allowed to appear), but a constant stirring of the soil, to admit air to the roots, and to attract moisture, so highly necessary to success.
These general directions are all absolutely essential to success, both for family and market gardening; and if intelligently and systematically carried out, the farmer or other owner of a garden may confidently expect to eat good vegetables, of his own growing, in good season. But the gardener who expects to sell his products, has yet a very important matter to attend to, one on which the profitable sale of his crops depends, viz.:
They must be carefully picked, and in the proper season; carefully selected; no poor or imperfect specimens being allowed to go into the bunches or packages. If sent at all these should be put up separately and sent to market as poor, or second class, but better in most cases thrown away.