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.
Cultivate nothing, carelessly. Whatever is worth cultivating at all, is worth cultivating diligently and well.
Many kinds of garden seeds lose their germinating power when more than a year old. Therefore, be careful to sow fresh seed whenever practicable.
But melons, cucumbers, pumpkins, and members generally of this family, are an exception to this rule. The seeds of these should not be sown till after they are several years old. Plants from old seeds produce less foliage, and more fruit [Doubtful, Ed].
The seeds of most kinds of weeds retain their germinating power for an almost indefinite period. Hence, weeds should always be carefully gathered and burnt, as the most effectual mode of destroying the seeds.
The first leaves which appear on the surface (in many cases called cotyledon*), are, for the time, the sole supporters of the life of the young plant. They sustain it till it has formed roots, and, if prematurely destroyed, or much injured, the plant will die.
Seeds will not germinate unless exposed to the influence of moisture, air, light, and heat. They should, consequently, not be covered too deep, to they may fail to sprout.
It is, in ordinary cases, not profitable or advisable to raise your own seeds. Your soil and your time-should be of more value and importance to you than the cost of new seeds. Besides, such as is raised on a soil different in composition from your own, will most probably thrive better.
The roots of very young plants are rarely hardy enough to bear transplanting well. The best time for transplanting seedlings,, is when they have formed five or six leaves; because, at about that period the young roots and radicles are able to perform their proper functions more successfully than, earlier.
Roots essentially require the admission and presence of atmospheric air. The surface soil should, therefore, always be kept loose and porous, and clayey ground should be frequently broken up or stirred in dry weather, or whenever it has become parched or baked.
When a bed has been dug over in the fell, it should be suffered to lie, during the winter, in the roughest condition in which the spade has left it. A greater amount of surface will thus be exposed to the effects of frost, and the ground become more -thoroughly pulverized in the spring.
Frost acts with greater severity on roots or tubers which have been pulled or dug up, than on such as remain in the ground. Hence they should either be effectually protected, or remain altogether undisturbed.
The various kinds of plants extract different Substances from the soil: and a well-chosen rotation of crops is consequently highly advantageous, and deserves attention.
Leaves absorb moisture from the atmosphere, and again part with it; they inhale and exhale air, and thus constitute the more important organs of plants. If injured or removed, the entire plant suffers accordingly.
The pores of the leaves, through which air and moisture are transpired, are exceedingly minute, and very liable to be closed by dust. The foliage of stove plants should therefore be frequently well sprinkled with pure water, to prevent or remove obstruction to healthy action from this cause.
In their natural condition or growth, the leaves and branches of plants rarely touch or cross each other. We should hence learn not to crowd our plants close together, or to place even a single plant in a confined position, where its leaves and branches have not room to expand or develop themselves folly and freely. Air and light are as essential to their vigorous and healthy growth as earth and water.
The falling off of the leaf of a newly-set cutting, is an indication that the cutting has begun to grow. But, if the leaf wither and dry without dropping from the stem, it is an evidence that the plant lacks vigor to effect the natural process of shedding the leaf, and will probably fail to grow.
When bushy plants produce an abundance of foliage with few buds or blos-soms, they should either be transplanted into a poorer soil, or some of the principal roots should be pruned off.
Drying winds are injurious, as they rob the leaves of plants, of moisture more rapidly than it can be supplied by the roots. Plants need as careful protection from such winds as from frost. '
In pruning, always make the cut towards yourself. Enter the knife on the side opposite the bud, a little above its base, and cut through, sloping to just above the top of the bad. The vitality of the terminal wood will thus be preserved, and the wound speedily heal over.
Leaves grown in the shade, or in the dark, do not attain the depth of color, nor the harshness of taste which mark such as are fully exposed to light and air. Gardeners take advantage of this when tying up lettuce or endive, and earthing up celery, to blanch them.
Light is essential to enable flowers to develop, their colors fully. Hence the proper place for flowering plants, in chamber culture, is as near the window as possible.
. All plants have naturally a resting season. Seek to ascertain the period peculiar to each particular species you cultivate, and transplant them only at that time.
Plants are in their most vigorous state of growth at the time of flowering, and should not then be transplanted, as they would very likely suffer much from the operation.
Put the. period of flowering is much the most suitable for making cuttings, because the tendency to root formation is then most active.
Plants in flower have all their juices in the most perfect state; and this period should be chosen to gather such as are noted for aromatic or medicinal qualities.
Excessive blooming greatly exhausts the plant Hence, all flower-buds should be gently pinched off ere they open, from newly-rooted cuttings at well as from weak or sickly plants, to preserye the strength of the stalk.
Few plants can well endure sudden great changes of temperature; and none should therefore be transferred directly from the hotbed, or hothouse, to the open air. Warm weather should be chosen for the removal of plants, even from an orangery or cold frame, to the garden.
All withered and faded flowers should at once be removed from perennial plants, unless it is desired, to raise seed This will tend greatly to prevent the premature exhaustion of the plant.
To secure a succession of bloom in a rose-bush, prune back some of the shoots to their eyes as soon as you see' that they begin to swell; and defer the pruning of others till the leaves have become expanded. In the first case, the eyes will break into bloom early, whilst the latter will not begin to swell till the others are in full leaf, and consequently bloom later.
By properly cheeking the growth of a plant, yon can increase the vigor of the leaves and the size, of the fruit. With this view, gardeners pinch off certain sprouts in beans, melons, cucumber vines, and similar vegetables. The entire art of pruning, so far as it has any real value or importance, is based on this principle.
As a general rule, the smaller the number of fruits on a healthy, vigorous plant or tree, the larger the size, and the more perfect the taste. It is hence proper, in all cases, to thin out moderately. But a single gooseberry left on a bush, or a single cluster on a large grape-vine, however monstrous be its development, is only evidence of a sound principle misapplied or carried to. extremes. .
Fruit should always be gathered in dry, calm, weather. It should be removed by hand, and carefully placed in a basket, so as not to bruise it Roughly handling it may, and probably will, cause it to rot.
If, when any of my fruit-trees are in blossom, I suspect that the soil does not contain the requisite amount of moisture needed by the roots, I dig a trench around the tree about eighteen inches from the stem, and pour into it fonr large bucketsful of water, and immediately return the removed ground. This enables the blossoms to resist the effects of drying winds; the frnits set perfectly, develop rapidly, and are less liable to the attacks of insects. The result is, that the fruit does not subsequently drop. I have cherry-trees that formerly bore fruit only every-alternate-year, which are now annual and abundant bearers, in consequence of this treatment. C. V. Goldacker.
According to the researches of Messrs. Schubler and Kohler, of Tubingen, white flowers are the most numerous in nature, and, at the same time, the most fragrant. Bed flowers come next in order.