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of my men saw them, and asked my foreman (who is a Scotchman, and had seen such forks before) what use they were of; and when he told them, and added he expected I was going to teach them how to take up potatoes, they laughed, and said that I should find I was mistaken, for such things would not answer hereabouts. I took a couple of my forks, and a boy to pick up, and I set to work myself, and told one of my men to take the other, and look at me, and follow on digging with it; and they all confessed they never saw such a quantity of potatoes turned out in so short a time before, but they still did not exactly relish taking them up in that way.
I found their system of working in the kitchen-garden was puddling it over; with scarcely depth enough, when digging, to cover an earwig. They had amongst them but one bit of a spade the length of my hand, and two long-handled spades, so worn that there was no fear of the men over-fatiguing themselves by lifting too great a weight; one two-pronged fork with a broken handle; one old drain-hoe; and two old Dutch hoes: and this was about the stock of tools I found in Bicton kitchen-gardens, and I thought them the most miserable lot I had ever met with. However, I had fortunately brought a set of my goose-necked hoes with me; but I could not persuade any of them to use them, for weeding was the order of the day, and my hoes appeared to them the most ridiculous things imaginable. I wondered how the work was done with such tools; but soon found hoeing and raking to keep a smooth surface formed their method (for they had an old rake or two), and digging shallow and breaking fine, picking out all the stones (the very thing I thought the ground wanted more of). The strawberries were old, and all run together into a mat, which is the surest way to keep up a stock of different kinds of weeds for seed, so that they must remain in the garden; it likewise was a good harbour for slugs and snails to breed in, and for the birds to feed and hide themselves in. I soon found that when showery weather set in everything was devoured by slugs, which the men told me it was a wonderful garden for; and they accounted for it by saying it was a newly formed garden taken out of a field. I could not agree with them, so I set to work and destroyed an amazing quantity in a short time by the following method. Getting some fresh grains from the brewhouse, I went round, inside and out, dropping about a table-spoonful of them as I walked, at small distances in all directions, at dusk in the evening; I then went round with a pail of fresh-slacked lime from nine to ten o'clock the same evening, and found them heaped on each other like bees when swarmed: by dusting them with lime, I killed those that were so collected. I sent a woman or boy round with a pail and trowel the next morning,
to take them up, and bury them. It was astonishing what a quantity was destroyed by following this method closely for a month or six weeks : but it is the best plan to keep slugs away altogether, which is easily done by trenching, ridging rough, and continually hoeing and stirring the ground, which is congenial to all vegetation, but destructive not only to slugs, by turning them and their broods out, but to every other sort of vermin, which it lets have no peace, and either destroys them altogether or drives them away, as they do not like such usage.
No strawberry plants ought to be planted less than 2 ft. apart each way, and never allowed to stand more than two years, taking care always to keep all runners cut closely off; by these means there is a greater weight to be obtained, finer fruit, and better flavoured, as the sun and air can circulate more freely amongst them; and mulching them with clean short grass, just as they come into bloom, keeping them clean and the ground moist, makes them flourish. If they are obliged to be watered, it must never be done with a rose on the watering-pot, but by pouring round the roots from the spout, so that they get a good soaking without wetting the fruit; for it spoils the flavour of the fruit if it is over-watered. The best-tasted and most prolific strawberries that I know of are Myatt's British queen, Myatt's Eliza, Myatt's pine, Downton, Keen's seedling, and the old true Scarlet pine. I find that the plants that have been forced, by being turned out as soon as done with into a good bit of ground well prepared, always make fine stools for the next season, or bring a good crop the same autumn, which is found to be very useful. Any good holding loam will grow strawberries, and bring them to a good flavour, if well prepared and sweetened by the atmosphere first; and some good rotten dung worked in amongst it, and a little soot sprinkled in amongst them and hoed in in the month of April, will make an astonishing difference in the quality and flavour of the fruit; and, if the ground has become steely * and unkind by heavy rains, sow some charcoal dust amongst them, and hoe it in, which will soon purify the earth, and improve the crop wonderfully.
Asparagus, to be grown well, should have the ground well prepared, broken up to a considerable depth, and well manured, with some sea-weed or salt worked into the ground; which should be trenched in autumn or early winter, and laid in rough ridges so that the air, sun, and frost can penetrate through it. Forking the
* Steely. Clayey soil that has been poached when wet, and when the water cannot get away, is, when dry, difficult to penetrate with the spade or hoe, and in that state is said to cut out steely, or leathery. When wet it is shining, close, and tough, like liver; and when dry, hård, steely, and unkind, like iron.
3d Ser. - 1843. VIII.
ground at every opportunity with a strong fork or pick-axe on every frosty morning, routing and turning it about when frozen, will not only sweeten and mellow it, but will kill all slugs and other insects. Never put in your asparagus plants until April; when the young plants are grown or shot 2 or 3 inches they always do best: if planted before they begin to grow, and the weather should turn out cold and harsh, oftentimes there will be many plants that will lie dormant and not break at all, which causes so many blanks in the beds. If you intend sowing the seeds, do so a month earlier in drills 2 ft. apart; which should also be the distance at which to plant them; thinning out the plants sown from 12 in. to 18 in. apart in the drills; never putting more than two rows of plants in each bed of 4 ft.; and leaving from 2} ft. to 3 ft. alley, which is essential, and is a good shaded situation in hot dry summer weather to grow the late cauliflower and Cape broccoli. The system of covering the beds with earth to such a depth as is done by the London market-gardeners early in the spring I do not approve of, always considering it completely in opposition to nature. They say they cannot get a sale for it amongst the London people if it is not a considerable length: but of what use is it? The London people cannot eat those long, tough, hard stalks; for after all only the very top can be eaten. I always find that noblemen and gentlemen's families are most fond of asparagus in its natural beautiful green colour, and just long enough for the cook to tie into a bunch; then you do not rob and smother the plants, but have asparagus fit to eat, tender, and high-flavoured. It is one of the most wholesome and delicious vegetables grown, but wonderfully abused.
Sea-kale should have the ground prepared in a similar manner to asparagus, with salt and sea-weed, which it is very fond of; planting one-year-old small plants that have been saved on poor ground, the rows 2 ft. apart, and 2 ft. from plant to plant in the rows, not two or three together as is generally done; for, if the preparation is good, one plant is always sufficient. It is as beautiful and delicious a vegetable as any that is grown, for winter purposes, if grown and blanched as it ought to be; but it requires time and attention to bring it properly to perfection. If it is hurried with too much heat, it is spindly, weak, and without flavour; if too slow, it is as bitter and worthless. In my opinion, it is in its full perfection when from 4 in. to 6 in. long. When cutting it, take care always to cut the crown just under the earth: this should be particularly attended to. If the crown of the plant is left above the ground to be exposed to the frost after it has been forced, it causes the canker so generally complained of amongst sea-kale; but take care always to leave a little litter or leaves amongst it, so that the frost may not
penetrate to the crown, and then you will have healthy and wholesome sea-kale. But it is plain enough that, if it is otherwise, it is our own fault, the same as it is with the seed potato.
Celery is one of the most wholesome and useful of all vegetables, but subject to mismanagement to a great degree. In the first place, it is generally sown too early. The main crops should never by any means be sown sooner than the first or second week in April, and then on a very slight hotbed, covering a part of the bed with a light or hand-glasses, by which means you get plants of two different ages; taking care to sprinkle your beds and plants, when up, with water a little warmed. Keep the earth stirred often with a pointed stick to keep it open. As soon as the plants have two leaves besides the seed leaves, prick a quantity very carefully on another slight hotbed. If you want to grow celery extra large, then prick it again in about 16 or 18 days; then the third time, leaving the same interval between. Keeping them watered with good water, and hoeing them often, will be the means of having strong well-rooted plants: but they must not be allowed to stand, after the third time transplanting, more than 10 days or a fortnight, or the fibres will have spread such a distance that they will be subject to get broken off when taken up; which should be done with great care, with a trowel, with all the earth which will adhere to the plants. I must here make one important remark, which is, in planting in any stage of its growth never plant deep; always leave the collar and seed leaves above ground, and, as you must have plenty of room to plant it as high as you please, do not thrust your celery plants down into the cold gravelly or sandy subsoil beneath, for if you do it will never be good. You cannot possibly have good celery if you sow it too early, and then allow your plants to stand in the seed bed until it is drawn up weakly and spindly. I have seen some transplant it, and allow the plants to get again drawn up weak and nakedrooted, and then set to work in good earnest, because they saw a neighbour do so the day before, in planting his celery. So they dig out a trench 1 ft. wide, and about the same in depth; put in some dung; turn up the subsoil amongst it, or on the top of it, that possibly had never been moved before; and then thrust into this trench their long weakly plants a good depth, as it is called, to keep them up; they next earth them up early to smother them more, and expect to have good celery from this management, and when they find it fail, put it upon the soil or the season.
My system is simply this. I always trench every bit of spare ground, and throw it in ridges as soon as any crop is off. Now many people will say: “We have not got time to do that; we have not strength enough; besides we are forced to keep the ground cropped to that degree that there is no chance of trenching:” but I contrive to find time in some way to trench all spare ground; by which means I always have a bit ready for successional crops, which is planned in my mind from time to time. I take my line and spade to one of those pieces of ground, measure it out, at least 6 ft. from row to row, stretching the line from end to end across the ridges, and merely shovel out a shape of a celery trench 2 ft. wide; if the ground has not previously been well manured, I of course shovel out the trench something deeper, to admit of manure, which should be good, strong, tolerably rotten dung of any kind. I then take the plants up carefully with a trowel, with good balls of earth; and plant them, if required extra large, from 12 in. to 15 in. from plant to plant, if of the usual size from 10 in. to 12 in. ; taking care never to plant deep into the subsoil, or to put the plant below the collar, for I would sooner see half of the roots exposed, than the eighth part of an inch of the heart buried. In earthing up, never by any means begin too early, for by that plan much of the celery gets considerably injured: and, instead of muddling it about with earth ten or twelve times, once or twice, or at most three times, earthing is quite sufficient to bring it to proper perfection. Every body knows that celery is fond of plenty of water, likewise of manure liquid: but in hot weather never water it over-head with a rose on your watering-pot; but pour abundance about the roots out of the spout, with a brushy stick put into the spout of the watering-pot, so as to cause the water to come out more gently, and not wash out the roots ; using a watering-pot at the same time in each hand, it keeps a man better on the balance.
To combat that destructive insect and rust which have attacked and destroyed so much celery of late years, I find there is nothing equal to soot dusted all over the plants when the leaves are moist, so that it will adhere. For instance, I had the whole of the celery attacked in these gardens last September, so that to all appearance it would be scorched up in a few days. It did not happen to be showery weather at the time, so I took the garden engine and gave it all a good washing, having a man to follow me dusting the soot all over it. Having thirteen rows in the garden, I dressed twelve of them twice, which perfectly cleansed them; the thirteenth is now remaining there scorched up from end to end as if it had been fired, without one head fit for use.
I mean to allow this bed to stand for a time, that any gardener who may happen to call to see me may be convinced of the correctness of my remarks.
I have worked amongst many acres of celery: 13 acres are the most that I have cultivated in one garden during one season ; but I have seen three crops taken off the same piece of ground