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early crops, do best on a warm, sandy loam. If the soil is a dry, loose gravel, it is utterly unfit for any kind of gardening. Stiff clay and boggy lands, when well drained, often make excellent garden-land, especially for late crops.
The capital needed for gardening is larger than would be supposed by one unacquainted with the business. For gardens near market, five hundred dollars per acre is often profitably employed, invested in buildings, teams, tools, hot-beds, manure, &c.; and the force on such gardens is about one horse to every three acres of land, and in summer, one hand to every acre. On the more remote gardens a less capital and force are used, the capital ranging from one hundred to two hundred dollars per acre, and the force, one horse and one man for two to five acres.
The methods used by the market-gardeners to make the most of their land are very ingenious, and deserve a more careful and extended study than can be given them in the limited time at our command to-day; but it may be useful to notice some of the plans in use, by which they force our naturally sterile soil and fickle climate to produce two, three, and even four crops in a year, from the same land; and keep our markets supplied through the arctic weather of our long winters with delicacies whose natural home is in the tropical zone.
The crops grown upon the gardens within six miles of the city are mostly spinach, kale, radishes, dandelions, beet-greens, beets, early cabbages, lettuce, onions, to be followed upon the same land by the late crops, which are melons, squashes, tomatoes, egg-plants, peppers, cauliflowers, celery, horse-radish, beets, carrots, parsnips. The only crops which occupy the land for the whole year are rhubarb and dandelions; and some gardeners grow a crop of onion sets on the same land with their dandelions. In the management of these various crops so as to meet a profitable sale, and also not to crowd and injure each other, the skill and experience of the gardener are shown. To accomplish his purposes many ingenious devices are used for forcing early crops, and for storing the late ones, so as to keep up an unfailing supply the year round. In general, only two crops are raised upon the same land in a season; but instances are not uncommon where three, and even four crops in a year are taken from one piece
of land. Thus, winter spinach, sold in March, was followed by onion sets, melons, and celery, on the same land, all full crops; again, winter spinach, sold in April, was followed by bush-beans, melons, and spinach again.
It would be idle to attempt such work as this without skilful use of glass and heavy manuring. The plants started under glass for field planting are lettuce, early cabbage, eggplants, tomatoes, celery, melons, summer squashes; and some gardeners also start their beets and onions under glass, to be transplanted to the field; which leads us to describe the hot-bed.
The hot-bed, as used by market-gardeners, is a much more simple affair than is usually described in the books. We build a fence, facing south-east or south, using posts nine feet long, three feet in the ground, six feet above; and set them six feet apart, leaning back eighteen inches at the top, so that the mats when leaning up against them are not likely to be blown down. Planks 2 by 12 inches are set in the fall, before the ground freezes, so as to make a frame six feet wide, outside measure, two feet from the fence, and carefully adjusted so that when the sashes are placed on them they will pitch five inches. The space between the planks is then covered with litter, to keep out frost, and the bed can be used at any time in the winter. When
it is needed for use, the loam is thrown out, and fresh hot manure put in to the depth of six to twelve inches according to the season of the year
and the crop to be raised; No to the loam is then thrown
back on the manure to the depth of six or eight inches, and covered with sash and mats, and after a few days the bed will
generally be in order for planting
The drawing, No. 1, represents a bed as made ready in the fall to withstand frost; c the planks, b the sash and shutters.
No. 2 represents a bed in running order in winter, with the mat d leaning against the fence, the planks well banked at c with litter.
The hot-bed is invaluable for raising plants for planting out of doors; the ease with which the plants are aired and hardened off by remov
No 2. ing the glass just before setting the young plants out of doors, makes the hot-bed far preferable to the green-house for this kind of work.
Many gardeners also raise a crop of lettuce, radishes, parsley, or carrots, in the hot-beds, before the field plants, marketing them in March, April, or May. After the field plants have been removed from the hot-beds, in April or May, and the lettuce or radishes sold, it is customary to employ the whole of the glass upon cucumbers, using a little manure to start them. It is thus that the market is supplied with cucumbers in June before the field crop comes in.
For winter work, however, in raising these crops the greenhouse is to be preferred; it is more manageable, and requires much less labor. The improvements in the construction of greenhouses during the few last years deserve some notice.
It was formerly the custom to construct greenhouses with the beds for lettuce and cucumbers raised upon
benches near the glass; the benches soon rotted out, the lettuce raised on them was generally poor in quality, and gave “hot-house lettuce” a very bad name in the market. It is a much better plan to build up the beds solid from the ground, and place the heating-pipes in the alleys. The lettuce grows much more healthily thus, and the beds are more easily repaired. The drawing represents a section of a house built by the writer in 1876, 200 feet by 24 feet; a and b are the ventilators, c the heating-pipes, d a plank to walk upon when clearing snow from the roof.
The management of the more remote gardens, where less labor and manure are used, differs considerably from that of the suburban garden. The early crops are here mostly pease, beans, potatoes, sweet corn; the late ones, often upon the same land, are squashes, pickling cucumbers, and peppers,
tomatoes, fall cabbage, and turnips. The hot-bed is somewhat used, but less than nearer the city. The small fruits, asparagus, and dandelions, are raised in considerable quantities, and milk-raising is generally an important branch of the industry of these more remote farms. The early pease and
potatoes are often followed by squashes or white turnips, on the same land. Fall cabbages are also often planted after pease or early greens; and peppers are generally made to follow early lettuce.
Where early potatoes or pease are to be raised with squash
es, every third or fourth row of the early crop is left blank for the squashes: the squash seed planted rather late about June 5, and the early crop cleared away before July 10, when the squashes begin to run.
There are many of the devices of double cropping in common use in the market gardens, which might be easily and profitably imitated by the amateur in his kitchen garden.
Among the noticeable devices of the market-gardener for
keeping the fall crops for winter use are, the squash-house, the celery-pit, the spinach-house, the cellar.
Squashes, for keeping, need a tight house above ground, a dry air, and a temperature from 55° to 60°, which is maintained by a stove and by slight ventilation; they need picking over every ten days, to select the decayed ones.
The celery pit needs a dry, cool air, moderate ventilation, perfect protection from frost.