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I thank you, gentlemen, for the kind attention with which you have listened to my very imperfect attempt to explain the market-gardener's work, and hope you will hear from some of the many more experienced and better gardeners whom I see around me.
The CHAIRMAN. Gentlemen, the subject is open for discussion. We shall be glad to hear from any one. Mr. GEORGE HILL of Arlington. I think Mr. Philbrick has been over most of the ground very successfully: I don't know that I can add any thing. He has been very successful in his forcing-houses. He has got up something new, altogether different from any thing we have had in the way of hot-beds. I think he has made a great improvement in that direction. I should like to have him go on and explain further in regard to the construction and management of his greenhouse rather than say any thing myself. As for marketgardening, I think the chairman is the man to speak on that subject. He is the most successful of any man in the county. Mr. FLINT. If Mr. Pierce would state to the audience what crops are most salable, most desirable to raise for the Boston market, and some facts in regard to the best methods of raising those crops, I am sure it would be very instructive and interesting to a great many here who are not so well posted in that particular department of activity as he is. Rev. Mr. SMITH, I would say that I visited Mr. Pierce's farm a few days ago, and found him in his house for preserving spinach and squashes; and I would suggest that he tell us something about that. Mr. PIERCE. Mr. Philbrick has explained all those things. Almost every one I know here has a spinach and squash house of his own. As far as the question as to what crops are most sought for in the market is concerned, they vary with me every year. Some years I do very well: but, if I do exceptionally well one year, it is more than probable that the next year that crop will not pay; too many will go into it. My practice is to raise certain kinds of vegetables, and keep it up year after year: sometimes they sell well, sometimes they do not. I think there is very little money to be made in raising early cabbages, and putting on fifteen or twenty cords of
manure to the acre, and selling them at two cents a head. There is a great deal of profit in raising lettuce, if you can sell it for two dollars a dozen ; but the trouble is to find anybody to buy it and pay such a price. As for the question, whether market-gardening is overdone or not, I do not know that it is. Every thing sells, but at very low figures. The price of manure ought to be lower, and the price of labor. I think Mr. Philbrick was very modest in his statement in regard to the amount of capital required in market-gardening. I should think it would take a good deal more than he said to carry it on successfully. I think it pays but a very small per cent upon the amount of capital invested. I do not know that it is overdone; but there is not near so much money made in it as there was a few years ago. The price of manure is too high ; as for patent fertilizers, with me, or any man whom I have ever seen, they do not amount to any thing. I have spent considerable money on them; I have read the certificates of men in whom I have great confidence as men of intelligence, successful men, men who commenced with nothing, whose fathers did not leave them a farm or give them one, but they commenced poor men, and have worked and earned for themselves good farms, – I have read the certificates of such men, that they have applied such and such patent fertilizers, and have secured good crops; but I see that their manure-teams still continue to go on the road; they do not give up any of their stables; and I cannot buy manure for any less than I could years ago. I do not believe that any of them have given up a single stable, and used patent fertilizers instead. Mr. MURRAY. I never knew such a thing as a spinachhouse in my young days. I used to be very successful in preserving spinach through the winter, but not in the mode that is recommended here. I used to prepare, about the 1st of August, a number of cold-frames; and I had a very rich compost prepared, – one-half manure with decayed oakleaves, – and I used to fill my cold-frames with that compost; and about the middle of August I would sow my spinach, the broad-leaved variety. I used to get an enormous growth : every leaf would be nearly as big as an early cabbage-leaf. I used a little of it in the fall, but always kept a very heavy crop until winter. I waited until the dry frosts set in ; and
then, when the ground got perfectly dry, I had a lot of dried oak-leaves, and I used to put eight or ten inches of dried leaves over the spinach. Then, of course, when I saw an appearance of rain, I used to put shutters over it. I had shutters that I used instead sashes. Of course I used sashes when I sowed the spinach, and took care of it. The board shutters kept it perfectly tight, so that no water could get through; and in mild days in winter I could take one of those shutters off, scrape the leaves off, and get a bushel of spinach any time I wanted it, and immediately cover it up with leaves again, and put on the shutter. I never had any difficulty in keeping spinach without erecting a house for it. Mr. PIERCE. The gentleman just up has reminded me to say that his mode of keeping spinach is a capital one; but farmers, if I understand it, who raise spinach, do it to make money. The price of spinach is about half a dollar for three bushels; and it would not pay to raise spinach in any such manner, and sell three bushels for half a dollar. I have got five or six hundred bushels which I could afford to sell now at the rate of three bushels for half a dollar, and make a pretty good thing of it, by keeping it in a spinach-house. If it was raised in the fall, it would be nicer and fresher; but, at the ruinous prices we get now, I do not think it would be a profitable business. Mr. WARE of Marblehead. Having occupied the time last year on this same subject, I came here hoping to hear from others, and did not expect to speak. But there have been one or two inquiries with regard to the subject of mildew. It is a subject of very great importance to the farmers and to every one else. It is one, perhaps, not fully understood; but I have watched, to some extent, the operation of this mildew, or fungus-growth, and what little observation I have made I am very happy to present to this meeting, not in a scientific way, however; and our friend Mr. Flint has just told me that we are to have a scientific gentleman present that subject at some future time during these meetings. I did not know that; but I will say a few words, if you please, upon the subject of fungus-growth upon vegetables. The potato-rot, that has so long been a source of trouble to us farmers, is, without question, the result of this mildew, or fungus-growth; and I have observed the operation of it for so long, that I think I can tell with certainty, if we have certain conditions of weather in summer, when the potato-crop has reached a certain stage of growth, that the potato-rot will take place forth with. It requires, as I have observed, a mild, warm state of the weather, after a shower, — such weather as we farmers call “scalding weather.” Probably every one here understands that. When the potatoes are in blossom, or have just gone by the stage of blossoming, and are growing very vigorously, if we have a spell of moist weather, or if, after a shower, the weather is warm and close, very little air stirring, the conditions are favorable for the potato-rot or fungus to take hold of the plant. I believe that the air is filled with the spores, or seed, of this and other varieties of fungus most of the time; and when the conditions are right for the propagation of those seeds, then they take hold, and grow. That, to my mind, is the cause of the potato-rot. Sometimes it affects the early crop. When the early crop is in a condition such as I have stated, and the weather is such as I have described, the early crop will be affected by the potato-rot: but, if we do not happen to have such kind of weather at the peculiar stage of growth of the potato, we do not have the potato-rot at the early season; but it may come later, and affect the later growth of potatoes, depending upon the condition of the growth of the potato-vines and this peculiar kind of weather. We have another fungus that troubles our farmers very much who are in the habit of raising onions. It is called, among farmers, “smut.” This operates quite differently from the potato-fungus, that affects the potato, and causes it to rot. The spores of the onion-smut will infect the whole soil of the onion-field. It is very rapid in its propagation; and we find sometimes the land infected with what we call the “onion-smut.” There is no remedy for it that I know of, except to refrain from raising onions on that land for three or four years, for this fungus will remain in the ground certainly two years, and very likely three ; and it is carried from field to field by the implements that may be used. The ploughs, harrows, rollers, and drags that are used on the onionfield, are impregnated with the spores of the onion-smut, and it is transmitted from field to field in that way. It is wonderful how long the spores, or seed, will retain their virtue, – three or four years, as I have said. The only remedy I know of is to discontinue raising onions on that land, and take another piece. In regard to the fungus that affects the hot-beds in which lettuce, &c., are grown, I will say, in the outset, that I have had very little experience with hot-beds; but I should judge, from what I have observed of fungus-growth and the propagation of its seed in the case of the potato, that the cause of fungus in hot-beds is too much moisture, with too little ventilation. But I ought not and do not undertake to instruct these gardeners in the management of their hot-beds, because they have had very much more experience than I have. It is simply suggested to my mind, knowing the conditions under which the fungus-growth affects the potato, and produces the potato-rot, that similar conditions, which might and probably would be found in hot-beds, would be just the conditions for the propagation and support of the fungus that affects lettuce and similar plants. The gentleman who favored us with the very valuable and instructive paper on market-gardening, in mentioning the implements used, spoke of the roller. I have no doubt he finds it a great advantage; and I judge, from what he says, that it supersedes the necessity of the use of the garden-rake in the preparation of the ground for garden-crops. Many of the farmers in Essex County use, instead of the roller, a drag. I described that drag at the meeting a year ago quite fully. As far as my own experience and observation are concerned, it does better work than the roller, from the fact that the roller, if the ground is lumpy, will oftentimes press the lumps into the ground without crushing them; and the drag, on the contrary, grinds the lumps all up, and completely pulverizes the surface: therefore it has been the practice of our farmers in Essex County to use the drag in preference to the roller for a good many years. I find it one of the most important implements I have on the farm. I do my first hoeing of potatoes, corn, pease, and almost every crop, except the finer garden-crops, with the drag. Just before those plants are ready to break the ground, the weeds have made their appearance on the surface, and, by going over the field with the drag, it just breaks the crust, and kills every weed that has started, and does not affect or