What To Grow
( Originally Published 1909 )
IN this and the following chapters I propose to make mention of some of the standard varieties of the various kinds of vegetables adapted to amateur culture, and to give, in connection with the descriptions of them, such suggestions as may seem necessary to enable one to grow them well.
If the reader consults the catalogues of the seedsmen in making his selection of seeds for his garden, he will find many kinds described therein of which no mention will be made by me. Many of these are good. Some of them may possibly be superior to those I shall refer to, but most of the kinds sent out each year as " desirable new sorts," " great improvements on old varieties," and the like, prove on trial, to be inferior. They may have some points of merit, but these are not sufficient to overcome the lack of general merit which a new kind must have in order to be classed among the standard varieties. Most of these "novel-ties" drop out of the catalogues after a little, and the seed-buying public comes to the conclusion that it is wisdom to stand by the old, well-tried sorts which have become standard because of their many good qualities. While it is quite true that improvement is being made constantly among garden vegetables, it is quite as true that only a small percentage of those advertised as "great improvements on the original" are worth growing. Here the old adage of "prove all things and hold fast to that which is good" is of very pertinent application.
A consultation of the catalogues of all the prominent seedsmen of the country will show that among all the vegetables described therein there are certain varieties in general cultivation, and these are the kinds for the amateur to make use of. They stand at the very head of the list because they are what they are—the representatives of their class upon which the public has set the seal of its approval after years of culture—and I believe it will be difficult to improve on them.
We have bush beans and pole beans. The former are of low, compact growth, and need no support, and on this account most amateur gardeners will be likely to choose them. But the limas or climbing sorts have so superior a flavor that the owner of even a small garden can hardly afford to be without a few hills of them. They have a rich, buttery quality which is seldom found among the bush beans. They are very productive, and will be found superior to any others in the concoction of succotash.
Among the bush beans especial mention should be made of the following varieties :
Refugee. Of compact growth, extremely prolific, pods light green, very solid and tender.
Stringless Green Pod. A very early sort that remains tender and crisp a long time after maturity. Of fine flavor.
Golden Wax. Pods long, thick, tender, fine flavored, and absolutely stringless. A most excellent variety.
Among the limas, Leviathan may be placed at the head of the list, being a great bearer, rich in flavor, and remaining eatable through-out the season. Bush limas are also good.
General Cultural Directions. Plant in hills about a foot and a half apart. Do not plant until danger of frost is over, unless you arrange for their protection on cold nights. It is a common belief that the bean will grow in almost any soil, but the fact is we have no vegetable that appreciates good treatment more keenly. In a rich soil it will make vigorous growth, yield bountifully, and have a flavor that is never found in crops produced from poor soil. Plant at intervals, for a succession.
The beet is a general favorite, and it well deserves its popularity, for it has delicious flavor, is a most attractive looking vegetable when ready for the table, and can be cooked in so many ways that the housewife considers it one of the " stand-bys."
Among the very early sorts Electric is a general favorite, because of its fine-grained flesh and sugary flavor.
Early Eclipse is of rapid growth, very superior in quality, and extremely rich in color. It ranks high in flavor with the housewife who takes pride in carrying out a decorative color scheme in which vegetables play an important part.
Crimson Globe is unsurpassed fora second early and main crop. It does not attain to great size, which is a merit rather than a drawback, as large beets are as a general thing stringy, tough, and flavorless. It is of great tenderness in all stages of growth, never becoming tough like the old long-rooted sorts, which are not much grown nowadays except for feeding stock.
Early Bassano has rose-colored flesh. It is sweet and well flavored, but lacks the richness of the dark-colored varieties. The housewife will find it useful in the decoration of the table, however.
Blood Turnip is an excellent sort for a general crop and for winter use. It has fine-grained flesh, is rich in color and superior in flavor.
General Cultural Directions. Sow in rows, about the middle of May. Give a rich, deeply-worked soil. Allow no weeds to grow among the plants.
If sown thickly, the young plants can be thinned out early in the season and used as greens. While young, the leaves are very tender and delicious.
For first crop of this vegetable, there is no variety superior to the old Early Wakefield, which has held its own against newer candidates for favor for the last twenty years or more. It cannot be excelled.
For a second crop, the Early Summer continues to hold the popular favor, It is a flat-headed cabbage, of excellent flavor, very tender, and fine-grained. The very early cabbages are lacking in the good qualities of the later sorts, and are mainly valuable because they supply the craving for something in the vegetable line early in the season. But such varieties as Early Summer have all the merits of the later sorts, and will be found invaluable in every collection.
Perhaps the very best late cabbage, and the ideal one for winter use, is the Late Drum-head. It is so compact that a small head will weigh several pounds, and, when cut apart, its leaves will be found so closely folded upon each other that they form a solid mass of tender crispness, juicy, and of superior quality, cooking without a suggestion of stringiness. As a keeper it is unexcelled.
Another favorite sort is the old Marblehead Mammoth, still one of the best in the market. The chief objection to be urged against it is its great size. An ordinary head could not be used in several days in the average family, and cabbage is a vegetable that soon parts with a good deal of its finest flavor after cutting. Therefore, for the ordinary family, a smaller kind will be found more satisfactory.
The housewife who has an eye for the attractions of the table will want a quantity of the purple cabbage to work up in salads and slaws. Its rich color makes it almost as attractive as flowers.
Set cabbage about two feet apart in the row.
Early cabbage can be started in the hot-bed, but for a later crop I would advise planting the seed in the open ground.
If the flea-beetle attacks your cabbage plants when small, dust them, while damp, with tobacco powder, wood ashes, or air-slacked lime. If the aphis comes, use the kerosene emulsion spoken of in the chapter on Insecticides and Fungicides. For the worms which sometimes eat the leaves during the latter part of the season, this emulsion is one of the most valuable remedies. If what is called cabbage rust—but which is really a fungus trouble—attacks the plants, use the Bordeaux mixture.
General Culture Directions. For very early use, start in the hot-bed and transplant to cold-frame as soon as the plants have made a second set of leaves. Put into open ground as soon as danger from frost is over. The soil should be well manured and deeply worked. For late use sow seed in May.
This vegetable is not appreciated as it ought to be, because it does not appeal to the appetite at first eating, as many vegetables do. But after a little a liking for it develops, and one soon becomes fond of it. Carrot is especially useful in soups and other combinations of vegetables.
A small space will grow enough to supply the requirements of a large family. To grow well, it should be given a deep, rich soil—one of sandy loam preferable—and receive good cultivation. This vegetable keeps well in winter, retaining its peculiar flavor to perfection, and remaining crisp and fresh until late in spring.
Probably the best early variety is Short Horn, fine-grained and rich in flavor.
Danver's Orange is the best variety for winter use—sweet, crisp, and tender.
This plant, which is a member of the cabbage family, requires precisely the same care and culture advised for cabbage.
For early use, Extra Early Dwarf Erfurt is as good a sort as any.
It is hardly worth while to attempt growing a summer variety, as the plant almost always fails to head well in hot weather, but a' late crop can be grown to advantage. If plants have not headed by the time the ground freezes, take them up with a large quantity of soil adhering to their roots, pack them solidly into boxes, and put them in the cellar or cold-frame if the latter can be kept warm enough to permit growth. Much warmth is not needed, but frost should be kept out. The cellar is, all things considered, the safest place for them. Here they will form small heads of delicious tenderness during the winter.
The following abridgment from the directions given by Professor Graves in his recent work on "Celery Growing for Profit" sums up the culture of this popular plant in a few words and a practical way :
In the latter part of February fill a shallow box with clean, mellow loam. Press it down well before putting any seed into it. Apply water enough to make the soil evenly moist all through. Then make little rows in it, and sow the seed rather thickly. Draw the soil thrown up in making the rows over the seed, and press it down firmly. Cover the box with light paper or cloth, to keep the soil dark and moist, and set the box in a place having an even, moderate temperature. The seed will germinate in about ten days. Remove the covering as soon as the young plants appear. Never allow the soil to become dry, but be careful about using too much water, as undue moisture will cause the plants to damp off.
When the young plants have made their second leaves, transplant them into other boxes or flats, setting them an inch apart in the row, and making the rows about two inches apart. From these boxes the seedlings can be put into the open ground any time after the middle of May.
Seed may also be sown in the open ground early in the season. Let the soil be rich and worked over until it is very fine. Firm it down well before sowing the seed. For some reason, celery often fails to start well in a loose soil. Sow the seed in rows a foot apart. Cover with about an inch of soil. Thin the plants out until they stand about an inch apart. Cut the tops back once or twice, to encourage a stocky growth. In June or July, transplant. Set in rows three feet apart. Let there be at least six inches between the plants. When this transplanting is done, it should be according to the trench system, which is setting the plants in trenches at least six inches in depth. Cut off the leaves, or rather, the upper half of them, and shorten the roots about one-third when transplanting. Water well. In about six weeks begin to earth up about the plants. Here is where great care is necessary. Gather the leaves together in the left hand, and with the right hand draw the soil in about them packing it so firmly that the leaves, when you relax your hold on them, will not throw it out of place. Allow no soil to work itself in among the stalks, when you are " earthing up." In a few days draw in more soil, and keep on doing this from time to time, until the plants are covered nearly to their tips. This part of the process is called blanching, and this it is which makes the plant crisp and tender, and takes away the strong taste which characterizes the plant when not so treated.
There are self-blanching sorts, so called, offered by many of the leading firms of seeds-men, but I have never grown any that did not require a treatment similar to the above to make it satisfactory.
Some growers blanch their crop by setting up wide boards on each side of the row in such a manner as to exclude all light from the plants, except at the very top. This plan answers very well, but it does not give the stalks that brittleness which the lover of good celery demands.
White Plume is one of the earliest sorts. There is a Pink Plume, and a Golden Plume, very similar to White Plume except in color. These varieties are extremely ornamental, and the housewife will always be glad to have some of them grown in the family garden for decorative use on the family table. These sorts are not as good keepers as such varieties as Giant Pascal, which is one of our best winter varieties.
Well-blanched celery can be kept through the greater part of winter if it is stored in a place where the temperature is low, and the atmosphere is dry enough not to bring on decay. The plants should be lifted and packed closely together, and their roots should be kept moist. In a low temperature they will not make growth, but simply " hold their own." In a warm place decay is likely to set in early in the season, and in a short time the entire stock will be ruined. Therefore, keep the temperature down, if you would have your celery winter well.