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Securing Early Plants For Gardening

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



Charles Black of Mercer county, New Jersey, tells how to secure early plants for early gardens; as follows : " Hotbeds and cold frames are easily made and managed. They can be counted on to give so much pleasure and profit that nearly all farmers should have at. least one of each to grow plants for his own use. The common hotbed can be used for growing all early vegetable plants and should be prepared ready for the seed six to eight weeks before time to plant in the open ground.

Cold frames can be used for growing lettuce for wintering, for lettuce and cabbage plants for early planting, and for hardy flowering plants, such as pansies and single violets. With slight protection in severe weather, double violets will bloom during mild spells and blossom profusely very early in the spring.

" For both hotbeds and cold frames, a well-drained, sheltered southern exposure, preferably on the south side of a building, hedge, or hill, should be selected. If none of these are available, erect an artificial one, such as a board fence or corn fodder; in fact, anything that will break the force of wind. For hotbed sash, which are usually 3 x 6 feet, dig a bed 6 feet wide or a little wider than the sash, at least 2 feet deep and as long as wanted. Wall this up with boards not less than 1 inch in thickness. Common slabs from the sawmill will do as well as better lumber. When a permanent bed is desired, the sides and ends can be bricked or stoned up. The north side should be some 18 inches above the surface of the soil and the south side 12 inches, so as to give the sash enough slant to throw off the water easily.

"Across this frame, every 6 feet of the width f the sash, fit in a 2 x4 scantling, adjusted so that each sash laps halfway on it. These scantlings are to support the sash. If stone or brick is used, these crosspieces should be set in the wall as it is put up, or a wooden sill should be fitted on the brickwork. The walls should be 5 feet 9 inches apart inside, if a &foot sash is used. This will allow the sash to rest at top and bottom. If wood is used for the walls, strong stakes should be driven 3 or 4 feet apart to hold the wall in place.

"To make the beds for planting seed it is necessary to have fresh, strawy stable manure. This must be well shaken up and then made into a compact heap under shelter when possible. It should be left in this condition until thoroughly hot, but not long enough to burn and become whitish. In the bottom of the bed spread wet straw, old hay, or leaves a few inches thick. Then put on the hot manure evenly and tread down firmly to the depth of 18 or 24 inches. After it is firmed place on it a layer of good, friable, loamy soil about 6 inches deep. If not rich and mellow, add one-quarter of well-rotted stable manure. The soil should not be so wet it will pack.

" After the soil is on cover the whole surface of the bed with old carpets, bags, or any material that will keep out cold and retain heat. Let it remain a few days, or until the soil is warmed through. Use a thermometer to determine the heat. When 6o to 8o degrees is reached, plant the seed, marking off the drills 4 to 6 inches apart and about three-quarters of an inch deep. Sow the seed evenly; peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants 30 to 40 seeds to the inch. Press down the soil firmly, and cover with fine soil a full quarter of an inch. Put on the carpet again, and let it remain until the seed begins to come through. Watch to see that the temperature does not go much above 80.

VENTILATION

" In warm sunny weather the sash should be raised to keep the temperature right. In cold weather the sash should be covered with something to keep out the cold. The outside of the hotbed should be banked with stable manure or earth. Give the plants all the ventilation possible, but not enough to chill them. This is important, because it will make the plants stocky and strong. When very strong plants are desired a cold frame will be required.

" The cold frame is made similar to the hotbed, but not so deep; 12 to 15 inches will be enough. No heated manure is required, but decomposed manure made as fine as possible and spread about 3 inches deep over the bottom is generally preferred. On this about 3 inches of good soil will prepare the bed for the plants, which, when they are a few inches tall, or, say, four weeks before the time to plant in the open, may be taken out and transplanted as deeply as possible, 4 or 5 inches apart in the cold frame.. They should be shaded a few days from the sun and protected from frost and cold. If the soil is at all dry it should be wetted about the time of transplanting, but with caution. If too wet and cold the plants will damp off. These directions apply more particularly to tomatoes, but eggplants and peppers are forwarded by very much the same treatment.

" When they become established give them all the air and sun possible, taking off the sash in favorable weather. Give only enough water to keep growing well. Plants so treated should make strong, sturdy ones, which should be in bloom when ready to transplant in the open ground. When the plants are to be ,removed a spade is thrust under the manure in the bottom of the bed, and as much earth as possible preserved with each one. They are then gut in boxes and taken to the field as carefully as possible, preferably in damp weather, or just before a rain. They will soon start off and give fruit much earlier than common plants from the ordinary seed bed. The cold frame can be used to sow lettuce for late fall or to plant pansies and violets for winter. As soon as plants begin to appear through the covering this must be removed in favorable weather and replaced in unfavorable. Great care is needed to prevent extremes of heat and cold, and the plants suffer from too much wet.

If any plants grow too fast or too tall they should have plenty of air, and water should be withheld ; if they wilt in the sunshine, they will not be harmed."



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