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Vegetables - Cantaloupes And Watermelons

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



A warm, sandy soil made rich with stable manure, thoroughly composted, is generally considered the genial home of the cantaloupe, so far as regards the production of a crop. But quality is quite as important a consideration as quantity. To produce a large crop is an easy matter, but to produce melons of high flavor is an art that has never been taught. Whence comes that high flavor peculiar to melons produced in a given section and not in another, although not far distant, is a mystery. We know such is the case with all vegetables and fruits, but why we cannot determine.

As the melon is a sub-tropical fruit, requiring a warm situation and a rich soil, it should ever have the most sunny as well as the most airy situation, and be given every facility for growth possible. In the preparation of the soil haste is not essential, as the seed should not be sown before the middle of May. The soil, when in condition for the most thorough filth, should be covered to the depth of 2 inches with stable manure, thoroughly composted. Work this in as evenly as possible to the depth of a foot, then mark it out in squares of 6 feet; at the angle of each, dig a hole i foot deep and 18 inches in diameter. Put in additional manure to the depth of 4 inches, after being thoroughly packed down, fill the hole with the soil thrown out. and raise the hill to the height of 2 inches above the level. When the hills are all prepared, plant in each, say, ten seeds, well scattered, and cover to the depth of half an inch.

When the plants commence active growth, and the dangers from insect enemies are past, throw out all the plants but two, leaving the most vigorous. As soon as the flowers appear nip off the heads of all the leading vines, which produce only staminate flowers. This will encourage the lateral branches which yield the fruit, and will more than double the crop. The object of every plant is reproduction. When that purpose is thwarted by taking away a large proportion of the staminate flowers, the plant sends out laterals, which will set more than double the number of fruits, each of which will contain a much smaller number of seeds, doubly protected by a much thicker covering of flesh. This serves the double purpose of seed preservation and food supply; hence the all-important secret, or consideration in the cultivation of the melon.

The best variety to plant in order to get the best results is that one which does best in the place you have for it. The question of preference is somewhat governed by taste. Some prefer the green-fleshed, others the pink-fleshed varieties. That being settled, the next consideration is which will thrive best in the place you have for it. Observation and experiment alone will determine that.

The all-important work of cultivation is to have the soil worked deep and fine before the seeds are sown. After that, keep the surface always loose, to the depth of an inch. This surface cultivation should follow every shower, and as much oftener as convenient. But there is one consideration of vital importance, viz., always get the best seed without regard to cost. To determine this there is one safe rule, that is, to have at least sufficient to last for five years always on hand. One of the most successful melon growers we have ever known said melon seed is not fit to plant until it is ten years old, because the older the seed, the lower its vitality, consequently it will produce less seed and more flesh. It, therefore, follows that to have a constant supply of seed that has been tested and known to be all that is desirable is to know that disappointment in regard to quality of the production will be averted. Do not save your own seed, that is the seedman's work. The cost is but a trifle in proportion to its value. Plant a single hill from a new lot each year in advance of the main planting.

Among the popular cantaloupes of the large markets, writes the editor, are the Montreal Market, Rocky Ford, Netted Gem, Emerald Gem, and Hackensack. This last one, however, has been rapidly giving place to melons of higher quality ever since the Rocky Ford crusade, which was inaugurated in the late '90's. The varieties mentioned are popular not only because of their ready salability, but also because f their high quality. They are excellent for home use.

The Montreal Market is, perhaps, the largest muskmelon of high quality grown, specimens often weighing ro pounds or more. The Rocky Ford is small, weighing 2 pounds. The other varieties mentioned, with the exception of the Hackensack, are round-formed varieties, weighing from 3 to 6 pounds. All these varieties, with the exception of the Emerald Gem, are green-fleshed'. There are a number of red or salmon-colored varieties of good quality which command a ready sale in markets where they are known. They are, however, not quite so popular as the green-fleshed sorts. Among the Ieading varieties are Paul Rose, Osage or Miller's Cream, Emerald Gem, and Banquet.

The Montreal Market is more noted in the north than in the south, but whether this is simply be-cause of gaining its repute in Montreal and other northern markets is not known. It would be well worth any planter's efforts to try all the varieties mentioned in an experimental way, and decide which is best suited for his conditions. So far as quality is concerned, he can make no mistake in the list given.

As to watermelons, probably no variety exceeds in high quality the old Florida Favorite, Ice Cream, and Sweetheart. These, however, are not especially noted in the large markets. They are mostly desirable for home use and the local market. With-out sacrificing too much in the way of quality. the grower may find Kleckley's Sweet, Alabama Sweet, Duke's Jones, Triumph, Lord Bacon, and jumbo to be good ones. They are all superior to Kolb Gem, which for so many years has been a leading shipper from the south, and holds a place among melons similar to the Ben Davis among apples and the Kieffer among pears.

There are other varieties of excellent quality, such as the Gray Monarch, Sibley, and Seminole. which should find a place in any list of good varieties. As to earliness, Sugar Loaf, Rattlesnake, and Memphis hold a high reputation, and for lateness Scaly Bark, Sweetheart, and Boss are also noted.

CANTALOUPES AND STRAWBERRIES

"Early last April," writes W. W. Byrn of Dorchester county, Maryland, " I put about five acres in good tilth for strawberries. Then I struck out furrows 4 feet apart with a one-horse plow, and immediately covered them by running the same plow on each side, thus making a. ridge or list. The object in opening the furrows before ridging was to secure a good, deep, soft soil in which to plant.

"A one-horse spike-tooth cultivator was then passed once lengthwise on the top of these ridges to smooth them down somewhat, but still to leave them slightly above the level. I then used a heavy chain crosswise to mark off these rows in checks 2 1/2 feet apart. A strawberry plant, variety Tennessee Prolific, was placed at each check.

" No fertilizer was used in the furrows under the plants, because the land was good and because I had lost a crop of fruit the year before by too heavy fertilization when managed in this way; so many plants were formed that fruit did not set.

" In planting I used paddles made from a strip of seasoned white oak 8 inches long by 4 inches thick. Three holes were bored close together about 1 1/2 inches from the upper end, and the edges rounded off like a spade handle. The lower end was then pared down to make a sort of blade, which could be easily thrust in the ground. I like these paddles better than anything else I have ever used for planting, because they do not tire the hand, and because they open a large hole in which to place the plant with its roots spread out well and deeply. The field was then cultivated both ways with an ordinary one-horse cultivator, using the narrowest teeth next the plants until they began to make runners, and closing the machine when going between the plants the narrow way. One hand hoeing around the hills was given in May and another in June.

"About July 1, I planted hills f Rocky Ford cantaloupes in each alternate strawberry row, allowing three strawberry hills between the cantaloupe hills. This made the hills 8 feet apart one way and the other, and still left the wide inter furrows free for cultivation as before. As soon as the cantaloupes came up about 100 pounds to the acre of good phosphate was scattered around the hills and hoed in. The berry plants began about this time to run freely, so I attached the rolling coulter of the flushing plow to the one-horse plow and ran it 2 or a inches deep on each side of the furrows. The plow threw the severed plants out of the way. Next day a cultivator with large flukes threw the earth back in place. One more hoeing and one more cultivation were given to complete the work, except for the pulling of occasional stray weeds.

"The cantaloupes set fairly well and I netted $25 an acre from the crop and left a fine stand of straw-berry plants in 'condition for a full crop the next year. Had all the fruit matured, I believe I should have netted nearly $100 an acre. In October I gave the berry plants a top-dressing of about 800 pounds an acre of highgrade phosphate, containing about io per cent of actual potash. This experiment has been so encouraging to me that I shall try it again with hopes of better success next time. The cash returns from the cantaloupes have been more than the combined expense for both crops. I cannot see that the future berry crop has been in any way injured by having the cantaloupes planted with it, nor by the trampling in gathering the fruit."

PACKING AND MARKETING CANTALOUPES

W. F, Allen of Wicomico county, Maryland, says: " There is some difference of opinion about picking cantaloupes. It is necessary to pick greener when the fruits are to be several days in transit, but I will give my way of doing it. The first half of the season I pick as soon as the stems can be forced with the thumb to part from the fruit without breaking out a piece of the melon with it; that is, it must come off smooth, and not tear or break the flesh. This condition should prevail before the cantaloupe has begun to turn yellow. A cantaloupe that is in this condition and just right to ship one day will he quite yellow and unfit for transportation the next day. After the season is one-half to two-thirds gone and the weather is very hot, as is usually the case, I find it safe to cut them off with stems after they are full grown and densely netted. It requires careful help to pick a crop of cantaloupes without considerable loss from picking too green or too ripe. In either case, those too ripe or too green should not go in the package. An expert should follow just behind every 15 or 20 pickers to see that they are doing their work properly. Wagons should be ready to take the cantaloupes to the packing shed soon after they are brought out to the end of the rows.

" All handling should be carefully done to pre-vent bruising and bursting. When the fruits arrive at the packing shed, the packers, mostly women, hurry them into the crates, which hold 45 cantaloupes each. Every cantaloupe should be perfect. One crate, well packed, carefully culled, and in perfect order, is worth three that may be packed out f the same pile by a careless packer, who will put in a cull or two, and perhaps pack loosely so the cantaloupes can roll about. 'When a Crate is packed loosely or with two or three bad cantaloupes, it is sent back to the person who packed it to be packed over again, then to the refrigerator car.

"As no cantaloupes are picked on Sunday, we have many ripe ones on Monday, so the finest of these are selected for seed. Two or three cars a day during the season is my usual crop. These are shipped principally to New York city, which is one of the best cantaloupe markets when the quality is good, and quantity not too excessive. When this occurs, Boston is my next choice f markets on a venture. I sometimes ship a surplus car to Pittsburg, Philadelphia, Hartford, and Springfield, whichever market offers the best inducements, but never BUSINESS WATERMELON GROWING

According to Theodore Brown of Gloucester county, New Jersey, "The best soil to grow watermelons in is a light sand, or sandy loam, previously occupied by clover sod. Usually, how-ever, melons follow corn or sweet potatoes.- The land should be plowed in the late fall or early spring and given a light coat of barnyard manure broadcast. The rows are then marked 8 feet apart with a two-horse plow and a light dressing of well-rotted stable manure or of high-grade fertilizer spread in the furrows. In covering, the row is ridged up well, and let stand until ready to 'plant, when a sled marker is run crossways, making the rows 8 x 8 feet. The dropper follows the marker, dropping eight to ten seeds in each hill, being careful to put part of the seed on the side of the mark, so that when covered with a hoe some of the seed will have one-half inch of soil and others from 1 to 1 1/2 inches. The lighter covering will be best for wet covering and the deeper for dry. The first planting is made about April 25 and additional plantings about ten days apart until danger of frost is over and a full stand is secured.

" When the young plants come up they are dusted with a mixture of air-slaked lime, plaster, and tobacco dust, to keep off the striped beetle. This application is repeated every few days until the plants have rough leaves. Bordeaux mixture is considered a sure preventive for fleas. At least once each week the plants are cultivated With a horse hoe or riding cultivator, and when they come in rough leaf are hoed and thinned to three or four plants in the hills. When they start to vine only one plant is left in each hill. The last cultivation is given just before the vines meet, turning the vines in each alternate middle, harrowing and then turning them back, harrowing remaining middles, then laying the vines out carefully by hand. Usually clover seed is sown just previous to this last cultivation.

" The varieties popular in this section are Dark Icing, doubtless the best melon for home use, but too tender and sweet for market purposes, and Kleckley Sweet, one of the new very sweet ones. For market purposes, a melon that will not bruise in handling and will cut solid slices, tough enough to stand up and look nice on the table, is in demand. Dixie, Sweetheart, Pride of Georgia, answer these requirements. When sufficient melons are ripe to make a picking, the ripe ones are cut with stems about 2 inches and piled along roads laid out at convenient distances through the fields. They are thence loaded into wagons and taken to the car or to the city market.

From $15 to $20 a hundred for large fruits are the highest prices realized for melons at the car, often the price drops to $8 or $6, and sometimes the fruits cannot be sold. Twenty to 30 years ago melon growing was an important industry in this section, many farmers then growing from 5 to 20 acres each, and usually realizing from $50 to $100 an acre; but competition with southern growers, on cheap land, with cheap labor, and low freights, has made the profits uncertain, and today very few melons are grown here except for home use or local trade."



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