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LEAF CROPS







Under leaf crops are considered also those of which the stalk or the flower heads form the edible portion, such as celery and cauliflower. Asparagus Brussels Sprouts Cabbage Cauliflower Celery Endive Kale Lettuce Parsley Rhubarb Spinach The quality of all these will depend largely upon growing them rapidly and without check from the seed-bed to the table. They are all great nitrogen-consumers and therefore take kindly to liberal supplies of yard manure, which is high in nitrogen. For celery the manure is best applied to some preceding crop, such as early cabbage. The others will take it "straight." Most of these plants are best started under glass or in the seed-bed and transplanted later to permanent positions. They will all be helped greatly by a top-dressing of nitrate of soda, worked into the soil as soon as they have become established. This, if it fails to produce the dark green healthy growth characteristic of its presence, should be followed by a second application after two or three weeks--care being taken, of course, to use it with reason and restraint, as directed in Chapter VI. Another method of growing good cabbages and similar plants, where the ground is not sufficiently rich to carry the crop through, is to "manure in the hill," either yard or some concentrated manure being used. If yard manure, incorporate a good forkful with the soil where each plant is to go. (If any considerable number are being set, it will of course be covered in a furrow--first being trampled down, with the plow). Another way, sure of producing results, and not inconvenient for a few hundred plants, is to mark out the piece, dig out with a spade or hoe a hole some five inches deep at each mark, dilute poultry manure in an old pail until about the consistency of thick mud, and put a little less than half a trowelful in each hole. Mix with the soil and cover, marking the spot with the back of the hoe, and then set the plants. By this method, followed by a top-dressing of nitrate of soda, I have repeatedly grown fine cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce and sprouts. Cotton-seed meal is also very valuable for manuring in the hill--about a handful to a plant, as it is rich in nitrogen and rapidly decomposes. The cabbage group is sometimes hilled up, but if set well down and frequently cultivated, on most soils this will not be necessary. They all do best in very deep, moderately heavy soil, heavily manured and rather moist. An application of lime some time before planting will be a beneficial precaution. With this group rotation also is almost imperative. The most troublesome enemies attacking these plants are: the flea- beetle, the cabbage-worm, the cabbage-maggot (root) and "club-root"; directions for fighting all of which will be found in the following chapter. _Asparagus:_--Asparagus is rightly esteemed one of the very best spring vegetables. There is a general misconception, however--due to the old methods of growing it--concerning the difficulty of having a home supply. As now cared for, it is one of the easiest of all vegetables to grow, when once the beds are set and brought to bearing condition. Nor is it difficult to make the bed, and the only reason why asparagus is not more universally found in the home garden, beside that mentioned above, is because one has to wait a year for results. In selecting a spot for the asparagus bed, pick out the earliest and best drained soil available, even if quite sandy it will do well. Plow or dig out trenches three feet apart and sixteen to twenty inches deep. In the bottoms of these tramp down firmly six to eight inches of old, thoroughly rotted manure. Cover with six to eight inches of good soil-- not that coming from the bottom of the trench--and on this set the crowns or root-clumps--preferably one-year ones--being careful to spread the roots out evenly, and covering with enough soil to hold in position, making them firm in the soil. The roots are set one foot apart. Then fill in level, thus leaving the crowns four to six inches below the surface. As the stalks appear give a light dressing of nitrate of soda and keep the crop cleanly cultivated. (Lettuce, beets, beans or any of the small garden vegetables may be grown between the asparagus rows during the first part of the season, for the first two years, thus getting some immediate return from labor and manure). The stalks should not be cut until the second spring after planting and then only very lightly. After that full crops may be had. After the first season, besides keeping cleanly cultivated at all times, in the fall clear off and burn all tops and weeds and apply a good coating of manure. Dig or lightly cultivate this in the spring, applying also a dressing of nitrate of soda, as soon as the stalks appear. If the yield is not heavy, give a dressing of bone or of the basic fertilizers mentioned earlier. It is not difficult to grow plants from seed, but is generally more satisfactory to get the roots from some reliable seedsman. _Broccoli:-The broccoli makes a flower head as does the cauliflower. It is, however, inferior in quality and is not grown to any extent where the latter will succeed. It has the one advantage of being hardier and thus can be grown where the cauliflower is too uncertain to make its culture worth while. For culture directions see _Cauliflower_. _Brussels Sprouts:_--In my opinion this vegetable leaves the cabbage almost as far behind as the cauliflower does. It is, if anything, more easily grown than cabbage, except that the young plants do not seem able to stand quite so much cold. When mature, however, it seems to stand almost any amount of freezing, and it is greatly improved by a few smart frosts, although it is very good when succeeding the spring crop of cauliflower. It takes longer to mature than either cabbage or cauliflower. _Cabbage:_--Cabbage is one of the few vegetables which may be had in almost as good quality from the green-grocer as it can be grown at home, and as it takes up considerable space, it may often be advisable to omit the late sorts from the home garden if space is very limited. The early supply, however, should come from the garden--some people think it should stay there, but I do not agree with them. Properly cooked it is a very delicious vegetable. What has already been said covers largely the conditions for successful culture. The soil should be of the richest and deepest, and well dressed with lime. Lettuce is grown with advantage between the rows of early cabbage, and after both are harvested the ground is used for celery. The early varieties may be set as closely as eighteen inches in the row, and twenty-four between rows. The lettuce is taken out before the row is needed. The late crop is started in the outside seed-bed about June 1st to 15th. It will help give better plants to cut back the tops once or twice during growth, and an occasional good soaking in dry weather will prove very beneficial. They are set in the field during July, and as it often is very dry at this time, those extra precautions mentioned in directions for setting out plants, in the preceding chapter, should be taken. If the newly set plants are dusted with wood ashes, it will be a wise precaution against insect pests. _Cauliflower:_--The cauliflower is easily the queen of the cabbage group: also it is the most difficult to raise. (1) It is the most tender and should not be set out quite so early. (2) It is even a ranker feeder than the cabbage, and just before heading up will be greatly improved by applications of liquid manure. (3) It must have water, and unless the soil is a naturally damp one, irrigation, either by turning the hose on between the rows, or directly around the plants, must be given--two or three times should be sufficient. (4) The heads must be protected from the sun. This is accomplished by tying up the points of leaves, so as to form a tent, or breaking them (snap the mid- rib only), and folding them down over the flower. (5) They must be used as soon as ready, for they deteriorate very quickly. Take them while the head is still solid and firm, before the little flower tips begin to open out. _Celery:_--This is another favorite vegetable which has a bad reputation to live down. They used to plant it at the bottom of a twelve-inch trench and spend all kinds of unnecessary labor over it. It can be grown perfectly well on the level and in the average home garden. As to soil, celery prefers a moist one, but it must be well drained. The home supply can, however, be grown in the ordinary garden, especially if water may be had in case of injurious drouth. For the early crop the best sorts are the White Plume and Golden Self- blanching. Seed is sown in the last part of February or first part of March. The seed is very fine and the greatest pains must be taken to give the best possible treatment. The seed should be pressed into the soil and barely covered with very light soil--half sifted leaf-mould or moss. Never let the boxes dry out, and as soon as the third or fourth leaf comes, transplant; cut back the outside leaves, and set as deeply as possible without covering the crown. The roots also, if long, should be cut back. This trimming of leaves and roots should be given at each transplanting, thus assuring a short stocky growth. Culture of the early crop, after setting out, is easier than that for the winter crop. There are two systems: (1) The plants are set in rows three or four feet apart, six inches in the row, and blanched, either by drawing up the earth in a hill and working it in about the stalks with the fingers (this operation is termed "handling"), or else by the use of boards laid on edge along the rows, on either side. (2) The other method is called the "new celery culture," and in it the plants are set in beds eight inches apart each way (ten or twelve inches for large varieties), the idea being to make the tops of the plants supply the shade for the blanching. This method has two disadvantages: it requires extra heavy manuring and preparation of soil, and plenty of moisture; and even with this aid the stalks never attain the size of those grown in rows. The early crop should be ready in August. The quality is never so good as that of the later crops. For the main or winter crop, sow the seed about April 1st. The same extra care must be taken as in sowing under glass. In hot, dry weather, shade the beds; never let them dry out. Transplant to second bed as soon as large enough to develop root system, before setting in the permanent position. When setting in late June or July, be sure to put the plants in up to the hearts, not over, and set firmly. Give level clean culture until about August 15th, when, with the hoe, wheel hoe or cultivator, earth should be drawn up along the rows, followed by "handling." The plants for early use are trenched (see Chapter XIV), but that left for late use must be banked up, which is done by making the hills higher still, by the use of the spade. For further treatment see Chapter XIV. Care must be taken not to perform any work in the celery patch while the plants are wet. _Corn salad or Fetticus:_--This salad plant is not largely grown. It is planted about the middle of April and given the same treatment as spinach. _Chicory:_--This also is little grown. The Witloof, a kind now being used, is however much more desirable. Sow in drills, thin to five or six inches, and in August or September, earth up, as with early celery, to blanch the stalks, which are used for salads, or boiled. Cut-back roots, planted in boxes of sand placed in a moderately warm dark place and watered, send up a growth of tender leaves, making a fine salad. _Chervil:_--Curled chervil is grown the same as parsley and used for garnishing or seasoning. The root variety resembles the stump- rooted carrot, the quality being improved by frost. Sow in April or September. Treat like parsnip. _Chives:_--Leaves are used for imparting an onion flavor. A clump of roots set put will last many years. _Cress:_--Another salad little grown in the home garden. To many, however, its spicy, pungent flavor is particularly pleasing. It is easily grown, but should be planted frequently--about every two weeks. Sow in drills, twelve to fourteen inches apart. Its only special requirement is moisture. Water is not necessary, but if a bed can be started in some clean stream or pool, it will take care of itself. Upland cress or "pepper grass" grows in ordinary garden soil, being one of the very first salads. Sow in April, in drills twelve or fourteen inches apart. It grows so rapidly that it may be had in five or six weeks. Sow frequently for succession, as it runs to seed very quickly. _Chard:_--See _Spinach. Dandelion:_--This is an excellent "greens," but as the crop is not ready until second season from planting it is not grown as much as it should be. Sow the seed in April--very shallow. It is well to put in with it a few lettuce or turnip seed to mark the rows. Drills should be one foot apart, and plants thinned to eight to twelve inches. The quality is infinitely superior to the wild dandelion and may be still further improved by blanching. If one is content to take a small crop, a cutting may be made in the fall, the same season as the sowing. _Endive:_--This salad vegetable is best for fall use. Sow in June or July, in drills eighteen to twenty-four inches apart, and thin to ten to twelve inches. To be fit for use it must be blanched, either by tying up with raffia in a loose bunch, or by placing two wide boards in an inverted V shape over the rows; and in either case be sure the leaves are dry when doing this. _Kale:_--Kale is a non-heading member of the cabbage group, used as greens, both in spring and winter. It is improved by frost, but even then is a little tough and heavy. Its chief merit lies in the fact that it is easily had when greens of the better sorts are hard to get, as it may be left out and cut as needed during winter--even from under snow. The fall crop is given the same treatment as late cabbage. Siberian kale is sown in September and wintered-over like spinach. _Lettuce:_--Lettuce is grown in larger quantities than all the other salad plants put together. By the use of hotbeds it may be had practically the year round. The first sowing for the spring under-glass crop is made in January or February. These are handled as for the planting outside--see Chapter VIII.--but are set in the frames six to eight inches each way, according to variety. Ventilate freely during the day when over 55 give 45 at night. Water only when needed, but then thoroughly, and preferably only on mornings of bright sunny days. The plants for first outdoor crops are handled as already described. After April 1st planting should be made every two weeks. During July and August the seed-beds must be kept shaded and moist. In August, first sowing for fall under-glass crop is made, which can be matured in coldframes; later sowings going into hotbeds. In quality, I consider the hard-heading varieties superior to the loose-heading sorts, but of course that is a matter of taste. The former is best for crops maturing from the middle of June until September, the latter for early and late sowings, as they mature more quickly. The cos type is good for summer growing but should be tied up to blanch well. To be at its best, lettuce should be grown very rapidly, and the use of top-dressings of nitrate are particularly beneficial with this crop. The ground should be light, warm, and very rich, and cultivation shallow but frequent. _Mushroom:_--While the mushroom is not a garden crop, strictly speaking, still it is one of the most delicious of all vegetables for the home table, and though space does not permit a long description of the several details of its culture, I shall try to include all the essential points as succinctly as possible, (1) The place for the bed may be found in any sheltered, dry spot--cellar, shed or greenhouse-- where an even temperature of 53 to 58 degrees can be maintained and direct sunlight excluded. (Complete darkness is _not_ necessary; it is frequently so considered, but only because in dark places the temperature and moisture are apt to remain more even.) (2) The material is fresh horse-manure, from which the roughest of the straw has been shaken out. This is stacked in a compact pile and trampled--wetting down if at all dry--to induce fermentation. This process must be repeated four or five times, care being required never to let the heap dry out and burn; time for re-stacking being indicated by the heap's steaming. At the second or third turning, add about one-fifth, in bulk, of light loam. (3) When the heat of the pile no longer rises above 100 to 125 degrees (as indicated by a thermometer) put into the beds, tramping or beating very firmly, until about ten inches deep. When the temperature recedes to 90 degrees, put in the spawn. Each brick will make a dozen or so pieces. Put these in three inches deep, and twelve by nine inches apart, covering lightly. Then beat down the surface evenly. After eight days, cover with two inches of light loam, firmly compacted. This may be covered with a layer of straw or other light material to help maintain an even degree of moisture, but should be removed as soon as the mushrooms begin to appear. Water only when the soil is very dry; better if water is warmed to about 60 degrees. When gathering never leave stems in the bed as they are likely to breed maggots. The crop should appear in six to eight weeks after spawning the bed. _Parsley:_--This very easily grown little plant should have at least a row or two in the seed-bed devoted to it. For use during winter, a box or a few pots may be filled with cut-back roots and given moderate temperature and moisture. If no frames are on hand, the plants usually will do well in a sunny window. Parsley seed is particularly slow in germinating. Use a few seeds of turnip or carrot to indicate the rows, and have the bed very finely prepared. _Rhubarb:_--This is another of the standard vegetables which no home garden should be without. For the bed pick out a spot where the roots can stay without interfering with the plowing and working of the garden--next the asparagus bed, if in a good early location, will be as good as any. One short row will supply a large family. The bed is set either with roots or young plants, the former being the usual method. The ground should first be made as deep and rich as possible. If poor, dig out the rows, which should be four or five feet apart, to a depth of two feet or more and work in a foot of good manure, refilling with the best of the soil excavated. Set the roots about four feet apart in the row, the crowns being about four inches below the surface. No stalks should be cut the first season; after that they will bear abundantly many years. In starting from seed, sow in March in frames or outside in April; when well along-about the first of June--set out in rows, eighteen by twelve inches. By the following April they will be ready for their permanent position. Manuring in the fall, as with asparagus, to be worked in in the spring, is necessary for good results. I know of no crop which so quickly responds to liberal dressings of nitrate of soda, applied first just as growth starts in in the spring. The seed stalks should be broken off as fast as they appear, until late in the season. _Sea-Kale:_--When better known in this country, sea-kale will be given a place beside the asparagus and rhubarb, for, like them, it may be used year after year. Many believe it superior in quality to either asparagus or cauliflower. It is grown from either seed or pieces of the root, the former method, being probably the more satisfactory. Sow in April, in drills fourteen inches apart, thinning to five or six. Transplant in the following spring as described for rhubarb--but setting three feet apart each way. In the fall, after the leaves have fallen--and every succeeding fall-- cover each crown with a shovelful of clean sand and then about eighteen inches of earth, dug out from between the rows. This is to blanch the spring growth. After cutting, shovel off the earth and sand and enrich with manure for the following season's growth. _Spinach:_--For the first spring crop of this good and wholesome vegetable, the seed is sown in September, and carried over with a protection of hay or other rough litter. Crops for summer and fall are sown in successive plantings from April on, Long-Standing being the best sort to sow after about May 15th. Seed of the New Zealand spinach should be soaked several hours in hot water, before being planted. For the home garden, I believe that the Swiss chard beet is destined to be more popular, as it becomes known, than any of the spinaches. It is sown in plantings from April on, but will yield leaves all season long; they are cut close to the soil, and in an almost incredibly short time the roots have thrown up a new crop, the amount taken during the season being wonderful. Spinach wants a strong and very rich soil, and dressings of nitrate show good results.





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