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ROOT CROPS







Under the first section we will consider: Beet Carrot Kohlrabi Leek Onion Parsnip Potato Salsify Turnip Any of these may be sown in April, in drills (with the exception of potatoes) twelve to eighteen inches apart. The soil must be rich and finely worked, in order that the roots will be even and smooth--in poor or ill-prepared soil they are likely to be misshapen, or "sprangling." They must be thinned out to the proper distances, which should be done if possible on a cloudy day, hand-weeded as often as may be required, and given clean and frequent cultivation. All, with the exception of leeks and potatoes, are given level culture. All will be greatly benefited, when about one-third grown, by a top dressing of nitrate of soda. _Beet:_--Beets do best in a rather light soil. Those for earliest use are started under glass (as described previously) and set out six to seven inches apart in rows a foot apart. The first outdoor sowing is made as soon as the soil is ready in spring, and the seed should be put in thick, as not all will come through if bad weather is encountered. When thinning out, the small plants that are removed, tops and roots cooked together, make delicious greens. The late crop, for fall and winter use, sow the last part of June. For this crop the larger varieties are used, and on rich soil will need six to eight inches in the row and fifteen inches between rows. _Carrot:_--Carrots also like a soil that is rather on the sandy side, and on account of the depth to which the roots go, it should be deep and fine. The quality will be better if the soil is not too rich. A few for extra early use may be grown in the hotbeds or frame. If radishes and carrots are sown together, in alternating rows six inches apart, the former will be used by the time the carrots need the room, and in this way a single 3 x 6 ft. sash will yield a good supply for the home garden. Use Chantenay or Ox-Heart (see Chapter XII) for this purpose. The late crop is sometimes sown between rows of onions, skipping every third row, during June, and left to mature when the onions are harvested; but unless the ground is exceptionally free from weeds, the plan is not likely to prove successful. _Kohlrabi:_--While not truly a "root crop"--the edible portion being a peculiar globular enlargement of the stem--its culture is similar, as it may be sown in drills and thinned out. Frequently, however, it is started in the seed-bed and transplanted, the main crop (for market) being sown in May or June. A few of these from time to time will prove very acceptable for the home table. They should be used when quite young; as small as two inches being the tenderest. _Leek:_--To attain its best the leek should be started in the seed-bed, late in April, and transplanted in late June, to the richest, heaviest soil available. Hill up from time to time to blanch lower part of stalk; or a few choice specimens may be had by fitting cardboard collars around the stem and drawing the earth up to these, not touching the stalk with earth. _Onions:_--Onions for use in the green state are grown from white "sets," put out early in April, three to four inches apart in rows twelve inches apart; or from seed sown the previous fall and protected with rough manure during the winter. These will be succeeded by the crop from "prickers" or seedlings started under glass in January or February. As onions are not transplanted before going to the garden, sow directly in the soil rather than in flats. It is safest to cover the bed with one-half inch to one inch of coarse sand, and sow the seed in this. To get stocky plants trim back twice, taking off the upper half of leaves each time, and trim back the roots one-half to two- thirds at the time of setting out, which may be any time after the middle of April. These in turn will be succeeded by onions coming from the crop sown from seed in the open. The above is for onions eaten raw in the green state when less than half grown. For the main crop for bulbs, the home supply is best grown from prickers as described above. Prize-taker and Gibraltar are mostly used for this purpose, growing to the size of the large Spanish onions sold at grocery stores. For onions to be kept for late winter and spring use, grow from seed, sowing outdoors as early as possible. No vegetable needs a richer or more perfectly prepared soil than the onion; and especial care must be taken never to let the weeds get a start. They are gathered after the tops dry down and wither, when they should be pulled, put in broad rows for several days in the sun, and then spread out flat, not more than four inches deep, under cover with plenty of light and air. Before severe freezing store in slatted barrels, as described in Chapter XIV. _Parsnip:_--Sow as early as possible, in deep rich soil, but where no water will stand during fall and winter. The seed germinates very slowly, so the seed-bed should be very finely prepared. They will be ready for use in the fall, but are much better after the first frosts. For method of keeping see Chapter XIV. _Potato:_--If your garden is a small one, buy your main supply of potatoes from some nearby farmer, first trying half a bushel or so to be sure of the quality. Purchase in late September or October when the crop is being dug and the price is low. For an extra early and choice supply for the home garden, start a peck or so in early March, as follows: Select an early variety, seed of good size and clean; cut to pieces containing one or two eyes, and pack closely together on end in flats of coarse sand. Give these full light and heat, and by the middle to end of April they will have formed dense masses of roots, and nice, strong, stocky sprouts, well leaved out. Dig out furrows two and a half feet apart, and incorporate well rotted manure in the bottom, with the soil covering this until the furrow is left two to three inches deep. Set the sprouted tubers, pressing firmly into the soil, about twelve inches apart, and cover in, leaving them thus three to four inches below the surface. Keep well cultivated, give a light top dressing of nitrate of soda--and surprise all your neighbors! This system has not yet come extensively into use, but is practically certain of producing excellent results. For the main crop, if you have room, cut good seed to one or two eyes, leaving as much of the tuber as possible to each piece, and plant thirteen inches apart in rows three feet apart. Cultivate deeply until the plants are eight to ten inches high and then shallow but frequently. As the vines begin to spread, hill up moderately, making a broad, low ridge. Handle potato-bugs and blight as directed in Chapter XIII. For harvesting see Chapter XIV. While big crops may be grown on heavy soils, the quality will be very much better on sandy, well drained soils. Planting on well rotted sod, or after green manuring, such as clover or rye, will also improve the looks and quality of the crop. Like onions, they need a high percentage of potash in manures or fertilizers used; this may be given in sulphate of potash. Avoid planting on ground enriched with fresh barnyard manure or immediately after a dressing of lime. _Salsify:_--The "vegetable oyster," or salsify, is to my taste the most delicious root vegetable grown. It is handled practically in the same way as the parsnip, but needs, if possible, ground even more carefully prepared, in order to keep the main root from sprangling. If a fine light soil cannot be had for planting, it will pay to hoe or hand-plow furrows where the drills are to be--not many will be needed, and put in specially prepared soil, in which the seed may get a good start. _Radish:_--To be of good crisp quality, it is essential with radishes to grow them just as quickly as possible. The soil should be rather sandy and not rich in fresh manure or other nitrogenous fertilizers, as this tends to produce an undesirable amount of leaves at the expense of the root. If the ground is at all dry give a thorough wetting after planting, which may be on the surface, as the seeds germinate so quickly that they will be up before the soil has time to crust over. Gypsum or land-plaster, sown on white and worked into the soil, will improve both crop and quality. They are easily raised under glass, in autumn or spring in frames, requiring only forty to fifty degrees at night. It is well to plant in the hotbed, after a crop of lettuce. Or sow as a double crop, as suggested under _Carrots_. For outside crops, sow every ten days or two weeks. _Turnip:_--While turnips will thrive well on almost any soil, the quality--which is somewhat questionable at the best--will be much better on sandy or even gravelly soil. Avoid fresh manures as much as possible, as the turnip is especially susceptible to scab and worms. They are best when quite small and for the home table a succession of sowing, only a few at a time, will give the best results.





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Previous: THE VEGETABLES AND THEIR SPECIAL NEEDS



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