THE FRUIT CROPS





Under this heading are included:
Bean, dwarf Bean, pole
Corn Peas
Cucumber Egg-plant
Melon, musk Melon, water
Okra Pepper
Pumpkins Squash
Tomato
Most of these vegetables differ from both the preceding groups in two
important ways. First of all, the soil should not be made too rich,
especially in nitrogenous manures, such as strong fresh yard-manure;
although light dressings of nitrate of soda are often of great help in
giving them a quick start--as when setting out in the field. Second,
they are warm-weather loving plants, and nothing is gained by
attempting to sow or set out the plants until all danger from late
frosts is over, and the ground is well warmed up. (Peas, of course, are
an exception to this rule, and to some extent the early beans.) Third,
they require much more room and are grown for the most part in hills.
Light, warm, "quick," sandy to gravelly soils, and old, fine, well
rotted manure--applied generally in the hill besides that plowed under,
make the best combination for results. Such special hills are prepared
by marking off, digging out the soil to the depth of eight to ten
inches, and eighteen inches to two feet square, and incorporating
several forkfuls of the compost. A little guano, or better still
cottonseed meal, say 1/2 to 1 gill of the former, or a gill of the
latter, mixed with the compost when putting into the hill, will also be
very good. Hills to be planted early should be raised an inch or two
above the surface, unless they are upon sloping ground.
The greatest difficulty in raising all the vine fruits--melons, etc.--
is in successfully combating their insect enemies--the striped beetle,
the borer and the flat, black "stink-bug," being the worst of these.
Remedies will be suggested in the next chapter. But for the home
garden, where only a few hills of each will be required, by far the
easiest and the only sure way of fighting them will be by protecting
with bottomless boxes, large enough to cover the hills, and covered
with mosquito netting, or better, "plant-protecting cloth," which has
the additional merit of giving the hills an early start. These boxes
may be easily made of one-half by eight-inch boards, or from ordinary
cracker-boxes, such as used for making flats. Plants so protected in
the earlier stages of growth will usually either not be attacked, or
will, with the assistance of the remedies described in the following
chapter, be able to withstand the insect's visits.
_Beans, dwarf:_--Beans are one of the most widely liked of all
garden vegetables--and one of the most easily grown. They are very
particular about only one thing--not to have a heavy wet soil. The
dwarf or bush sorts are planted in double or single drills, eighteen to
twenty-four inches apart, and for the first sowing not much over an
inch deep. Later plantings should go in two to three inches deep,
according to soil. Ashes or some good mixed fertilizer high in potash,
applied and well mixed in at time of planting, will be very useful.
As the plants gain size they should be slightly hilled--to help hold
the stalks up firmly. Never work over or pick from the plants while
they are wet. The dwarf limas should not be planted until ten to
fourteen days later than the early sorts. Be sure to put them in
edgeways, with the eye down, and when there is no prospect of immediate
rain, or the whole planting is fairly sure to be lost.
_Beans, pole:_--The pole varieties should not go in until about
the time for the limas. Plant in specially prepared hills (see above)
ten to twenty seeds, and when well up thin, leaving three to five.
Poles are best set when preparing the hills. A great improvement over
the old-fashioned pole is made by nailing building laths firmly across
2 x 3-in. posts seven or eight feet high (see illustration). To secure
extra early pods on the poles pinch back the vines at five feet high.
_Corn:_--For extra early ears, corn may easily be started on sod,
as directed for cucumbers. Be sure, however, not to get into the open
until danger from frost is over--usually at least ten days after it is
safe for the first planting, which is seldom made before May 1st.
Frequent, shallow cultivation is a prime necessity in growing this
crop. When well up, thin to four stalks to a hill--usually five to
seven kernels being planted. A slight hilling when the tassels appear
will be advisable. Plant frequently for succession crops. The last
sowing may be made as late as the first part of July if the seed is
well firmed in, to assure immediate germination. Sweet corn for the
garden is frequently planted in drills, about three feet apart, and
thinning to ten to twelve inches.
_Cucumber:_--This universal favorite is easily grown if the
striped beetle is held at bay. For the earliest fruits start on sod in
the frames: Cut out sods four to six inches square, where the grass
indicates rich soil. Pack close together in the frame, grass side down,
and push seven or eight seeds into each, firmly enough to be held in
place, covering with about one and a half inches of light soil; water
thoroughly and protect with glass or cloth, taking care to ventilate,
as described in Chapter VIII. Set out in prepared hills after danger of
frost is over.
Outside crop is planted directly in the hills, using a dozen or more
seeds and thinning to three or four.
_Egg-plant:_--The egg-plant is always started under glass, for the
Northern States, and should be twice transplanted, the second time into
pots, to be of the best size when put out. This should not be until
after tomatoes are set, as it is perhaps the tenderest of all garden
vegetables as regards heat. The soil should be very rich and as moist
as can be selected. If dry, irrigating will be necessary. This should
not be delayed until the growth becomes stunted, as sudden growth then
induced is likely to cause the fruit to crack.
Watch for potato-bugs on your egg-plants. They seem to draw these
troublesome beetles as a magnet does iron filings, and I have seen
plants practically ruined by them in one day. As they seem to know
there will not be time to eat the whole fruit they take pains to eat
into the stems. The only sure remedy is to knock them off with a piece
of shingle into a pan of water and kerosene. Egg-plants are easily
burned by Paris green, and that standard remedy cannot be so
effectively used as on other crops; hellebore or arsenate of lead is
good. As the season of growth is very limited, it is advisable, besides
having the plants as well developed as possible when set out, to give a
quick start with cotton-seed meal or nitrate, and liquid manure later
is useful, as they are gross feeders. The fruits are ready to eat from
the size of a turkey egg to complete development.
_Melon, musk:_--The culture of this delicious vegetable is almost
identical with that of the cucumber. If anything it is more particular
about having light soil. If put in soil at all heavy, at the time of
preparing the hill, add sand and leaf-mould to the compost, the hills
made at least three feet square, and slightly raised. This method is
also of use in planting the other vine crops.
_Melon, water:_--In the warm Southern States watermelons may be
grown cheaply, and they are so readily shipped that in the small home
gardens it will not pay to grow them, for they take up more space than
any other vegetable, with the exception of winter squash. The one
advantage of growing them, where there is room, is that better quality
than that usually to be bought may be obtained. Give them the hottest
spot in the garden and a sandy quick soil. Use a variety recommended
for your particular climate. Give the same culture as for musk melon,
except that the hill should be at least six to ten feet apart each way.
By planting near the edge of the garden, and pinching back the vines,
room may be saved and the ripening up of the crop made more certain.
_Okra:_--Although the okra makes a very strong plant--and
incidentally is one of the most ornamental of all garden vegetables--
the seed is quickly rotted by wet or cold. Sow not earlier than May
25th, in warm soil, planting thinly in drills, about one and a half
inches deep, and thinning to a foot or so; cultivate as with corn in
drills. All pods not used for soup or stems during summer may be dried
and used in winter.
_Peas:_--With care in making successive sowings, peas may be had
during a long season. The earliest, smooth varieties are planted in
drills twelve to eighteen inches apart, early in April. These are,
however, of very inferior quality compared to the wrinkled sorts, which
may now be had practically as early as the others. With the market
gardener, the difference of a few days in the maturing of the crop is
of a great deal more importance than the quality, but for the home
garden the opposite is true.
Another method of planting the dwarf-growing kinds is to make beds of
four rows, six to eight inches apart, with a two-foot alley between
beds. The tall-growing sorts must be supported by brush or in other
ways; and are put about four feet apart in double rows, six inches
apart. The early varieties if sown in August will usually mature a good
fall crop. The early plantings should be made in light, dry soil and
but one inch deep; the later ones in deep loam. In neither case should
the ground be made too rich, especially in nitrogen; and it should not
be wet when the seed is planted.
_Pepper:_--A dozen pepper plants will give abundance of pods for
the average family. The varieties have been greatly improved within
recent years in the quality of mildness.
The culture recommended for egg-plant is applicable also to the pepper.
The main difference is that, although the pepper is very tender when
young, the crop maturing in the autumn will not be injured by
considerable frost.
_Pumpkin:_--The "sugar" or "pie" varieties of the pumpkin are the
only ones used in garden culture, and these only where there is plenty
of ground for all other purposes. The culture is the same as that for
late squashes, which follows.
_Squash:_--For the earliest squash the bush varieties of Scallop
are used; to be followed by the summer Crookneck and other summer
varieties, best among which are the Fordhook and Delicata. For all,
hills should be prepared as described at the beginning of this section
and in addition it is well to mix with manure a shovelful of coal
ashes, used to keep away the borer, to the attack of which the squash
is particularly liable. The cultivation is the same as that used for
melons or cucumbers, except that the hills for the winter sorts must be
at least eight feet apart and they are often put twelve.
_Tomato:_--For the earliest crop, tomatoes are started about March
1st. They should be twice transplanted, and for best results the second
transplanting should be put into pots--or into the frames, setting six
to eight inches each way. They are not set out until danger of frost is
over, and the ground should not be too rich; old manure used in the
hill, with a dressing of nitrate at setting out, or a few days after,
will give them a good start. According to variety, they are set three
to five feet apart--four feet, where staking or trellising is given, as
it should always be in garden culture, will be as much as the largest-
growing plants require. It will pay well, both for quality and quantity
of fruit, to keep most of the suckers cut or rubbed off. The ripening
of a few fruits may be hastened by tying paper bags over the bunches,
or by picking and ripening on a board in the hot sun. For ripening
fruit after frost see Chapter XIV.
A sharp watch should be kept for the large green tomato-worm, which is
almost exactly the color of the foliage. His presence may first be
noticed by fruit and leaves eaten. Hand-picking is the best remedy.
Protection must be made against the cutworm in localities where he
works.
All the above, of course, will be considered in connection with the
tabulated information as to dates, depths and distances for sowing,
quantities, etc., given in the table in Chapter IV, and is supplemented
by the information about insects, diseases and harvesting given in
Chapters XIII and XIV, and especially in the Chapter on Varieties which
follows, and which is given separately from the present chapter in
order that the reader may the more readily make out a list, when
planning his garden or making up his order sheet for the seedsman.





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