On The Management Required In The Culture Of

Early and Late Melons. For early melons have three loads of dung for a three-light box; but if you have previously grown early cucumbers, the old linings will be useful for the melon bed, by mixing a proportion of one half of fresh dung

with it. This, in fact, will be better than all fresh, as it requires only once turning, whereas new dung should be turned twice. In gentlemen's gardens there is generally an abundance of leaves, and sometimes a scarcity of dung; when such is the case, leaves, mixed with an equal proportion of dung, may be used very successfully for the early melon; and for the late one all leaves, from trees or shrubs, will answer the purpose, particularly where there are brick pits. Let the dung be put together for a week, and lay the same time before it is turned. Be careful that the bottom is dry where the bed is built; raise it with mould or road sand to the height of six or eight inches, and allow the bottom to be eight or nine inches longer and wider than the box, so that when the bed is made, it may be drawn up in a gradual manner to about three or four inches wider than the box, observing at the same time to beat it well down with a fork. Let it be about three feet nine inches at the back by three feet six inches in the front; should there, however, happen to be a scarcity of dung, a foot of strawberry or asparagus halm, fagots, or pieces of wood, or, indeed, some of each, may be added at the bottom of the bed. If the dung is dry, apply water to it, that it may be properly moistened; and after the bed is formed, let it be again watered, as the plants will not thrive so well, nor the linings have the proper effect, if the bed is kept too dry. The bed should be made three weeks or a month before the plants are put into it, and must be perfectly sweet before they are ridged out. When the bed is in a proper condition, hollow it out in the middle to the depth of four inches, and put a large barrow-fall of mould to each hill, pressing it down close with the hand about a foot deep. The day before you intend to ridge out, put a pot of plants in the bed, to prove whether it is sweet, which, if you ascertain to be the case, and the box is large, ridge them out, three plants to a light; but if small two will be sufficient. The proper time to sow the seed for an early crop is about the middle of January; and the early cucumber bed will do very well for the purpose. Those sown at this time will be fit to cut in the first or second week of May; but if there is no particular necessity for fruit so early, the beginning of February is a preferable season to sow, when they will be ready to cut by the latter end of May or the beginning of June. The Early Cantaloupe is the best sort for an early crop. Let them be sown in leaf mould, about eighteen or twenty seeds in a forty-eight size pot; immediately apply water, and plunge the pots in a good sharp heat. As soon as the seed makes its appearance, which will be in the course of about three days, if it is good, un-plunge the pots and give them a little water. In two or three days more they will be fit to pot off, which ought always to be done when about a week old, as they strike much more freely when potted off young. Let the soil for potting off the plants be half leaf mould, and half light loam or bog earth. The best season to sow for a second crop is the beginning of March, and well calculated for the Stroud Rock, Scarlet Rock, White-seeded Rock, Green Flesh, and, in fact, many others of nearly the same description, though under different names, which they have derived from those gardeners who have cultivated them by impregnating one with the other. It is by no means, however, advisable to sow the Black Rock before the latter end of March, as it is only calculated for a late melon, and should be grown in large boxes, two plants to a light. This, though a fine looking fruit, and well flavoured, will not suit those whose object is to produce a large quantity; for, by attempting to grow more than two in a light, they will not rock, nor arrive to any degree of perfection. The Stroud Rock is a particular favourite with the Author, who has produced fruit of this kind upwards of seven pounds in weight, though the common size varies from three to five. This description of melon is not generally known, although it is a fine looking and excellent flavoured fruit: it possesses a thin skin, orange-coloured flesh, and the rind is very dark. The Scarlet Rock is, however, the finest flavoured melon that can be produced, though small in its growth, seldom exceeding the weight of three pounds, and commonly from one to two. The flesh is of a deep scarlet colour, and it is rather inclined to rock. The Early Cantaloupe is the most productive melon in bearing; but in order to obtain them good flavoured no more than one fruit must be suffered to swell on a plant at a time, except the lights are large, when two may be allowed, that is, six in a light; but if, however, the plants are confined to one fruit, a second crop may be obtained. The White-seeded Rock is a very fine melon in appearance, and much approved of by some gardeners for its qualities in ripening early for a rock; but it will not, however, keep long, soon loses its flavour, and the colour changes very yellow; it is also extremely tender in its growth, and very inferior in flavour to the Stroud Rock; neither is it so handsome a fruit, so well-flavoured, nor does it ripen any sooner. The Green Flesh is a fine flavoured melon, with a thin skin, but generally small in its dimensions. The Author has, however, a sort of this kind that will grow from three to five pounds in weight. The Black Rock melon should not be sown later than the latter end of May; the Stroud and Scarlet Rock may be sown as late as the tenth of June; and the Early Cantaloupe about the twentieth of June. In order to produce fine fruit, be particular in having a good depth of earth, from a foot to eighteen inches will be necessary. When the hills are made for the very early melons, one large barrow-full of mould will be sufficient, which must be pressed down close with the hand. Those that are sown in March will require one barrow-full and a half, and those afterwards two. In applying this mould, put one barrow-full in first, and tread it down; then add the remainder, and press it close down with the hand. Procure some good holding loam of a greasy nature, such as is generally found in the marshes, which is the most preferable kind of soil for melons, and let it be well weathered before using. It ought to lay twelve, or at the least six months. Mix this with a sixth proportion of good rotten dung or leaf mould, and let it be turned over two or three different times, that it may be properly sweetened and incorporated together; taking care, however, that it is not broken too fine. The mould intended for the hills of the first crop should be lighter than for those grown afterwards, being composed of light loam, mixed with a sixth part of leaf mould or rotten dung; or an equal proportion of stiff loam and leaf mould. As mould is added after the plants have been ridged out, let it be trod down close, and take particular care that the roots are never exposed to the sun, but as soon as they make their appearance through the hills, increase the mould, in the proportion of a barrow-full to each hill for the early melon, and two, or even more, to the later one. In watering the plants, as the season advances, you must be regulated by the composition of the soil, and the temperature of the weather. If the soil is stiff, it will not require half the quantity that should be applied to light mould. If the weather is warm, much water is necessary, but if cold very little should be given, as too much moisture at that time will create the canker. Heat being materially requisite for preserving the growth of the melon, great care must be taken in keeping the bed well supplied with linings, which must be added until the weather becomes fine and settled; they will generally be required until the beginning of June; but if the season is even then cold, it is better to continue them longer. In covering up the early plants, at the first ridging out, a single or double mat will be sufficient; after that add a little hay, and increase it if the weather is cold. This should be continued until the middle of June, or later, if the season is unfavourable. Many gardeners being unacquainted with the proper mode of training and topping the melon, and thereby finding it extremely difficult to set the fruit, the Author will here give the method always pursued by himself, which, if strictly observed, will be found to be attended with far less trouble, and more certain in its effect than the plan generally adopted. When the plants are potted off, top them at the second break; that is, let them grow to two leaves; then take out the break, which in some kinds is in the centre, and in others in the second leaf. If you require the fruit very fine, two plants will be sufficient in a light; but should there be no particular necessity in that respect, and the lights are sufficiently capacious, three may be matured extremely well. Have four runners to a light; that is, if two plants, two runners to each; but if three, two runners to one plant, and one to each of the other two. If the lights are large, they may be suffered to run to eight joints; but if, on the contrary, the lights are confined, six will be sufficient; and all other breaks that come out at home, with the first break that issues from the runners, should be effectually taken away, in order that the others may derive strength and nourishment. As soon as they make the first breaks from the runners, which by some are denominated cross bars, top them at the first joint, and in most sorts they will generally show fruit; but if it should so happen that this does not succeed, top them again, when they are certain of showing fruit at the second. If they are impregnated in the same manner as prescribed in the directions for the cucumber, there will be no difficulty in setting the fruit, which will also show much bolder, and possess greater strength when topped in close. Every description of melon will be brought to a greater degree of perfection, by being suffered to swell off on the first shows, which can alone be effected by keeping them thin of vine: if this is particularly attended to, no apprehension need be entertained of the fruit being small or delicate, as, in proportion to the quantity of vine, so it decreases the strength and vigour of the plants. Great care is necessary in watering the plants: when they are young, it should be applied with a rose; but as soon as the runners are extended all over the bed, that may be dispensed with. If the weather is dull, a small quantity of water will be sufficient; and if very fine, more must be applied carefully without a rose, which will be found beneficial in causing them to set more freely. An insufficiency of moisture is an error too prevalent with many gardeners in the culture of the melon, and indeed the inferiority of their fruit, both in weight and flavour, may be greatly attributed to want of judgment in this particular; for if the plants are kept thin of vine, the necessity of which has been before stated, they are of course more open to the air, and the sun has greater power in drying up the soil, consequently the plants will become exhausted, and the fruit will ripen before its growth is properly matured. The Early Cantaloupe melon, if left to its full time, will be five weeks from the period of setting before it ripens; the Stroud about six; the Scarlet seven; and the Black Rock upwards of seven; there will, however, be some difference between those forced early with bottom heat, and those grown late; the early ones coming to perfection three or four days, or even a week before the other. The proper time to sow for under-ground melons, that is, such as are grown without linings, is from the twenty-fifth of March to the twentieth of June; observing, at the same time, that those which are sown in March will require stronger beds than those that are set three weeks or a month later. The beds for the first should be formed of good dung, well worked, and three feet in height; whereas the latter will only require two feet. Dig a trench the size of the frame, about eighteen inches deep; and if the soil is a strong good holding loam, it will answer the purpose for any description of rock melon; they requiring a strong soil to bring them to perfection; a light loam, however, may be used for the Early Cantaloupe. As soon as the bed is formed, tread it down well, make it even, and let it have about six inches fall from the back to the front; then put on the boxes and lights, and when the heat rises to its proper height, which will be in the course of three or four days, put the mould in for the hills, in the proportion of two barrows-full to a light, levelling it about an inch all over the bed, for the purpose of preventing the rank steam from injuring the plants. On the following day they may be ridged out, and watered, being very particular in sprinkling the bed regularly over. Admit air freely both night and day at first, until the bed is purified, and becomes perfectly sweet; this will be the case in about a week, when they may be shut down at night. Let the topping and training be the same as directed for the early ones. If the soil is strong, and of a binding nature, a bank may be made on the outside, at the back and front, about a foot or eighteen inches wide, which will prove a great support to the fruit, and cause them to grow much larger and finer; but if the soil is light and rich, by no means make a bank, nor ridge out the plants in it, as mould of that description is not at all adapted for the production of fine melons. The only one that will in any degree thrive in light rich soil is the Early Cantaloupe; but any kind of the rock description will never come to perfection. It is here necessary to observe that it is impossible ever to obtain fine or good flavoured fruit, if more than one is suffered to swell on a plant at a time, as that support which is essential and ought to be directed to one object, by becoming divided, is insufficient for the perfection of more, and naturally weakens the fruit, and renders it of little or no value. Many horticulturists experience much difficulty from the effects of the red spider and canker in melons; the former being caused by keeping them too dry, and the latter arising from too much moisture. In order to avoid these evils, the following directions should be particularly attended to. When the weather is hot, or there is a strong bottom heat, it is necessary to be free in the application of water, especially round the sides of the boxes; for when the plants cover the bed, it will not be requisite to give any in the centre over the stems. When the plants cover the surface of the bed always water without a rose, observing that it should be invariably done in the morning, and when the weather is fine, so as to allow the vines to get dry before night, which will not be the case, if it is applied in the afternoon; and should the following day be dull, and perhaps continue so for three or four, the vines will remain wet, and then there is every probability of their getting the canker, which entirely proceeds from a cold chill, created by unnecessary moisture. The canker is a very destructive disorder, and extremely difficult to eradicate. The only means that can be adopted, or likely to prove beneficial, is to keep the plants as dry as possible, and to give a good heat; being careful, at the same time, not to run into the other extreme, and create the red spider. If, however, the plants are kept thin of vine, and water is applied in the manner before directed, no fear need be entertained of either of the above disorders.

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