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Practical Vegetable and Flower Growing,
DIRECTIONS FOR THE MONTH OF FEBRUARY.
Vegetables. FEBRUAZY is generally about the hottest and driest month of the year throughout the Colony, except in some localities on the coast, where there is frequently an abundance of rain. It requires much perseverance, doubtless, in the dry places to raise vegetables of any kind, especially where water is scarce. Constant cultivation with the hoe, no matter how dry the soil seems to be, will be most beneficial to the plants. One great secret in raising vegetables in dry weather is having the ground dug deep before the vegetables are planted or sown. When it has been dug or trenched (say) 2 or 3 feet deep, the roots of the vegetables are enabled to penetrate to a great distance into the soil, and obtain moisture below the surface.
The value of a thick mulch of animal droppings, rotten straw, &c., &c., . does not seem to be properly understood by many persons who desire to grow vegetables. It is surprising how many are under the impression that cow or horse dung will do injury if spread over the surface of the soil amongst the vegetables. This need not be feared, but, on the contrary, it will be found to be most beneficial. Farmers should have no difficulty in collecting an abundance of dang, both for digging into the soil and for a mulch. That for digging into the soil will be all the better for being decomposed or rotted before it be used. The manure had better be rotted under some kind of shelter, where the rain cannot wash through it and wash out some of the most valuable part of it. It should be kept moist whilst it is rotting, so that it may not become too heated and burn, for in such a case its value is considerably diminished. As much of the liquid excrement of cattle should be saved as possible if the best of manure is desired. The fresher the dung the better the manure will be, for old dung that has been lying about for months exposed to the weather is but of little value except for its mechanical effects in the soil or as an absorbant for saving liquid excrements. It is useful for a mulch, however.
Liquid manure, which can be made from the dung of animals soaked in water, is of great value for vegetables, but should not be used over strong, especially if it has fermented, in which case it should be considerably diluted with water. Experience will soon show the best strength to use if the effects of various applications be noted carefully.
Save all waste matter from the house, and it will be found of much value when the water supply is short. If liquid manure be used it should on no account be poured over the leaves of vegetables, but be applied to their roots only. This can most easily be done by drawing away the soil, or ratber by making a little shallow furrow or trench, into which the manure can be poured, and when it has soaked into the ground the soil should be covered over again. There is but little trouble about this work, which can be effected very quickly with a hoe.
Weeds will still be abundant if the season is at all moist, and in warm coastal portions of the Colony it is a most difficult matter to keep them in check. One of the worst of all is that known as “summer grass" (Panicum sanguinale), which grows wonderfully fast, and produces an immense quantity of seed. Keep the hoes very sharp, but be careful not to cut the vegetables whilst working amongst them.
In order to raise a sufficient supply of vegetables for transplanting later on, a good many different kinds of seeds must be sown, and some trouble should be taken to make suitable seed-beds or to prepare boxes or seed-pans in which to sow the seeds. Some stuff for shading will be necessary. On the coast, tea-tree brush is about as useful a thing as could be obtained.
French Beans.—These may be sown during the month as largely as may be required. The best kind for general purposes is that known as Canadian Wonder. The Butter beans are good, and deserre a trial.
Beet, Red.-Sow a little seed in rows. Probably one row will be sufficient at a time. Select rich ground, such as had been heavily manured for some previous crop. Before sowing the seed make a shallow drill-say about an inch or so deep. If the soil has been made quite fine a drill can be made with the forefinger. Drop the seed in the bottom of the drill, and if the soil is dry, water well before covering up, so as to give the seed a thorough soaking, and then cover over with fine soil, and press it down with the back of the spade. Always use a line to mark out the rows. A thick piece of string will serve the purpose well, and will last for a long time if taken care of. Plants that are growing should be thinned to about 9 inches or even to 12 inches apart in the rows. If the young beets that are thinned out are lifted with a little care they may be planted out if required.
Beet, Silver, or Spinach, is an excellent vegetable to grow. Sot a little seed in rows, and afterwards thin out the seedlings when they have attained a height of about 2 or 3 inches. It may, perhaps, be more convenient to sow in a seed bed and afterwards transplant in much the same manner as is adopted for cabbages, &c. The soil for this plant should be heavily manured with well-rotted, rich manure, for the leares, and not the root, is the part used as a regetable. The rows in the permanent bed should be about 2 feet apart, and the plants should stand about 2 feet or so distant from one another.
Borecole or Kale is best suited for the cool parts of the Colony. It belongs to the Brassica or cabbage family. The seed should be sown in seed-beds or boxes, and the seedlings afterwards transplanted. The soil should be made rich with well-rotted stable manure. Plant in rows 2 feet apart each way.
Broccoli resembles the cauliflower, and might easily be mistaken for it; in point of fact, it is a variety which takes longer to arrive at maturity, and there are other differences which are very apparent to one used to growing vegetables. Seed to a small extent may be sown in a box or seed-bed.
Brussels Sprouts.—This is another and excellent variety of the cabbage, but which differs in a most marked degree from that vegetable. The stem grows to a considerable height, and bears numbers of miniature cabbages. It is very suitable for cool districts and should be grown wherever it will thrive, for it is one of the best of vegetables, and can be grown as easily as an ordinary cabbage. Seed should be sown in a box or seed bed, and every care should be taken in watering and shading sufficiently. When the plants are large enough they should be moved to well dug up but not too heavily manured ground that has been prepared for them. The growth should not be too rank, and the plants must not be forced, or else the young sprouts will not form
well. If the ground is naturally rich it may, perhaps, be as well not to apply manure. However, if they do not thrive, manure can easily be applied in a liquid form. Plant in rows about 2 feet 2 inches apart. The plants to stand about 2 feet from each other in the rows.
Cabbage.-Sow seed in as great a quantity as may be needed in a seed. bed. Sow thinly in little rows, about 2 inches apart. A few plants may be set out in well-manured ground, from time to time, in order to keep up a succession.
Carrot.-Prepare some ground by digging deep and fine, and by rell draining, but avoid applying manure unless absolutely necessary, and then take care that it is old and thoroughly rotten. The best way to manage is to use a bed, or part of a bed, which had been heavily manured for some other vegetable. If fresh manure is used the roots will, in all probability, become forked, and of bad shape. Sow the seed in drills, which should be made not deeper than half an inch. Cover over with fine soil, and firm down with the back of a spade. The seed is covered with little hooks, and care should be taken that it be well separated before sowing. The drills should be from 1 foot to 18 inches apart. The seed will take a good while to come up, and as the plants are exceedingly small at first the weeds should be looked to as often as possible.
Cauliflower.-Seed of this favourite vegetable may be sown largely during the month in a seed-bed, box, or pot, in the same way that cabbage and all others of the same family are sown. The seedlings, when large enough to more, will be improred by being planted out or “pricked out” in a small bed about 4 inches apart, where they can develop into good, strong, young plants for transplanting. The distance apart the plants should stand will depend on the richness of the soil. The better the soil the wider apart the cauliflowers should be planted. The distance may vary from about 2 feet or 2 feet 6 inches to 3 feet. At the same time, it should be kept in mind that although the soil may be poor, and but little manure has been dug into it, the plants can be fed by liquid manure, and made to grow to a very largo size. In a few words, the distance at which plants should stand from one another will depend, in a great measure, on the quantity and quality of plant-food available.
Celery.-Sow a pinch of seed in a box or pot. When the plants come up, and are large enough to shift, prick them out in a small bed, where they can grow strong and hardy.
Endive is a good substitute for lettuce. A little seed may be sown during the month.
Turnip, White.-Seed may be sown in drills, in well-manured ground. When the plants come up, thin out well.
Turnip, Swede.-Sow as largely as necessary, as above.
Polato.-An effort should be made to raise a good supply of this useful vegetable. The soil should be well drained, well worked, and heavily manured with the droppings of farm animals. For seed, medium-sized whole potatoes are to be preferred to large ones cut into sets. The rows had better be wide apart, say 3 feet, and the sets put in about I foot apart in the rows. Plant about 5 or 6 inches deep. If it is necessary to use cut sets take care that the cut sides are dry before planting.
Peas.-If the weather is moist a few rows may be sown in the cool districts. The dwarf varieties are to be preferred for this season of the year.
Radish.--Sow a few rows occasionally during the month. Use well-rotted manure, and water occasionally if the weather is very dry.
Flowers. It is possible that many readers of these directions are at a loss to know the meanings of many of the terms used in gardening and in connection with plants. A writer on these matters too frequently forgets that he is giving directions and instructions for the guidance of those who know nothing whatever about the work, and uses terms and words, simple enough to those who have been accustomed to their use, but quite unintelligible to others. An endeavour will be made to explain such terms and words as they occur from time to time, and it would be as well to explain some of them at once.
The terms annual, biennial, and perennial are words in almost every day use, but few really know what they mean when applied to plants. An annual is a plant of which the seed is sown; then this seed comes up, grows into a plant, which bears flowers, then seed, and dies away within one year, Familiar examples are wheat, maize, and pumpkins. The term, however, is generally applied to flowers, and good examples are the sweet-pea, poppy, and cornflower. It may also be explained that annuals are generally classed into separate groups, namely, hardy, half-hardy, and tender. This means that some will stand severe cold, others not so much, while the last, being natives of warm climates, must be sown or planted when all frosts have passed away. Many plants are classed as annuals although they will really live for more than a year, and this often puzzles and confuses not only beginners but others. The fact is, such plants fall off in appearance during the winter, and are really not worth keeping unless protected; therefore it is much better to raise new plants every season and clear away the old ones.
Biennials are plants which are sown one season and flower and seed the next, and then die off, or are supposed to die off. To this class belong fox-gloves, Canterbury bells, wall-flowers, and Sweet Williams; but in our climate many of such kinds of plants will live and produce flowers and seeds for several years.
Perennials are plants which live for many years ; it is difficult to say how long they will not live. To this class belong the columbine, the daisy, carnation, everlasting pea, &c.
Although February is a very hot month, and flowers will suffer considerably unless they obtain all the moisture they need, the cooler weather, known as the autumn, will set in towards the end of March. Now, the autumn is the very best time of year in which a great deal of important gardening work can be done. It is the best time in which to plant out evergreens—that is, those plants which do not shed their leaves during the winter. To this class of plants belong camellias, most of the azaleas, rhododendrons, palms, most of the pines, and various other garden-plants ; therefore it would be advisable to get ready any ground, without delay, that it is intended shall be made into a garden. It would be as well, also, to get ready some place where seeds of hardy annuals and other plants can be sown and protected; for if the plants are raised in the autumn, and planted out when they are large enough, they will produce flowers very early in the spring. It is much better to plant out everything possible in the autumn than in the spring. If preferred, the seeds of annuals can be sown in the garden where the plants are to remain, but the chances are that the best results will be obtained by sowing in a seed-bed, box, old kerosene-tin, or something of that sort, and afterwards transplanting the seedlings.
Chrysanthemums will need looking after, and watering if the weather is very dry, and grubs and caterpillars should be looked for every day and removed. If black aphis appear on the ends of the tender shoots, and between and amongst the leaves, dust them well with tobacco powder, insect powder, or spray with resin and soda mixture, or even, where these things cannot be easily obtained, with starch and water, or with soot and water. Soot-water is a good manure for chrysanthemums, but not easy to make unless you know how. Collect a good lot of soot and put it in a sugar-bag, or something of that kind, and then let this soak in a tub of water. When the water becomes the colour of strong tea it is ready for use.
Dahlias will soon begin to flower well. They, too, must be well watered if the weather is very hot and dry. The plants should be secured to supports of some kind, or they are almost sure to blow down and perhaps break off. Bulbs, such as daffodils, may be taken up and replanted if it is necessary to thin them out. This is a very good time to plant out bulbs, especially narcissus of kinds, sparaxis, tritonias, ixias, babianas, and other Cape bulbs. Gladiolus bulbs also may be planted, or dug up and replanted where necessary.