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On the Making and Managing of Hot Beds and Green-houses.
63. I AM not about to lay down rules for persons who can afford to have cucumbers in March. This amounts to something little short of folly in England: in America, it would be something worse. But, Hot-Beds, as things of real use, are more necessary in America than in England; because in the former country, the winter will not suffer to exist in the open air many plants, which are wanted to start with the warm sun, and which plants the winter will suffer to exist in the open air in England The American Spring bears no resemblance to that of England, which comes on by degree from the end of February to the beginning of June; while the American Spring cannot be said to be of a fortnight's duration. There is, in fact, no Spring: there is a Winter, a Summer and an Autumn, but no Spring; and none would ever have been thought of, if the word had not come from Europe along with many others equally inapplicable.
64. This sudden transition from a winter, which not only puts a total stop to, but effaces all traces, of, vegetation, to a summer, which, in an instant, creates swarms of insects, or warms them into life, sets the sap in rapid motion, and, in six days, turns a brown rye-field into a sheet of the gayest verdure; this sudden transition presents the gardener, or the farmer, with ground well chastened by the frost, smoking with fermentation, and with a sun ready to push forward every plant; but, alas! he has no plants! I know, that there are persons, who do preserve lettuce, cabbage, and other plants, during the winter, and that there are persons, who rear them on Hot-beds in the Spring; but, what I aim at, is, to render the work easy to farmers in particular; not only as the means of supplying their tables, but the stalls of their cattle, and the yards of their sheep and pigs. In the summer (a cruelly dry one) of 1819, who, within many mile of my house in Long Island, had a loaved cabbage, except myself? During June, July and August, I allowed fifteen a day for my own family: I gave ten a day to one neighbour; to others I gave about five hundred, perhaps, first and last; and, the plants were all raised in one single light, four feet by three and a half, on a hot-bed, made on the 19th of March. The hot-bed had six lights altogether, and was about twenty feet long; but, the part appropriated to these cabbages was only four feet by three and a half. The plants came out of this bed on the 20th of April and were planted three inches apart on another bed, without glass, but covered at night with a cloth. On the 20th of May, they were planted out in the open ground; and, on the 17th of June we began to eat them. All these cabbages, Early Dwarfs, Early Yorks, Sugar Loaves, and Battersea, (coming in one sort after the other) amounting to about four thousand in number, stood, when planted out, upon rather less than thirty rods of ground; and the earliest sorts, while we were using them so liberally, were selling in New York market at from 6 to 4 pence a piece.
65. To preserve, during Winter, such a number of plants, or, indeed, any number, however small, is a work of great difficulty, and is merely chance-work after all. Besides, fall-sown plants are not so good as spring-sown. They become stunted; and they very frequently go off to seed, instead of producing loaves. However, it is not my business to treat here of cultivation: I am here to speak of the Making and Managing of hot-beds. This must, of course, include a description of the Wood and Glass, when formed into Frames and Lights. But, first of all, I must treat of the making of the bed.
66. The materials of which the bed is to be composed, and the manner of preparing those materials, are first to be spoken of.
67. Dung of horses, cattle, sheep or pigs, is used to make the bed of. Either may be made to do, with a greater or less degree of care and trouble; but, the best possible thing is dung from the stable, taken away before it has been rotted, short and long promiscuously, but rather long than short. If there be a large proportion of short, it may have any litter added to it; any broken straw or hay or corn stalks, in order to make a due mixture of long and short.
68. This choosing of the materials being a very important point, I shall, in order to make my instructions clear, suppose a case, and such a case as will be very clear to every American Farmer.
69. By the month of March he has always a heap of dung, which has, from time to time, been thrown out of his stable, during the winter and fall. This is some long and some short. Let the whole of this (supposing there to be three horses kept) be taken; and, in addition, a pretty good wagon load of long stained stuff from the cow-yard, or sheep-yard. Toss it down in a heap, near where you are going to make the bed. Then begin on one side of it, and take the stuff and begin making a fresh heap of it. Shake every fork full well to pieces, and mix well the long with the short; and thus go on, till you have the whole in a round heap rising to a point.
70. The second day after this heap is made it will begin to send forth steam. Let it remain three days in this state; that is to say, four clear days after the day of making the heap. Then turn the heap back again; shaking all well to pieces, as before, and bringing to the inside that part of the stuff which was before on the outside of the heap. Let it remain now three clear days after the day of turning. Then turn it again; shaking well to pieces, as before, and bringing again the outside stuff to the inside. When it has remained two clear days in this state, it is fit to make the bed with.
71. In the making the bed you will proceed as directed below; but I must first describe the Frame and the Lights. Were I speaking to persons living in a country, where there is no such thing as a hot-bed frame, I should be obliged to enter into a detailed mechanical description. But, as Frames and Lights are to be seen in almost every considerable town in America; and, as I have known very few American Farmers, who are not able to make both with their own hands, without any help from either carpenter or glazier, it will be necessary merely for me to say, that the Frame is of the best shape when it is eighteen inches deep at the back, and nine inches deep at the front. This gives slope enough, and especially in a country where there is so little rainy weather. The Frame is the wood work, on which the Lights, or glass-work, are laid. There needs no more than a good look at a thing of this sort to know how to make it, or to order it to be made. And, as it is useless to make a hot-bed without having the Frame and the Lights ready, I shall suppose them to be prepared. I suppose a three-light Frame, four feet wide and nine feet long, which, of course, will make every Light three feet wide and four long; because, the long way of the Light fits, of course, the cross way of the Frame.
72. Now, then, to the work of making the bed. The front of the bed is, of course, to be full South, so that the noon sun may come right upon the glass. The length and width of the bed must be those of the Frame. Therefore, take the Frame itself, and place it on the spot which you mean the bed to stand on. See that you have it rightly placed; and then, with a pointed stick, make a mark in the ground all round the outside of the Frame. Then take the Frame away. Then take some sharp-pointed straight stakes, and drive them in the ground, at each corner of this marked-out place for the bed, and one or two on the back and on the front side. Let these be about four feet high. They are to be your guides in building the bed; and, they ought, therefore, to be very straight, and to be placed perfectly upright. Each stake may be placed about an inch further out than the mark on the ground; for fear of having the bed too narrow; though, observe, the bed should be as nearly the same length and breadth as the Frame as it is practicable to make it.
73. In order to begin the work well, it is a very good way, to put some boards on their edges, on the ground, at the ends and sides, on the insides of the stakes; so as to have a sort of open box to begin to make the bed in. The eye of a gardener scorns such assistance; but it is very useful to persons unused to the work.
74. Thus, all being prepared, you begin making the bed. Begin taking the dung on the side of your heap nearest to the spot where you are building the bed. Keep taking up clean to the ground. Have shovel as well as fork. Take long and short fairly, and mix them well as you put them in. Shake the stuff in such a way as not to suffer any lumps. Shake every straw from every other straw. Let the bed rise in all parts together as nearly as possible. That is to say, do not put much in one part at one time. Beat the whole down with the fork as you proceed. When you have shaken on dung to the thickness of four or five inches, beat all over well again; and so on, till the work be finished. But mind: you must be very careful to keep the edges of the bed well beaten; or else they will be more hollow, and will sink more, than the rest, and then the earth on the bed will crack in the middle. Beat them well; keep them well up as you proceed; beat well the sides of the bed, as it goes on rising. Comb the sides frequently down with the spanes of the fork. And, in short, make the sides upright, and smooth and neat as a wall. As you proceed, measure the height frequently; in the different parts of the bed, to see that you are keeping the height every where the same. At last, shovel and sweep up all the short earthy stuff round the bed and where your dung-heap was, and lay it very smoothly on the top of the bed; and make all as smooth and as level as a die with the back of your shovel.
75. Thus the bed is made. Then put on the Frame, and fix it nicely. Then put the Lights upon the Frame. If you finish your bed by noon, the heat will begin to rise by the next morning; and, by the noon of the second day after the bed is made, the heat will be up. Poke your finger as deep as you can into the middle of the bed, when you have taken off one of the Lights. If the heat be so great as to burn your finger; that is to say, if you cannot endure the heat; then it is too great to receive the earth; but, if not, put on the earth all over the bed. If the heat be too great, give the bed a little air, and wait till a little of the heat be gone off.
76. The earth should be dry; not like dust; but, not wet. I made provision for my bed, by putting earth in my cellar, in November. It is not much that is wanted. The bed is to be covered all over, about six inches deep. When the earth has been on twenty-four hours, take off the lights, and stir the earth well with your hands; for, hands are the only tools used in a hot-bed. When you have stirred the earth well, and made it level and smooth, you may sow your seed, if you do not find the earth too hot. But, observe, the earth is to be level, and not sloping like the glass. The glass is sloping to meet the sun, and to turn off the wet; but, the earth must lie perfectly level; and this, you will observe, is a very great point.
77. Next comes the act of sowing. The more handsomely this is done, the better it is done. A handsome dress is better than an ugly one, not because it is warmer, or cooler, but because, liking it better, being more pleased with it, we take more care of it. Those who have seen two or three women together, crossing dirty streets, or in danger from horses or carriages, where the volunteer assistance of men became useful; those philosophers, who have been spectators of scenes like this, cannot have failed to discover, that humanity, like smote, is very apt to fly to the fairest; and I much question whether Nicodemus Broadbrim himself, if he saw a pretty girl and an ugly one stuck in the mud, would not give his hand to the former. He would hand them both out to a certainty; but, he would extricate the pretty one first. There is a great deal in the look of our gardens and fields; and, surely, in so diminutive a concern as a hot-bed, all ought to be neat and regular. Seeds are great tell-tales; for, when they come up, we discover all the carelessness that may have prevailed at the sowing of them.
78. When you have taken off all the lights, make little drills with your finger, from the back of the bed to the front, half an inch deep and about an inch apart. Make them equi-distant, parallel, and straight. Then drop in your Cabbage seeds along the drills, very thin; but, twenty seeds, perhaps in an inch; for, some will not grow, and some may be pulled up when they appear. It is better to have rather too many than too few. When you have dropped in your seeds all over the bed, and distinguished the several sorts of Cabbages by names, or numbers, written on a bit of paper, and put into the cleft of a little stick, stuck in the ground; then cover all the seeds over neatly and smoothly. Put on the lights; and look upon your spring work as happily begun.
79. But, now we come to the management of a hot-bed. And, observe, that the main principle is, always to give as much air as the plants will endure. I have always observed, that the great and prevalent error is, an endeavour to obtain, by exclusion of air, something to make up for the want of bottom heat. It is not thus that nature operates. She gives the air as well as the heat; and, without the former she gives nothing. I suppose the hotbed, made as above, to be about four feet high, when just finished. It will sink as it heats; and will, at last, come to about a foot and a half. Its heat will gradually diminish; but, it will give a great heat for about six weeks; and some heat for four months. It is this bottom heat that makes things grow. The sun is often hot in May; but, it is not till the earth is warm that vegetation advances with rapidity.
80. Having secured the bottom heat, make free with the air. Even before the seeds begin to appear, give air to the bed every day, unless it be very cold weather indeed. The usual way of giving air is by bits of thick board, cut in the shape of a triangle, or rather, like a wedge, broad at one end, and coming to a point at the other. Each light is lifted up, either at back or front of the frame, as the wind may be, and the wedge, or tilter, as it is called, is put in, to hold the light up. But, if more air be wanted, the lights may be shoved up, or down; and, in a fine day, actually taken off.
81. When the plants come up, they will soon tell you all about air; for, if they have not enough, they will draw up long-legged, and will have small seed leaves, and, indeed, if too much deprived of air, will drop down and die. Take care in time to prevent this. Let them grow strong, rather than tall. Short stems, broad seed leaves, very green; these are the signs of good plants and proper management.
82. It will be necessary to water. Take off a light at a time, and water with a watering pot that does not pour out heavily. Water just about sunset: and then shut down the lights; and the heat will then rise, and make the plants grow prodigiously.
83. As soon as the plants are fairly up, thin them, leaving four in an inch; and stir the ground about, at the same time with your finger. This will leave in the frame from twenty-five to thirty thousand plants. If you want less, sow in wide rows and thinner in the row. But, above all things, give air enough. Do not attempt to make the plants grow fast. You are sure to destroy them, if you make this attempt. Have patience. The plants will be ready soon enough. Get them strong and green; and, to do this, you must give them plenty of air. Remember, that, out of a thousand failures in hot-bed culture, nine hundred and ninety fine arise from the giving of too little air.
84. Before I proceed to the time of taking the plants out of the bed, I must make a remark or two respecting shelter for hot-beds; and this leads me back to the Plan of the Garden. In that plan (Plate I.) is the Hot-bed Ground, No. 1, which is 70 feet by 36. The fence to the North and West is the hedge, and that to the South and East ought to be made of Broom Corn Stalks, in this manner: Put some Locust-Posts along at eight or ten feet apart. Let these posts be ten feet high and squared to three inches by three inches. Lay a bed of bricks, or smooth stones, along the ground from post to post, and let this bed be about seven or eight inches wide. This bed is for the bottoms of the Broom-Corn Stalks to stand on. Go on one side of the row of posts, and nail three rows of strips, or laths (best of Locust,) to the posts. The first row at a foot and a half from the ground; the second row at six feet from the ground; and third row within six inches of the top of the posts. Then do the same on the other side of the posts. Thus you will have a space of three inches wide, all the way along, between these opposite rows of strips. Then take fine, long, straight Broom-Corn Stalks, and fill up this space with them, full and tight, putting them, of course, bottoms downwards, and placing these bottoms upon the bricks. When the whole is nicely filled, strain a line from top of post to top of post, and according to that line, cut off the tops of the Broom-Corn Stalks; and, while the fence will look very handsome, it will be a shelter much more effectual than pales or a wall; and, in my opinion, will last as long as the former, unless the former be made wholly of Locust. Stalks, rushes, reeds, straw, twigs, bows, any thing of this kind, formed into a fence, or put up as shelter, is preferable to any thing smooth and solid. Grass will shoot earlier under a bush, than under a wall, or even a house. A wall will not save your ears from the sharp winds so effectually as even a thin hedge. The American farmer knows well the warmth that walls of Corn-Stalks afford.
85. However, it is not to be presumed, that a Hot-Bed Ground will be made by every farmer; and, therefore, before I proceed further with my instructions about it, let me proceed upon the supposition, that the aforementioned bed is made in some open place. In this case it will be necessary to use some precautions as to shelter.
86. While the dung is working, before it be made into the bed, it must, in case of very sharp frost, be covered, especially on the North and North West sides. If it be not, it will freeze on these sides, and, of course, will not ferment. However, this is no troublesome job: you have only to throw on a parcel of straw, or stalks; and take them off again, when the frost relaxes. When the bed is made, this is what I did. I drove some stakes down, four feet distant from the bed, opposite the North Side and the West End. I tacked a pole from stake to stake; and then I placed up along against this pole, three or four rows of sheaves of tall Corn-Stalks. This sheltered the bed from the North West winds, and prevented it from freezing on that quarter. Some sheaves might, besides, if necessary, be laid against the bed itself. But, observe, you must be able to get at the Lights constantly to give air, and to see how things go on; and, therefore, it is better to have your shelter at some feet distance from the bed.
87. We now return to the bed and the plants. I suppose the seed to have been sown on the 10th of March (Long Island, mind,) and that you have been very attentive to give air and water. By the 10th of April, the plants will have eight leaves, and they will form one solid patch of green. They will be a little drawn up, though you have given them plenty of air. And now they must be removed into a new bed. Dig out the ground a foot deep, four feet wide, and to as great a length as is required by your number of plants. Fill this hollow up with the best dung you have, cover it over with four inches of good earth; and plant your plants upon it in rows four inches apart, and two inches apart in the row. When you have put out the plants, water them lightly; and shade them for two or three days from the sun. They must also be sheltered every night, in this manner. Take some rods, put one end of each rod into the ground on one side of the bed, and the other end on the other side; put these rods at about two feet asunder all along the bed; then tie some rods long ways to these arched rods; so that, when you have done, your bed has an arch over it formed by these rods. Every evening about sun-set, cover this arch with mats, with old carpets, or with a slight covering of any sort, which take off again at sun-rise in the morning.
88. To put out all your plants in this way will require a very long bed, or many short ones. If, therefore, your number of plants be very large, the best way will be to put out a part of them in this way, leave the remainder in the hot bed a week longer, (taking off the lights in the day time,) and then to plant all the remainder out in beds of fine rich earth, in the natural ground, and without any covering.
89, Now here we drop, for the present, the subject of Cabbage-Plants; because I am to speak of their culture, under the word, Cabbage, in that part of the work, which will treat of the cultivation of Vegetables. I am, in this part of my work, to confine myself to the making and managing of Hot-Beds; and, I have selected the Cabbage-Plant, as a subject for explaining my meaning, because I think that the raising of that plant is one of the most useful purposes, to which a hot-bed can be applied in America.
90. But, a Hot-Bed may be applied to many other purposes. Lettuces may be raised in it. Peppergrass, Radishes, young Onions, may be raised. Parsley-roots may be put in, and fine parsley obtained in March. Asparagus may be raised in this way. It is not worth while to attempt to bring Cucumbers and Melons to fruit in a hot-bed: but the plants may be raised there, and afterwards put out in the ground with great advantage in point of time. Several sorts of annual flowers and of Green-house plants may be got forward by a hot-bed, which, without it, can hardly be got at all to any great degree of perfection. Of the management of these sorts of plants in a hot-bed I shall speak under their several names; but, on the management of hot-beds, there yet remain to be made some observations, which have a general application.
91. As to heat and air it will demand but little attention to manage well. But, a little Termometre, hung up, or laid down, in the bed, will be of use. The heat should not exceed seventy-five degrees in the day time, and sixty at night. If it come down to fifty at night it is better. If you cannot keep it down to sixty without giving a little air at night, give it, by putting something under a light, or two lights, to let in a little of the cold. For, always bear in mind, that, when plants, of whatever kind, be drawn up, they are nearly spoiled.
92. When the Sun comes upon the glass, it soon augments the heat; and the air must be given immediately if possible, so as to keep down the heat. Changes are very sudden in March, April, and May; and, therefore, somebody should always be at hand to attend to the hot-bed. But, if the master be from home, there is, surely, some man; or, at any rate, a wife, a son, or a daughter. The labour is nothing, the trouble very little indeed, and all that is wanted is a small portion of care.
93. It may happen that the bed will get too cool. It may lose its heat sooner than you could wish, especially if you use it for Cucumber and Melon-plants after you have used it for things that you want earlier; and, I shall show, that this may be very useful in certain cases. Now, if the heat be too much diminished, you may easily restore it, thus: make a little narrow hot-bed, a foot and a half wide, all round the bed. Put the dung together as before; place it close to the bed; beat it well; and build it up, all round, as high as the top of the Frame. This is called lining; and it will give the bed nearly as much heat as it had at first. If you do not want so much heat, line only the back of the bed; or the back and the two ends. In short, take as much heat as you may want.
94. Before I dismiss the subject of hot-beds. I must notice, that there are other contrivances than frames resorted to in this kind of garden work. A frame is, as we here see, a wooden construction, for lights of glass to be placed on. For smaller concerns there are very convenient things, called hand-lights, or hand-glasses. A hand-glass is a square glass-house in miniature. Its sides are about eight inches high from the ground to the eves. The roof rises from each side in a triangular form, so that it comes to a point at the top, as a pyramid does, the base of which is a square. At this point is a stout ring, to lift the hand-glass about by. The panes of glass are fixed in lead; and the rim round the bottom is made of iron or of wood. Any glazier can make these hand-lights, and they are by no means expensive. Here, where the tax upon glass is so slight, they cannot be more expensive than in England; and there they do not cost much more than a dollar each. They may be made of almost any size. About 18 inches square at the base is a very good size. In the gardens near London there are acres of ground covered with such glasses. It is the custom there to plant out cauliflowers in the fall, and to cover them, in severe weather, during winter, with hand-glasses. A hand-glass may, in April, be put over a hot-bed made with a wheel-barrow full of dung. It would bring on cabbage plants enough for two or three gardens. It is handy to sow things under in the natural ground, in the spring, especially flowers that are to be transplanted; for, on the natural ground, it adds to the heat in the day, and keeps off cold and slight frost in the night. Air is given, by putting a brick, or bit of wood, under one of the sides of the hand-glass.
95. Now, look back at the Plan of the garden. No. I, is the Hot-bed Ground. It is seventy feet long and thirty-six wide. It is wide enough to contain four rows of hot-beds, with room for linings. But, though a tenth part of this should not be wanted, the place is a warm place, and is better for tender things than a colder place. The entrance to it from the Western door of the garden is convenient for the carrying in of dung, and for carrying it out again for the use of the garden.
96. Here would be room for a great deal more beds, certainly, than can ever be wanted even in a gentleman's garden. But, observe, the room is no evil. Whatever is not used for hot-beds may be applied to other purposes. This is a sheltered spot; and, it will, by and by, be seen, that, even if not used for hot-beds at all; such a spot must be of great utility._____________________________
97. My object is not to treat of any thing very expensive, or very curious. There are persons, whose taste greatly differs from mine in regard to shrubs and flowers; and I by no means pretend to say that mine is the best. But, I can treat of nothing that I do not understand, that is to say, of nothing with regard to which I have not had experience. My study, as to gardening, has always been directed towards things that please the senses: in vegetables, things that please the palate, and that, to use the common saying, are good to eat: in shrubs and flowers, things that delight the sight, or the smell. Mere botanical curiosities, as they are called, I never took delight in. If the merit of a plant or a flower is not to be discovered without close and somewhat painful examination, it has always appeared to me not worth the looking for. There is, in fact, nothing more curious in one plant, or flower, than in another. They are all equally curious; they are equally objects of wonder. There is more of rareness, in England, in the Indian Corn than in the Cowslip; but here, the Cowslip would have the merit of rareness. The ice-plant, the eggplant, and many others, have oddity to recommend them; but, after all, oddity is but a poor recommendation. What are thousands of these when compared to a single rose bush in bloom!
98. I am rather anticipating here; but, I wished to explain why I do not recommend any very great pains in the affair of a green-house. The plants to keep in such a place I will talk of hereafter. At present I am to speak of the making and the managing of such a place.
99. A green-house is for the purpose of having plants and flowers flourishing, or, at least, in verdure and in bloom, in winter. The best place for a green-house, is, near the dwelling house, and, it should be actually joined to the dwelling house, one of the rooms of which should have windows looking into the green-house, which latter, however, must face the South. When the thing can be thus contrived, it is very pretty. It renders a long winter shorter in appearance; and, in such cases, appearances are realities. A door, opening from a parlour into a green-house, makes the thing very pleasant and especially in a country like America, where, for six months, every thing like verdure is completely absent from the fields and gardens. And, if the expense be but small, such a pleasure may, surely, be afforded to the females of a family, though, to afford it, may demand some deduction in the expenditure for the bottle, in the pleasures of which (if, alas! pleasures they be!) the amiable ladies of this county do not partake.
100. I hope, that no man, who has the means to provide such pleasures for his wife, or daughters, will talk to me about the uselessness of a greenhouse. Of what use, then, is fine linen, when coarse is cheaper and will last longer? Of what use is beauty in a horse, a house, or in any thing else? Of what use are sporting dogs and guns? The use of these things is, that they give pleasure; that they render life pleasanter than it would be without them. And, why not, on the same principle, call a green-house useful? Of what use is money, that thing which every one seeks to possess? Of what use indeed, but to be expended on things, which tend to make life easy and pleasant? Therefore, a green-house comes fairly within the scope of usefulness; for, from it the females of a family would receive constant amusement and delight, during a season when they are cut off from almost all other recreation.
101. Let me not, however, in using these arguments, be supposed to doubt of the disposition of American husbands to gratify their wives in this respect; for, many and striking as are the traits, that distinguish the American character, none is so striking, and none exalts it so much, as the respect and deference of the male towards the female sex. They talk to us about French politeness; and we near enough of the sentimental trash of romances, where Princes and Nobles are the heroes. But, in no part of this whole world are the women so kindly and so respectfully treated by the men as in America. Here women, in no state of life, are treated badly or churlishly. To insure indulgence, assistance, forbearance, from every man, and under any circumstances, it is sufficient that the party is a woman. In this respect no country on earth will bear a comparison with America. This is, too, the natural bent of the human heart when uncorrupted by vicious courses and unhardened by penury. For, count our real pleasures; count the things that delight us through life: and you will find, that ninety-nine out of every hundred are derived from women. To be the object of no woman's care or good wishes is ft sentence the most severe that can be pronounced upon man.
102. As to the erection of a green-house, carpenters and glaziers are never wanted, and, where Locust wood, for the sills, is every where to be had, and glass with scarcely any tax, how elegant, how cheap, and how durable, may such a thing as a green-house be!
103. In America there must be heat; but, how easily will any of the ingenious men in this country find the means of furnishing the necessary heat with hardly any expense or trouble! In most cases the warmth might go from the parlour fire place; for, all that is wanted, is completely to keep out frost. There is, here, no want of Sun even in the coldest weather; and, if the green-house were on the Eastern side of the dwelling-house, the cold would not be any great annoyance. But, at any rate, the heat necessary to keep out frost might easily be obtained. A Termometre should be kept in the green-house. The heat should be about sixty degrees in the day time, and forty-five in the night.
104. In England they need very little fire in their green-houses, except in very cold weather, which, indeed, they seldom have. Their great want is that of sun; for, nothing will do well without sun; and America has plenty of this even in the coldest weather. So that, if the frost were effectually kept out, that alone would give beautiful plants in winter. By an additional heat, a growth and a bloom would be constantly kept up; and a green-house might be made one of the most beautiful and most pleasant things in the world.
105. Of the different plants suitable for a greenhouse, and of the particular treatment of each, I shall speak under the head of FLOWERS; and shall, in this place, only add some directions as to management, which are applicable to the whole assemblage.
106. Air is the main thing, after the keeping out of the frost. Air is given by pushing up, or drawing down, the Lights, which form the top or roof of the green-house. Always give air, when there is no fear of frost. Give heat and air at the same time, if the weather be not mild enough to dispense with the heat. For, without air, the plants will become sickly. They have lungs as well as we; and, though they may live, for a while, without air, they will be an eye-sore instead of a delight to the beholder. If the sides and front, as well as the top, of the green-house, be of glass, (which is best,) then air maybe given there, instead of giving it by pushing up, or pulling down, the lights at top.
107. The plants, of whatever sort or size, must be in what the English call pots, and what the Americans call jars. Perhaps I may as well speak, once for all, about the shape and size, and manner of planting in, these pots. The shape is generally well known; but, the pots ought never to be glazed. Plain earthen pots are best as well as cheapest. There must be a hole in the middle of the bottom of every pot, or no plant will live in it for any considerable length of time, and will never grow in it at all. This hole should be in proportion to the size of the pot; and the pots may be from 4 inches to 18 inches over at top, and from 4 inches to 18 inches deep; being one third less across at bottom than at the top. The smallest hole ought to be of the size of half a dollar.
108. Besides the pot, there is what the English call a pan, for the pot to stand in, which should be about 2 inches deep, and as wide over as the top of the pot, and, of course, a third part wider than the bottom of the pot. This pan should be made of the same materials with the pot itself.
109. I have, in paragraph 21, mentioned, incidentally, wooden boxes, as things wherein to place plants; but, I must here caution the reader against the practice, wherever it can be avoided, especially for small plants. We see plants, thus cultivated, placed on window sills; and they sometimes grow there pretty well. Orange Trees, Large Myrtles, and other large exotics, are planted in tubs. There would be great difficulty in getting earthen things of sufficient dimensions for these purposes; besides the constant danger of breaking. But, I am quite satisfied, that where earthenware can be got and used, it is greatly preferable to wood; and this opinion is founded on actual experience. In my hot-bed of 1819, I sowed several sorts of seeds in little wooden boxes. I had no pots at hand, and to get them from New York required more time than I was willing to spare. The seeds all came up; but, by the time that they were an inch or two high, they rotted at the stem, and fell down. They were not less than twenty sorts of seeds; some of culinary vegetables, some of field-plants, and some of forest-trees. They all died. In one box there were planted some geranium-cuttings. They came out into bud and leaf; but died soon afterwards. I had soon afterwards got some pots. I repeated my sowing and planting; all the seeds and plants grew and flourished. And, let it be observed, that the boxes stood in the same bed, where cabbages and cauliflowers were sown without either pots or boxes; and that the plants of these grew, and flourished exceedingly. The cause of the plants rotting in the boxes was this: though there were several holes at the bottom of each box, and though these were properly covered with oyster-shells, the wood itself, sides as well as bottom, imbibed, and retained too long, part of the water poured on the top, and, as the boxes were plunged into the earth of the bed, they imbibed moisture from the watering of the bed also. There was constantly stagnant and sour water near the roots of the plants, and this killed them. These boxes were of deal. If tubs, or boxes, must be resorted to, they ought to be of Locust, or some other hard and close wood. Locust is best, because imperishable. See paragraph 16.
110. Some care is necessary in sowing and planting in pots. The mould should be good, and made very fine. The first thing is to put an oyster shell, or piece of broken earthen ware, into the pot, to cover the hole at the bottom; and the hollow part of the shell, or other thing, should be downwards. The use of this is, to keep the hole open, that the water may find its way out of the pot, and not lie stagnant at the bottom, where it would become sour and injure, if not kill, the plant. The earth, if there were no shell, would fill up the hole, and, would, in time, become solid, and thus prevent the water from getting out. The shell, or broken earthen ware, keeps the earth hollow, and the water creeps under the edges of it, and thus escapes into the pan, whence it evaporates. In fields, we always desire an open under-soil; and, in a rainy reason, you will see the crops stunted and looking yellow, where there is a bottom of clay, while, at the very same time, a bottom of sand, gravel, lime stone, or other open matter, exhibits them green and flourishing. It is upon this principle, founded on experience, that holes have been made in the bottom of flower-pots. The uses of pans, are, first, to prevent the water from running about the places where pots are placed; and next to hold the water up to a level with the roots, in hot situations, a little longer than it would otherwise remain up to that level. See paragraph 21.
111. As to the mere operation of sowing, or planting, things in pots, though a simple operation enough, some little attention to method is necessary. Your mould always ought to fine, and even sifted, if convenient; for, when the quantity is to be reckoned by gallons, the labour cannot be great; and the desire to possess green-house plants necessarily implies pleasure, rather than pain, in employing the means to obtain them. In order to make myself clearly understood, I shall suppose an instance of sowing and one of planting.
112. Suppose you have the seeds of Stocks to sow. Put earth into the pot enough to fill it to within an inch of the top, and make the top of the earth very smooth. Then scatter your seeds upon it, and not too thickly. Then crumble some earth over the seeds to the depth of about half an inch. Make the top very smooth again. Then take the pot in your two hands, and give five or six gentle taps with the bottom of the pot upon the ground, or upon a block, or some solid thing. This settles the earth down; and it needs no pressing at the top, nor any other thing done to it. After this settling, the top of the earth should be about an inch lower than the top of the pot; else you could not, when necessary, give water; for the water Mould run off, there being no place to hold it.
113. Suppose you have a Geranium to plant, which has been raised from a cutting, and the root of which cannot be very large. Put some earth in the pot. Hold the root of the plant upon it to see that it will be of the right depth, if its root stand on that earth. Then, when you have got the earth to the right height, hold the plant with one hand, and fill up the pot, round the plant, with the other. Then, tap the bottom of the pot on some solid thing, as before mentioned, leaving the earth, as before, an inch lower than the top of the pot. Put the pot in the pan; and, in this case, water the plant moderately; for, observe, that a plant in a pot has not an under-soil and dews and a mass of fermenting earth to supply it with moisture, as a plant in the open air has. Yet, even in the case of pots, it is best, unless the plant be of a very juicy nature, to suffer the ground to get dry at top before you water; because, water falling upon freshly-moved earth, always makes it bake hard at top, which is very injurious to every kind of plant.
114. These two instances will suffice for the operation of sowing and planting in pots; for, though some seeds and some plants will be larger, or smaller, than those here mentioned, the principle is the same, and the difference in minute particulars will point itself out. If, for instance, you have stocks, or other little things, to transplant into pots. you will nearly fill the pot with earth, and then make holes with a little stick, or with a finger, to put in the roots; and then proceed as before, and settle down the earth. Such little things, being nearly all juice, will require water directly, and shading for a day or two. But, about these matters I shall say more by-and-by, when I come to the cultivation of the several sorts of plants and flowers.
115. The benches of the green house remain to be spoken of. They should rise one above another like the steps of a stairs, that the whole of the plants may share in the benefit bestowed by the sun; but, there may be some on the ground, or floor; and, indeed, the precise arrangement must be left to the taste of the owner, The arrangement ought, however, to be such as to make it convenient to get at every pot; not only for the purpose of watering, but for that of picking off the dead, or dying leaves; for that of stirring the earth frequently round the stems of the plants; and for that of sweeping, and even washing, the benches and the floor. For, let it be observed, that, besides the neatness of keeping, due to so choice and elegant a matter as a green-house, cleanliness is greatly conducive to the health of plants in a confined situation. In short, it is beauty that is here sought; and, can there be beauty without cleanliness!
116. In the month of June (Long Island, observe) the plants come out of this their winter abode. How they are then to be disposed of will be treated of hereafter, under the head of flowers; where it will be seen, that the green-house, besides being a most charming object in winter, when all without is dreariness, is the best security for giving you a beautiful garden in summer; and that without a green-house, or, at least, a hot-bed, it is quite impossible to have in perfection, either in America or in England, certain plants and flowers, some of which are the very greatest beauties of the beautiful family of Flora.
117. Nor must we forget some things, with regard to which a green-house would be of great use, even according to the most vulgar notions of utility. All sorts of Herbs might be potted, and kept green and growing in the green-house during the winter. Some Herbs dry well; but, none of them are quite so good as when green; and, as to Parsley, which is wanted almost every day in the year, it loses all its virtue in the drying, smell and all. Six large pots of parsley, the plants taken out of the ground and put in pots in September, and put into the green-house in November, will supply a large family well; and this is no trifling thing, when, for love or money, a sprig of parsley is not to be got for months. A Sage tree, a tree of Rue, one of Rosemary, one of Lavender, a root of Hyssop, Thyme, Penny-royal, some Mint, and, indeed, of every pot and medicinal Herb, that is usually grown in the garden, would be useful, as well as pleasant to the eye, during winter.
118. Even when the plants are out of the greenhouse, the latter is of use. An excellent place for the drying of cherries, apples, pears, quinces, peaches, and other fruits; and also for the drying of yeast-cakes, one of the most useful articles that sensible and provident house-wives ever invented.
119. All this work of drying can, indeed, be performed by the help of the fine hot sun, in the open air; but, then, wet days come; and, sometimes, the being compelled to take the things into the house, to place them in a confined space, and in the shade, at best, and away from strong light, greatly injures, and, sometimes, spoils them; and, at any rate, they must always be taken in at night and put out again in the day time. All these are impediments; and all these impediments would be, at once, removed by having a green-house. Once the articles were placed properly in that, the process of drying would be completed without more trouble, and in about half the time required to obtain even an imperfect operation in the open air.
120. For these purposes, too, only on a smaller scale, a hot-bed frame, when done with, for raising plants for the year, would be useful. The frame and lights might be placed upon boards, and the fruits, or cakes, put upon these boards. Being shut in, neither rains nor dews could affect them. They would be dried quicker, more effectually, and with a tenth part of the trouble that attends the drying in the open air.
121. Thus, then, I think, that there is use, even in the vulgar sense of the word, as well as ornament, in a green-house. But, I must confess, that its value, in my eyes, consists in its moral effects. It is a source of pleasure to the Mistress of the mansion; to her, who has so strong a claim to attention and indulgence. I will not praise pursuits like these, with LORD BACON, because, "God Almighty first planted a garden;" nor with COWLEY, because "a garden is like Heaven;" nor with ADDISON, because "a garden was the habitation of our first parents before the fall;" all which is rather far-fetched, and puts one in mind of the grave dispute between the Gardeners and Tailors, as to the antiquity of their respective callings; the former contending that the planting of the garden took place before the sewing of the fig-leaves together; and the latter contending, that there was no gardening at all, till Adam was expelled and compelled to work; but, that the sewing was a real and bona fide act of tailoring. This is vulgar work to be sure; it is grovelling; but, who can blame such persons, when they have LORD BACON to furnish them with a precedent?
122. I like, a great deal better than these writers. SIR WILLIAM, who so ardently and yet so rationally and unaffectedly praises the pursuits of gardening, in which he delighted from his youth to his old age. But, I look still further, as to effects. There must be amusements in every family. Children observe and follow their parents in almost every thing. How much better, during a long and dreary winter, for daughters, and even sons, to assist, or attend, their mother in a green-house, than to be seated with her at cards, or at any other amusement that can be conceived! How much more innocent, more pleasant, more free from temptation to evil, this amusement than any other! How much more instructive too! "Bend the twig when young;" but, here, there needs no force; nay, not even persuasion. The thing is so pleasant in itself; it so naturally meets the wishes; that the taste is fixed at once, and it remains, to the exclusion of cards and dice, to the end of life.
123. This is, with me, far more than sufficient to outweigh even a plausible objection on the score of expense. Such husbands and fathers as are accessible by arguments like these, will need nothing more to induce them to yield to my recommendation with such as are not, no arguments within the reach of my capacity would be of any avail.