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Thread: Growing Cucumbers.

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    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Growing Cucumbers.

    Growing Cucumbers.

    The only writer I know upon this subject, with the exception of Abercrombie, whose system is now totally exploded, is Mr. M'Phail, gardener to Lord Hawkesbury. This gentleman published a treatise in the year 1795, in which he strenuously recommends brick pits for cucumbers and melons, as far superior to the dung bed. It will be obvious, however, to every person who has perused that work, that the plan was adopted merely through deficiency of knowledge in the proper management of the dung bed; for Mr. M'Phail asserts, that upon first attempting to produce early cucumbers in Lord Hawkesbury's garden, he completely failed, and was, in consequence, induced to apply to some horticulturist in the neighbourhood, to whom he paid a gratuity of five guineas for his instruction.

    The principal thing he appears to have been taught, was to keep the burning heat of the dung about the roots of the plants down by the continual application of water into the bed; which, however, he found insufficient to preserve them in a thriving state, throughout the winter months. This caused him to assert that it was out of the power of any person to keep a dung bed sweet, and consequently impracticable to rear them at that time of the year.

    To this I have only to observe, that the following directions will prove a contradiction; for if they are strictly attended to, no fear need be entertained of their vigorous growth, either from the premature season, or the inclemency of the weather.
    In December and January, although their health is certain, I must allow that they do not grow so fast as in other months; and this is the particular time when difficulty is experienced by those who are unacquainted with the proper means to be adopted, although, perhaps, their efforts may have been attended with far more trouble than the rules here prescribed.

    The dung bed is certainly of the greatest importance both in the culture of the cucumber; and want of knowledge in the management is generally the cause of the loss of the plants in the winter season, by the settlement of a cold moisture upon them, which cannot be removed without assistance from the sun: particular attention, therefore, to the directions given upon that point is highly necessary; indeed, it cannot be too strongly impressed on the mind of the horticulturist that upon this greatly depends the success of his endeavours to mature them to any degree of perfection.

    In the remarks upon preserving the plants from a cold moisture, in the most inclement weather, I have called to assistance what may be technically termed an artificial sun; and as this most material point may be perfectly understood I shall here describe it more particularly.

    Keep the bed always wrapped up to nearly the top of the box with hay, straw, or any kind of sweet litter; observing that hay, however damaged, is certainly preferable; this will have the desired effect in promoting a top heat, and obviating the difficulty above-mentioned, in keeping the plants perfectly dry.

    To those who are unacquainted with the management of a dung bed, a brick one certainly appears more advantageous, in being attended with less trouble to the horticulturist, though infinitely with more expense, both in the building and consumption of dung: this, however, is a mistaken idea, for nothing certainly can be more congenial to the growth of either the cucumber than a sweet steam heat: this essential requisite, which may always be obtained by the process hereafter described, can be but partially promoted in brick pits; for although water, in its necessary application, may create a steam heat, it soon evaporates; and the heat of the linings having to pass through the bricks and tiles, it becomes dry, and quite incapable of affording any nourishment to the plants.

    The limited space in which the plants are confined in their growth by brick pits, is also a very great objection to this mode of culture. That they derive their chief support from the extremity of the roots must be obvious to everyone, and if these are concentred in the middle of the bed, and thereby rendered incapable of expanding over the flues as in the dung bed, they must be certainly deprived of that vigour which is natural to them from a free and uninterrupted growth, and where they experience the whole of the benefit that can arise from the bed in which they are placed. In short, the dung bed in so many instances is superior to brick pits, that competition in the culture of either the cucumber or melon by the latter plan would be entirely useless; for whether in the vigour of the plants, quickness of growth, or production of fine fruit, the dung bed, systematically attended to, as described in this treatise, will prove beyond doubt, that the most expensive means are not always attended with the most beneficial results.

    In the following directions, the first thing I have taken notice of, is the early cucumber, as being the most difficult, and consequently the most particular in its process of culture. Strict attention and perseverance in the method prescribed, cannot fail to bring them to a complete state of perfection within the time limited.

    Secondly—The necessary directions will be found for promoting the growth of such cucumbers as are sown in January. It is here necessary to observe, that this is the most preferable season for those which are not required so very early; as the increasing temperature of the weather in the course of their growth, affords facility for their being matured with a greater degree of strength.

    Thirdly—The method of bringing to perfection the late frame, or spring sown cucumber. The directions upon this head will be found extremely useful, both to young practitioners, and those who are not professed horticulturists. Many gentlemen who cultivate their own gardens, and are desirous of possessing a cucumber bed, will find the information here given of great utility.

    Fourthly—In treating upon the process necessary for the management of the hand-glass cucumber in the summer months, I have offered an improved system, which will be found of considerable importance to gardeners in general in enhancing the value of their fruit, by rendering it much superior to that produced by the common method.

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    What a coincidence, M. I was just going to have some cucumbers for lunch. Was being the operative word here.

  3. #3
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    THE SEED-BED FOR OCTOBER:

    To be sown from the 10th to the 20th of the Month.

    One load of horse-dung, or twenty barrows-full, will be sufficient for a one-light box, and let it be put together at least three weeks before making the bed, in a round or square heap, being particular in well treading it down. If the dung is dry, it will be necessary to give it some water; if very dry, a dozen pots will be required. Let it lay in this state a week, and then turn it, shaking the outsides of the heap into the middle, and give it some more water. In doing this, it is requisite that the heap should be well shook to pieces, and trod down. Let it lay another week, at the expiration of which, observe the same directions as before given, applying the quantity of water in proportion to the dry nature of the dung. At the end of the third week, it will be in a proper condition to make use of, as by that time it will be sufficiently moist and hot, the necessary state in which it should be, before the formation of the bed.

    As much depends upon the nature of the dung, and its proper condition, great attention should be paid, and some judgment exercised in the means best calculated to prepare it for a state of fermentation. The most certain method that can be adopted, and likely to ensure a beneficial result is, in the summer months, to pack the dung you intend to make use of for the October seed-bed as close together as possible, taking care to keep it dry, that it may retain its virtue. This sort of dung is far preferable to that newly made, being less rank and not so liable to burn; and when under a state of preparation, by turning and moistening, as before described, it will be in a much better condition than any that can be fresh procured.

    Before forming the bed, let the bottom be made in the following manner:—Raise the ground about six inches above the level with road sand or mould, upon the top of which place some fagots, or other kind of wood, to the height of a foot, in order that the bed may be well drained. If there is an insufficiency of dung, you can add a foot of dry rubbish, such as strawberry or asparagus halm, or any other loose stuff. Let the bottom be extended nine inches wider than the frame you intend to make use of, the height of the bed being at the back four feet, and in the front, three feet nine inches. Beat it well down with a fork; then put the box on, and fill it three parts full with the shovellings of the dung that is left; after which, place on the light, and let it be close shut down. As soon as you discover the heat rising, admit air by opening the frame about an inch: when it increases, so as to become very hot, admit more air, by extending the aperture to two inches. It must remain in this situation about a week; then fork it up above a foot deep, and if caked together, or in the least dry, give it more water. From two to four pots is generally sufficient; but the quantity must be regulated by the state of the bed. Here it is necessary to observe, that moisture is of most important consequence to the seed-bed, and nothing is so well calculated to sweeten and cleanse it from impurity as water.

    In two or three days after forking up, it will be necessary to take off the box and light, for the purpose of making the bed even. In doing this, stir it up from about the depth of a foot, and shake it to pieces; then put on the box again, and give the light one or two inches of air, according to the temperature of the weather.

    It will now be necessary to wrap up the bed with straw, pea-halm, or hay, about eighteen inches wide at the bottom, drawing it in gradually to a foot wide, within three inches of the top of the box.

    In three or four days stir up the bed in the same manner as before, observing that if it be in the least dry, or inclined to a burning heat, to give it three or more pots of water, as shall seem necessary. It must be stirred up again in three or four days, and beat down gently with a fork, when it will be in a fit state to receive the old tan or mould in which the seed is to be deposited.

    A seed-bed should always lay a fortnight or three weeks before the seed is attempted to be sown; as many evil consequences are to be apprehended from sowing it before, from the firing of the bed, or the impure nature of the dung. If this be not strictly attended to, the plants will not be brought to that degree of perfection, as might reasonably be expected from a bed in its proper heat and condition.

    After the bed has been laid and dealt with according to the foregoing directions, spread two barrows-full of old tan or light mould all over the surface, having it a little deeper in the middle than at the sides. Old tan is certainly more preferable than mould, though either will answer the purpose. Let it be put in the frame the day before the seed is sown, and cover the bed up with a single mat at night, taking care to shut it down until the morning, that the heat may be properly drawn up. Take some forty-eight size pots, and mix a quantity of leaf mould with a sixth proportion of road sand, not sifted fine. The sifting mould to a fine degree is an error too prevalent in horticulture, and ought particularly to be avoided, from its great tendency to bind.

    It is very requisite that a cucumber should have a good digestion, and in order to accomplish this, it will be necessary to cover the holes at the bottom of the pots with broken pieces; then strew a little of the rough siftings of the mould over it, and fill them up within half an inch of the brim with the prepared mould and sand. Shake it down a little, and sow the seed from eighteen to twenty-four in a pot, just covering it with a little mould; then give it a small quantity of water, which for the first time may be cold, but great care must be taken in the subsequent waterings, that it be chilled to about the warmth of new milk.

    The seed being sown, plunge the pots in the bed up to the rim, and give them about half an inch of air. At night they must be covered with a single mat, taking care to turn it up at at the back, that the steam may pass freely from the bed. Let the air be continued both night and day.
    After the seed has been sown three days, it will be up, when the pots must be unplunged, placed on the surface, and some water given to them. They will now require upwards of an inch of air, both night and day, which will cause the plants to grow stuggy, or dwarfish, and prevent their drawing. In about three days give them some more water in the morning, and they will be ready to pot off in the afternoon.

    Plants should be always potted off when young, as they strike more freely in the pots; and, in doing this, the following directions should be attended to.

    Put the mould in the bed to chill, the day before potting off, and let it be of the same description as that in which the seed was sown. If the pots are old and dirty, wash them, and be careful in having them properly dried before they are made use of. Take some old rotten turf, or a little of the coarse siftings of the leaf mould, and place a small quantity over the tile at the bottom of every pot; then fill them about one-third full, put three plants in each, and cover the roots about an inch. The pots must not be plunged, but placed on the surface, and some water given them with a fine rose.

    It is necessary to have a small pot on purpose to water the plants, which will contain about three quarts, and has a hollow fine rose, which is much better calculated to water the plants regularly than a spreading one.

    Be particular in watering them regular, which will be requisite every two or three days, for the space of three weeks or a month at latest, when they will be in a proper condition to ridge out.

    After the plants have been potted three days, add a little mould to them, and repeat it every two or three days, for about a fortnight, until the pot is quite filled. Much attention should be paid to this method of putting in the mould, which experience has convinced the author is far superior to the usual practice of filling the pots in the first instance up to the seed-leaves of the plants. By the gradual mode of filling, the plant is prevented from shanking, and is certain in its growth of being dwarfish and strong, which cannot be insured by the common method, as it tends considerably to weaken the plant, and renders it very liable to fog off, before taking root. By potting them low, and only just covering the roots at first, the stems of the plants become hardened, and strike very freely upwards: as the tap roots of a cucumber always decay when forced with a strong bottom heat.

    It will be necessary, after the plants have been potted about a week, to examine the bed, for the purpose of ascertaining whether there is any fire heat. If such should be found to be the case, and the directions as before given with regard to moisture have been strictly attended to, it can only exist in the tan, which must immediately be supplied with water, and, the day following, stirred well up together and levelled, placing the pots upon the surface. In another week again examine the bed, and if any fire heat still remains, attend to it as above; if not, stir up the tan, and plunge the pots about half way down; being, however, guided in this by the temperature of the bed, as plants sown in October do not require so much heat as those in the three following months.

    Observe, when the plants have been potted two or three days, to stir the mould in the pots, round the plants, and likewise the tan, with a sharp-pointed stick, which will contribute to freshen the plants, and prevent any thing of a mouldy nature from injuring them.
    As soon as they have made the first rough leaf, top them, by taking out the break that appears next, which may be easily done with the thumb and finger, or a sharp-pointed stick. In little more than a fortnight, they will be in a fit state to top down; and in three weeks from the time of sowing, ready to ridge out.

    At this time of the year, the bed will not require any lining; but observe, that as the wrapping sinks, it will be necessary to increase it, pressing it down close to the box, and keeping it within one-third of the top.

    If the plants are not ridged out when three weeks old, plunge them up to the rim, until the fruiting frame is ready for their reception, which ought to be at the latest when they are a month or five weeks old. If it should happen, however, that the frame is not perfectly sweet, by no means ridge them out until it is in a proper condition. After they are a month old, increase the lining at the back and front, about four or five barrows-full each, applying it in the followingmanner:—Remove the wrapping down to the bottom, and extend the dung to the width of two feet, and three parts as high as the bed; drawing it in to about eighteen inches at the top. Cover the lining with the litter four inches wide from the bottom, and three parts as high as the box, being particularly careful in stopping up the inside, by pressing the tan close to the box, about three inches above the bottom. As the lining sinks, add a little wrapping to the top, formed of hay, or old litter that is quite sweet.

    FOOTNOTES:
    Dung put together in the above manner, will retain its virtue from six to nine months.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MANICHAEAN View Post
    Dung put together in the above manner, will retain its virtue from six to nine months.
    True, true, I was just thinking the same thing.

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