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The Parsnip, so closely resembles the carrot in its culture and uses, that in describing the treatment of the one, little is left to be said in reference to the other. (See last article.)
The parsnip, like the carrot, requires a light rich soil, deeply ploughed or trenched, and well manured. The time of sowing, is in February or March. The quantity of seed, and mode of cultivation, are the same as the carrot. The use is also much the same. The parsnip is, however, stated to be superior to the carrot for fattening cattle, affording meat of the finest quality, and it is much used for that purpose in France, and in Jersey and Guernsey.
The parsnip will withstand frost better than the carrot; and if the soil be dry, may be allowed to remain in the ground during the winter; but it is recommended to take up a portion when the leaves begin to decay, and store them for use.
The remainder may be taken up in February, and if preserved in dry sand, they will keep till April or May.
The Potato, is originally a native of South America, whence it was brought to Europe by the Spaniards, in the latter part of the sixteenth century: but it was unknown in the British Islands till introduced by Sir Walter Raleigh, from Virginia, in 1584 ; and from a few roots grown in his garden at Youghal, all the potatoes now cultivated in the United Kingdom are believed to have sprung.
Potatoes cannot be planted too early, if the danger of frost be over, and they thrive in almost any soil, when properly cultivated; but they must not be planted too close, and much will depend upon their being kept clean from weeds, and upon the surface being pulverized by repeated hoeing. A heavy crop must not be looked for, if set nearer than ten inches apart, and if the roots have not a good covering of loose earth to work in.
It is necessary to change the seed frequently, and it is observed, that potatoes from cold wet land, answer best as seed on the lighter and finer soils. Indeed it may be said that the same rule holds good in grain, and produce of every kind. The seed should be changed every year, or every second year at farthest; and if your soil be light, purchase seed that has grown on the strongest land, and the contrary if the soil be heavy.
The potato may be grown on the same land for several years, but it is always most luxuriant in a new soil. In England and Scotland, a crop of oats is generally taken before planting potatoes, while in Ireland they are most commonly planted on the lea, in what are called “ Jazy-beds,” a system which the best cultivators condemn, except it be on wet, boggy, moorland soils. Potatoes require a good supply of manure to ensure a good crop, and return very little to the soil.
For seed, cut off the crown of the best-formed potatoes, by which you will have the earliest and best sets, and the root end is the best to eat. The set should not he less than a quarter part of a well-sized potatoe; and do not choose for seed, potatoes which are too small for eating, as is sometimes done. The seed should not be cut until it is wanted for planting, and when you cut the seed, riddle a little slaked lime or ashes over the sets, which will stop their bleeding, and help to strengthen their growth. When planted, the sets should be laid in the ground with the eye uppermost.
On wet boggy land, however, whole potatoes are found to be the safest for seed, and the smaller roots may be selected for this purpose, but not the smallest, or the very small.
The season for planting potatoes, depends on the state of the weather and the soil: if these are favourable, you may plant from the beginning of April, to the middle of May; but late crops are never so abundant or so good as early ones. Ground which has been recently limed, will, with the addition of a little dung, produce
an abundant crop; and the best method is, where the manure is short or compost, to plough it in and thus mix it thoroughly with the soil
. The culture of potatoes is in Ireland for the most part performed with the spade, and in England and Scotland by the plough. In whichever way they are planted, it is of the first importance that the land should be freed from weeds and noxious roots, which cannot, as in the case of turnips, be easily removed afterwards, whilst the plant is growing.
In preparing the land for a drill crop of potatoes, a first ploughing and furrowing, as deep as possible, should be given in autumn, and the soil be allowed to lie undisturbed till the following spring. Another ploughing and harrowing across the first furrows, should then be given. The complete pulverization of the soil is indispensable, for upon this the success of the crop will greatly depend. The land should then be laid up into ridgelets, from twenty-four to thirty inches broad, the distance depending upon the probable luxuriance of the stem. The manure is then spread evenly in the bottom of the drills, in the same way as for turnips, and the seed planted on the top of the manure, at from eight to ten inches apart, and the ridgelets then reversed to cover them. This is generally considered as being the most approved mode of planting the potato.
The lazy-bed system, as practised in Ireland, consists in making beds a few feet broad, upon which the seed potatoes are laid, about six inches apart; manure having been previously spread on the surface if it is arable land, or without manure if it is grass land. Trenches are then formed between the beds, with the earth taken from which the seed is covered. After the plants have appeared above ground, they are again covered, and this successive earthing up is continued until the plants come into bloom. This plan is not, however, adopted by the best cultivators. It is only practised by the small farmers, and the cottier peasantry, who are unacquainted with the drill system, by which the benefit of a summer fallow is obtained for the land.
The manner in which potatoes are most generally cultivated in England and Scotland, is by dibbling, in rows from twenty-four to thirty inches apart, the manure being ploughed in broadcast, and the potatoes dibbled in every third furrow. This mode will perhaps be found equal, if not generally superior, to any other in practice. The plant meets with no obstacle in its progress to the surface, the sets or cuttings are never too deeply planted, nor does a dry season take effect upon the manure and the roots, as it is sometimes apt to do in drills ridged up in an exposed position. This method is frequently practised without dibbling, by women employed to follow the plough, and plant the sets in every third furrow; but in this way it is necessary to plough with a shallow furrow, from four to five inches being as deep as the potato sets should ever be planted.
When the plants begin to appear above the surface, the ground should be harrowed, either lengthwise or across; the horse-hoe, hoeing-plough, or hand-hoe, is then to be repeatedly employed between the rows, and the hand-hoe alone between the plants, as may be required. The earth is next to be gathered about the roots of the plants, once, or oftener, as may be found necessary, and all weeds must be carefully taken out by hand; for when the roots have spread through the soil in search of food, it is impossible to introduce either the hand or the horse hoe with safety.
Another mode of moulding potatoes, is as follows :As soon as the stems are three or four inches above ground, run an exposing-plough as closely as possible to the roots, in order to loosen the earth, which it throws from them into the middle of the furrow. After this operation, weeding is executed quickly and effectually, either by the hand or by a small gardenhoe; and carefully remove all the weeds to the dung-pit. The next moulding is to be in the usual way. To choke up the plants with clay, or hard stiff soil, immediately after their tender shoots appear above ground, instead of loosening the earth, in order to let the fibres strike freely, is very injudicious. In
moulding up potatoes with a spade or a hoe, especial care should be taken to loosen the earth about the plants, in every direction, and to clean and pulverize it completely; by which means it will have the advantage of a fallow, while it is yielding a valuable crop.
The foregoing are the usual modes adopted in cultivating the potato ; each will have its advocates; but as a method may answer in one place, which will not succeed equally well in another, experience is the test to which the farmer must resort on this as on other occasions, to ascertain the greatest produce which can be obtained at the least expense, keeping the fertility of the soil at the same time unimpaired.
Every mode of cultivation which tends to the fertilizing of the land, will better adapt it for the growth of the potato. The effectual draining, and the deepening of the soil, are peculiarly important for the potato, which delights in a dry, deep, sandy loam, and will never flourish in a shallow, wet, or retentive soil. The process of deepening the soil (after thorough-draining) is performed by the subsoil-plough; and it might be readily effected on garden allotments, and small farms, by deep digging with the spade, as is practised by the small cultivators in Flanders. The land should be dug deep enough to turn up, on every occasion, fresh subsoil, until the active soil is brought to the depth of fourteen eighteen inches, when it would become like a garden in productiveness.
Recent experiments appear to establish the fact, that the produce may be greatly increased by plucking off the blossoms of the potato, and thus preventing the seeding of the plant, which necessarily abstracts nourishment from the root. The labour of nipping off the flower as soon as the crop is fully in blossom would be trifling, and might be done by children, and would probably well repay the cost. At any rate it might be tried, and afterwards be continued or omitted as the result might indicate.
The potato, like most other plants, is subject to disease, the chief of which is termed the curl. The cause of this malady has never been satisfactorily accounted