Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Beeton on February

Another timely exhortation to get that digging finished from my Victorian gardening handbook...

February
Aspect & Character of the Month -

The mean temperature of February is nearly two degrees higher than January, and the average number of frosty nights is about eleven. Less rain falls this month than in any other, and hoar frosts at this season generally precede it.

Routine work
The operations of the kitchen garden in February will depend very much upon the weather, and must be regulated by it. It is useless to attempt to dig, plant or sow in wet weather for the ground will cling to the feet of the workman, and the time spent in this vain attempt will be altogether lost. The hand of the gardener must be withheld until drier weather prevails, and the surface of the soil is fairly dry. Then no time must be lost in preparing the ground for, and in getting in, the crops for the coming season.
Continue to wheel manure onto vacant ground, and get all digging, trenching, and in fact all ground work, as forward as possible, bearing in mind that much of the success of the season depends upon it; and how important it is to have the ground prepared a week or two before cropping, especially where it is heavy or retentive, for none but a practised workman can appreciate the advantage of having the surface in that finely pulverised condition that follows frost and drying winds.


The author then goes on to provide advice about the husbandry of various crops in February, from which I have selected this small sample for your interest......

Artichokes, Jerusalem –
This useful vegetable, and excellent accompaniment to roast beef when boiled nicely in milk, may be planted this month. The tubers should be set at a distance of 18 inches apart every way in any piece of waste land or corner of the garden that happens to be suitable for them. It is well to appropriate a special piece of land for their cultivation, because when they have been once planted, it is difficult to get rid of them, owing to the growing of the young tubers which are left in the soil when the roots are taken up for use.

Onions & Leeks-
Onions for salading may be sown on a warm border. A small sowing of leeks may be made at the same time and in the same manner, but not quite so thick. The ground for the main crops should now be thoroughly trenched and heavily manured, the surface being left rough so that the frost may act upon it. A top dressing of soot once a fortnight, or even oftener if the weather be rainy, will have a very great effect on the onion crop, and will prove an effectual remedy against the maggot at the root which so often destroys the entire crop, especially on highly manured land. Some will sow onions in February; and later in the season, when they are large enough, they will transplant them from the seed bed to the prepared ground, It is far better however to sow in drills, and then to thin the crop at intervals, for the thinnings are useful as salading & etc

Peas, protection of -
One way of protecting peas by lines of cotton or worsted is to have some half-circular pieces of board, a foot wide, with pegs nailed to them thrust into the ground; then have five or six small nails on the upper edge at regular intervals, these are fixed in the ground at each end of the row, and as many lines of worsted as there are nails are passed over the peas. This covers them completely in. Others lay branchy sticks over them. Some sow rather thickly, and leave them fully exposed, affirming that by allowing for loss, the others are not drawn up, thus avoiding more covering than is desirable to insure a good crop.


I love the language, and especially the magnificently unwieldy sentences....

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