« PreviousContinue »
by filling the furrows with earth. Then cover them with a top dressing of forest-leaves and straw, two inches deep. As soon as the tops of the young plants are two or three inches high, pass between them with a shovel plough, followed by a hoe, destroying the weeds and levelling the ground; do not bill. This is all you have to do until fall; when the ground begins to freeze, cover over with straw, chaff, or forest-leaves, six inches deep, to keep them from frost. Your potatoes will now have a chance to rest and ripen during the winter. In this way you will have the greatest yield and best quality. Continue this course from year to year, and the rot will not only disappear, but your crop will increase from 25 to 100 per cent.
The third year you may increase your field crop, by ploughing in fine manure.
In some parts of the State we learn that the rank growth of the crop has chiefly developed itself in the vines, which are luxuriant beyond precedent, while the essential root itself, the potatoe, is found, upon being pulled, to amount to almost nothing, being very small and poor. This, however, may be no sign of a bad crop, for strong vines are considered a proof of good potatoes. There is time enough yet for the roots to grow to their full size, and they probably will, if the vines continue in good health. The crop is a very large one, and if the yield proves to be abundant, the price will fall much below its present cost.
Mr. Albert Weinberger, a farmer of thorough experience, in Whitefield township, Marshall County, Illinois, gives good encouragement in speaking of his own potatoe growths; he says, that the average
in his neighborhood may be laid down at about 100 bushels per acre, although he himself raised 150 bushels per acre last year, and so did several of the neighboring farmers, in spite of the more or less injurious influences of the weather during the summer; this is a very good crop. The average price of potatoes last year, in some markets of Illinois, was about fifty cents per bushel, and it is not an uncommon occurrence, that speculators make engagements for potatoes, even as early as the time of their planting.
In opposition to the system of planting potatoes late in the season, a communication was made to us by a farmer, that he raised no less than two hundred bushels of potatoes per acre, baving planted them about the middle of May, that they should be well advanced by the time the hot weather comes on; or, according to his opinion, they may not be planted till after the middle of June, that they may have the benefit of the September rains. He says that last season, late planted potatoes in his neighborhood were almost an entire failure.
SWEET POTATOES. — Convolvulus Batatas.
These are now existing in a number of varieties. The roots are usually spindle-shaped and farinaceous; the vines are herbaceous, taking roots at intervals; the leaves are hastate, (cross-bow shaped), and consequently three-lobed. The flowers, which are few, are white externally, and purplish within. In Northern Il.inois, only one variety succeeds perfectly, viz: the Nansemond, brownish-yellow, short variety, which can be grown as far north as the varieties of Indian corn.
The ground should be trench-ploughed, at least one foot deep, and the soil thoroughly pulverized; this should be done at the time of setting the plants, and is a principle to be observed in all hoed crops—to plant in newly-ploughed land. No manure should be used, as this gives an excess of vine at the expense of tuber, nor will the potatoes be so rich, for with bigh manuring, they incline to be watery.
The best seed-time is about the first of April, and as the season is usually pretty rough then, it is necessary to put the seed-potatoes in hot-beds, for sprouting, and then cover them with hay or straw, to shelter them from rain or snow, still much prevailing at that early season. About the first or middle of May, the plants will be several inches high, and should be transplanted as soon as no more danger of frost is to be feared. The ground into which they are then planted, and which has been prepared as above described, is laid off with a twohorse plough, in ridges about four feet wide.
These ridges are then divided with a hoe into hills the same distance apart, making four feet each way, so as to allow of culture with a shovel-plough both ways. The hills should be made large, like a two-bushel basket, though a little broader at the base; a small excavation is made with the hand in the top of the hill; at the bottom of which a plant is set in the usual way, and a little water is then poured in, to settle the earth about the plants; if ordinary care has been bestowed on them, very few will fail. In the after culture a shovel. their supplies of flax from Europe; and the prices paid for it, includ. ing the cost of transportation, duties, etc., makes the material pretty expensive before it reaches their hands; the question, therefore, arises, whether flax would not be much less expensive as a home product. There can be no doubt that it would—and great sums would be added to the present profits of flax-growing, which are only based upon the yields of flax-seed.
It is thought by some, that the growth of flax is injurious to the soil; but the experience of those who have paid complete and long attention to it, entirely contradicts this.
The soil best adapted to flax, is a rich, alluvial, or sandy loam, or a loose marl, neither too wet nor too dry. Upon poor, wet, or gravelly soils, it will not succeed, and manure should be applied on land of an inferior kind. Good wheat land will also be good for flas; soils of medium quality are best suited to its growth.
The ploughing should be done in fall, and the land be well drained, and repeatedly and carefully cleansed from weeds. In the spring the cultivator may be passed over the land to the depth of four or five inches; a light harrow may then be run over it. Then the land should be rolled and harrowed, to make a fine surface for the reception of the seed, and a firm and compact bottom.
The expense of preparing grass land directly for flax, may sometimes be too great, and it is therefore desirable that some other crop should intervene, of plants such as do not occupy the land long, and which during their growth want frequent stirring; such plants as beans, peas, &c., because the repeated stirring renders the mould soft and loose, and at the same time destroys the weeds which would other. wise do much damage to the flax.
The seed may be sown any time between the middle of April, and the middle of June; later sowing is not to be recommended, as the crop always blossoms in the month of July, and if sown later, the plant is short, and the fibre soft and brittle. The seed should be spread evenly, and, if possible, in moist weather.
The roots penetrate downward about half the length of the stem; and a soil of the above description, loose and loamy, should therefore be chosen for the cultivation of flax; a soil which is not liable, either to contain too much moisture, or to be too dry, but is capable of being well tilled, answers the purpose best. With regard to the choice of seed, it should be of a bright, brownish color, oily to the feel, and at the same time heavy. The seed from Holland not only ripens sooner, but it also yields more fibre than most others. American seed produces a common fine flax.
The quantity of seed required per acre is from two, to two and a balf bushels, when sown broadcast. It may, however, be added, that with regard to the quantity of seed, much depends upon the quality of the soil, and also on the weather; for if too much seed is sown on rich and fertile land, the crop is in danger of lodging.
If the cultivation is performed in a proper manner, an acre of good soil will readily produce 20 bushels of this seed, which is worth from $1 50 to $2 per busbel, according to the quality.
In regard to the preparation of the flax, the following is to be observed: If we take straw, break it, and carefully examine it, it will be found to consist of three distinct parts; the centre is occupied by a sort of cellular tissue, having the appearance of wood; this is usually called the "shave,” or “bean;" it is composed of bundles of long and tough fibres, the whole enveloped by a thin and delicate bark or skin.
The first process is called the “steeping," or “dew-rotting;" in this, the straw is spread on the grass, and carefully watered, sufficient moisture being supplied to support the action of fermentation in the tissues of the plant. This method, however, is very tedious, and requires several weeks for completion. The usual method is to immerse the straw, either in tanks or pits, constructed for the purpose, or in slowly-running streams. In a few days, a scum appears on the surface of the water, and is succeeded by the evolution of gaseous bubbles, arising from the decomposition, which is now actively at work.
Great care must then be taken to prevent this from proceeding too far, and effecting injury to the quality of the fibrous portion; it must be constantly watched, and removed as soon as the desired end has been attained. This is known immediately by a person of experience, from the manner in which the fibre separates from the straw, in breaking a portion of the stalk. Great judgment is required in determining the proper time for drawing the flax from the steep ;-if the process has not been carried far enough, the fibre is coarse, and can only be used for the manufacture of the common goods.
The temperature of the steep is kept between 80 and 90 degrees.