Quick growth in good rich soil, with never a check to the water supply is the culture secret of small green salads.
Chicory is gaining favour as a salad or vegetable in this country. It is sown in lines in late spring, allowing 1 ft. between the rows, and thinning the seedlings to 9 in. apart. In autumn the plants are lifted, the tops trimmed back, and the roots replanted in boxes of moist soil with 5 or 6 in. of sand over the plants. The boxes stand in the dark, but in some warm corner of the greenhouse, and as the new growths appear through the sand cover, they are ready to cut. These blanched parts are the parts used in the salad bowl, and they are called chicons.”
Lettuces, which are perhaps the salad crop most in demand, are grown most of the year in the open garden, the method being extremely simple. On well dug and rich soil, drills are drawn about 9 in. or 1 ft. apart and 1 in. deep. Along these lettuce seeds are scattered thinly, and a little soil is used to cover them.
As soon as the plants are large enough to handle, some can be transplanted to other positions, the remaining seedlings being left about 9 in. apart. Crowding should be avoided, as it causes the plants to bolt into flower, which is what the cultivator wants to avoid. The hoe is used to keep down weeds, and occasional doses of nitrate of soda or liquid manure are useful to encourage rapid development of the leaves.
There are two types of lettuce, the tall cos lettuces and the broad round cabbage lettuces. Formerly, the tops of the cos varieties had to be tied together when the plants were partly grown, so that the blanched heart would develop. But there are now varieties that form the desired shape naturally without tying the tops together.
Lettuces can, if preferred, be raised by broadcasting seed in a nursery bed or in boxes under glass, and pricking out the seedlings into the frame or on to the plot when they can be handled.
Mustard and Cress are familiar to everyone. Both these are sown thickly in patches, either outdoors or under glass. The seed need not be covered with soil, but can be pressed well down on to moist soil, as thickly as possible over the surface, and then shaded with brown paper until it has germinated. The shading is then removed and watering is the only further treatment needed. The crop is cut when the seedlings are uniformly green all over, and an inch high or more, but before a second pair of leaves forms. Successive sowings are required to keep up a supply.
Cress takes a few days longer to germinate than mustard, and for use together should be sown at least three days before the mustard.
Radishes are sown in lines in any available corner of the nursery garden or salad patch. They grow quickly and as soon as the roots form they should be pulled, as old roots are stringy and worthless.
Watercress can be grown in any garden if a good water supply is maintained. A bed a little below the general level of the garden should be prepared by deep digging, and pieces of watercress (tops) should be dibbled in about 6 in. apart. If planted like this in March, a supply of watercress will be available during the late summer.
It is almost impossible to state in general terms what produce can be grown on a given area devoted to vegetables. Naturally, it depends on the fertility of the soil, on the general management of crops, and on the choice of crops—since some vegetables are far more valuable than others.
The average allotment of ten rods is regarded as capable of producing the bulk of the vegetables for an all-the-year-round supply for a family of four or five persons. It may be taken that if the same area is devoted to the small vegetables and salads, and well cropped, it will produce sufficient for a family twice the size, assuming that the family would purchase the main crop potatoes and perhaps some of the other roots from market supplies. If smaller space, in proportion, is available for vegetable culture, certain of the cheaper and easily bought vegetables should be left out, and also such vegetables as seakale and chicory, which demand the use of a greenhouse. Peas, beans, spinach, tomatoes, salads, Brussels sprouts, and sprouting broccoli are among the most profitable crops for a little family garden. All are of the cut-and-come-again type; that is, they produce crops over a long period if well managed, and none of them need glass culture—except tomatoes, sprouts and broccoli in the early stages, while seedlings that have passed this stage are not expensive to buy.
The following figures are not to be regarded as maximum figures, but merely averages for small garden culture of vegetables in the hands of novices. Many will scoff at the quantities, but the average gardener is not an expert exhibition grower.
A pint of runner beans will sow a row 160 ft. long, and from such a row one would gather at least ten pounds of beans on most days during the cropping season. A pint of dwarf French beans would perhaps yield nearly as many pounds, but the cropping season is much shorter; say, three weeks instead of six or eight weeks.
A row of four dozen tomato plants growing in the open would produce at least a hundred pounds of good fruit in a sunny season. These would ripen from the middle of July onwards until the frosts —an average of ten pounds a week.
An ounce of spinach will sow 200 ft. of row. Assuming that it is sown in succession, 10 ft. at a time, there should be a cutting sufficient for two meals for a family of five from each sowing.
Two dozen Brussels sprouts and one dozen purple sprouting broccoli would provide greens for a family meal two or three times a week during the winter; in some seasons they will provide much more.
These estimates are given merely for the convenience of the new garden owner. Experience is naturally a more reliable guide to the quantities required by his own family.