In the nursery plot, we are dealing mostly with tiny seedlings, and here it is rather important that there should be no stones of any considerable size. On stiff clay soils it pays to dig the plot well as for ordinary cultivation of crops, and then to top dress all over it with a 3 in. layer of prepared compost similar to that used for seed boxes, i.e., half ordinary soil, one quarter old crumbling leaves, and one quarter sharp sand, all rubbed through a 1 in. sieve. Seeds sown on a bed so prepared generally germinate very quickly and transplant much more easily and safely than if sown on coarse, lumpy soil.
Cleanliness is very important on the nursery plot; that is, cleanliness from weeds and from pests. It pays to fumigate the plot thoroughly with soil fumigant if it is made from virgin soil that is likely to be troubled with wireworms, leatherjackets, woodlice and millipedes. Slugs can be controlled best by the double method of soil fumigation and laying a trail round the nursery plot of bran and crushed Meta.
An annual dressing of lime should be a part of the routine of the nursery as of the main vegetable garden. Lime is most effective used in small doses annually, rather than in large doses at infrequent intervals. Two ounces per square yard will be an average dressing.
The use of the nursery plot is twofold. In the early spring or late winter, crops such as cauliflowers and Brussels sprouts are sown in the frames. Very soon the seedlings become large, and crowd each other, so that they cannot remain in the seed boxes. If a sheltered spot has been chosen for the nursery, the seedlings can be pricked out into it, about a foot apart, and left to grow on for a time. Then they are ready for transference without much root disturbance to their permanent quarters, and the move can be made whenever the ground is ready to receive them and the weather right.
The second use of the nursery is for actual seed sowing. It may also be a home for salads at the same time. Lettuce seeds sown thinly, broadcast, with radish sown thinly over the same patch is an instance of double cropping. The radish seeds mature rapidly, and as they are pulled the lettuces have more room left for development. or the lettuces can be transplanted to another home as the radishes are gathered. Onions and radishes are frequently grown together in the same way.
As soon as the worst of the frosts are over, the nursery plot is sown with a variety of vegetables that will be transplanted to the main vegetable garden as the earliest crops are gathered. Thus, the nursery plot can, in a sheltered garden on warm light soil, become a substitute for a cold frame, though, as suggested previously, the best way is to have both frame and nursery, the frame being used to see the seedlings through the baby stage and the nursery used for their further development up to the time when there is room for them on the main plot.