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- 2. ARTICHOKES.
The flower heads of Artichoke, Cynara Scolymus, in an immature state, contain the part that is used, which is the fleshy receptacle, commonly called the bottom, freed from the bristles and seed down, vulgarly called the choke, and the lower part of the leaves of the calyx.
There are two varieties of the Artichoke, viz. :1. The conical, ovate, or oval French Artichoke : the
heads are of a green colour; the scales pointed, and
turning outwards. 2. The globular, or large round-headed Artichoke ;
with dusky purplish heads; the scales turned in at the top. This last, commonly called the Globe Artichoke, is the only sort deserving cultivation in this country. Artichokes are propagated by the off-set suckers, which are produced abundantly from the roots of old plants : these should be planted in rows four feet apart, placing them in clumps of three or four in each, two feet asunder in the rows. Artichokes require a deep soil ; and, before they are planted, the ground should be well manured, and trenched two feet deep : this operation should be performed in April, as soon as the young leaves begin to show themselves above the surface of the ground. After this, the plants will require only to be kept clear from weeds during the summer, and in the autumn to be protected by litter from the stable, to secure them against the frosts in winter.
Asparagus officinalis is a perfectly hardy plant; it invariably produces ripe seeds in the autumn, and from these alone it is raised.
The gardeners pretend to distinguish two sorts ; the Battersea and the Gravesend.
There are various methods pursued in forming new plantations of Asparagus: the most common one is to trench the ground from two to three feet deep, mixing with the soil a good quantity of rotten dung. If the soil be good to the depth of three feet, it will not be necessary, under the ordinary culture, to prepare the ground deeper ; but in doing this a large portion of manure is necessary, and it will be requisite that it should be regularly mixed with the soil from the bottom of the trench to the top. If one of the quarters of the garden should be required for Asparagus alone, the whole ought to be trenched and manured as if it were for only one single bed, as the roots spread themselves in all directions, and by penetrating the alleys between the beds the outer rows of heads will always be finer than those in the middle. The ground being prepared, the beds should be set out of the width of five feet, with three feet alleys, fixing a strong stake at the corners of each bed, driven down to the depth of three feet. About the beginning or middle of March proceed thus to plant the beds : strain a line round the four corners of the first bed, cut it down perpendicularly on the inside of the line to the depth of three inches, and take out the soil, which must be laid on the alleys on each side, levelling the surface perfectly even ; but take care not to stand upon the bed ; on the contrary, keep the soil as light as possible : mark out four lines, at a foot from each side of the bed, and a foot from each other : measure a foot from the end of the bed, and mark each line at a foot apart, thus forming squares of twelve inches each way. Being now provided with some good one year old plants (not more), open the roots flat, place one plant on each of those places marked on the lines, and fasten it down with a handful of mould to
keep it in its place : when this is done, the bed must be filled up level with the spade. This being finished, proceed with the other beds in like manner, till the whole is completed. A bed of twenty yards long, thus planted, will require 236 plants; and when of three years standing, will furnish heads equal in size to those generally produced in our best gardens. If still larger heads than these should be desired, they may be produced by planting the four rows at fifteen inches between the plants in the row instead of twelve : and if this is done, it will be of greater advantage if the plants are placed in the quincunx manner ; that is, by placing the first row of plants fifteen inches from the end, and fifteen inches apart ; the second row twenty-two inches and a half from the end, and fifteen inches apart; the third row fifteen inches from the end, and fifteen inches apart; and the fourth row twenty-two inches and a half from the end, and fifteen inches apart. The plants will thus form rhomboidal squares, instead of rectangular ones ; thereby allowing the roots of one line to extend themselves into the spaces of the adjoining ones. A bed thus planted will require 186 plants. In Cheshire, and some parts of Lancashire, the gardeners pursue a much more expensive method in the preparation of their Asparagus beds than the one which I have described. Their method is this : the beds are staked out five feet wide, leaving three feet alleys between them ; the beds are then thrown out six feet deep, and such soil as proves of a bad quality is taken away, reserving that only which is good, and supplying the deficiency, if any, with good soil from some other place: six inches thick of half rotten dung is then spread in the bottom of the bed, and twelve inches thick of good mould levelled over it, which is then well forked over, and mixed with a three-pronged fork : after this is levelled and made even, three other double layers of dung and mould
must be supplied and worked over in the same manner, which will complete the bed; but in the two last layers the dung should be more rotten than that with which the bed was begun. The beds thus prepared should be left two months at least to settle; but they must not be trodden down, as they are much the best when left to settle of themselves. About the end of March, or the beginning of April, the beds must be raked down, and lines drawn at a foot apart, the length of the beds, and places marked at fifteen inches apart along the lines ; at each.of these places three of the largest sized seeds are to be inserted in a triangle, about half an inch apart, and half an inch deep : the bed must now be raked over, and left till the plants are about two inches high : if three plants appear at a place, two of the weakest must be pulled up; where two appear, one must be removed ; and should there be any defect in any part of the bed, a single plant from those which have been withdrawn will be sufficient to fill up the space, so that the bed will now be completed with a single plant at each place respectively. There will be nothing further required during the summer, than to keep the beds perfectly clean from weeds; and in the winter, to cover them with some half rotten dung, to preserve the crowns of the roots from frost. In the spring following it will be found that the beds have settled, perhaps considerably; if so, they must be covered over with as much good mould as will make up the deficiency. The third year after planting, the heads will be fit to cut. This appears to be an expensive process; but it is adopted by many of the market gardeners, and they consider they are amply compensated by the produce for all the expense such a preparation has occasioned them. After the beds have been made a few years, the alleys are next taken out to the depth of the prepared beds, and filled up in the same manner, which completes the whole of the process. It is easy to conceive that ground prepared in this manner must be productive of very large crops, and also of very large heads, some of which are said to weigh four ounces each.
In cutting the heads of Asparagus, I would recommend a knife with a straight narrow blade of six inches long, with a sharp smooth edge, instead of having a blade like a saw : the latter has been recommended in books, and I have seen it used; but the practice is not a good one, and it is better laid aside. The cutting season usually commences towards the latter end of April, and should never be continued beyond Midsummer.
4. BALM. Melissa officinalis, or common Balm, is a perennial plant, a native of the south of Europe. The recent plant has the agreeable odour of lemons, which is lost in drying, and an austere, slightly aromatic taste. It is used in cool tankards; and in the form of tea, as a grateful diluent in fevers.
It is propagated by dividing its roots in March or April.
Ocymum Basilicum and minimum, the sweet or common, and bush Basil, are the only sorts cultivated in our gardens. Basil is a culinary aromatic, much used in French cookery, along with other aromatic herbs, in soups, &c. They are both annuals, natives of the East Indies, and should be sown on a gentle hotbed in March : when the plants are two or three inches high, they may be transplanted into a warm border of light rich earth, in rows of six or eight inches' distance from each other, watering them occasionally till they have taken root.