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There is greater requirement for feed in the largest breeds. A preference for common fowls has been expressed by persons of experienee in raising. It is said the black Leghorn breed is better. The hens are almost perpetual layers and not disposed to set. It is argued by some that if fowls are fed well they can, at any time, be turned into the garden without material damage. Owners must be their own judges of this. It is certain that they will pick up bugs and worms which are destructive to fruit and grain. Medium sized fowls are better foragers than the larger breeds, and are, therefore, better searchers for farm pests.
Fowls need a variety of food, both for the flavor of their flesh when cooked, and the richness and tone of their eggs. When they are limited to small pens, scraps of meat from the table, leaves of vegetables and bread crumbs should be given them. If necessary, deprive the pigs of pieces from the table; fowls need them most. If they are satisfied with their food, they will seldom peck off each other's feathers. No one particular kind of food is “best.” Raw and cooked meals mixed prevent clogging. Much grain should not be given the young ones, except the last at night, when it will tempt a hearty meal, and remain in the crop to give support through the night. Wheat, or other tempting grain, should not be given just after. soft food. It will kill delicate breeds, often when the cause is unknown. Cooked and raw meals of different kinds may, with advantage, be mixed with minced grass. A quantity may be thus kept fresh and cool through the day. Bone dust, valuable for large breeds, should be added to soft food: one-tenth to one-twentieth of the dry meal, or it may be first boiled, and the meal mixed with the soup. Fresh water and lime are indispensable. For merely your own use, do not keep too many hens. Kill off the old ones every year; save the pullets. In this way you will have more eggs. Give your fowls warm quarters in winter, else they will not lay.
SMALL FRUIT CULTIVATION.
In some localities of the Northern States, a winter protection is beneficial, if not needful. Some of the most successful growers protect their beds every autumn. A larger crop is certain to follow by so doing. The embryo fruitbuds are formed in the fall, therefore frequent and sudden changes of temperature will often weaken, if not destroy, them. Where plants are covered with snow all winter, other protection is not so essential as where there is little snow, with frequent freezing and thawing. A covering of straw, hay or leaves to the depth of one or two inches is sufficient. Frozen plants thawed in the shade are less injured than when exposed fully to light. If protection does slightly retard the blooming, the plants may develop faster after starting than if unprotected.
The strawberry is mostly exempt from disease. Blight from sudden changes of weather, mildew of leaves in warm, wet weather or a kind of rust are its chief dangers. It is often injured by the larvæ of insects. Sometimes the roots suffer from the wire worm, and the leaves from the rose slug. Hand picking, or the use of lime, is the surest method of destroying the slugs. Thorough cultivation is the most effective for the worm. The plant louse, or green fly, attacks the roots when the soil is loose about them; they choke the growth. Flour of sulphur scattered among the leaves is a good preventive of the green fly's ravages, and also attacks of the red spider.
No kind of soil is equally adapted to all varieties of the strawberry. Deep, rich, sandy loam has been most recommended. It is, perhaps, the best, as a rule. A light sand or heavy clay may be brought into condition to produce fine berries, but a deep soil, light or heavy, is required by the strawberry. When the soil is naturally very wet, it requires underdraining. There are few farms where deep plowing would not make the soil suitable for strawberry beds.
Too many acres and too little care is the common cause of failure in fruit culture. Old plants seldom bear as large berries as young ones.
Plants that have been stimulated will rarely last more than two or three years.
It is safe not to expect more than two crops, and to make new beds on fresh soil every
year or two.
Varieties.—It is premised that varieties of a Western origin generally produce the largest, softest and most acid fruit. The best known of these are: Austin, Iowa, Downer's Prolific, Green Prolific, General Scott and Victory. The well known Early Scarlet is an Eastern variety, also the favorite Wilson.
It is well not to be too sanguine of the value of new seedlings. They often appear better the first season than afterward. It is easy to originate varieties, but to secure one superior or equal to the best already in market is not so easy.
By observation and inquiry the very best varieties may be procured. Let the purchaser, however, not forget the botanical distinction of perfect or staminate and pistillate flowers. The former will bear fruit without the proximity of pistillate plants, while the latter alone will not. It is best to seek the plants of perfect varieties.
Cultivation by roots and root cuttings is the best method for the raspberry. From the seed is only desirable to produce new varieties. Its natural manner of propagation is by suckers. Some cultivated varieties give suckers sparingly; others start them abundantly. Any plant that naturally produces suckers from the roots may be propagated by cuttings of the same.
Take up the roots when the plants have ceased to grow, the latter part of summer; cut them into lengths of from one to three inches. Have some boxes with holes bored in the bottom; place a layer of straw over the holes ; put on an inch or two of soil; over this a layer of roots; again the soil, and layers of roots, until the box is full. Bury the boxes, when filled, on a dry knoll or slight elevation in the garden ; bank them up with soil; cover them so deeply that the roots cannot freeze, and cover the whole with boards, to shed water. If the ground is wet, a small excavation should be made at a point that will be under the center of each box.
As early in the spring as the weather will permit, take out the roots and plant them in rich soil, the pieces about four inches apart, in drills, covering two to four inches, according to the nature of the soil. If it be a heavy one, two inches will suffice. The best way is to place the drills not more than two feet apart, and cultivate entirely with the hoe or fork.
Very little pruning is necessary for the raspberry. In general field culture, none is given except, after fruiting, to cut close to the ground all the old canes. It is, however, best in the spring to prune the bearing canes. The principal as well as the lateral ones should be shortened about one-third. The fruit will in consequence be much larger, and the yield quite as large.
The usual plan is to train the plants to stakes, but many are dispensing with artificial aids, and, by close pruning, endeavoring to make them self-sustaining. Laying down the plants and covering them with soil is the simplest and cheapest way of protecting for winter. Although the raspberry is so hardy, a fuller crop may be thus gained. Two men can rapidly bend down the plants, all in one direction, and throw a showel of earth on them. Afterward, a plow must be passed along on each side, turning the soil over them. This should not be done until cold weather is at hand. In the spring, take
In the spring, take up the canes by passing a fork under them, gently lifting them from the covering. Ten to fourteen years is about the average duration, under good culture.
There are but a few native species worthy of the attention of fruit growers. A variety called the Dorchester is one of the best. The berries are large, sweet and rich, flavored like the wild blackberry. It ripens early.
The Holcomb, introduced at Granby, Connecticut, is similar to the Dorchester. It continues in fruit several weeks.
The New Rochelle, or Seaton's Mammoth Lawton, is an universal favorite. The fruit becomes moderately sweet several days after it turns black. A strong grower and very productive. It begins to ripen rather late, and continues a long time; but, unless the soil is moist around the roots, many of the late berries will not mature. More room should be given than for raspberries. Stakes or trellises are necessary for support of the shrubs.
The entire crop of Wilson's Early matures in about two weeks. A rather dry soil is preferable to one very moist. It should not be as rich as for raspberries. Pinch off the terminal shoots the last of August to check the growth.
The currant is highly valued in culinary preparations. It possesses, as a plant, great vitality, and will grow in almost any soil or region, while to bring it to a high state of perfection, good culture and deep, rich soil are required. It thrives better in heavy loam than in light sandy soil. Manure, of almost any kind, may be applied to it. Currant bushes in the fence corners, or choked with grass, will bear fruit from year to year, but more and larger clusters will follow careful training.
The young plants should be set out and grown singly a few feet apart, the shoots be shortened or removed, to give the bush regular shape. The fruit comes mainly from the wood several years old. When a branch has borne two or three crops, it is best to clip it. Young wood will bear finer fruit than that very old. The air and sun should have free access to all the twigs. Dead branches should be cut off every year.
Pinch off the ends of growing buds, during the summer, to make them more stocky and enlarge the fruit. The plants may be trained in single stems. The clump or bush form is less trouble and most natural to the currant. There is danger to the single stems from the currant borer. If one gets into it, the plant is destroyed.
In making cuttings for propagation, every hollow stem should be examined for borers. The currant worm is the most destructive insect.
The moths appearing in July depositing eggs on currant and gooseberry alike. English gardeners dust the plants and worms with powdered white hellebore. The remedy has been effectually used in this country.
Foreign varieties are generally superior to our native ones. Of these the Attractor, yellowish white; the Cherry, largest red currant; Versailles, very large, considered, by some, better flavored than the cherry ; Holland Long Grape; Red Dutch ; Victoria ; White Dutch and Black English are all superior.
The cherry belongs to another class of fruits, and is a general favorite. Our native species have not been improved by cultivation. Old fashioned cherries, in the garden borders of Eastern farmers, were left to their own inclinations of growth. In some seasons the trees, unpruned and totally uncared for, would be loaded with ripe fruit in mid-summer-enough for birds and boys and other people. Whoever remembers the rare, sweet Black Cherry of those times will desire none better among the varieties of later introduction.
Like all other fruits cultivated in the North temperate zone, the yield is more certain and prolific, if the trees are dug about, pruned and manured. Dwarf cherry trees promise, in time, to become popular. At present, growers in this country have made little effort in this direction.
FERTILIZERS AND COMPOST.
Persons who have the management of farms often erroneously suppose that the plentiful use of fertilizing substances is the only condition necessary for the growth of a good crop, while little attention is given to the condition of the ground or the preparation of the manure.
There is a suitable season as well as appropriate methods to be employed in the use of all kinds of fertilizers. Fixed rules, however, cannot be applicable to all circumstances. If the substance be of the nitrogenous class, as ammonia, the discretion of the person must be used in the selection of the most economical method for storing it up and having it ready for use at the time it may be demanded. For this purpose, some kind of soil, or the compost heap, in most cases, will be most advantageous. А
possesses peculiar value when well-employed may be nearly wasted by lack of regard to several considerations.
Farm-yard manure of the best quality, when scattered on the surface of a field, merely at a convenient time, or without regard to the proper season, or when the crop requires it, will be likely to be wasted. That it may serve its best purpose, it must be brought into such relations with the soil that the ammunia it contains may be stored up for the crop and imparted to its growth.
Ammonia is very volatile-readily carried away in the atmosphere. It should, therefore, be preserved from waste. The materials of some soils are often most appropriate for this purpose. As ammonia is lighter than the atmosphere, there must be some method for retaining it. Dry clay is the best substance for this purpose.
Guano, more than yard manure, is liable to be impaired and wasted. It is naturally incapable of acting as a retainer of ammonia.
It is also important that they should not be covered so deep as to prevent the liberation of ammonia.
The farmer, in the first place, should study the adaptability of his soil to the proposed crop and supply it with what is most desirable as fertilizing agents. This can be done to a large extent from the compost heap which all should keep prepared. It may be made of ingredients generally to be found about any farm. A muck or marl bed, ashes, chip dirt, bones, leaves, dead animals, refuse from slaughter-houses, woolen or paper-mills, night soil, barn-yard manure, plaster, lime, refuse salt, old brine, hen manure, soap suds, soot, etc.—these can all be utilized.
Animal manures act as a ferment, and the decomposition that takes