Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Cloth Covers for Tomato Beds

Cloth covers for beds should be made of heavy, unbleached sheeting or light duck, and it is better that the selvage run up and down the bed rather than lengthwise. The cloth is torn into lengths of about 13 feet and then sewn together with a narrow double-stitched flat seam so as to form a sheet 13 feet wide and about 8 inches longer than the bed. The edges are tacked every foot to the strips about 2 inches wide by 7/8 inch thick with beveled outside edges and laid perfectly in line. A second line of strips is then nailed to the first so as to break joints with it and so that the two will form a continuous roller about a foot longer than the bed with the edge of the curtain firmly fastened in its center. The center of the curtain is secured to the central ridge of the bed by strips of lath. When rolled up, the rollers are held in place by loops of rope around their ends and when they are down they are held by similar loops to the notched tent-pins driven into the ground or to wooden buttons fastened to the sides and ends of the frame.

Cloth covers are sometimes dressed with oil, but this is not to be recommended, though it is an advantage to have them wet occasionally with a weak solution of copper sulphate or with sea water as a preservative and to prevent mildew. Such covers, well cared for, may last five years or be of little use after the first, depending upon the care given them. They can be made from 50 to 200 feet long and two men can roll them up or down very quickly.

When cloth covers are used the supporting cross-strips should not be over 3 inches wide nor more than 3 feet apart; sometimes the strips are made to bind the sideboard and ridge together by means of short pieces of hoop iron or of barrel hoop. These are so placed and nailed as to hold the upper edge of sideboards and of the central ridge flush with the cross-strips, thus forming a smooth surface for cloth to rest on and enabling one easily to "knock down" and remove the frames to facilitate the taking of the plants from the bed to the field and the storing of the frames for another season.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Hotbeds

Tomato HotbedPlants can be advantageously started and even grown on to the size for setting in open ground in hotbeds. In building these of manure it is important to select a spot where there is no danger of standing water, even after the heaviest rains, and it is well to remove the soil to a depth of 6 inches or 1 foot from a space about 2 feet larger each way than the bed and to build the manure up squarely to a hight of 2 to 3 feet. It is also very important that the bed of manure be of uniform composition as regards mixture of straw and also as to age, density and moisture, so as to secure uniformity in heating. This can be accomplished by shaking out and evenly spreading each forkful and repeatedly and evenly tramping down as the bed is built up. Unless this work is well and carefully done the bed will heat and settle unevenly, making it impossible to secure uniformity of growth in different parts.

Hotbed frames should be of a size to carry four to six 3x6-foot sash, and made of lumber so fastened together that they can be easily knocked apart and stored when not in use. They should be about 10 inches high in front and 16 or 18 inches at the back, care being taken that if the back is made of two boards one of them be narrow and at the bottom so that the crack between them can be covered by banking up with manure or earth. In placing them on the manure short pieces of board should be laid under the corners to prevent their settling in the manure unevenly. I prefer to sow the seed in flats or shallow boxes filled with rich but sandy and very friable soil, and set these on a layer of sifted coal ashes covering the manure and made perfectly level, but many growers sow on soil resting directly on the manure; if this is done the soil should be light and friable and made perfectly level.

In some sections, particularly in the South, it is not always easy to procure suitable manure for making hotbeds, so these are built to be warmed by flues under ground, but I think it much better where a fire is to be used that the sash be built into the form of a house. A hotbed of manure is preferred to a house by some because of its supplying uniform and moist bottom heat—and one can easily give abundant air; but the sash can be built into the form of a house at but little more expense, and it has the great advantage of enabling one to work among the plants in any weather, while, if properly built, any desired degree of heat and ventilation can be easily secured. Except when very early ripening fruit is the desideratum, plants started with heat but pricked out and grown in cold-frames without it, but where they can be protected during cold nights and storms, will give better results than those grown to full size for the field in artificial heat.