XII. CULTIVATED CROPS - ROOT CROPS (cont.)
Carrot. Parsnip. Jerusalem Artichoke.
This root, though so deservedly esteemed and universally grown in gardens, has not hitherto attained to general cultivation as a field crop. This is owing chiefly to certain practical difficulties attending its culture on a larger scale. Its light feathery seeds cannot easily be sown so as to secure their regular germination; the tardy growth of the young plants, and the difficulty of discrimination between them and weeds makes the thinning a troublesome affair; the harvesting of he crop is comparatively expensive; and it is only on sandy and light loamy soils, or those of a peaty character, that it can be grown successfully. The increasing precariousness in the growth of potatoes, turnips, and clover, and the consequent necessity for a greater variety of green crops, entitle the carrot to increased attention as a field crop. Its intrinsic qualities are, however, very valuable, especially since the introduction of the white Belgian variety. On light soils it is alleged that larger crops of carrots can be obtained than of turnips, and with less exhaustion of their fertility, which is explained as arising from the greater depth to which the carrots descend for their nourishment. This root is eaten with avidity by all kinds of farm stock. Horses, in particular, are very fond of it, and can be kept in working condition with a considerably smaller ration of oats when 20 lb of carrots are given to them daily. It can also be readily kept to an advanced period of spring when stored with ordinary care.
The mode of culture is very similar to that already described for mangel-wurzel. A usual practice is to prepare the seed for sowing by mixing it with moist sand, and turning the mass repeatedly for several days until germination begins, when it is sown by hand at he rate of 6 lb per acre of the dry seeds, in a seam opened by the coulters of the corn or turnip drill, according as it is wished to have it on the flat or on ridgelets. Some prefer merely to rub the mixture of seeds and sand or mould betwixt the palms, until the seeds are thoroughly separated from each other, and so divested of their hairs as, when mixed with sand, to run from a drilling machine. It is of the utmost importance to secure seeds of the previous years growth, as if older their germination cannot be depended upon. Much care is also needed in saving the seed only from selected roots, as carrots have a decided tendency to degenerate. The white Belgian variety is certainly the best for farm use, not only from the weight of crop, but from its growing more rapidly in its earliest stage than other approved sorts, and showing a broader and deeper coloured leaf, which can more easily be discriminated from weeds, and thus admitting of the earlier use off the hoe. When the sowing and first hoeing and thinning of the crop are got over successfully, the after culture of the crop is very simple; all that is needed being the occasional use of the horse and hand hoe to keep down weeds. The fork must be used in lifting the crop. The greens are then cut off and given to young stock or cows, and the roots stored in long narrow heaps, exactly as mangold. Fifteen tons per acre is an average crop, although on suitable soils, with liberal manuring and skilful cultivation, double the weight is sometimes obtained. Those who intend to cultivate this crop statedly will do well to raise their own seeds from carefully-selected roots. Unless genuine and fresh seed is sown, failure and disappointment can scarcely be avoided.
This plant bears so close a resemblance to the carrot, and its culture and uses are so similar, that they need not be repeated. It can, however, be cultivated successfully over a much wider range of soils than the carrot, and, unlike it, rather prefers those in which clay predominates. It is grown extensively and with great success in the Channel Islands. The cows there, fed on parsnips and hay, yield butter little inferior, either in colour or favour, to that produced from pasture. About 10 lb of seed are required per acre. It requires, like that of the carrot, to be steeped before sowing, to hasten germination, and the same care is needed to have it fresh and genuine. It should be sown in April. The roots, when matured, are stored like carrots.
This root, although decidedly inferior to potato in flavour , is yet deserving of cultivation. It grows freely in inferior soils, is easily propagated from the tubers, and requires little attention in its cultivation. When once established in the soil, it will produce abundant crops for successive years on the same spot. It is sometimes planted in woods to yield shelter for game, for which purpose it is admirably fitted, as it grows freely under the shade of trees, and yields both food and covert. In properly-fenced woods it might yield abundant and suitable food for hogs, which could their root it at their pleasure, without damage to anything. Where they had mast along with these juicy tubers, they would undoubtedly thrive apace. After they had grubbed up what they could get, enough would be left to reproduce a crop for successive season. Such a use of this esculent seems well deserving of careful trial.
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