Thursday, April 25, 2013

Early American Book - 1806 M'Mahon's Early Cucumbers & Melons in a January Hot Frame

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Bernard M'Mahon's 1806 American Gardener's Calendar published in Philadelphia

A Hot Frame in January for Early Cucumbers and Melons.

As it is generally the ambition of most gardeners to excel each other in the production of early cucumbers, &c. all necessary preparations should be made this month for that purpose, by preparing dung for hot-beds, in which to raise the plants; for they, being of a tender quality, require the aid of artificial heat under shelter of frames and glasses, until the middle or latter end of May, especially in the middle and eastern states.

But by the aid of hot-beds, defended with frames and glasses, we obtain early cucumbers, in young green fruit, fit to cut or gather in February, March and April, and ripe melons in May and June.

The proper sorts of cucumbers for the early crops arc the early short prickly, and long green prickly ; of which the first sort comes earliest; but the latter is considerably the finest fruit, and greatly preferable for general culture.


And if early melons are also required, there are several varieties of the fruit: the Cantaleupe is one of the best for its handsome growth, good size, and superior flavour; and is in much estimation.

The true Cantalcufie or Armenian warted Melon, is very scarce in the United States; its fruit is large, roundish and deeply ribbed, a little compressed at both ends, the surface full otioarted protuberances, like some species of squash, the flesh reddish, firm, and of a most delicious rich flavour; of which there are several varieties, differing principally in colour, and commonly called black rock, golden rock, &c.

This variety of melon derives the term Cantaleupe, from a place of that name near Rome, where it was first cultivated in Europe...brought thence from Armenia a country of Asia, in which is situated the famous Mount Ararat.

But it may also be proper to raise some of the others for variety; the Romanais a great bearer, comes early, but the fruit much smaller though well flavoured ; the Polignac, Nutmeg and Minorca are also fine melons; but it may also be eligible to raise two, three, or more of the best approved different sorts.

Observe, that in procuring these seeds for immediate sowing, both of cucumbers and melons, it is adviseable to have those of two, three or four years old, if possible, as the plants will generally show fruit sooner, as well as prove more fruitful than those of new seeds, which are upl to run vigorously to vine, often advancing in considerable length before they show a single fruit; but when seeds of this age cannot be procured, new seeds may be improved by carrying them a few weeks previous to sowing in your waistcoat or breeches' pocket.

In order to raise early cucumbers and melons, you must provide a quantity of fresh hot stable-dung, wherewith to make a small hot-bed for a seed-bed, in which to raise the plants to a proper growth for transplanting into larger hot-beds next month to remain to fruit; for this purpose a small bed for a one or two light frame may be sufficient, in which case two cart-load of hot dung will be enough for making a bed of proper dimensions for a one-light box, and so in proportion for a larger.

Agreeably to these intimations, provide the requisite supply of good horse-stable-dung from the dunghills in stable-yards, consisting of that formed of the moist stable litter and dunging of the horses together, choosing that which is moderately fresh, moist, and full of heat always prefering that which is of some lively, warm, steamy quality...in proper quantity as above. And being thus procured, proceed to making the hot-bed, or previously to forming it into a bed, if the dung is rank, it would be proper to prepare it a little to an improved state, more successful for that purpose, by forking the whole up into a heap, mixing it well together; and let it thus remain eight or ten days to ferment equally, and for the rank steam and fierce heat to transpire, or evaporate in some effectual degree; and by which time it will have acquired a proper temperament for making into a hot-bed, by which treatment the heat will be steady and lasting, and not so liable to become violent or burning, as when the dung is not previously prepared.

Choose a place on which to make your hot-bed, in a sheltered dry part of the framing ground, and open to the morning and south sun: and it may be made cither wholly on the surface of the ground, or in a shallow trench, of from six to twelve inches deep, and four or five feet wide, according to the frame; but if made entirely on the surface, which is generally the most eligible method at this early season, it affords the opportunity of lining the sides of the bed with fresh hot dung, quite down to the bottom, to augment the heat when it declines, and also prevents wet from settling about the bottom of the bed, as often happens when made in a trench, which chills the dung, and causes the heat soon to decay.

Then according to the size of the frame, mark out the dimensions of the bed, either on the ground, or with four stakes; making an allowance for it to be about four or five inches wider than the frame each way : this done, begin to make the bed accordingly, observing to shake and mix the dung well, as you lay it on the bed, and beat it down with the back of the fork, as you go on : but I would not advise treading it, for a bed which is trodden hard will not work so kindly, and be more liable to burn than that which is suffered to settle gradually of itself: in this manner proceed till the bed has arrived at the height of four feet, which will not be too much ; making an allowance for its settling six or eight inches, or more, in a week or fortnight's time ; and as soon as finished, let the frame and glass be put on : keep them close till the heat comes up, then raise the glass behind that the steam may pass away.

The next thing to be observed, is about earthing the bed, in which to sow the seed ; and for which occasion, should have a proper supply of rich, light, dry earth, or compost, ready at this season, under some airy dry shed, or hovel, covered at top to keep out rain, that the earth may be properly dry : for if too moist or wet at this time, it would prove greatly detrimental both to the growth of the seed and young plants, as well as be very apt to cake and burn at bottom next to the dung.
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