Monday, July 1, 2019

1764 Plants in 18C Colonial American Gardens - Virginian John Randolph (727-1784) - Cucumber

A Treatise on Gardening Written by a native of this State (Virginia)
Author was John Randolph (1727-1784)
Written in Williamsburg, Virginia about 1765
Published by T. Nicolson, Richmond, Virginia. 1793
The only known copy of this booklet is found in the Special Collections of the Wyndham Robertson Library at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia.


Cucumber, Cucuviis, is esteemed in its season the most refreshing and delicate of all vegetables. There are three sorts....First, Cucumis sativus vulgaris. Second, Cucumis fructu subleteo, the white cucumber. Third, Cucumis oblonges. The first is the common sort most in use, amongst which there is a difference in the size, length, &c. The second is cultivated in Holland chiefly, and the last sort is cultivated only in curious gardens, and are remarkable for their length and fewness of seed. As there are three sorts, so there are three seasons for cucumbers; the first is the early, in hot-beds, the second is the middle crop under glasses, and the third is for pickling. Although many are ambitious of having early fruit, yet it is certain that Cucumbers are not wholesome till the hot weather comes on; for being pent up in hot-beds, they inspire a confined watery air, which must necessarily make the plant crude and unhealthful. Towards the latter end of January, if you require Cucumbers in April, you are to get about two loads of long dung, which will be sufficient for a moderate family, and mixing it with some sea-coal ashes, you are to lay it in a heap, about three feet thick. In about four or five days, the dung will begin to heat, and then you must take off part of the top, laying it flat on the sides of your heap, and put on about two inches of good earth, which must be covered with your glasses. In a day or two after, when you find the earth pretty warm, put your seeds in the earth about a quarter of an inch deep, and keep it close covered with the glass all night and in bad weather, and the glass should be also covered with mat. In three or four days, the plants will appear, upon which you are to make a bed for a single light on the adjoining heap of dung, covering the top about three inches thick with mould, into which you are to put your plants, at about two inches distance each way, observing to put them into the earth almost up to their seed leaves. In twenty-four hours your plant will take root, and you are to give it what air you can without injury, turning the glass upside down in the heat of the day, or wiping off the water that is condensed in the upper part, and is very pernicious when it drops on your plants. You are to water your plants, though moderately, and your water should be as near the temperature of the air in which the plant exists as possible, and as the plants advance, support their shanks with a little dry sifted earth, which will much assist them. If your heat is too intense, run a stick into the middle of the dung, through the sides of the heap in two or three places, which will give vent to the steam. If it be too slack, cover the sides of your heap with more litter. When the third or rough leaf appears, you are to prepare another heap, in which you are to. make holes about a foot deep, and eight or nine inches over, which are to be filled with light fresh earth, and in these in four or five days you transplant your plants, observing to water them as before, and to put four plants into each, with their roots sloping toward the centre, lest they should get to the dung, and be injured by it. You should avoid keeping your glasses too close, for the steam may cause such a damp as will very much injure the plants. Your plants tending upwards when they are four or five inches high, should be forked down, and when you weed them, hold the leaves very gently with one hand, and weed them with the other. Pulling off the male blossom is not recommended, neither is pruning the vines, but if your glasses are filled with too much vine you ought to draw out ,one of the plants, provided it is not matted with those you intend to stand. Whenever your bed loses its heat in any degree, it ought to be repaired; and though the plants delight in heat, yet you must cover your glasses when the sun is in the meridian, and hot. In watering these beds, you must throw the water all over the vines, but not in the heat of the day, for the drops will collect the rays of the sun to a focus, blister and ruin the plants. And as at this season you have often cold nights, you should preserve the heat of the beds, and from this management your Cucumbers will last till the beginning of July, when your second crop will come to bear. The management of this second crop is pretty much the same with the former, only you must raise your glasses oftener, as the weather will be wanner, and your seeds are to be put into the ground in March or April. Miller directs that beds of dung should be made for the second crop as well as the first, and the same culture observed; but I believe if your seeds are sown in April in rich light hills, and sheltered from the cold with glasses, it will answer just as well, provided you keep them free from weeds, and water with temperate water. Most people are fond of gathering their seed from the first early fruit, leaving one Cucumber only on a vine, nearest the heart of the plant, and this is a good way. In August your seeds will be ripe enough: then cut open the Cucumber and put pulp and seed into a tub, there to remain eight or ten days, stirring them every day to the bottom with a stick; at the expiration of that time, pour water, into the tub, and by stirring it often and repeating it, the scum will rise to the top and your seed subside, which are to be dried and put into a bag, and are best when three or four years old. Your seed that are intended for picklers, should be sown in May, about nine in a hill, and in five or six days they will appear above ground, and for above a week after, till the plant has made some progress, are very liable to be destroyed by Sparrows, they being very fond of them. Leave only four or five of the most vigorous plants in a hill, and observe to water in a dry season, and keep the ground about them loose, and free from weeds. The earth should be laid round your plants in the form of a bason, to hold the water that is given them, and take care that your plants don't interweave with one another; and if any plants appear lading or declining, pull them up. Fifty holes is the number advised, from whence you may expect to gather about two thousand in the season. Miller mentions the putting your plants into baskets, when they are fit to transplant, filled with earth, which may be removed with the plants in them, into other hot-beds with great security, by which means you have a crop much earlier than in the method before mentioned. If Cucumbers are stuck, as you do peas, they will run to a great height, and will bear till the frosts destroy them.