Wednesday, June 17, 2020

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

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.


Lettuces, Lactuca,from lac, milk, they being of a milky substance, which is emitted when the stalk is broken. There is a common garden Lettuce which is sown for cutting young and mixing with other small salads, and is the Cabbage Lettuce degenerated, as all seed will do that is saved from .a lettuce that has not Cabbage close by. These may be sown at any season of the year. The Cabbage Lettuce should be sown every month to have a succession, and drawn, as all the sorts ought to be, to stand at different distances, and these should stand about ten inches asunder, and by replanting those that are drawn, they will head later than those which stand, by which means you may have a succession. This sort of Lettuce is the worst of all the kinds in my opinion. It is the most watery and flashy, does not grow to the size that many of the other sorts will do, and very soon runs to seed. When I Say the seed is to be sown every month, I mean only the growing months, the first of which February is esteemed, and August the last. In August you should sow your last crop, about the beginning of the month, and in October transplant them into a rich border, sheltered from the weather by a box with a lid, which should be opened every morning and closed in the evening, and in the month of February you will have fine loaf lettuces; a lettuce is a hardy plant, particularly the Dutch brown, and will stand most of our winters, if covered only with peas, asparagus haum, mats or straw. In order to have good seed, you should make choice of some of your best Cabbage, and largest plants, which will run up to seed, and should be secured by a stick, stuck into the ground; and different sorts should not stand together, for the farina will intermix and prejudice each other, and none but good plants should be together for seed; experience has shown that the bad will vitiate the good, and the seed from the plants that have stood the winter are best. The seed is good at two years old, and will grow at three, if carefully preserved.

The Siiesia, imperial white, and upright Cos Lettuce, should be sown in February or beginning of March, and should he drawn so as to stand, Miller says, eighteen inches at least distance from each other, but thinks two feet much better.

The Egyptian green Cos, and the Versailles upright Cos and Silesia, are most esteemed in England as the sweetest and finest, though the imperial wants not its advocates. I, for my own part, give it the preference for three reasons, the first is, that it washes by far the easiest of any; second, that it will remain longer before it goes to seed than any other, except the Dutch brown; and lastly, that it is the crispest and most delicious of them all.

The Dutch Brown, and green Capuchin are very hardy, will stand the winters best, and remain in the heat of summer three weeks longer than any other before they go to seed, which renders them valuable, though they are not so handsome or elegant a Lettuce as any of the former. They may be sown as the common garden Lettuce in the spring, and in August as before.

The Aibppo and Roman Lettuce cabbage the soonest of any, and may be propagated for that reason; the first is a very spotted Lettuce: Col. Ludwell gave me some of the seed, but it did not please me so well as the other more common sorts; all the seed on a stalk will not ripen at the same time, so you must cut your stalk when some of the first seed are ripe. Mice are very fond of the seed. Some Lettuces show a disposition to head without assistance^ these should not be touched, but where they throw their leaves back, they should be tied up, though that restrains them from growing to a great size. They will not flourish but in richl and, and if dunged, the dung should not be very low, because the root of a lettuce will not go down so low as the dung is commonly spitted into the ground. The time for gathering the seed is when the plants show their down. Transplanting, it is said, contributes towards cabbaging; but they will cabbage, from my experience, every bit as well without. By transplanting you retard the growth, and by that means may have a succession.