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|Part II. Vegetable Growing
California Grown Seed.
Which are the best garden seeds to use, those raised in Ohio and the East or those raised in Washington and Oregon or those raised in this State?
It has been definitely shown by experience and experiment that is does not matter much where the seed comes from, providing it is well grown and good of its kind. There is no such advantage in changing seed from one locality to another as is commonly supposed. Besides, it is now very difficult to tell positively where seed is grown, because California wholesale seeds are retailed in all the States you mention, and the contents of many small packets of seeds distributed in California went first of all from California to the Eastern retailers, who advertise and sell them everywhere.
Cloth for Hotbeds.
Would cloth do to cover a hotbox to raise lettuce, radishes, etc., for winter use where we get a very heavy rainfall?
Yes, if you make the cloth waterproof for its own preservation from mildew and other agencies of decay. The following recipe for waterproofing cloth is taken from our book on "California Vegetables": Soften 4 1/2 ounces of glue in 8 3/4 pints of water, cold at first; then dissolve in, say, a washboiler full (6 gallons) of warm water, with 2 1/2 ounces of hard soap; put in the cloth and boil for an hour, wring and dry; then prepare a bath of a pound of alum and a pound of salt, soak the prepared cloth in it for a couple of hours, rinse with clear water and dry. One gallon of the glue solution will soak about ten yards of cloth. This cloth has been used in southern California for several years without mildewing, and it will hold water by the pailful. Where the rain is heavy and frequent, the cloth should be well supported by slats and given slope to shed water quickly. Of course, this is only a makeshift. Glass would be more satisfactory and durable in a region of much cloudiness and scant sunshine; the greater illumination through glass will make for the greater health and growth of the plants.
Soil for Vegetables.
Some of my soil bakes and hardens quickly after irrigation, but I have an acre or so of sandy soil. Would this be best for garden truck and berries?
Sandy, loamy soil is better than the heavy soil for vegetables and berries, if moisture is kept right, because it can be more easily cultivated and takes water without losing the friable condition which is so desirable. A heavier soil can, however, be improved by the free use of stable manure or by the addition of sand, or by the use of one or more applications of lime at the rate of 500 pounds to the acre, as may be required - all these operations making the soil more loamy and more easily handled.
Vegetables in a Cold, Dark Draft.
What vegetables will thrive in localities where the sun shines only part of the day? I have a space in my garden that gets the sun only between the hours of 11 and 5, thereabouts; I would like to utilise those places for vegetables if any particular kind will grow under such conditions. The soil apparently is good, of a sandy nature, with some loam. The place is high and subject to much wind.
You can only definitely determine by actual trial what vegetables will be satisfactory under the shade conditions which you describe. You may get good results from lettuces, radishes, beets, peas, top onions, and many other things which do well at rather a low temperature, while tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, etc., would probably be worthless. Your soil is probably satisfactory and you can easily keep the moisture right by being careful not to use as much water as you would in open sunshine. The behavior of the plants will be directly dependent upon the temperature and the sunshine which they receive under the conditions described.
What is the best time for planting Jerusalem artichokes?
Jerusalem artichoke tubers are planted in the spring after the ground has become warm and the heavy frosts are over. The planting may be done in rows far enough apart for cultivation, the tubers being set about a foot apart in the row. This tuber grows like a potato, but is more delicate than the potato. It is inclined to decay when out of the ground, but will not start growth as early as the potato, and therefore it is not desirable to start it early in the winter if the winters are cold and the ground apt to be very wet. Do not cut the tubers for seed as you would potatoes.
I have land that will grow magnificent artichokes. Two plants last year (variety unknown) produced heavy crops of buds, but the scales opened too wide and allowed the center to become fibrous and were unsalable. Is this due to climate, lack of sufficient water, or to not having the right variety?
Many artichokes which are planted should really be put in the ornamental class - they are either a reversion from a wilder type in plants grown from the seed or they never have been good. In order to determine which varieties you had better grow on a large scale, it is desirable to get a few plants of the different varieties as offered by seedmen. In this way you would find out just what are considered best in different parts of the State, and propagate largely the ones which are best worth to you. By subdivision of the roots you get exactly the same type in any quantity you desire - ruling out undesirable variations likely to appear in seedlings.
Is the Globe artichoke a profitable crop to raise commercially? Near Pescadero a company has been formed to raise it for Eastern shipment. Is it a very profitable crop to raise? Are certain varieties worthless?
Considerable quantities of Globe artichokes are grown in southern and central California for Eastern shipment. There is a limit to the amount which can be profitably shipped, because people generally, at the East, do not know the Globe artichoke and how to eat it, but more of them are learning the desirability of it every year. There are species which are only ornamental, as a bad weed.
What is the average commercial yield of asparagus to the acre in California? Also, how long it takes asparagus to come into full bearing, and what yield could be expected after two years' growth? Is asparagus resistant to moderate quantities of alkali in the soil?
The yield of asparagus is from one to four tons of marketable shoots per acre, according to age and thrift of plants, etc., the largest yields being on the peat lands of the river islands. On suitable lands one ought to get at least two tons per acre. Roots may yield a few days' cuttings during their second year in permanent place; the third year they will stand much more cutting, and for several years after that will be in full yielding. Asparagus enjoys a little salt in the land, but one would not select what is ordinarily called "alkali land" for growing it - not only because of the alkali but because of the soil character which it induces.
We have a small field of beans, and would like to know which is the best and most profitable way to crop them.
Cultivate the beans so that the plants may have plenty of moisture to fill the pods, then let them dry and die. Gather the dry plants before the pods open much, and let them dry on a clean, smooth piece of ground or on the barn floor. When they are well dried, thresh with a flail, rake off the straw, sweep up the beans and clean by winnowing in the wind or with a fanning mill with suitable screens.
Should beans be hoed while the dew is on the vine?
Beans had better be hoed with the dew on them than not hoed at all. The only objection to hoeing with the dew on is that the hoer will get his feet wet, the vines will become untidy from adhering dust, with a possible chance of the leaves becoming less effective and the pollination of the blossom rendered less liable to occur.
Beans as Nitrogen Gatherers.
I grow string beans in my rotation to restore nitrogen, but I see it stated that not all beans are valuable for this purpose. Are the common bush varieties nitrogen gatherers?
Probably they are all doing it in various degrees. Pull up or dig up a few plants when growing actively, not too early nor too late in the season, and look for nodules on the roots. Number and size considered together will measure their activity in this line in your soil.
I want to plant beans of different varieties. The land is rich, black loam with a little sand. When is the best time to plant? If planted early, what shall we do to keep the weevils out of them?
It is desirable to plant beans as early as you can without encountering danger of frost killing. No particular date can be mentioned for planting because the dates will vary in different locations according to the beginning of the frost-free period. The best way to escape weevil is to sell most of the beans as soon as harvested, treating those which you retain for seed, or for your own use, with bisulphide of carbon vapor or by gently heating to a temperature not above 130 degrees, which, of course, must be done carefully with an accurate thermometer so as not to injure germinating power. Unless you know that beans do well in your locality, it would be wise to plant a small area at first, because beans are somewhat particular in their choice of location in California, and one should have practical demonstration of bearing before risking much upon the crop.
The Yard-Long Bean.
I wish to ask about the very long bean which I think was introduced from China into California. I remember seeing one vine when I was living in California which I think must have been 20 or 30 feet long and had hundreds of pods and each of these pods were from 2 to 3 feet long. Are these beans generally considered eatable? Would they be at all suitable to get as a field bean which the hogs eat?
You probably refer to the "yard-long" pole bean. It is a world variety and may have come to California from China as you suggest, but it has also been well known for generations in Europe and was brought thence to the Eastern States at some early date. It is generally accounted as an unimportant species and certainly has not risen to commercial account in California. The beans are edible and the whole plant available for stock feeding, but there is no doubt but that the growth of some of the cowpeas would be preferable as a summer field crop for hog pasture.
Why the Beans are Waiting.
Can you tell me why pink beans which were planted early in Merced county, irrigated four times, hoed four times and cultivated, have no beans on them? The vines look finely.
Probably because you had too much hot, dry wind at the blooming. This is one of the most frequent troubles with beans in the hot valley, but the pink bean resists it better than other varieties. As the heat moderates you are likely to get blossoms which will come through and form pods, and then the crop will depend upon how long frost is postponed. You have also treated the plants a little too well with water and cultivation. You had better let them feel the pinch of poverty a little now; they will be more likely to go to work.
What is the best way to prepare land for Black-eye beans? How much seed is required per acre, and what is the estimated cost of growing them? The soil is a well-drained clay loam.
The cost of growing is not particularly different from other beans, and will vary, of course, according to the capacity and efficiency of the plows, harrows, teams, tractors, men, etc. Every man has to figure that according to his conditions and methods of turning and fining the land. Sow 40 pounds per acre in drills 3 feet apart, and cultivate as long as you can without injuring the vines too much. Sowing must of course be done late, after the ground is warm and danger of frost is past, though the plowing and harrowing should be done earlier than that.
Blackeye Beans are Cow Peas.
I sent for some Blackeye cow peas; they look like Blackeye beans. Am sending you a sample of what I got. What are they?
Yes, they are in the cow pea group, but there are other cow peas which would not be recognized as having any relation to them. All cow peas are, however, beans, and they have not much use for frost. They are not hardy like the true pea group.
Growing Horse Beans.
Does the soil need to be inoculated for horse beans? I intend to plant five acres about January 1, on the valley border in Placer county and they get heavy frost in the morning. Does frost hurt them? How shall I plant them?
California experience is that horse beans grow readily without inoculation of the seed. Quite a good growth of the plant is being secured in many parts of the State, particularly in the coast region where the plant seems to thrive best. It is one of the hardiest of the bean family and will endure light frost. How hardy it will prove in your place could be told only by a local experiment. Whether it can be planted after frost danger is over, as corn is, and make satisfactory growth and product in the dry heat of the interior summer must also be determined by experience.
The horse bean is a tall growing, upright plant which is successfully grown in rows far enough apart for cultivation, say about 2 1/2 feet, the seed dropped thinly so that the plants will stand from 6 inches to 1 foot apart in the row.
Growing Castor Beans.
Give information on the castor oil bean; the kind of bean best to plant, when to plant and harvest, the best soil, and where one can market them.
Castor bean growing has been undertaken from time to time since 1860 in various parts of California. There is no difficulty about getting a satisfactory growth of the plant in parts of the State where moisture enough can be depended upon. Although the growing of beans is easy enough, the harvesting is a difficult proposition, because in California the clusters ripen from time to time, have to be gathered by hand, to be put in the sun to dry, and finally threshed when they are popping properly. The low price, in connection with the amount of hand work which has to be done upon the crop, has removed all the attractions for California growers. There is also, some years, an excess of production in the central West, which causes prices to fall and makes it still more impracticable to make money from the crop with the ordinary rates of labor. The oil cannot be economically extracted except by the aid of the most effective machinery and a well equipped establishment. Oil-making in the rude way in which it is conducted in India would certainly not be profitable here.
Legume Seed Inoculation.
Is there any virtue in inoculating plants with the bacteria that some seed firms offer? I refer to such plants as peas and beans.
If the land is yielding good crops of these plants and the roots are noduled, it does not need addition of germs. If the growth is scant even when there is enough moisture present and the roots are free from nodules, the presumption is that germs should be added. Speaking generally, added germs are not needed in California because our great legume crops are made without inoculation. Presumably, burr clover and our host of native legumes have already charged the soil with them. If, however, such plants do not do well, try inoculation by all means, to see if absence of germs is the reason for such failure or whether you must look for some other reason. If the results are satisfactory, you may have made a great gain by introduction of desirable soil organisms which you can extend as you like by the distribution of the germ-laden soil from the areas which have been given that character by inoculation of the seed.
Beans on Irrigated Mesas.
Would white and pink beans do well on the red orange land at Palermo with plenty of water? I have in mind hill land, the hills being very red and running into a dark soil in the lower part. How many beans could I get per acre?
Probably nothing would be better for the land or for the future needs of the trees than to grow beans. An average crop of beans, for the whole State and all kinds of beans, is about one ton to the acre. What you will get by irrigation on hot uplands we do not know. Beans do not like dry heat, even if the soil moisture is adequate. They do not fructify well even when they grow well. The pink bean does best under such conditions. All beans, except horse beans, must be brought up after frost dangers are all over, and this brings them into high heat almost from the start in such a place as you mention. You should find out locally how beans perform under such conditions as you have, before undertaking much investment.
Leases for Sugar Beets.
I have land in Yolo county that has made an average yield yearly of from 12 to 18 sacks of wheat and barley. A beet sugar company proposes renting this land and plant it to sugar beets and I would prefer not to consider any agreement of less than five years' duration. The particular point that I would like to have you advise me on is the effect sugar beet has upon the soil.
You certainly have good soil, and it is not strange that a sugar company should desire to rent it for its purposes. There is, however, a great question as to whether it would be desirable to run to beets continually for five years. Beets make a strong draft on some components of the soil, and it is a common experience that they should not be grown year after year for a long period, but should take their place in a rotation, in the course of which one or two crops of beets should be followed by a crop of grain, and that if possible by a leguminous plant like alfalfa or an annual legume like burr clover used for pasturage, and then to beets again. Beets improve soil for grain, because of the deep running of the root, and because beet culture is not profitable without deep plowing and continuous summer cultivation. This deepens and cleans the land to the manifest advantage of the grain crop, but still the beet reduces the plant food in the soil and some change of crop should be made with reference to its restoration. We would much prefer to lease it for two years than for five years of beet growing.
Topping Mangel Wurzels.
Does it harm the mangel wurzels if their tops ore cut off once a month?
Removing leaves will decrease the size and harden the tissues of the beet root. If you wish to grow the plant for the top, the root will continue to put out leaves for you for a time; if you grow it for the size and quality of the root, you need all the leaf-action you can get, therefore do not reduce the foliage.
Blooming Brussels Sprouts.
Are Brussels sprouts male and female? Some of my plants are flowering and show no signs of sprouts, while those that are not, show some small eyes at stem that look like young sprouts.
Brussels sprouts ought to form the sprouts without flowering, just as a cabbage heads without flowering. Those plants which show flowers have been stopped by drought or otherwise, and have taken on prematurely the second stage of growth which is productive of seed and is undesirable from the point of view of growing heads.
I desire to know the different methods by which the celery is bleached, and particularly whether boards or other material other than earth is used for this purpose.
There is some blanching of celery with boards, cloth wrappings, boot-legs, old tiles, sewer pipes, etc., in market gardens in different parts of the State, but the great commercial product of celery for export is blanched wholly by piling the light, dry earth against the growing plant. As we do not have rains during the growing season and as the soil on which celery is chiefly grown is particularly coarse in its texture, there is no rusting or staining from this method of blanching. It shakes out clean and bright. Conditions which make earth-blanching undesirable in the humid region do not exist here.
Corn in the Sacramento Valley.
Is it practical to raise corn in the Sacramento volley? Are the soil and climatic conditions suitable?
The success of corn on plains and uplands in the Sacramento valley has not yet been fully demonstrated, although good corn is grown on river bottom lands, and it is possible that much more may be done with this grain in the future than in the past. Corn does not enjoy the dry heat of the plains, and even when irrigated seems to be dissatisfied with it. How far we shall succeed in getting varieties which will endure dry heat and still be large and productive will ere long be determined by the experiments which are in progress. The old Sacramento valley farmer has been justified to some degree in his conclusion that his is not a corn country. Still it may appear so later.
Plant Corn in Warm Ground.
I also put in a lot of corn and none of it came up. The ground was damp and rather cold, as well as being alkali.
Corn should never be planted in cold, wet ground - in fact, very few seeds should be. Besides, corn has no use for alkali.
Sweet Corn in California.
I have been informed that sweet corn cannot be raised in this part of the country, an account of worms eating the kernels before the ear has matured. Is there any method of overcoming this difficulty?
You have been correctly informed concerning the difficulty in growing sweet corn. Although many experiments have been made, no method of overcoming this pest has yet been demonstrated. For this reason canning of corn is not undertaken in this State, and for the same reason most of the green corn ears sold in our markets have the tops of the ears amputated. It is sometimes possible to escape the worm by planting rather late, so that the ears shall develop after the moth, which is parent of the worm, has deposited its eggs.
Give information on growing hot-house cucumbers, and also if you think it would pay me to go into the business in southern California.
Forcing of cucumbers has been undertaken for a number of years in California and formerly was considered unprofitable because cucumbers grown in the open air in frostless places came in before the forced product could be sold out at sufficiently high prices to make the venture profitable. Recently, however, owing to our increased population in cities and larger demand of products out of season, forcing becomes more promising and is worthy of attention. Forcing of cucumbers in California can be done at very much less expense, of course, than elsewhere, because of the abundance of winter sunshine and the fact that sufficiently high temperatures can be secured in glass houses with exceedingly little if any artificial heat: The chances of growing cucumbers out of season for shipment eastward and northward can be discussed with the officers of the California Vegetable Growers' Union, which has offices and warehouse in Los Angeles.
I have a piece of red so-called orange land which has produced excellent wheat. Will you give information about its adaptability to cucumbers? Are there pickle factories in the State which would demand them in quantities, and is there much other demand for them? About when should they be planted, and how much water would they need?
The cucumber needs a retentive soil which does not crack and bake, and such a soil is made by abundance of organic matter. Your orange soil, unless heavily treated with stable manure and given plenty of time for disintegration, would probably give you distressful cucumber plants, if it has come right out of wheat-growing. Besides, cucumbers do not like dry heat, even if the soil be kept moist by irrigation. Oranges will do well under conditions not favorable to cucumbers. Cucumber plants must come up after danger of frost is over. The amount of water they require depends upon how moist the soil is naturally, and as the crop is chiefly grown on moist river lands and around the bay, it is chiefly made without irrigation. Such lands have a cucumber capacity equal to the consumption of the United States, probably, and the pickle factories can usually get all they can use at a minimum transportation cost. Large-scale plantings should only be made by men who know the crop and have definite information or contract for what they can get for it.
Ginger in California.
We have ginger roots in a growing condition with sprouts and bulbs growing an them, but we do not understand how to raise the plants.
Growing ginger in California in a commercial way has not been worked out, although roots have been introduced from time to time. Plant your roots in the garden, just as you would callas, where you can give them good cultivation and water, as seems to be necessary, and note their behavior under these favorable conditions before you undertake any large investment in a crop.
Licorice Growing in California.
I have for some time been seeking far some information as to the method of preparation for market and sale of licorice roots. I have a lot of them and have never been able to find a market, and do not know how they are prepared for market.
Licorice was first planted in California about 1880 by the late Isaac Lea, of Florin, Sacramento county. Mr. Lea grew a considerable amount of licorice roots and gave much effort to finding a market for it. He found that the local consumption of licorice root was too small to warrant growing it as a crop; that the high price of labor in digging the roots, and the high cost of transportation of the roots to Eastern markets would make it impossible for him to undertake competition in the Eastern markets with the Sicilian producers, unless, perhaps, he could build an extracting factory and market licorice extract, the black solid which is sold by the druggist, and which the Sicilians produce in large quantities. The preparation of licorice root is simply digging and drying, but the preparation of the extract requires steam extractors and condensers. California could produce licorice, for we have a good climate for it. If it is grown on light, sandy loams, it could be pulled from the ground by the yard at rather small expense, and yet, one should not undertake the production unless he wished to put in much time and money in working up economical production and marketing in competition with the foreign product, produced by cheap labor and with the advantage of processes well known and established by long usage. Experiments should be circumspectly undertaken, for licorice is one of the worst weeds in the world, and extremely difficult of eradication probably.
Give information regarding the planting and raising of lentils. Can they be grown in the Sacramento valley in the vicinity of Colusa, and at a profit?
Lentils are as easily grown in California as common peas, and will do well as a field crop if started during the rainy season, as they are hardy enough to survive our ordinary valley frosts. With respect to lentils, it may be said that excellent as these legumes are for many purposes, they do not seem to be well known to American consumers, and therefore the amount to be grown is limited, until you know who will buy larger quantities of them at a good price.
Canada Peas for Seed.
I want to raise Canada peas for the seed. In what month of the year is the best time to plant them; also how many pounds to the acre to be sowed broadcast on rolling land in Napa?
Broadcast from 80 to 100 pounds of seed per acre as soon as you can get the ground into good condition. What you get will depend much upon how late spring rains hold this year. We should only try a small area this year to see what happens, for you probably should have started earlier in the season. On uplands it will always be a question whether your soil will hold moisture enough to mature a good seed crop.
Growing Niles Peas.
How shall I plant and handle a crop of Niles peas?
Niles peas are hardy and will make a good crop on any good soil, if planted early in the season so as to make the main part of their growth before the heat of the summer comes on. Under garden conditions they can, of course, be grown all summer.
I have lettuce plants that have been transplanted to head. Occasionally I find a head that has withered away and upon examining it find it rotted away at the stem. Can you suggest a remedy for it?
Your lettuce plants are destroyed by the "damping, off" fungus. It would be preventable by reducing the amount of moisture until the transplanted plant had opportunity to re-establish itself in the soil and thus come into condition to take water. The chance of it could also be reduced by using a certain amount of sand in connection with the soil, unless it is already very sandy, and by a shallow covering of sand on the surface around the plants after they are reset, in order to prevent too great accumulation of moisture.
Handling Winter Melons.
Give particulars regarding harvesting, storaging, and shipment of winter melons. How do you harvest and pack them for distant market?
There is no particular system in the handling of winter melons. They are gathered into piles on ground where water will not gather and covered with the trash of the vines on which they grow. They will keep for months in this way, as our autumn temperatures do not freeze them. Other growers collect them in open sheds shaded from sun and rain, and still others put them into barns or shallow cellars under buildings, etc. The melons are very durable and seem disposed to keep in any old way. The melons are shipped in large packing cases with slat sides, or in the smaller slat crates that are used for summer cantaloupes. No packing is used, generally. If it seemed necessary, a little clean straw would be sufficient.
How can I tell when a watermelon is fully ripe? What is the method used by growers in picking for commercial shipping?
Gently press the sides of a melon and if it crackles a little bit, all right; if it makes no sound then go to another. Commercial pickers look at the little spiral between the melon and the nearest leaf. If it is withered they pick the melon, if fresh, pass it until next picking.
Growing Onion Seed and Sets.
Will you give localities of the leading production of onion seed or dry sets in your State?
Onion seed is grown in several parts of the State, largely in the Santa Clara valley adjacent to the city of San Jose. Onion sets are largely produced in Orange county, near Los Angeles, for eastern shipment, for which purpose they are grown under contract.
I am raising some onions from bottom sets and as they are growing nicely and are beginning to swell at the bulb some advise me to cut the tops off and some advise me to bend them over or tramp them down.
Do not cut off the tops of the onions. If they seem to be overgrowing and not disposed to ripen the bulb, the top can be broken down, thus partly arresting the vegetative energy of the plant and causing maturity.
Onions from Sets.
Will onion sets planted in July grow and mature in the fall months?
Good onion sets grown during the winter and spring should be mature by July and if planted after drying would proceed to make a full growth of large onions if growing conditions should be right for them; that is, the soil moist and the temperature not too high.
How Many Crops of Onion Seed?
Does the growing of onion seed exhaust adobe land, and if so, how many years' cropping before it requires rest or fertilizing?
The growth of any seed crop, including cereal grains, of course, makes a supreme draft upon soil fertility. How long a certain soil can stand it, depends upon the amount of fertility it has when the draft begins. The best rough way to tell how it is going, is to watch the growth and crop, when moisture conditions are known to be favorable. If you get a good growth of the plant it is still good to make the seed.
Onions from Seed.
Will onions from seed mature the same season if they are irrigated? Some tell us they will not, so we would be very much pleased to hear from you.
Onions grown from the seed do fully develop during the growing season following the planting of the seed. In fact, nearly all California onions are grown in that way. Our growing season is so long that we do not need to use onion sets to any extent, as they do in short-summer climates.
Dry Farming with Chili Peppers.
If I set chili pepper plants down six or eight inches lower than the surface of the ground and fill in as the plants grow larger, will this help in case I could not get water enough? My soil is a deep sandy loam. We have had between five and six inches of rain. Do you think water every fifteen days would be enough?
On such light soil as you mention, the plants can be planted deeply and a certain amount of soil brought up to the plants by cultivation without injury. As this plant has a long growing season and matures its crop rather late, you will undoubtedly need irrigation. Probably irrigation twice a month will be sufficient in connection with good cultivation, but you will have to watch the plants and apply the water as it seems to be needed, rather than by a specific scheme of days.
I would like information regarding the curing of peanuts. Should they be bleached, and, if so, how is it done? Does bleaching affect the keeping qualities?
It is not usual to bleach peanuts. They should be grown in such light soil that they will not be stained, and the common method of curing is to dig or plow up, throw the vines, with nuts attached, into windrows and allow them to lie a week or ten days for drying. Then the nuts are picked into sacks and cleaned before shipment in revolving drums, followed by a grain fan which throws out the light nuts and other rubbish. Bleaching would not destroy the keeping quality probably, but it would destroy the flavor and the germinating power. The latter would not matter, except with such nuts as you wish to keep for seed, because the roasting destroys the germinating power also, but sulphuring, which would reduce the flavor, would give the product a bad name. Possibly some growers do bleaching, but, if so, they have to be pretty careful about it. The cost of the operation would also be a bar to profit, for peanuts are grown on a narrow margin owing to competition with importations grown with cheap labor.
Adobe and Peanuts.
Is adobe land good for the peanut? Is it harder to start than in other soils or not?
It is not good at all. Peanuts require the finest, mellowest loam with sand enough to prevent crust, and moisture even and continuous. The surface must be kept loose so that the plant can bury its own bloom stem and the under soil light and clean so that it will readily shake from the nuts and not stain them. Adobe is the worst soil you could find for peanuts.
What would be the most profitable potato to plant in the Salinas valley, and how small can a potato be cut up for planting? How many eyes should each piece contain in order to make a good growth and be profitable?
Probably the best potato for your district would be the Burbank, which is largely grown near Salinas and brings the highest price. It is customary to cut a medium-sized potato in two pieces and a large one in four pieces. One can be very economical of seed by smaller cutting, but it would require the most favorable conditions to bring a vigorous growth. Probably pieces weighing not less than two ounces would be best under ordinary conditions. Potatoes which are rather small may be used for seed if well matured and have good eyes. It is dangerous, however, to use the small stuff - too small for sale. Unless the soil and moisture conditions are extra favorable, the growth will be weak and unsatisfactory.
How many sacks of potatoes are to be planted to an acre, and how many eyes are to be left in a seed? If, for instance, we plant seed with three eyes, how many potatoes should we get from that vine?
Potatoes are planted all the way from five to fifteen sacks to the acre, probably about ten sacks being the average. There is no particular number of eyes specified in preparing the seed, according to common practice. Good medium-sized potatoes are generally cut in two pieces crosswise, and large potatoes in four pieces, cutting both ways. There is no definite relation between the number of eyes planted and the number of potatoes coming from them. This has been the subject of innumerable experiments, and the conclusion is that the crop is more dependent upon good soil and favorable growing conditions than upon any way of preparing the seed.
Northern Potatoes for Seed.
Do you regard northern-grown seed potatoes sufficiently better to make it worth while paying freight on them from the State of Washington?
Experience seems to indicate the superiority of northern-grown seed potatoes, not only in this State, but on the Atlantic Coast, and they are largely depended upon. Systematic demonstration by comparative tests has been made by the Vermont station and preference for northern-grown seed seems, to be justified.
I have ten acres of land in Placer county which I propose to put into potatoes next spring. It has been recommended to me to put potatoes in as early as January. It seems to me that January is rather early; however, it is said that this land is in the orange belt and practically free from frost.
Whether you can plant potatoes to advantage in January or not depends upon the temperatures which you are likely to meet after that date, also whether the ground is warm enough in January, because there is no advantage in planting in cold ground nor in soil that is too wet at the time. The earliest potatoes, of course, come from planting much earlier than January; usually as soon as the ground is moistened enough in the autumn. The potato will stand some frost, but autumn planting is not feasible in places which are under hard freezing or receive too much cold rain water.
Potatoes Should be Planted Early.
I have Early Rose potatoes planted about May first. The tops look fine, but there are few potatoes and small, and, though not developed, have commenced growing a second time, sprouts starting from the new potatoes. When should I plant and what care should they have?
Your potatoes act peculiarly because of intermittent moisture - the plant being arrested by drought and then starting again, which is very undesirable. To avoid this, potatoes should be planted earlier so as to get a large part of their growth during the rainy season. If planted late the ground should be well wet down by irrigation, and then plowed and cultivated, and irrigation should be used while the plant is growing well. If this is done, potatoes can be successfully grown by irrigation, but if the land is allowed to become dry the plant is arrested in its growth for a time and a second and undesirable growth is started.
I find in potato writings of forty years ago that the seed from the potato balls which form on the tops of the plants is recommended for growing the best potatoes. In later books I find no mention of them and all are advised how to cut the tubers to get seed potatoes.
The seed of the potato plant which is found in the "balls" which develop on the tops of the plant is only valuable for the origination of new varieties, with the chance, of course, that most of them will be inferior to the tubers produced by the plant which bears the seed. Therefore, these seeds are of no commercial importance. There has also sometimes developed upon the top of the plant what is called an aerial tuber, which is even of less value than the seed ball, because it does not contain seed nor is it good as a tuber.
Forty years ago there was a great demand for newer and better kinds of potatoes which has, since that time, been largely supplied, and commercial potato-growing consists in multiplying the standard varieties which best suit the soil and the market. This is done by planting the tuber itself, which is really a root-cutting and therefore reproduces its own kind. Those who are originating new kinds of potatoes still use seed from the balls, either taking their chances by natural variation or, by hybridizing the blossoms, increasing the chances for variation from which desirable varieties are taken by selection, to be afterward multiplied by growth from the tubers.
Seed-Ends of Potatoes.
Is it bad practice to plant the seed-ends of potatoes?
The seed-end of the potato is the least valuable part of it, but it is better probably to plant than to reject it.
The Moon and Potato Planting.
Is there any foundation to the oft-repeated story about potatoes in the light of the moon running to tops and the dark of the moon to spuds?
If we paid any attention to the moon in planting, we should plant in the dark of the moon so as to give the plant opportunity to make use of whatever additional light the full moon afforded.
Planting Whole Potatoes.
One man states the only way to cut seed is to take a potato and cut the ends off and not divide the potato any more; or, in other words, a whole potato for each seed.
Good results are obtained by planting whole potatoes, but in that case there is no advantage in removing the ends.
How to Cut Seed Potatoes.
Would it pay in returns to use large potatoes for seed in preference to culls?
Large potatoes are better than culls, but medium-sized potatoes are better than either. Many experiments have been made to determine this. At the Arkansas station whole tubers two to three inches in diameter yielded 18 per cent more than small whole tubers three-quarters to one and one-quarter inches in diameter, and large cut tubers yielded 15.8 per cent more than small cut tubers.
Cutting Potatoes to Single Eyes.
Some say only one eye to a piece; others say several eyes - which is better?
In one experiment potatoes cut to single eyes with each piece weighing one-sixteenth of an ounce yielded 44 bushels to the acre, while single eyes on two-ounce pieces yielded 177 bushels to the acre. Experiments in Indiana showed that the yield usually increased with the weight of the set and that the exact number of eyes per cutting is relatively unimportant.
Can potatoes be treated in any way before planting to prevent the new ones from being what is called "scabby"?
There are two successful treatments for scab in potatoes. One is dipping in a solution of corrosive sublimate. Dissolve one ounce in eight gallons of water and soak the seed potatoes in this solution for one and one-half hours before cutting. This treatment kills the scab spores which may be upon the exterior of the potatoes. More recently, however, to avoid danger in handling such a rank poison as corrosive sublimate, formaldehyde has been used, and one pint of commercial formaldehyde, as it is bought in the stores, is diluted with thirty gallons of water, and potatoes are soaked in this for two hours. Thirty gallons of this dip ought to treat about fifty bushels of potatoes.
Double-Cropping with Potatoes.
I am told that here two crops of potatoes can be raised by planting the second crop in August. I have five acres which will be ready to dig in July. Can I dig these Potatoes and use them for seed at once for another crop, or won't they grow? I have a crop of barley, and as it is heading out now, I want to put potatoes on the ground after I take the barley off. I have plenty of water to irrigate.
If your potatoes ripen in July and you allow those which you desire for seed to lie upon the ground and become somewhat greenish, they are likely to sprout well for a second crop. They should not, however, be planted immediately. Whether you get a second crop successfully or not depends upon how early the frosts come in your district. Whether you get potatoes after barley or not depends also upon how much moisture there remains in the soil. By irrigating thoroughly after harvesting the grain and then plowing deeply for potatoes, you would do vastly better than to plant in dry ground and irrigate afterward.
When to Plant Potatoes.
I have been puzzled to understand Potato growing in California. Do you have more than one cropping season, and if so, about what dates are they due?
Every month in the year potatoes are being put into the ground and being taken out of the ground somewhere in California. We have, then, practically a continuous planting and harvesting season. There is, however, a division possible to make in this way: Plantings undertaken in September and October are for winter supplies of new potatoes, which begin about the holidays and continue during the winter. There is also in southern California a planting beginning in January, which might be called the earliest planting for the main crop, and other plantings for the main crop in the central and northern parts of the State begin in February and continue until May, according to the character of the land; that is, whether it is upland, on which the planting is earlier, or whether it is lowland along the rivers where excessive moisture may render the land unsuitable until April or May. The harvesting of the main crop then begins in May and continues during the whole of the summer, according to the character of the land cropped over, lapping the planting time for early potatoes first mentioned. It is also true by use of properly matured seed one can secure, in some places, two crops a year, if there is sufficient inducement therefor. Thus it comes about that we are continually planting and digging potatoes according to local conditions and the possibility of selling advantages.
Advise me how to keep my potatoes. What is the best way? Would a dark room be suitable? Some people are digging holes in the ground to put them in.
Potatoes, if properly matured and free from disease, will keep for a considerable time in dark rooms kept as cool as possible. They must be kept away from the reach of the moth, which is parent to the worm producing long black strings inside of the potato. If they are thoroughly covered with boards or sacking or straw, so as to keep the moth from reaching the potato, they may be held for a long time in the open air, and covering with earth, as your neighbors are doing, will be all right until the rains come and cause decay by making the soil too wet. The main point is to keep the tubers as cool as possible and out of reach of the potato moth.
What is the yield per acre of potatoes on the best land around Stockton, Cal., where work is done properly; also what is the yield for potatoes along the coast?
The average yield of potatoes in California, taking the whole acreage and product as reported by the last United States census, is 147 bushels to the acre. In Stockton district, on good new reclaimed land the yield has been reported all the way from 300 to 800 bushels per acre - the crop declining rapidly when continued on the same land. One year's crop in the Stockton district was estimated at 45,000 acres averaging 125 sacks per acre. The coast yield would be more like the general average for the State as first given.
New Potatoes for Seed.
Can I plant American Wonder potatoes for the first crop, and let enough of them mature to use for seed for the second crop, to be planted the first or middle of July?
It is possible to use potatoes grown the same year as seed for the later crop, providing you let the potatoes mature first by the complete dying down of the vines, and second by digging the potatoes allow them to lie in the open air, with some protection against sun-burning, until the potatoes become somewhat greenish. If this is the case the eyes will develop and seed will grow, while without such treatment you might be disappointed in their behavior. Of course, the question still remains whether it would be desirable to do this or to plant some later variety earlier in the season when the growing conditions would be better.
In what locality are the best early potatoes grown in California? Can they be raised on wheat lands without irrigation as an early crop?
Early potatoes are grown in regions of light frosts in all parts of the State - around the bay of San Francisco, on the mesas in southern California, and to some extent at slight elevations in the central part of the State. The potato endures some frost, but one has, for an early crop, to guard against the locations subject to hard freezing. Most of our potatoes are grown without irrigation because, on uplands, winter temperatures favor their growing during the rainy season. The middle-season and late potatoes are grown on moist lowlands where irrigation is not necessary. In proper situations, much of the land which is used for potatoes has at some time produced wheat or barley, corn or sorghum, and other field crops.
Potatoes After Alfalfa.
I have been a successful potato grower in Ohio. I have the best alfalfa soil and it is now in its fourth year of productiveness in that crop. I would like to grow potatoes in a small way.
Proceed just as you would at the East in getting potatoes upon a red clover sod. Turn under the alfalfa deeply now if the soil will work well, and roll your sandy soil. You must use a sharp plow to cut and cover well. If there is moisture enough the alfalfa, plowed under in the fall, ought to be decayed by February, when you could plant potatoes safely, probably, unless your situation is very frosty. If you plant early you ought to get the crop through without irrigation if you cultivate well and keep the land flat.
Flat or Hill Culture for Potatoes.
Is it better to hill potatoes or not?
During the dry time of the year potatoes should be grown with flat cultivation, except as it may be necessary to furrow out between the rows for the application of irrigation water. Potatoes grown during the rainy season in places where there is liable to be too much water, can often be hilled to advantage, but dry-season cultivation of practically everything should be as flat as possible to retain moisture near the surface for the development of shallow-rooting plants.
Bad Conditions for Potatoes.
Our potatoes were planted early and were frosted several times while young. As we come to harvest them we find them with very large green tops but the potatoes are about the size of a hen's egg and from that they run down to the size of a pea. The larger ones are beginning to send out roots, four or five to a potato. The potatoes have not been irrigated lately and the ground they are in is dry.
The ugly behavior of your potatoes is doubtless due to irregularities in temperature and moisture which have forced the plants into abnormal or undesirable activity. Potatoes should have regular conditions of moisture so that they shall proceed from start to finish and not stop and start again, for this will usually make the crop unsatisfactory and worthless. Excessive moisture is not desirable, but the requisite amount in continuous supply is indispensable.
Potatoes on Heavy Land.
Will potatoes grow well in adobe land, or partly adobe, that has not been used for seven years except for pasturing?
Although potatoes enjoy best of all a light loam in which they can readily expand, it is possible to get very good results on heavy land which has been used for pasturage for some years, providing the land is broken up early and deeply and harrowed well in advance of planting and thorough cultivation maintained while the crop is growing. The content of grass roots and manure which the land has received during its period of grazing tends to make the soil lighter and will also feed the plant well. For this reason better potatoes are had on heavy land after pasturage than could be had on the same land if continually used for grain or for some other crop which tended to reduce the amount of humus and to make the land more rebellious in cultivation.
Storage of Seed Potatoes.
We need potatoes for late planting and have found a good lot which is being held in cold storage at temperatures from 34 to 36 degrees F. They have not been there long, however. Would that hurt them for seed, and also how long could they be safely left there now before planting?
Seed potatoes would not be injured in storage, providing the temperature is not allowed to go below the freezing point. They should not, however, be allowed to remain longer in storage, but should be exposed to the sun for the development of the eyes, even to the sprouting point being desirable before planting. The greening of the potato by the sun is no disadvantage. We would not think of planting potatoes directly from storage, because, owing to the lack of development in the eyes, decay might get the start of germination.
Potatoes and Frosts.
Can I keep frost off of potato tops by building smudge fires! I would like to plant about February 1, but we usually have a few light frosts here during March. If I were to turn water in the field when too cold, would that keep the frost off, and if so, would I have to turn water down each row, or would one furrow full of water to about every fourth or sixth row be enough?
You can prevent frost by smudging for potatoes just as you can for other vegetables. The potato, however, needs little protection of this kind and will endure a light frost which would be destructive to tomatoes, melons, and other more tender growths. Unless you have a very frosty situation, you can certainly grow potatoes without frost protection, and they should be planted earlier than February first if the ground is in good condition. The great secret of success in growing potatoes in southern California is to get a good early start before the heat and drought come on. Water will protect from frost if the temperature only goes to about 28 degrees and does not stay there too long. The more water there is exposed the longer may be the protection, but probably not against a lower temperature.
Growing Sweet Potato Plants.
How shall I make a hot-bed to raise sweet potato plants? I don't mean to put glass over bed, but want full description of an up-to-date outfit for raising them.
Manure hot-beds have been largely abandoned for growing sweet potato slips, though, of course, you can grow them that way on a small scale or for experiment. In the large sweet potato districts, elaborate arrangements for bottom heat by circulation of hot water or steam are in use. In a smaller way hot air works well. The Arizona Experiment Station tells how a very good sweet potato hot-bed at little cost is constructed as follows: A frame of rough boards seven feet wide, twenty feet long and fourteen inches deep is laid down over two flues made by digging two trenches one foot deep and about two feet wide, lengthwise of the bed. These trenches are covered with plank or iron roofing, and are equipped with a fire pit at one end and short smokestack at the other.
Four inches of soil is filled into this bed and sweet potatoes placed upon it in a layer which is then covered with two or three inches more of soil. Large potatoes may be split and laid flat side down. The whole bed is then covered with muslin, operating on a roller by which to cover and uncover the bed. Thus prepared, the bed may easily be kept at a temperature of 60 to 70 degrees F. by smouldering wood fires in the fire boxes. The potatoes, kept moist at this temperature, sprout promptly and will be ready to transplant in about six weeks. A bed of the size mentioned will receive five to seven bushels of seed roots, which will make slips enough to plant an acre or more of potatoes.
Growing Sweet Potatoes.
Please inform me how to keep sweet potatoes for seed; also how many pounds it takes for one acre, and what distance apart to plant, and the time to plant.
Sweet potatoes may be kept from sprouting by storage in a cool, dry place. Sweet potatoes are not grown by direct cutting of the tuber as the ordinary potato is, but the tubers are put in January or later in a hot bed and the sprouts are taken off for planting when the ground becomes warm and all danger of frost is over in the locality. The number of sprouts required for an acre is from five to ten thousand, and a bushel of small sweet potatoes will produce about two thousand sprouts if properly handled in the hot bed, which consists in removing the sprouts when they have attained a height of five or six inches, and in this way the potatoes will be yielding sprouts in succession for some time. The sprouts are planted in rows far enough apart for horse cultivation. They are usually hilled up pretty well after starting to grow well. They cannot be planted until the danger of frost is over, for they are much more tender than Irish potatoes.
Sweet Potato Growing.
In planting sweet potatoes, do we have to make hotbeds just like those for tomatoes, or if just a plain seed-bed will do? Is it necessary to irrigate them or not?
You can bed your sweet potatoes in a warm place on the sunny side of a building or board fence, and get sprouts all right. You will, however, get them sooner and in greater numbers by using a slow hotbed in which the manure supply is not too large. The fact that sweet potato growers do use some artificial heat, either from manure or by piping bottom-heat in their propagating houses, is a demonstration that such recourse is desirable to get best results. The necessity of irrigation depends upon the soil and its natural moisture supply. On a fine retentive loam, the crop is chiefly made without irrigation, if the plants are all ready to put out in the field as soon as it is safe. If you are late in the planting, or if the soil is dry or likely to dry before the tubers are grown to good size, irrigation, some time ahead of the need of the plant, is essential.
What kind of soil and climate does it take to grow sweet potatoes, and can I grow them in any part of Contra Costa county, and about what time is the best to plant them?
Sweet potatoes do best in a light warm loam which drains well and does not bake or crust by rain or irrigation. Sprout the tubers in a hot-bed or cold-frame in February and break off the shoots and plant as soon as you are out of danger by frost. Sweet potatoes are more tender than common potatoes. There are places in Contra Costa county where they do well, though some parts of the county do not have enough summer heat.
Sweet Potatoes Between Fruit Trees.
I am expecting to grow a fall crop of about twenty acres of sweet potatoes. The land is a heavy, sandy loam in the interior, which has been set out this spring to almonds, apricots and prunes. I wish to grow sweet potatoes between trees. Would an irrigation every forty days be often enough? Also, if either sweet or Irish potatoes grown between rows are harmful to either of the varieties of fruit mentioned?
We see no reason why you should not get your crop, providing you do not have to run the plants into the frosty period, and sweet potatoes will not, of course, stand frost as well as the common potato. The moisture which you propose to give ought to be enough for a retentive soil in connection with good cultivation until the vines cover the ground. Growing any crop between orchard trees is apt to be an injury to the trees, because of the spaces which are not and cannot be adequately cultivated, so that the ground around the trees is apt to become compacted either by the run of water or the lack of cultivation, or both. Our observation has been that Irish potatoes are no more injurious than other crops. Any crop will injure young trees if it takes moisture they ought to have or interferes with good cultivation of the land.
Giant Japanese Radish.
In discussing sakurajima (giant Japanese radish) Eastern publications advise planting late, about August 1, and not earlier than July 1. What can you tell me about the plant here?
The Asiatic winter radishes can be successfully planted in California in July or August if the soil is thoroughly saturated by irrigation before digging and planting. It is, however, not so necessary to begin early in California as at the East, because our winter temperatures favor the growth of the plant, while at the East they have to make an early start in order to get something well grown before the ground freezes. For the growth of winter radishes, then, in California you can wait until the ground is wet thoroughly by the rain, which may be expected during September, and afterward you can make later plantings for succession at any time you desire during the rainy season. This applies to all kinds of radishes.
I have planted rhubarb roots in the San Joaquin valley and find the root crowns rot below the surface.
The old-fashioned summer rhubarb usually goes off that way in very hot localities. If there is too much alkali or hardpan, or if planted too late, the same results will be had with any sort of rhubarb. Where it is very hot, plants, irrigated in the morning near the plants, scald at the crown and die in a few days. If irrigated in the afternoon and the ground worked before it gets hot the next day fine results are obtained. The winter rhubarb varieties do well in hot districts if the roots are planted from September 15 to May 1, while in cooler sections, April, May, June and July are the best months and will insure a crop the following winter.
Squashes Dislike Hardship.
What caused these squashes, of which I send you samples, to be so hard and woody? They were grown without irrigation.
Your squashes were grown without irrigation under conditions which were too dry for them and became inferior in quality. Possibly the variety itself is not of good quality or the specimen from which the seed was taken may have been inferior. A squash, in order to be tender and acceptable, needs rich feeding and plenty of drink. Otherwise, it is apt to resent ill treatment by very undesirable growth.
What is the method used in saving or threshing the seed from the Giant Russian sunflower?
Cut off the seed heads of your sunflowers when the seed seems to be well matured but before any of it falls away from the head. Throw these heads on a smooth piece of ground or a tight floor and when they become thoroughly dry thresh out the seed with a flail, removing the coarse stuff with a rake and afterwards cleaning the seed by shoveling it into the wind so that the light stuff may be blown away. A more perfect cleaning afterwards could be secured with a grain fanning mill or a simple sieve of the right mesh.
How much water does it take (in gallons or cubic feet) to properly irrigate an acre of land for tomatoes? The soil is adobe, and the customary way of planting tomatoes is 6 feet apart each way, plowing a trench of one furrow with the slope of the land for irrigating, that is, a trench between every row and a cross trench as a feeder. The land is low and in the driest part of the year the surface water is from 2 to 3 feet beneath the top of the ground.
It is not possible to state a specific quantity of water for any crop, because the amount depends to such a large extent upon the retentiveness of the soil, the rate of evaporation and the kind of cultivation. The best source of information is the behavior of the plant itself, bearing in mind that tomato plants require constant but not excessive moisture supply, and that if moisture is applied in excess it will promote an excessive growth of the plant, which will cause it to drop its blossoms and therefore be unsatisfactory and unproductive. In such land as you describe no irrigation whatever would be desirable except in years of short rainfall, and such land, if properly cultivated, would always furnish moisture enough by capillary action to support the growth of the plant.
Less Water and More Heat.
What chemicals should I put into the soil to insure a good crop of vegetables, such as tomatoes, string beans, or other over-ground producers? Last year my tomatoes and string beans grew plentifully, but never produced any tomatoes or beans, yet turnips and parsnips were all right.
Vegetables which behave like your tomatoes and string beans, making too much growth and not enough fruit, do not need fertilization. The land is perhaps too rich already, or you may have used too much water. Use less water so that the plants will make a more moderate growth, and they will be fruitful if the season is warm enough in the later part of summer. This, of course, would be one of the drawbacks to growing tomatoes and beans in San Francisco. Turnips and parsnips do well with less heat. You may have to modify the San Francisco summer climate by wind screens or glass covers.
Continuous Cropping With the Same Plant.
What would happen on the crops of cucumbers, tomatoes and eggplants, etc., planted on the same place continuously?
There would be in time a decadence of crop from soil exhaustion, but that you could prevent by fertilization. The greatest danger from continuously growing these vegetables on the same land is the multiplication of bacteria which injuriously affect them, in the soil. The plants which you mention are all subject to "wilt" diseases from this cause, therefore, they should have new ground. If you have to use the same garden ground continuously, the plants which you mention should be rotated with root crops or with other kinds of vegetables, so as to frequently change plants and soil within the general area which has to be used for them.
Big Worms on Tomatoes.
I have a nice patch of tomatoes in my garden, and only recently I notice large green worms on them with one large brown horn on their head. They strip the leaves off. They look to me like a tobacco worm.
They are tobacco worms; that is, they are the larvae of hawk moths, some of which take tobacco, tomatoes, grapevines and many other plants, including some of the native weeds of your valley. Pick them off and crush them, or give them a little snip with the scissors if you do not like to handle them. They are so large and easily found that such treatment is easily applied, as in "worming tobacco."
Loss of Tomato Bloom.
I have tomato plants which are very strong and healthy and full of blossoms, but there is something cutting the blossoms off and just about to ruin my plants.
The trouble with your tomato plants is that life is too easy for them, that they have so much moisture and plant food that they can grow comfortably and rapidly without thought of the future. So, because they do not have to think of making fruit, the blossoms drop off. This is a very common occurrence with tomatoes, especially in home gardens where the owners have not the experience or the information on the subject that they might have, and give the tomatoes too much water. Many other plants act the same way and will not set fruit while they can grow easily, and only begin to produce when they have made a great growth or when moisture begins to get a little short. If you irrigate the tomatoes, stop, and put no more water on until the plant begins to set fruit as if it meant business, or gives some sign that water would be appreciated. If the ground is naturally moist you will have to wait until the plants make more growth and the weather gets drier and hotter, and the plants will then set fruit. Some growers have found that by trimming up the vine and staking it, the fruit sets much more readily.