Category Archives: Home & Garden

Raising Turkey Chicks

Turkeys can be a profitable sideline for a homesteader, particularly if he can grow the green feed on which the birds thrive, and if he can sell them at retail. If not, turkeys still make good eating, and a homesteader can raise a few to dress for table use for the family.

Stand warned, however, that these birds are difficult to raise. Turkeys are highly prone to disease and they are unintelligent. When young, they often starve to death without discovering their feed is right next to them. Mature hens are no smarter. They lay their eggs standing up, killing their unhatched young. The least scare sends turkeys piling into corners where they often suffocate.

Some of the most popular breeds are the White Holland, Bronze, Bourbon Red, and Narragansett. The new, smaller Beltsville turkeys, developed by the Department of Agriculture Research Center at Beltsville, Maryland, are gaining in popularity and find a good market throughout the year. Always buy quality stock from a reputable hatchery or breeder.

Turkey Housing

For retail production, start with newly hatched turkeys or “poults.” A pen approximately 20 by 20 feet in a barn or poultry house will handle 100 to 150 poults until they are put on range at ten weeks of age. A raised wire porch the same size is necessary to keep the poults off the ground and reduce the danger of the highly infectious, fatal blackhead disease.

A good-sized electric brooder and hoppers for water and feed are other needs. Sand and shavings are usually used for litter in the poultry house. After they are two weeks old, the poults can go outside on the porch in good weather.

Turkey Care and Feeding

Grains are fed in addition to starter mash after the birds are two months old. Good commercial feeds for starting are available. Grain rations can be homemade if grains are raised on the homestead, or you can use a commercially made preparation. If the birds’ entire lives are spent on wire, they should have fresh green feed, such as rapeseed, oats or ladino clover, brought to them. Alfalfa, lettuce, cabbage, and other greens, less expensive than commercial pellets, can form as much as 25 percent of the ration. This can enable homesteaders to compete in price with commercial growers.

Turkeys on range will eat great quantities of forage, as well as pick up waste grain, weed seed and insects. An acre of good range generally supports 100 birds until they are six months old and ready to be slaughtered. Oats and rapeseed make fine pasture for turkeys. For permanent pastures, a good mixture is red, ladino and alsike clover with timothy and Kentucky bluegrass. During the last five weeks before slaughter, the birds need plenty of whole corn to fatten them.

An acre of good range can support about 100turkeys, provided their diet is supplemented with whole corn, commercial feed, and milk or water.

Excess milk from goats or cows can also be used in turkey feed. The liquid is used to moisten the mash. Feeders can be located inside the pen or outside in wooden troughs. Two inches of feeding space per bird is suggested.

Turkeys need water. This can be supplied by having fountains inside the pen or by attaching a water pan to the outside of the pen, allowing it to be more easily filled and cleaned.

Turkey Diseases

Turkeys are susceptible to many diseases. The most serious one is black-head which is hosted by a worm common to chickens. Symptoms are droopiness and yellow droppings. Cage cleanliness and separation of turkeys from chickens help combat the disease. Turkeys housed on a raised sun porch are resistant to the disease. Turkey manure is an excellent fertilizer, so clean up and compost the droppings weekly.

Planting Yams

Yams are vines cultivated for ornament or for their edible tubers. They are native to the South Pacific islands, but their culture has spread to other tropical areas. Japan, China, Australia, India, Africa, the West Indies, South America, and the southern tip of Florida all grow yams. In many of these places, yams provide an important part of the diet. The sweet potato is sometimes called a yam, but it is of an entirely different genus (Ipomoea).

Most yams do best in near-tropical climates. Their tubers may be planted any time of the year in warm, sandy soil. Place them two to three feet apart in rows about five feet apart. Some species produce their tubers above ground in leaf axils; others produce them so far underground that they are difficult to dig. For optimum yields, stake the vines.

The Chinese yam or cinnamon vine (D. Ba-tatas) bears cinnamon-scented flowers and aerial tubers which are used for propagation, as well as large edible, deep-growing under-ground tubers. It is grown for ornament as well as for food and is hardy as far north as New York although it will not always produce edible tubers. The air potato (D. bulbif era) has no big underground tubers, but is grown in the South and in greenhouses for the odd tubers borne in the axils of the leaves which are some-times eaten like potatoes. Yams contain more protein and less starch than potatoes.

The yampee (D. trifida) is another southern vine with small underground tubers, prized for their flavor, while the wild yam (D. villosa) grows along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and has a woody rootstock. There are many other edible species, mostly tropical, some of which have tubers weighing up to 100 pounds.

Planting Hickory Nut Trees

The genus, Carya, contains several valuable timber and nut trees. Members of the Walnut Family, all of its major species are native to North America. All are tall stately trees with alternate compound leaves. Male and female flowers appear on the same tree, but indifferent clusters. The fruit is actually a fleshy drupe, though popularly called a nut. The nuts of several species are highly desired for eating. In the last 30 years several tree selections have been made, based on the flavor of the nut kernel or on the ease with which the shell can be cracked.

Growing pecans for their nuts has become an industry of considerable importance. Originally commercial Pecan-growing was largely restricted to Tex., Okla., Ark. and La. More recently named varieties are being grown throughout the South and as far north as southern Ind., Ill. and Iowa. The production of pecans in the United States has increased steadily during the last 40 years, presently totaling over 200 million pounds annually. This represents more than 10% of all nuts. The texture, aroma and appetizing flavor of pecans makes them valuable for flavoring baked goods, candies, dairy products, salads and desserts.

Several hundred varieties are now being grown. They vary in yield, bearing habit, resistance to insects and diseases as well as response to cultural practices and climatic conditions. Varieties commercially imported number about 15. Percent of kernel in the named varieties varies from 37 to slightly over 50.’Bradley’, ‘Stuart’, ‘Moneymaker’, ‘President’, ‘Pabst’, ‘Farley’, ‘Success’ and ‘Desirable’ are among the leaders in the Pecan orchards of Ga. and Fla. and in some of the states to the west.

Northern Pecan strains are growing in Mich., Ohio, Pa., parts of N.Y. and nearby states. Even in these states the cold does not harm the tree, but the nut crop usually fails to mature because of the shortness of the season. The northern limit of Pecan growing is Zone 4. Here the varieties ‘Busseron’, ‘Butterick’, ‘Green River’, ‘Indiana’, and ‘Niblack’ do well. In Tex. and the Mississippi Valley ‘Stuart’, ‘Schley’, ‘Van Demand’ and ‘Curtis’ are most commonly grown.

A young Pecan tree has a long, stout taproot. Successful planting is not easy because of the sparsity of lateral roots. Great care must be taken, when planting, to prevent injury of the taproot. A deep hole must be dug to accommodate it. Use rich sandy loam when planting the tree and remember that pecans become large, broad trees with a massive root system as they become older. They should be planted at least 75 ft. apart.

Once a young tree is established, it sends out long lateral roots in all directions. They are generally within 10 in. of the soil surface, so only shallow cultivation is practiced. Mulching with a variety of materials to conserve moisture and prevent weed growth is common.

Because of its commercial importance insect pests and diseases of Pecan require special attention. The hickory shuck worm is a destructive pest which destroys shucks and prevents normal nut development. Case-bearing caterpillars, weevils, scale insects, aphids, curculio and round-headed apple tree borer can all be troublesome. Their prevalence varies from state to state. Methods of control also vary. The extension service of the state university should be sought out for current control methods.

The Shellbark Hickory, C. laciniosa, becomes a tree, tall and broad, with light gray shaggy bark. The leaflets vary from 7 to 9. The nut is thick shelled, but the meat or kernel is delight-fully sweet. Of the several named Hickory selections, at least one is a Shellbark, originating in Pa. The nut is quadrangular, while the shell is thick, but reasonably easy to crack. The kernel is plump and of good flavor.

The Hican, a hybrid between C. illinoensis and C. laciniosa, has aroused considerable interest, because it can be gown successfully in the northern tier of states and will mature a crop of nuts. It is of special interest to members of the Northern Nut Growers Association. These varieties of the Hican, ‘Burlington’ and ‘Bixby’, produce the largest nuts. Bearing is often light. Nut quality is superior. Cultural practices are similar to those for Pecan.

The Shagbark Hickory, C. ovate, may reach 100 ft. in height. The leaflets are 5 in number (rarely 7), the margins fringed with hairs. The attractive gray bark loosens and comes off in wide plates during the growing season. Several named selections of trees with superior nuts are available in nurseries that specialize in nut trees. Among them are ‘Hales’ which originated in N.J., ‘Kirtland’, a rather large nut with a thinner shell permitting easy cracking and ‘Kentucky’ which has a kernel plump and angular, rich and sweet.

In times past the Mockernut, C. tomentosa, was gathered from the wild in those areas where trees were plentiful and productive. But the percent of kernel is so small the results were seldom worth the effort. The Pignut, C. glabra, is difficult to crack and has a minimum of meat. The Bitternut, C. cordiformis, is bitter, astringent and inedible.

Hickory trees are difficult to propagate vegetatively, although new techniques are simplifying the practice. All hickories have large tap roots when quite young, making trees difficult to handle in the nursery, limiting the number of nurseries that carry in stock.

Planting Cherry Trees

Many home gardeners will find, after due consideration, that they do not wish to grow cherries, for 2 reasons. Birds can, and frequently do, eat a major part of the crop. Also, cherries have a tendency to split if periods of heavy rains coincide with ripening. It’s practically impossible for the gardener to control either one of these hazards. Birds like blueberries, but these can be covered with netting. However, covering entire trees with netting just is not practical.

Cherries are of 3 general types—sour cherries(varieties of Prunus. cerasus) which are mostly self-fertile; Sweet Cherries (varieties of P. avium) which are not self-fertile, but need other varieties for cross-pollination; and the Duke cherries, supposed to be crosses between the sour and the sweet, which also need other cherries for cross-pollination. Since the home gardener frequently considers planting the Sweet Cherry, he must also surmount the hurdle of needing several trees of different varieties to insure having a crop. Often this is a greater undertaking than the cherries are worth.

The main sweet cherry-growing areas of the U.S. are the Pacific Coast states, chiefly Calif., Ore. and Wash., western N.Y. and western Mich. The chief sour cherry-growing areas are northern Ohio, western N.Y. and the Hudson Valley, western Mich., Wise. and Colo.

All cherries bloom early in the spring, before the leaves appear, and hence the flowers are susceptible to killing by late frosts. The Sweet Cherry is about as hardy as the Peach; the Sour Cherry is slightly more hardy. All cherries are susceptible to various virus diseases, and one should be certain that, in purchasing trees, virus-free plants are purchased, the under stock as well as the tops.

Propagation is by budding on either P. avium, the Mazzard Cherry, or P. mahaleb, the Mahaleb Cherry. The latter is cheap and easy to work, but the Mazzard Cherry is the superior under stock, and trees on this stock should be obtained if possible, for they make much better trees.

Sweet cherries should be planted 30 ft. apart, sour cherries about 25 ft. apart and ‘Morello’ cherries about 18 ft. apart.

As for pruning, sweet cherries are pruned the least. These trees usually grow taller than those of the sour cherries and they just do not seem to demand the careful pruning required by many other kinds of fruit trees. Little pruning is necessary on sour cherries, especially if crossed branches and weak branches are removed as they appear.

Cherry Cross-Pollination

One should be as careful with cherries as with plums in the cross-pollination requirements. All sweet cherries require cross-pollination and the chances are that it is these which would be selected for the home garden. Varieties which have proved good pollinizers for other sweet cherry varieties are ‘Black Tatarian’, ‘Grant’, ‘Seneca’ and ‘Lyons’. It should be remembered, too, that varieties like ‘Bing’, ‘Lambert’, ‘Napoleon’ and ‘Emperor Francis’ are all inter-sterile, one with the other.

The Duke cherries. ‘Reine Hortense’ and ‘Royal Duke’, are self-sterile and either sour or sweet cherries can be used as pollinizers for these. The sour cherries are mostly self-fertile.

Cherry Fertilizers

Fertilizers might be applied in the early spring at about the time the buds burst. A 3-4-year-old tree in a cultivated orchard might be given. If it is over two years old it might be given 5 lbs. Trees growing in sod, which receive more and sweeter cherries because they grow into larger trees, would also receive heavier applications, might be used. Tent caterpillars infest cherry in the spring, and other caterpillars are occasionally troublesome.

Cherry Diseases

Brown rot causes lesion on twigs and rot on ripening fruit. Bacterial leaf spot in which the spots often drop out, causing a shot-hole effect. Attacks both sweet and sour cherries and defoliates the trees. Spraying with fungicide when petals fall and after harvest is helpful. A fungus leaf spot or yellow leaf is controlled by fungicide in early and late applications. Black knot develops on sour cherries. Virus diseases discourage the growing of cherries in some areas. Destroying infected trees and controlling insects are the only remedies.

Planting Sweet Potatoes

The sweet potato is very nutritious and is an important food in many tropical regions of the world. It is rich in vitamin C and contains more vitamin A than most other vegetables.

An acre of sweet potatoes requires 10,000 to 12,000 plants but 100 to 200 plants will produce an ample supply for the average family. Plants can be purchased from a nursery, or grown at home by sprouting four or five sweet potatoes in a shallow pan of water.

Sweet Potato Planting and Culture

Sweet potatoes can be grown as a garden plant over a wide area of the United States. They prefer a sandy soil, but can be grown in a heavier soil if it is worked five or six inches deep. Ridging is also necessary if optimum size and quality are to be produced.

Start preparing ground for sweet potatoes during April. Make a furrow long enough to accommodate the plants you need with 12 to 18-inch spacing. Place an inch or two of well-rotted compost or manure in the furrow. Then ridge up the soil on top of this band of humus. Ridges should be at least ten inches high to prevent roots from growing too deep for easy harvesting.

Don’t set out the plants until about a month after the average date of the last frost in your area. Sweet potatoes are members of the Morning-glory family and are very sensitive to frost. Use a rounded stick, like a broom handle, to push the roots of the plants four or five inches deep. Water plants after planting to settle the roots.

The area around the plants should be kept free of weed growth until the vines themselves shade out weeds. Don’t worry too much about drought, because sweet potatoes like hot, dry weather.

Sweet Potato Harvesting

Dig the potatoes with a pitchfork before frost hits the vines, for frost on the vines can damage the tubers below. To prevent spoilage, be careful not to damage the potatoes during digging. Let them cure on the surface of the ground for several hours after digging. This helps them keep better in storage.

Sweet Potato Storage

If properly cured, sweet potatoes can be stored and enjoyed for several months. This can be done easily by placing the harvested roots in a well-ventilated place where temperatures are fairly high. For best results the temperature should be around 85 to 90°F. (29.44 to 32.22°C.) and should be held in that range for ten to 15 days. High temperatures are a deterrent to rhizopus rot, a disease which affects potato roots.

Following the curing period, the sweet potatoes should be stored at a temperature of about 50°F. (10°C.) with humidity between75 and 80 percent. During the storage period the sweet potatoes should not be handled or moved until time for use. Storage temperature below 50°F. usually will favor decay.

Planting Ginger

Ginger is a biennial or perennial herb to the tropics and cultivated in tropicales in both hemispheres. The plant flowers and produces fruit. The rhizomes underground stem has a characteristic, pungent taste, to some extent in medicine, but its principal commercial use is in flavoring foods, confections and carbonated beverages.

Ginger is believed to be native to the warmer parts of Asia, where it has been cultivated from early times. The plant rapidly spread to the West Indies, South America, Australia, and Africa. Ginger has been recognized as a spice for thousands of years. Ancient Greeks and Romans welcomed the flavoring agent from southern Arabia, by way of the Red Sea. It has also been savored through history in India. Long ago, this herb was considered medicinally valuable in treatment of digestive disorders, although most growers value it to-day for its use as a condiment.

Ginger is an exhaustive crop and requires fertile soil with good drainage. The rhizomes are likely to rot in poorly drained soil, and the plant will not thrive in gravel or sand. For maximum growth, much rain and high temperatures during the growing season are required, and it is therefore best grown in tropical and subtropical regions.

The rhizomes are harvested early in winter, and the crop should not be replanted until early in spring. Ginger is readily propagated from small divisions of the rhizomes, each division containing at least one bud or “eye.” In Florida, these may be planted in February or early March about three inches deep and about 16 inches apart in rows two feet apart. The plants come up slowly and in the early stage of growth are much benefited by some protection from the sun. Cultivation and hoeing sufficient to control weeds are necessary. As the season advances and the rhizomes enlarge, the plant develops numerous leaf-stalks, followed in fall by flower stalks.

In Florida the roots may be harvested early in December. This is readily accomplished with a garden fork. The soil is shaken off, the top cut off close to the rhizomes and the fibrous roots removed. To facilitate removal of the soil, it is advisable to break the rhizomes into several branches, or “hands.”

Ginger grows well in a greenhouse with a 75° F. (23.89° C.) temperature. It needs a large pot and a lot of water and responds well to applications of liquid compost or manure.

The rhizomes, collected when young and green are washed and scraped before being preserved in syrup or as a tasty preserve which is exported mainly from the West Indies and China. Ginger candy, made from sliced sections of ginger preserved in sugar, is a favorite among children and adults alike.

Planting Asparagus

In the early spring the home garden offers few pleasures greater than the cutting of the luscious early spears of an established asparagus planting. It was because of its habit of producing early shoots that the ancient Greeks named the plant asparagos, meaning to swell.

Until modern times asparagus was a medicinal plant. The early and abundant supply of green spears restored men who must have struggled through the long winter upon a poorly balanced diet. But like many other medicinal plants asparagus later became a garden favorite, and its popularity is still increasing.

Asparagus Planting

It is possible to grow fine asparagus plants from seed if care is taken to see that the seedbed is properly drained and well pulverized and that the seedlings are trans-planted without too much injury to the root system. But an established planting reaches the cutting stage much sooner if one-year-old roots of the best disease-resistant varieties are used.

To establish a planting of asparagus it is best to select a site to one side of the garden. This site should be free from shade; the soil should be rich, deep and well drained. The location should be so arranged that the permanence of the planting will not interfere with the cultivation of the rest of the garden.

In the spring as early as the ground can be worked, a trench 12 inches deep and about ten inches wide should be dug along the line where the first row is to stand. In the bottom of this trench place a three-inch layer of mature compost humus. If well-rotted manure is plentiful, this may be added. This layer should then be well dug into the bottom of the trench. The second row should be made not closer than four feet from the first.

One-year-old crowns should then be placed in position about 18 inches apart and ten inches below the level of the garden. The crowns should be covered with a two-inch layer of sifted compost humus and well watered. During the summer the trench should be slowly filled with a mixture of fine topsoil and composted material. Cultivation will tend to fill the trench, but it is advisable not to do the filling too rapidly or the growing plants are likely to be stifled.

Whatever care you take in the setting our will be well repaid to you later. Careful siting is important. The careful, deep preparation of the area is of great value because the powerful fleshy roots of the asparagus plant often thrust their way five to six feet downward and spread out almost an equal distance in their search for the heavy supply of plant nutrients needed for the production of the large spears. Because of this, the plants require more garden space than their feathery brush would seem to indicate, and because of the great depth to which the roots develop, you will find it wise to see that an ample supply of rich organic matter is deeply placed before setting out the crowns.

After the planting is established it will thrive with little care for many years. But as with all vegetables, asparagus should be kept free from weeds and the damaging influence of trees, and should receive each season a liberal supply of added organic material. This supply can be arranged in two ways.

In the spring the rows should be ridged. Ordinarily this is done by drawing up to the row a good quantity of the topsoil between the rows by using a hoe. If you use compost in mead of topsoil to form these ridges, this will serve two purposes—bleaching the shoots by excluding sunlight, and adding valuable plant nutrients to the soil.

After the cutting season, it is good practice to sow a cover crop of cowpeas, soybeans, etc. These should be planted between the rows of asparagus. A cover crop of this type discourages the growth of weeds and when dug under adds greatly to the organic content of the soil.

But the organic material added during ridging is the most important. This ridge should be several inches high; if shallow, the shoots will tend to open before assuming sufficient length. Even if you decide to grow “green asparagus,” that is, unbleached asparagus, you will find it necessary to form shallow ridges to overcome the tendency of the crown to get too close to the surface. This slow upward movement is caused by the formation each year of new storage roots on the uppermost side of the crown.

Asparagus Harvesting

If a good growth is made the first year, it is possible to cut the shoots lightly the following spring, but it is generally better to encourage plant growth and to delay cutting for another season. Spears should be cut when about six inches high. Some gardeners cut them two inches below the ground level, others at the surface.

In cutting, place the knife blade close to the spear, run it downward the desired depth, and then turn it enough to cut cleanly through the spear but no more. Careless jabbing during cutting time can cause very serious injury to a planting of asparagus.

As winter approaches, the rows of asparagus should be lightly mulched with straw or similar material to prevent frost from penetrating too severely into the crowns. The brush should not be removed or burned but should remain as a part of the mulch. This mulch should be removed in the spring and the ground lightly cultivated.

Asparagus Pests and Diseases

The asparagus beetle is considered a serious menace; it is very difficult to get rid of and does much damage. But most of the serious damage done by this beetle occurs when it is allowed to overwinter in the adult stage by finding concealment in fallen sticks, trash, leaves, and the like. In this case it emerges in the early spring to feed upon the young asparagus shoots. Garden cleanliness and fall cultivation will prevent the insects from overwintering. An old method for controlling asparagus beetles was to turn chickens, ducks or guinea hens loose in the asparagus planting. These birds invariably do an efficient job of wiping out the beetles and their larvae.

Asparagus rust is a plant disease affecting asparagus. Small reddish pustules appear first on the main stalks. These pustules, when they burst, release a fine rust-colored cloud of spores. Sometimes an entire planting is rapidly infected and dies. But the degree to which asparagus rust does damage is very largely dependent upon local conditions. The spores require dampness for germination. Areas subject to heavy dews and damp mists are poor locations for asparagus.

Asparagus Varieties

Mary Washington is a reliable, rust-resistant variety and a favorite of many gardeners. Roberts Strain is also rust-resistant and is a heavy producer. Paradise is an early variety and very productive.

Planting Rhubarbs

Rhubarb is native to eastern Asia. In the U.S. it is a popular herbaceous, very hardy perennial which is grown in nearly all home gardens. Like Asparagus it must be located in the garden plot so that normal annual garden work does not disturb the plant. A few plants, 5-10, at the side of the garden will supply all that a family can use fresh, canned or frozen.

Rhubarb thrives best in regions having cool, moist summers and winters cold enough to freeze the ground to a depth of several inches. It is not adapted to most sections of the South.

Rhubarb Varieties

‘Victoria’ is a vigorous-growing variety that produces very large stalks of a somewhat green color. ‘MacDonald’ and ‘Valentine’ are generally preferred because of the deep red color to the stalks. Other names listed by seeds men include ‘Ruby’ and ‘Strawberry’, both of which have red stalks but are generally less vigorous. ‘Linneas’ is also an old standard variety.

Rhubarb Soil Preparation

Any deep, well-drained, fertile soil is suitable for Rhubarb. The method of soil preparation outlined for Asparagus is suitable for Rhubarb.

The use of a good application of manure, however, is even more important for Rhubarb than is the case for Asparagus. Rhubarb has a deeper, fleshier root system than Asparagus.

Rhubarb Planting and Season Care

A piece of root containing a strong bud, under favorable conditions, will produce a strong plant in 1 year. Old plants may be divided in the fall or early spring into 4-8 parts for use in starting a new bed. Spring planting is preferred.

The root “steckling” or a single section of a divided clump is placed at the bottom of a trench 8-10 in. deep and covered with soil to a depth of 3-4 in. As soon as the young stalks appear the soil is again pulled in to fill the trench or hill.

Rhubarb is sometimes grown in the cellar for winter use. After the first year top dress each plant in the spring with a forkful of manure. If manure is not available apply 1 lb. of a complete fertilizer (5-8-7 or 5-10-5) around each hill. Rhubarb is a gross feeder and is not readily over-fertilized.

Remove seed stalks as soon as they appear. No stem should be harvested until the second year. From the third year on the leaf stalks maybe pulled when they reach a proper size for approximately 4 weeks. Use only the leaf stalk, not the leaf itself.

Dig up a few plants in the fall, place in a protected spot where they will not dry out but where they will freeze. After freezing for several weeks, place the roots in a box in the cellar cover the crowns with several inches of soil or sand and apply just enough water to keep the soil or sand moist. A temperature of 50-65° F. is ideal. Light is not necessary and actually stalks develop more color in the dark.

Roots that have been forced should not be reset into the garden. Rhubarb is not generally injured by insects or diseases. The leaves of this common garden food plant are poisonous. The leafstalks or petioles only are commonly eaten, but the leaves, when eaten by humans, have caused severe poisoning.

Planting Chestnut Trees

As we know, the Chestnut in the United States is a member of the Castanets genus, which is a small group of nut-producing timber trees. C. dentata, the American chestnut, was probably the most valuable timber tree in this country. Certainly it was the dominant tree in the vast hardwood forests. Unfortunately an Asiatic fungus, Endothia parasitica, which gained entrance to N.Y. about 1900, has all but exterminated the American chestnut in this country. Common in the hardwood forests of the eastern half of the United States, only an occasional sucker from the live root system isnow seen from Me. to Mich. and south to the Gulf of Mexico.

Sometimes the suckers become large enough to bear nuts arousing hope that eventually the American Chestnut may acquire resistance to the blight. The U.S. Forest Service, the state forestry departments and others, notably Dr. Richard A. Jaynes, have been crossing American chestnut with the Japanese species, Castaneacrenata and the Chinese species, both of which have resistance to Endothia. Some progress is being made, but hope of producing a timber-type hybrid with sufficient resistance to use in reforesting has not yet been realized.

Although a number of named varieties are available from nurseries, notably ‘Abundance’, ‘Carr’ and ‘Hobson’, because of incompatibility between seedling stock and the scion, many persons have had poor results with them. They are now turning to named selections of the Chinese chestnut which have been made by the USDA. Grafted trees come into bearing in 5 or 6 years. Seedlings often do not bear until 15or more years old. Chinese chestnuts have nuts as sweet as the American and often of larger size. Recommended are ‘Nanking’, ‘ Meiling’ and ‘Ruling’. All 3 produce large nuts of excellent quality. Although the Chinese chestnut is questionably hardy in Zone 3, it does extremely well over most of the country.

Very likely the resistance of both the Chinese chestnut and the Japanese Castanea crenata resulted from living with the disease for several hundred years. On that basis we may hope that eventually the American Chestnut will acquire a degree of resistance some day.

The Japanese Chestnut, C. crenata, is a spreading short-trunked tree that usually re-mains under 30 feet in height. Leaves are oblong, 4 to 7 in. in length with the margin serrated. The burr is about 2 in. in dia. and normally has 2 nuts, which lack the quality of the nuts of either the American or Chinese chestnut. It thrives in much of the country from Zone 4 south.

The Chinese chestnut, C. mollissima, may reach 50 ft. in height. The trunk, however, is short and the crown is broad. The elliptic leaves are coarsely toothed with a white pubescence along the veins. Native to China and Korea, the nuts, 2 normally to a burr, are large and sweet. Hardy from Zone 4 south, several producing orchards in the Midwest and the Middle Atlantic States yield plentiful crops of high quality nuts.

The Spanish chestnut, C. sativa, is a tall tree native to Europe, western Asia and North Africa. It has been in cultivation in Europe for many years. In this country, it is less hardy than either Asiatic species. The nuts are large and well filled when properly grown, but they lack the pleasant flavor of either American Chestnut or the Asiatic species. In recent years chestnut blight has reached Europe and is decimating the orchards of Spanish Chestnut.

The Chinquapin, C. panzila, is a shrubby American tree. Native from N.J. to Fla. and west to Tex. and Okla., its burrs are a little over an inch in dia. and normally contain a single nut. Leaves 3 to 7 in. long are coarsely toothed and have a white felt on the underside.

Interest in the chestnut for landscape use has in recent years been largely concentrated on the Chinese chestnut. It is an attractive spreading tree, both ornamental and equally serviceable as a shade tree. Neither the Asiatic nor the American chestnut is exacting in its soil requirement, but no Chestnut will thrive in soil where drainage is poor. A rocky well-drained hillside with a sandy loam is ideal for chestnuts.

The most serious insect pest is a tiny snout beetle which lays its eggs on the growing burrs in July. The grubs hatch and bore into the enlarging nuts within the burr where they feed on the kernel. These chestnut weevils can be controlled with any one of several pesticides, but it is advisable to inquire of the Extension Service of the State University as to timing and the specific chemical to use. Since this pest pupates in the soil under the tree, control may be had by pesticide treatment of the soil. Other insects are not usually troublesome.

The most serious disease of the Chestnut is the blight, Endothia parasitica, for which there is now no known control. It does not affect the roots which sucker freely. Such suckers sometimes live long enough to produce a few nuts. The U.S. Forest Service has acquired detailed information on several hundred American chestnut trees that have not been killed by Endothia. Records of persisting suckers are also in their hands. It is hoped that a disease-resistant American chestnut may be found to be reproduced vegetatively or to be crossed with a Chinese or Japanese Chestnut, thereby producing a resistant hybrid.

Planting Gourds

These are members of the Cucumber Family belonging mostly to the genera Cucurbita, Lagenaria, and Luffa. By far the largest numbers of varying ornamental hard-shelled gourds are those originating from Cucurbita pepo ovifera which is the yellow-flowered gourd, easily distinguished from the white-flowered Lagenaria types which take a longer growing season to mature properly. Gourds can be grown in any good soil similar to that in the vegetable garden. They need as long a growing period as possible, especially L. siceraria, the reason why some gardeners in the North just do not have a sufficient number of days of hot sunshine to mature the fruits. On the other hand, Cucurbita pepo ovifera ripens easily in Zones 3 and 4.

Gourd Seeds

One should be certain at the start to obtain good viable seed from a reliable source. Seeds-men are selling gourds in 2 ways. The first is “mixed,” that is, several varieties of differently shaped gourds have been used for seed purposes and one can obtain many interesting gourds from such a package. On the other hand, the unscrupulous person will mix seed from a lot of inferior-shaped types together, and still sell them as “mixed” and be correct in so doing. Other seeds-men who have sources of seed from pure stands of Nest Egg, Striped Pear, Spoon or Miniature Bottle, will sell seeds of these types and the gardener has reasonable assurance they will produce gourds true to name. It really pays to purchase well-grown reliable seeds of this type regardless of whether they are sold as individual varieties or as “Super Hybrids Mixed.” Germination is helped if the seed is soaked in warm water for 12-48 hours before sowing. Seed will keep at least a year, (usually several), if put in a dry cool place.

When to Plant Gourds

Good seed should be sown in hills, 6-8 seeds per hill, after all the dangers of frost are over. It is unwise to sow too early for they simply will not grow until the soil warms up. They can be started in pots in the greenhouse 3 weeks before they are to be set out in the garden, thus gaining a few weeks on the ones planted directly in the soil. However, the roots should not be disturbed in transplanting, but the entire pot full of undisturbed roots and soil set out in one careful operation. Certainly this is the way to plant Lagenaria varieties especially in the North, and even then there may not be sufficient time for the fruit to ripen properly. All gourds should be grown in full sunshine, not in the shade.

Theoretically gourds should be trained on a trellis, up some chicken wire or over some brush to keep the fruits off the ground. Most of us do not have time for that and are willing to take our chances with a few of the fruits being marred on the ground. Seeds might be planted twice their length deep in good, friable soil. When seedlings are up the hills might be thinned to about 4 plants per hill, the hills being about 8 ft. apart. If the seed was “mixed” remember that the seedlings will show variation and one should not remove all the smallest seedlings, because these might just be the varieties with the smallest and most interesting fruits.

Fertilizers should be applied as for pumpkins and squash. The roots of gourds are very close to the soil surface hence in hoeing one should be careful not to disturb the roots. They need ample water and should be given plenty of it during drought periods.

Gourd Pruning

Pruning the vines can increase the number of fruits borne per vine. The main stem should be allowed to grow until it is to ft. long, when the end can be removed. It is on this part that mostly male flowers are borne. The lateral shoots bear mostly pistillate flowers. If the end bud of the main shoot is snipped off after the shoot is to ft. long, then the first lateral shoots have the main end buds taken off them when each shoot has developed about 4 leaves, this is sufficient for the pruning. Any sub-lateral shoots, developing after this, are allowed to grow at will. This type of pruning can aid in the production of more fruits.

Gourd Harvesting

Gourds must be thoroughly ripened on the vine before they are picked, for if picked when green or immature they will soon rot. For the varieties of Cucurbita pepo ovifera, the stem where the gourd is attached to the vine should be watched. When this starts to shrivel and dry up, then the gourd should be picked. It is best to cut them off the vine with shears, saving a few inches of stem on each gourd, rather than roughly tearing them off the vine, often severing the stem right at the end of the gourd. If roughly done, this can injure the gourd end just enough to allow disease to enter and the fruit will rot.

Ornamental Gourds

The gourds should not be left out in the field, but rather brought in and washed, often with a mild disinfectant, and set aside a few days to dry thoroughly. The idea is to wash off any soil or impurities which may have become attached to the shell. After a few days they can then be carefully waxed with any floor paste wax, and set aside for use as ornaments. Some will undoubtedly rot, but the majority, if picked when fully mature, will harden nicely and can be used for years.

The white gourds of Lagenaria siceraria should be even more carefully watched and picked just before they start to turn yellowish from too much sunshine. In the South these calabash gourds are easy to grow and to mature, but in the North it is very difficult to grow them properly. They include the Bottle, Depressed Bottle, Powder Horn, Dipper and Kettle.

Gourd Grading

Nest and Dolphin types along with many others are 2 species have green fruits with a rind that is not hard, but dry and papery. These can be a foot long and also take a long growing season. The inside pulp can be dried out and then used as a dish cloth.

It is of interest to note that markings can be made on the shells of any of these gourds when they are half ripe and growing on the vines. Thus, initials, characters, rough line sketches made at this time, eventually look as if they had actually grown on the shell. Also wires, strings or even containers can be placed around the developing fruits in such ways as to permanently change and control the shape. Thus, it is possible to have a square gourd (forced to grow within some confining square metal or concrete box). These then are the popular hard-shelled gourds.