August 1989

Home Index Museums Blog Authors Site Map About


Gardening for Profit

A Guide to the Successful Cultivation
of the Market and Family Garden


Peter Henderson

first published in 1866, reprinted from 1874 edition
Index to selections from Gardening for Profit

Chapter XVII

Insects, Part 1

We have but little trouble with insects in our highly cultivated grounds; what with continued moving of the soil by plowing and harrowing every foot, from three to four times each season, incessant hoeing, and the digging up of the crops, we give these pests but little chance for a foot-hold. We are, however, occasionally troubled with Aphides, the "Green-fly," in our forcing houses of Lettuce. A complete remedy for this trouble, in its early stages, is smoke from burning tobacco stems; or tobacco stems steeped in water to give it about the color of strong tea, and applied with a syringe, will thoroughly destroy them.

"Jumping jack," or the Turnip-fly, occasions some trouble with late sowings of Cabbages, Turnips, and Radishes, but we find an excellent preventative is dusting lime over the beds, immediately the seeds begin to germinate. It is of the utmost importance to use preventives in the case of insects, for if once they get a lodgement, it is almost useless to attempt their destruction. The striped Cucumber-bug, which, with us, attacks late sowings only, we have found to yield readily to a few applications of bone-dust, which serves the double purpose of disturbing the insect and encouraging the growth of the crop.

But our most formidable enemy of the insect tribe is that which attacks the roots of the Cabbage family, causing the destructive disease known as the "club-root." There is a general misconception of the cause of this disease; happily our peculiar location here, gives me the means, I believe, of thoroughly disproving some of these absurd dogmas, that club-root is caused by "hog manure," "heavy soil," "light soil," etc. I do not doubt that it has appeared thousands of times with just such conditions; yet, within three miles from the City Hall of New York, I can show to-day, on the classic shores of Communipaw, scores of acres that have been just so manured, both light soils and heavy soils, that have grown Cabbages for twenty consecutive years, and yet, the first appearance of club-root is yet to be seen. On the other hand, I can show on soils, not more than a mile distant from those on the Communipaw shore, where the ground is cultivated in the very best possible manner, and where every variety of manure has been tried, and yet it is impossible to get a crop of Cauliflower or Cabbage clear from club-root for two years in succession. Now, the reason of the immunity from the pest on the one variety of the soil, and not on the other, does not, to us, admit of the slightest particle of doubt. On the shore side, and for nearly a mile inland, there are regular deposits of oyster shell, mixed with the soil, almost as we find pebbles in a gravelly soil; now, our theory is, that the insect which occasions the club-root, cannot exist in contact with the lime, which of course is present in large amount in a soil containing such abundance of oyster shell. Reasoning from this, we have endeavored to bring up soils deficient in shell, by heavy dressings of lime; this answered, however, only temporarily, and we found it too expensive to continue it. The increasing demands for manures in the vicinity of New York, has rendered them of late years scarce and high in price, so that we were necessitated to begin the use of guano and other concentrated manures, and as this was rather new with us in our market gardens, we have had the pleasure of some very interesting experiments. Last season, in my grounds at Jersey City, where we have never been able to get two crops of Cabbages successively, without having them injured by club-root, my foreman suggested to me to experiment with a bed, of about half an acre, to be planted with early Wakefield Cabbage. One-half of this he proposed to manure at the rate of 75 tons per acre with stable manure, the other half with flour of bone, at the rate of 2000 pounds per acre; this was accordingly done in the usual way, by sowing the bone-dust on the ground after plowing, and then thoroughly harrowing in. During the month of May we could see no perceptible difference in the bed; but just as soon as our first hot days in June came, down wilted the portion that had been dressed with stable manure, showing a well-defined line the whole length of the bed, and, on pulling the plants up, we found that our enemy was at work, while in that portion that had been dressed by the bone-dust, not a wilted plant could be seen, but, on the contrary, the crop had most unusual vigor. This experiment has been to me one of the most satisfactory I ever tried; it still further proves, that this destructive insect cannot exist to an injurious extent in a soil impregnated with lime, and also proves, that we have a most effective remedy in this valuable and portable manure. The experiment was, however, to me rather a costly one; our past experience told us that there was no reason to expect that the portion, on which the stable manure was used, would not be attacked by club-root, as it had borne a crop of Cabbage the previous year, and nearly twenty years' working of that soil had shown that this crop could never be grown successively two years; but experiments, to be satisfactory, must be done on a scale of some magnitude, and although I lost some $200 by the difference in the crop, I believe it to have been a profitable investment.

I have incidentally stated that the Cabbage crop, treated in the usual manner, can only be grown every alternate year, the reason of which we infer to be, that the insect is harmless to the plant when in the perfect state the first season, but that it is attracted by the plant, deposits its eggs in the soil, and that in the larva condition in which it appears the second year, it attacks the root. Whether this crude theory is correct or not, I will not presume to say, but if it is not, how can we account for the fact or our being able to grow this plant, free from its ravages every alternate year, while, if we attempt to do so successively without the use of lime, it is certain to be attacked?

All authorities on gardening, that I have had access to, seem to be unaware of the fact that club-root is never seen in soils impregnated with shells. This variety of soil is not common. I have never seen it anywhere except here, and as I have before said, this peculiarity of location most fortunately gives a certain clue to the facts, and directly points out the remedy, which, I think, we have found to be in the copious use of bone-dust as manure.

About Peter Henderson
Index to selections from Peter Henderson's Gardening for Profit
Peter Henderson's Gardening Calendar
CLR Blog | Site Map | Contact CLR