“During the last seven years I have been engaged in vegetable gardening near Columbus, Ohio, in which city all the produce has been marketed,” writes Prof. V. H. Davis. ” All the principal vegetables have been grown with more or less success, but we have always followed the plan of making a specialty of two or three crops, growing only such others as will fit in with these to the best advantage.
” There is no doubt that a system of close and double cropping, with a very large use of manures, both animal and mineral, is the most profitable plan where sufficient labor and capital are available to carry it out properly. These have been sadly lacking in many cases with our own gardens, but unavoidably so. Our results may, perhaps, be taken as showing the possibilities of certain individual crops under fairly average gardening conditions, rather than the possible yield from a given area of ground.
” No crop has been more uniformly profitable with us than tomatoes. While we have not always been in the market with the first locally grown tomatoes, ours have usually been acknowledged to be the best. Livingston’s Stone is grown almost exclusively. Seed is sown in the greenhouse from February 15 to 20. When the plants are 2 or 3 inches high they are transplanted to the beds in the green house, or preferably to the. hotbeds, 6 inches apart each way. This gives room for a large, stocky growth, and, by May 10, the plants are usually 12 to 20 inches high, and showing their first blossoms. We transplant to the field during the first favorable weather after May 10. Sometimes the plants have to be covered to protect them from frost, but the possible gain in earliness is worth the risk. If frost nips these early-set plants we lose only the small money, cost of plants and the value of the time required to set; whereas if the plants thrive we gain greatly because of the extra early fruits secured.
” The distance apart will depend upon whether the plants are to be staked or allowed to lie on the ground. Those intended for the early market are usually staked and planted 20 to 24 inches apart in rows 2 1/2 feet apart. The latter crop is usually allowed to lie on the ground, and the plants are set 2 feet apart in rows 3 to 3 1/2 feet apart. In both cases, however, the vines are carefully pruned to one or two stalks. This pruning consists in removing the shoots from the mils of the leaves as soon as formed. It is necessary to go over the vines about three times in an ordinary season, and in a very wet season perhaps four times. No other work in connection with the crop will prove more profitable.
” We usually begin to pick tomatoes July 5 to 10. All that we can ripen before August I usually bring from $3 to $7 a bushel. From August to to September i the price usually falls below $1, and often as low as 50 cents a bushel. From September i until frost destroys the vines the price gradually rises again, on account of the demand for canning purposes. A patch of plants in their prime during the latter period will always be profitable. This late crop usually follows early peas, potatoes, or cabbage. When serious frost threatens, the plants are carefully pulled, put in small piles and covered with straw. Ripe tomatoes may be secured in this way until Thanksgiving. They always bring a good price. The green ones thus saved are also in demand for chowder, pickles, etc.
“Last season we had a total of 1.04 acres in tomatoes, and the gross income from this area was $410.57. The common idea that tomatoes do best on poor soil is fallacious. We give our tomatoes the best soil we have, and believe results justify it.
“Sweet corn is, in many respects, the second most satisfactory crop we raise. While the in-come an acre is not as large as with some other crops, the cost of production is very low, requiring no hand labor except picking the ears. Early Cory is grown for very early corn and Country Gentleman, Stowell’s Evergreen, and Columbus Market as main crops. Plantings are so made that a continuous supply may be had from the beginning to the end of the season.
“Another crop that all gardeners should grow is asparagus. It is one of the easiest grown and one of the most profitable single crops. It requires a very rich soil, and has the disadvantage of occupying the ground the entire season, making double cropping impossible. We cut $64.95 worth from 0.35 acre that had stood over 20 years. Another year we cut $44.94 worth from 0.20 acre of five year old plants, or at the rate of $224.20 an acre. While the yield is not as large as with some other crops, the small amount of care required makes it one of the most profitable.
GRADING ESSENTIAL TO SUCCESS
Everything we sell is carefully sorted and carefully prepared for the market. The lower the price, the more carefully we try to sort and grade. Our first-grade tomatoes usually bring 25 cents to $1 more than the average market price. The culls are sold for what they will bring for immediate use, and the demand for this grade is greater than we can supply, for, by our way of growing tomatoes, the percentage of culls is very small, except in very wet weather, when the cracked fruit must go’ into that class..
“We go direct to the customers, solicit them orders, and, if desired, deliver in the evening of the same day directly from our own wagon. The result is we have built up a list of select patrons, who appreciate perfectly fresh garden stuff, and who are willing to pay a reasonable price for it. Any surplus over and above the amount this list will take is readily disposed of through the usual market channels, where we generally find ourselves in the enviable position of having the buyers competing among themselves for our stuff.
We set a reasonable price on our stuff from day to day, and people may take it or leave it, just as they choose. The man who cuts prices not only injures himself, but his neighbor also. He will always be expected to cut prices and will probably find difficulty in selling his produce unless he does. In his hurry to sell out and get home his price is often lowered beyond what the supply would war-rant, to the injury of every gardener and the benefit of every dealer.
“To illustrate my meaning: A season or two ago cucumbers were selling at 40 cents a dozen, and the dealers were retailing them at 5 cents apiece. A certain gardener came into the market with a quantity and a desire to get away quickly. He sold the load for 20 cents a dozen, thereby establishing that price for this article for the entire market, yet, on account of the scarcity the dealer continued to retail cucumbers at 5 cents each for nearly three weeks, The gardeners lost 20 cents a dozen and the dealer made 20 cents more profit t dozen than supply and demand warranted.
“This is only one of scores of such instances. Farmers are still too willing to ask what prospective customers will give them, instead of reckoning cost of production and percentage of profit and then demanding a reasonable selling price. Of course, it takes courage to break away from the old-established custom and place a value on one’s own farm produce, and to refuse to sell for less. But this becomes easier when the stuff is well graded and shows superior quality.”