by E J. KING
THERE is much that can' be done at the present season to make sure of a good early crop without artificial heat, and these makeshift methods are doubly valuable in wartime. In the first place, however, it is necessary to advise gardeners not to waste any seed through rash ventures. Having got that off my chest I should like to show how, by the simple expedient of raising the seed bed outdoors by a few inches, a much cosier welcome is provided for the seeds we sow. On heavy soils it really is worth while going to a fair amouht of trouble in the building up of the seed quarters. You don't want deep soil, It is enough to make sure (by means of old clinker or mortar rubble) that there is a good-foundation and drainage system of a primitive sort at least: then the medium earth can be put ovr this, and after a short palaverisation by frost and wind you can (where necessary) put the few inches of fine and sandy soil on top of this. Needless to say, the soil should all be allowed time to sink before anything is sown.
But if you have a few -panes of glass,
odd frame lights, or, better still, cloches, you can allow the seed bed
etas absorb its proper degree of moisture from the surrounding soil while at the same time covering it and protecting it from the violence of wither
rains. Furthermore, it is surprising how much more even in temperature the seedbed soil becomes when treated its this way. What we in these islands chiefly suffer from is not severe winters hut fluctuations of temperature And unreliability of wind direction.
THE USE OF GLASS If you are fortunate enough to have continuous cloches or skilful enough to rig up some sort of substitute, you can't make better use of your glass than over your seedbed. Even a small movable frame that can be transferred elsewhere later in the season will
he more than valuable. Your glass should he got into position about a fortnight if possible before sowing takes place. The ground should he limed sufficiently to deter slugs; pests will be further kept away by clean cultivation all around. On a bed of this sort you may sow onions, cauli flowers, cabbages, leck,, lettuces, and even beans for transplanting. Sweet peas. too, may be sown. But, and
this is important. every effort must be made to secure two things together— natural warmth from the occasional
sunny days, and good ventilation. A low of cloches is invaluable for the purpose. A set of ten or a dozen can easily be made to pay for themselves in a year by proper use. This is worth thinking about.
Cloches can also be used (and normally are) for sowing early things such as onions, beans and peas in the open ground (probably with some fastgrowing vegetable between the seedling rows, such as lettuces or early canots). As soon as the plants are strong enough to care for themselves, they are easily brought gradually to natural conditions and romp ahead in the genial days of late spring without the very teal check (hut usually comes from even the most careful transplant ing. Some vegetables. however, arc more easily cared for when started in the warmth of a heated greenhouse, hotbed or room. Tomatoes for greenhouse work, and early celery, can now be sown in gentle warmth for transplanting later.