The Florist and Pomologist, p. 8 (January 1881)

ROASTED TURF
Alex. Forsyth, Salford,

At this time of the year, when many of our garden plants are reposing under ground, we cannot do better than prepare composts to be used in the coming spring, when all will be activity, and the day all too short for the work to be accomplished. Peat, loam, and sand will certainly be wanted, and these in good condition. Peat is a ticklish article to deal with, for when it gets quite dry, it will not take water when water is offered to it, and thus many heaths and other peat-earth plants die from want of moisture, although water skin-deep is supplied to them freely. This is not the case with the other ingredients, for sand is open like a sieve, and loam will take water slowly, especially when sand is mixed freely with it. Every one seems to know when his plants want water, but it is not an easy matter to tell when they want dryness. Young fruit-trees and roses will take little harm, if kept out of the ground for a short time. My father used to say there was a time when dryness did no harm to such plants, provided they were shifted in season, and well treated afterwards.

In modern gardening, we get Cucumbers and even Grapes to come to perfection in one or two cubic feet of earth in a pot, the plants being supported by regular waterings with manure-water. But the amateur asks, what is manure? for he has seen filth on the pots which could not be endured, and could not be necessary, since the roots were below and the manure above, and mud more or less watery, though good enough for a pasture field, is not suitable for in-door plants. The late Mr. Barnes (of Bicton) excelled in the manufacture and use of manure-water. He passed it through charcoal, so that when he applied it to his plants it was as colourless as clean water, and his success in this way was known to most gardeners.

Some years ago, the sale of Roasted Turf was mooted, and instructions were given to provide an iron plate, mounted on four brick ends, for the purpose of preparing it. The turf to be roasted was laid on the plate of iron, but the whole thing was too simple and insignificant, so that it fell into desuetude as a broken toy. Clay when burnt is clay no more, and when fields are pared and burnt, the ashes may be useful; but earth burnt to a cinder would be no compost for plants by itself. Peat-ash from a cottage, that has had all the waste from the house cast on it, may be, and surely is, good manure for such crops as Cabbages and Turnips, but it is not suitable for being seen above ground, and is best buried.

The idea of roasting Turf was good, but it had to be grappled with practically, for unless the Cucumber or the Vine had thirst or need of water, it would be useless to offer it. The Roasted Turf, however, is an open medium, permitting the roots and the manure-water to permeate the ball, and yet admitting repeated doses, without choking the medium in which the feeders move. On a piece of waste ground I got about 10 cwt. of old turf from a field, and built it up, turf only, like a haycock, leaving two small openings at the bottom to light the fire and, if necessary, to regulate it, the inside being filled with branches and a few shavings, to set the fire agoing. The flush of firing was soon over, but the embers and hot walls kept warm for some time, so that any wireworms or the like would have warning to leave the premises, for all creatures, small as well as great, know the character of fire, and flee from it. A few rough stakes supported the roof, and the whole was a close building, with a smouldering fire. There was no smoke of coals, and the wood used made very little smoke. However, the sods were packed, so that they were neither raw nor burnt, but roasted; and when manure-water was applied, the action was effective, for the plants were fed with water, and not with mud, and that water was medicated with no stint of manure. I need scarcely remark, however, that Vines in pots cannot do with much manure-water when the fruit is ripening. With a hatful of roasted turf, the amateur has got the matter in his own hands, for, with Barnes's clear liquor, and these fine open sods, the thing will be set agoing; and who is there that would not wish, when the

"shades of evening close over him,
to sit under his vine?”