The Gardener's Remembrancer, 2nd ed. pp. 199-201 (1819)

James MacPhail

Potatoes in general do not prosper in a binding soil, unless plenty of opening manure be put into it. Where the land is of a binding nature, make trenches, about thirty inches or three feet apart, and put a layer of long dung into each, and set the potatoe cuttings on the dung, in a row about twelve to eighteen inches distant, according to the sorts, cover them about four or five inches deep. The best way to do this work is to stretch the line along one side of the ground, after it has been trenched or well dug, then make the trench and finish it before you begin another; by this means you will not harden the ground by treading on it after it is planted.

There have been complaints made of, and rewards offered to cure, a disease in potatoes, called the curl. There are some sorts of potatoes more liable to be affected with this disease than others : the best way is not to plant many of such sorts, and, when any of them are planted, keep them by themselves.

I have not found out, nor have I heard of a better method to prevent disease in potatoes than to plant well ripened uninfected ones, in rich or sufficiently manured ground, as suitable to their nature as can be found; if it" be winter and spring fallowed, it will meliorate it, and .destroy some sorts of insects in the ground which frequently hurt potatoes. If this method is followed, unless in unfavourable seasons, there is little danger to be apprehended from disease of any kind.

To be a help to prevent infection too, I would advise that the seed be changed from one climate to another once in two or three years. In most parishes throughout the kingdom different climates are to be found, occasioned by the nature and situation of the soil.

This practice of changing the seed, which I strongly recommend as'a mean to prevent disease, is opposed by a. late writer on gardening. He says, “ May not the seed be as effectually changed on the same farm or garden, if of any considerable extent, as by being carried from one parish or country to another? Are potatoes improvable like wine, by being sea-borne or land-borne, without being afterwards planted in soil different from that in which they last grew? Certainly, ho. And shall he, who has his seed brought from land non-descript, and which he never saw, be certain of planting again in that which is essentially different in quality? May it not as probably happen that perchance he shall plant in land exactly similar to that in which his seed was produced?”

This is the Opinion and reasoning of one who ,calls himself a practical gardener. How long he was in the practice, he does not say, nor do I know; but he condemns methods in general practice in England, among those gardeners who ran _ among the first in successful practice, without giving satisfactory reasons for doing so.

If it were right to follow his opinion in not carrying a change of potatoe-seed from one district to plant in another, it would apply to seeds of every description.

Experienced farmers are careful to procure a change of seed from other districts now and then, and gardeners have a change of seeds of most sorts every year. To be sure, potatoes are not improvable like wine; but they maybe improved in a similar way as the plant .which produces wine is improved. The seed produced on the. stem of the potatoe may be sown, and if attention be paid in selection, some superior sorts and kinds, not very susceptible of infection or disease, may be obtained from it. That commonly called potatoe seed is the root, and not really the seed of the plant.

It is generally allowed that a change of sound potatoes for seed, from one parish or district to another, is a mean to prevent them from degeneracy; consequently they vegetate stronger, and are more able to resist disease. The reason of this, I apprehend, is the change of situation, either from a warmer to a colder climate, or the reverse. The climate, or external air near the ground, is often affected by the nature of the soil. This is evident, for it is known that some parts of the country produce crops earlier than some other parts, which are two or three degrees of latitude nearer the south.

This author, as a farther reason for not changing potatoe seed, says, “The 1 curl has frequently been brought to places where it was never known before, by this mistaken notion.” This may have happened, but that is not a sufficient reason for discontinuing the practice of changing the seed. The curl in potatoes appears in the stems and leaves, and it may arise from the effect of the air, as well as from the seed or nature of the soil; and as the appearance of the potatoe is affected by the disease in the stem, nq person should plant potatoes unless they appear sound. That author, who resided most of his days in Scotland, may have seen in that country a considerable change of climate within the-compass of a few miles. In the valleys, peaches and nectarines may be seen ripe on the open walls, and wheat and other grain in perfection in the fields, while at the same time, not many miles thence, snow lies in abundance. Between two such extremes, variation of climate in which potatoes grow must subsist; these, doubtless, will have some effect on their growth when changed from the one to the other, and that effect may be the prevention of disease.

Change of Stock/Seed/Conditions