The culture of Pine-apples is attended with a heavier expense than that of any other fruit under glass, especially if they be grown in lofty stoves; but, independent of this, pine-apples may certainly be produced in as great perfection, if not greater, and with infinitely less trouble and risk, in fluid pits, if properly constructed than in any other way.
The pinery should, therefore, be detached from the other forcing-houses, and consists of three pits in a range; one for crowns and suckers, one for succession, and one for fruiting plants. The fruiting pit to be placed in the centre, and the other two right and left, forming a range of one hundred feet in length, which would give pine-apples enough for a large family.
The fruiting pit to be forty feet long, and ten wide, over walls; and each of the others to be thirty feet long and nine feet wide also over walls. The breast-wail of the whole to be on a line, and to be eighteen inches above ground. The back-wall of the centre one to be five feet. and of the others to be four and a half feet higher than the front. The front and end flues to be separated from the bark bed by a three inch cavity, and the back flues to be raised above its level.
The furnaces may either be placed in front or at the back, according to convenience: but the strength of the heat should be first exhausted in front, and should return in the back flues. the fruiting pit would require two small furnaces in order to diffuse the beat regularly, and keep up proper temperature in winter; one to be placed at each end, and either to play first in front and return in the back; but the flues to be above, and not alongside of one another. The under one to be considered merely as an auxiliary flue, as it would be wanted occasionally. None of these flues need be more than five or six inches wide, and nine or ten deep. Nor need the furnaces be so large, by a third or a fourth part, as those for large forcing houses; because there should be proper oil-cloth covers for the whole, as guards against severe weather, which would be a great saving of fuel. The depth of the pits should be regulated so that the average depth of the bark-beds may be a yard below the level of the front flues, as to that level the bark will generally settle, although made as high as their surfaces when new stirred up. If leaves, or a mixture of leaves with dung, are to be used instead of bark, the pits will require to be a foot or half a yard deeper.
The culture of this plant generally commences in a common hot-bed frame, heated by dung; at the end of six or nine months it is removed to a larger framed hot-bed or pit, generally called a succession-bed, and after remaining here from three to twelve months, it is removed to its final destination, the fruiting-bed. Here it shows its fruit, continues in a growing state during a period of from six to twelve months, according to the variety grown, mode of culture, etc., and finally ripens its fruit and dies, leaving the crown or terminal shoot of the fruit, and one or more suckers or side-shoots as successors. The production of a single pine-apple, therefore, requires a course of exotic culture, varying from eighteen months to three years.
The pine-apple plant will grow in any sort of rich earth taken from a quarter of the kitchen garden, or in fresh sandy loam taken from a common pastured with sheep, etc. If the earth be not of a rich, sandy quality, of darkish color, it should be mixed well with some perfectly rotten dung and sand, and if a little vegetable mould is put with it, it will do it good, and also a little soot. Though pine-plants will grow in earth of the strongest texture, yet they grow most freely in good sandy loam not of a binding quality.
Pines do not require so strong a bottom-heat as many keep them in, yet there is something in a mild tan-heat so congenial to their natures, that they thrive much better in pots plunged in a bark bed, if properly managed, than when planted out on a bed of earth that is heated, and often scorched by under-flues. The tan or bark-pile are, therefore, essential to the pinery. Bark-pits are filled with tan which has previously undergone a course of draining and sweating. The heat thus produced will last from three to six months, when it is sifted and again put in a state of fermentation, by replacing the deficiency occasioned by decay, and a separation of the dust by sifting with new tan. In this way the bark-bed is obliged to be stirred, turned, refreshed, or even renewed, several times a year, so as to produce and retain at all times a bottom-heat of from 75 to 86 in each of the three departments of pine culture.
The pine is generally propagated by crowns and suckers, though, in common with every other plant, it may be propagated by seed.
When the fruit is served at table, the crown is to be detached by a gentle twist, and returned to the gardener, if it be wanted for a new plant. Fruit stalk suckers are taken off at the same period. Suckers at the base of the herb are commonly fit for separation when the fruit is mature; though, if the stool be vigorous, they may be left on for a month after the fruit is cut, the stool receiving plentiful waterings on their account. the fitness of a sucker to be removed is indicated, at the lower part of the leaves, by a brownish tint, on the appearance of which, if the lower leaf be broken off, the sucker is easily displanted by the thumb.
If the old fruiting-plant offers only small bottom suckers, or fails to furnish any, good suckers may be thus brought out: having waited till the fruit is cut, take the old plant in its pot out of the bark-bed; strip off the underleaves near the root, and with the knife cut away the leaves to six inches from the bottom. Take out some of the stale mould from the pot, fill up with fresh, and give a little water. Plunge the old plant info a bed with a good growing heat. Let the routine culture not be neglected, and the old plants will soon send out good suckers; allow these to grow till they are four inches long or more, and on the signs of fitness detach them.
As soon as either crowns or suckers are detached, twist off some of the leaves about the base; the vacancy thus made at the bottom of the stem is to favor the emission of roots. Pare the stump smooth; then lay the intended plants on a shelf in a shaded part of the stove or any dry apartment. Let crowns and fruit off-sets lie till the part that adhered to the fruit is perfectly healed; and root suckers in the same manner till the part which was united to the old stock is become dry and firm. they will be fit to plant in five or six days.
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