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In laying out a seed-plot it is necessary that a soil of the very highest quality should be selected; for it is very often requisite that a nurse should be provided for the young plants, who is more ready to hamour them than their parent soil. The ground should therefore be both dry and nutritious, well turned up with the mattock, replete with hospitality to the stranger plants, and as nearly as possible resembling the soil to which it is intended they should be transplanted. But, a thing that is of primary importance, the stones must be carefully gathered from off the ground, and it should be walled in, to ensure its protection from the depredations of poultry; the soil too, should have as few chinks and crannies as possible, so that the sun may not be enabled to penetrate and burn up the roots. The young trees should be planted at distances1 of a foot and a-half; for if they happen to touch one another, in addition to other inconveniences, they are apt to breed worms; for which reason it is that they should be hoed as often as possible, and all weeds pulled up, the young plants themselves being carefully pruned, and so accustomed to the knife.

Cato2 recommends, too, that hurdles should be set up upon forks, the height of a man, for the purpose of intercepting the rays of the sun, and that they should be covered with straw to keep off the cold.3 He says that it is in this way that the seeds of the apple and the pear are reared, the pine-nut also, and the cypress,4 which is propagated from seed as well. In this last, the seed is remarkably5 small, so much so, in fact, as to be scarcely perceptible. It is a marvellous fact, and one which ought not to be overlooked, that a tree should be produced from sources so minute, while the grains of wheat and of barley are so very much larger, not to mention the bean. What proportion, too, is there between the apple and the pear tree, and the seeds from which they take their rise? It is from such beginnings, too, as these that springs the timber that is proof against the blows of the hatchet, presses6 that weights of enormous size even are unable to bend, masts that support the sails of ships, and battering-rams that are able to shake even towers and walls! Such is the might, such is the power that is displayed by Nature. But, a marvel that transcends all the rest, is the fact of a vegetable receiving its birth from a tear-like drop, as we shall have occasion to mention7 in the appropriate place.

To resume, however: the tiny balls which contain the seed are collected from the female cypress—for the male, as I have already8 stated, is barren. This is done in the months which I have previously9 mentioned, and they are then dried in the sun, upon which they soon burst, and the seed drops out, a substance of which the ants are remarkably fond; this fact, too, only serves to enhance the marvel, when we reflect that an insect so minute is able to destroy the first germ of a tree of such gigantic dimensions. The seed is sown in the month of April, the ground being first levelled with rollers, or else by means of rammers;10 after which the seed is thickly sown, and earth is spread upon it with a sieve, about a thumb deep. If laid beneath a considerable weight, the seed is unable to spring up, and is consequently thrown back again into the earth; for which reason it is often trodden only into the ground. It is then lightly watered after sunset every three days, that it may gradually imbibe the moisture until such time as it appears above ground. The young trees are transplanted at the end of a year, when about three-quarters of a foot in length, due care being taken to watch for a clear day with no wind, such being the best suited for the process of transplanting. It is a singular thing, but still it is a fact, that if, on the day of transplanting, and only that day, there is the slightest drop of rain or the least breeze stirring, it is attended with danger11 to the young trees; while for the future they are quite safe from peril, though at the same time they have a great aversion to all humidity.12 The jujube-tree13 is propagated from seed sown in the month of April. As to the tuber,14 it is the best plan to graft it upon the wild plum, the quince, and the calabrix,15 this last being the name that is given to a wild thorn. Every kind of thorn, too, will receive grafts remarkably well from the myxa plum,16 as well as from the sorb.

(11.) As to recommending transferring the young plants from the seed-plot to another spot before finally planting them out, I look upon it as advice that would only lead to so much unnecessary trouble, although it is most confidently urged that by this process the leaves are sure to be considerably larger than they otherwise would.

1 The distance, in reality, ought to vary according to the nature and species of the trees, and the height they are to be allowed to attain.

2 De Re Rust. 48.

3 These precautions are not looked upon as necessary for the indigenous trees at the present day. For the first year, however, Fée says, the hurdles night be found very useful.

4 As the young cypress is very delicate, in the northern climates, Fee says, this mode of protecting it in the nursery might prove advantageous.

5 There is some exaggeration in this account of the extreme smallness of the seed of the cypress.

6 Wine and oil-presses, for instance.

7 B. xix. c. 48, and B. xx. c. 11. As Fée remarks, this is a fabulous assertion, which may still be based upon truth; as in gum-resin, for instance, we find occasionally the seeds of the parent tree accidentally enclosed in the tear-like drops.

8 In B. xvi. c. 47.

9 In c. 11 of this Book.

10 "Volgiolis." This word is found nowhere else, and the reading is doubtful.

11 This is, at least, an exaggeration.

12 See B. xvi. c. 31, and c. 60.

13 It is propagated at the present day both from seed and suckers, but mostly from the latter, as the seed does not germinate for two years.

14 See B. xv. c. 14. Probably a variety of the jujube; but if so, it could hardly be grafted on trees of so different a nature as those here mentioned.

15 This tree has not been identified. Dalechamps thinks that it is a species of gooseberry, probably the sane as the Ribes grossularia of Linnæus. It has been also suggested that it may be the Spina cervina of the Italians, the Rhamnus catharticus of Linnæus, the purgative buckthorn.

16 Fée doubts if the plum can be grafted on the thorn.

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