Gardeners Dictionary: Isatis

Gardeners Dictionary:
containing The Best and Newest Methods of Cultivating and Improving The Kitchen, Fruit, Flower Garden, and Nursery; As also for Performing the Practical Parts of Agriculture: Including The Management of Vineyards, With the Methods of Making and Preserving Wine, According to the present Practice of The most skilful Vignerons in the several Wine Countries in Europe.

Together with Directions for propagating and improving, From real Practice and Experience, All sorts of Timber Trees.

The Eight Edition,
Revised and Altered according to the latest System of Botany; and Embellished with several Copper-Plates, which were not in some former Editions.

By Philip Miller, F. R. S.
Gardener tothe Worshipdul Company of Apothecaries, at their Botanic Garden in Chelsea, and Member of the Botanic Academy at Florence.

Printed for the Author;

(Lontoo 1768)

ISATIS. Tourn. Inst. R. H. 211. tab. 100. Lin. Gen. Plant. 738. Woad; in Frech, Pastel.

The empalement of the flower is composed of four oval coloured leaves, which spread open and fall away. The flower hath four oblong petals, placed in form of a cross, which are narrow at heir base, but broad and obtuse at their ends. It hath siz stamina, four of which are as long as the petals, the other two are shorter; these are terminated by oblong lateral summits. It has an oblong compressed germen, the length of the two shorter stamina, crowned by an obtuse stigma. The germen becomes an oblong compressed pod with one cell, opening with two valves, inclosing one oval compressed seed in the center.

The genus of plants is ranged in the second section of Linnæus's fifteenth class, intitled Tetradynamia Siliquosa, which includes the plants whose flowers have four long and two shorter stamina, and their seeds in pods.

The SPECIES are,

1. ISATIS (Tinctoria) foliis radicalibus oblongo-ovatis obtusis intergerrimis, caulinis sagittatis siliculis oblongis. Woad with oblong, oval, blunt, entire leaves at bottom, but those on the stalks arrow-pointed, and oblong pods. Isatis sativa vel latifolia. C. B. P. 133. Broad-leaved cultivated Woad.

2. ISATIS (Dalmatica) foliis radicalibus lanceolatis crenatis, caulinis lineari-sagittatis, siliculis brevioribus emarginatis. Woad with spear-shaped lower leaves which are slightly crenated, those on the stalks very narrow and arrow-pointed, and shorter indented pods. Isatis Dalmatica major. Bobart. Greater Woad of Dalmatia.

3. ISATIS (Lusitanica) foliis radicalibus crenatis, caulinis sagittatis, pedunculis subtomentosis. Lin. Sp. 936. Woad with crenated lower leaves, those on the stalks halbert-shaped, and the foot-stalks of the flowers woolly. Isatis sylvestris, minor Lusitanica. H. L. App. Smaller wild Portugal Woad.

4. ISATIS (Ægyptiaca) foliis omnibus dentatis. Lin. Sp. 937. Woad whose leaves are all indented.

The first sort is cultivated in several parts of England for the purposes of dyeing, this being used as a foundation for many of the dark colours.

This is a commodity well worth propagating in all places where the land is suitable for it, which must be a pretty strong soil, but not too moist.

The plant is biennial, in which it differs from the third and fourth sort, which are annual. The lower leaves of this are of an oblong oval figure, and pretty thick consistence, when growing in a proper soil; they are narrow at their base, but broad above, and end in obtuse roundih points, entire on their edges, and of a lucid green. The stalks rise near four feet high, diciding into several branches, garnished with arrow-shaped leaves, sitting close to the stalks; the ends of the branches are terminated by small yellow flowers, in very close clusters, which are composed of four small petals, placed in form of a cross; these are succeded by pods shaped like a bird's tongue, hald an inch long, and one eighth of an inch broad, which when ripe turn black, and open with two valves, having one cell, in which is situated a single seed. It flowers in July, and the seeds ripen the beginning of September.

The third sort has been supposed to be the same species as the first, only differing by culture; but I have porpagated both sorts more than forty years, and have not found either of them alter; there are also very essential differences between the two plants, particularly in the shape of the under leaves, which in the wild sort are narrow and spear-shaped, and those on the stalks are not more than half the breadth of those of the cultivated Woad. The stalks fo not branch so much, and the pods are narrower than those of the other sort, nor do the roots abide so long, for they generally die the same year.

The second sort grows naturally in Dalmatia; this is a biennial plant; the lower leaves are spear-shaped, and crenated on their edges, but those on the stalks are very narrow and arrow-pointed. The stalks branch more than those of the first sort, and rise higher. The flowers are larger, and of a brighter yellow colour. The seed-vessels are shorter, and broader at their ends, which are indented. Thse plants all flower in July, and their seeds ripen in September.

The fourth sort grows naturally in Egypt, and is an annual plant, which is too tender to thrive in the open air in England, therefore the seeds should be sown on a hot-bed in the spring; and when the plants are fit to remove they must be transplanted on a fresh hot-bed to bring them forward, but as soon as they have taken new root, they should have a large share of fresh air admitted to them daily, to prevent their being drawn up weak. In this bed they may remain five or six weeks, by which time they will be fit to transplant into pots, which should be carefully performed, not to let the earth fall from their roots; the pots should also be plunged into a moderate hot-bed, giving the plants plenty of air at all times when the weather will permit, and supporting their stalks, which will otherwise trail on the ground; with this management the plants will flower in June, and ripen their seeds in September.

The three last sorts are not cultivated for use, so are only preserved in botanic gardens for the sake of variety; the second and third sorts are propagated by seeds, which should be sown in autumn; and when the plants come up, they must be thinned, leaving them siz inches apart; afterward they must be kept clean from weeds: the summer following they will flower and produce ripe seeds, after which these sorts soon decay; the roots of the first sort will live another year. The first sort which is propagated for use, is sown upon fresh land which is in good heart, for which the cultivators of Woad pay a large rent; they generally chuse to have their land situated near great towns, where there is plenty of dressing, but they never stay long on the same spot, for the best ground will not admit of being sown with Woad more than twice; for if it is oftener repeated, the crop seldom pays the charges of culutre, &c.

Those who cultivate this commodity, have gangs of people, who have been bred to this employment, so that whole families travel about from place to place, wherever their principal fixes on land for the purpose; but these people go on in one track, just as their predecessors taught them; nor have their principals deviated much from the practice of their ancestors, so that there is a large field for improvement, if any of the cultivators of Woad were sersons of genius, and could be prevailed on to introduce the garden culture so far as it may be adapted to this plant; this I know from experience, having made numbers of trials in the culture of this plant, therefore I shall insert them here for the benefit of those who may have ingenuity enough to strike out of the old beaten track.

As the goodness of Woad confists in the size and samess of the leaves, the only method to obtain this, is by sowing the seed upon ground at a proper season, and allow the plants proper room to grow, as also to keep them clean from weeds; which, if permitted to grow, will rob the plants of their nourishment. The method practised by some of the most skilful kitchen-gardeners in the culture of Sinach, would be a great improvement to this plant, for some of them have improved the round-leaved Spinach so much by culture, as to have the leaves more than six times the size they were formerly; and their fatness has been in the same proportion, upon the same land, which has been effected by thinning of the plants when young, and keeping the ground constantly clean from weeds; but to return to the culture of Woad.

After having made choice of a proper spot of land, which should not be too light and sandy, nor over stiff and moist, but rather a gentle hazel loam, whose parts will easily separate: the next is to plough this up just before winter, laying it in narrow high ridges, that the frost may penetrate through the ridges, to mellow and soften the clods; then in the spring plough it again crossway, laying it again in narrow ridges; after it has lain some time in this manner, and the weeds begin to grow, it should be well harrowed to destroy them; this should be twice repeated while the weeds are young, and if there are any roots of large perennial weeds, they must be harrowed out, and carried off the ground. In June the ground should be a third time ploughed, when the furrows should be narrow, and the ground stirred as deep as the plough will go, that the parts may be as well separated as possible; and when the weeds appear again, the ground sjoul be well harrowed to destroy them. Toward the end of July, or the beginning of August, it should be ploughed the last time, when the land should be laid smooth, and when there is a prospect of showers, the ground must be harrowed to receive the seeds, which should be sown either in rows with the frill plough, or in broad-cast, after the common method; but it will be proper to steep the seeds one night in water before they are sown, which will prepare them for vegetation: if the seeds are sown in drills with a plough, they will be covered by an instrument fixed to the plough for that purpose; but those which are sown broad-cast in the common way, must be well harrowed in. If the seeds are good and the season favourable, the plants will appear in a forstnight, and in a month or five weeks after will be fit to hoe; for the sooner this is performed when the plants are distinguishable, the better they will thrive, and the weeds being then young, will be soon destoyed. The method of hoeing these plants is the same as for Turneps, with this difference only, that these plants need not be thinned so much; for at the first hoeing, if they are separated to the distance of three or four inches, and at the last to six inches, it will be space enough for the growth of the plants; if this is carefully performed, and in dry weather, most of the weeds will be destroyed: but as some of the may escape in this operation, and young weeds will arise, so the ground should be a second time hoed in October, always chusing a dry time for this work; at this second operation, the plants should be singled out to the distance they are to remain. After this the ground will be clean from weeds till the spring, when young weeds will come up, therefore about a fortnight in April will be a good time to hoe the ground again, when the weeds will be young, so may be performed in less than half the time it would require if the weeds were permitted to grow large, and the sun and wind will much sooner kill them; this hoeing will also stir the surface of the ground, and greatly promote the growth of the plants; if it is performed in dry weather, the ground will be clean till the first crop of Woad is gathered, after which it must be again well cleaned; if this is carefully repeated, after the gathering of each crop, the land will always lie clean, and the plants will thrive the better. The expence of the first hoeing will be about six shillings per acre; and for the after-hoeings half that price will be sufficient, provided they are performed when the weeds are young; for if they are suffered to grow large, it will require more labourm, nor can it be so well performed; therefore it is not only the best husbandry to do this work soon, but it will be found the cheapest method; for the same number of men will hoe a field of ten acres three times, when it is performed while the weeds are young, as is required to hoe it twice only; because the weeds have longer time to grow between operations.

If the land in which the seed is sown, should ave been in culture before for other crops, so not in good heart, it will require dressing before it is sown, in which cafe rotten stable dung is preferable to any other; but this should not be laid on till the last ploughing before the seeds are sown, and not spread but as the land is ploughed, that the sun may not exhale the goodness of it, which in summer is soon lost, when spread on the ground. The quantity should not be less than twenty loads to each acre, which will keep the ground in heart till the crop of Woad is spent.

The time for gathering the crop is according to the season, but it should be performed as soon as the leaves are fully grown, while they are perfectly green; for when they begin to change pale, great art of their goodness is over; for the quantity will be less, and the quality greatly diminished.

If the land is good, and the crop well husbanded, it will produce three or four gatherings, but the two fisrt are the best; there are commonly mixed together in the manufacturing of it, but the after-crops are always kept separate; for if these are mixed with the other, the whole will be of little value. The two first crops will be of little value. The two first crops will fell from twenty-five to thirty pounds a ton; but the latter will not bring more than seven or eight pounds, and sometimes not so much.

An acre of land will produce a ton of Woad, and in good seasons near a ton adn a half.

When the planters intend to save the seeds, they cut three crops of the leaves, and then let the plants stand till the next year for seed; but if only one crop is cut, and that only of the outer leaves, letting all the middle leaves stand to nourish the stalks, the plants will grow stronger, and produce a much greater quantity of seeds.

These seeds are often kept two years, but is is always best to sow new seeds when they can be obtained. The seeds ripen in August; when the pods turn to a dark colour, the seeds should be gathered; it is best done by reaping the stalks in the same manner as Wheat, spreading the stalks in rows upon the ground, and in four or five days the seeds will be fit to thresh out, provided the weather is dry; for if it lies long, the pods will open and let out the seeds.

There are some of the Woad planters who seed down the leaves in winter with sheep, which is a very bad method; for all plants which are to remain for a future crop, should never be eaten by cattle, for that greatly weakens the plants; therefore those who eat down their Wheat in winter with sheep are equally blameable.

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