Chicory is grown as a salad crop and is forced in the dark. This particular chicory should not be confused with the Magdeburg chicory that has thick roots, which are roasted and blended with coffee, nor is it the form that is found in hedgerows and herbaceous borders.
Chicory does best in soil that is rich, light and loamy but can be grown in other soil if it is well manured and enriched with organic matter during the spring. The ground should be forked over lightly then trodden firm, an application of fish manure is then added with 6 per cent potash content at 3 oz. (90g) to the sq. yd. Give a lime dressing 6 oz. (180g) to the sq. yd., if the soil is not already chalky.
It is generally sown in May in the north but June in the south. Sow the seed thinly in drills 1 in. (25mm) deep in rows that are 1 ½ ft. (45cm) apart. About three weeks after sowing begin to thin out the seedlings so that they have 1 ft. (30cm) between each plant.
Keep down the weeds with a hoe and to ensure that the surface soil is fine to deter weeds. The roots are lifted in October, November and December for forcing. Store the roots in a frost proof shed and in the following few weeks force a few at a time.
To force the chicory, cut off the tops to within an inch of the crown; then pot up 2 to 3 in. (50mm-76mm) apart in any fine soil. This is best done by inserting about 4 roots, to an 8 in. (203mm) pot with the crowns 1 in. (25mm) above the soil. The pots need to be kept at a constant temperature of 50 deg F. (10 deg C.) Place an upturned pot of the same size over the top but the drainage hole of this pot must be bunged up to prevent any light entering. The point of this is to encourage the plants to grow again so that they produce fine hearts of pale leaves, known as "chicons". Wait until these are about 6 in. long then cut them for they will be ready to use; this period of forcing will take about 3 to 5 weeks. To maintain a succession of "chicons" over the winter, pot a dozen or so roots every week. If the roots are left in the pots after cutting, they will throw up more leaves but these will not have a heart, even so they can still be used. However after two cuttings the roots will be finished.
Terry Blackburn. Internet Marketing Consultant, living in South Shields in the North-East of England. Author and Producer of blog http://www.lawnsurgeon.blogspot.com. Author of "Your Perfect Lawn," a 90 Page eBook devoted to Lawn Preparation, Lawn Care and Maintenance. Find it at http://www.lawnsurgeon.com
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