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HOME VEGETABLE GARDENING
A COMPLETE AND PRACTICAL GUIDE
TO THE PLANTING AND CARE OF ALL
VEGETABLES, FRUITS AND BERRIES
WORTH GROWING FOR HOME USE
F. F. ROCKWELL
Author of _Around the Year in the Garden_, _Gardening Indoors and Under Glass_,
_The Key to the Land,_ etc., etc.
With some, the home vegetable garden is a hobby; with others, especially in these days of high prices, a great help. There are many in both classes whose experience in gardening has been restricted within very narrow bounds, and whose present spare time for gardening is limited. It is as “first aid” to such persons, who want to do practical, efficient gardening, and do it with the least possible fuss and loss of time, that this book is written. In his own experience the author has found that garden books, while seldom lacking in information, often do not present it in the clearest possible way. It has been his aim to make the present volume first of all practical, and in addition to that, though comprehensive, yet simple and concise. If it helps to make the way of the home gardener more clear and definite, its purpose will have been accomplished.
II WHY YOU SHOULD GARDEN
III REQUISITES OF THE HOME VEGETABLE GARDEN IV THE PLANTING PLAN
V IMPLEMENTS AND THEIR USES
VI MANURES AND FERTILIZERS
VII THE SOIL AND ITS PREPARATION
VIII STARTING THE PLANTS
IX SOWING AND PLANTING
X THE CULTIVATION OF VEGETABLES
XI THE VEGETABLES AND THEIR SPECIAL NEEDS XII BEST VARIETIES OF THE GARDEN VEGETABLES XIII INSECTS AND DISEASE, AND METHODS OF FIGHTING THEM XIV HARVESTING AND STORING
XV THE VARIETIES OF POME AND STONE FRUITS XVI PLANTING; CULTIVATION; FILLER CROPS XVII PRUNING, SPRAYING, HARVESTING
XVIII BERRIES AND SMALL FRUITS
XIX A CALENDAR OF OPERATIONS
Formerly it was the custom for gardeners to invest their labors and achievements with a mystery and secrecy which might well have discouraged any amateur from trespassing upon such difficult ground. “Trade secrets” in either flower or vegetable growing were acquired by the apprentice only through practice and observation, and in turn jealously guarded by him until passed on to some younger brother in the profession. Every garden operation was made to seem a wonderful and difficult undertaking. Now, all that has changed. In fact the pendulum has swung, as it usually does, to the other extreme. Often, if you are a beginner, you have been flatteringly told in print that you could from the beginning do just as well as the experienced gardener.
My garden friend, it cannot, as a usual thing, be done. Of course, it may happen and sometimes does. You _might_, being a trusting lamb, go down into Wall Street with $10,000 [Ed. Note: all monetary values throughout the book are 1911 values] and make a fortune. You know that you would not be likely to; the chances are very much against you. This garden business is a matter of common sense; and the man, or the woman, who has learned by experience how to do a thing, whether it is cornering the market or growing cabbages, naturally does it better than the one who has not. Do not expect the impossible. If you do, read a poultry advertisement and go into the hen business instead of trying to garden. I _have_ grown pumpkins that necessitated the tearing down of the fence in order to get them out of the lot, and sometimes, though not frequently, have had to use the axe to cut through a stalk of asparagus, but I never “made $17,000 in ten months from an eggplant in a city back-yard.” No, if you are going to take up gardening, you will have to work, and you will have a great many disappointments. All that I, or anyone else, could put between the two covers of a book will not make a gardener of you. It must be learned through the fingers, and back, too, as well as from the printed page. But, after all, the greatest reward for your efforts will be the work itself; and unless you love the work, or have a feeling that you will love it, probably the best way for you, is to stick to the grocer for your garden.
Most things, in the course of development, change from the simple to the complex. The art of gardening has in many ways been an exception to the rule. The methods of culture used for many crops are more simple than those in vogue a generation ago. The last fifty years has seen also a tremendous advance in the varieties of vegetables, and the strange thing is that in many instances the new and better sorts are more easily and quickly grown than those they have replaced. The new lima beans are an instance of what is meant. While limas have always been appreciated as one of the most delicious of vegetables, in many sections they could never be successfully grown, because of their aversion to dampness and cold, and of the long season required to mature them. The newer sorts are not only larger and better, but hardier and earlier; and the bush forms have made them still more generally available.
Knowledge on the subject of gardening is also more widely diffused than ever before, and the science of photography has helped wonderfully in telling the newcomer how to do things. It has also lent an impetus and furnished an inspiration which words alone could never have done. If one were to attempt to read all the gardening instructions and suggestions being published, he would have no time left to practice gardening at all. Why then, the reader may ask at this point, another garden book? It is a pertinent question, and it is right that an answer be expected in advance. The reason, then, is this: while there are garden books in plenty, most of them pay more attention to the “content” than to the form in which it is laid before the prospective gardener. The material is often presented as an accumulation of detail, instead of by a systematic and constructive plan which will take the reader step by step through the work to be done, and make clear constantly both the principles and the practice of garden making and management, and at the same time avoid every digression unnecessary from the practical point of view. Other books again, are either so elementary as to be of little use where gardening is done without gloves, or too elaborate, however accurate and worthy in other respects, for an every-day working manual. The author feels, therefore, that there is a distinct field for the present book.
And, while I still have the reader by the “introduction” buttonhole, I want to make a suggestion or two about using a book like this. Do not, on the one hand, read it through and then put it away with the dictionary and the family Bible, and trust to memory for the instruction it may give; do not, on the other hand, wait until you think it is time to plant a thing, and then go and look it up. For instance, do not, about the middle of May, begin investigating how many onion seeds to put in a hill; you will find out that they should have been put in, in drills, six weeks before. Read the whole book through carefully at your first opportunity, make a list of the things you should do for your own vegetable garden, and put opposite them the proper dates for your own vicinity. Keep this available, as a working guide, and refer to special matters as you get to them.
Do not feel discouraged that you cannot be promised immediate success at the start. I know from personal experience and from the experience of others that “book-gardening” is a practical thing. If you do your work carefully and thoroughly, you may be confident that a very great measure of success will reward the efforts of your first garden season.
And I know too, that you will find it the most entrancing game you ever played.
Good luck to you!
WHY YOU SHOULD GARDEN
There are more reasons to-day than ever before why the owner of a small place should have his, or her, own vegetable garden. The days of home weaving, home cheese-making, home meat-packing, are gone. With a thousand and one other things that used to be made or done at home, they have left the fireside and followed the factory chimney. These things could be turned over to machinery. The growing of vegetables cannot be so disposed of. Garden tools have been improved, but they are still the same old one-man affairs–doing one thing, one row at a time. Labor is still the big factor–and that, taken in combination with the cost of transporting and handling such perishable stuff as garden produce, explains why _the home gardener can grow his own vegetables at less expense than he can buy them_. That is a good fact to remember.
But after all, I doubt if most of us will look at the matter only after consulting the columns of the household ledger. The big thing, the salient feature of home gardening is not that we may get our vegetables ten per cent. cheaper, but that we can have them one hundred per cent. better. Even the long-keeping sorts, like squash, potatoes and onions, are very perceptibly more delicious right from the home garden, fresh from the vines or the ground; but when it comes to peas, and corn, and lettuce,–well, there is absolutely nothing to compare with the home garden ones, gathered fresh, in the early slanting sunlight, still gemmed with dew, still crisp and tender and juicy, ready to carry every atom of savory quality, without loss, to the dining table. Stale, flat and unprofitable indeed, after these have once been tasted, seem the limp, travel-weary, dusty things that are jounced around to us in the butcher’s cart and the grocery wagon. It is not in price alone that home gardening pays. There is another point: the market gardener has to grow the things that give the biggest yield. He has to sacrifice quality to quantity. You do not. One cannot buy Golden Bantam corn, or Mignonette lettuce, or Gradus peas in most markets. They are top quality, but they do not fill the market crate enough times to the row to pay the commercial grower. If you cannot afford to keep a professional gardener there is only one way to have the best vegetables–grow your own!
And this brings us to the third, and what may be the most important reason why you should garden. It is the cheapest, healthiest, keenest pleasure there is. Give me a sunny garden patch in the golden springtime, when the trees are picking out their new gowns, in all the various self-colored delicate grays and greens–strange how beautiful they are, in the same old unchanging styles, isn’t it?–give me seeds to watch as they find the light, plants to tend as they take hold in the fine, loose, rich soil, and you may have the other sports. And when you have grown tired of their monotony, come back in summer to even the smallest garden, and you will find in it, every day, a new problem to be solved, a new campaign to be carried out, a new victory to win.
Better food, better health, better living–all these the home garden offers you in abundance. And the price is only the price of every worth-while thing–honest, cheerful patient work.
But enough for now of the dream garden. Put down your book. Put on your old togs, light your pipe–some kind-hearted humanitarian should devise for women such a kindly and comforting vice as smoking–and let’s go outdoors and look the place over, and pick out the best spot for that garden-patch of yours.
REQUISITES OF THE HOME VEGETABLE GARDEN
In deciding upon the site for the home vegetable garden it is well to dispose once and for all of the old idea that the garden “patch” must be an ugly spot in the home surroundings. If thoughtfully planned, carefully planted and thoroughly cared for, it may be made a beautiful and harmonious feature of the general scheme, lending a touch of comfortable homeliness that no shrubs, borders, or beds can ever produce.
With this fact in mind we will not feel restricted to any part of the premises merely because it is out of sight behind the barn or garage. In the average moderate-sized place there will not be much choice as to land. It will be necessary to take what is to be had and then do the very best that can be done with it. But there will probably be a good deal of choice as to, first, exposure, and second, convenience. Other things being equal, select a spot near at hand, easy of access. It may seem that a difference of only a few hundred yards will mean nothing, but if one is depending largely upon spare moments for working in and for watching the garden–and in the growing of many vegetables the latter is almost as important as the former–this matter of convenient access will be of much greater importance than is likely to be at first recognized. Not until you have had to make a dozen time-wasting trips for forgotten seeds or tools, or gotten your feet soaking wet by going out through the dew-drenched grass, will you realize fully what this may mean.
But the thing of first importance to consider in picking out the spot that is to yield you happiness and delicious vegetables all summer, or even for many years, is the exposure. Pick out the “earliest” spot you can find–a plot sloping a little to the south or east, that seems to catch sunshine early and hold it late, and that seems to be out of the direct path of the chilling north and northeast winds. If a building, or even an old fence, protects it from this direction, your garden will be helped along wonderfully, for an early start is a great big factor toward success. If it is not already protected, a board fence, or a hedge of some low-growing shrubs or young evergreens, will add very greatly to its usefulness. The importance of having such a protection or shelter is altogether underestimated by the amateur.
The chances are that you will not find a spot of ideal garden soil ready for use anywhere upon your place. But all except the very worst of soils can be brought up to a very high degree of productiveness– especially such small areas as home vegetable gardens require. Large tracts of soil that are almost pure sand, and others so heavy and mucky that for centuries they lay uncultivated, have frequently been brought, in the course of only a few years, to where they yield annually tremendous crops on a commercial basis. So do not be discouraged about your soil. Proper treatment of it is much more important, and a garden- patch of average run-down,–or “never-brought-up” soil–will produce much more for the energetic and careful gardener than the richest spot will grow under average methods of cultivation.
The ideal garden soil is a “rich, sandy loam.” And the fact cannot be overemphasized that such soils usually are made, not found. Let us analyze that description a bit, for right here we come to the first of the four all-important factors of gardening–food. The others are cultivation, moisture and temperature. “Rich” in the gardener’s vocabulary means full of plant food; more than that–and this is a point of vital importance–it means full of plant food ready to be used at once, all prepared and spread out on the garden table, or rather in it, where growing things can at once make use of it; or what we term, in one word, “available” plant food. Practically no soils in long- inhabited communities remain naturally rich enough to produce big crops. They are made rich, or kept rich, in two ways; first, by cultivation, which helps to change the raw plant food stored in the soil into available forms; and second, by manuring or adding plant food to the soil from outside sources.
“Sandy” in the sense here used, means a soil containing enough particles of sand so that water will pass through it without leaving it pasty and sticky a few days after a rain; “light” enough, as it is called, so that a handful, under ordinary conditions, will crumble and fall apart readily after being pressed in the hand. It is not necessary that the soil be sandy in appearance, but it should be friable.
“Loam: a rich, friable soil,” says Webster. That hardly covers it, but it does describe it. It is soil in which the sand and clay are in proper proportions, so that neither greatly predominate, and usually dark in color, from cultivation and enrichment. Such a soil, even to the untrained eye, just naturally looks as if it would grow things. It is remarkable how quickly the whole physical appearance of a piece of well cultivated ground will change. An instance came under my notice last fall in one of my fields, where a strip containing an acre had been two years in onions, and a little piece jutting off from the middle of this had been prepared for them just one season. The rest had not received any extra manuring or cultivation. When the field was plowed up in the fall, all three sections were as distinctly noticeable as though separated by a fence. And I know that next spring’s crop of rye, before it is plowed under, will show the lines of demarcation just as plainly.
This, then, will give you an idea of a good garden soil. Perhaps in yours there will be too much sand, or too much clay. That will be a disadvantage, but one which energy and perseverance will soon overcome to a great extent–by what methods may be learned in Chapter VIII.
There is, however, one other thing you must look out for in selecting your garden site, and that is drainage. Dig down eight or twelve inches after you have picked out a favorable spot, and examine the sub-soil. This is the second strata, usually of different texture and color from the rich surface soil, and harder than it. If you find a sandy or gravelly bed, no matter how yellow and poor it looks, you have chosen the right spot. But if it be a stiff, heavy clay, especially a blue clay, you will have either to drain it or be content with a very late garden–that is, unless you are at the top of a knoll or on a slope. Chapter VII contains further suggestions in regard to this problem.
There was a further reason for, mentioning that strip of onion ground. It is a very practical illustration of what last year’s handling of the soil means to this year’s garden. If you can pick out a spot, even if it is not the most desirable in other ways, that has been well enriched or cultivated for a year or two previous, take that for this year’s garden. And in the meantime have the spot on which you intend to make your permanent vegetable garden thoroughly “fitted,” and grow there this year a crop of potatoes or sweet corn, as suggested in Chapter IX. Then next year you will have conditions just right to give your vegetables a great start.
There are other things of minor importance but worth considering, such as the shape of your garden plot, for instance. The more nearly rectangular, the more convenient it will be to work and the more easily kept clean and neat. Have it large enough, or at least open on two ends, so that a horse can be used in plowing and harrowing. And if by any means you can have it within reach of an adequate supply of water, that will be a tremendous help in seasons of protracted drought. Then again, if you have ground enough, lay off two plots so that you can take advantage of the practice of rotation, alternating grass, potatoes or corn with the vegetable garden. Of course it is possible to practice crop rotation to some extent within the limits of even the small vegetable garden, but it will be much better, if possible, to rotate the entire garden-patch.
All these things, then, one has to keep in mind in picking the spot best suited for the home vegetable garden. It should be, if possible, of convenient access; it should have a warm exposure and be well enriched, well worked-up soil, not too light nor too heavy, and by all means well drained. If it has been thoroughly cultivated for a year or two previous, so much the better. If it is near a supply of water, so situated that it can be at least plowed and harrowed with a horse, and large enough to allow the garden proper to be shifted every other year or two, still more the better.
Fill all of these requirements that you can, and then by taking full advantage of the advantages you have, you can discount the disadvantages. After all it is careful, persistent work, more than natural advantages, that will tell the story; and a good garden does _not_ grow–it is made.
THE PLANTING PLAN
Having selected the garden spot, the next consideration, naturally, is what shall be planted in it.
The old way was to get a few seed catalogues, pick out a list of the vegetables most enthusiastically described by the (wholly disinterested) seedsman, and then, when the time came, to put them in at one or two plantings, and sowing each kind as far as the seed would go. There is a better way–a way to make the garden produce more, to yield things when you want them, and in the proper proportions.
All these advantages, you may suppose, must mean more work. On the contrary, however, the new way makes very much less work and makes results a hundred per cent. more certain. It is not necessary even that more thought be put upon the garden, but forethought there must be. Forethought, however, is much more satisfactory than hind-thought.
In the new way of gardening there are four great helps, four things that will be of great assistance to the experienced gardener, and that are indispensable to the success of the beginner. They are the Planting Plan, the Planting Table, the Check List and the Garden Record.
Do not become discouraged at the formidable sound of that paragraph and decide that after all you do not want to fuss so much over your garden; that you are doing it for the fun of the thing anyway, and such intricate systems will not be worth bothering with. The purpose of those four garden helps is simply to make your work less and your returns more. You might just as well refuse to use a wheel hoe because the trowel was good enough for your grandmother’s garden, as to refuse to take advantage of the modern garden methods described in this chapter. Without using them to some extent, or in some modified form, you can never know just what you are doing with your garden or what improvements to make next year. Of course, each of the plans or lists suggested here is only one of many possible combinations. You should be able to find, or better still to construct, similar ones better suited to your individual taste, need and opportunity. That, however, does not lessen the necessity of using some such system. It is just as necessary an aid to the maximum efficiency in gardening as are modern tools. Do not fear that you will waste time on the planting plan. Master it and use it, for only so can you make your garden time count for most in producing results. In the average small garden there is a very large percentage of waste–for two weeks, more string beans than can be eaten or given away; and then, for a month, none at all, for instance. You should determine ahead as nearly as possible how much of each vegetable your table will require and then try to grow enough of each for a continuous supply, and no more. It is just this that the planting plan enables you to do.
I shall describe, as briefly as possible, forms of the planting plan, planting table, check list and record, which I have found it convenient to use.
To make the Planting Plan take a sheet of white paper and a ruler and mark off a space the shape of your garden–which should be rectangular if possible–using a scale of one-quarter or one-eighth inch to the foot. Rows fifty feet long will be found a convenient length for the average home garden. In a garden where many varieties of things are grown it will be best to run the rows the short way of the piece. We will take a fifty-foot row for the purpose of illustration, though of course it can readily be changed in proportion where rows of that length can not conveniently be made. In a very small garden it will be better to make the row, say, twenty-five feet long, the aim being always to keep the row a unit and have as few broken ones as possible, and still not to have to plant more of any one thing than will be needed.
In assigning space for the various vegetables several things should be kept in mind in order to facilitate planting, replanting and cultivating the garden. These can most quickly be realized by a glance at the plan illustrated herewith. You will notice that crops that remain several years–rhubarb and asparagus–are kept at one end. Next come such as will remain a whole season–parsnips, carrots, onions and the like. And finally those that will be used for a succession of crops–peas, lettuce, spinach. Moreover, tall-growing crops, like pole beans, are kept to the north of lower ones. In the plan illustrated the space given to each variety is allotted according to the proportion in which they are ordinarily used. If it happens that you have a special weakness for peas, or your mother-in-law an aversion to peppers, keep these tastes and similar ones in mind when laying out your planting plan.
Do not leave the planning of your garden until you are ready to put the seeds in the ground and then do it all in a rush. Do it in January, as soon as you have received the new year’s catalogues and when you have time to study over them and look up your record of the previous year. Every hour spent on the plan will mean several hours saved in the garden.
The Planting Table is the next important system in the business of gardening, especially for the beginner. In it one can see at a glance all the details of the particular treatment each vegetable requires– when to sow, how deep, how far apart the rows should be, etc. I remember how many trips from garden to house to hunt through catalogues for just such information I made in my first two seasons’ gardening. How much time, just at the very busiest season of the whole year, such a table would have saved!
—————————————————— 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 —————————————————–| 0| |PA| | |
| RHUBARB-2 |RS| | SEED BED | | |LE|??| |
5| |Y | | |
|————————————————-| | ASPARAGUS-2 |
10|————————————————-| | |
| POLE BEANS-2 | 15|————————————————-| | TOMATOES-1 |
|————————————————-| 20| CABBAGE EARLY-1 |
| LATE -1 |
|————————————————-| 25| BROCCOLI-1 | BRUSSELS SPROUTS-1 | | PEPPERS-1 | EGG PLANT-1 | |————————————————-| 30| CELERY-1 |
|————————————————-| | |
35| ONIONS-5-1/2 | | LEEKS-1/2 |
|————————————————-| 40| |
| CARROTS-4 |
|————————————————-| 45| |
| BEETS-4 |
|————————————————-| 50| TURNIPS-1-1/2 | RUTABAGA-1/2 | | PARSNIPS-1 |
|————————————————-| 55| |
60| CORN-4 |
|————————————————-| 70| |
75| PEAS-4 |
80|————————————————-| | |
| BUSH BEANS-3 | 85|————————————————-| | |
| LETTUCE-2 |
90| ONION SETS-1 | ENDIVE-1 | |————————————————-| | MUSKMELONS-6 HILLS | CUCUMBERS-7 HILLS | 95|————————————————-| | | |
| PUMPKINS-4H | WATERMELONS-5H | 100| | |
|————————————————-| | | SUMMER SQUASH, BUSH-8H | 105| WINTER SQUASH-5H | |
| | SUMMER SQUASH, VINE-5H | | | |
A typical Planting Plan. The scale measurements at the left and top indicate the length and distance apart of rows. [ED. Distances are approximate, due to typing line constraints.]
The Planting Table prepared for one’s own use should show, besides the information given, the varieties of each vegetable which experience has proved best adapted to one’s own needs. The table shown herewith gives such a list; varieties which are for the most part standard favorites and all of which, with me, have proven reliable, productive and of good quality. Other good sorts will be found described in Part Two. Such a table should be mounted on cardboard and kept where it may readily be referred to at planting time.
The Check List is the counterpart of the planting table, so arranged that its use will prevent anything from being overlooked or left until too late. Prepare it ahead, some time in January, when you have time to think of everything. Make it up from your planting table and from the previous year’s record. From this list it will be well to put down on a sheet of paper the things to be done each month (or week) and cross them off as they are attended to. Without some such system it is almost a certainty that you will overlook some important things.
The Garden Record is no less important. It may be kept in the simplest sort of way, but be sure to keep it. A large piece of paper ruled as follows, for instance, will require only a few minutes’ attention each week and yet will prove of the greatest assistance in planning the garden next season.
VEGETABLE GARDEN RECORD–1910
————-|—————|——–|——–|———————- VEGETABLE |VARIETY | PUT IN | READY | NOTES ————-|—————|——–|——–|———————- Beans, dwarf |Red Valentine | May 10 | July 6 | Not best quality. Try | | | | other earlies |Golden Wax | May 15 | July 22| Rusted. Spray next | | | | year
Bean, pole |Old Homestead | May 16 | July 26| Too many. 6 poles | | | | next year
|Early Leviathan| May 25 | Aug. 19| Good. Dry. Bean, lima |Fordhook | May 15 | | Rotted. Try May 25 Beet |Egyptian | Apr. 10| June 12| Roots sprangled |Eclipse | Apr. 10| June 14| Better quality Cabbage |Wakefield | Apr. 9 | June 20| Injured by worms. | | | |Hellebore next year Etc., etc. | | | |
The above shows how such a record will be kept. Of course, only the first column is written in ahead. I want to emphasize in passing, however, the importance of putting down your data on the day you plant, or harvest, or notice anything worth recording. If you let it go until tomorrow it is very apt to be lacking next year.
Try these four short-cuts to success, even if you have had a garden before. They will make a big difference in your garden; less work and greater results.
Jan. 1st–Send for catalogues. Make planting plan and table. Order seeds.
Feb. 1st–Inside: cabbage, cauliflower, first sowing. Onions for plants.
Feb. 15th–Inside: lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, beets.
March 1st–Inside: lettuce, celery, tomato (early).
March 15th–Inside: lettuce, tomato (main), eggplant, pepper, lima beans, cucumber, squash; sprout potatoes in sand.
April 1st–Inside: cauliflower (on sods), muskmelon, watermelon, corn. Outside: (seed-bed) celery, cabbage, lettuce. Onions, carrots, smooth peas, spinach, beets, chard, parsnip, turnip, radish. Lettuce, cabbage (plants).
May 1st–Beans, corn, spinach, lettuce, radish.
May 15th–Beans, limas, muskmelon, watermelon, summer squash, peas, potatoes, lettuce, radish, tomato (early), corn, limas, melon, cucumber and squash (plants). Pole-lima, beets, corn, kale, winter squash, pumpkin, lettuce, radish.
June 1st–Beans, carrots, corn, cucumber, peas, summer spinach, summer lettuce, radish, egg-plant, pepper, tomato (main plants).
June 15th–Beans, corn, peas, turnip, summer lettuce, radish, late cabbage, and tomato plants.
July 1st–Beans, endive, kale, lettuce, radish, winter cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and celery plants.
July 15th–Beans, early corn, early peas, lettuce, radish.
Aug. 1st–Early peas, lettuce, radish.
Aug. 15th–Early peas, lettuce, radish in seed-bed, forcing lettuce for fall in frames.
Sept. 1st–Lettuce, radish, spinach and onions for wintering over.
NOTE.–This list is for planting only (the dates are approximate: see note I at the end of the chapter). Spraying and other garden operations may also be included in such a list. See “Calendar of Operations” at end of book.
DEPTH TO -DISTANCE APART- VEGETABLE PLANT SOW–INs. SEEDS ROWS
I. CROPS REMAINING ENTIRE SEASON
Asparagus, seed April-May 1 2-4 in. 15 in. Asparagus, plants April 4 1 ft. 3 ft. Bean, pole May 15-June 10 2 3 ft. 3 ft. Bean, lima May 20-June 10 2 3 ft. 3 ft. Beet, late April-August 2 3-4 in. 15 in. Carrot, late May-July 1/2-1 2-3 in. 15 in. Corn, late May 20-July 10 2 3 ft. 4 ft. Cucumber May 10-July 15 1 4 ft. 4 ft. Egg-plant, plants June 1-20 .. 2 ft. 30 in. Leek April .. 2-4 in. 15 in. Melon, musk May 15-June 15 1 4 ft. 4 ft. Melon, water May 15-June 15 1 6-8 ft. 6-8 ft. Onion April 1/2-1 2-4 in. 15 in. Okra May 15-June 15 1/2-1 2 ft. 3 ft. Parsley April-May 1/2 4-6 in. 1 ft. Parsnip April 1/2-1 3-5 in. 18 in. Pepper, seed June 1st 1/2 3-6 in. 15 in. Pepper, plants June 1-20 .. 2 ft. 30 in. Potatoes, main April 15-June 20 4-6 13 in. 30 in. Pumpkins May 1-June 20 1-2 6-8 ft. 6-8 ft. Rhubarb, plants April .. 2-3 ft. 3 ft. Salsify April-May 1 3-6 in. 18 in. Squash, summer May 15-July 1 1-2 4 ft. 4 ft. Squash, winter May 15-June 20 1-2 6-8 ft. 6-8 ft. Tomato, seed June 1/2 3-4 in. 15 in. Tomato, plants May 15-July 20 .. 3 ft. 3 ft.
NOTE.–The index reference numbers refer to notes at end of chapter.
——————+———+—————————————— |SEED FOR |
| 50 FT. |
VEGETABLE | ROW | VARIETIES
——————+———+—————————————— Asparagus, seed | 1 oz. | Palmetto, Giant Argenteuil, Barr’s | | Mammoth
Asparagus, plants | 50 | Palmetto, Giant Argenteuil, Barr’s | | Mammoth
Bean, pole | 1/2 pt. | Kentucky Wonder, Golden, Cluster, | | Burger’s Stringless
Bean, lima | 1/2 pt. | Early Leviathan, Giant Podded, Burpee | | Improved
Beet, late | 1 oz. | Crimson Globe Carrot, late | 1/2 oz. | Danver’s Half-long, Ox-heart, Chantenay Corn, late | 1/2 pt. | Seymour’s Sweet Orange, White Evergreen, | | Country Gentleman
Cucumber | 1/2 oz. | Early White Spine, Fordhook Famous, Davis | | Perfect
Egg-plant, plants | 25 | Black Beauty, N.Y. Purple Leek | 1/2 oz. | American Flag
Melon, musk | 1/2 oz. | Netted Gem, Emerald Gem, Hoodoo Melon, water | 1/4 oz. | Cole’s Early Sweetheart, Halbert Honey Onion | 1/2 oz. | Prizetaker, Danver’s Globe, Ailsa Craig, | | Southport Red Globe, Mammoth | | Silverskin (white)
Okra | 1/2 oz. | Perfected Perkins, White Velvet Parsley | 1/2 oz. | Emerald
Parsnip | 1/4 oz. | Hollow Crowned (Improved) Pepper, seed | 1/2 oz. | Ruby King, Chinese Giant Pepper, plants | 25 | Ruby King, Chinese Giant Potatoes, main | 1/2 pk. | Irish Cobbler, Green Mountain, Uncle Sam | | (Norton Beauty, Norwood, early) Pumpkins | 1/4 oz. | Large Cheese, Quaker Pie Rhubarb, plants | 25 | Myatt’s Victoria Salsify | 3/4 oz. | Mammoth Sandwich Squash, summer | 1/4 oz. | White Bush, Delicata, Fordhook, Vegetable | | Marrow
Squash, winter | 1/4 oz. | Hubbard, Delicious Tomato, seed | 1/2 oz. | Earliana, Chalk’s Jewel, Matchless, Dwarf | | Giant
Tomato, plants | 20 | Earliana, Chalk’s Jewel, Matchless, Dwarf | | Giant
DEPTH TO -DISTANCE APART- VEGETABLE PLANT SOW–INs. SEEDS ROWS
II. CROPS FOR SUCCESSION PLANTINGS
Bean, dwarf May 5-Aug 15 2 2-4 in. 1-1/2-2 ft. Kohlrabi April-July 1/2 – 1 6-12 in. 1-1/2-2 ft. Lettuce April-August 1/2 1 ft. 1-1-1/2 ft. Peas, smooth April 1-Aug 1 2-3 2-4 in. 3 ft. Peas, wrinkled April 10-July 15 2-3 2-4 in. 3-4 ft. Radish April 1-Sept 1 1/2 2-3 in. 1 ft. Spinach April-Sept 15 1 3-5 in. 18 in. Turnip April-Sept 1/2-1 4-6 in. 15 in.
III. CROPS TO BE FOLLOWED BY OTHERS
Beet, early April-June 2 3-4 in. 15 in. Broccoli, early April 1/2-1 1-1/2 ft. 2 ft. Borecole April 1/2-1 2 ft. 2-1/2 ft. Brussels sprouts April 1/2-1 1-1/2 ft. 2 ft. Cabbage, early April 1/2-1 1-1/2 ft. 2 ft. Carrot April 1/2-1 2-3 in. 15 in. Cauliflower April 1/2-1 1-1/2 ft. 2 ft. Com, early May 10-20 2 3 ft. 3-4 ft. Onion sets April-May 15 1-2 2-4 in. 15 in. Peas April 1-May 1 2 2-4 in. 3 ft. Crops in Sec. II.
IV. CROPS THAT MAY FOLLOW OTHERS
Beet, late July-August 2 3-4 in. 15 in. Borecole May-June 1/2-1 2 ft. 2-1/2 ft. Broccoli May-June 1/2-1 2 ft. 2-1/2 ft. Brussels sprouts May-June 1/2-1 1-1/2 ft. 2-1/2 ft. Cabbage late May-June 1/2-1 2-1/2 ft. 2-1/2 ft. Cauliflower May-June 1/2-1 2 ft. 2-1/2 ft. Celery, seed April 1/2 1-2 in. 1 ft. Celery, plant July 1-Aug 1 .. 6 in. 3-4 ft. Endive April-August 1/2 1 ft. 1 ft. Peas, late May 15-Aug 1 2-3 2-4 in. 4 ft. Crops in Sec. II.
II. CROPS FOR SUCCESSION PLANTINGS
——————+———+—————————————— |SEED FOR |
| 50 FT. |
VEGETABLE | ROW | VARIETIES
——————+———+—————————————— Bean, dwarf | 1 pt. | Red Valentine Burpee’s Greenpod, | | Improved Refugee, Brittle Wax, | | Rust-proof Golden Wax, Burpee’s | | White Wax
Kohlrabi | 1/4 oz | White Vienna Lettuce | 50 | Mignonette, Grand Rapids, May King, | | Big Boston, New York, Deacon, Cos, | | Paris White
Peas, smooth | 1 pt | American Wonder Peas, wrinkled | 1 pt | Gradus, Boston Unrivaled, Quite Content Radish | 1/2 oz. | Rapid Red, Crimson Globe, Chinese Spinach | 1/2 oz. | Swiss Chard Beet, Long Season, Victoria Turnip | 1/3 oz. | White Milan, Petrowski, Golden Ball
III. CROPS TO BE FOLLOWED BY OTHERS
Beet, early | 1 oz. | Edmund’s Early, Early Model Broccoli, early | 35 | Early White French Borecole | 25 | Dwarf Scotch Curled Brussels sprouts | 35 | Dalkeith, Danish Prize Cabbage, early | 35 | Wakefield, Glory of Enkhuisen, | | Early Summer, Succession, Savoy Carrot | 1/2 oz. | Golden Ball, Early Scarlet Horn Cauliflower | 35 | Burpee’s Best Early, Snowball, Sea-foam | | Dry Weather
Corn, early | 1/3 pt. | Golden Bantam, Peep o’ Day, Cory Onion sets | 2 pt. |
Peas | 1 pt. |
Crops in Sec. II.
IV. CROPS THAT MAY FOLLOW OTHERS
Beet, late | 1 oz. | Crimson Globe Borecole | 25 | Dwarf Scotch Curled Broccoli | 25 | Early White French Brussels sprouts | 35 | Dalkeith, Danish Prize Cabbage, late | 25 | Succession, Danish Ballhead Drumhead Cauliflower | 25 | As above [Savoy, Mammoth Rock (red)] Celery, seed | 1 oz. | White Plume, Golden Self-blanching, | | Winter Queen
Celery, plant | 100 | White Plume, Golden Self-blanching, | | Winter Queen
Endive | 1/2 oz. | Broad-Leaved Batavian, Giant Fringed Peas, late | 1 pt. | Gradus
Crops in Sec. II.
REFERENCE NOTES FROM THE TABLES
1 In the vicinity of New York City. Each 100 miles north or south will make a difference of 5 to 7 days later or earlier.
2 This is for sowing the seed. It will take three to six weeks before plants are ready. Hence the advantage of using the seed-bed. For instance, you can start your late cabbage about June 15th, to follow the first crop of peas, which should be cleared off by the 10th of July.
3 Distances given are those at which the growing _plants_ should stand, after thinning. Seed in drills should be sown several times as thick.
4 Best started in seed-bed, and afterward transplanted; but may be sown when wanted and afterward thinned to the best plants.
IMPLEMENTS AND THEIR USES
It may seem to the reader that it is all very well to make a garden with a pencil, but that the work of transferring it to the soil must be quite another problem and one entailing so much work that he will leave it to the professional market gardener. He possibly pictures to himself some bent-kneed and stoop-shouldered man with the hoe, and decides that after all there is too much work in the garden game. What a revelation would be in store for him if he could witness one day’s operations in a modern market garden! Very likely indeed not a hoe would be seen during the entire visit. Modern implements, within less than a generation, have revolutionized gardening.
This is true of the small garden as certainly as of the large one: in fact, in proportion I am not sure but that it is more so–because of the second wonderful thing about modern garden tools, that is, the low prices at which they can be bought, considering the enormous percentage of labor saved in accomplishing results. There is nothing in the way of expense to prevent even the most modest gardener acquiring, during a few years, by the judicious expenditure of but a few dollars annually, a very complete outfit of tools that will handsomely repay their cost.
While some garden tools have been improved and developed out of all resemblance to their original forms, others have changed little in generations, and in probability will remain ever with us. There is a thing or two to say about even the simplest of them, however,– especially to anyone not familiar with their uses.
There are tools for use in every phase of horticultural operations; for preparing the ground, for planting the seed, for cultivation, for protecting crops from insects and disease, and for harvesting.
First of all comes the ancient and honorable spade, which, for small garden plots, borders, beds, etc., must still be relied upon for the initial operation in gardening–breaking up the soil. There are several types, but any will answer the purpose. In buying a spade look out for two things: see that it is well strapped up the handle in front and back, and that it hangs well. In spading up ground, especially soil that is turfy or hard, the work may be made easier by taking a strip not quite twice as wide as the spade, and making diagonal cuts so that one vertical edge of the spade at each thrust cuts clean out to where the soil has already been dug. The wide-tined spading-fork is frequently used instead of the spade, as it is lighter and can be more advantageously used to break up lumps and level off surfaces. In most soils it will do this work as well, if not better, than the spade and has the further good quality of being serviceable as a fork too, thus combining two tools in one. It should be more generally known and used. With the ordinary fork, used for handling manure and gathering up trash, weeds, etc., every gardener is familiar. The type with oval, slightly up-curved tines, five or six in number, and a D handle, is the most convenient and comfortable for garden use.
For areas large enough for a horse to turn around in, use a plow. There are many good makes. The swivel type has the advantage of turning all the furrows one way, and is the best for small plots and sloping ground. It should turn a clean, deep furrow. In deep soil that has long been cultivated, plowing should, with few exceptions, be down at least to the subsoil; and if the soil is shallow it will be advisable to turn up a little of the subsoil, at each plowing–not more than an inch–in order that the soil may gradually be deepened. In plowing sod it will be well to have the plow fitted with a coulter, which turns a miniature furrow ahead of the plowshare, thus covering under all sods and grass and getting them out of the way of harrows and other tools to be used later. In plowing under tall-growing green manures, like rye, a heavy chain is hung from the evener to the handle, thus pulling the crop down into the furrow so that it will all be covered under. Where drainage is poor it will be well to break up the subsoil with a subsoil plow, which follows in the wake of the regular plow but does not lift the subsoil to the surface.
TOOLS FOR PREPARING THE SEED-BED
The spade or spading-fork will be followed by the hoe, or hook, and the iron rake; and the plow by one or more of the various types of harrow. The best type of hoe for use after the spade is the wide, deep-bladed type. In most soils, however, this work may be done more expeditiously with the hook or prong-hoe (see illustration). With this the soil can be thoroughly pulverized to a depth of several inches. In using either, be careful not to pull up manure or trash turned under by the spade, as all such material if left covered will quickly rot away in the soil and furnish the best sort of plant food. I should think that our energetic manufactures would make a prong-hoe with heavy wide blades, like those of the spading-fork, but I have never seen such an implement, either in use or advertised.
What the prong-hoe is to the spade, the harrow is to the plow. For general purposes the Acme is an excellent harrow. It is adjustable, and for ground at all mellow will be the only one necessary; set it, for the first time over, to cut in deep; and then, set for leveling, it will leave the soil in such excellent condition that a light hand- raking (or, for large areas, the Meeker smoothing-harrow) will prepare it for the finest of seeds, such as onions and carrots. The teeth of the Acme are so designed that they practically constitute a gang of miniature plows. Of disc harrows there are a great many makes. The salient feature of the disc type is that they can tear up no manure, grass or trash, even when these are but partly turned under by the plow. For this reason it is especially useful on sod or other rough ground. The most convenient harrow for putting on the finishing touches, for leveling off and fining the surface of the soil, is the lever spike-tooth. It is adjustable and can be used as a spike-tooth or as a smoothing harrow.
Any of the harrows mentioned above (except the Meeker) and likewise the prong-hoe, will have to be followed by the iron rake when preparing the ground for small-seeded garden vegetables. Get the sort with what is termed the “bow” head (see illustration) instead of one in which the head is fastened directly to the end of the handle. It is less likely to get broken, and easier to use. There is quite a knack in manipulating even a garden rake, which will come only with practice. Do not rake as though you were gathering up leaves or grass. The secret in using the garden rake is _not_ to gather things up. Small stones, lumps of earth and such things, you of course wish to remove. Keep these raked off ahead of where you are leveling the soil, which is accomplished with a backward-and-forward movement of the rake.
The tool-house of every garden of any size should contain a seed-drill. Labor which is otherwise tedious and difficult is by it rendered mere play–as well as being better done. The operations of marking the row, opening the furrow, dropping the seed at the proper depth and distance, covering immediately with fresh earth, and firming the soil, are all done at one fell swoop and as fast as you can walk. It will even drop seeds in hills. But that is not all: it may be had as part of a combination machine, which, after your seeds are planted–with each row neatly rolled on top, and plainly visible–may be at once transformed into a wheel hoe that will save you as much time in caring for your plants as the seed-drill did in planting your seed. Hoeing drudgery becomes a thing of the past. The illustration herewith shows such a machine, and some of the varied attachments which may be had for it. There are so many, and so varied in usefulness, that it would require an entire chapter to detail their special advantages and methods of use. The catalogues describing them will give you many valuable suggestions; and other ways of utilizing them will discover themselves to you in your work.
Valuable as the wheel hoe is, however, and varied in its scope of work, the time-tried hoe cannot be entirely dispensed with. An accompanying photograph [ED. Not shown here] shows four distinct types, all of which will pay for themselves in a garden of moderate size. The one on the right is the one most generally seen; next to it is a modified form which personally I prefer for all light work, such as loosening soil and cutting out weeds. It is lighter and smaller, quicker and easier to handle. Next to this is the Warren, or heart-shaped hoe, especially valuable in opening and covering drills for seed, such as beans, peas or corn. The scuffle-hoe, or scarifier, which completes the four, is used between narrow rows for shallow work, such as cutting off small weeds and breaking up the crust. It has been rendered less frequently needed by the advent of the wheel hoe, but when crops are too large to admit of the use of the latter, the scuffle-hoe is still an indispensable time-saver.
There remains one task connected with gardening that is a bug-bear. That is hand-weeding. To get down on one’s hands and knees, in the blistering hot dusty soil, with the perspiration trickling down into one’s eyes, and pick small weedlets from among tender plantlets, is not a pleasant occupation. There are, however, several sorts of small weeders which lessen the work considerably. One or another of the common types will seem preferable, according to different conditions of soil and methods of work. Personally, I prefer the Lang’s for most uses. The angle blade makes it possible to cut very near to small plants and between close-growing plants, while the strap over the back of a finger or thumb leaves the fingers free for weeding without dropping the instrument.
There are two things to be kept in mind about hand-weeding which will reduce this work to the minimum. First, never let the weeds get a start; for even if they do not increase in number, if they once smother the ground or crop, you will wish you had never heard of a garden. Second, do your hand-weeding while the surface soil is soft, when the weeds come out easily. A hard-crusted soil will double and treble the amount of labor required.
It would seem that it should be needless, when garden tools are such savers of labor, to suggest that they should be carefully kept, always bright and clean and sharp, and in repair. But such advice is needed, to judge by most of the tools one sees.
Always have a piece of cloth or old bag on hand where the garden tools are kept, and never put them away soiled and wet. Keep the cutting edges sharp. There is as much pleasure in trying to run a dull lawnmower as in working with a rusty, battered hoe. Have an extra handle in stock in case of accident; they are not expensive. In selecting hand tools, always pick out those with handles in which the grain does not run out at the point where there will be much strain in using the tool. In rakes, hoes, etc., get the types with ferrule and shank one continuous piece, so as not to be annoyed with loose heads.
Spend a few cents to send for some implement catalogues. They will well repay careful perusal, even if you do not order this year. In these days of intensive advertising, the commercial catalogue often contains matter of great worth, in the gathering and presentation of which no expense has been spared.
FOR FIGHTING PLANT ENEMIES
The devices and implements used for fighting plant enemies are of two sorts:–(1) those used to afford mechanical protection to the plants; (2) those used to apply insecticides and fungicides. Of the first the most useful is the covered frame. It consists usually of a wooden box, some eighteen inches to two feet square and about eight high, covered with glass, protecting cloth, mosquito netting or mosquito wire. The first two coverings have, of course, the additional advantage of retaining heat and protecting from cold, making it possible by their use to plant earlier than is otherwise safe. They are used extensively in getting an extra early and safe start with cucumbers, melons and the other vine vegetables.
Simpler devices for protecting newly-set plants, such as tomatoes or cabbage, from the cut-worm, are stiff, tin, cardboard or tar paper collars, which are made several inches high and large enough to be put around the stem and penetrate an inch or so into the soil.
For applying poison powders, such as dry Paris green, hellebore and tobacco dust, the home gardener should supply himself with a powder gun. If one must be restricted to a single implement, however, it will be best to get one of the hand-power, compressed-air sprayers–either a knapsack pump or a compressed-air sprayer–types of which are illustrated. These are used for applying wet sprays, and should be supplied with one of the several forms of mist-making nozzles, the non- cloggable automatic type being the best. For more extensive work a barrel pump, mounted on wheels, will be desirable, but one of the above will do a great deal of work in little time. Extension rods for use in spraying trees and vines may be obtained for either. For operations on a very small scale a good hand-syringe may be used, but as a general thing it will be best to invest a few dollars more and get a small tank sprayer, as this throws a continuous stream or spray and holds a much larger amount of the spraying solution. Whatever type is procured, get a brass machine–it will out-wear three or four of those made of cheaper metal, which succumbs very quickly to the, corroding action of the strong poisons and chemicals used in them.
Of implements for harvesting, beside the spade, prong-hoe and spading- fork already mentioned, very few are used in the small garden, as most of them need not only long rows to be economically used, but horse- power also. The onion harvester attachment for the double wheel hoe, costing $1.00, may be used with advantage in loosening onions, beets, turnips, etc., from the soil or for cutting spinach. Running the hand- plow close on either side of carrots, parsnips and other deep-growing vegetables will aid materially in getting them out. For fruit picking, with tall trees, the wire-fingered fruit-picker, secured to the end of a long handle, will be of great assistance, but with the modern method of using low-headed trees it will not be needed.
Another class of garden implements are those used in pruning–but where this is attended to properly from the start, a good sharp jack-knife and a pair of pruning shears (the English makes are the best, as they are in some things, when we are frank enough to confess the truth) will easily handle all the work of the kind necessary.
Still another sort of garden device is that used for supporting the plants; such as stakes, trellises, wires, etc. Altogether too little attention usually is given these, as with proper care in storing over winter they will not only last for years, but add greatly to the convenience of cultivation and to the neat appearance of the garden. Various contrivances are illustrated in the seed catalogues, and many may be home-made–such as a stake-trellis for supporting beans.
As a final word to the intending purchaser of garden tools, I would say: first thoroughly investigate the different sorts available, and when buying, do not forget that a good tool or a well-made machine will be giving you satisfactory use long, long after the price is forgotten, while a poor one is a constant source of discomfort. Get good tools, and _take_ good care of them. And let me repeat that a few dollars a year, judiciously spent, for tools afterward well cared for, will soon give you a very complete set, and add to your garden profit and pleasure.
MANURES AND FERTILIZERS
To a very small extent garden vegetables get their food from the air. The amount obtained in this way however, is so infinitesimal that from the practical standpoint it need not be considered at all. Practically speaking, your vegetables must get all their food from the garden soil.
This important garden fact may seem self-evident, but, if one may judge by their practice, amateur gardeners very frequently fail to realize it. The professional gardener must come to realize it for the simple reason that if he does not he will go out of business. Without an abundant supply of suitable food it is just as impossible to grow good vegetables as it would be to train a winning football team on a diet of sweet cider and angel cake. Without plenty of plant food, all the care, coddling, coaxing, cultivating, spraying and worrying you may give will avail little. The soil must be rich or the garden will be poor.
Plant food is of as many kinds, or, more accurately speaking, in as many _forms_, as is food for human beings. But the first distinction to make in plant foods is that between available and non- available foods–that is, between foods which it is possible for the plant to use, and those which must undergo a change of some sort before the plant can take them up, assimilate them, and turn them into a healthy growth of foliage, fruit or root. It is just as readily possible for a plant to starve in a soil abounding in plant food, if that food is not available, as it would be for you to go unnourished in the midst of soups and tender meats if the latter were frozen solid.
Plants take all their nourishment in the form of soups, and very weak ones at that. Plant food to be available must be soluble to the action of the feeding root tubes; and unless it is available it might, as far as the present benefiting of your garden is concerned, just as well not be there at all. Plants take up their food through innumerable and microscopic feeding rootlets, which possess the power of absorbing moisture, and furnishing it, distributed by the plant juices, or sap, to stem, branch, leaf, flower and fruit. There is one startling fact which may help to fix these things in your memory: it takes from 300 to 500 pounds of water to furnish food for the building of one pound of dry plant matter. You can see why plant food is not of much use unless it is available; and it is not available unless it is soluble.
THE THEORY OF MANURING
The food of plants consists of chemical elements, or rather, of numerous substances which contain these elements in greater or less degrees. There is not room here to go into the interesting science of this matter. It is evident, however, as we have already seen that the plants must get their food from the soil, that there are but two sources for such food: it must either be in the soil already, or we must put it there. The practice of adding plant food to the soil is what is called manuring.
The only three of the chemical elements mentioned which we need consider are: nitrogen, phosphoric acid, and potash. The average soil contains large amounts of all three, but they are for the most part in forms which are not available and, therefore, to that extent, may be at once dismissed from our consideration. (The non-available plant foods already in the soil may be released or made available to some extent by cultivation. See Chapter VII.) In practically every soil that has been cultivated and cropped, in long-settled districts, the amounts of nitrogen, phosphoric acid and potash which are immediately available will be too meager to produce a good crop of vegetables. It becomes absolutely necessary then, if one would have a really successful garden, no matter how small it is, to add plant foods to the soil abundantly. When you realize, (1) that the number of plant foods containing the three essential elements is almost unlimited, (2) that each contains them in different proportions and in differing degrees of availability, (3) that the amount of the available elements already in the soil varies greatly and is practically undeterminable, and (4) that different plants, and even different varieties of the same plant, use these elements in widely differing proportions; then you begin to understand what a complex matter this question of manuring is and why it is so much discussed and so little understood. What a labyrinth it offers for any writer–to say nothing of the reader–to go astray in!
I have tried to present this matter clearly. If I have succeeded it may have been only to make the reader hopelessly discouraged of ever getting at anything definite in the question of enriching the soil. In that case my advice would be that, for the time being, he forget all about it. Fortunately, in the question of manuring, a little knowledge is not often a dangerous thing. Fortunately, too, your plants do not insist that you solve the food problem for them. Set a full table and they will help themselves and take the right dishes. The only thing to worry about is that of the three important foods mentioned (nitrogen, phosphoric acid and potash) there will not be enough: for it has been proved that when any one of these is exhausted the plant practically stops growth; it will not continue to “fill up” on the other two. Of course there is such a thing as going to extremes and wasting plant foods, even if it does not, as a rule, hurt the plants. If, however, the fertilizers and manures described in the following sections are applied as directed, and as mentioned in Chapter VII., good results will be certain, provided the seed, cultivation and season are right.
The terms “manure” and “fertilizer” are used somewhat ambiguously and interchangeably. Using the former term in a broad sense–as meaning any substance containing available plant food applied to the soil, we may say that manure is of two kinds: organic, such as stable manure, or decayed vegetable matter; and inorganic, such as potash salts, phosphatic rock and commercial mixed fertilizers. In a general way the term “fertilizer” applies to these inorganic manures, and I shall use it in this sense through the following text.
Between the organic manures, or “natural” manures as they are often called, and fertilizers there is a very important difference which should never be lost sight of. In theory, and as a chemical fact too, a bag of fertilizer may contain twice the available plant food of a ton of well rotted manure; but out of a hundred practical gardeners ninety- nine–and probably one more–would prefer the manure. There is a reason why–two reasons, even if not one of the hundred gardeners could give them to you. First, natural manures have a decided physical effect upon most soils (altogether aside from the plant food they contain); and second, plants seem to have a preference as to the _form_ in which their food elements are served to them. Fertilizers, on the other hand, are valuable only for the plant food they contain, and sometimes have a bad effect upon the physical condition of the soil.
When it comes right down to the practical question of what to put on your garden patch to grow big crops, nothing has yet been discovered that is better than the old reliable stand-by–well rotted, thoroughly fined stable or barnyard manure. Heed those adjectives! We have already seen that plant food which is not available might as well be, for our immediate purposes, at the North Pole. The plant food in “green” or fresh manure is not available, and does not become so until it is released by the decay of the organic matters therein. Now the time possible for growing a crop of garden vegetables is limited; in many instances it is only sixty to ninety days. The plants want their food ready at once; there is no time to be lost waiting for manure to rot in the soil. That is a slow process–especially so in clayey or heavy soils. So on your garden use only manure that is well rotted and broken up. On the other hand, see that it has not “fire-fanged” or burned out, as horse manure, if piled by itself and left, is very sure to do. If you keep any animals of your own, see that the various sorts of manure –excepting poultry manure, which is so rich that it is a good plan to keep it for special purposes–are mixed together and kept in a compact, built-up square heap, not a loose pyramidal pile. Keep it under cover and where it cannot wash out. If you have a pig or so, your manure will be greatly improved by the rooting, treading and mixing they will give it. If not, the pile should be turned from bottom to top and outside in and rebuilt, treading down firmly in the process, every month or two– applying water, but not soaking, if it has dried out in the meantime. Such manure will be worth two or three times as much, for garden purposes, as that left to burn or remain in frozen lumps. If you have to buy all your manure, get that which has been properly kept; and if you are not familiar with the condition in which it should be, get a disinterested gardener or farmer to select it for you. When possible, it will pay you to procure manure several months before you want to use it and work it over as suggested above. In buying manure keep in mind not what animals made it, but what food was fed–that is the important thing. For instance, the manure from highly-fed livery horses may be, weight for weight, worth three to five times that from cattle wintered over on poor hay, straw and a few roots.
There are other organic manures which it is sometimes possible for one to procure, such as refuse brewery hops, fish scraps and sewage, but they are as a rule out of the reach of, or objectionable for, the purposes of the home gardener.
There are, however, numerous things constantly going to waste about the small place, which should be converted into manure. Fallen leaves, grass clippings, vegetable tops and roots, green weeds, garbage, house slops, dish water, chip dirt from the wood-pile, shavings–any thing that will rot away, should go into the compost heap. These should be saved, under cover if possible, in a compact heap and kept moist (never soaked) to help decomposition. To start the heap, gather up every available substance and make it into a pile with a few wheelbarrows full, or half a cartload, of fresh horse manure, treading the whole down firmly. Fermentation and decomposition will be quickly started. The heap should occasionally be forked over and restacked. Light dressings of lime, mixed in at such times, will aid thorough decomposition.
Wood ashes form another valuable manure which should be carefully saved. Beside the plant food contained, they have a most excellent effect upon the mechanical condition of almost every soil. Ashes should not be put in the compost heap, because there are special uses for them, such as dusting on squash or melon vines, or using on the onion bed, which makes it desirable to keep them separate. Wood ashes may frequently be bought for fifty cents a barrel, and at this price a few barrels for the home garden will be a good investment.
Coal ashes contain practically no available plant food, but are well worth saving to use on stiff soils, for paths, etc.
VALUE OF GREEN MANURING
Another source of organic manures, altogether too little appreciated, is what is termed “green manuring”–the plowing under of growing crops to enrich the land. Even in the home garden this system should be taken advantage of whenever possible. In farm practice, clover is the most valuable crop to use for this purpose, but on account of the length of time necessary to grow it, it is useful for the vegetable garden only when there is sufficient room to have clover growing on, say, one half- acre plot, while the garden occupies, for two years, another half-acre; and then changing the two about. This system will give an ideal garden soil, especially where it is necessary to rely for the most part upon chemical fertilizers.
There are, however, four crops valuable for green-manuring the garden, even where the same spot must be occupied year after year: rye, field corn, field peas (or cow peas in the south) and crimson clover. After the first of September, sow every foot of garden ground cleared of its last crop, with winter rye. Sow all ground cleared during August with crimson clover and buckwheat, and mulch the clover with rough manure after the buckwheat dies down. Sow field peas or corn on any spots that would otherwise remain unoccupied six weeks or more. All these are sown broadcast, on a freshly raked surface. Such a system will save a very large amount of plant food which otherwise would be lost, will convert unavailable plant food into available forms while you wait for the next crop, and add _humus_ to the soil–concerning the importance of which see Chapter VII.
I am half tempted to omit entirely any discussion of chemical fertilizers: to give a list of them, tell how to apply them, and let the why and wherefore go. It is, however, such an important subject, and the home gardener will so frequently have to rely almost entirely upon their use, that probably it will be best to explain the subject as thoroughly as I can do it in very limited space. I shall try to give the theory of scientific chemical manuring in one paragraph.
We have already seen that the soil contains within itself some available plant food. We can determine by chemical analysis the exact amounts of the various plant foods–nitrogen, phosphoric acid, potash, etc.–which a crop of any vegetable will remove from the soil. The idea in scientific chemical manuring is to add to the available plant foods already in the soil just enough more to make the resulting amounts equal to the quantities of the various elements used by the crop grown. In other words:
Available plant food elements in (
the soil, plus > == Amounts of food elements Available chemical food elements ( in matured crop supplied in fertilizers )
That was the theory–a very pretty and profound one! The discoverers of it imagined that all agriculture would be revolutionized; all farm and garden practice reduced to an exact science; all older theories of husbandry and tillage thrown by the heels together upon the scrap heap of outworn things. Science was to solve at one fell swoop all the age- old problems of agriculture. And the whole thing was all right in every way but one–it didn’t work. The unwelcome and obdurate fact remained that a certain number of pounds of nitrogen, phosphoric acid and potash–about thirty-three–in a ton of good manure would grow bigger crops than would the same number of pounds of the same elements in a bag of chemical fertilizer.
Nevertheless this theory, while it failed as the basis of an exact agricultural science, has been developed into an invaluable guide for using all manures, and especially concentrated chemical manures. And the above facts, if I have presented them clearly, will assist the home gardener in solving the fertilizer problems which he is sure to encounter.
What are termed the raw materials from which the universally known “mixed fertilizers” are made up, are organic or inorganic substances which contain nitrogen, phosphoric acid or potash in fairly definite amounts.
Some of these can be used to advantage by themselves. Those practical for use by the home gardener, I mention. The special uses to which they are adapted will be mentioned in Part Two, under the vegetables for which they are valuable.
GROUND BONE is rich in phosphate and lasts a long time; what is called “raw bone” is the best “Bone dust” or “bone flour” is finely pulverized; it will produce quick results, but does not last as long as the coarser forms.
COTTON-SEED MEAL is one of the best nitrogenous fertilizers for garden crops. It is safer than nitrate of soda in the hands of the inexperienced gardener, and decays very quickly in the soil.
PERUVIAN GUANO, in the pure form, is now practically out of the market. Lower grades, less rich in nitrogen especially, are to be had; and also “fortified” guano, in which chemicals are added to increase the content of nitrogen. It is good for quick results.
NITRATE OF SODA, when properly handled, frequently produces wonderful results in the garden, particularly upon quick-growing crops. It is the richest in nitrogen of any chemical generally used, and a great stimulant to plant growth. When used alone it is safest to mix with an equal bulk of light dirt or some other filler. If applied pure, be sure to observe the following rules or you may burn your plants: (1) Pulverize all lumps; (2) see that none of it lodges upon the foliage; (3) never apply when there is moisture upon the plants; (4) apply in many small doses–say 10 to 20 pounds at a time for 50 x 100 feet of garden. It should be put on so sparingly as to be barely visible; but its presence will soon be denoted by the moist spot, looking like a big rain drop, which each particle of it makes in the dry soil. Nitrate of soda may also be used safely in solution, at the rate of 1 pound to 12 gallons of water. I describe its use thus at length because I consider it the most valuable single chemical which the gardener has at command.
MURIATE and SULPHATE OF POTASH are also used by themselves as sources of potash, but as a general thing it will be best to use them in combination with other chemicals as described under “Home Mixing.”
LIME will be of benefit to most soils. It acts largely as an indirect fertilizer, helping to release other food elements already in the soil, but in non-available forms. It should be applied once in three to five years, at the rate of 75 to 100 bushels per acre, after plowing, and thoroughly harrowed in. Apply as long before planting as possible, or in the fall.
Mixed fertilizers are of innumerable brands, and for sale everywhere. It is little use to pay attention to the claims made for them. Even where the analysis is guaranteed, the ordinary gardener has no way of knowing that the contents of his few bags are what they are labeled. The best you can do, however, is to buy on the basis of analysis, not of price per ton–usually the more you pay per bag, the cheaper you are really buying your actual plant food. Send to the Experiment Station in your State and ask for the last bulletin on fertilizer values. It will give a list of the brands sold throughout the State, the retail price per ton, and the actual value of plant foods contained in a ton. Then buy the brand in which you will apparently get the greatest value.
For garden crops the mixed fertilizer you use should contain (about):
Nitrogen, 4 per cent. ( Basic formula Phosphoric acid, 8 per cent. > == for
Potash, 10 per cent. ( Garden crops )
If applied alone, use at the rate of 1000 to 1500 pounds per acre. If with manure, less, in proportion to the amount of the latter used.
By “basic formula” (see above) is meant one which contains the plant foods in the proportion which all garden crops must have. Particular crops may need additional amounts of one or more of the three elements, in order to attain their maximum growth. Such extra feeding is usually supplied by top dressings, during the season of growth. The extra food beneficial to the different vegetables will be mentioned in the cultural directions in Part Two.
If you look over the Experiment Station report mentioned above, you will notice that what are called “home mixtures” almost invariably show a higher value compared to the cost than any regular brand. In some cases the difference is fifty per cent. This means that you can buy the raw chemicals and make up your own mixtures cheaper than you can buy mixed fertilizers. More than that, it means you will have purer mixtures. More than that, it means you will have on hand the materials for giving your crops the special feeding mentioned above. The idea widely prevails, thanks largely to the fertilizer companies, that home mixing cannot be practically done, especially upon a small scale. From both information and personal experience I know the contrary to be the case. With a tight floor or platform, a square-pointed shovel and a coarse wire screen, there is absolutely nothing impractical about it. The important thing is to see that all ingredients are evenly and thoroughly mixed. A scale for weighing will also be a convenience. Further information may be had from the firms which sell raw materials, or from your Experiment Station.
The matter of properly applying manure, even on the small garden, is also of importance. In amount, from fifteen to twenty-five cords, or 60 to 100 cartloads, will not be too much; although if fertilizers are used to help out, the manure may be decreased in proportion. If possible, take it from the heap in which it has been rotting, and spread evenly over the soil immediately before plowing. If actively fermenting, it will lose by being exposed to wind and sun. If green, or in cold weather, it may be spread and left until plowing is done. When plowing, it should be completely covered under, or it will give all kinds of trouble in sowing and cultivating.
Fertilizers should be applied, where used to supplement manure or in place of it, at from 500 to 1500 pounds per acre, according to grade and other conditions. It is sown on broadcast, after plowing, care being taken to get it evenly distributed. This may be assured by sowing half while going across the piece, and the other half while going lengthwise of it. When used as a starter, or for top dressings–as mentioned in connection with the basic formula–it may be put in the hill or row at time of planting, or applied on the surface and worked in during the growth of the plants. In either case, especially with highly concentrated chemicals, care must be taken to mix them thoroughly with the soil and to avoid burning the tender roots.
This chapter is longer than I wanted to make it, but the problem of how best to enrich the soil is the most difficult one in the whole business of gardening, and the degree of your success in growing vegetables will be measured pretty much by the extent to which you master it. You cannot do it at one reading. Re-read this chapter, and when you understand the several subjects mentioned, in the brief way which limited space made necessary, pursue them farther in one of the several comprehensive books on the subject. It will well repay all the time you spend upon it. Because, from necessity, there has been so much of theory mixed up with the practical in this chapter, I shall very briefly recapitulate the directions for just what to do, in order that the subject of manuring may be left upon the same practical basis governing the rest of the book.
To make your garden rich enough to grow big crops, buy the most thoroughly worked over and decomposed manure you can find. If it is from grain-fed animals, and if pigs have run on it, it will be better yet. If possible, buy enough to put on at the rate of about twenty cords to the acre; if not, supplement the manure, which should be plowed under, with 500 to 1500 pounds of high-grade mixed fertilizer (analyzing nitrogen four per cent., phosphoric acid eight per cent., potash ten per cent.)–the quantity in proportion to the amount of manure used, and spread on broadcast after plowing and thoroughly harrowed in. In addition to this general enrichment of the soil, suitable quantities of nitrate of soda, for nitrogen; bone dust (or acid phosphate), for phosphoric acid; and sulphate of potash, for potash, should be bought for later dressings, as suggested in cultural directions for the various crops.
If the instructions in the above paragraph are followed out you may rest assured that your vegetables will not want for plant food and that, if other conditions are favorable, you will have maximum crops.
THE SOIL AND ITS PREPARATION
Having considered, as thoroughly as the limited space available permitted, the matter of plant foods, we must proceed to the equally important one of how properly to set the table, on or rather in, which they must be placed, before the plants can use them.
As was noted in the first part of the preceding chapter, most tillable soils contain the necessary plant food elements to a considerable extent, but only in a very limited degree in _available_ forms. They are locked up in the soil larder, and only after undergoing physical and chemical changes may be taken up by the feeding roots of plants. They are unlocked only by the disintegration and decomposition of the soil particles, under the influence of cultivation–or mechanical breaking up–and the access of water, air and heat.
The great importance of the part the soil must play in every garden operation is therefore readily seen. In the first place, it is required to furnish all the plant food elements–some seven in number, beside the three, nitrogen, phosphoric acid and potash, already mentioned. In the second, it must hold the moisture in which these foods must be either dissolved or suspended before plant roots can take them up.
The soil is naturally classified in two ways: first, as to the amount of plant food contained; second, as to its mechanical condition–the relative proportions of sand, decomposed stone and clay, of which it is made up, and also the degree to which it has been broken up by cultivation.
The approximate amount of available plant food already contained in the soil can be determined satisfactorily only by experiment. As before stated, however, almost without exception they will need liberal manuring to produce good garden crops. I shall therefore not go further into the first classification of soils mentioned.
Of soils, according to their variation in mechanical texture, I shall mention only the three which the home gardener is likely to encounter. Rocks are the original basis of all soils, and according to the degree of fineness to which they have been reduced, through centuries of decomposition by air, moisture and frost, they are known as gravelly, sandy or clayey soils.
CLAY SOILS are stiff, wet, heavy and usually “cold.” For garden purposes, until properly transformed, they hold too much water, are difficult to handle, and are “late.” But even if there be no choice but a clay soil for the home garden, the gardener need not be discouraged. By proper treatment it may be brought into excellent condition for growing vegetables, and will produce some sorts, such as celery, better than any warm, light, “garden” soil. The first thing to do with the clay soil garden, is to have it thoroughly drained. For the small amount of ground usually required for a home garden, this will entail no great expense. Under ordinary conditions, a half-acre garden could be under-drained for from $25 to $50–probably nearer the first figure. The drains–round drain tile, with collars–should be placed at least three feet deep, and if they can be put four, it will be much better. The lines should be, for the former depth, twenty to thirty feet apart, according to character of the soil; if four feet deep, they will accomplish just as much if put thirty to fifty feet apart–so it pays to put them in deep. For small areas 2-1/2-inch land tile will do. The round style gives the best satisfaction and will prove cheapest in the end. The outlet should of course be at the lowest point of land, and all drains, main and laterals, should fall slightly, but without exception, toward this point. Before undertaking to put in the drains, even on a small area, it will pay well to read some good book on the subject, such as Draining for Profit and Draining for Health, by Waring.
But drain–if your land requires it. It will increase the productiveness of your garden at least 50 to 100 per cent.–and such an increase, as you can readily see, will pay a very handsome annual dividend on the cost of draining. Moreover, the draining system, if properly put in, will practically never need renewal.
On land that has a stiff or clay sub-soil, it will pay well to break this up–thus making it more possible for the water to soak down through the surface soil rapidly–by using the sub-soil plow. (See Chapter V.)
The third way to improve clay soils is by using coarse vegetable manures, large quantities of stable, manures, ashes, chips, sawdust, sand, or any similar materials, which will tend to break up and lighten the soil mechanically. Lime and land plaster are also valuable, as they cause chemical changes which tend to break up clayey soils.
The fourth thing to do in treating a garden of heavy soil is to plow, ridging up as much as possible, in the fall, thus leaving the soil exposed to the pulverizing influences of weather and frost. Usually it will not need replowing in the spring. If not plowed until the spring, care should be taken not to plow until it has dried out sufficiently to crumble from the plow, instead of making a wet, pasty furrow.
The owner of a clayey garden has one big consolation. It will not let his plant food go to waste. It will hold manures and fertilizers incorporated with it longer than any other soil.
SANDY SOIL is, as the term implies, composed largely of sand, and is the reverse of clay soil. So, also, with the treatment. It should be so handled as to be kept as compact as possible. The use of a heavy roller, as frequently as possible, will prove very beneficial. Sowing or planting should follow immediately after plowing, and fertilizers or manures should be applied only immediately before.
If clay soil is obtainable nearby, a small area of sandy soil, such as is required for the garden, can be made into excellent soil by the addition of the former, applied as you would manure. Plow the garden in the fall and spread the clay soil on evenly, harrowing in with a disc in the spring. The result will be as beneficial as that of an equal dressing of good manure–and will be permanent.
It is one of the valuable qualities of lime, and also of gypsum to even a greater extent, that while it helps a clay soil, it is equally valuable for a sandy one. The same is true of ashes and of the organic manures–especially of green manuring. Fertilizers, on sandy soils, where they will not long be retained, should be applied only immediately before planting, or as top and side dressing during growth.
Sandy soil in the garden will produce early and quick results, and is especially adapted to melons, cucumbers, beans and a number of the other garden vegetables.
GRAVELLY SOIL is generally less desirable than either of the others; it has the bad qualities of sandy soil and not the good ones of clay, besides being poorer in plant food. (Calcareous, or limestone pebble, soils are an exception, but they are not widely encountered.) They are not suited for garden work, as tillage harms rather than helps them.
THE IDEAL GARDEN SOIL is what is known as a “rich, sandy loam,” at least eight inches deep; if it is eighteen it will be better. It contains the proper proportions of both sand and clay, and further has been put into the best of mechanical condition by good tilth.
That last word brings us to a new and very important matter. “In good tilth” is a condition of the soil difficult to describe, but a state that the gardener comes soon to recognize. Ground, continually and _properly cultivated_, comes soon to a degree of fineness and lightness at once recognizable. Rain is immediately absorbed by it, and does not stand upon the surface; it does not readily clog or pack down; it is crumbly and easily worked; and until your garden is brought to this condition you cannot attain the greatest success from your efforts. I emphasized “properly cultivated.” That means that the soil must be kept well supplied with humus, or decomposed vegetable matter, either by the application of sufficient quantities of organic manures, or by green manuring, or by “resting under grass,” which produces a similar result from the amount of roots and stubble with which the soil is filled when the sod is broken up. Only by this supply of humus can the garden be kept in that light, friable, spongy condition which is absolutely essential to luxuriant vegetable growth.
PREPARING THE SOIL
Unless your garden be a very small one indeed, it will pay to have it plowed rather than dug up by hand. If necessary, arrange the surrounding fence as suggested in the accompanying diagram, to make possible the use of a horse for plowing and harrowing. (As suggested in the chapter on Implements), if there is not room for a team, the one- horse plow, spring-tooth and spike-tooth cultivators, can do the work in very small spaces.
If however the breaking up of the garden must be done by hand, have it done deeply–down to the sub-soil, or as deep as the spading-fork will go. And have it done thoroughly, every spadeful turned completely and every inch dug. It is hard work, but it must not be slighted.
If the garden can be plowed in the fall, by all means have it done. If it is in sod, it must be done at that time if good results are to be secured the following season. In this latter case, plow a shallow furrow four to six inches deep and turning flat, as early as possible in the fall, turning under a coating of horse manure, or dressing of lime, and then going over it with a smoothing-harrow or the short blades of the Acme, to fill in all crevices. The object of the plowing is to get the sods rotted thoroughly before the following spring; then apply manure and plow deeply, six to twelve inches, according to the soil.
Where the old garden is to be plowed up, if there has not been time to get in one of the cover crops suggested elsewhere in this text, plow as late as possible, and in ridges. If the soil is light and sandy, fall plowing will not be advisable.
In beginning the spring work it is customary to put on the manure and plow but once. But the labor of double plowing will be well repaid, especially on a soil likely to suffer from drouth, if the ground be plowed once, deeply, before the manure is spread on, and then cross- plowed just sufficiently to turn the manure well under–say five or six inches. On stiff lands, and especially for root crops, it will pay if possible to have the sub-soil plow follow the regular plow. This is, of course, for thoroughly rotted and fined manure; if coarse, it had better be put under at one plowing, making the best of a handicap. If you have arranged to have your garden plowed “by the job,” be on hand to see that no shirking is done, by taking furrows wider than the plow can turn completely; it is possible to “cut and cover” so that the surface of a piece will look well enough, when in reality it is little better than half plowed.
That is the first step toward the preparation of a successful garden out of the way. Next comes the harrowing; if the soil after plowing is at all stiff and lumpy, get a disc-harrow if you can; on clayey soils a “cut-a-way” (see Implements). On the average garden soil, however, the Acme will do the work of pulverizing in fine shape.
If, even after harrowing, the soil remains lumpy, have the man who is doing your work get a horse-roller somewhere, and go over the piece with that. The roller should be used also on very sandy and light soils, after the first harrowing (or after the plowing, if the land turns over mellow) to compact it. To follow the first harrowing (or the roller) use a smoothing-harrow, the Acme set shallow, or a “brush.”
This treatment will reduce to a minimum the labor of finally preparing the seed- or plant-bed with the iron rake (or, on large gardens, with the Meeker harrow). After the finishing touches, the soil should be left so even and smooth that you can with difficulty bring yourself to step on it. Get it “like a table”–and then you are ready to begin gardening.
Whatever implements are used, do not forget the great importance of making the soil thoroughly fine, not only at the surface, but as far as possible below Even under the necessity of repetition. I want to emphasize this again by stating the four chief benefits, of this thorough pulverization: First, it adds materially in making the plant foods in the soil available for use; secondly, it induces the growing plants to root deeply, and thus to a greater extent to escape the drying influence of the sun; thirdly, it enables the soil to absorb rain evenly, where it falls, which would otherwise either run off and be lost altogether, or collect in the lower parts of the garden; and last, and most important, it enables the soil to retain moisture thus stored, as in a subterranean storage tank, but where the plants can draw upon it, long after carelessly prepared and shallow soils are burning up in the long protracted drouths which we seem to be increasingly certain of getting during the late summer.
Prepare your garden deeply, thoroughly, carefully, in addition to making it rich, and you may then turn to those more interesting operations outlined in the succeeding sections, with the well founded assurance that your thought and labor will be rewarded by a garden so remarkably more successful than the average garden is, that all your extra pains-taking will be richly repaid.
STARTING THE PLANTS
This beautifully prepared garden spot–or rather the plant food in it– is to be transformed into good things for your table, through the ever wonderful agency of plant growth. The thread of life inhering in the tiniest seed, in the smallest plant, is the magic wand that may transmute the soil’s dull metal into the gold of flower and fruit.
All the thought, care and expense described in the preceding chapters are but to get ready for the two things from which your garden is to spring, in ways so deeply hidden that centuries of the closest observation have failed to reveal their inner workings. Those two are seeds and plants. (The sticklers for technical exactness will here take exception, calling our attention to tubers, bulbs, corns and numerous other taverns where plant life puts up over night, between growth and growth, but for our present purpose we need not mind them.)
The plants which you put out in your garden will have been started under glass from seed, so that, indirectly, everything depends on the seed. Good seeds, and true, you must have if your garden is to attain that highest success which should be our aim. Seeds vary greatly–very much more so than the beginner has any conception of. There are three essentials; if seeds fail in any one of them, they will be rendered next to useless. First, they must be true; selected from good types of stock and true to name; then they must have been good, strong, plump seeds, full of life and gathered from healthy plants; and finally, they must be fresh. [Footnote: See table later this chapter] It is therefore of vital importance that you procure the best seeds that can be had, regardless of cost. Poor seeds are dear at any price; you cannot afford to accept them as a gift. It is, of course, impossible to give a rule by which to buy good seed, but the following suggestions will put you on the safe track. First, purchase only of some reliable mail-order house; do not be tempted, either by convenience or cheapness, to buy the gaily lithographed packets displayed in grocery and hardware stores at planting time–as a rule they are not reliable; and what you want for your good money is good seed, not cheap ink. Second, buy of seedsmen who make a point of growing and testing their own seed. Third, to begin with, buy from several houses and weed out to the one which proves, by actual results, to be the most reliable. Another good plan is to purchase seed of any particular variety from the firm that makes a leading specialty of it; in many cases these specialties have been introduced by these firms and they grow their own supplies of these seeds; they will also be surer of being true to name and type.
Good plants are, in proportion to the amounts used, just as important as good seed–and of course you cannot afford losing weeks of garden usefulness by growing entirely from seed sown out-doors. Beets, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, egg-plant, and for really efficient gardening, also onions, corn, melons, celery, lima beans, cucumbers, and squash, will all begin their joyous journey toward the gardener’s table several weeks before they get into the garden at all. They will all be started under glass and have attained a good, thrifty, growing size before they are placed in the soil we have been so carefully preparing for them. It is next to impossible to describe a “good” vegetable plant, but he who gardens will come soon to distinguish between the healthy, short-jointed, deep-colored plant which is ready to take hold and grow, and the soft, flabby (or too succulent) drawn-up growth of plants which have been too much pampered, or dwarfed, weazened specimens which have been abused and starved; he will learn that a dozen of the former will yield more than fifty of the latter. Plants may be bought of the florist or market gardener. If so, they should be personally selected, some time ahead, and gotten some few days before needed for setting out, so that you may be sure to have them properly “hardened off,” and in the right degree of moisture, for transplanting, as will be described later.
By far the more satisfactory way, however, is to grow them yourself. You can then be sure of having the best of plants in exactly the quantities and varieties you want. They will also be on hand when conditions are just right for setting them out.
For the ordinary garden, all the plants needed may be started successfully in hotbeds and cold-frames. The person who has had no experience with these has usually an exaggerated idea of their cost and of the skill required to manage them. The skill is not as much a matter of expert knowledge as of careful regular care, daily. Only a few minutes a day, for a few sash, but every day. The cost need be but little, especially if one is a bit handy with tools. The sash which serves for the cover, and is removable, is the important part of the structure. Sash may be had, ready glazed and painted, at from $2.50 to $3.50 each, and with care they will last ten or even twenty years, so you can see at once that not a very big increase in the yield of your garden will be required to pay interest on the investment. Or you can buy the sash unglazed, at a proportionately lower price, and put the glass in yourself, if you prefer to spend a little more time and less money. However, if you are not familiar with the work, and want only a few sash, I would advise purchasing the finished article. In size they are three feet by six. Frames upon which to put the sash covering may also be bought complete, but here there is a chance to save money by constructing your own frames–the materials required, being 2×4 in. lumber for posts, and inch-boards; or better, if you can easily procure them, plank 2 x 12 in.
So far as these materials go the hotbed and coldframe are alike. The difference is that while the coldframe depends for its warmth upon catching and holding the heat of the sun’s rays, the hotbed is artificially heated by fermenting manure, or in rare instances, by hot water or steam pipes.
In constructing the hotbed there are two methods used; either by placing the frames on top of the manure heap or by putting the manure within the frames. The first method has the advantage of permitting the hotbed to be made upon frozen ground, when required in the spring. The latter, which is the better, must be built before the ground freezes,