Home Vegetable Gardening
F. F. Rockwell
Part 1 out of 4
Produced by Michelle Shephard, Tiffany Vergon, Juliet Sutherland,
Charles Franks, Charles Aldarondo and the Online Distributed
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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 |
| POLE BEANS-2 |
| 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 |
| CARROTS-4 |
| BEETS-4 |
50| TURNIPS-1-1/2 | RUTABAGA-1/2 |
| PARSNIPS-1 |
60| CORN-4 |
75| PEAS-4 |
| BUSH BEANS-3 |
| LETTUCE-2 |
90| ONION SETS-1 | ENDIVE-1 |
| MUSKMELONS-6 HILLS | CUCUMBERS-7 HILLS |
| | |
| 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
Jan. 1st--Send for catalogues. Make planting plan and table. Order
Feb. 1st--Inside: cabbage, cauliflower, first sowing. Onions for
Feb. 15th--Inside: lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts,
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
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
3 Distances given are those at which the growing _plants_ should
stand, after thinning. Seed in drills should be sown several times as
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 2x4 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,
Back to Full Books