Planning The Garden
( Originally Published 1909 )
The arrangement of the garden is a matter of more importance than one unfamiliar with garden-work would naturally suppose. The amateur is likely to think that it matters very little how it is arranged, so long as seeds are put into the ground and crops are harvested from it. The item of labor is not taken into consideration when this opinion is formulated. It is possible to economize nearly if not quite half the work by so planning the garden that what is done in it can be done to the greatest possible advantage.
Time was when the average garden was made up of beds five or six feet across, and varying in length according to the amount of each kind of vegetable grown in them, a bed being devoted to each. The rows generally ran across these beds instead of lengthwise of them, and to get at the centre of the bed in weeding one was obliged to get down on hands and knees and reach out at arm's length. In very small gardens this may be as good an arrangement as any, because beds there will be narrow and less difficult to get at, but in gardens of ordinary size beds are no longer considered advisable, for more reasons than one. They waste space, because paths must be left between them; they give short rows, which necessitate much more work in cultivating than the long rows which do away with frequent turns for the adjustment of the cultivator; and they prevent the gardener from doing as thorough work, because there is not the same chance to do it in a five- or six-foot row that there is in a long one where the action of the cultivator is not constantly interrupted. Of course beds can be kept as free from weeds as long rows can, but the point is it will require a good deal more work to do so, and what I am aiming at in this little book, is to so encourage the systematization of matters that work will be reduced to the minimum, because I am well aware that the less drudgery there is connected with garden-work the more gardens there will likely be.
Another argument for long-row planting is that such vegetables as require support, like peas, lima beans, and tomatoes, can be trained to much better advantage in the row than in the bed. When grown in beds, vines are likely to form a tangled network of branches, making it impossible to get to all parts easily without breaking them, while in rows it is an easy matter to get to each side without any risk of injury. This argument holds good in the matter of weeding.
In planting in rows, uniform width ought not to be planned, because vegetables vary so much in size that some require but half the space needed by others. Cucumbers and squashes, for instance, will require a row two or three times as wide as peas, beans, cabbages, beets, salsify, and most vegetables of more or less upright growth. Therefore, before making the garden, plan where you are going to grow the different kinds of vegetables, and locate them with due regard to their habit of growth. Corn is upright in habit, but it must have plenty of room on all sides in order to do well. Potatoes spread considerably and must also have plenty of elbow-room. These will require two or three feet of space in the row. But salsify, parsnips, beets, early beans, and all the kinds of vegetables used as " greens," are of more or less compact habit, and can be grown in rows a foot wide and have all the room they need in which to fully develop. The space between rows need not be more than a foot wide, if the garden is a small one, though a foot and a half would be more convenient.
It is an excellent plan for the amateur to make a diagram of his proposed garden before beginning work on it. Put it down on paper. Decide, first of all, what vegetables are to be grown, then decide where you will grow them. Locate them on your diagram the same as you propose to have them in your garden, taking pains, as suggested, to group each class of plants by themselves, as far as possible,—the term "class," in this connection, ?having reference solely to habit of growth rather than family relationship.
If the rows of the garden must run east and west, put tall-growing vegetables, like corn, on the north rows. Next to them beans of the pole or climbing varieties, then peas. This is advised, because those of tallest growth will get the benefit of the sun without shading those of lower growth, as they would if planted on the sunward side.
I would most earnestly advise the thorough cultivation of every portion of the garden enclosure. Most gardens are surrounded by a border of grass or weeds, it being somewhat difficult to run the plow close to the fence, hedge, or whatever marks the boundary line. This growth harbors worms and insects, and is constantly encroaching upon the cultivated soil. After the plow has done its work, take the spade and turn under every bit of sward. Turn it under deeply, that the grass may be smothered, and you have no further trouble from it. If you simply skim the surface, and invert the sod, it will not be long before the grass will grow up through it, and by the end of the season, or sooner, you will have as much sward as ever. Get rid of it, once for all, by doing the work thoroughly. Keep in mind the fact that a garden of the kind under consideration is for the purpose of growing vegetables and vegetables only, and see that all the strength of the soil goes into their production, and not into the growth of weeds and grass which are such aggressive things that they, will appropriate the lion's share of nutriment, if allowed to do so.
If any portion of the garden is favored by greater exposure to the sun than other parts of it are, reserve this for such crops as radish, spinach, and early onions, whose growth must be as rapid as possible to be most satisfactory. A slow development of any of these vegetables means toughness and lack of flavor. You must force them ahead as rapidly as possible in order to secure best results, and in doing this richness of soil and warmth have to be combined. Of course the earliest crops of such vegetables as the radish and lettuce will be started, if not matured, in the hot-bed, but there should always be a succession of sowings, in order to secure a supply during the greater part of summer, and these later sowings will generally be made in the open ground, hence the necessity of giving them the best places in the garden. If the soil in which these vegetables are to be planted is not naturally light and loamy, it is a wise thing to add sand enough to make it light and friable, and to make use of such fertilizers as are quickest in effect. It is the early vegetable which will be most highly appreciated.
It is always well to plan for a rotation of crops as far as possible. In words, give your vegetables new locations each year if you can conveniently do so. This is advisable because most vegetables exhaust the soil in which they grow of certain elements necessary to their satisfactory development, and to plant them in a soil which you know to be lacking in these elements is poor practice. By shifting them about, year after year, we can generally secure favorable locations for them. If not ideal, this plan will certainly be an improvement on the short-sighted policy of confining vegetables to the same place in the garden season after season. If vegetable-growing is studied in a scientific way we can readily ascertain what elements are extracted from the soil by this, that, or the other vegetable, and the loss can be made good, to a great extent, by the use of fertilizers which can supply the soil with the material from which to construct the elements that have been drawn upon most heavily. In other words, we can give back to the soil that which has been taken from it, and fit it for the development of anything we attempt to grow by the employment of proper agents. In order to fully understand this subject it will be necessary for the student-gardener to inform himself as to the peculiarities of the various fertilizers on the market, also the peculiarities of the soil in his garden. But if he does not care to do this, let him consult with some person who has made a success of vegetable-growing, and be governed by his advice. This is, nine times out of ten, more satisfactory than experimenting, unless one's experiments can be carried on under the supervision of a practical man who has outgrown the experimenting period.