Planting The Garden
( Originally Published 1909 )
As has been said in another chapter, it is unwise to begin work in the garden too early in the season. The ground must be given time to get rid of excessive moisture before it is safe to do much with it. Vegetables for the earlier crops must be started in the hot-bed rather than in the open ground, therefore very early work in the garden proper is not as necessary as some amateurs seem to think, in order to raise early crops. The hot-bed starts them, the garden matures them, and thus the need for very early planting in beds is done away with.
Plowing can generally be done to the best advantage about the middle of April, at the north. It will not be safe to plant tender vegetables before the first of May, because of frosts which are almost sure to occur, and in some localities the middle of the month is quite early enough. Each person will have to familiarize himself with local conditions, and be governed accordingly. Of course it is not possible for anyone to tell positively what the weather is going to be, but old residents will be able to tell you what may reasonably be expected in your locality, and it is safe to be governed by the wisdom which has grown out of years of observation on their part.
It must be borne in mind that earliest plantings do not always give the earliest returns. The thing to aim at is to get the seed in the ground just as soon as the latter is in the right condition for it, and not before. If seed is planted before the soil is warm and while it is wet, the chances are that it will fail to germinate. Even if it does come up it will make a slow, poor growth until such time as weather and soil are favorable, and quite often, by that time, seedlings from early planting will be in a diseased condition which will prevent them from doing themselves justice until the effects of too early planting have been overcome. And by that time, nine times out of ten, seedlings from later plantings, when everything was favorable to healthy, vigorous growth, will have got ahead of them. It will therefore be seen that the gardener who gets his seed into of these implements, an iron rake, and work the soil over and over until it is as fine as it can possibly be made. The importance of this may not be understood by the amateur gardener, but a little consideration of the matter will make the reason clear to him. Small seeds will not germinate readily, or surely, in coarse soil, nor will the tender, delicate roots of seedlings get the support they need from such a soil. This being the case, it is always advisable to pulverize that part of the row in which seed is to be sown to the last degree of fineness. There is no danger of over-doing this part of the work. Potatoes, corn, beans, peas, and vegetables of that kind will not require so fine a soil as those having small seeds, but care should be taken to have all soil free from lumps, no matter what kind of seed you plant in it.
Until of late years, seed-sowing was a sort of hit-or-miss performance. You might hit it exactly right, and you might miss it altogether. The method generally employed was to make furrows in the ground by drawing a stick or the hoe-handle along it, scatter the seed in them, from the fingers, and cover with loose soil thrown out from the furrow. In some places the seed would be too thick, in others too thin, and the covering would vary all the way from almost nothing to an inch or more. The consequence would be that some seed would come up, and some would fail to do so. Happily the seed-sower of today has done away with this uncertain method of planting. This most useful implement can be so adjusted that it will sow seed of any size, sow it as thickly or as thinly as desired, or plant it in hills, and cover everything evenly, and all is done with going over the ground once. Thus the work of putting in seed is not only greatly simplified, but it is done much better than where the old method is followed, and done in a fraction of the time. Full directions for operating the garden seed-sower accompany each machine, and will be readily understood by the amateur.
If seed must be sown by hand, go about the work carefully. For fine seed, do not make the furrows more than an eighth of an inch in depth. Cover very lightly. A better plan, in my way of thinking, is to simply scatter the seed on the ground, and press it down with a smooth board. This makes the soil sufficiently compact to retain moisture enough about the seed to insure germination. The pressure of the board imbeds it in the soil, and no covering will be needed.
In proportion as seed increases in size, use more soil for covering. Most seedsmen nowadays print quite full cultural directions on the package. These should be carefully read and followed. You will also find general directions for planting and after-care in the catalogues.
Let me say something, right here, about the kind of seed to use. Always get the best in the market. But how can we tell which is the best, may be asked. To which I answer : by always buying of dealers of established reputation,ómen who have dealt so fairly and so honorably with their customers that they hold them year after year, and, in some instances, to my personal knowledge, generation after generation. I buy all the seed I use of a firm from which my grandfather bought his. Of course the original members of the firm have gone, but the same honorable methods which characterized its beginning have been continued to the present time, and we know that whatever this firm sells can be relied on as absolutely true to what is claimed for it. Of course there are many new firms which no doubt deal quite as honorably, but we do not know this, there-fore we keep on patronizing the old one. It is safe to patronize any of the long-established seed houses, because the fact of their long continuance in the business argues that they give entire satisfaction to their customers. Their seeds may cost more than those offered by new firms who are bidding for patronage, but it pays to put a little more money into them and be sure of what you are getting. You cannot only depend on getting good quality, but you will be sure to get the varieties you order. Some firms are so unscrupulous in their efforts to gain trade that they will send you something labelled to fit your order, but in many instances it proves untrue to name, and you are very much disappointed thereby. Investigate before ordering from a new firm, for much of the satisfaction of having a garden grows out of a selection of the best varieties. You cannot afford to cultivate inferior sorts.
Special directions will be given under the description of each vegetable adapted to the amateur's garden.