Weeding And Transplanting
( Originally Published 1909 )
VERY little can be done in the way of weeding until the seedling vegetables are of a size that will make it easy for the amateur to tell " which is which" readily. As soon as this can be done, weeding should begin. If this part of garden-work is done thoroughly at the start, it will be comparatively easy to keep the weeds under during the remainder of the season. As they are wonderfully aggressive and extremely rapid in development, a little neglect at the time when they should receive careful attention will enable them to get a start that will be greatly to the detriment of the vegetable plants among which they grow, and make the work of cleaning out the beds not only difficult but dangerous, for their roots will have become so inter-woven with those of the other plants that it will be almost impossible to pull up one without uprooting the other. This is why weed-pulling ought to begin as early in the season as possible.
Here is where the hand-weeder comes into play. By inserting its claws or fingers into the soil close to the seedling vegetables, and drawing it towards you or away from the plants, it is an easy matter to dispose of the weeds without disturbing the other plants in the least. Of course those weeds growing in the row and among the vegetables will have to be pulled out by hand, but this can be done very rapidly and easily after the rest of the weeds are cleared away. After the weeder has been used on each side of the row, it may be necessary to use the hoe and draw back the displaced soil. It is always a good plan to keep the earth well up about the base of the plants.
In weeding, make it a point, always, to gather up all the weeds that have been pulled and take them away from the garden. It is a good idea to have a corner somewhere re-served for a compost heap. Into this dump your weeds and all refuse of a vegetable nature that will decay readily, leaves, turfy matter, and the like,—and allow decomposition to take place. Stir the heap frequently. Saturate it with the soapsuds of washing-day. At the end of the season mix some rich earth and sand with it, and next spring you will have some good soil to use in the hot-bed. If weeds are allowed to lie on the ground after they are pulled, many of them will take root and grow again, and it will be necessary to pull them a second time. Moreover a pile of pulled-up weeds is unsightly, so for that reason, if no other, dispose of them promptly.
After having cleared away along the row, and for a space of about three inches each side of it, the garden cultivator can be brought into use. Use it so frequently and so thoroughly that not a weed can get a start. It is an easy matter to keep the garden clean, if, as has been advised, you begin early in the season. But allow weeds to get ahead of you, as they surely will if you let them alone for a little while when they are in the early stages of development, and you will find that a good deal of hard work is required to bring them into subjugation. The gardener who takes pride in his garden and who aims to grow vegetables to perfection recognizes the fact that there is a constant warfare between the two kinds of plants, and that half-way measures will not count. If you do not give the weeds to under-stand that they will not be tolerated, they will most surely get the start of you in the long run, and every weed that is allowed to perfect seed will stock the ground with its progeny for the coining season. Get the garden clean at the beginning of the season and keep it so, and you will have done away with a good deal of the work that would have to be done next year, if you were to compromise with weeds this year. Make it a rule to pull up or cut off every weed as soon as discovered.
The use of the cultivator should be continued throughout the greater part of the season, or until the vegetables have begun to mature. It is a scientific fact that vegetable growth is greatly benefited by a free admission of air to the roots. This is one of the good results of keeping the soil light and porous. Another and the most important is that in dry weather a frequently stirred soil absorbs whatever moisture there is in the air. It acts like a sponge; But if the soil is allowed to crust over, under the mistaken idea that stirring would permit all the moisture in it to evaporate, crops will suffer greatly from lack of dampness at their roots, in seasons of drought. The fanner who keeps the cultivator going almost constantly in his cornfield during a " dry spell " knows what he is about, and is acting along scientific lines. He is putting his soil in a condition that will enable it to extract and absorb all the moisture there is in the air, especially at night, and a field so cared for will stand drought a hundred per cent. better than one the crusted surface of which repels all moisture. Therefore be sure to see that the soil is always kept light and porous.
It often happens that considerable trans-planting has to be done. Seed may fail to germinate here and there in the row. Frost may nip some plants, and make it necessary to fill their places with new ones. Seedlings from the hot-bed will have to be set out.
Transplanting is easily and safely done if one goes at it in the right way. The first thing to do is to get the soil in readiness for the reception of the plants. This is done by working it over and over until it is fine and mellow. Choose a cloudy day for the work, if possible. If the weather is bright and hot, do it after sundown.
Make little holes in the ground deep enough to accommodate the roots wherever a plant is to be placed, using for this purpose a stick having a tapering point.
Remove your seedlings from row, hot-bed, or cold-frame as carefully as possible. Aim to lift them without breaking their delicate roots. This can be done if you use a small trowel, or a piece of smooth, flat wood, made thin and sharp at the point. Never take hold of a plant and attempt to pull it out of the soil until the earth about it has been so loosened that there will be no resistance to overcome. The right way to lift a plant is by taking it up with enough soil adhering to its roots to keep them from coming in contact with the air. If this cannot be done, lay them, as fast as lifted, on a layer of damp moss, or a cloth that is well saturated with water, and keep them shaded. Get them into the ground as soon as you can. If their roots are exposed to the air and become dry, your plants are ruined. If the weather is dry, apply water to the soil containing the plants to be lifted, before you begin the work of transplanting. Take the seedling carefully between the thumb and finger of the left hand, drop its roots into the hole made to receive them, but not letting go of the plant,—and press the soil lightly about it with the right hand. Then water well to settle the soil firmly about the roots and furnish moisture for the plant until it can send out new feeding roots.
If the next day is hot and sunny, shade the newly set plants in some way. I make a cone of thick brown paper, six or eight inches across, insert a stick a foot in length in one side of it to hold the folds together, and put the other end of the stick into the ground close to the plant. This gives plenty of shade and allows the air to circulate freely about the plant. It is a good plan to cover the soil about the newly set plants with dry earth or road dust. This has a tendency to prevent the evaporation of moisture, and generally makes it unnecessary to water a second time, unless the season is an excessively dry one.
If a young plant is handled carefully and managed properly, it will very soon establish itself in its new quarters, and quite often will go on growing as if nothing had happened to it. But bear in mind that much depends upon the careful work of the gardener.