Making Horticulture Pay
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
If one really desires to succeed in horticulture, nothing can stop him. The little failures that may appear from time to time with various plants, and in different seasons, always lead to better directed efforts, and consequently better success, provided the desire to have a garden is genuine. Supposing some kinds continue to fail even under the best of treatment, one is not obliged to give up. There are other varieties in abundance and the right ones are sure to appear if one is persistent.
What matter if one has not the "rich garden loam," the " southern exposure," and the other factors that writers on horticulture emphasize so often? They are all secondary to the desire to have gardens and orchards. With the desire, one can succeed in spite of their absence. Why, up in Canada I had a garden, a good garden, one whose fruits, flowers, and vegetables paid me well, on a clay soil heavy and sticky enough to make into brick. In Michigan I had another good one on such light sand that I was almost obliged to sit on it to prevent its being blown away when it was dry, which it was most of the time. In the District of Columbia I had one on mud flats pumped up from the bottom of the Potomac river to fill a marsh. This land was so hard that when first plowed the three-horse team turned-it up in clods as big as my body, and it was so full of poke and bindweed that three years were needed to get the upper hand. But I had my garden Uncle Sam's garden, rather, this one. Again, in New York state I have had gardens on such steep and stony land that without very careful handling the top soil would journey off to sea whenever there was a rain, and leave nothing but a stone quarry behind, a thing that occurred in spots more than once.
My plantations have ranged in size from a tenth of an acre to 30 acres, but for downright profit the smaller ones have paid more to the square foot in actual money, not to mention joy and good living, than the big ones ever did.
If one really desires to have fruit, vegetables, flowers, and attractive home grounds, neither poor soil, nor lack of time, nor hillsides, not stones nothing can stop him. He'll have it.
THE FARMER'S OPPORTUNITY
It is the farmers' and village residents' privilege to enjoy abundance of the best fruit and vegetables, but how many realize it? Taking the country as a whole, very few. Why? Is it because of the cost? Surely not. A first-class orchard and berry patch big enough to supply any family with ample fresh and canned fruit for the year can be bought and planted for $10 to $20, and the annual cost of care should not exceed 20 per cent of the first cost. Five dollars' worth of choice vegetable seeds, properly planted and cared for, will yield a wealth and variety of food that cannot be bought from the huckster for twenty times that amount. They will, moreover, be fresh and ready when wanted, which purchased vegetables not always are. And as to flowers and ornamental shrubs and trees, these can be largely found in the woods and fence rows. They are often far better than the costly things offered for sale.
The farmer who has no orchard and no garden must either have a bare table or buy what he needs. To do either is expensive. Fruit and vegetables cost far less than flour and meat. If produced on the place, they cost still less than if bought from the vendor. Hence the more abundant the home supply, the smaller the butchers' and grocers' bills. From this it is evident that doing without garden and orchard is false economy, because one pays out more money to get less than if he used a fraction of the amount as a garden and orchard investment. He is living expensively, but by no means luxuriously; whereas garden and orchard reverse the case and enable him to live luxuriously, with economy.
FARM VALUE INCREASED
There are more ways to make horticulture pay than by growing a big acreage of some fruit or vegetable crops and sending the produce to market. Special emphasis is laid on this home phase of horticulture, because it is least appreciated. A wellkept garden and orchard make every farm worth more than the same farm would be without them. Each is recognized as a permanent asset far more valuable than the original cost plus the annual cost of care. Each yields an average annual revenue with less yearly attention than any equal area on the farm. Hence the increased value of the place. But more important is the fact that well-chosen shade trees, ornamental vines and shrubs and hardy perennial flowers, tastefully arranged about the place, make a home instead of a group of barns and houses, big and little. A farm with a home on it has an increased value far in excess of the cost of the gardens and grounds that make it a home.
From such a home the rising generation is slower to depart than from the farm where they are absent, and to it those who do leave will return more gladly than to the bleak acres void of either. Therefore, if it be true that human love is reached by the highway to the stomach, and that digestion is better where one is contented and happy, it certainly follows that love of home will rest upon a far more secure footing where gardens and orchards are part of the farm equipment than where they are not. So the farmer who has both is the man who is not only enjoying life as he goes along, but is fostering a love of home, which is the bulwark of nations.
There is still another way in which horticulture will pay, and that is in the opportunity it affords to help one's neighbors. At first this may seem to be limited to giving away a few vegetables, fruits, and flowers, or inviting friends to enjoy these luxuries on the place or at the home table. But soon these hospitalities do their gentle work and one neighbor after another will begin to slick up his place a bit and plant an orchard and a vegetable garden, and, perhaps, a little later, set out some ornamentals. Thus the whole community will get the benefit of one good example. Who can estimate the value to the nation as this influence extends? The way to estimate how horticulture pays is far beyond any little dollars and cents measure, though this must not be dropped from view.