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- Home Vegetable Gardening - 10/33 -


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 soil.

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.

HARROWING

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."

FINING.

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 gardening.

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.

Part Two--Vegetables

CHAPTER VIII.

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, but is more economical of manure. The manure in either case should be that of grain-fed horses, and if a small amount of straw bedding, or leaves--not more, however, than one-third of the latter--be mixed among it, so much the better. Get this manure several days ahead of the time wanted for use and prepare by stacking in a compact, tramped-down heap. Turn it over after three or four days, and re-stack, being careful to put the former top and sides of the pile now on the inside.


Home Vegetable Gardening - 10/33

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