This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V18", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
There is nothing so worries the editor of a Magazine like this, as questions as to what varieties of fruit it is best to plant; for every locality has a favorite list of its own. The editor of this Magazine has had a wide experience, there being few localities over this great country that he has not had some personal knowledge of, and yet he would not dare to give a list for any one place without feeling sure to raise up a host of observers, who would be sure they would not plant such a list on any account. We may say, however, that we believe there is not near as much "adaptability" required in varieties, as people think for.
A very imperfect trial, perhaps with weak plants, or under bad treatment, or perhaps some exceptionable unfavorable seasons or circumstances, have given a variety a bad name, that really deserved a better fate. We know how very local the Triomphe de Gand strawberry was supposed to be, and yet it became a good stand-by, and the Jucunda was actually discarded by some of our best cultivators, before the late war. Knox found good in it, a decision that has been abundantly confirmed. If the plant be healthy and the system of culture not an exhaustive one on the constitution of the plant, we would not hesitate to try in most localities kinds that had been found reliable in others.
In fruit growing, remember that fruits are like grain and vegetable crops, in this, that they must have manure to keep up fertility. Unlike vegetables and grain, however, their feeding roots are mostly at the surface. It is best, therefore, annually to top-dress fruit trees. If manure cannot be had, any fresh earth from ditches or roadsides, spread half an inch or so under the trees, will have a wonderful effect. Indeed, we do not know but that for the pear tree a thin layer of road sand is one of the best manures. We have seen apples thrive amazingly with a coating of coal-ashes.
Whitewashing the stems of orchard trees has a very beneficial effect in clearing away old bark and destroying the eggs of innumerable insects. The white color is bad; throw in a little soot or some other matter to make it brown. In greenhouses sulphur has been found of benefit in keeping down mildew. Possibly, if mixed with the whitewash in tree-dressing it might do good against fire-blight, and such like fungoid troubles.
In planting fruit trees aim to have them 80 that the hot, dry sun will not have full effect on the ground about the roots. The great heat in this way injures the trees. Many who have trees in gardens, plant raspberries under them. The partial shade seems to be good for the raspberries and helps the trees. Blackberries would, no doubt, do well in the same situation; and strawberries it is well known, do not do badly, grown in the same way.
This is a busy season south of Pennsylvania in the vegetable garden. Here we must wait till the end of the month, and northward still later. The crops noted will, of course, be dependent on the arrival of the season, which is rather indicated by the ground becoming warm and dry, than by the almanac. It is very important to have crops early; as soon as the ground is, therefore, in good condition put in the seed. Possibly a cold rain might come and injure them, and you may lose, and have to make a new sowing. Even so, it is but the loss of the seed and labor, while if the seed do not die, the early crop will more than repay that risk.
Deep, rich soil, now so generally condemned for fruit gardens, is of the first importance here. Soil cannot be too rich or too deep, if we would have good vegetables. It is, indeed, remarkable, that in many respects we have to go very differently to work to get good fruits than we have to perfect vegetables. While for instance, we have to get sunlight to give the best richness to our fruits, our vegetables are usually best when blanched or kept from the light. So, also, as we keep the roots as near the surface as we can in order to favor the woody tissue in trees, we like to let them go deep in vegetables, because this favors succulence.
In the open ground, peas and potatoes receive the first attention. Then beets and carrots. Then lettuce, radish, spinach, onions, leeks and parsley. Beyond this unless in more favored latitudes than Pennsylvania, little can be done until the first week in April. There is nothing gained in working soil until it has become warm and dry.
Celery for the main crop will do about the end of the month, but a little may be sown now. We have never been able to make up our mind whether there is such a thing as an absolute solid variety of Celery; and whether pithiness in any degree depends on soil or culture. Certainly we buy all the most improved "solids" every year, and never yet found one satisfactory throughout. We cannot say which is the best of the many candidates.
In the hot-bed, pepper, egg-plant, tomato and cucumbers maybe sown, - and in a coolerhot-bed frame, Early York cabbage, cauliflowers and celery. Those who have not got a hot-bed, can sow a few pots or boxes, and keep them near the light in a warm room.
In addition to sowing of the above, onions, leeks, parsnips and parsley must be sown at this season - not for the main crop, but to have a few in advance of the rest. To keep over the winter, almost all kinds of root crops become tough or coarse if sown too soon.