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.
The problem of perfect roads is yet unsolved. As every place, large or small, has to have pathways of some kind, it is a topic that interests every reader of our magazine. As we cannot have perfection, we must approach it as near as we can; and we may approach much nearer than we do, if we will give our thoughts to the principles that underlie success.
There is but one enemy to a good road, and this is water. Some would say frost, but frost does no injury whatever where water does not exist. If we can get any kind of material so tight and compact that it will not absorb water, it is entirely frost-proof. This is the real secret of the value of asphalt, which is simply bituminous limestone. The rock is first broken in small pieces, then crushed fine, and rolled under heat. The crushing makes innumerable small spaces, into which the melted bitumen penetrates. Every air space is thus effectually closed, and of course it is entirely water-proof. No frost can therefore affect it in the slightest degree. The danger is from high temperatures. The dark color favors a rapid absorption of heat, and the heated mass expands, and as it cools makes numerous small fissures that permit water to follow. This freezes, and the disruption of the whole commences, imperceptibly at first, but in time to a serious extent. Lime alone wall make a tolerably good path, if slacked before using, and put down in the form of plaster; trusting to continuous rolling to press out the air cells. Its particles are too soft to stand against heavy, sudden blows, such as from horses' feet, but for steady travel it is excellent, and very cheap.
For cellar floors nothing better can be desired. It take's a couple of weeks or more to harden, but is then perfect rock. We were astonished recently to see the cellar floors of a very large public building in Philadelphia being asphalted, as if they were for a tremendous traffic, when the great expense might have been avoided by a lime floor. The lime floor we have described, it must be particularly noted, is not a mortar floor, but a plaster floor made of well-slacked lime and rolled.
There is not, however, much gained by these patent attempts to get over the road-making difficulties of the time. None of them are equal to a first-class Macadam road, made of the best flint rock. Rarely is a road, said to be "Macadamized," really so. To make one we must first provide for thorough drainage. Any coarse, heavy stone that will lay solid will do for a foundation. As we near the surface it must be smaller, but that on the top should be no larger than almonds, and the whole compactly rolled. The reason why they must be so small and no larger is this: If a stone moves ever so little under a heavy wheel, it is bound to be more or less broken; or if it does not move, if it bears the whole weight of a wheel without any support from its neighboring pieces of stone, it will be crushed to dust. But if the pieces are so small that each is compactly wedged in by the others, so that any displacement of the piece is utterly impossible, it receives the heaviest weights with perfect indifference. A well made road of this character will bear public travel for a hundred years, provided a facing of the half-inch material is added occasionally, as the little wear that takes place needs.
So far as public roads are concerned, loads of this stone might be hauled to the yards of penitentiaries, and broken by heavy machines worked by convicts; and with a view to just such useful labor these buildings might very often be erected convenient to stone of this character. We trust that these hints on roads will be useful at this season of the year especially.
In many parts where our magazine goes it will be necessary to bring up the preliminaries for active spring work.
Many delay pruning shrubbery until after severe weather passes, so as to see what injury may be done, - but with March all should be finished, - taking care not to trim severely such shrubs as flower out of last year's wood, as for instance, the Wiegela - while such as flower from the spring growth, as the Althaea, Mock Orange, etc, are benefited by cutting back vigorously.
Those which flower from young wood, cut in severely to make new growth vigorous. Tea, China, Bourbon and Noisette roses are of this class. What are called annual flowering roses, as Prairie Queen and so on, require much of last year's wood to make a good show of flowers. Hence, with these, thin out weak wood, and leave all the stronger.
To make handsome, shapely specimens of shrubs, cut them now into the forms you want, and keep them so by pulling out all shoots that grow stronger than the others during the summer season.
Graft trees or shrubs where changed sorts are desirable. Any lady can graft. Cleft grafting is the easiest. Split the stock, cut the scion like a wedge, insert in the split, so that the bark of the stock and scion meets; tie a little bast bark around it, and cover with Trowbridge's grafting wax, and all is done: very simple when it is understood, and not hard to understand.
If flowers have been growing in the ground for many years, new soil does wonders. Rich manure makes plants grow, but they do not always flower well with vigorous growth. If new soil cannot be had, a wheelbarrow of manure to about every fifty square feet will be enough. If the garden earth looks grey or yellow, rotten leaves - quite rotten leaves - will improve it. If heavy, add sand. If very sandy, add salt - about half a pint to fifty square feet. If very black or rich from previous year's manurings, use a little lime, about a pint, slacked, to fifty square feet.
If the garden be full of hardy perennial flowers, do not dig it, but use a fork, and that not deeply.
Dig garden ground only when the soil is warm and dry. Do not be in a hurry, or you may get behind. When a clot of earth will crush to powder as you tread on it, it is time to dig - not before.
If perennial plants have stood three years in one place, separate the stools, replanting one-third, and give the balance to your neighbor who has none.
Box edgings lay we'll now. Make the ground firm and level, plant deep, with tops not more than two inches above ground.
Roll the grass well before the softness of a thaw goes away. It makes all smooth and level.
In planting trees remember our repeated advice to use the pruning knife freely.
The rule for pruning at transplanting is to cut in proportion to apparent injury to roots. If not much the worse for removal, cut but little of the top away. Properly pruned, a good gardener will not have the worst case of a badly dug tree to die under his hands. In a nursery, where these matters are well understood, trees "never die."