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.
One would suppose that with all that has been said in our pages in regard to deep planting, we should not see much of it done; but it is very common, and we have to note the evils continually in our travels. If the land is dry and sandy, or the trees with a few heavy roots of a thick " tap" like character, it does not matter so much. In the sands of New Jersey one may set trees deeper without injury than in Pennsylvania, and one would find much less injury in the dry earth of Colorado, than in the moister climate of Iowa. The Oak or the standard Pear does not suffer much from deep planting, but it is best to set them but little deeper than they grew before. Fibrous rooters like Maples and Ashes must be kept tolerably near the surface, while hair-rooted things, such as Rhododendrons and Azaleas, if not growing in almost open sand, must be set on the surface or not at all. We note these remarks through having recently seen the attempts of a friend, and we are sorry to say, a reader of the Gardener's Monthly, to grow the Rhododendron on quite an extensive scale, a comparative failure from deep planting. They were not very deep either; an Apple would not have rebelled at the treatment.
The balls of roots in a Rhododendron should be set, as a general rule, on the ground, and the earth drawn up about the roots, and pressed very firm.
What we say of deep planting for trees, applies also to deep planting of flower or other seeds.
We may put a Walnut or Chestnut several inches under ground, or six inches under ground if sown in sand; but for our ordinary seeds, we want them as near the surface as we can get them. Suppose we actually take our readers to the garden, and show them practically how to sow their flower seeds.
The day is warm, and the surface soil just dry enough to powder when struck with the back of the trowel. We should not ask their company otherwise, for when the soil is sticky it won't do to sow seed. The ground has been dry several days before. The surface is now powdered and about the thickness of the trowel blade scraped off. The seed is then sown, the soil drawn back and beat firmly down on the seed. You see how near the top we sowed the seed, and how firmly we beat the soil over it, and we spoke about a "first principle." This principle is this: - Seeds want moisture to make them grow, but they must also have air - one is an evil without the other. If deep they get only water, in which case they rot. If entirely on the surface they get only air, and then they dry up. " But, Mr. Hintsman, why beat the soil so firm?" Another principle, dear lady, lies there. Large spaces in soil enable the earth to dry out rapidly; small spaces, on the other hand, hold water. Crushing earth, when dry, gives it these small spaces, or as gardeners call it, makes it porous, and thus you see we have set our seeds where they will be near the air, and fixed them so that they shall be regularly moist.
While caring for the flowers, forget not the lawn - that great charm - without which a garden is not worthy of the name.
Our readers all know that the soil should be made as deep as possible, because a deep soil is generally a reservoir of moisture, from which is replaced the waste from the drying surface, under the summer heats, and thus the grass is kept from burning out. But this is not all. Lawns soon become impoverished by exhaustion of the soil, and by continual mowing, - and this has to be provided for. Mowing machines particularly injure lawns, by their very close and continuous cutting. But this must not be an argument against the machines. We cannot do without them. One should be on every lawn of any extent. But we must in some way provide a counter advantage to check the weakening influence which they undoubtedly exert. One of the troubles of close mowing is, that the grass is so weakened in vitality that little, low, vile weeds soon advance their forces, and choke out the grass. Allowing the grass to grow up without mowing for a year will give renewed vigor to the grass, and be death to the little pests; but in a year or two the old sod will be as bad as ever, and it is doubtful whether the advantages of the plan compensate for the untidiness.
It is, perhaps, better to follow the suggestions of previous volumes, to set the machine so as not to cut so low as we did on the first introduction of mowing machines, where it has not been done.
The hints we offered in our last number are in general applicable to this also.