This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V21", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
We have often stated that one of the grievous errors of American gardening is that they are too large. American fortunes are not so steady. We have a succession of years of prosperity, and among other luxuries, form a good garden; hut it is hardly put in fair order before we find that its necessary expenses are too large for our income, and the establishment runs down. We see these places everywhere. Here are gardens which ought to have half a dozen men to keep them properly, cut down perhaps to one laborer, besides the gardener; and the gardeners engaged are of the cheapest kind, and for all grudgingly paid. It should never be forgotten that it costs something to keep up a garden as well as to maintain horses and carriages. We build stables, and buy fine animals, but we well know that this is but the beginning of an annual cost. A garden must be viewed in the same light. Many lose interest in their gardens through getting poor gardeners. There is nothing new, no taste, no enjoyment. Far better to get some one of superior education and pay him well, though we have but half the extent of ground, or a much less number of greenhouses.
We should advise all our friends to cut down their large gardens, employ with the difference only first-rate men at a fair price, and it will be wonderful how much the interest in the garden will grow.
Those who have small gardens may also profit by the hint. Have no more land occupied than can be kept in the highest order. Where no regular gardener is kept, and only the "jobber" a day or two a week is to be called in, use considerable judgement in the selection of the man. Near all large towns there are, at least, a half dozen to choose from. When the right one is found, be liberal with him. It is far better to encourage good knowledge and good taste, at the expense of smaller grounds, than to have large places badly kept, simply because a poor tool will work for wages which he could make as well by day's work as a laborer on a railroad. So much for concentration of energy and expense.
Turning now to more practical matters, we would say that before any walk is located, be sure it is absolutely required. A pretty outline should be subservient to this. Utility is the essence of beauty in a garden walk. With these general hints on first cost and maintenance, we can only give, this month, the more practical advice to get ready for regular work.
The manure heap is one of those items that can receive attention at this season to advantage. Without a good pile of rich compost, very little success can be hoped for in any kind of gardening affairs. Leaves and litter of every description should be collected whenever possible, and stored in suitable places, where they will not be offensive by their littery appearance. For flowers, generally leaf mould from the woods is very acceptable - not the half-rotted leaves that are immediately on the surface, but such as have been powdered by age, and amongst which the roots of the trees have already penetrated, and rendered of a spongy con-sistence. We like all manures to be thoroughly decomposed before using, if the garden soil is already light and friable; and to this purpose the manure heap should be occasionally turned over and lightened, to assist fermentation. This, also, is aided by watering the heap with a solution of potash, and which also gives additional value, to the manure.
It is a very good practice to cover lawns with manure at this season. Two good results flow from this course: the frost is prevented from penetrating so deeply, and the ground being warmed much sooner in Spring, is green and cheerful some time before unprotected lawns, and then the grass itself is strengthened, and its color brightened by the operation. But stable manure has the objection of introducing many coarse kinds of weeds, that would not otherwise exist on the lawn; and so where the grass grows poorly and strength and luxuriousness are desired, guano and the phosphates are preferred. Many use bone dust, ashes, etc.; but the mowers are apt to feel somewhat indignant, in mowing lime, through this material taking the edge off their scythes and mowing machines.
Manure for flower beds, borders, etc., may be hauled convenient to where it is likely to be wanted in Spring. Many spread it on at once -but if the soil is frozen very thick, it prevents the early thawing of the soil in the Spring, and SO no time is gained.
Evergreens set out last fall in windy or exposed situations, will be benefited by a shelter of Cedar branches, Corn stalks, or mats set against them. Whether hardy or tender, all will be benefited thereby.