This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V22", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
A friend suggests that in a magazine which circulates all over the United States, and possibly in no one part more than another, " Hints for the month " are useless. But the careful reader will note that we do not attempt hints for the month, - but " Seasonable Hints." We know well enough that the person who does not know anything of gardening, but what he can read in a calendar of operations for every day in the year, will not profit much by anything that can be written. In a small country like Great Britain, - a country about the size of a man's hand - where a magazine printed in the morning in the north, may be read before night in the south, such directions may do, but when the reader and the printer are two or three thousand miles apart, and when winter is just coming in at one end it is spring-tide at the other, it is quite another thing. But " Seasonable Hints " are different. We have Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn. It is just possible that once in a while the "hint" will be just too late in some little corner. Even here the reader can store it up.
He will only have to consider that it is for him a little early to begin yet.
Now we want to say to fruit growers that a very common evil is to starve orchard trees. Further would say that this is the "season" to think about reforming, and that it will still be the " season" till the trees begin to grow. It is often said that fruit trees do not like much manure. This is not our experience. When injury results from application of manure, we believe it is more from the destruction of the roots by the plow or spade used at the time of manuring,. - for it is not unfrequently the case that after an orchard is manured the trees are " begrudged" the food; and grain, root, or vegetable crops are put in to dispute with the roots the possession of the food. When the manure is applied as a top dressing, and the roots not disturbed, we have never seen any amount of stable manure or compost applied that was in any degree anything else than a benefit to the tree. Sometimes it is said a tree grows too luxuriously, and then will not bear. Very few orchard-growers are in this lucky strait, - for it is luck to have ground as rich as this. In such cases, of course no manure will be applied, - but even here it is only a question of time, - for when in such rich ground trees do bear, the rich fruits and enormous crops are well worth waiting for.
Just here the "grass question " in orchards comes in. If the ground is already comparatively poor, and you " seed it down with grass," the result is as certain to be poor looking, sickly, yellow trees as anything can be. To expect a crop of grass and a crop of trees where there is scarcely enough of food for one crop, is absurd. No sensible man understands any one to advocate any such a theory - we might properly say such nonsense, but if one has at command any material with which he can cheaply top dress under his orchard trees at this season of the year, he will find that this plan of growing trees is one of the best ever devised. If he has not the material for top dressing, the next best thing is to keep the harrow going all summer to keep down the weeds, so that the roots have all the benefit of what little food there may be in the soil. As a general rule, however, it will be found, that where a man's time is worth anything, the labor spent in continual harrowing is worth what would be spent in procuring top dressing material.
Vegetables also require rich food. In getting ready for spring vegetables, do not fear to pile on the manure. It is the rank rich growth which gives the agreeable tenderness to them, and without an abundance of manure this cannot be done. Deep soil is also a great element of success. Though we do not favor subsoiling and underdraining for fruit trees, we regard it as very profitable in vegetable growing.
Asparagus beds may have the soil raked off" them a little, if it was thrown up from the alleyway in the fall. It allows the sun to get to the roots earlier, and the crop is forwarded thereby. If the beds are poor, they may have a dressing of guano, or superphosphate, which has been found very beneficial to this crop. It has become almost a stereotyped recommendation to have " salt applied," but there is a good deal of the humbug about it. In dry, sandy soils it does a little good, and a little in whatever manure is applied is acceptable to them, but more has been made of the salt theory with asparagus than it deserves. Asparagus beds may be got ready as soon as the ground is sufficiently dry to admit of working. A deep soil is all-important; two feet, at least, and a situation should be chosen that is warm, and yet not too dry. The roots should be set about four inches under the surface, twenty inches or two feet from each other, and the rows eighteen or twenty inches apart. Large, fine Asparagus cannot be obtained by crowding the plants; strong two and three year old plants are the best; although in good, rich soil, one year old plants will often bear a good crop the year after planting. The length of time Asparagus requires to come into bearing depends much on the soil.
It is useless to attempt raising it in poor ground.
This is generally supposed to be the pruning season. Orchard trees generally get too much pruning. In young trees only thin out so as not to have the main leaders crossing or interfering with one another. Or when a few shoots grow much stronger than the rest, cut these away. Insist on all the branches in young trees growing only on a perfect equality. On older trees which have been in bearing a number of years, it will often benefit to cut away a large portion of the bearing limbs. By a long series of bearings, branches will often get bark bound and stunted, preventing the free passage of the sap to the leaves. In such cases the sap seems to revenge itself by forcing out vigorous young shoots a long way down from the top of the tree. It is down to these vigorous young shoots that we would cut the bearing branches away. One must use his own judgment as to the advisability of this. If the tree bears as fine and luscious fruit as ever, of course no such severe work need be done, but if not, then now is the time.