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.
Several days ago I took occasion to send an article to the New York Weekly Tribune, in vindication of that noted horticulturist, Mr. Peter Henderson and " firming." I was sorry to see some slurs cast upon him: but as his high repute as a tiller of the soil will not break down under them, his warm admirers need have no fears. I am glad, that he has brought into such prominent notice so important a principle in agriculture as " firming," or packing the earth about seeds. I am persuaded that it is not practised enough. Mr. Henderson, in his eminently practical paper before the American Association of Nurserymen, at Cleveland, Ohio, June 18th last, very clearly shows its neglect in New Jersey. I doubt not a vast quantity of seed fail to germinate because they are not " firmed," and the seedsman gets the entire blame. By test it has been found that only a certain proportion of all seeds of grasses and sereals grow, but I opine much is due to having the seeds too lightly covered. The earth must be well settled to its place, that the seeds may at once appropriate its essential nutriment. Pressing the soil firmly about the seed closes all air spaces of much size, and keeps the dry winds from penetrating to it, thus greatly helping to save its drying out, and the germ perishing.
Mr. Henderson very properly cautions against firming when the ground is too damp. It is better not to sow when it is wet. The hot sun may bake as hard as a brick. The nearer the condition of an ash heap the better. Last Fall we drilled wheat when the dust filled the air. There had been a protracted drouth. We sent the roller over it immediately, with a very gratifying result. The wheat sprang up at once, and flourished, notwithstanding the drouth continued for weeks. Wheat that we did not roll, was greatly inferior to it. After seeds have developed into plants, " firming " should be reversed. The earth kept loose and friable withstands drouth better and absorbs the fertilizing constituents of the atmosphere more readily. As Mr. Henderson asserts, "firming" is even more necessary in the case of newly set trees, the same principles applying. Another advantage attending it is the comminution of the soil. Pul-verization sets free the growing properties of the earth, to be taken up by vegetation.
[As we noted some time ago, we had to complain of the New York Tribune's manner of treating its contemporaries, whereupon it at once stopped the exchange, and we have had to worry along and get its precious matter indirectly as best we could, so that this is the first knowledge we have that Mr. Henderson has been "done for" in its pages. We can only, therefore, take the matter as our correspondent has presented it, and say that when we heard Mr. Henderson's remarks at Cleveland, it seemed to us one of the best common sense papers ever given to a public body, - and we should have transferred it in full to our pages, only that we felt it would commend itself so strongly to those who have had experience, and receive so wide a publication, that it would cease to be "news" before we could help it along. - Ed. G. M].