This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V23", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Many persons take grafts of currants, gooseberries, grapes, quinces and other things off in the winter season, tie them in bundles and put in sand boxes till spring. One trouble is that if the temperature of the cellar or other preserva-tory is much above freezing point, they sprout before the weather out-doors is ready to receive them. It must, therefore, be an object to get these out at the earliest possible moment that the ground is fit. Those who take the cuttings in spring and put out at once, had better shade the cuttings for a little while. Light is an enemy to the production of roots.
Grafting can be continued till the buds of the trees are nearly pushed into leaf. Sometimes, from a pressure of other work, some valuable scions have been left on hand too late to work. It may be interesting to know, that if such scions are put into the ground much the same as if they were cuttings, they will keep good for six weeks or two months, by which time the bark will run freely, when the scions may be treated as buds, and will succeed just as well as buds taken from young summer shoots.
Strawberry beds are very frequently made at this season, and though they will not bear fruit the same year, are much more certain to grow, and will produce a much better crop next year than when left till next August. Though it is a very common recommendation, we do not value a highly manured soil. It should be well trenched or subsoiled; this we consider of great value. In rich soils there is too much danger of having more leaves than fruit.
In planting dwarf pears, it is very important to have them on a spot that has a moist subsoil, either naturally, or made so by subsoiling or mixing some material with the soil that will give out moisture in dry weather. Trees already planted on a dry gravelly-subsoil, should have a circle dug out two feet deep and two or three feet from the tree. This should be filled up with well-enriched soil. If the dwarf pear does not grow freely, it is a sign that something is wrong. It should at once be severely pruned, so as to aid in producing a vigorous growth, but in pruning do not cut back the vigorous healthy wood, and leave the starveling stuff. It is a wonderful sight to look at the average pruner of dwarf pea trees. All the wood, weak and strong, is shortened alike. The object should be to help those which have already done well. A good top dressing is also a good thing for a weak growing dwarf pear tree. There is some prejudice against dwarf pear trees. As a source of profit few could make them compete with standards, but the few who would take pains to understand them might.
They are very nice things for those who understand them well, but poor for those who believe nature is the best model.
In grape raising, people seem to go to extremes in management. A few years ago the poor plant was in leading strings. It dared not make one free growth, but it was pinched and twisted into all sorts of ways. Now the "prune not at all" maxims are getting headway, and this is as bad, if not worse. First grape growing was such a mystery it took a life-time to study it, and the "old vigneron" was an awfully sublime sort of a personage. He is now among the unfrocked and unreverenced. But there is great art in good grape treatment; and yet this art is founded on a very few simple principles. For instance, leaves are necessary to a healthy growth; but two "leaves three inches wide are not of equal value to one leaf of six inches. To get these strong leaves, see that the number of sprouts be limited. If two buds push from one eye, pinch out the weakest whenever it appears. The other will be strengthened by this protective policy, and the laws of trade result in favor of larger and better leaves on the leaf that follows. Allow no one shoot to grow stronger than another. If there are indications of this, pinch off its top. While it stops to wonder what you mean by this summary conduct, the weaker fellows will profit to take what properly belongs to them.
There is little more science in summer pruning than this; but it takes some experience, joined with common sense, to apply it. This, indeed, is where true art comes in.
South of Philadelphia, the more tender kinds of garden vegetables may now be sown - beans, corn, cucumbers, squashes, etc. - that it is not prudent to plant in this latitude before the first of May; and tomatoes, egg-plants, etc., may also be set out in those favored places. Cucumbers, squashes, and such vegetables can be got forward as well as tomatoes, egg plants, etc. by being sown in a frame or hotbed, and potted off into three-inch pots. They will be nice plants by the first week in May. Rotten wood suits cucumbers and the squash tribe exceedingly well as a manure. Tomatoes and egg-plants that are desired very early are best potted, soon after they come up, into small pots. They can then be turned out into the open air without any check to their roots. Of course, they should be gradually inured to the open air - not suddenly transferred from a warm and moist air to a very dry one.
Few things mark a well-kept garden better than an abundance of all kinds of herbs. Now is the time to make the beds. Sage, thyme and lavender grow from slips, which may be set in now precisely as if an edging of box were to be made of them. They grow very easily. Basil and sweet marjoram must be sown in a rich warm border.
Early York cabbage for early use should be set out early in this month. It is an excellent plan to make the holes with a dibble first, where the cabbage is to be set; then fill up the holes with manure-water; and after the water has soaked away, set in the plants. It is rather more laborious than the old way, but the cabbage grows so fast afterwards that it pays pretty well.
It is not a good plan to cut all the asparagus as soon as they appear. A few sprouts should always be left to grow from each, to strengthen the plants.
Celery, with most families is an important crop, and should be sown about this period. A very rich moist spot, that will be shaded from the mid-day April sun, should be chosen; or a box in a frame by those who have the convenience.
Bean-poles may be planted preparatory to sowing the Lima bean in May. When beanpoles are scarce, two or thee hoop-poles, set into the ground one foot apart, and tied together at the top, make as good a pole, and perhaps better.
Peas should be sown every two weeks for a succession - do not make the soil very rich for them.
Lettuce, for a second crop of salad, should be sown about the end of the month. The Drumhead cabbage is usually sown for a summer crop; but the old kinds of Cos lettuce would, no doubt, be found very valuable in rich soils.