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.
When we come to "Seasonable Hints," it is almost impossible not to go over, again and again, ground that we have traversed before. Like the Sunday sermon it is the same old truths, - the same rules for conduct - but no less true because it is not new, nor less useful because it is old but true. In fact we have to hear the same things over and over again, for the same things do not strike us alike every time. How much we may profit by what we hear depends in a great measure on what we know already. To-day we hear something unintelligible, or which we do not believe; to-morrow, with more experience of our own, we understand, and find the point commends itself to our good judgment. So we will go over again with what we have often had occasion to say about planting trees, which is one which even the most experienced likes to read something about. Of course much depends on a good time to plant. Here, in the North, April is a good planting month. There is not much art in planting trees, though it is often much of a mystery. Not to let the roots dry for an instant between taking up and planting everybody knows, but everybody does not do it; in fact, everybody deceives himself.
We have seen this distinguished individual leave the tops of trees exposed to the sun, with a mat or straw thrown over the roots, and think all was right; or heel in for a day or two, by just throwing a little dirt over the roots. This is a little good; but everybody's fault is, that although this may be ten minutes of good, he expects to get ten hours, or even ten days' value out of it, and thus he suffers more than if he had done nothing, because he forgets that the branches evaporate moisture from the roots in a dry wind, and the juices go from the roots through the branches, very nearly as well as directly to the air from the roots themselves. So with heeling in. The soil is thrown in lightly, or at most just "kicked" down. "It is only temporary," very few of the roots come in contact with the soil. They can draw in no moisture to supply the waste of evaporation, and thus they stay day after day - everybody satisfied because he sees the roots covered, really worse than if they had been exposed. We have no doubt that more trees are lost from imperfect heeling in than from any other cause whatever.
Of course, if the tops be covered as well as the roots, there is less waste of moisture and more chance of success.
This hint will help us in planting. That is, pound the soil in well about the fibres, so that they may be in close contact with it; or they cannot draw in the necessary moisture. Should the trees appear a little dry, or the roots badly mutilated in digging, or have few fibres, cut away the plant according to" the severity of the injury. It is scarcely necessary to repeat that for this evaporation reason, it is best to plant trees when the ground is rather dry, because it then powders best in pounding, and gets well in about the roots. Wet ground planters, and leaves large hollows in which roots cannot work.
Where evergreens can be benefited by pruning, April is a very good month to attempt it. If a tree is thin in foliage at the base, the top of the tree, leader and all, must be cut away. It makes no difference what the kind is, all will make new leaders after being cut back, if properly attended to. We make this remark because there is a prevalent idea that Pines will not stand this cutting. Of course the trimming should be done in a conical manner, so as to conform to the conical style of the evergreen tree. Sometimes an evergreen, especially a Pine, will rather turn up some of the ends of its side branches than push out another leader; when this is the case, cut these away, and a real leader will form the second year.
Evergreen hedges should be trimmed now, cutting them conically, so as to give light to the lowermost branches.
Evergreen trees make a place look very cosy and warm in winter, but sometimes these are planted to an extent that make the grounds gloomy in summer. This can be remedied by planting gay flowers profusely among the evergreens. Where the evergreens are in clumps or belts, masses of phloxes, hollyhocks, or even beds or blocks of scarlet geraniums have a good effect. Many persons lay great stress on large open spaces of well kept lawn, and indeed they do look nice; but pretty flowers here and there, add to, rather than detract from the lawn beauty. There has been much said lately against carpet beds, mosaics and massing of colors in beds generally, but the effect is often gorgeous; and it is not likely that this system of ornamenting grounds will go out of fashion for a long time. It ought not, however, obliterate all taste for flowers in themselves. In fact, a good old fashioned bed of mixed old-fashioned flowers will seem all the better for a mass of mere colored leaves in the vicinity.
Yet a good lawn is the first essential of a neat garden, no matter how small the grounds may be. The constant cutting weakens the grass, and hence top dressings of rich material is a benefit; but be careful not to use gritty material or it will dull the mowing machine or scythe. Ashes or ground bone are dangerous in this respect, because the light substances are brought up to the edges of the knives by the pushing grass. Again, as everything, grass included, must have some green leaves before it has strong roots, do not cut the grass any shorter than is absolutely necessary to make the lawn look neat.