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.
Passing through a street in Philadelphia, on which blocks of first-class houses had been erected on both sides, but evidently by two different owners, there appeared to be a wonderful difference in success by street trees alone. There was a pretty row of Carolina poplars on one side; on the other side no trees at all. This side had innumerable notices of houses " to rent," but on the tree-shaded side every house was occupied. Both blocks appeared to be houses of about equal age and value, and there was no apparent difference between the two. There seemed every reason to believe that the presence of trees alone had given the one side the great advantage. These Carolina poplars are, by the way, admirable street trees, because they bear clipping better than any other; and, in the closely built up portions of cities, it is not always desirable to let trees have wholly their own way. To our mind these poplar trees, with just enough trimming of the tops to give the whole line an uniform appearance, was much prettier than if the line had been all ragged and torn. Though we would thus far sanction the practice which makes a tree look shaven and shorn, the pruning should be confined to the wood of last year.
Trees lose roots in proportion as the tops are cut away, as every one must know who has seen the severely pollarded trees of some Philadelphia streets. They lean over, or wholly blow down.
They had, in times past, lost roots that should sustain the heavy trunks.
But all this has been gone Over before in our columns, and we often wonder if ever the necessity for repeating things continually will come to an end. Here is a neighbor of ours who three years ago made a lawn, sowed his grass seed, and a crop of wheat with it. The wheat was cut before quite ripe, but there was no grass. Again in the fall it was done, and again last fall, and in driving by there was again the identical wheat crop, almost ready to mature. And then we happened to meet our good neighbor a few days ago. "Where," says he, "can I get good lawn grass seed? I have sowed some three times from different seedsmen, and have been cheated every time." "Why," said the writer, "did you let the wheat grow? Have you not read all about this in the Gardener's Monthly?" "Gardener's Monthly," says he, "what's that?" So we saw how it was. There are new people coming on every day. It takes time for them to even know that there is a gardening magazine to which they should come for cheap information. It is necessary, therefore, to say over and over again, that rye, wheat or oats sown with grass in the fall is only that the coarse leaves may fall down over the finer grass when the winter comes, and thus prevent what is known as thawing-out. No respect should be paid to these grain plants in the spring, but the lawn should be mowed regularly as if there was nothing but grass there.
To allow the grain to grow as this gentleman has done, is to dry the ground completely, and seriously cripple or destroy the young grass plant. It is about time to think of these things, for ground work around new country homes will soon be in order. In preparing the grounds, it should be remembered that grass and trees are not only required to grow therein, but that they must grow well. The top soil of the lot is often covered by the soil from the excavations, trusting to heavy manuring to promote fertility. But this is a too slow and expensive process. The top surface soil should, in all cases, be saved, and replaced over the baser soil. Also, where it is necessary to lower a piece of ground, the top soil should be saved to place over again. The depth of the soil is an important matter, both for the trees and the lawn. It should be at least eighteen inches deep. In shallow soils grass will burn out under a few days of hot sun. In a soil eighteen inches deep a lawn will be green in the driest weather. For the sake of the trees, also, the ground should be not only deep, but rich. If from thirty to forty loads of stable manure to the acre could be appropriated, it would be money well spent.
Life is too short for it to be an object to wait too long for trees to grow, and planting large ones is an expensive, as well as an unsatisfactory business. A tree in a rich and deep soil will grow as much in one year as in five in a poor one. So in preparing a lawn, it is fortunate that, while aiming at the best effects, we are helping our trees also. It is generally best to sow for a lawn than to sod, where much of it has to be done. The edges of the road must, of course, be sodded, the balance neatly raked over and sown. The best kind of grass to be employed in seeding is a disputed point, and it will, no doubt, depend in a great measure on the locality. Philadelphia and northward, the perennial rye grass is excellent. It commences to grow very early, and has a peculiar lively shining green. South of Philadelphia it is very liable to get burned out in summer, and the Kentucky blue grass would be much better. It is much the best to have but one kind of grass for a lawn, provided it is suited to the locality. A mixture of kinds is apt to give a spotted and variegated character, not at all pleasing. Some people like to see white clover growing thickly in a lawn and others object to anything but green.
However, if a good grass rake is employed freely in summer time, the heads of these flowers may be kept from expanding. Where there is a prospect of a month of growing weather, lawns may still be sown with grass seed - the clover, where used, to be kept for sowing in April or March next. A small quantity of rye should be thinly sown with the grass, which, by the shade it affords, will prevent the grass from being thrown out by the frost. The rye must of course be closely cut in the spring to allow the grass to get ahead of it as already stated.