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.
Blackberries and raspberries, set out in spring, may kill themselves by overbearing. It is pardonable to wish for some fruit the first year. If a tree seems to be growing freely, some fruit may be left. Cut out black-knot, or any symptoms of disease that may appear, and as they appear.
Where water can be commanded, there is nothing so profitable as to well soak the soil about small fruits; first about the time that they have set their fruits. Much of the value of this operation, however, will depend on the nature of the soil. The advantages are least in a tenacious, and greatest in porous soil. It is said that an animal derives most benefit from food when it is hungry before it begins to eat; it is certainly so with plants. Water applied to soil already wet is an injury; and water never has so telling an advantage on vegetation as when every leaf is about to wither up for the want of it. A plant that never seems to want water is in a very doubtful condition in regard to its health.
Whether Strawberries should have runners cut off depends much on kind and soil. Free growing kinds grow too freely often in rich soils. Allowing them to exhaust themselves and the soil by growing thick together is an advantage; shyer growing kinds would do no good under such treatment. Moist garden soils are rich - but on the whole the most profitable and best plan is the cutting runners off system. But the best strawberries are raised where the soil between the rows are kept shaded and cool. The plants, that is to say, the leaves and fruits, are all the better for all the sun they can get; but the roots must be kept cool to do well. A good thick mass of corn stalks between rows of strawberries is of first-class service.
Handsome forms are as desirable in fruit as in ornamental trees. No winter pruning will do this exclusively. It may furnish the skeleton - but it is the summer pinching which clothes the bones with beauty. A strong shoot soon draws all its nutriment to itself. Never allow one shoot to grow that wants to be bigger than others Equality must be insisted on. Pinch out always as soon as they appear, such as would push too strongly ahead, - and keep doing so till the new buds seem no stronger than the others. Thus the food gets equally distributed.
If large fruit is wanted thinning assists. Strawberries are increased in size by watering in a dry time. Fruit should be allowed to bear only according to their strength. If a transplanted tree grows freely it may bear a few fruits, - but bear in mind growth and great fruitfulness are antagonistic processes.
Few persons deserve more thanks from American gardeners than Peter Henderson. Scores of good points could be mentioned, but his efforts to make known the value of "firming the soil," may be referred to just now. More seeds die from being too loose or too deep than people imagine. Mr. Henderson shows that the shallower seeds can be sown, so that they are damp, and free from the light, the better. Now to make a light scratch, put in the seed, and tread in the soil, is the perfection of this plan. The seed is near the necessary air, just covered so as to be clear of the light, and yet so tightly pressed against the earth that it can easily suck in all the moisture it wants. Of course to a great many good gardeners there is nothing new in treading seed in with the feet. The Gardener's Monthly has often recommended it in incidental ways, but we will venture to say that there are thousands who have heard of the good plan for the first time, solely through Mr. Henderson's efforts to place the matter before them.
In the cultivation of garden crops, the hoe and rake should be continually at work. Weeds should be taken in hand before they are barely out of the seed-leaf, and one-half the usual labor of vegetable gardening will be avoided. Hoeing or earthing up of most garden crops is of immense advantage in nearly every case. One would suppose that in our hot climate flat culture would be much more beneficial; but a fair trial, say on every other row of a bed of cabbages, will show a great difference in favor of the earthed-up plants. It would be easy to explain the rea son of this, but in this column we try to confine ourselves to "hints," and leave reasons to our other departments.
Egg-plant, pepper, tomato, brocoli, cabbage, and a little celery for early crops may be set out - taking care that the plants should not meet any check from want of water, poverty of the soil, loss of leaves or other kind. A check is a great enemy to early crops. "The first shall be last, and the last first," is often very true in gardening, and at times the facts in gardening, in such cases would put many an early famed variety out of an undeserved eminence.