THE size of the vegetable garden will naturally depend upon the space at your disposal. Let everyone with even a little ground give a certain portion, no matter how small, to the growing of vegetables, and if possible, raise enough of these good things to supply the home table and occasionally to spare a choice basketful to a less fortunate friend.
The vegetable garden, if a large one, should always be laid out so that access can be readily had to all parts of it, either by horse and cart or with a wheelbarrow.
I have a lasting monument to my own short-sightedness in a garden laid out in Box-edged plots. There is ample room for a horse and cart to pass between the plots, but no place to turn, so the cart must be backed out the way it came in; and of course, neither cart nor wheel-barrow can fly over Box-edges, so the cart must be unloaded into the wheel-barrow and a bridge of boards made over the Box-edging, in the Spring to bring fertilizer and in Autumn to carry away rubbish. There is no way of remedying this serious fault but by rearranging the entire garden, and the trees and plants have now acquired such a fine growth that I am unwilling to take this radical course, so the work must be done under the consequent disadvantage and loss of time.
An ideal vegetable garden is surrounded by a hedge of Siberian Arbor Vitae, or Hemlock Spruce; both are beautiful to look at, either through the Winter months when anything green is so restful to the eye wearying for verdure, or in Summer when the feathery shoots of light green are things of beauty. An evergreen hedge is also valuable both as a wind break or protection in Spring and Fall, and as a screen during the Winter, when, in the absence of snow, bare earth only is visible and the vegetable garden is unattractive.
Large fringed Poppies July ninth.
Running around the garden, inside the hedge, there may be first a border six feet wide, where herbs and various perennial flowers for picking can be grown. At one end, with the right exposure, and the hedge at the back, an excellent place can be found for cold-frames and hot-beds. Inside this border, unless your space be limited, there should be a broad path, certainly eight feet wide, for a horse and cart to pass around the garden, which should be intersected at right angles by wide paths crossing the garden in each direction through the center, leaving four plots of equal size, one of which should be devoted to small fruits, unless there is space for them elsewhere. This is a most practical plan for a large garden which can be both a flower and vegetable garden by making additional borders from four to six feet wide for flowers along the four front sides of each plot, leaving the middle of each plot for the vegetables.
If your ground be so limited that provision can be made only for vegetables, the same general plan may be followed, omitting the borders for flowers and narrowing the paths in proportion. These, however, should not be less than three or four feet wide, that a wheel-barrow may pass comfortably in all directions.
The vegetable garden should be on well-drained land made as nearly level as possible. Where the ground slopes, fertilizer and top soil will be washed by heavy rains to the foot of the slope, and in dry weather the earth is more likely to become hard and caked. Fine seeds, too, when sown on an incline, may be washed away if heavy rains come before they germinate. Ground not naturally level can be terraced.
Light rich loam, which is the ideal garden soil, is not possessed by all, so the next best thing is to help the natural soil by giving it the lacking constituents. Plenty of well-rotted stable manure, muck from low lands if it can be had, wood ashes, bone meal, a sprinkling of air slaked lime, and, if the soil be stiff or clayey, some sand may be added.
If the vegetable garden is large, the parts where corn, beets, and beans are to be planted can be broken up first with a plow and thoroughly harrowed before raking, otherwise let the ground be well spaded and the earth thoroughly pulverized, then smoothed down with a rake. Proper preparation of the soil is the first essential for the production of good crops; then if the ground be frequently stirred and kept free from weeds, you cannot fail of success.
Having arranged and prepared your ground, then comes the planting.
Vegetables should always, if the space permits, be planted in rows, as this facilitates cultivation and lightens the labor.
All the space at your disposal should be constantly utilized and the moment one crop has finished bearing, it should be pulled up, some more fertilizer spread, the ground again spaded and raked, and another crop sown. For instance, a second crop of beans can follow the spring spinach, and the third crop of peas may be grown where the first beans ripened. Carrots can follow the first crop of peas; celery the second crop, and so on. Beans, peas, etc., can follow each other on the same soil if it be well enriched and again prepared before each planting, but it is preferable to follow one crop by another of a different variety.
Asparagus, rhubarb, and currants, which no garden, unless very small, should be without, are long-lived and hardy, and if planted carefully in the first instance, will keep in fine condition and bear for many years, with the simplest care.
The following vegetables are grown in most gardens of any size, require no special skill, are easily raised, are, most of them, in their season, on the menu of every good housekeeper when she can procure them, and give a sufficient variety for any ordinary household:
A single blossom of Anemone Japonica Whirlwind September seventeenth.
The small dark red round Beets are the best. The first crop can be sown in the Spring as soon as the frost is well out of the ground, and afterwards every three weeks until the 1st of July, when the last crop should be put in. Sow the seed in drills a foot apart, covering with about two inches of earth; when three inches high thin out the plants to three or four inches apart. Beets are only fit to eat when they are young, sweet and juicy, so do not sow too many at one time. Two ounces of seed will be sufficient.
Two crops of carrots are generally sufficient; these can be sowed about the 15th of May and again the 1st of July. Sow in drills a foot apart and when the carrots are well up thin them out to three inches apart. Carrots are delicious if gathered when about the size of your little finger and steamed in butter until tender.
One ounce of seed is quite enough.
Sow parsnip seed also very early in the Spring in rows eighteen inches apart and thin out the plants to six inches apart. Late in the Fall the parsnips can be packed in dry earth in barrels or boxes and stored for Winter use. Or they can be buried deeply in the garden and dug up as wanted.
Sow salsify or vegetable oyster as early as the ground can be worked and treat it in every way like the parsnip.