This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V22", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The best time to plant evergreens is always a disputed point, - some preferring the early, others the later spring. But the average planter takes the earliest advantage, for there is always enough to do when the last chance to do anything arrives. The real difference in season Is hardly in favor of one over the other; much more depends on the manner in which the tree is taken up, and the manner in which it is planted, than on the precise month in the year. More trees die from bad planting than from a bad season, or bad digging; and bad planting consists more in not having the earth rammed in tightly about the roots than even some good tree planters imagine. It is all very well to spread out the roots with the fingers, and to punch in a fist-full of earth here and there. It is not because one spends an hour over the job that it is done well. Nor is it any proof of good planting that a large hole, or a deep hole, or a hole full of good soil, or a dozen buckets of water, or the prevention of drying by the roots, or the cutting off of wounded portions were all scrupulously attended to. "We may do all this, and the tree be very badly planted indeed.
The man who takes a heavy paving rammer, and rams in tightly every shovelful of earth as it goes in on the roots, and who may perhaps finish the job of planting even a large tree in fifteen minutes, we should regard as much the best tree planter. If the tree has been badly dug, this may be remedied by cutting back some of the weaker branches, and leaving the stronger ones; but nothing will make up for a loosely packed soil about the roots.
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.
There is so much to be done in April, that the briefest hints must suffice. First, of course, we must prepare the ground for planting. Soil loosened two feet deep dries out less in summer than soil one foot deep. Rich soil grows a tree larger in one year than a poor soil will in three. Under-drained soil is cooler in summer than soil not under-drained. The feeding roots of trees come near the surface: therefore plant no deeper than necessary to keep the tree in the soil. If there be danger of its blowing over, stake it, but don't plant deep. One stake set at an angle is as good as two set perpendicularly. Straw or mat set round the tree keeps the bark from rubbing. Large stones placed around a transplanted tree are often better than a stake. They keep the soil moist, admit the air, and encourage surface roots. Shorten the shoots at transplanting. This induces growth, and growth produces roots; and with new roots your tree is safe for another season. Unpruned trees produce leaves, but little growth, and less new roots.
In arranging flowers in beds, aim at varying from last year. And to obtain this ever-changing and pleasing variety, annuals are the very things for the purpose. But they must have good soil and careful attention, or the seed will be sure to furnish a good excuse for neglect or bad practice in many instances. Very fine seeds may be sown quite on the surface, and a little moss, dried and powdered, spread thinly over the seeds. The common cause of failure is deep sowing. The nearer the surface, the better, provided they do not ever become dry - which is as fatal as deep planting. It is a happy practice that can just hit the middle way. Climbing annuals are particularly interesting. Tuberoses are best planted out as soon as all danger of frost is over, in a rich, moist, warm, sandy soil, if perfection is desired. Roots that flowered last year will not flower again for two seasons.