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.
It has often occurred to me on my many visits to various greenhouses in this vicinity and elsewhere, that there is a general tendency to neglect the details and a want of care in all gardening operations, both indoors and out, among professional gardeners as well as among amateurs, and many are unsuccessful from this cause only. Of these little neglects, - for they are only little things at the time, - I will endeavor in the following lines to point out a few. He who would be successful as a gardener, must make the plants under his care the subject of thought, and he must be constantly on the alert for changes in circumstances which will make changes in the treatment necessary.
There is probably no operation in indoor gardening requiring more care than watering. The quantity and frequency of watering should always be regulated by the state of the atmosphere, and the condition and requirements of the plants watered. It is a common mistake to give a plant the same amount of water when at rest as when in rapid growth. Again, it is not at all unusual to see watering but half clone, when, as a rule, all watering should be done thoroughly, and then not again until the plants are sufficiently dry to need it.
Weeds are often allowed to grow up and ripen their seed, thereby securing a heavy crop of weeds for yourself and neighbor for the following year. Insect ravages are unobserved until the plants on which they have been feasting are almost entirely destroyed; whereas, by a little attention in the beginning, this damage might have been prevented, and with many kinds of insects it is impossible to dislodge them after they have become established. The same holds good with regard to fungoids, etc., the most of which would make no progress where the proper preventatives are used.
The usual condition of the propagating bench is another source of annoyance to the eye of the neat gardener. There is no attempt at keeping the sand firm or level, and the cuttings are stuck in without any regard to order, and in such a manner that the varieties must become mixed. Dead leaves are allowed to accumulate in the sand, which are sure to harbor fungoids and eventually destroy the cuttings.
Greenhouses and hot-beds are left hermetically sealed when they should be well ventilated, and then again they are left open when they should be closed. A short time ago, while visiting a private greenhouse on a cold, windy day, I noticed a severe draught of air sweeping down through the middle of the house, and on investigation I found a ventilator open at each end, giving the air a free sweep of the house; and still the gardener who prided himself on his skill, complained that his roses would suffer from mildew, no matter what he did for them. Overcrowding is another source of failure. Plants which are overcrowded are deprived of their proper amount of air and light, making them spindling and sickly, and in the case of bedding plants, ruining them almost entirely for planting out. This is one of the principal reasons why the market is so often overstocked with sickly plants, which would be dear to buy at any price: for plants when weakened in this or any other way are unable to withstand transplanting, change of temperature, and the attacks of insects and disease. Seedlings from the time of their germination till they become well established plants, require particular attention, and are too often entirely neglected.
Watering, airing and shading them from the direct rays of the sun require constant attention, and not only attention, but also intelligent forethought.
The walks in the greenhouse and in the open air, are also often neglected. In the greenhouse it is rarely that anything is done to them, where with but slight expense they might be boarded, cemented, or protected in some other way, so as to prevent water from standing in them and making mud-holes. In the open air the walks are almost universally hardened in some way, but the edges are left uncut, weeds are left growing in them, and bits of paper are allowed to remain undisturbed. The same can be said of the lawns, but not to so great an extent, for there has been a marked improvement in this direction within the last few years. It might be appropriate just here to say a word about labeling. All labels should be written in a plain, round hand, so that they can be read without difficulty. Plants are often received from well-established firms, which are labeled in such a slovenly manner, that where the name is not familiar it is impossible to decipher it.
In conclusion, I would state that nothing will add more to the appearance of a garden and its surroundings than strict neatness. Though the failings spoken of above are by no means universal, they prevail enough to make reform desirable. It is but justice to add, that with many this is the result of having too much to attenc to, and in such cases the employers are to blame.