This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V26", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Cultivators of the soil are getting more and more convinced that thorough cultivation is indispensable in securing good results, whether he be a farmer raising cereals and other field crops, or gardener raising flowers and vegetables. In this section of the country we had a long, protracted, severe drought, just after our early crops were set out, preceded with a frost, which not only destroyed early tomatoes and beans, but also early cabbages. Had a good rain followed, the evil results of the frost would have soon been overcome, but instead bright sun, drying winds and high temperature followed, which left us in a condition, that, to carry our crops through we had either to water or else keep the hoe and cultivator going. The watering being impossible for me, without incurring considerable expense, I had to resort to thorough cultivation to check the evil effects of the drought upon the already frost-weakened plants. In a patch of about six thousand early cabbages I kept the cultivator and hoes in use every few days, maintaining a loose soil on the surface, which served as a mulch, and retained what moisture there was in the soil.
All weeds were destroyed, so that there was no unnecessary moisture lost in supporting succulent growing weeds, which do more to absorb food and moisture from the soil than a good large crop of some of our most succulent growing vegetables. With this thorough culture, I managed to carry my crop through, not only alive, but by the time the rain came it had fully recovered from the apparent evils of the frost, and without losing many plants, started into rapid growth upon the first fall of rain; and expect to reap the heaviest crop I have ever done, even under much more favorable circumstances.
Where the crops, after the frost, were neglected, and weeds allowed to have full sway, from imperfect cultivation, even upon better soil than mine, they do not look so good, nor did the rain we have had act so beneficially as upon what was well cared for.
I also observe that with newly set out trees, which are neglected, there are going to be a good many losses, but with such as were mulched with grass, manure or similar material, or had the surface of the soil around the trees kept stirred and loose, there are but few losses. How often do we see people take the greatest care in selecting trees of all kinds - fruit and ornamental - pay big prices for the same, incur considerable expense in planting, then leave them to take care of themselves. Careful as should all planters of trees be in getting good roots, the soil well packed around, and every care necessary for the success of the trees at the time they are placed in the ground, still the care of the trees is only begun at this point, and if not carried still further by thorough cultivation afterwards, the first labor and expense is often thrown away.
I am convinced that with good under draining and thorough cultivation any crop can be carried over a severe drought, if the soil is in anything like good condition. What we want is less land put into crops, and better cultivation to obtain larger crops. In this country, where land is cheap, people are apt to undertake the cultivation of too much, and, being imperfectly done, the result is poor crops and of poor quality. Youngs town, O.