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.
Pruning of fruit trees, when required, should be proceeded with at favorable opportunities. We write "when required" - for in our climate, more injury is done by the knife than by the neglect to use it. Gooseberries, for instance, are usually ruined by pruning. In Europe, it is customary to thin out the centre well to "let in the sun and air." Here it is the sun and air that ruin them, by inviting mildew; and so the more shoots, the better. Our country farmers are the best gooseberry growers, where weeds run riot, and grass and gooseberries affect a close companionship. Wherever, in fact, the gooseberry can find a cool corner, well shaded from the sun, and with a soil, which is never wet, nor yet by any means dry, there will gooseberries be produced unto you. The English kinds mildew so universally, as to be almost gone out of cultivation south of the St. Lawrence. Nor, indeed, is it to be so much regretted, since the improved seedlings of large size and fine quality, raised from the hardier American species, are becoming known, and their merits appreciated by growers.
The rule, in pruning grape-vines, is to shorten the shoots in proportion to their strength; but, if the advice we have given in former summer hints has been attended to, there will be little disproportion in this matter, as summer pinching of the strong shoots has equalized the strength of the vine. Those who are following any particular system will, of course, prune according to the rules comprising such system. As a general rule, we can only say, excellent grapes can be had by any system of pruning; for the only object of pruning in any case is to get strong shoots to push where they may be desired, or to increase, with the increased vigor of the shoot, which pruning supposes will follow the act, increased size in the fruit it bears.
Raspberries and Blackberries may be planted towards the end of the month; they should be cut down to within a foot of the ground at planting; they will of course, not then bear the next season after planting. But this is a benefit; no fruit tree should be allowed to bear the same season.
As to the best varieties of fruits to plant, that is a question which a work, intended as ours is for the whole United States, cannot answer. We are continually publishing fruit lists adapted to the different sections in the body of our work, and to them we refer.
There has however been a great change in opinion of late years in regard to the adaptation of varieties to locations. If plants are healthy a much greater range of varieties is found adapted to localities than was at one time thought possible. As little disturbance of the surface roots as possible, with a free surface manuring, has added very much to the list of kinds suited to special locations. In regard to vegetables, those who grow for market have rules of their own, and understand the business. But a few hints for amateurs will be acceptable at this season.
The work for February will, for the most part, consist of preparations for future operations, and particularly for dealing with the manure question. All those kinds that are grown for their leaves or stems, require an abundance of nitrogenous manures, and it is useless to attempt vegetable gardening without it. To this class belong cabbage, lettuce, spinach, etc. The other class which is grown principally for its seeds or pods, as beans, peas, etc., do not require much manure of this character, in fact, they arc injured by it. It causes too great a growth of stem and leaf, and the earliness - a great aim in vegetable growing - is injuriously affected. Mineral manures, as wood ashes, bone-dust, etc., are much better for them. For vegetables requiring rich stable manure, it is best that they have it well rotted and decayed. Nothing has yet been found so well fitted for the purpose as old hot-bed dung; though to the smell no trace of " ammonia" remains in it.
One of the most interesting parts of a vegetable garden is a hot-bed for starting seeds early. The end of the month will be time enough for those who have not command of a large supply of stable manure, as the very low temperature we often get at the end of the month soon absorbs all the heat the hot-bed possessed. It is in any event best to put up the beds in the warmest and most sheltered spots we can find, and to keep cold winds from the manure, by covering it with branches of trees, of mats; and the glass should always be covered with mats at night. Tomatoes, egg-plants, pep pers and cucumbers, are the first seeds to be sowr this way. Cooler frames can be got ready got cauliflower, lettuce, beets, celery and Early York cabbage, a little of which may be sown about the end of the month for the earliest crops. The cauliflower is a particularly valued vegetable, and no expense spared to get them in perfection will be regretted when one's efforts are successful.
Those who have hot-beds will now sow tomatoes, egg-plants, peppers, and other vegetables that can be forwarded by this means; and those who have not, will sow them in boxes or pans, and forward them in windows. Every garden ought to have at least a few hot-bed sashes to forward early vegetables; for if they have no means of applying artificial heat to them, the sash will of itself forward some things considerably.
Many parties like to have turnips sown in spring. The only way to succeed with them is to-sow as early as possible, and on a very rich piece of ground, where they may grow speedily. If they do not swell before the hot weather comes, they will certainly run to seed.
About the middle or end of the month, or still later at the North - say the middle of March - celery and late cabbage may be sown. Here we usually sow the second week in March.
All gardens should have beds of herbs. They are always looked for in the fall, and nearly always-forgotten in spring. Now is the time to plant Thyme, Sage, Mint, Balm, and other perennial herbs, and Parsley and other seeds of hardy kinds may be sown. When we say "now," it is of course understood to mean where the frost has evidently broken up for the season. Our readers in less favored climes will not forget it when it does.