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.
In those parts of the Union where frost is over, February is the great planting month, but do not plant immediately after the frost leaves the soil; wait till it dries a little, when you can tread the soil firmly about the roots without risk of rendering it hard as it dries more. If circumstances make it necessary to plant in wet soil, do not press the soil much until it gets drier. It is important to have the soil well pressed about the roots, but it injures soil to press it when wet. Where it is desirable to plant in wet ground keep near the surface. If swampy a mound may be made above the level for the water to drain off. When plants are growing, unless they are absolutely aquatics, roots must have air. This they cannot have when the roots are wholly under water. This is the underlying principle in underdraining. We provide that water shall rapidly pass through the soil in order that air may follow. This is all there is in it.
As soon as the frost leaves the ground, the lawn should be rolled with a heavy roller, while it is yet soft; this will make it have a smooth surface, take out many small inequalities, and press again into the soil the roots of the finer grasses which the frost may have drawn out. Where new lawns have to be made next spring, the seeds should be sown as early in March as possible, and the ground should be prepared for that now, if opportunity offers. For a good lawn the soil should be loosened at least twenty inches deep, and be well enriched with stable-manure, where practicable, in preference to any concentrated preparations. Guano, super-phosphates, etc., are well enough; but they do not give the soil that fibre, or lend it that porosity by which it retains moisture and air, so essential to perfect vegetation.
Rustic adornments very often highly embellish grounds. These can be made of split wood nailed to board frames. The worst feature is that they rot away so soon in our climate as scarcely to serve long enough for the labor. To guard against this every part of the frame work should be tarred or painted, and the pieces used for the fancy work should be stripped of their bark, and painted of various shades of color to represent natural shades of bark. The effect is not so striking as when the bark is left on, but we have to sacrifice a little to permanence.
As a general rule evergreens please best when they are close and densely clothed with foliage. If one has thin open trees they can be made into the most enviable specimens by a judicious use of the knife. As soon as the frost has probably departed is an excellent time to do this. Cut back the growth of last year to within a few inches of where it started from. It is very essential, however, to remember that the whole plant, leading shoot included, must be done at one time. It is particularly essential that the leader be shortened. A new one will push, and generally will grow straight; if not, a little art will help it. Several leaders will come out sometimes, but of course all must be sprouted off but one. By this simple treatment, any dilapidated old scrub may be brought to the perfection of beauty, if it have not lost its lower branches, when of course it is beyond grace to restore.
Where a tree is young and still in fair condition, and not in the last stages of decency, it is better improved by the plan suggested by Mr. Trumpy in this number, that is, to pinch out the apex of the growing shoot. By this plan new leaders form without any artificial aid.
Many low plants are now made into standards by grafting them on stronger ones, at several feet from the ground. Europe is much more favorable for success in this than is our country, on account of the drying effects of the atmosphere on the stock. There are not leaves enough usually to encourage the sap's ascent before what is in the old stock is dried out. Every encouragement should therefore be given to .the graft to grow as rapidly as possible, and to this end all sprouts and suckers should be taken off as soon as seen.