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.
Flower gardening has its charms, and that class of gardening which deals with landscape effects is delightful. But it is doubtful whether these give more pleasure than a well ordered fruit and vegetable garden, or a nicely kept and well cared for orchard. The small gardens attached to residences of moderate means, are often far more attractive than the thousand dollar efforts on lawns of people of more pretensions to taste and wealth. Indeed, it is too often a subject of regret that, where there is a beautiful specimen of landscape gardening to be seen, the vegetable garden, instead of being a beauty spot, is a mere "truck patch "torn up by the plow, rooted about by the harrow, in holes and hills everywhere, with dirt and filth on the "headland" which serves for a " track to the patch," one can scarcely pick his way. We use the masculine term deliberately, because ladies are never known to visit these places. There is nothing attractive to the delicate mind. The vegetable garden is solely a matter of profit. It is in competition with the market stand. If a bushel of potatoes cost a dollar, the gardener must produce them for ninety-nine cents, or his occupation is gone. Hence, the horse and plough only must be thought of.
The road must he wide enough to haul manure in with the cart, and the horse and hoe-harrow kept in view when the rows of vegetables are provided for. But in the neat cottage garden we find a main path of gravel or grass, neatly kept. An edging of box, or some other dwarf growing plant, a border two or three feet wide, in which are peonys and double buttercups, rockets, sweet-williams, love in the mist and love entangle, and loads of real flowers, showy, sweet-scented and enchanting. Then there are the back-grounds of currants and gooseberries, or trained fruit trees, the beds of raspberries, with their deep mulch to keep the soil cool. Blackberries trained to stakes, so that one may carefully get among them, and with surface dressings of rich manure, so that the fruit may be sugary, succulent, and jovial to look upon. The beds of asparagus, herbs, onions, and salads are all neatly lined out, and not a weed to be seen anywhere. Who that loves gardening has not met with such a scene? and who, once seeing, would ever forget? No plough or horse ever enters there. The digging fork and the wheelbarrow are the ruling powers, and when at rest, are found enjoying themselves in a regular palace of a "toolery " at the garden end.
There is a pleasure in such gardening for which no penny saved in the market-house, or at the peddlar's wagon is any sort of compensation. But is there any saving? We think by no means always. We know of some good vegetable gardeners who will get more out of a rod of land with the spade and the hoe, than the horse man with his best machinery will get from an acre. Of course, all this is intended for the encouragement of the amateur gardener. In your conventions and horticultural meetings, he is rarely considered. The market man and the thousand acre orchardist have it all their own way. We do not want to neglect them. They should not be neglected. The men who grow fruits and vegetables for market on a grand scale are among the makers of our earthly paradise. We give them many a chapter in our columns. But they do not give all the pleasure there is in gardening, nor by any means all the profit.
Just now, we are reminded of these things, because it will not be long before we shall be in the midst of horticultural meetings and conventions. These have lost, in a great measure, their popular charm. The best people in the towns or cities where the meetings are held, seldom attend them. They are looked on simply as trade gatherings, in which the community at large has no interest. It should be the aim of these bodies to interest all. They should never forget that there are amateurs who love, as well as growers who profit by, the advance of horticulture.
On this occasion we will direct our chapter to the wants of the amateur, and especially in relation to the vegetable garden.
Peas for a fall crop may be sown. It is, however, useless to try them unless in a deeply trenched soil, and one that is comparatively cool in the hottest weather overhead, or they will certainly mildew and prove worthless. In England, where the atmosphere is so much more humid than ours, they nevertheless have great difficulty in getting fall peas to go through free from mildew; and to obviate these drying and mildew-producing influences, they often plant them in deep trenches, made as for celery, and are then much more successful with them.
Cabbage and broccoli may still be set out for fall crops, also requiring an abundance of manure to insure much success. Lettuce, where salads are much in request, may yet be sown. The Curled Indian is a favorite summer kind; but the varieties of Cos, or plain-leaved kinds, are good. They take more trouble, having to be tied up to blanch well. Many should not be sown at a time, as they soon run to seed in hot weather.
At the end of June, some celery may be set out for early crops, though for the main crop a month later will be quite time enough. It was once customary to plant in trenches dug six or more inches below the surface; but the poverty of the soil usually at this depth more than decreases the balance of good points in its favor. Some of our best growers now plant entirely on the surface and depend on drawing up the soil, or the employment of boards or other artificial methods of blanching.
Beans produce an enormous crop in deeply trenched soils, and are improved as much as any crop by surface manuring. We hope this method of fertilizing the soil will be extensively adopted for garden crops this season. Those who have not yet tried it will be surprised at the economy and beneficial results of this practice.
Cucumbers for pickling may be sown this month, and endive for fall salad set out. Parsley for winter use may be sown now, in boxes of rich soil, and set in a cool, shady place till it germinates.
Asparagus beds should not be cut off after the stalks seem to come up weak, or there will be but a poor crop the next season, and the beds will "run out " in a few years.
Tomatoes, after trying all kinds of trellises recommended, will be found to do best on stakes, tied up singly. It is best to plant a strong pole, as for Lima beans, with the plants when first set out, and tie up as they grow. Market-men generally let them grow as they will, on the ground, which, perhaps, although not yielding as much, costs less labor, and may thus be most profitable.
The Swede turnip, or ruta-baga, should be sown about the end of the month. A well enriched piece of ground is essential, as by growing fast they get ahead of the ravages of the fly. Manures abounding in the phosphates - bone-dust, for instance - are superior for the turnip.
Sweet potatoes must be watched, that the vines do not root in the ground as they run, which will weaken the main crop of roots. They should be gone over about once a month, and, with a rake or pole, the vines disturbed somewhat from their position.
Parsley for winter use may be sown now in boxes of rich soil, and set in a cool, shady place till it germinates.
Herbs for drying for future use, should be cut just about the time they are coming into flower. Dry them in the shade, and after sufficiently dry to put away, tie them in bunches, and hang in a cool shed, or place them loosely between the paper, and stow away in cupboards or drawers; the last mode is by far the cleanest and most approved plan with the best housekeepers. Some, indeed, powder the leaves at once after drying, and put them away in bags, ready for use.