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 preparing hints for the month, we have found more difficulty about March than about any other month in the year. We never forget that our readers extend from the St. Lawrence to the Gulf of Mexico, and that the same number which is delighting some one in Lower California, is being as eagerly scanned by some one in Massachusetts or Maine. Hence we have never attempted a monthly calendar of operations, but endeavor to suggest such general thoughts as may be of service about the time the magazine reaches any one in any part of the country. But the period which runs between March and April is just the period when we find the most extremes. It is still icebound in many places while in others the Spring flowers are nearly gone. Still, the gardening preparations are not over anywhere, even where begun for the season, and therefore there is much which may be said that may benefit all.
First, this is the season above all others when folks think, if ever they do think, that a little gardening is a very good thing. There is not a person doing business in a town or large city, but wishes he was in the country among the surging life of nature, and numbers do go out wherever some place can be had within a short railroad ride from their business places. Those who cannot, still work up their little yards, and all do something with the pleasures gardening offers them. The misfortune generally is that entirely too much is undertaken on the spur of the moment, and the constant labor of a large undertaking soon takes away the pleasure with which it began. We advise, therefore, every one who has the spring fever on gardening, not to attempt too much. If he thinks he can certainly care for and enjoy a half an acre of garden, let him make one of but a quarter; and if he has means enough to keep a professional gardener, and is tempted to have twenty or more acres and half-a-dozen men, let him make one of about ten acres, and half the number to care for the garden, and even then, ten to one, he will in the long run find that he has all he cares to enjoy.
Lawns, flower beds, walks, garden ornamentation of every kind, should be reduced to a minimum, but then properly cared for and sustained. It should not be how large a garden? but how pretty a garden? and it should be a main idea with those who have to employ assistance in gardening, to ask themselves not how much work can we put on those we employ? but how can we encourage them to maintain every thing in first-class order. We have often seen instances where one man is employed to look after a small garden, and who is expected to look after scores of things which all take time, and the garden looks bad, till the family begin to wonder "however John employs his time?" Of course there is often reason for this wonder, for there are shiftless employees as well as thoughtless employers; but the great lesson we wish to inculcate is, that much more pleasure will come from a small garden well cared for, than from the largest where everything is ill done, and behind time.
Just what little hobby in gardening to ride, will of course depend on inclination and locality. If one has a shady nook, a small rockery and fern garden will give great pleasure if the situation be damp; for even ferns that will live on exposed rocks usually curl up in a dry time. For a sunny hot spot, cactuses and succulents give great satisfaction - and this, by the way, is a branch of gardening that has not been well worked up with us. These plants take very little care, and can usually be easily preserved during winter. Those who are fond of flowers for their own lovely sakes will have a rich open spot, perhaps bordered by old-fashioned hardy herbaceous perennials and showy annuals, and these often give great satisfaction. In travelling in the most out-of-the-way places we often find specimens of this sort of gardening, and though the flowers come up without any order or system, it is wonderful what pleasure it gives. The writer has a spot in his mind he; came across when journeying over the Rocky Mountains by stage, last summer, in the break between the two completed ends of the Northern Pacific. Every fifteen miles stations were established to change horses, the stage keeping on the run night and day, except half an hour for meals. The place in question was a station for dinner.
We walked up to the cabin through a large yard, which was a sheet of flowers, though, as the good lady expressed it, they were put in "promiskus-like."Petunias, Canterbury Bells, Drummond Phlox, Marigolds, and scores of such common things - yet we can assure our lady readers that it did look too pretty for anything in that lonely and wild place. And there was no rain there. The plants had to live by watering from a limpid stream which came from the melting snow on a mountain at hand. But even flowers need care, and where this may be burdensome, a few choice shrubs or trees, selected for their rarity or beauty, and planted with the intention of being watched and cared for, will give no end of pleasure.
Even those who have large gardens, or a vari- ety of things to occupy them, will find much more pleasure than they have any idea of, in taking one or two things of no great extent under their special protection and manipulation, in order to study out and perfect them. And now is just about the time to decide what these pets shall be.