This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
In a climate and soil like ours, spontaneous fruitfulness can never be expected. There are doubtless choice positions where a few trees or vegetables, having once taken root, will grow luxuriantly and produce bountifully; and, although without the elementary constituents of plants existing in the soil no culture, however wise, can make vegetation flourish; yet, in any tolerable soil the prosperity of a crop depends quite as much on the wisdom of the culture as on the inherent quality of the soil.
There is, however, not only a special importance in culture, but also in early culture. Suppose a hill of corn, or one of cucumbers, neglected until the one is a foot high and the other has made vines a foot long. They are already perhaps one week behind their neighbors in similar soil, but enjoying timely culture. The effort to clear away the weeds from either of these hills will disturb the roots, while their sudden removal will let in a powerful sun upon a plant already feeble by neglect and injury to the roots. By these means the plant is checked perhaps another week.
But suppose, in a good soil, and with wise though late culture, the plant should perfectly recover its health, and grow to its full expansion. The fruit must set at least two and in some cases three weeks later than otherwise. In the case of very early planted crops, or a long season, they may possibly get ripe, but often not. Thus the result is seen to be exactly equivalent to late planting, and the strong probability is that your crop will mature at a season not the most favorable to its health and productiveness. We see thus that one acre of soil receiving timely culture, may be as productive as two with late culture, while the expense of labor will always be less on the timely than on the untimely. Nor is this all: in the one case the crop may cost more than it is worth, while in the other it will be highly profitable.
I have seen a patch of melons, tomatoes, or pickle cucumbers, and even fields of corn, injured in quantity and quality, not from want of fertility in the soil, nor amount of labor expended upon them, but from the want of timeliness in that labor.
Potatoes seasonably planted, in Central New York, usually gain their utmost expansion and are covered with flowers by the 15th of July. In this case their tubers will be nearly full grown and covered with a firm 6kin by the first of September. But suppose, in consequence of deferred cultivation, the season of maturity in the tuber should be protracted until late in September. In this case the last two or three weeks of its growth is amid damp, dark, and chilly weather, such as is inconsistent with the healthful elaboration of a tropical plant; it will probably be at least slightly diseased, and so would all other tropical plants.
We reproach the man who by neglect permits a fine litter of pigs or herd of calves to pine and become stunted; but is he less a sinner who with equal carelessness sows or plants more acres than under ordinary circumstances he can wisely cultivate.