In heat the landscape quivering lies;
The cattle pant beneath the tree; Through parching air and purple skies,
The earth looks up in vain for thee, For thee, for thee it looks in vain,
O gentle, gentle summer rain I
W. C. Bennett.
NOR are the insects the only plagues which menace our cher-ished gardens, and our carefully planted wood-lots; there are weather conditions that no vigilance can elude, which add tremendously to the difficulties of the planter of flower or tree.
On the south shore of Massachusetts Bay almost every summer sees a long period of rainless weather. The thunderstorms that gather portentously after hot days, are apt to drift away to the north, with only the tiniest sprinkling of our dusty roads and parched fields, to pour their wealth upon the crags of Swampscptt and Lynn, Beverly and Marblehead. With jealous eyes we watch the rain descending upon our opposite neighbors of the North Shore, while we continue to dry up for want of it.
This period of dry weather usually begins about the last of June and continues well into August, which is ordinarily wet and muggy, but the spring and summer of 1891 seemed disposed to defy precedent. April, which from time immemorial has been depended on for showers, this year completely spoiled its record, and "only gave us an inch and a fraction of rain. This was followed by a dry, cold May, and then came the first half of June without a drop, culminating in two days the like of which we seldom see, the mercury touching ninety-seven degrees m the shade. Then, at last, down came the floods with a rash, and refreshed the parched and thirsty earth for days, the first continued rain-storm for three months, sorely needed by the suffering hay-crop and the dwindling trees.
During drought in this region, where the soil is light and sandy, the care of lawns and gardens has to be incessant. Fortunately our old town has a fine supply of aqueduct water brought from a nearly inexhaustible pond within its limits, and the hose can be brought to bear with effect upon the worst places; but this, like other restoratives, must be used with moderation. Too much water cakes the soil and draws the roots to the surface, so that, once begun, it must be continued or the plants die. It is better, we find, to water heavily two or three times a week than to keep up a continued sprinkling. If the water plays upon trees and shrubs during hot sunshine, the leaves are apt to scorch and shrivel, and the same is true of vegetables, which are well known to resent being watered on a hot day.
At Overlea the garden, which lies low along the edges of the meadow, can get along very fairly without watering. Even this year the strawberry crop, which is very sensitive to a lack of moisture, did not suffer from the dry weather, possibly owing to heavy mulching with straw while the ground was moist from showers. The worst of droughts in June is never so bad as the same dryness in July, for plants, which are then in fullest vigor, can better bear the strain upon their constitutions at that time; it gives them a set-back, however, which prevents a vigorous growth. Grass is the greatest sufferer, and the first hay-crop is often ruined by lack of rain, as was the case this year in our neighborhood.