There are more reasons to-day than ever
before why the owner of a small place
should have his, or her, own vegetable
garden. The days of home weaving, home
cheese-making, home meat-packing, are
gone. With a thousand and one other
things that used to be made or done at
home, they have left the fireside and
followed the factory chimney. These
things could be turned over to machinery.
The growing of vegetables cannot be so disposed of.
Garden tools have been improved, but they are still the same old one-man
affairs--doing one thing, one row at a time. Labor is still the big factor--and
that, taken in combination with the cost of transporting and handling such
perishable stuff as garden produce, explains why the home gardener can
grow his own vegetables at less expense than he can buy them. That is a
good fact to remember.
But after all, I doubt if most of us will look at the matter only after
consulting the household budget. The big thing, the salient feature
of home gardening is not that we may get our vegetables ten per cent
cheaper, but that we can have them one hundred per cent better.
Even the long-keeping sorts, like squash, potatoes and onions,
are very perceptibly more delicious right from the home garden, fresh
from the vines or the ground; but when it comes to peas, and corn, and
lettuce,--well, there is absolutely nothing to compare with the home
garden ones, gathered fresh, in the early slanting sunlight, still
gemmed with dew, still crisp and tender and juicy, ready to carry every
atom of savory quality, without loss, to the dining table. Stale, flat
and unprofitable indeed, after these have once been tasted, seem the
limp, travel-weary, dusty things that are jounced around to us in the
back of a truck . It is not in price alone that makes home gardening pay.
There is another point: the market gardener has to grow the things that
give the biggest yield. He has to sacrifice quality to quantity. You do not.
One cannot buy Golden Bantam corn, or Mignonette lettuce, or Gradus
peas in most markets. They are top quality, but they do not fill the market
crate enough times to the row to pay the commercial grower. If you cannot
afford to keep a professional gardener there is only one way to have the
best vegetables--grow your own!
And this brings us to the third, and what may be the most important
reason why you should garden. It is the cheapest, healthiest, keenest
pleasure there is. Give me a sunny garden patch in the golden
springtime, when the trees are picking out their new gowns, in all the
various self-colored delicate grays and greens--strange how beautiful
they are, in the same old unchanging styles, isn't it?--give me seeds
to watch as they find the light, plants to tend as they take hold in
the fine, loose, rich soil, and you may have the other sports. And when
you have grown tired of their monotony, come back in summer to even the
smallest garden, and you will find in it, every day, a new problem to
be solved, a new campaign to be carried out, a new victory to win.
Better food, better health, better living--all these the home garden
offers you in abundance. And the price is only the price of every
worth-while thing--honest, cheerful patient work.
But enough for now of the dream garden. Put on
your old clothes , and let's go outdoors and look the place over, and pick
out the best spot for that garden-patch of yours.
REQUISITES OF THE HOME VEGETABLE GARDEN
|Home vegetable garden|
In deciding upon the site for the home
vegetable garden it is well to dispose once
and for all of the old idea that the garden
"patch" must be an ugly spot in the home
surroundings. If thoughtfully planned,
carefully planted and thoroughly cared for,
it may be made a beautiful and harmonious
feature of the general scheme, lending a
touch of a comfortable home that no
shrubs, borders, or flower beds can ever
With this fact in mind we will not feel restricted to any part of the
premises merely because it is out of sight behind the barn or garage.
In the average moderate-sized place there will not be much choice as to
land. It will be necessary to take what is to be had and then do the
very best that can be done with it. But there will probably be a good
deal of choice as to, first, exposure, and second, convenience. Other
things being equal, select a spot near at hand, easy to access. It may
seem that a difference of only a few hundred yards will mean nothing,
but if one is depending largely upon spare moments for working in and
for watching the garden--and in the growing of many vegetables the
latter is almost as important as the former--this matter of convenient
access will be of much greater importance than is likely to be at first
recognized. Not until you have had to make a dozen time-wasting trips
for forgotten seeds or tools, or gotten your feet soaking wet by going
out through the dew-drenched grass, will you realize fully what this
But the thing of first importance to consider in picking out the spot
that is to yield you happiness and delicious vegetables all summer, or
even for many years, is the exposure. Pick out the "earliest" spot you
can find--a plot sloping a little to the south or east, that seems to
catch sunshine early and hold it late, and that seems to be out of the
direct path of the chilling north and northeast winds. If a building,
or even an old fence, protects it from this direction, your garden will
be helped along wonderfully, for an early start is a great big factor
toward success. If it is not already protected, a board fence, or a
hedge of some low-growing shrubs or young evergreens, will add very
greatly to its usefulness. The importance of having such a protection
or shelter is altogether underestimated by the amateur.
The chances are that you will not find a spot of ideal garden soil
ready for use anywhere upon your place. But all except the very worst
of soils can be brought up to a very high degree of productiveness--
especially such small areas as home vegetable gardens require. Large
tracts of soil that are almost pure sand, and others so heavy and mucky
that for centuries they lay uncultivated, have frequently been brought,
in the course of only a few years, to where they yield annually
tremendous crops on a commercial basis. So do not be discouraged about
your soil. Proper treatment of it is much more important, and a gardenpatch
of average run-down,--or "never-brought-up" soil--will produce
much more for the energetic and careful gardener than the richest spot
will grow under average methods of cultivation.
The ideal garden soil is a "rich, sandy loam." And the fact cannot be
overemphasized that such soils usually are made, not found. Let us
analyze that description a bit, for right here we come to the first of
the four all-important factors of gardening--food. The others are
cultivation, moisture and temperature. "Rich" in the gardener's
vocabulary means full of plant food; more than that--and this is a
point of vital importance--it means full of plant food ready to be used
at once, all prepared and spread out on the garden table, or rather
where growing things can at once make use of it; or what we term,
in one word, "available" plant food. Practically no soils in longinhabited
communities remain naturally rich enough to produce big
crops. They are made rich, or kept rich, in two ways; first, by
cultivation, which helps to change the raw plant food stored in the
soil into available forms; and second, by fertilizing or adding plant food
to the soil from outside sources.
"Sandy" in the sense here used, means a soil containing enough
particles of sand so that water will pass through it without leaving it
pasty and sticky a few days after a rain; "light" enough, as it is
called, so that a handful, under ordinary conditions, will crumble and
fall apart readily after being pressed in the hand. It is not necessary
that the soil be sandy in appearance, but it should be friable.
"Loam: a rich, friable soil," says Webster. That hardly covers it, but
it does describe it. It is soil in which the sand and clay are in
proper proportions, so that neither greatly predominate, and usually
dark in color, from cultivation and enrichment. Such a soil, even to
the untrained eye, just naturally looks as if it would grow things.
It is remarkable how quickly the whole physical appearance of a piece of
well cultivated ground will change. One instance came about last fall
in one of my gardens, where a strip had contained onions for two years,
and a little piece jutting off from the middle of this had been prepared for
them for just one season. The rest had not received any extra
fertilizing or cultivation. When the garden was plowed up in the fall,
all three sections were as distinctly noticeable as though they were
separated by a fence. And I know that next springs crop of carrots,
before it is plowed under, will show the lines of demarcation just
This, then, will give you an idea of a good garden soil. Perhaps in
yours there will be too much sand, or too much clay. That will be a
disadvantage, but one which energy and perseverance will soon overcome
to a great extent--by the methods you will be learning in later.
There is, however, one other thing you must look out for in selecting
your garden site, and that is drainage. Dig down eight or twelve inches
after you have picked out a favorable spot, and examine the sub-soil.
This is the second strata, usually of different texture and color from
the rich surface soil, and harder than it. If you find a sandy or
gravelly bed, no matter how yellow and poor it looks, you have chosen
the right spot. But if it is a stiff, heavy clay, especially a blue
clay, you will have to either drain it or be content with a very late
garden--that is, unless you are at the top of a knoll or on a slope.
There was a further reason for mentioning that strip of onion ground.
It is a very practical illustration of what last year's handling of the
soil means to this year's garden. If you can pick out a spot, even if
it is not the most desirable in other ways, that has been well enriched
or cultivated for a year or two previous, take that for this year's
garden. And in the meantime have the spot on which you intend to make
your permanent vegetable garden thoroughly "fitted," and grow there
this year a crop of potatoes or sweet corn.
Then next year you will have conditions just right to give your
vegetables a great start.
There are other things of minor importance but worth considering, such
as the shape of your garden plot, for instance. The more nearly
rectangular, the more convenient it will be to work and the more easily
kept clean and neat. Have it large enough, or at least open on two
ends, so that a rototiller can be used in plowing and tilling. And if by
any means you can have it within reach of an adequate supply of water,
that will be a tremendous help in seasons of protracted drought. Then
again, if you have ground enough, lay off two plots so that you can
take advantage of the practice of rotation, alternating grass, potatoes
or corn with the vegetable garden. Of course it is possible to practice
crop rotation to some extent within the limits of even the small
vegetable garden, but it will be much better, if possible, to rotate
the entire garden-patch.
All these things, then, one has to keep in mind in picking the spot
best suited for the home vegetable garden. It should be, if possible,
of convenient access; it should have a warm exposure and be well
enriched, well worked-up soil, not too light nor too heavy, and by all
means well drained. If it has been thoroughly cultivated for a year or
two previous, so much the better. If it is near a supply of water, so
situated that it can be at least plowed and tilled with a rototiller,
and large enough to allow the garden to be shifted every other year
or two, still more the better.
Fill all of these requirements that you can, and then by taking full
advantage of the advantages you have, you can discount the
disadvantages. After all it is careful, persistent work, more than
natural advantages, that will tell the story; and a good garden does
not grow--it is made.
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