THE CULTIVATION OF VEGETABLES
Vegetables constitute a major portion in our diet. They play a vital role in human nutrition. They are very essential to provide all essential nutrients for good health. Nowadays due to the introduction of new hybrid varieties in vegetables, which are susceptible to pest and diseases, there is demand for more plant protection, usually with toxic chemicals.
Prior to absorbing the garden vegetables separately, I shall outline the general practice of cultivation, which applies to all.
The aims of cultivation are three to do away with weeds, and to energise growth by (1) having air into the soil and discharging unavailable plant food, and (2) by preserving moisture.
As to weeds, the gardener of any experience need not be told the importance of keeping his crops clean. He is instructed from bitter and unaffordable experience the cost of having them acquire anything resembling a begin. He knows that one or two days’ growth, after they are well up, followed possibly by a day or so of rain, may easily double or treble the work of cleaning a patch of onions or carrots, and that where weeds have achieved any size they cannot be drawn out of seeded crops without doing a lot of harm. He also realizes, or should, that daily growth means just so much available plant food taken from under the very roots of his legal crops.
Rather than having the weeds get out with any plant food, he should be supplying more, for clean and regular cultivation will not only break the soil up automatically, but let in air, moisture and heat all crucial in effecting those chemical changes necessary to change over non- available into available plant food. Far before the scientific discipline in the case was discovered, the soil cultivators had instructed by observation the requisite of keeping the soil nicely loosened about their growing crops. Even the tall and untaught aborigine saw to it that his squaw not only put a bad fish under the hill of corn but supplied her shell hoe over it. Plants need to take a breath. Their roots need air. You might also await to find the optimistic shine of happiness on the pale cheeks of a cotton-mill baby bond as to await to see the abundant dark green of healthy plant life in a stifled garden.
Important as the query of air is, that of water ranks beside it. You may not see initially what the subject of common cultivation has to do with water. But let us finish a moment and check into it. Take a strip of blotting paper, dip one end in water, and see the moisture run up hill, soak up through the blotting paper. The scientists have tagged that “capillary attraction” the water crawls up little unseeable tubes made by the texture of the blotting paper. Now take a similar piece, cut it across, hold the two cut edges firmly together, and try it again. The moisture denies to cross the line: the connection has been cut off.
In the same way the water stored in the soil after a rain begins at once to get away again into the atmosphere. That on the Earth’s surface evaporates first, and that which has soaked in begins to soak in through the soil to the surface. It is leaving your garden, through the millions of soil tubes, just as certainly as if you had a two-inch pipe and a gasoline engine, pumping it into the sewer nighttime and day! Save your garden by stopping the waste. It is the easiest thing in the world to do cut the pipe in two. By regular cultivation of the surface soil not more than one or two inches deep for most belittled vegetables the soil tubes are kept broken, and a mulch of dust is sustained. Try to cover every part of your garden, particularly where it is not shaded, once in every ten days or two weeks. Does that appear like a bit much work? You can push your wheel hoe through, and thus preserve the dust mulch as a continuous protection, as fast as you can walk. If you look for the weeds, you will almost have to crawl through, doing more or less harm by interrupting your growing plants, losing all the plant food (and they will take the cream) which they have eaten, and actually putting in more hours of endlessly more disagreeable job. If the beginner at gardening has not been sure by the truths given, there is only one thing left to convince him experience.
Having given so much space to the reason for continuous care in this matter, the query of processes naturally follows. Get a wheel hoe. The easiest forms will not only save you an infinite amount of time and work, but make the work better, very much better than it can be done by hand. You can produce good vegetables, particularly if your garden is a very small one, without one of these labor-savers, but I can ascertain you that you will never regret the small investment required to procure it.
With a wheel hoe, the job of saving the soil mulch becomes very mere. If one has not a wheel hoe, for small areas very fast job can be done with the scuffle hoe.
The issue of keeping weeds cleaned out of the rows and between the plants in the rows is not so rapidly achieved. Where hand-work is necessary, let it be done immediately. Here are a few practical hints that will shorten this job to a minimum, (1) access this job while the ground is soft; as soon as the soil starts to dry out after a rain is the best time. Under such circumstances the weeds will draw out out by the roots, without breaking off. (2) Immediately before weeding, go over the rows with a wheel hoe, cutting shallow, but just as close as possible, leaving a narrow, simply visible strip which must be hand- weeded. The finest tool for this use is the double wheel hoe with disc attachment, or hoes for large plants. (3) check that not only the weeds are pulled but that every inch of soil surface is broken up. It is fully as important that the weeds just germinating be destroyed, as that the larger ones be pulled up. One throw of the weeder or the fingers will destruct a hundred weed seedlings in less time than one weed can be pulled out after it gets a good beginning. (4) Use one of the small hand-weeders until you become expert with it. Not only may more job be done but the fingers will be saved unneeded clothing.
The precise use of the wheel hoe can be acquired through practice only. The first thing to ascertain is that it is essential to watch the wheels only: the blades, disc or rakes will take care of themselves.
The process of “hilling” consists in pulling up the soil around the stems of growing plants, normally at the time of second or third hoeing. It used to be the practice to hill everything that could be hilled “up to the eyebrows,” but it has step by step been put away for what is termed “level culture”; and you will promptly see the cause, from what has been said about the leakage of moisture from the surface of the soil; for naturally the two upper sides of the hill, which may be represented by an equiangular triangle with one side horizontal, give less protected surface than the level surface represented by the base. In moist soils or seasons hilling may be suggested, but very rarely otherwise. It has the another disadvantage of making it hard to maintain the soil mulch which is so suitable.
Rotation of crops.
There is some other affair to be considered in making each vegetable do its best, and that is crop rotation, or the following of any vegetable with a different form at the next planting.
With some vegetables, such as cabbage, this is nearly imperative, and practically all are helped by it. Even onions, which are popularly intended to be the proving elision to the rule, are healthier, and do as well after some other crop, supplied the soil is as delicately powderised and rich as a preceding crop of onions would leave it.
Here are the fundamental rules of crop rotation:
(1) Crops of the same vegetable, or vegetables of the same family (such as turnips and cabbage) should not follow each other.
(2) Vegetables that feed near the surface, like corn, should follow deep-rooting crops.
(3) Vines or leaf crops should follow root crops.
(4) Quick-growing crops should follow those occupying the land all season.
These are the principles which should determine the rotations to be followed in individual cases. The proper way to attend to this matter is when making the planting plan. You will then have time to do it properly, and will need to give it no further thought for a year.
With the above suggestions in mind, and put to use , it will not be difficult to give the crops those special attentions which are needed to make them do their very best.