REQUISITES OF THE HOME VEGETABLE GARDEN
For many of us gardening is a great past-time. Not only does it get some of us outside, but also provides us with the vegetables we need without having to go to the store to pay for bland tasting foo
In choosing upon the place for the home vegetable garden it is well to discard once and for all of the old thought that the garden “patch” must be an ugly place in the home surroundings. If thoughtfully projected, carefully planted and good cherished, it may be built a gorgeous and appropriate feature of the general outline, bringing a touch of comfortable homeliness that no shrubs, borders, or layers can ever develop.
With this truth in mind we will not feel unfree to any part of the prefaces just as it is hidden behind the barn or garage. In the average moderate-sized place there will not be much option as to land. It will be requisite to acquire what is to be accepted and then do the very best that can be done with it. But there will likely be a great deal of choice as to, first, exposure, and second, convenience. Other affairs being same, choose a place near at hand, easy of access. It may appear that a difference of only a few hundred yards will mean nothing, but if one is depending largely upon free instants for working in and for looking on the garden and in the growth of many vegetables the last mentioned is almost as crucial as the former this affair of convenient access will be of much greater importance than is probably to be at first greeted. Not until you’ve had to make a dozen time-wasting trips for unnoticed seeds or tools, or acquired your feet soaking wet by leaving through the dew-drenched grass, will you realize fully what this may mean.
But the matter of foremost importance to deal in choosing the place that is to yield you happiness and tasteful vegetables all summer, or even for many years, is the exposure. Pick out the “earliest” place you can find a plot of ground inclined a little to the south or east, that appears to catch sunlight too soon and hold it late, and that appears to be out of the direct path of the cooling north and northeast winds. If a building, or even an old fencing, protects it from this direction, your garden will be served along marvellously, for an early start is a great big factor toward success. If it is not already protected, a board fencing, or a hedge of some low-growing bushes or young evergreen plant*, will add very greatly to its usefulness. The grandness 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. Just all except the very worst of soils can be brought up to a very high degree of productivity particularly such small areas as home vegetable gardens require. Large pieces of land of soil that are nearly pure sand, and others so heavy and dirty that for centuries they lay unrefined, have often been brought, in the course of only a few years, to where they yield yearly large crops on a technical basis. So do not be pessimistic about your soil. Proper treatment of it is much more important, and a garden- spot of average run-down, or “never-brought-up” soil will develop much more for the energetic and careful gardener than the richest place will develop under moderate methods of cultivation.
The perfect garden soil is a “rich, sandy loam.” And the truth cannot be overstressed that such soils normally are made, not found. Let us examine that description a little, 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 a time, all prepared and spread out on the garden table, or preferably in it, where growing things can at a time make use of it; or what we term, in one word, “available” plant food. Practically no soils in long- lived professions persist naturally rich enough to produce big crops. They are made rich, or kept rich, in two ways; first, by cultivation, which serves to change the raw plant food stored in the soil into available forms; and second, by manuring or adding fertiliser to the soil from external 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 collapse and fall apart readily after being pressed in the hand. It is not required that the soil be sandy in appearance, but it should be sandy.
“Loam: a rich, sandy 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 prevail, and normally dark in color, from cultivation and enrichment. Such a soil, even to the primitive eye, just naturally looks as if it would develop things. It is significant how quickly the whole physical appearance of a piece of well cultivated ground will change. An example came under my notice last fall in one of my fields, where a strip carrying an acre had been two years in onions, and a little piece jutting off from the middle of this had been prepared for them just one season. The remain had not accepted any extra manuring or cultivation. When the field was plowed up in the autumn, all three sections were as clearly detectable as though separated by a fencing. And I know that next spring’s crop of rye, before it is plowed under, will show the lines of demarcation even as simply.