The kitchen garden[edit | edit source]

The aim of the kitchen garden is to provide an abundance and variety of food for the family. As the object of the cultivator is to get the largest product for his labor, he ought to produce all that he can consume on the least possible area. Though one may go into mushrooms or frog raising as a money crop, the kitchen garden is the first indispensable and should first be given attention.

For a garden choose a piece of land with a southern exposure,sheltered on the north and west by woods, buildings, hedge, or any kind of a windbreak. This arrangement will give the earliest garden,for it gets all the sun there is. By running the rows north and south, the rays of the sun strike the eastern side of the row in the morning, and the western side in the afternoon.

The best time to take hold of a piece of land is in the fall,because then it can be plowed ready for the spring planting. The alternate freezing and thawing during the winter breaks up the sod and the stiff lumps thrown up by the plow, so rendering the soil pliable and easily worked. This is especially true of land that has been reclaimed from the forest, or which has not been farmed for many years.

Before the plowing is done, the land for the garden should be manured at the rate of twenty-five large wagon loads to the acre. If you can get a suitable plot that has been in red clover, alfalfa,soy beans, or cowpeas for a number of years, so much the better.

These plants have on their roots nitrogen-fixing bacteria, which draw nitrogen from the air. Nitrogen is the great meat-maker and forces a prolonged and rapid growth of all vegetables.

After manuring and plowing, harrow repeatedly with a disk or cutaway harrow until the soil is as fine as dust. Then you have a seed bed which will give the fine roots a chance to grow as soon as the seeds sprout. Too much stress cannot be laid upon the importance of thoroughly working the soil at this time. Every stone, weed, or clod that is left in the soil destroys to that extent the source from which the plants can get their food.

A quarter-acre garden, which is big enough to supply the whole family with a succession of vegetables for summer and fall, as well as some potatoes and turnips for winter, will take a diligent workman about four days to dig over and three days to plant. The four days' work of digging will need to be done only once. The time spent upon planting succession crops will depend upon the amount of the garden reserved for rotation. The part kept for lettuce,radishes, spinach, beets, Swiss chard, peas, string and wax beans may be digged over in a favorable season for three successive plantings, while the part devoted to early potatoes would need to be digged only twice--once when the planting is done, and again when crop is gathered and the ground be prepared for a crop of late cabbage or turnips. A planting table for vegetables, which is complete and comprehensive, is distributed free by the National Emergency Food Garden Commission at Washington, D.C.

It is far more important to plant seeds at the proper depth than that they should be planted thinly or thickly, for if they are planted too thin, it makes a sort of advantage by giving the individual plants ample room to develop to large size; and if planted too thick, the evil can easily be remedied by thinning or transplanting.

After the seeds come up, the size of almost all the vegetables can be increased by transplanting, in favorable soil, which gives each plant room for complete development.

It is too expensive to risk part of the land being unused or half used on account of seeds dying, or to put in so many seeds in order to insure growth that they will crowd one another. Where possible,therefore, seeds should be sprouted and planted, not "sown."

Lima beans planted on edge with eye down will come up much sooner than if dropped in carelessly so they have to turn themselves over.

In a small garden the time saved by such planting will repay the extra trouble.

In some things like onions and radishes, however, it is better to sow them thick, and then thin them out, so as to get the effect of transplanting without so much labor. In others, like lettuce and all the salad plants, transplanting gives new life and energy and develops the individual plants in a way that will astonish those not familiar with what free development means.

It is wise to plant corn after lettuce and radishes are gathered,and more lettuce, corn, or salad, after the beans are picked. Then late crops, cabbage, cauliflower or spinach, can go where early corn grew, so that the small patch may earn your living and pay big dividends.

Do not let two vegetables of the same botanical family follow each other. For instance, lima beans should not follow green beans or peas, as all the family draw about the same elements from the soil,and are likely to have the same insects and diseases.

Do not plant cucumbers, squash, or pumpkins too near each other, as they will often inter-impregnate and produce uneatable hybrids.

Decide what you are going to do with your crop before you plant it,whether to sell it, at wholesale or at retail, to eat it, or to feed it to stock.

C. E. Hunn, in the Garden Magazine, gives the following arrangement: "For the beginner who wants to get fresh vegetables and fruits from May until midwinter, a space 100 X 200 feet is enough.

"1. Plant in rows, not beds, and avoid the backache.

"2. Plant vegetables that mature at the same time near one another.

"3. Plant vegetables of the same height near together--tall ones back.

"4. Run the rows the short way, for convenience in cultivation and because one hundred feet of anything is enough.

"5. Put the permanent vegetables (asparagus, rhubarb, sweet herbs) at one side, so that the rest will be easy to plow.

"6. Practice rotation. Do not put vines where they were last. Put corn in a different place. The other important groups for rotation are root crops (including potatoes and onions); cabbage tribe, peas and beans, tomatoes, eggplant and pepper, salad plants.

"7. Don't grow potatoes in a small garden. They aren't worth the bother.

"By training on trellis or wire, the smaller fruit plantings can be made much closer.

"If fruits are wanted in the garden, plant a row of apple trees along the northern border, plums and pears on the western sides,cherries and peaches on the eastern side. Next the apple trees run a grape trellis; and then in succession east and west, run a row of blackberries, raspberries, gooseberries, and currants. These rows,with the apple trees, form a windbreak, and besides adding to the income, protect the vegetables. Next to the bush fruits, between them and the ends of the vegetable rows, put rhubarb, asparagus, and strawberries."

Insect pests must be watched for and their destructive work checked.

Ashes, slaked lime, or any kind of dust or powder destroy most insects which prey on the leaves of plants. The reason for this is that the dust closes the pores through which the insects breathe. It should therefore be applied when the leaves are dry.

Cutworms can be destroyed by winter plowing. Rotation of vegetables will reduce the damage from insects, because each family has its peculiar bugs. By constant change to new soil, the pests have no opportunity to get a foothold.

With bugs, as with boys, only those who are interested in them and therefore understand them can manage them. It is fun to study the insects--and it pays.

Here's another use of "land." Maybe a pool in your garden or a dam in a little brook in it may help out your home garden bank account.

Of course a pond a few square yards in extent will give even better returns if you can sell its produce at retail near by.

W. B. Shaw, a seventy-year-old veteran who lost his right arm during the Civil War, lives in Kenilworth, D. C., and clears $1500 an acre every year out of mud puddles--if mud puddles can be measured by the acre.

Mr. Shaw is a pond lily farmer, and despite his lack of his good right arm, he poles his boat about his mud puddles and gathers in the pond lilies. His is not exactly a "dry farm" and neither wet nor cloudy weather bothers him. Furthermore, the demand for his pond lilies in Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia, and even New York,and Chicago, is greater than he can supply.

Mr. Shaw secured this swamp for almost nothing, as it was considered worthless. He divided it into fifteen pools with little dams between them, and rollers on the dams to enable him to drag his boat from one to the other. From May to late in September he is busy every morning gathering lilies. His average is about 500 a morning, which he ships in little galvanized iron tanks with wet moss.

Many school children know how to get results on a little land. Mr.

Mahoney, Superintendent of the Fairview Garden School, Yonkers, New York, estimates that the total value of produce grown on the 250 gardens, composing the school plot, in all about one and one quarter acres of land, was $1308, or at the rate of more than a thousand dollars per acre. When it is taken into consideration that all the labor was done by boys ranging in age from eight to twelve years,this result is truly astonishing.

What may not adult skilled labor produce when applied freely to the land.

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