Home & Garden Gardening

The Cultivation Of Vegetables

Before taking up the garden vegetables individually, The purposes of cultivation are threefold--to get rid of weeds, and to stimulate growth by (1) letting air into the soil and freeing unavailable plant food, and (2) by conserving moisture.
As to weeds, the gardener of any experience need not be told the importance of keeping his crops clean.
He has learned from bitter and costly experience the price of letting weeds get anything resembling a start.
He knows that with one or two days' growth they are well up, followed perhaps by a day or so of rain, this may easily double or treble the work of cleaning a patch of onions or carrots, and that where weeds have attained any size they cannot be taken out of sowed crops without doing a great deal of injury.
He also realizes, or should, that every day's growth means just so much available plant food stolen from under the very roots of his legitimate crops.
Instead of letting the weeds get away with any plant food, he should be furnishing more, for clean and frequent cultivation will not only break the soil up mechanically, but let in air, moisture and heat--all essential in effecting those chemical changes necessary to convert non-available into available plant food.
Long before the science was discovered, the soil cultivators had learned by observation the necessity of keeping the soil nicely loosened about their growing crops.
Plants need to breathe.
Their roots need air.
You might as well expect to find the rosy glow of happiness on the wan cheeks of a cotton-mill child slave as to expect to see the luxuriant dark green of healthy plant life in a suffocated garden.
Important as the question of air is, that of water ranks beside it.
Water stored in the soil after rain begins at once to escape again into the atmosphere.
That on the 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 surely as if you had a two-inch pipe and a gasoline engine, pumping it into the gutter night and day! Save your garden by stopping the waste.
It is the easiest thing in the world to do.
By frequent cultivation of the surface soil--not more than one or two inches deep for most small vegetables--the soil tubes are kept broken, and a mulch of dust is maintained.
Try to get over every part of your garden, especially where it is not shaded, once in every ten days or two weeks.
Does that seem like too much work? You can push your wheel hoe through, and thus keep the dust mulch as a constant protection, as fast as you can walk.
If you wait for the weeds, you will nearly have to crawl through, doing more or less harm by disturbing your growing plants, losing all the plant food which they have consumed, and actually putting in more hours of infinitely more disagreeable work.
If the beginner at gardening has not been convinced by the facts given, there is only one thing left to convince him--experience.
Having given so much space to the reason for constant care in this matter, the question of methods naturally follows.
By all means get a wheel hoe.
The simplest sorts cost only a few dollars, and will not only save you an infinite amount of time and work, but do the work better, very much better than it can be done by hand.
With a wheel hoe, the work of preserving the soil mulch becomes very simple.
For small areas very rapid work can be done with the scuffle hoe.
The matter of keeping weeds cleaned out of the rows and between the plants in the rows is not so quickly accomplished.
Where hand-work is necessary, let it be done at once.
Here are a few practical suggestions that will reduce this work to a minimum, (1) Get at this work while the ground is soft; as soon as the soil begins to dry out after a rain is the best time.
(2) Immediately before weeding, go over the rows with a wheel hoe, cutting shallow, but just as close as possible, leaving a narrow, plainly visible strip which must be hand weeded.
The best tool for this purpose is the double wheel hoe with disc attachment, or hoes for large plants.
(3) See to it 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 sprouting be destroyed, as that the larger ones be pulled up.
One stroke of the weeder or the fingers will destroy a hundred weed seedlings in less time than one weed can be pulled out after it gets a good start.
(4) Use one of the small hand-weeders until you become skilled with it.

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