PLANTING SEEDS

Any reliable seed house can be depended upon for good seeds; but even so, there is a great risk in seeds. A seed may to all appearances be all right and yet not have within it vitality enough, or power, to produce a hardy plant.

If you save seed from your own plants you are able to choose carefully. Suppose you are saving seed of aster plants. What blossoms shall you decide upon? Now it is not the blossom only which you must consider, but the entire plant. Why? Because a weak, straggly plant may produce one fine blossom. Looking at that one blossom so really beautiful you think of the numberless equally lovely plants you are going to have from the seeds. But just as likely as not the seeds will produce plants like the parent plant.

So in seed selection the entire plant is to be considered. Is it sturdy, strong, well shaped and symmetrical; does it have a goodly number of fine blossoms? These are questions to ask in seed selection.
If you should happen to have the opportunity to visit a seedsman’s garden, you will see here and there a blossom with a string tied around it. These are blossoms chosen for seed. If you look at the whole plant with care you will be able to see the points which the gardener held in mind when he did his work of selection.

In seed selection size is another point to hold in mind. Now we know no way of telling anything about the plants from which this special collection of seeds came. So we must give our entire thought to the seeds themselves. It is quite evident that there is some choice; some are much larger than the others; some far plumper, too. By all means choose the largest and fullest seed. The reason is this: When you break open a bean and this is very evident, too, in the peanut you see what appears to be a little plant. So it is. Under just the right conditions for development this ‘little chap’ grows into the bean plant you know so well.
This little plant must depend for its early growth on the nourishment stored up in the two halves of the bean seed. For this purpose the food is stored. Beans are not full of food and goodness for you and me to eat, but for the little baby bean plant to feed upon. And so if we choose a large seed, we have chosen a greater amount of food for the plantlet. This little plantlet feeds upon this stored food until its roots are prepared to do their work. So if the seed is small and thin, the first food supply insufficient, there is a possibility of losing the little plant.

You may care to know the name of this pantry of food. It is called a cotyledon if there is but one portion, cotyledons if two. Thus we are aided in the classification of plants. A few plants that bear cones like the pines have several cotyledons. But most plants have either one or two cotyledons.

From large seeds come the strongest plantlets. That is the reason why it is better and safer to choose the large seed. It is the same case exactly as that of weak children.
There is often another trouble in seeds that we buy. The trouble is impurity. Seeds are sometimes mixed with other seeds so like them in appearance that it is impossible to detect the fraud. Pretty poor business, is it not? The seeds may be unclean. Bits of foreign matter in with large seed are very easy to discover. One can merely pick the seed over and make it clean. By clean is meant freedom from foreign matter. But if small seed are unclean, it is very difficult, well nigh impossible, to make them clean.

The third thing to look out for in seed is viability. We know from our testings that seeds which look to the eye to be all right may not develop at all. There are reasons. Seeds may have been picked before they were ripe or mature; they may have been frozen; and they may be too old. Seeds retain their viability or germ developing power, a given number of years and are then useless. There is a viability limit in years which differs for different seeds.
From the test of seeds we find out the germination percentage of seeds. Now if this percentage is low, don’t waste time planting such seed unless it be small seed. Immediately you question that statement. Why does the size of the seed make a difference? This is the reason. When small seed is planted it is usually sown in drills. Most amateurs sprinkle the seed in very thickly. So a great quantity of seed is planted. And enough seed germinates and comes up from such close planting. So quantity makes up for quality.

But take the case of large seed, like corn for example. Corn is planted just so far apart and a few seeds in a place. With such a method of planting the matter of per cent, of germination is most important indeed.
Small seeds that germinate at fifty per cent. may be used but this is too low a per cent. for the large seed. Suppose we test beans. The percentage is seventy. If low-vitality seeds were planted, we could not be absolutely certain of the seventy per cent coming up. But if the seeds are lettuce go ahead with the planting.

Picking a Healthy Plant

When it comes to getting started with your garden, you have two choices; planting seeds, or buying entire plants. Both have their own benefits. If you plant seeds and care for them every day, you will find it is a much more rewarding experience when you have a full, healthy plant. However, this method is a lot more risky. I can’t tell you how many seeds I’ve planted and never seen any trace of whatsoever.

If you choose to buy the plant from a nursery and install it in your garden, it reduces a lot of the work involved in making it healthy. However, I have found in the past that many incompetent nursery workers will absolutely ruin the future of the plant by putting certain chemicals or fertilizers in. I have adapted to this incompetence by learning to choose the healthiest plant of the bunch. Here I will discuss some of the techniques I use in my screening process for plants.
It may sound superficial, but the one thing you need to check for on your prospective plants is how nice they look. As far as plants go, you can truly judge a book by its cover. If a plant has been treated healthily and has no diseases or pests, you can almost always tell by how nice it looks. If a plant has grown up in improper soil, or has harmful bugs living in it, you can tell from the holey leaves and wilted stems.

If you’re browsing the nursery shelves looking for your dream plant, you want to exclude anything that currently has flowers. Plants are less traumatized by the transplant if they do not currently have any flowers. It’s best to find ones that just consist of buds. However if all you have to choose from are flowering plants, then you should do the unthinkable and sever all of them. It will be worth it for the future health of the plant. I’ve found that transplanting a plant while it is blooming results in having a dead plant ninety percent of the time.

Always check the roots before you plop down the money to purchase the plant. Of course if the roots are in absolutely terrible condition you will be able to
tell by looking at the rest of the plant. But if the roots are just slightly out of shape, then you probably won’t be able to tell just by looking at it. Inspect the roots very closely for any signs of brownness, rottenness, or softness. The roots should always be a firm, perfectly well formed infrastructure that holds all the soil together. One can easily tell if the roots are before or past their prime, depending on the root to soil ratio. If there are a ridiculous amount of roots with little soil, or a bunch of soil with few roots, you should not buy that plant.

If you find any abnormalities with the plant, whether it be the shape of the roots or any irregular features with the leaves, you should ask the nursery employees. While usually these things can be the sign of an unhealthy plant, occasionally there will be a logical explanation for it. Always give the nursery a chance before writing them off as horrendous. After all, they are (usually) professionals who have been dealing with plants for years.
So if you decide to take the easy route and get a plant from a nursery, you just have to remember that the health of the plants has been left up to someone you don’t know. Usually they do a good job, but you should always check for yourself. Also take every precaution you can to avoid transplant shock in the plant (when it has trouble adjusting to its new location, and therefore has health problems in the future). Usually the process goes smoothly, but you can never be too sure.

FIGHTING PLANT ENEMIES

The devices and implements used for fighting plant enemies are of two sorts:

(1) those used to afford mechanical protection to the plants;
(2) those used to apply insecticides and fungicides.

Of the first the most useful is the covered frame. It consists usually of a wooden box, some eighteen inches to two feet square and about eight high, covered with glass, protecting cloth, mosquito netting or mosquito wire. The first two coverings have, of course, the additional advantage of retaining heat and protecting from cold, making it possible by their use to plant earlier than is otherwise safe. They are used extensively in getting an extra early and safe start with cucumbers, melons and the other vine vegetables.

Simpler devices for protecting newly-set plants, such as tomatoes or cabbage, from the cut-worm, are stiff, tin, cardboard or tar paper collars, which are made several inches high and large enough to be put around the stem and penetrate an inch or so into the soil.

For applying poison powders, the home gardener should supply himself with a powder gun. If one must be restricted to a single implement, however, it will be best to get one of the hand-power, compressed-air sprayers. These are used for applying wet sprays, and should be supplied with one of the several forms of mist-making nozzles, the non-cloggable automatic type being the best. For more extensive work a barrel pump, mounted on wheels, will be desirable, but one of the above will do a great deal of work in little time. Extension rods for use in spraying trees and vines may be obtained for either. For operations on a very small scale a good hand-syringe may be used, but as a general thing it will be best to invest a few dollars more and get a small tank sprayer, as this throws a continuous stream or spray and holds a much larger amount of the spraying solution. Whatever type is procured, get a brass machine it will out-wear three or four of those made of cheaper metal, which succumbs very quickly to the, corroding action of the strong poisons and chemicals used in them.

Of implements for harvesting, beside the spade, prong-hoe and spading- fork, very few are used in the small garden, as most of them need not only long rows to be economically used, but horse- power also. The onion harvester attachment for the double wheel hoe, may be used with advantage in loosening onions, beets, turnips, etc., from the soil or for cutting spinach. Running the hand- plow close on either side of carrots, parsnips and other deep-growing vegetables will aid materially in getting them out. For fruit picking, with tall trees, the wire-fingered fruit-picker, secured to the end of a long handle, will be of great assistance, but with the modern method of using low-headed trees it will not be needed.

Another class of garden implements are those used in pruning but where this is attended to properly from the start, a good sharp jack-knife and a pair of pruning shears will easily handle all the work of the kind necessary.

Still another sort of garden device is that used for supporting the plants; such as stakes, trellises, wires, etc. Altogether too little attention usually is given these, as with proper care in storing over winter they will not only last for years, but add greatly to the convenience of cultivation and to the neat appearance of the garden.

As a final word to the intending purchaser of garden tools, I would say: first thoroughly investigate the different sorts available, and when buying, do not forget that a good tool or a well-made machine will be giving you satisfactory use long, long after the price is forgotten, while a poor one is a constant source of discomfort. Get good tools, and take good care of them. And let me repeat that a few dollars a year, judiciously spent, for tools afterward well cared for, will soon give you a very complete set, and add to your garden profit and pleasure.

Growing Your Own Herbs

If you’re not the type of person that wants to spend their time managing an elaborate fruit or vegetable garden, you might consider planting and maintaining an herb garden. While the product might not seem as significant, you’ll still enjoy the constant availability of fresh, delicious herbs to flavor your meals with.

First you’ll want to choose the herbs that you’ll plant. You might have a hard time doing this because of the huge scope of herbs available. But the best way to choose is to do what I did; just look at what you have in your kitchen. By planting your own collection of these herbs, you can save money on buying them from the grocery store while having the added benefit of freshness. Some of the herbs you might start with include rosemary, sage, basil, dill, mint, chives, and parsley among others.

When choosing an area to put your herb garden, you should remember that the soil should have extremely good drainage. If the dirt gets watered and stays completely saturated, you have no chance of ever growing a healthy plant. One of the best ways to fix the drainage problem is to dig a foot deep in the soil, and put a layer of crushed rocks down before replacing all the soil. This will allow all that water to escape, thus saving your plants.

When you are ready to begin planting herbs, you might be tempted to buy the more expensive plants from the store. However, with herbs it is much easier to grow them from seed than it is with other plants. Therefore you can save a bundle of money by sticking with seed packets. Some herbs grow at a dangerously fast rate. For example, if you plant a mint plant in an open space then it will take over your entire garden in a matter of days. The best way to prevent this problem is to plant the more aggressive plants in pots (with holes in the bottom to allow drainage, of course).

When it comes time to harvest the herbs you have labored so hard over, it can be fatal to your plant to take off too much. If your plant isn’t well established, it isn’t healthy to take any leaves at all, even if it looks like its not using them. You should wait until your plant has been well established for at least several months before taking off any leaves. This wait will definitely be worth it, because by growing unabated your plant will produce healthily for years to come.

Once you’ve harvested your delicious home grown herbs, you’ll want to use them in cooking. Why else would you have grown them? Well first the process begins with drying them out. This is easily achieved by placing them on a cookie sheet and baking them 170 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 to 4 hours. After they’re sufficiently dried to be used in cooking, you can consult the nearest cookbook for instructions on using them to effectively flavor a dish.

If you want to store your herbs for later usage, you should keep them in a plastic or glass container. Paper or cardboard will not work, because it will absorb the taste of the herbs. During the first few days of storage, you should regularly check the container and see if any moisture has accumulated. If it has, you must remove all the herbs and re-dry them. If moisture is left from the first drying process, it will encourage mildew while you store your herbs. Nobody likes mildew.

So if you enjoy herbs or gardening, or both, then you should probably consider setting up an herb garden. It might require a little bit of work at first to set it up for optimal drainage, and pick what herbs you want to grow. But after the initial hassle, it’s just a matter of harvesting and drying all your favorite herbs.

Creating a Raised Bed

If your current planting goals involve plants that require good water drainage, I am sure you know how frustrating it is to have a yard that just won’t cooperate. Some plants can handle the excess water that comes about from being in an area that doesn’t drain properly. In fact, it might just cause them to bloom more lushly. However, other plants don’t cope as well, and it will cause them to die a gruesome, bloated death. You should always find out about the drainage required for every plant you buy, and make sure that it won’t conflict with any of the areas you are considering planting it in.

In order to test how much water your designated patch of soil will retain, dig a hole approximately ten inches deep. Fill it with water, and come back in a day when all the water had disappeared. Fill it back up again. If the 2nd hole full of water isn’t gone in 10 hours, your soil has a low saturation point. This means that when water soaks into it, it will stick around for a long time before dissipating. This is unacceptable for almost any plant, and you are going to have to do something to remedy it if you want your plants to survive.

The usual method for improving drainage in your garden is to create a raised bed. This involves creating a border for a small bed, and adding enough soil and compost to it to raise it above the rest of the yard by at least 5 inches. You’ll be amazed at how much your water drainage will be improved by this small modification. If you’re planning to build a raised bed, your prospective area is either on grass or on dirt. For each of these situations, you should build it slightly differently.

If you want to start a raised garden in a non grassy area, you won’t have much trouble. Just find some sort of border to retain the dirt you will be adding. I’ve found that there is nothing that works quite as well as a few two by fours. After you’ve created the wall, you must put in the proper amount soil and steer manure. Depending on how long you plan to wait before planting, you will want to adjust the ratio to allow for any deteriorating that may occur.

If you’re trying to install a raised bed where sod already exists, you will have a slightly more difficult time. You will need to cut the sod around the perimeter of the garden, and flip it over. This may sound simple, but you will need something with a very sharp edge to slice the edges of the sod and get under it. Once you have turned it all upside down, it is best to add a layer of straw to discourage the grass from growing back up. After the layer of straw, simply add all the soil and steer manure that a normal garden would need.

Planting your plants in your new area shouldn’t pose much difficulty. It is essentially the same process as your usual planting session. Just be sure that the roots don’t extent too far into the original ground level. The whole point of creating the raised bed is to keep the roots out of the soil which saturates easily. Having long roots that extend that far completely destroys the point.

Once you have plants in your new bed, you’ll notice an almost immediate improvement. The added soil facilitates better root development. At the same time, evaporation is prevented and decomposition is discouraged. All of these things added together makes for an ideal environment for almost any plant to grow in. So don’t be intimidated by the thought of adjusting the very topography of your yard. It is a simple process as I’m sure you’ve realized, and the long term results are worth every bit of work.

WILD-FLOWER GARDEN

A wild-flower garden has a most attractive sound. One thinks of long tramps in the woods, collecting material, and then of the fun in fixing up a real for sure wild garden.
Many people say they have no luck at all with such a garden. It is not a question of luck, but a question of understanding, for wild flowers are like people and each has its personality. What a plant has been accustomed to in Nature it desires always. In fact, when removed from its own sort of living conditions, it sickens and dies. That is enough to tell us that we should copy Nature herself. Suppose you are hunting wild flowers. As you choose certain flowers from the woods, notice the soil they are in, the place, conditions, the surroundings, and the neighbours.

Suppose you find dog-tooth violets and wind-flowers growing near together. Then place them so in your own new garden. Suppose you find a certain violet enjoying an open situation; then it should always have the same. You see the point, do you not? If you wish wild flowers to grow in a tame garden make them feel at home. Cheat them into almost believing that they are still in their native haunts.

Wild flowers ought to be transplanted after blossoming time is over. Take a trowel and a basket into the woods with you. As you take up a few, a columbine, or a hepatica, be sure to take with the roots some of the plant’s own soil, which must be packed about it when replanted.

The bed into which these plants are to go should be prepared carefully before this trip of yours. Surely you do not wish to bring those plants back to wait over a day or night before planting. They should go into new quarters at once. The bed needs soil from the woods, deep and rich and full of leaf mold. The under drainage system should be excellent. Then plants are not to go into water-logged ground. Some people think that all wood plants should have a soil saturated with water. But the woods themselves are not water-logged. It may be that you will need to dig your garden up very deeply and put some stone in the bottom. Over this the top soil should go. And on top, where the top soil once was, put a new layer of the rich soil you brought from the woods.

Before planting water the soil well. Then as you make places for the plants put into each hole some of the soil which belongs to the plant which is to be put there.
I think it would be a rather nice plan to have a wild-flower garden giving a succession of bloom from early spring to late fall; so let us start off with March, the hepatica, spring beauty and saxifrage. Then comes April bearing in its arms the beautiful columbine, the tiny bluets and wild geranium. For May there are the dog-tooth violet and the wood anemone, false Solomon’s seal, Jack-in-the-pulpit, wake robin, bloodroot and violets. June will give the bellflower, mullein, bee balm and foxglove. I would choose the gay butterfly weed for July. Let turtle head, aster, Joe Pye weed, and Queen Anne’s lace make the rest of the season brilliant until frost.

Let us have a bit about the likes and dislikes of these plants. After you are once started you’ll keep on adding to this wild-flower list.
There is no one who doesn’t love the hepatica. Before the spring has really decided to come, this little flower pokes its head up and puts all else to shame. Tucked under a covering of dry leaves the blossoms wait for a ray of warm sunshine to bring them out. These embryo flowers are further protected by a fuzzy covering. This reminds one of a similar protective covering which new fern leaves have. In the spring a hepatica plant wastes no time on getting a new suit of leaves. It makes its old ones do until the blossom has had its day. Then the new leaves, started to be sure before this, have a chance. These delayed, are ready to help out next season. You will find hepaticas growing in clusters, sort of family groups. They are likely to be found in rather open places in the woods. The soil is found to be rich and loose. So these should go only in partly shaded places and under good soil conditions. If planted with other woods specimens give them the benefit of a rather exposed position, that they may catch the early spring sunshine. I should cover hepaticas over with a light litter of leaves in the fall. During the last days of February, unless the weather is extreme take this leaf covering away. You’ll find the hepatica blossoms all ready to poke up their heads.
The spring beauty hardly allows the hepatica to get ahead of her. With a white flower which has dainty tracings of pink, a thin, wiry stem, and narrow, grass-like leaves, this spring flower cannot be mistaken. You will find spring beauties growing in great patches in rather open places. Plant a number of the roots and allow the sun good opportunity to get at them. For this
plant loves the sun.

The other March flower mentioned is the saxifrage. This belongs in quite a different sort of environment. It is a plant which grows in dry and rocky places. Often one will find it in chinks of rock. There is an old tale to the effect that the saxifrage roots twine about rocks and work their way into them so that the rock itself splits. Anyway, it is a rock garden plant. I have found it in dry, sandy places right on the borders of a big rock. It has white flower clusters borne on hairy stems.

The columbine is another plant that is quite likely to be found in rocky places. Standing below a ledge and looking up, one sees nestled here and there in rocky crevices one plant or more of columbine. The nodding red heads bob on wiry, slender stems. The roots do not strike deeply into the soil; in fact, often the soil hardly covers them. Now, just because the columbine has little soil, it does not signify that it is indifferent to the soil conditions. For it always has lived, and always should live, under good drainage conditions. I wonder if it has struck you, how really hygienic plants are? Plenty of fresh air, proper drainage, and good food are fundamentals with plants.
It is evident from study of these plants how easy it is to find out what plants like. After studying their feelings, then do not make the mistake of huddling them all together under poor drainage conditions.

I always have a feeling of personal affection for the bluets. When they come I always feel that now things are beginning to settle down outdoors. They start with rich, lovely, little delicate blue blossoms. As June gets hotter and hotter their colour fades a bit, until at times they look quite worn and white. Some people call them Quaker ladies, others innocence. Under any name they are charming. They grow in colonies, sometimes in sunny fields, sometimes by the road-side. From this we learn that they are more particular about the open sunlight than about the soil.

If you desire a flower to pick and use for bouquets, then the wild geranium is not your flower. It droops very quickly after picking and almost immediately drops its petals. But the purplish flowers are showy, and the leaves, while rather coarse, are deeply cut. This latter effect gives a certain boldness to the plant that is rather attractive. The plant is found in rather moist, partly shaded portions of the woods. I like this plant in the garden. It adds good colour and permanent colour as long as blooming time lasts, since there is no object in picking it.
There are numbers and numbers of wild flowers I might have suggested. These I have mentioned were not given for the purpose of a flower guide, but with just one end in view your understanding of how to study soil conditions for the work of starting a wild-flower garden.

If you fear results, take but one or two flowers and study just what you select. Having mastered, or better, become acquainted with a few, add more another year to your garden. I think you will love your wild garden best of all before you are through with it. It is a real study, you see.

Preparing Your Garden fo the Winter

Some people believe that when the weather starts getting colder and the leaves start to fall, it is time to put away the gardening tools and wait until next spring to work on their garden again. Wrong. Winter is an important time to maintain your garden’s health and assure yourself a good crop for next year. You may think that might take to long to prepare your  garden, but the truth is that it takes less than one day to prepare your garden for the upcoming winter.

When the nighttime temperatures drop to less than forty-five degrees Fahrenheit for more than four days in a row, or frost is forecasted for your area (usually around late October or November) you know its time to begin preparing your garden. You should begin by evaluating your garden design, check which plants grew well in the past season, and which plants did not do well. Fall is a good time to decide which plants will remain in you garden next year, and which ones should go.

It is also a good time to decide which new plants you want to grow. To make your garden more colorful and healthy, be sure only to plant the morehardy plants during the fall so that they can withstand the winter. Some plants that will do fine being planted in fall are: rudbeckia, Aster Novi-belgii, Anemone Japonica, panicle hyandea, endive, escarole, and Brussels sprouts. You can find all of these and more in gardening magazines or your local nursery.

After you have finished this you should begin cleaning up your garden. Begin by pulling out weeds that may have cropped up, and raking fallen leaves. Weeds and rotten leaves can carry insects and diseases that might be harmful to your garden. You should also rid your garden of spent annual plants, and harvest your vegetables and other plants that cannot withstand the winter weather. After fall has come and gone, the leaves will be off your trees and you can see the rotten branches. Trimming off the unwanted branches from your trees isn’t necessary to your gardens health, but may help later on by not dropping branches on your plants and not blocking too much of the sun.

If you have younger trees you should consider wrapping them and supporting them with stakes to help them survive the winter wind and cold. Putting mulch over your garden for the winter can be a helpful way to protect plants from sudden temperature changes and heavy snow. For mulch you can use about five inches of shredded bark, pine needles, or a variety of other materials. You have to be careful not to mulch too early, because some insects may still be alive and able to take shelter in it for the winter.

Once you are finished with your gardening tools you should clean them and make sure they are in a safe place where they won’t rust and you know where they’ll be for next year. Before winter comes you should always set out slug repellent, as slugs are one of the worst bugs to have in your garden. If you have a pool or fountain in your garden, be sure to take out any fish that you have in them and bring them inside. There’s nothing sadder than a fish frozen in a block of ice.