Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Genesis Of Soil

Soil primarily had its beginning from rock together with animal and vegetable decay, if you can imagine long stretches or periods of time when great rock masses were crumbling and breaking up. Heat, water action, and friction were largely responsible for this. By friction here is meant the rubbing and grinding of rock mass against rock mass. Think of the huge rocks, a perfect chaos of them, bumping, scraping, settling against one another. What would be the result? Well, I am sure you all could work that out. This is what happened: bits of rock were worn off, a great deal of heat was produced, pieces of rock were pressed together to form new rock masses, some portions becoming dissolved in water. Why, I myself, almost feel the stress and strain of it all. Can you?

Then, too, there were great changes in temperature. First everything was heated to a high temperature, then gradually became cool. Just think of the cracking, the crumbling, the upheavals, that such changes must have caused! You know some of the effects in winter of sudden freezes and thaws. But the little examples of bursting water pipes and broken pitchers are as nothing to what was happening in the world during those days. The water and the gases in the atmosphere helped along this crumbling work.

From all this action of rubbing, which action we call mechanical, it is easy enough to understand how sand was formed. This represents one of the great divisions of soil sandy soil. The sea shores are great masses of pure sand. If soil were nothing but broken rock masses then indeed it would be very poor and unproductive. But the early forms of animal and vegetable life decaying became a part of the rock mass and a better soil resulted. So the soils we speak of as sandy soils have mixed with the sand other matter, sometimes clay, sometimes vegetable matter or humus, and often animal waste.

Clay brings us right to another class of soils clayey soils. It happens that certain portions of rock masses became dissolved when water trickled over them and heat was plenty and abundant. This dissolution took place largely because there is in the air a certain gas called carbon dioxide or carbonic acid gas. This gas attacks and changes certain substances in rocks. Sometimes you see great rocks with portions sticking up looking as if they had been eaten away. Carbonic acid did this. It changed this eaten part into something else which we call clay. A change like this is not mechanical but chemical. The difference in the two kinds of change is just this: in the one case of sand, where a mechanical change went on, you still have just what you started with, save that the size of the mass is smaller. You started with a big rock, and ended with little particles of sand. But you had no different kind of rock in the end. Mechanical action might be illustrated with a piece of lump sugar. Let the sugar represent a big mass of rock. Break up the sugar, and even the smallest bit is sugar. It is just so with the rock mass; but in the case of a chemical change you start with one thing and end with another. You started with a big mass of rock which had in it a portion that became changed by the acid acting on it. It ended in being an entirely different thing which we call clay. So in the case of chemical change a certain something is started with and in the end we have an entirely different thing. The clay soils are often called mud soils because of the amount of water used in their formation.

The third sort of soil which we farm people have to deal with is lime soil. Remember we are thinking of soils from the farm point of view. This soil of course ordinarily was formed from limestone. Just as soon as one thing is mentioned about which we know nothing, another comes up of which we are just as ignorant. And so a whole chain of questions follows. Now you are probably saying within yourselves, how was limestone first formed?

At one time ages ago the lower animal and plant forms picked from the water particles of lime. With the lime they formed skeletons or houses about themselves as protection from larger animals. Coral is representative of this class of skeleton-forming animal.

As the animal died the skeleton remained. Great masses of this living matter pressed all together, after ages, formed limestone. Some limestones are still in such shape that the shelly formation is still visible. Marble, another limestone, is somewhat crystalline in character. Another well-known limestone is chalk. Perhaps you'd like to know a way of always being able to tell limestone. Drop a little of this acid on some lime. See how it bubbles and fizzles. Then drop some on this chalk and on the marble, too. The same bubbling takes place. So lime must be in these three structures. One does not have to buy a special acid for this work, for even the household acids like vinegar will cause the same result.

Then these are the three types of soil with which the farmer has to deal, and which we wish to understand. For one may learn to know his garden soil by studying it, just as one learns a lesson by study.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Cultivation Of Vegetables

Before taking up the garden vegetables individually, I shall outline the general practice of cultivation, which applies to all. The purposes of cultivation are three 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 them get anything resembling a start. He knows that one or two days' growth, after they are well up, followed perhaps 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 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 in the case was discovered, the soil cultivators had learned by observation the necessity of keeping the soil nicely loosened about their growing crops. Even the lanky and untutored aborigine saw to it that his squaw not only put a bad fish under the hill of maize but plied her shell hoe over it. 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. You may not see at first what the matter of frequent cultivation has to do with water. But let us stop a moment and look into it. Take a strip of blotting paper, dip one end in water, and watch the moisture run up hill, soak up through the blotter. The scientists have labeled that "capillary attraction" the water crawls up little invisible tubes formed by the texture of the blotter. Now take a similar piece, cut it across, hold the two cut edges firmly together, and try it again. The moisture refuses to cross the line: the connection has been severed.

In the same way the water stored in the soil after a 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 cut the pipe in two. 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 (and they will take the cream) 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. Get a wheel hoe. The simplest sorts 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. You can grow good vegetables, especially if your garden is a very small one, without one of these labor-savers, but I can assure you that you will never regret the small investment necessary to procure it.

With a wheel hoe, the work of preserving the soil mulch becomes very simple. If one has not a wheel hoe, 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. Under such conditions the weeds will pull 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, 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. Not only may more work be done but the fingers will be saved unnecessary wear.

The skilful use of the wheel hoe can be acquired through practice only. The first thing to learn is that it is necessary to watch the wheels only: the blades, disc or rakes will take care of themselves.

The operation of "hilling" consists in drawing up the soil about the stems of growing plants, usually 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 gradually been discarded for what is termed "level culture"; and you will readily see the reason, from what has been said about the escape of moisture from the surface of the soil; for of course the two upper sides of the hill, which may be represented by an equilateral triangle with one side horizontal, give more exposed surface than the level surface represented by the base. In wet soils or seasons hilling may be advisable, but very seldom otherwise. It has the additional disadvantage of making it difficult to maintain the soil mulch which is so desirable.

Rotation of crops.
------------------

There is another thing to be considered in making each vegetable do its best, and that is crop rotation, or the following of any vegetable with a different sort at the next planting.

With some vegetables, such as cabbage, this is almost imperative, and practically all are helped by it. Even onions, which are popularly supposed to be the proving exception to the rule, are healthier, and do as well after some other crop, provided the soil is as finely pulverized and rich as a previous 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.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Requirements Of A Home Vegetable Garden

In deciding upon the site for the home vegetable garden it is well to dispose once and for all of the old idea that the garden "patch" must be an ugly spot in the home surroundings. If thoughtfully planned, carefully planted and thoroughly cared for, it may be made a beautiful and harmonious feature of the general scheme, lending a touch of comfortable homeliness that no shrubs, borders, or beds can ever produce.

With this fact in mind we will not feel restricted to any part of the premises merely because it is out of sight behind the barn or garage. In the average moderate-sized place there will not be much choice as to land. It will be necessary to take what is to be had and then do the very best that can be done with it. But there will probably be a good deal of choice as to, first, exposure, and second, convenience. Other things being equal, select a spot near at hand, easy of access. It may seem that a difference of only a few hundred yards will mean nothing, but if one is depending largely upon spare moments for working in and for watching the garden and in the growing of many vegetables the latter is almost as important as the former this matter of convenient access will be of much greater importance than is likely to be at first recognized. Not until you have had to make a dozen time-wasting trips for forgotten seeds or tools, or gotten your feet soaking wet by going out through the dew-drenched grass, will you realize fully what this may mean.

Exposure.
---------

But the thing of first importance to consider in picking out the spot that is to yield you happiness and delicious vegetables all summer, or even for many years, is the exposure. Pick out the "earliest" spot you can find a plot sloping a little to the south or east, that seems to catch sunshine early and hold it late, and that seems to be out of the direct path of the chilling north and northeast winds. If a building, or even an old fence, protects it from this direction, your garden will be helped along wonderfully, for an early start is a great big factor toward success. If it is not already protected, a board fence, or a hedge of some low-growing shrubs or young evergreens, will add very greatly to its usefulness. The importance of having such a protection or shelter is altogether underestimated by the amateur.

The soil.
---------

The chances are that you will not find a spot of ideal garden soil ready for use anywhere upon your place. But all except the very worst of soils can be brought up to a very high degree of productiveness especially such small areas as home vegetable gardens require. Large tracts of soil that are almost pure sand, and others so heavy and mucky that for centuries they lay uncultivated, have frequently been brought, in the course of only a few years, to where they yield annually tremendous crops on a commercial basis. So do not be discouraged about your soil. Proper treatment of it is much more important, and a garden- patch of average run-down, or "never-brought-up" soil will produce much more for the energetic and careful gardener than the richest spot will grow under average methods of cultivation.

The ideal garden soil is a "rich, sandy loam." And the fact cannot be overemphasized that such soils usually are made, not found. Let us analyze that description a bit, 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 once, all prepared and spread out on the garden table, or rather in it, where growing things can at once make use of it; or what we term, in one word, "available" plant food. Practically no soils in long- inhabited communities remain naturally rich enough to produce big crops. They are made rich, or kept rich, in two ways; first, by cultivation, which helps to change the raw plant food stored in the soil into available forms; and second, by manuring or adding plant food to the soil from outside 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 crumble and fall apart readily after being pressed in the hand. It is not necessary that the soil be sandy in appearance, but it should be friable.

"Loam: a rich, friable 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 predominate, and usually dark in color, from cultivation and enrichment. Such a soil, even to the untrained eye, just naturally looks as if it would grow things. It is remarkable how quickly the whole physical appearance of a piece of well cultivated ground will change. An instance came under my notice last fall in one of my fields, where a strip containing 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 rest had not received any extra manuring or cultivation. When the field was plowed up in the fall, all three sections were as distinctly noticeable as though separated by a fence. And I know that next spring's crop of rye, before it is plowed under, will show the lines of demarcation just as plainly.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

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.

Labels:

Monday, December 10, 2007

Making Your Own Garden

The first thing in garden making is the selection of a spot. Without a choice, it means simply doing the best one can with conditions. With space limited it resolves itself into no garden, or a box garden. Surely a box garden is better than nothing at all.

But we will now suppose that it is possible to really choose just the right site for the garden. What shall be chosen? The greatest determining factor is the sun. No one would have a north corner, unless it were absolutely forced upon him; because, while north corners do for ferns, certain wild flowers, and begonias, they are of little use as spots for a general garden.

If possible, choose the ideal spot a southern exposure. Here the sun lies warm all day long. When the garden is thus located the rows of vegetables and flowers should run north and south. Thus placed, the plants receive the sun's rays all the morning on the eastern side, and all the afternoon on the western side. One ought not to have any lopsided plants with such an arrangement.

Suppose the garden faces southeast. In this case the western sun is out of the problem. In order to get the best distribution of sunlight run the rows northwest and southeast.

The idea is to get the most sunlight as evenly distributed as possible for the longest period of time. From the lopsided growth of window plants it is easy enough to see the effect on plants of poorly distributed light. So if you use a little diagram remembering that you wish the sun to shine part of the day on one side of the plants and part on the other, you can juggle out any situation. The southern exposure gives the ideal case because the sun gives half time nearly to each side. A northern exposure may mean an almost entire cut-off from sunlight; while northeastern and southwestern places always get uneven distribution of sun's rays, no matter how carefully this is planned.

The garden, if possible, should be planned out on paper. The plan is a great help when the real planting time comes. It saves time and unnecessary buying of seed.

New garden spots are likely to be found in two conditions: they are covered either with turf or with rubbish. In large garden areas the ground is ploughed and the sod turned under; but in small gardens remove the sod. How to take off the sod in the best manner is the next question. Stake and line off the garden spot. The line gives an accurate and straight course to follow. Cut the edges with the spade all along the line. If the area is a small one, say four feet by eighteen or twenty, this is an easy matter. Such a narrow strip may be marked off like a checkerboard, the sod cut through with the spade, and easily removed. This could be done in two long strips cut lengthwise of the strip. When the turf is cut through, roll it right up like a roll of carpet.

But suppose the garden plot is large. Then divide this up into strips a foot wide and take off the sod as before. What shall be done with the sod? Do not throw it away for it is full of richness, although not quite in available form. So pack the sod grass side down one square on another. Leave it to rot and to weather. When rotted it makes a fine fertilizer. Such a pile of rotting vegetable matter is called a compost pile. All through the summer add any old green vegetable matter to this. In the fall put the autumn leaves on. A fine lot of goodness is being fixed for another season.

Even when the garden is large enough to plough, I would pick out the largest pieces of sod rather than have them turned under. Go over the ploughed space, pick out the pieces of sod, shake them well and pack them up in a compost heap.

Mere spading of the ground is not sufficient. The soil is still left in lumps. Always as one spades one should break up the big lumps. But even so the ground is in no shape for planting. Ground must be very fine indeed to plant in, because seeds can get very close indeed to fine particles of soil. But the large lumps leave large spaces which no tiny root hair can penetrate. A seed is left stranded in a perfect waste when planted in chunks of soil. A baby surrounded with great pieces of beefsteak would starve. A seed among large lumps of soil is in a similar situation. The spade never can do this work of pulverizing soil. But the rake can. That's the value of the rake. It is a great lump breaker, but will not do for large lumps. If the soil still has large lumps in it take the hoe.

Many people handle the hoe awkwardly. The chief work of this implement is to rid the soil of weeds and stir up the top surface. It is used in summer to form that mulch of dust so valuable in retaining moisture in the soil. I often see people as if they were going to chop into atoms everything around. Hoeing should never be such vigorous exercise as that. Spading is vigorous, hard work, but not hoeing and raking.

After lumps are broken use the rake to make the bed fine and smooth. Now the great piece of work is done.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Landscape Gardening

Landscape gardening has often been likened to the painting of a picture. Your art-work teacher has doubtless told you that a good picture should have a point of chief interest, and the rest of the points simply go to make more beautiful the central idea, or to form a fine setting for it. So in landscape gardening there must be in the gardener's mind a picture of what he desires the whole to be when he completes his work.

From this study we shall be able to work out a little theory of landscape gardening.

Let us go to the lawn. A good extent of open lawn space is always beautiful. It is restful. It adds a feeling of space to even small grounds. So we might generalize and say that it is well to keep open lawn spaces. If one covers his lawn space with many trees, with little flower beds here and there, the general effect is choppy and fussy. It is a bit like an over-dressed person. One's grounds lose all individuality thus treated. A single tree or a small group is not a bad arrangement on the lawn. Do not center the tree or trees. Let them drop a bit into the background. Make a pleasing side feature of them. In choosing trees one must keep in mind a number of things. You should not choose an overpowering tree; the tree should be one of good shape, with something interesting about its bark, leaves, flowers or fruit. While the poplar is a rapid grower, it sheds its leaves early and so is left standing, bare and ugly, before the fall is old. Mind you, there are places where a row or double row of Lombardy poplars is very effective. But I think you'll agree with me that one lone poplar is not. The catalpa is quite lovely by itself. Its leaves are broad, its flowers attractive, the seed pods which cling to the tree until away into the winter, add a bit of picture squeness. The bright berries of the ash, the brilliant foliage of the sugar maple, the blossoms of the tulip tree, the bark of the white birch, and the leaves of the copper beech all these are beauty points to consider.

Place makes a difference in the selection of a tree. Suppose the lower portion of the grounds is a bit low and moist, then the spot is ideal for a willow. Don't group trees together which look awkward. A long-looking poplar does not go with a nice rather rounded little tulip tree. A juniper, so neat and prim, would look silly beside a spreading chestnut. One must keep proportion and suitability in mind.

I'd never advise the planting of a group of evergreens close to a house, and in the front yard. The effect is very gloomy indeed. Houses thus surrounded are overcapped by such trees and are not only gloomy to live in, but truly unhealthful. The chief requisite inside a house is sunlight and plenty of it.

As trees are chosen because of certain good points, so shrubs should be. In a clump I should wish some which bloomed early, some which bloomed late, some for the beauty of their fall foliage, some for the colour of their bark and others for the fruit. Some spireas and the forsythia bloom early. The red bark of the dogwood makes a bit of colour all winter, and the red berries of the barberry cling to the shrub well into the winter.

Certain shrubs are good to use for hedge purposes. A hedge is rather prettier usually than a fence. The Californian privet is excellent for this purpose. Osage orange, Japan barberry, buckthorn, Japan quince, and Van Houtte's spirea are other shrubs which make good hedges.

I forgot to say that in tree and shrub selection it is usually better to choose those of the locality one lives in. Unusual and foreign plants do less well, and often harmonize but poorly with their new setting.

Landscape gardening may follow along very formal lines or along informal lines. The first would have straight paths, straight rows in stiff beds, everything, as the name tells, perfectly formal. The other method is, of course, the exact opposite. There are danger points in each.

The formal arrangement is likely to look too stiff; the informal, too fussy, too wiggly. As far as paths go, keep this in mind, that a path should always lead somewhere. That is its business to direct one to a definite place. Now, straight, even paths are not unpleasing if the effect is to be that of a formal garden. The danger in the curved path is an abrupt curve, a whirligig effect. It is far better for you to stick to straight paths unless you can make a really beautiful curve. No one can tell you how to do this.

Garden paths may be of gravel, of dirt, or of grass. One sees grass paths in some very lovely gardens. I doubt, however, if they would serve as well in your small gardens. Your garden areas are so limited that they should be re-spaded each season, and the grass paths are a great bother in this work. Of course, a gravel path makes a fine appearance, but again you may not have gravel at your command. It is possible for any of you to dig out the path for two feet. Then put in six inches of stone or clinker. Over this, pack in the dirt, rounding it slightly toward the centre of the path. There should never be depressions through the central part of paths, since these form convenient places for water to stand. The under layer of stone makes a natural drainage system.

A building often needs the help of vines or flowers or both to tie it to the grounds in such a way as to form a harmonious whole. Vines lend themselves well to this work. It is better to plant a perennial vine, and so let it form a permanent part of your landscape scheme. The Virginia creeper, wistaria, honeysuckle, a climbing rose, the clematis and trumpet vine are all most satisfactory.

close your eyes and picture a house of natural colour, that mellow gray of the weathered shingles. Now add to this old house a purple wistaria. Can you see the beauty of it? I shall not forget soon a rather ugly corner of my childhood home, where the dining room and kitchen met. Just there climbing over, and falling over a trellis was a trumpet vine. It made beautiful an awkward angle, an ugly bit of carpenter work.

Of course, the morning-glory is an annual vine, as is the moon-vine and wild cucumber. Now, these have their special function. For often, it is necessary to cover an ugly thing for just a time, until the better things and better times come. The annual is 'the chap' for this work.

Along an old fence a hop vine is a thing of beauty. One might try to rival the woods' landscape work. For often one sees festooned from one rotted tree to another the ampelopsis vine.

Flowers may well go along the side of the building, or bordering a walk. In general, though, keep the front lawn space open and unbroken by beds. What lovelier in early spring than a bed of daffodils close to the house? Hyacinths and tulips, too, form a blaze of glory. These are little or no bother, and start the spring aright. One may make of some bulbs an exception to the rule of unbroken front lawn. Snowdrops and crocuses planted through the lawn are beautiful. They do not disturb the general effect, but just blend with the whole. One expert bulb gardener says to take a basketful of bulbs in the fall, walk about your grounds, and just drop bulbs out here and there. Wherever the bulbs drop, plant them. Such small bulbs as those we plant in lawns should be in groups of four to six. Daffodils may be thus planted, too. You all remember the grape hyacinths that grow all through Katharine's side yard.

The place for a flower garden is generally at the side or rear of the house. The backyard garden is a lovely idea, is it not? Who wishes to leave a beautiful looking front yard, turn the corner of a house, and find a dump heap? Not I. The flower garden may be laid out formally in neat little beds, or it may be more of a careless, hit-or-miss sort. Both have their good points. Great masses of bloom are attractive.

You should have in mind some notion of the blending of colour. Nature appears not to consider this at all, and still gets wondrous effects. This is because of the tremendous amount of her perfect background of green, and the limitlessness of her space, while we are confined at the best to relatively small areas. So we should endeavour not to blind people's eyes with clashes of colours which do not at close range blend well. In order to break up extremes of colours you can always use masses of white flowers, or something like mignonette, which is in effect green.

Finally, let us sum up our landscape lesson. The grounds are a setting for the house or buildings. Open, free lawn spaces, a tree or a proper group well placed, flowers which do not clutter up the front yard, groups of shrubbery these are points to be remembered. The paths should lead somewhere, and be either straight or well curved. If one starts with a formal garden, one should not mix the informal with it before the work is done.

Labels: