COLD FRAMES AND FLATS

The favorable location of the garden is the initial step in its
planning. The kitchen garden—always an important auxiliary of the
kitchen—is now, in these days, something more; it is becoming more
and more a part of the domestic routine; it is a woman’s garden, to
be planned for and cared for by the women of the family, and in that
relation must be considered from all its points of view. Location,
then, becomes of first importance. It must be accessible, that its care
may demand as little extra work as possible, and that little be given
to the actual cultivation and care and not to going back and forth.
If one can run out and cultivate a row of lettuce or train up a row of
peas while waiting for the irons to heat or the kettle to boil, then
one will find the sum total of the garden work far less onerous than
where one must calculate on going over the entire plat, or a stated
portion of it, at one operation.

A location close to the house, more or less secluded, that one may
work free from interruption and espionage and where the vegetables may
bask in the sun from early morning till late afternoon, is desirable,
and this is best achieved in a southern exposure with the garden rows
running north and south.

If the garden plot is protected by buildings or a high fence, or
a wind-break of evergreen on the north it will afford a favorable
position for the necessary hotbeds and cold frames and the close
relationship of the two will work for efficiency in handling.

A warm, mellow, sandy loam is the ideal soil for the vegetable garden,
but even a poor soil may be so built up and redeemed by proper
cultivation and fertilising as to make the quality of the soil of
secondary consideration, but if one can have both at once then one is
happy indeed. Tenacious, clayey soil or newly broken sod ground should
not, however, be undertaken by a woman, such ground is a man’s job.

But it is the warm, sunny location that is vital to the successful
cultivation of the garden. All the early vegetables—peas, lettuce,
endive and the like—call for abundant sunshine in the cool days of
early spring, and, as the season advances and the fall chill is in the
air at nightfall, then the warm sunshine will hasten the maturity of
such late comers as tomatoes, winter squash, citron and any late-sown
vegetables that are used to succeed the earlier growths. Again in the
late days of winter or early spring those vegetables that were left in
the ground for early use—the parsnips, and salsify, will be available
much earlier if given a warm location where the ground thaws readily,
rather than a cold exposure that holds frost late in the season.

A piece of ground adjoining other cultivated areas is far preferable
to an isolated plot as it may be ploughed in conjunction with the
larger piece and so kept in a better grade and condition. An isolated
garden plot, which must be prepared separately necessitating a dead
furrow in the center, becomes, in the course of a few years a dish
shaped area very disagreeable to cultivate; an open area, on two sides
at least, obviates this in a measure and renders the ground more level
and easily prepared.

Any garden spot, however, should always be ploughed rather than
spaded and as deep ploughing as possible should be the rule. If the
soil is good go as close to the bottom of it as possible, the shallow
ploughing so universal—seldom more than six inches in depth, does
not give a mellow bed for any but shallow rooted vegetables. Carrots,
salsify, parsnips and similar long-rooted things must fairly drill
their way into the hard ground below the shallow cultivation, this
resulting in deformed, stunted or many twigged roots, unsalable and of
little value for the home table. The long, smooth, beautiful bottoms
are only produced by deep cultivation to start with and, of course,
the subsequent cultivation must efficiently supplement this. A very
excellent method of preparing the ground would be to turn a deep furrow
with the plough and follow this with the subsoil plough, stirring up
the subsoil, but not mixing it with the top soil; this would give
several inches of loose soil beneath the first furrows that the roots
could readily penetrate. So many consider that all the fertility in a
soil is contained in the few top inches of soil, and in a measure this
is true—the available fertility is right there—but there is a wealth
of unused fertility in the lower strata, but lack of cultivation, lack
of moisture and most of all, lack of the humus which makes the soil
retentive of moisture, render it unavailable, but if it is broken
up and gradually mixed with the humus of the upper soil it becomes
available and the soil is increasing in fertility instead of growing
thinner and poorer year by year.

Following the ploughing comes the smoothing and leveling of the ground
by dragging with a spiked or spring tooth harrow; this part of the
work should be very thoroughly done; too fine a seed bed can never
be produced, whatever the means employed and the use of drags and
harrows by no means spells the whole operation of fitting a garden
for planting. After the dragging the garden rake is in order and the
ground must be raked over and over until thoroughly fine and free from
roughage of sticks, stones, clods and the like. If any weeds have been
drawn to the surface in dragging they must be pulled out and thrown
aside. If there is a dead furrow in the middle of the plot then the
raking should be towards that from both directions so as to fill it in
as much as possible and so restore the level of the ground.

It is not necessary to rake the entire garden at once if time and
strength are at a premium. One may rake a space sufficient for the
first planting and when that is done rake another space and so equalize
the labor, but it is easier to rake soon after the preliminary fitting
is done than to leave it until a rain has packed the earth and made
it heavy to move. A good rain, however, should always precede the
planting, if possible, as newly worked ground is not sufficiently
settled for sowing seed and not so desirable for setting out of plants.

The arrangement of the vegetables in the garden has much to do with
the convenience of caring for it. It is always a good arrangement to
plant the early vegetables, such as lettuce, radishes, beets, endive
and onions at the end of the garden nearest the house where they are
most easily available as one has occasion to use them in preparing a
meal. Then, too, all these small things are planted a standard distance
apart—usually twelve or fifteen inches,—twelve if the gardener is
addicted to trowsers, fifteen if skirts are in evidence, for it is
difficult to work in a narrower space, especially among the tender tops
of seedling onions, in petticoats. So, with the rows running north and
south, that the vegetables may receive the greatest possible amount of
sunshine, and the vegetables planted in consecutive rows of increasing
distances apart, one has a planting schedule economical of space and
labor.

This order of planting should also be made to include height as well
as distance apart of the rows of vegetables. Low growing things should
always occupy the front rows of space and not be overshaded by tall
growths. For this reason the planting of sweet corn in the garden plot
is not desirable; it is best to give this a space by itself—preferably
on the north side of the garden. Vine vegetables, too, have little
place in the garden proper—a place for them on the south side of the
garden should be reserved if possible, for with the best of management
they will break bounds and encroach on other plants. I recall a
planting of English marrows which were placed in the garden next to a
row of red peppers. They were bought for bush marrows but proved to be
the vine variety and in a month’s time had practically taken possession
of that end of the garden; peppers and tomatoes were smothered under
a luxuriant growth of squash vines whose luxuriance was only equalled
by the astonishing amount of fruit they bore. In desperate effort to
check their encroachments great lengths of vines, bearing half grown
marrows, were ruthlessly removed with no more apparent result than to
encourage a still more luxuriant growth and to increase the gardener’s
knowledge of the amount of pruning a really ambitions, vigorous vine
will stand.

The bush varieties of many vegetables are a great boon to the small
home gardener as most of them are prolific bearers and require no more
room than a hill of potatoes or an eggplant. Squash, melons, lima
beans—all have dwarf forms that are preferable to the usual vine
varieties.

The home garden should not be too large—a plot forty by eighty feet
will grow all the summer and winter vegetables a small family can make
use of and a considerable surplus for sale, especially is this the
case where the corn and vines are planted outside the garden proper.
Potatoes, too, are excluded from this estimate, though a few rows of
early potatoes may find room available.

The accompanying planting table, while intended to be merely
suggestive will be of use as indicating the amount of room required
for the several varieties of plants and a convenient arrangement.
The amount to be grown of any one variety however, must be decided
by the individual gardener and it will be time well spent to make a
diagram for one’s self, based on the amount of various vegetables that
experience shows to be needed. To those vegetables to which the family
are most addicted should always be added a few that are grown with the
occasional guest in mind and the few things that one likes to try from
season to season, and that add zest to gardening but should never be
allowed to occupy space needed for more standard sorts.

PLANTING-TABLE FOR A SMALL GARDEN APPROXIMATELY FORTY BY EIGHTY FEET

Lettuce—May King, 1 row. Transplant from hotbed to 9 in. apart

Onions—Transplanted seedlings of Prizetaker, Ailsa Craig
or Silver Skin, 1 in. 1 oz.

Parsley—Dwarf Perfection. Transplant to 9 in. apart 1 Pkt.

Endive—One row, Giant Fringed. Transplant to 9 in.
apart 1 Pkt.

Beets—Two rows, Crosby’s Egyptian. Thin to 3 in. 2 oz.

Carrots—Two rows, Danvers Half Long. Thin to 3 in. 1 oz.

Parsnips—Large Sugar or Hollow Crown. Two rows.
Thin to 3 in. ½ oz.

Salsify—Two rows, smooth, Mammoth Sandwich Island.
Thin to 3 in. 1 oz

Spinach—One row, All Season. Thin to 8 in. ½ oz.

Lima Beans—Fordhook Bush. Thin to 6 in. 2 lb.

String Beans—Wardwell’s Kidney Wax, or Navy Beans.
Two rows 2 lb.

Peas—Double rows, Senator, Gradus, Telephone. On wire
netting 2 lb.

Peppers—One row, Ruby Giant, Bull Nose, or Pimento.
12 in. apart 1 Pkt.

Bush Muskmelons—Three ft. apart 1 Pkt.

Okra—Perkins’ Long Pod. Half row, thin to 1 foot ½ lb.

Eggplant—Black Beauty. 18 in. 1 Pkt.

Early Potatoes—Dreer’s Perfection, Early Ohio. Fifteen
inches apart 1 Pkt.

Cauliflower—Early Snowball. Twenty in. apart 1 Pkt.

Cauliflower—Dry Weather. Twenty in. apart 1 Pkt.

Cabbage—Late Flat Dutch. 2 ft. apart 1 Pkt.

Squash—Delicious, Burbank’s Hubbard. 6 ft. apart each
way 1 oz.

So important is the preparatory work performed by a well started and
conducted hotbed that its use cannot be too insistently recommended.
The smallest, least ambitious home garden is dependent upon the use of
artificial heat in the starting of such plants as cabbage, cauliflower,
peppers, tomatoes and the like, either in hotbeds on the home grounds,
flats in the windows or plants grown in commercial greenhouses; these,
owing to the long season required to bring them into bearing, cannot be
started in the open ground; especially is this true of such heat loving
things as peppers and tomatoes.

Owing to the quite general practice of buying these plants of the
commercial gardeners or florists a much smaller area of ground is
devoted to their growth than would be the case were the plants grown
in one’s own hotbeds where the initial cost would have been that of
a few packets of seeds. Purchased plants are by no means immune from
late frosts or the assaults of cut worms and not infrequently demand
successive replantings before a satisfactory stand is secured. With a
well stocked hotbed this does not spell so great a disaster, as only
the labor of resetting is demanded and this is not of much moment as
the lines and points of setting are already laid down and the hills
of tomatoes, eggplants and peppers already supplied with their spade
full of manure. In a generous sized garden where perhaps a hundred
plants of a kind are grown the saving in the cost of plants will cover
the construction and maintenance of an ordinary hotbed and the cost
of a bed of the best concrete construction, which will last almost a
lifetime, will be covered in a reasonably short time.

There is nothing about the construction or care of a hotbed that offers
any obstacles to its possession and I have about come to the conclusion
that the only reason more gardeners do not have them is because they
cannot borrow them; they are the only thing about a garden that some
one can’t and doesn’t borrow and if some one would invent a portable
one it would undoubtedly become popular.

The requirements are simple:—A sunny location, protected from
prevailing winds—usually from the west, and on the north by a wall,
building or fence. Being started in the early days of spring—from
February, in the vicinity of the Ohio river, to late March or early
April in the vicinity of the Great Lakes; they require a background
that will hold the heat of the sun instead of allowing it to escape.

A well-drained position should be chosen and it should be as handy to
the house and garden as practicable, especially the former as, once
it is planted and plants up and growing, it will require frequent
supervision in the changeable weather of early spring. Under a bright
sun the temperature rises very rapidly in a glass-covered hotbed and
it is necessary to see that it does not rise high enough to injure the
plants; equally the temperature falls rapidly in an open bed when the
sun goes under a cloud, and the sash must be adjusted to meet these
deviations of temperature; often a moment’s work in raising or lowering
the sash will spell success or failure in the conduct of the bed.

A pit or excavation in the ground for holding a supply of fermenting
manure to furnish heat for the bed is the first step in the
construction of the hotbed; the size and depth of this will depend
somewhat upon the number of plants it is desired to produce and
upon the rigors of the climate and the prevalence of late springs
and frosts. As a general thing, for the ordinary home garden a bed
three feet by twelve is sufficient, but the added expense of a few
additional feet is so slight and the use of a bed so appeals to one
once one realizes its convenience, that it is seldom a mistake to make
it too large as, aside from the sowing of seed, it may be used for
starting roots of bedding plants, cannas, dahlias, begonias, tuberoses,
caladiums; the striking of cuttings and many garden operations that
have formerly been done in a bungling, cumbersome way in the house or
with the costly assistance of the florists.

The depth of the pit should not be less than three feet and four,
from the top of the frame, is better, as it is upon the depth of the
manure that the length or duration of the heat depends. A shallow pit
will give a quick heat which soon gives out, usually when most needed,
during a sudden cold wave, and as the expense of a foot more or less
counts for little it is best to be on the safe side and have sufficient
heat.

If economy must be observed or the bed is for temporary use, a rough
frame of boards will answer every purpose; it need not even extend
below the surface of the ground, but merely rest upon it, but such
construction is not to be recommended except for temporary structures
or where it is desired to remove the frame as soon at it has served
its purpose in supplying plants for spring planting; but a well built,
permanent hotbed has by no means served its mission with the passing
of the spring months, it may be profitably kept in commission the year
around.

If, however, the construction must be along economical lines waste
lumber and old window sash may be employed very satisfactorily. Having
dug the pit of the required depth and width and length—three feet
if old sash are to be used will be the best width and is desirable
anyway as it can be easily reached across and can be placed close to a
building and so occupy much less ground than where the usual florist
sash is used, a frame consisting of four upright posts two by four
inches and six feet long for the two rear posts and five feet long for
the front, to give the necessary slant to the frame, should be used;
on these the boards for the sides and ends should be nailed, the end
boards sawed to a true slant that the sash may rest evenly upon them;
the frame is then lowered into the pit and the soil leveled off around
it and made firm so that no cold air finds entrance. To such a frame
the sash may be hinged at the back and notched sticks adjusted to hold
it at any desired angle.

In the permanent cement hotbed the pit is dug as before, then
interlined with boards to form a mould and the space filled in with
a good cement mixture, paddling it smooth on the side next to the
boards and allowing the boards to remain in place until the cement
has hardened.[1] Before the cement has set, however, a frame of two
by four must be fitted on top of the cement to receive the sash. Long
spikes should be driven through the timbers at intervals to be pressed
into the cement to insure a good joint. It is also an advantage to
arrange for partitions through the bed by nailing cleats of wood on
the inside of the wooden form at points where the sash will meet. This
will form slots in the concrete into which thin boards can be slipped
to separate such plants as require much heat from those requiring less
heat and much air. The partitions should not extend much, if any below
the surface of the soil so the slots need not extend below the top
foot of wall. These partitions are not really necessary but often come
in very handy and are so easily arranged for that their occasional
use justifies their presence. Where they are employed the sash can be
left open where required far more safely than if they were not in use.
Cabbage and cauliflowers do best if given plenty of air and even a
tinge of frost will not injure them, while it would be fatal to such
heat loving plants as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and many tender
flowers and bulbous plants.

The double sash is a great protection for hotbeds started very early,
but as a rule there is little occasion for starting the beds before
the middle of March or early April in the northern states as it is
only necessary to give the plants about six weeks’ start of open
ground operations. Usually we make our out-of-door planting about the
twentieth of May at the north and correspondingly later as we go south,
but if we count back six weeks from “Corn planting time,” the country
over we will have reliable data for starting the hotbed. Plants left
too long in the bed deteriorate and should be scheduled to be got
into the ground as soon as they are fit; if this is done they will
not suffer from over crowding nor will it be necessary to transplant;
though this is always an advantage with certain plants. If to the
hotbed is added the convenience of a cold frame to which the cabbage
and cauliflower can be transplanted as soon as they show rough leaves
it will be a decided advantage and the room thus secured in the hotbed
can be used to transplant tomatoes, peppers and the like, thus giving
better rooted, stockier plants.

Fresh horse manure is used for heating the bed and must be procured
from stables where a number of horses are kept that sufficient may be
obtained at one time. It is not necessary for the small hotbed to pile
the manure and turn it over two or three times before putting it into
the pit; much time and labor is saved by putting it at once in the pit,
tramping it down as filled in until it is within five or six inches of
the level of the ground outside. Care must be taken that it is tramped
down evenly, especially in the corners, or it will settle unevenly
and cause the soil to sink in places. The earth may be placed on at
once if the manure is steaming when put in the pit. Good, mellow loam,
containing a portion of humus or leaf mould is the best hotbed soil and
it should be fine and free from all roughage of sticks and stones and
hard lumps of soil. Putting the top inch or two through a sand screen is
a good practice as this gives a fine soil suitable for the finer seeds.

Usually the bed will be in condition for sowing in twenty-four hours,
if the manure is heating well—and this can be ascertained by thrusting
a fork down into the bed and leaving it a few moments, withdrawing and
feeling of the tines, when the temperature can be quite accurately
gauged—or a thermometer may be forced down through the soil upon the
manure for a test. From four to five inches of soil will be sufficient
if the season is late—slightly more if the season is early and the
plants likely to remain long in the beds, and it must be leveled off as
flat as possible so that in watering the water will not run and wash
the seeds out of the ground.

The sowing of the seed is one of the fascinating phases of gardening
that every born gardener enjoys and the watching for the breaking of
the soil with the tiny green seed leaves is a joy indeed. Unlike open
air planting, there is rarely a failure in seed germination if good
seed is used. The ideal conditions of warm soil, mellow, moist soil of
just the right consistency; protection from changes of weather all make
for a high per cent of plants from the sowing, and the chief difficulty
is often an embarrassment of plants—that is they come up too thickly,
a trouble that is easily obviated by sowing quite thinly, holding back
a portion of the seed for later sowings if needed, or for a later crop.

Each variety of seed must be given a little plot of ground by itself
and should be separated from its neighbor by thin strips of wood
pressed into the soil; this not only helps in identifying plants of
similar appearance, but also prevents the washing together of the seed
when too much water is applied. Where two or three different varieties
of the same plant—as Early Dutch Cabbage, Danish Roundhead, Early
Summer, etc., are sown it will be well to alternate the plots with some
other vegetable so as to leave no chance for mistakes in setting out
the plants later on. A row of lettuce or radishes may be interposed
if desired; at any rate the presence of the strips of wood will aid
greatly in keeping them distinct.

Each plot of seeds must be plainly labeled with thin strips of wood
marked with the name of the seed and the date of sowing. If seeds of
certain plants have been purchased of different seedsmen it will be
well to indicate the source on the labels, in this way one can compare
the fertility of the two purchases of seed and decide which is the more
desirable.

There is a great difference in the germination of different garden
seeds, certain varieties appearing in from three to five days—as
cabbage, radishes, etc. Others—like peppers, parsley and the
like—require from two to three weeks to appear above ground and
one should not lose faith in the “Quickness” of the seed until a
reasonable time has elapsed, nor will it be desirable to dig them
up every day or two to see if they are growing; this will discourage
rather than accelerate the process.

If the soil in the hotbed appears dry when sowing the seed it should
be carefully watered by means of a fine-nosed watering pot or a whisk
broom dipped in water, care being taken that not enough water is used
at a time to wash the soil or disturb the planting. If any seed is
uncovered it must be recovered. Seed sown under the protection of
sash, either in hotbed or cold frame, does not require to be covered
as deeply as when in the open ground, often about as much soil as will
entirely cover it is sufficient, always so in the case of fine seed
which should be sown broadcast in sections and covered by sifting fine
soil or clean sand over and pressing all down firmly with a piece of
board. Larger seeds may be sown in drills, opened a quarter of an inch
deep and the earth drawn over them and pressed down.

Plants that make a rather high growth, even in the hotbed, like
tomatoes, should not be planted in front of lower growing things, but
should be in the rear or extend entirely across the bed; tomatoes, for
instance, are apt to overtop such plants as peppers, which grow quite
slowly in the hotbed. Endive, parsley, lettuce and onions, all are
plants which do not assert themselves very strongly at first and should
not be crowded for room or sunshine.

When all the planting is in and the soil watered, if necessary,
newspapers should be spread over the soil and the bed closed and
germination awaited. If the sun is very hot it may be necessary to
raise the sash before the plants appear, but where this is done care
must be taken that the papers are not disturbed by the wind, as if
blown about the soil will dry out and check or kill germination.

As soon as a plot of seeds breaks ground the little seedlings will
need air and light and the paper should be removed from this portion
and replaced on top of the glass, held in place with pieces of wood
or anything that will prevent its blowing about; this will only be
necessary until the plants are able to stand full sunlight, which will
be as soon as they have grown their first pair of real leaves. As the
young plants increase in size more and more air and sunshine should be
given them and due attention to watering must be carefully observed.
Lath screens to temper the sun will be necessary and will be needed to
replace the sash when the plants are large enough to dispense with it
during the heat of the day; these, in turn, may be replaced by wire
screens if there is any danger of predatory cats, chickens or children,
for it is the work of but a few moments for an entire planting to be
destroyed by any one of them. Puss likes nothing better than to get
into that nice warm hotbed and roll on the soft warm ground and as for
Biddy!

It is surprising the number of things that may be started in the hotbed
and transplanted into the open ground as soon as the weather permits,
thus gaining at least a month’s start in the garden. A great many of
the vegetables that are always sown in the open ground—beets, string
or lima beans, endive, lettuce—all may be started in the hotbed and
planted out and will give one very tender and succulent vegetables to
use while the main crop is maturing from open ground sowing. Once one
has acquired the hotbed habit one will never have quite room enough
for one will always be wanting to try something more. One of the most
satisfactory pushing forward of vegetables is achieved in planting
melons and cucumbers and squash on pieces of sod in the hotbed. Of
course cucumbers for pickles should always be sown rather late in the
open ground but fruit for slicing for the table may very profitably
be started on sod and transferred to the open ground when all danger
of frost is passed and so be ready a good month sooner and what is,
perhaps, quite as important, escape the ravages of the striped cucumber
beetle, that exasperating foe to vine culture.

A cold wet spell at planting time often results in a loss of the entire
planting of Lima and string beans, but if one has taken the precaution
of planting a half pint of seed in the hotbed and transplanting them
along about the twenty-first of May, one can wait until the first
of June, if necessary, to plant the main crop and be assured of a
successful stand of plants which will bear quite as early as if planted
in unsuitable weather and soil; this is of especial moment owing to the
high price of this class of seed; all varieties of seeds have advanced
in price but the difference is most marked in seeds of the various
legumes—peas and beans, of all varieties which command a price that
makes especial care in their planting advisable.

COLD FRAMES

Supplement effectively the hotbed or, in mild climates, take their
place. They are, to all effects and purposes a hotbed—minus the
heat—and so do not require the excavation of a pit. The part above the
ground is similar to that of the hotbed, being supplied with sash and
given the same slant to shed water and concentrate as much sunshine
as possible. For spring use it should front the south and occupy a
well-drained position, but for mid-season use an east exposure is
often desirable. If one wishes to use it to transplant things from
the hotbed, then a temporary frame of boards made to bolt together may
be constructed that may be taken apart and stored away when no longer
required; if used for transplanting the sash should be in a position a
week before it is needed so that the soil may become warm and friable,
then the little plants of cabbage, cauliflower and the like may be
transferred without any appreciable check in the growth and what there
is will be advantageous as it will result in the formation of a mass of
fibrous roots which will give them an additional chance in the struggle
for life in the open. Even screens of cheese cloth will give sufficient
protection in any but frosty weather and blankets may supplement these
on cold days if glass is prohibitive on account of its excessive price.

A well-spaded bed of good soil, enriched with a little well decayed
manure—that from last year’s hotbed will answer, or bone meal may be
used or a commercial fertilizer, for the plants will need food at this
stage of their growth, should be prepared and the frame set on this
or sunk a few inches into the ground to insure warmth and prevent the
ingress of small rodents which somehow show a peculiar penchant for
hotbeds and cold frames and have been known to destroy a whole planting
of seeds in a single night. A little nitrate of soda scattered between
the rows of cabbage and cauliflower will work wonders in the growth of
these plants and is to be recommended at this stage of their growth and
again when transplanted into the open ground.

Other forms of plant protection are found in the frameless beds
protected by lath screens; these are used mainly during the summer
months and are especially adapted for growing pansies from seed to be
transferred to cold frames in the fall and grown on until time to plant
out in permanent beds in spring; for growing violets in like manner and
also for starting cabbage seed to be held over winter in cold frames
for early spring planting.

THE SAND BOX

Is used as an auxiliary to the hotbed for a nursery for those plants
which are to be used in the house or conservatory during winter and
must be kept in a growing, but not blooming, condition during summer
and shifted from pot to pot as occasion requires. Though mainly
essential in the growing of house plants it is often found of much
use as a place to carry on such vegetable plants as one may desire to
pot off for sale or for stockier growth, previous to setting in the
open ground. The sand box consists of any shallow box of sufficient
size to hold a considerable number of two to four inch pots. It should
not, preferably, be over three feet wide but may be of any desired
length. Five inches is a good depth. It should be elevated on some
kind of support, at a convenient height to work at when sitting on a
stool or box. When used for growing house plants it is usually placed
in a rather shady spot on the east side of the house, but if used for
vegetables it may be given a more sunny, exposed position; it should
be filled with clean sand into which the pots are plunged to their rims
and the sand is kept constantly wet. The pots should be turned around
in the sand every day or two to prevent the roots, which escape through
the hole in the bottom of the pot, growing in the sand; to prevent this
also place a piece of broken crock or glass over the drainage hole. In
potting off plants from the hotbed use a small thumb-pot at first and
re-pot in one a size larger as soon as the roots form a network around
the outside of the ball of earth: this condition may be ascertained
by tapping the pot against the side of the box which will loosen the
ball of earth and allow it to drop out on the hand. Plants that are to
go into the ground in late May will probably not require re-potting,
certainly not more than once, but this treatment makes stocky,
well-rooted plants that command a better price than the untransplanted
plants from the beds, though there is always an excellent market for
all the products of the hotbed.

SOWING SEED IN FLATS IN THE HOUSE

Is the simplest, and least satisfactory form of advance work in the
garden; it belongs in the class of being “better than nothing,” but
for some plants is quite as successful as a hotbed, unfortunately that
particular class is not embraced in a book on vegetable gardening,
but belongs particularly to flower gardening and the special sorts
dedicated to the warm conservatory and window garden.

However, if one has not, and cannot achieve, the advantage of a hotbed
then one must make the most of what is attainable and resort to flats.
These may be of any shape or size, but the usual florists’ flats—about
fifteen inches wide and twenty long and not over five inches deep—are
of a practical size for general use; narrower ones which may be set
on a window sill are also useful but will not give a large number of
plants. Very convenient plant boxes which simulate a miniature hotbed,
being about six inches high in the back and about four in front, of the
usual flat size and supplied with a hinged lid of glass, are sold by
the florists but are easily manufactured at home and are better than
the open flats as they enable one to regulate moisture, the principal
trouble—owing to the dry air of the living rooms, the shallowness of
the soil, in growing plants in flats.

Several holes for drainage should be made in the bottom of the boxes
and these covered with pieces of shard or glass and the boxes filled to
within a half inch of the top with a good compost consisting of fibrous
loam—that shaved from the bottom of sods—leaf mould, clean white sand
and a little well-rotted manure, all thoroughly mixed and free from
roughage.

The seeds should be broadcasted, if fine, drilled in if coarse, and the
soil pressed down snugly over them. In the case of fine seed it is a
good idea to cover with fine white sand instead of soil as this is less
subject to the minute fungus which causes the deadly “damping off” so
destructive to plant life and especially troublesome in growing plants
in the house.

As in the planting in the hotbed, the seed plots should be carefully
labeled with name and date of sowing. After planting the seeds the
flats should be set in a pan of water until the surface looks dark but
not wet. They should then be covered with a sheet of white paper and
glass and set in a warm, sunny window until germination takes place.
Then the glass should be raised sufficiently to admit air and the paper
removed and placed between the box and the window or a width of cheese
cloth may be interposed between the glass and the box to temper the
sunlight until the little plants have acquired their first pair of true
leaves when they will be able to endure more heat and air which should
be steadily increased until on mild days the window may be opened that
they may benefit by full sunshine and air. As soon as the little plants
are an inch high, transplant into other flats, setting an inch or more
apart each way, and grow on as before or until they again crowd each
other, when they may be transferred to small two or three inch pots and
the sand box until time to go into the ground.

[Footnote 1: Or a trench as deep as the completed pit and as narrow as
can be handled may be dug to outline a pit of the required dimensions,
and filled with grout, well tamped down; when this has had time to
harden sufficiently, the earth may be removed from the center and the
cement given a finishing coat, and the wall brought to the required
height above ground by the aid of a frame of boards.]

Is important for it is just the form that most of the garden sowing
will take. The sowing of seed in hotbeds and flats in the house is of
much interest and importance, but the garden, for the most part, will
go directly into the open ground, and upon the care and judgment with
which the planting is done will depend the success of the season’s work.

The ground should be in as good condition for sowing as
possible—neither too dry nor too wet. It should, and this is of much
importance, be warm. The best of seed will not germinate if sown in
wet, cold soil, especially is this true of peas and beans, failures
with these being almost invariably due to too much haste in planting or
unfavorable weather immediately following. It is no unusual thing in a
cold, late spring for these legumes to require repeated replanting and
with the enormously advanced price of all kinds of seeds it will not
pay to take too long chances by undue haste in planting. Usually it is
quite safe to plant nearly all of the garden truck by the tenth of May
at the north but the weather for the recent seasons has been unusual
and much loss was occasioned by adhering too closely to an established
schedule; so, if the season promises to be in any way, except for
earliness, abnormal, it is best to go slowly and not trust all one’s
seed to an initial planting but to hold a little in reserve to replant
unfilled areas. Cutworms, too, have caused much devastation the past
few seasons—usually these are troublesome to transplanted things,
mainly cabbage, peppers and tomatoes, but last year they destroyed
beans and other plants impartially, causing much loss.

In planting a seed drill attached to a hand cultivator will be of
great assistance as seed may be drilled in rows or dropped in hills
at different distances apart so rapidly that the entire garden may be
planted in little more time than it takes to do an hundred foot row
by hand, and the drill will do it better, opening up the rows, sowing
the seed and covering all in one operation. If, however, one is not
possessed of this convenient implement one can do very well without by
removing one hoe of the hand cultivator, or by reversing both hoes and
bringing the points together and opening a drill to receive the seed
and covering it with the hoe or rake, or it may even be opened with a
trowel, which though laborious, is a very effectual way.

The soil must always be firmed above the seed after sowing, either
by means of a flat piece of board, with a handle on one surface or,
in the case of large seeds by tramping the rows with the feet; this
firming of the soil is most important, it brings the soil close about
the seed so that the first little root—a very tiny, delicate little
root, feeling its way about in search of nourishment can come at once
into contact with the warm soil and obtain the food and moisture so
critically needed at this juncture of its little life. The firming
of the soil conserves the moisture, preventing the entrance of dry,
hot air, and to obtain this further the ground after being tramped
down should be gone over lightly with rake or trowel and a dust-mulch
produced. In fact, all through one’s gardening processes one must keep
the dust-mulch in evidence for it means conservation of moisture and
fertility and freedom from weeds.

Seeds of different sizes, hardness and germination qualities,
require different treatment; fine seeds may be sown in shallow
drills, scattering seeds whose germinary power is known to be low or
questionable quite thickly in the drills; beets are usually sown quite
freely, while radishes—nearly every seed of which may be trusted to
grow—may be scattered at about the distance they are wanted to stand
in the rows; beans, too, may be dropped at about the distance they will
require—six inches or more apart for limas, and as these seeds are
sensitive to cold and dampness it is a wise precaution to set them on
edge, eye down, in the drills. Seeds that germinate slowly, like peas,
are hastened considerably by being soaked over night in warm water,
and many seeds that require considerable time to start are hastened if
warm water be poured into the trenches before the soil is filled in;
this is especially beneficial in very dry soil where germination might
otherwise be delayed until after a rain.

[Illustration: _An orderly arrangement of garden beds_]

It is not necessary that new seed be purchased every spring; if one
has seed of his own saving so that its age is known one can use it
with confidence. Seed purchased of the seedsman is more or less
problematical, but is usually supposed to be of the previous season’s
crop, especially is this true of those seedsmen who produce their own
seed on farms located in different sections of the country, and whose
seeds are usually very reliable. However there are many seedsmen, or
jobbers, who purchase the bulk of their seeds in the open market and
cannot guarantee the quality in any way. It is always a great mistake
to purchase cheap seed; it is better to buy seed of a reputable
seedsman who puts his name and reputation back of it, though the price
may be considerably higher than one would pay for the same seed of
the local store or seedsman.

Where one has sufficient old seed of different kinds it is a good idea
to test them out during the late days of winter and so ascertain their
fitness for use. The testing is a simple matter, warmth and moisture
being all that is required. A long tray covered with an inch of sand
kept moist may be marked off in squares and the seed it is desired to
test scattered evenly over the surface, labeling or numbering each
square, then a thick piece of flannel should be wet in warm water and
placed snugly over all and the tray put in a warm place—back of the
furnace, over a radiator or on the back of the kitchen reservoir if a
fire is kept there all the time, until the seeds germinate; it will
then be seen what proportion germinate and how freely one will need to
sow in order to obtain a good stand of plants. If the supply of seed is
large a germination test of seventy-five per cent. will justify its use
but if there is only a limited supply it will be better to purchase
fresh seed or at least sufficient to supplement the home supply. It
is always worth while to save one’s own seed if the vegetables have
exceptionally good qualities; this insures trueness to name and often
an improvement over the parent stock; it is not, however, desirable
where a number of varieties of any vegetable is grown in the same
garden as the seed is quite certain to be mixed and the good qualities
of the parent stock to be lost.

In sowing seed in the open ground cultivation should begin as soon
as the seed is sown and covered. In the case of large seed which is
tramped down in the rows and covered an inch or more it is not always
necessary to rake over the rows for a dust-mulch, rarely if it is
likely to rain immediately. Under this condition the rows will be quite
distinct and as soon as the rain is over and the ground slightly dried
off the scuffle-hoe may be run along the rows restoring the dust-mulch,
or creating one. Where the planting is shallow it is an excellent plan
to drop radish seeds at intervals along the row as these will appear
in from three to five days, thus marking the rows so that there will
be no difficulty in following them. When this is done it will not be
necessary to use ground especially for planting radishes so that there
will be a saving in room that may be utilized to advantage for other
vegetables. Lettuce, too, may be grown to advantage by planting a short
strip of seed at the end of rows of other vegetables, where full rows
are not required, as this saves space in the garden and the lettuce if
placed at the ends of the rows nearest the house is easily accessible
and does away with the necessity of walking on the garden after it has
been cultivated, a thing the careful gardener avoids.

With the intensive gardening practised on the small plot where the
vegetables are planted in close rows from a foot to two feet apart,
the ground should be at all times in a fine tilth, free from unworked
strips and trodden paths. It is of little value to cut off the weeds
with the hoe or cultivator if they are to be trodden back in the ground
and so given a new lease of life. The scuffle-hoe is a real boon to
the gardener in obviating this difficulty as in using it one walks
backwards, pushing the hoe from one instead of drawing it towards one
as is done with the common garden hoe; this leaves a beautiful, clean
tilth, absolutely free from trampled areas and nothing cut off by the
hoe will take on a new lease of life over night. More real work can
be accomplished by the use of the scuffle than with any other tool in
the garden; it does not supplant altogether the wheel cultivator but
does its work when used alternately with it; the cultivator breaking
up the soil to a greater depth, and more rapidly than the scuffle, but
the latter destroys far more thoroughly all weeds and reaches closer
to the plants, slipping underneath the leaves and close to the stems
and routing out any and all weeds lurking there. The cultivator leaves
the ground in ridges and aerates it, the scuffle levels it again and
produces a fine dust-mulch which will preserve the moisture until
another rain calls for the use of the cultivator.

Unless the season is a very rainy one, one good cultivation a week,
either with scuffle or cultivator, will keep the garden in excellent
shape, but every rain MUST be followed by cultivation of some sort, for
there is great loss of moisture if this is not done and weeds follow
quickly after rain.

The various weeds with which the garden is afflicted come at separate
intervals—not all together, and when one has eradicated one set of
weeds there is usually a brief interval before the appearance of the
next detachment. But one must have them continually in mind and keep
a sharp lookout for the first tiny seedlings and destroy them before
they have made even one pair of true leaves. Working around individual
plants with a trowel or hand weeder has this advantage that it spies
out the enemy before it would attract attention if the rows were worked
with hoe or cultivator. The severe thinning that such plants as beets,
carrots, endive, salsify, onions and the like require clears the rows
of weeds and helps materially in general cultivation. This thinning
out should always be done prior to cultivating between the rows, then
the paths are left clear and untrodden and the garden is a delight
to look upon. A basket should be carried along the rows to drop the
plants removed so that they may be out of the way when ready to run the
cultivator. Nearly all plants which require thinning may be used in
setting out fresh rows of vegetables and where there are vacant places
in the rows the spaces may be filled up with plants removed from too
crowded areas.

The first weeds to appear in the spring are the chickweed and the
malice[2] that has remained over from the previous year, being a
perennial and a very hardy and persistent one; these two are ploughed
under and give little or no trouble if the work has been well done. The
new crop does not appear until late in the season—usually in July.
Purslaine comes along in June and soon after appears that particular
pest of the garden—red root. All these are very easily eradicated when
small but the red root is an exceedingly hard weed to pull once it has
got a grip on the ground and it must be taken out root and all or it
will come up again with not one but several stout stalks, and a more
tenacious hold than ever on the soil; it is one of the weeds which are
constantly eluding detection until they have gained several inches in
height when they defy the hoe and cultivator and call for strenuous
hand work!

Many of the garden weeds may be utilized for feeding stock. Belgian
hares are fond of the fresh green leaves of malice and pigs enjoy both
that and the purslaine and as the former comes at a time when there
is little green feed available for the hares it may be pulled and fed
rather than turned under. Ragweed is relished by horses and they will
frequently go into a patch of it and eat it in preference to good
clover growing near by.

[Footnote 2: Common name “malice” from its bad reputation; properly,
mallow (_malva rotundifolia_).]

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