THE HOME ACRE
E. P. ROE
CHAPTER I TREE-PLANTING
CHAPTER II FRUIT-TREES AND GRASS
CHAPTER III THE GARDEN
CHAPTER IV THE VINEYARD AND ORCHARD
CHAPTER V THE RASPBERRY
CHAPTER VI THE CURRANT
CHAPTER VII STRAWBERRIES
CHAPTER VIII THE KITCHEN-GARDEN
CHAPTER IX THE KITCHEN-GARDEN (Concluded)
Land hunger is so general that it may be regarded as a natural craving. Artificial modes of life, it is true, can destroy it, but it is apt to reassert itself in later generations. To tens of thousands of bread-winners in cities a country home is the dream of the future, the crown and reward of their life-toil. Increasing numbers are taking what would seem to be the wiser course, and are combining rural pleasures and advantages with their business. As the questions of rapid transit are solved, the welfare of children will turn the scale more and more often against the conventional city house or flat. A home CAN be created in rented dwellings and apartments; but a home for which we have the deed, a cottage surrounded by trees, flowers, lawn, and garden, is the refuge which best satisfies the heart. By means of such a suburban nook we can keep up our relations with Nature and all her varied and health-giving life. The tired man returning from business finds that his excited brain will not cease to act. He can enjoy restoring rest in the complete diversion of his thoughts; he can think of this tree or that plant, and how he can fill to advantage unoccupied spaces with other trees, flowers, and vegetables. If there is a Jersey cow to welcome him with her placid trust, a good roadster to whinny for an airing, and a flock of chickens to clamor about his feet for their supper, his jangling nerves will be quieted, in spite of all the bulls and bears of Wall Street. Best of all, he will see that his children have air and space in which to grow naturally, healthfully. His fruit-trees will testify to his wisdom in providing a country home. For instance, he will observe that if sound plums are left in contact with stung and decaying specimens, they too will be infected; he will see that too close crowding renders the prospect for good fruit doubtful; and, by natural transition of thought, will be glad that his boys and girls are not shut in to the fortuitous associations of hall- way and street. The area of land purchased will depend largely on the desires and purse of the buyer; but about one acre appears to satisfy the majority of people. This amount is not so great that the business man is burdened with care, nor is its limit so small that he is cramped and thwarted by line fences. If he can give to his bit of Eden but little thought and money, he will find that an acre can be so laid out as to entail comparatively small expense in either the one or the other; if he has the time and taste to make the land his play-ground as well as that of his children, scope is afforded for an almost infinite variety of pleasing labors and interesting experiments. When we come to co-work with Nature, all we do has some of the characteristics of an experiment. The labor of the year is a game of skill, into which also enter the fascinating elements of apparent chance. What a tree, a flower, or vegetable bed will give, depends chiefly upon us; yet all the vicissitudes of dew, rain, frost, and sun, have their part in the result. We play the game with Nature, and she will usually let us win if we are not careless, ignorant, or stupid. She keeps up our zest by never permitting the game to be played twice under the same conditions. We can no more carry on our garden this season precisely as we did last year than a captain can sail his ship exactly as he did on the preceding voyage. A country home makes even the weather interesting; and the rise and fall of the mercury is watched with scarcely less solicitude than the mutations of the market.
In this chapter and in those which may ensue I merely hope to make some useful suggestions and give practical advice—the result of experience, my own and others'—which the reader may carry out and modify according to his judgment.
We will suppose that an acre has been bought; that it is comparatively level, with nothing of especial value upon it—in brief, that the home and its surroundings are still to be created.
It is not within my design to treat of the dwelling, its architecture, etc., but we shall have something to say further on in regard to its location. Before purchasing, the most careful investigations should be made as to the healthfulness of the region and the opportunities for thorough drainage. Having bought the acre, the question of removing all undue accumulations of water on or beneath the surface should be attended to at first. The dry appearance of the soil during much of the year may be misleading. It should be remembered that there are equinoctial storms and melting snows. Superabundant moisture at every period should have channels of immediate escape, for moisture in excess is an injury to plant as well as to family life; while thoroughly and quickly drained land endures drought far better than that which is rendered heavy and sour by water stagnating beneath the surface. Tile-drains are usually the cheapest and most effective; but if there are stones and rocks upon the place, they can be utilized and disposed of at the same time by their burial in ditches—and they should be covered so deeply that a plow, although sunk to the beam, can pass over them. Tiles or the top of a stone drain should be at least two feet below the surface. If the ground of the acre is underlaid with a porous subsoil, there is usually an adequate natural drainage.
Making haste slowly is often the quickest way to desired results. It is the usual method to erect the dwelling first, and afterward to subdue and enrich the ground gradually. This in many instances may prove the best course; but when it is practicable, I should advise that building be deferred until the land (with the exception of the spaces to be occupied with the house and barn) can be covered with a heavy dressing of barnyard manure, and that this be plowed under in the autumn. Such general enriching of the soil may seem a waste in view of the carriage-drive and walks yet to be laid out; but this will not prove true. It should be remembered that while certain parts of the place are to be kept bare of surface-vegetation, they nevertheless will form a portion of the root-pasturage of the shade and fruit trees. The land, also, can be more evenly and deeply plowed before obstructions are placed upon it, and roots, pestiferous weeds, and stones removed with greatest economy. Moreover, the good initial enriching is capital, hoarded in the soil, to start with. On many new places I have seen trees and plants beginning a feeble and uncertain life, barely existing rather than growing, because their roots found the soil like a table with dishes but without food. If the fertilizer is plowed under in the autumn, again mixed with the soil by a second plowing in the spring, it will be decomposed and ready for immediate use by every rootlet in contact with it. Now, as farmers say, the "land is in good heart," and it will cheer its owner's heart to see the growth promptly made by whatever is properly planted. Instead of losing time, he has gained years. Suppose the acre to have been bought in September, and treated as I have indicated, it is ready for a generous reception of plants and trees the following spring.
Possibly at the time of purchase the acre may be covered with coarse grass, weeds, or undergrowth of some kind. In this case, after the initial plowing, the cultivation for a season of some such crop as corn or potatoes may be of great advantage in clearing the land, and the proceeds of the crop would partially meet expenses. If the aim is merely to subdue and clean the land as quickly as possible, nothing is better than buckwheat, sown thickly and plowed under just as it comes into blossom. It is the nature of this rampart-growing grain to kill out everything else and leave the soil light and mellow. If the ground is encumbered with many stones and rocks, the question of clearing it is more complicated. They can be used, and often sold to advantage, for building purposes. In some instances I have seen laboring-men clear the most unpromising plots of ground by burying all rocks and stones deeply beneath the surface—men, too, who had no other time for the task except the brief hours before and after their daily toil.
I shall give no distinct plan for laying out the ground. The taste of the owner, or more probably that of his wife, will now come into play. Their ideas also will be modified by many local circumstances—as, for instance, the undulations of the land, if there are any; proximity to neighbors, etc. If little besides shade and lawn is desired, this fact will have a controlling influence; if, on the other hand, the proprietor wishes to make his acre as productive as possible, the house will be built nearer the street, wider open space will be left for the garden, and fruit-trees will predominate over those grown merely for shade and beauty. There are few who would care to follow a plan which many others had adopted. Indeed, it would be the natural wish of persons of taste to impart something of their own individuality to their rural home; and the effort to do this would afford much agreeable occupation. Plates giving the elevation and arrangement of country homes can be studied by the evening lamp; visits to places noted for their beauty, simplicity, and good taste will afford motives for many a breezy drive; while useful suggestions from what had been accomplished by others may repay for an extended journey. Such observations and study will cost little more than an agreeable expenditure of time; and surely a home is worth careful thought. It then truly becomes YOUR home—something that you have evolved with loving effort. Dear thoughts of wife and children enter into its very materiality; walks are planned with a loving consciousness of the feet which are to tread them, and trees planted with prophetic vision of the groups that will gather beneath the shade. This could scarcely be true if the acre were turned over to architect, builders, and landscape-gardeners, with an agreement that you should have possession at a specified time.
We will suppose that it is early spring, that the ground has received its second plowing, and that the carriage-drive and the main walks have been marked out on paper, or, better still, on a carefully considered map. There is now so much to do that one is almost bewildered; and the old saying, "Rome was not built in a day," is a good thing to remember. An orderly succession of labor will bring beauty and comfort in good time, especially if essential or foundation labors are first well performed. Few things will prove more satisfactory than dry, hard, smooth carriage-roads and walks. These, with their curves, can be carefully staked out, the surface-earth between the stakes to the depth of four or five inches carted to the rear of the place near the stable, or the place where the stable is to be. Of the value of this surface-soil we shall speak presently, and will merely remark in passing that it is amply worth the trouble of saving. Its removal leaves the beds of the driveway and walks depressed several inches below the surrounding surface. Fill these shallow excavations with little stones, the larger in the bottom, the smaller on top, and cover all with gravel. You now have roads and walks that will be dry and hard even in oozy March, and you can stroll about your place the moment the heaviest shower is over. The greater first cost will be more than made good by the fact that scarcely a weed can start or grow on pathways thus treated. All they will need is an occasional rounding up and smoothing with a rake.
While this labor is going on you can begin the planting of trees. To this task I would earnestly ask careful attention. Your house can be built in a summer; but it requires a good part of a century to build the best trees into anything like perfection.
The usual tendency is to plant much too closely. Observe well- developed trees, and see how wide a space they require. There is naturally an eager wish for shade as soon as possible, and a desire to banish from surroundings an aspect of bareness. These purposes can, it is true, often be accomplished by setting out more trees at first than could mature, and by taking out one and another from time to time when they begin to interfere with each other's growth. One symmetrical, noble tree, however, is certainly worth more than a dozen distorted, misshapen specimens. If given space, every kind of tree and shrub will develop its own individuality; and herein lies one of their greatest charms. If the oak typifies manhood, the drooping elm is equally suggestive of feminine grace, while the sugar-maple, prodigal of its rich juices, tasselled bloom, and winged seeds, reminds us of wholesome, cheerful natures. Even when dying, its foliage takes on the earliest and richest hues of autumn.
The trees about our door become in a sense our companions. They appeal to the eye, fancy, and feelings of different people differently. Therefore I shall leave the choice of arboreal associates to those who are to plant them—a choice best guided by observation of trees. Why should you not plant those you like the best, those which are the most congenial?
A few suggestions, however, may be useful. I would advise the reader not to be in too great haste to fill up his grounds. While there are trees to which his choice reverts almost instantly, there are probably many other beautiful varieties with which he is not acquainted. If he has kept space for the planting of something new every spring and fall, he has done much to preserve his zest in his rural surroundings, and to give a pleasing direction to his summer observation. He is ever on the alert to discover trees and shrubs that satisfy his taste.
During the preparation of this book I visited the grounds of Mr. A. S. Fuller, at Kidgewood, N. J., and for an hour or two I broke the tenth commandment in spite of myself. I was surrounded by trees from almost every portion of the northern temperate zone, from Oregon to Japan; and in Mr. Fuller I had a guide whose sympathy with his arboreal pets was only equalled by his knowledge of their characteristics. All who love trees should possess his book entitled "Practical Forestry." If it could only be put into the hands of law-makers, and they compelled to learn much of its contents by heart, they would cease to be more or less conscious traitors to their country in allowing the destruction of forests. They might avert the verdict of the future, and prevent posterity from denouncing the irreparable wrong which is now permitted with impunity. The Arnolds of to-day are those who have the power to save the trees, yet fail to do so.
Japan appears to be doing as much to adorn our lawns and gardens as our drawing-rooms; and from this and other foreign lands much that is beautiful or curious is coming annually to our shores. At the same time I was convinced of the wisdom of Mr. Fuller's appreciation of our native trees. In few instances should we have to go far from home to find nearly all that we wanted in beautiful variety—maples, dogwoods, scarlet and chestnut oaks, the liquid- amber, the whitewood or tulip-tree, white birch, and horn-beam, or the hop-tree; not to speak of the evergreens and shrubs indigenous to our forests. Perhaps it is not generally known that the persimmon, so well remembered by old campaigners in Virginia, will grow readily in this latitude. There are forests of this tree around Paterson, N. J., and it has been known to endure twenty- seven degrees below zero. It is a handsome tree at any season, and its fruit in November caused much straggling from our line of march in the South. Then there is our clean-boled, graceful beech, whose smooth white bark has received so many tender confidences. In the neighborhood of a village you will rarely find one of these trees whereon is not linked the names of lovers that have sat beneath the shade. Indeed I have found mementoes of trysts or rambles deep in the forest of which the faithful beech has kept the record until the lovers were old or dead. On an immense old beech in Tennessee there is an inscription which, while it suggests a hug, presents to the fancy an experience remote from a lover's embrace. It reads, "D. Boone cilled bar on tree."
There is one objection to the beech which also lies against the white oak—it does not drop its leaves within the space of a few autumn days. The bleached foliage is falling all winter long, thus giving the ground near an untidy aspect. With some, the question of absolute neatness is paramount; with others, leaves are clean dirt, and their rustle in the wind does not cease to be music even after they have fallen.
Speaking of native trees and shrubs, we shall do well to use our eyes carefully during our summer walks and drives; for if we do, we can scarcely fail to fall in love with types and varieties growing wild. They will thrive just as well on the acre if properly removed. In a sense they bring the forest with them, and open vistas at our door deep into the heart of Nature. The tree is not only a thing of beauty in itself, but it represents to the fancy all its wild haunts the world over.
In gratifying our taste for native trees we need not confine ourselves to those indigenous to our own locality. From the nurseries we can obtain specimens that beautify other regions of our broad land; as, for instance, the Kentucky yellow-wood, the papaw, the Judas-tree, and, in the latitude of New Jersey and southward, the holly.
In many instances the purchaser of the acre may find a lasting pleasure in developing a specialty. He may desire to gather about him all the drooping or weeping trees that will grow in his latitude, or he may choose to turn his acre largely into a nut- orchard, and delight his children with a harvest which they will gather with all the zest of the frisky red squirrel. If one could succeed in obtaining a bearing tree of Hale's paper-shell hickory- nut, he would have a prize indeed. Increasing attention is given to the growing of nut-trees in our large nurseries, and there would be no difficulty in obtaining a supply.
In passing from this subject of choice in deciduous trees and shrubs, I would suggest, in addition to visits to woods and copse, to the well-ornamented places of men who have long gratified a fine taste in this respect, that the reader also make time to see occasionally a nursery like that of S.B. Parsons & Co., at Flushing, N.Y. There is no teaching like that of the eyes; and the amateur who would do a bit of landscape-gardening about his own home learns what he would like and what he can do by seeing shrubs and trees in their various stages of growth and beauty.
I shall treat the subject of evergreens at the close of this chapter.
As a rule, I have not much sympathy with the effort to set out large trees in the hope of obtaining shade more quickly. The trees have to be trimmed up and cut back so greatly that their symmetry is often destroyed. They are also apt to be checked in their growth so seriously by such removal that a slender sapling, planted at the same time, overtakes and passes them. I prefer a young tree, straight-stemmed, healthy, and typical of its species or variety. Then we may watch its rapid natural development as we would that of a child. Still, when large trees can be removed in winter with a great ball of frozen earth that insures the preservation of the fibrous roots, much time can be saved. It should ever be remembered that prompt, rapid growth of the transplanted tree depends on two things—plenty of small fibrous roots, and a fertile soil to receive them. It usually happens that the purchaser employs a local citizen to aid in putting his ground in order. In every rural neighborhood there are smart men—"smart" is the proper adjective; for they are neither sagacious nor trustworthy, and there is ever a dismal hiatus between their promises and performance. Such men lie in wait for newcomers, to take advantage of their inexperience and necessary absence. They will assure their confiding employers that they are beyond learning anything new in the planting of trees—which is true, in a sinister sense. They will leave roots exposed to sun and wind— in brief, pay no more attention to them than a baby-farmer would bestow on an infant's appetite; and then, when convenient, thrust them into a hole scarcely large enough for a post. They expect to receive their money long before the dishonest character of their work can be discovered. The number of trees which this class of men have dwarfed or killed outright would make a forest. The result of a well-meaning yet ignorant man's work might be equally unsatisfactory. Therefore, the purchaser of the acre should know how a tree should be planted, and see to it himself; or he should by careful inquiry select a man for the task who could bring testimonials from those to whom he had rendered like services in the past.
The hole destined to receive a shade or fruit tree should be at least three feet in diameter and two feet deep. It then should be partially filled with good surface soil, upon which the tree should stand, so that its roots could extend naturally according to their original growth. Good fine loam should be sifted through and over them, and they should not be permitted to come in contact with decaying matter or coarse, unfermented manure. The tree should be set as deeply in the soil as it stood when first taken up. As the earth is thrown gently through and over the roots it should be packed lightly against them with the foot, and water, should the season be rather dry and warm, poured in from time to time to settle the fine soil about them. The surface should be levelled at last with a slight dip toward the tree, so that spring and summer rains may be retained directly about the roots. Then a mulch of coarse manure is helpful, for it keeps the surface moist, and its richness will reach the roots gradually in a diluted form. A mulch of straw, leaves, or coarse hay is better than none at all. After being planted, three stout stakes should be inserted firmly in the earth at the three points of a triangle, the tree being its centre. Then by a rope of straw or some soft material the tree should be braced firmly between the protecting stakes, and thus it is kept from being whipped around by the wind. Should periods of drought ensue during the growing season, it would be well to rake the mulch one side, and saturate the ground around the young tree with an abundance of water, and the mulch afterward spread as before. Such watering is often essential, and it should be thorough. Unskilled persons usually do more harm than good by their half-way measures in this respect.
Speaking of trees, it may so happen that the acre is already in forest. Then, indeed, there should be careful discrimination in the use of the axe. It may be said that a fine tree is in the way of the dwelling. Perhaps the proposed dwelling is in the way of the tree. In England the work of "groving," or thinning out trees, is carried to the perfection of a fine art. One shudders at the havoc which might be made by a stolid laborer. Indeed, to nearly all who could be employed in preparing a wooded acre for habitation, a tree would be looked upon as little more than so much cord-wood or lumber.
If I had a wooded acre I should study the trees most carefully before coming to any decision as to the situation of the dwelling and out-buildings. Having removed those obviously unworthy to remain, I should put in the axe very thoughtfully among the finer specimens, remembering that I should be under the soil before Nature could build others like them.
In the fitting up of this planet as the home of mankind it would appear that the Creator regarded the coniferae, or evergreen family, as well worthy of attention; for almost from the first, according to geologists, this family records on the rocky tablets of the earth its appearance, large and varied development, and its adaptation to each change in climate and condition of the globe's surface during the countless ages of preparation. Surely, therefore, he who is evolving a home on one acre of the earth's area cannot neglect a genus of trees that has been so signally honored. Evergreens will speedily banish the sense of newness from his grounds; for by putting them about his door he has added the link which connects his acre with the earliest geological record of tree-planting. Then, like Diedrich Knickerbocker, who felt that he must trace the province of New York back to the origin of the universe, he can look upon his coniferae and feel that his latest work is in accord with one of the earliest laws of creation. I imagine, however, that my readers' choice of evergreens will be determined chiefly by the fact that they are always beautiful, are easily managed, and that by means of them beautiful effects can be created within comparatively small space. On Mr. Fuller's grounds I saw what might be fittingly termed a small parterre of dwarf evergreens, some of which were twenty-five years old.
Numbers of this family might be described as evergreen and gold; for part of the perennial foliage shades off from the deepest green to bright golden hues. Among the group of this variety, Japanese in origin, Mr. Fuller showed me a "sporting" specimen, which, from some obscure and remarkable impulse, appeared bent on producing a new and distinct type. One of the branches was quite different from all the others on the tree. It was pressed down and layered in the soil beneath; when lo! a new tree was produced, set out beside its parent, whom it soon surpassed in size, beauty, and general vigor. Although still maintaining its green and golden hues, it was so distinct that no one would dream that it was but a "sport" from the adjacent dwarf and modest tree. Indeed, it reminded one of Beatrix Esmond beside her gentle and retiring mother. If it should not in the future emulate in caprice the fair subject of comparison, it may eventually become one of the best- known ornaments of our lawns. At present it appears nowise inclined to hide its golden light under a bushel.
What I have said about forming the acquaintance of deciduous trees and shrubs before planting to any great extent, applies with even greater force to the evergreen, family. There is a large and beautiful variety from which to choose, and I would suggest that the choice be made chiefly from the dwarf-growing kinds, since the space of one acre is too limited for much indulgence in. Norway spruces, the firs, or pines. An hour with a note-book spent in grounds like those of Mr. Fuller would do more in aiding a satisfactory selection than years of reading. Moreover, it should be remembered that many beautiful evergreens, especially those of foreign origin, are but half hardy. The amateur may find that after an exceptionally severe winter some lovely specimen, which has grown to fill a large space in his heart, as well as on his acre, has been killed. There is an ample choice from entirely hardy varieties for every locality, and these, by careful inquiry of trustworthy nurserymen, should be obtained.
Moreover, it should be remembered that few evergreens will thrive in a wet, heavy soil. If Nature has not provided thorough drainage by means of a porous subsoil, the work must be done artificially. As a rule, light but not poor soils, and warm exposures, are best adapted to this genus of trees.
I think that all authorities agree substantially that spring in our climate is the best time for the transplanting of evergreens; but they differ between early and advanced spring. The late Mr. A. J. Downing preferred early spring; that is, as soon as the frost is out, and the ground dry enough to crumble freely. Mr. A. S. Fuller indorses this opinion. Mr. Josiah Hoopes, author of a valuable work entitled "The Book of Evergreens," advises that transplanting be deferred to later spring, when the young trees are just beginning their season's growth; and this view has the approval of the Hon. Marshall P. Wilder and Mr. S. B. Parsons, Jr., Superintendent of City Parks. Abundant success is undoubtedly achieved at both seasons; but should a hot, dry period ensue after the later planting—early May, for instance—only abundant watering and diligent mulching will save the trees.
It should be carefully remembered that the evergreen families do not possess the vitality of deciduous trees, and are more easily injured or killed by removal. The roots of the former are more sensitive to exposure to dry air and to sunlight; and much more certainty of life and growth is secured if the transfer can be accomplished in cloudy or rainy weather. The roots should never be permitted to become dry, and it is well also to sprinkle the foliage at the time of planting. Moreover, do not permit careless workmen to save a few minutes in the digging of the trees. Every fibrous root that can be preserved intact is a promise of life and vigor. If a nurseryman should send me an assortment of evergreens with only the large woody roots left, I should refuse to receive the trees.
What I have said in opposition to the transplanting of large trees applies with greater force to evergreens. Mr. Hoopes writes: "An error into which many unpracticed planters frequently fall is that of planting large trees; and it is one which we consider opposed to sound common-sense. We are aware that the owner of every new place is anxious to produce what is usually known as an immediate effect, and therefore he proceeds to plant large evergreens, covering his grounds with great unsightly trees. In almost every case of this kind the lower limbs are apt to die, and thus greatly disfigure the symmetry of the trees. Young, healthy plants, when carefully taken up and as properly replanted, are never subject to this disfigurement, and are almost certain to form handsome specimens."
Any one who has seen the beautiful pyramids, cones, and mounds of green into which so many varieties develop, if permitted to grow according to the laws of their being, should not be induced to purchase old and large trees which nurserymen are often anxious to part with before they become utterly unsalable.
When the evergreens reach the acre, plant them with the same care and on the same general principles indicated for other trees. Let the soil be mellow and good. Mulch at once, and water abundantly the first summer during dry periods. Be sure that the trees are not set any deeper in the ground than they stood before removal. If the soil of the acre is heavy or poor, go to the roadside or some old pasture and find rich light soil with which to fill in around the roots. If no soil can be found without a large proportion of clay, the addition of a little sand, thoroughly mixed through it, is beneficial. The hole should be ample in size, so that the roots can be spread out according to their natural bent. If the ground after planting needs enriching, spread the fertilizer around the trees, not against them, and on the surface only. Never put manure on or very near the roots.
Fine young seedling evergreens can often be found in the woods or fields, and may be had for the asking, or for a trifling sum. Dig them so as to save all the roots possible. Never permit these to become dry till they are safe in your own grounds. Aim to start the little trees under the same conditions in which you found them in Nature. If taken from a shady spot, they should be shaded for a season or two, until they become accustomed to sunlight. This can easily be accomplished by four crotched stakes supporting a light scaffolding, on which is placed during the hot months a few evergreen boughs.
Very pretty and useful purposes can often be served by the employment of certain kinds of evergreens as hedges. I do not like the arbitrary and stiff divisions of a small place which I have often seen. They take away the sense of roominess, and destroy the possibility of pretty little vistas; but when used judiciously as screens they combine much beauty with utility. As part of line fences they are often eminently satisfactory, shutting out prying eyes and inclosing the home within walls of living green. The strong-growing pines and Norway spruce are better adapted to large estates than to the area of an acre. Therefore we would advise the employment of the American arbor vitae and of hemlock. The hedge of the latter evergreen on Mr. Fuller's place formed one of the most beautiful and symmetrical walls I have ever seen. It was so smooth, even, and impervious that in the distance it appeared like solid emerald.
The ground should be thoroughly prepared for a hedge by deep plowing or by digging; the trees should be small, young, of even height and size, and they should be planted carefully in line, according to the directions already given for a single specimen; the ground on each side mulched and kept moist during the first summer. In the autumn, rake the mulch away and top-dress the soil on both sides for the space of two or three feet outward from the stems with well-decayed manure. This protects the roots and ensures a vigorous growth the coming season. Allow no weeds or even grass to encroach on the young hedge until it is strong and established. For the first year no trimming will be necessary beyond cutting back an occasional branch or top that is growing stronger than the others; and this should be done in early October. During the second season the plants should grow much more strongly; and now the shears are needed in summer. Some branches and top shoots will push far beyond the others. They should be cut back evenly, and in accordance with the shape the hedge is to take. The pyramidal form appears to me to be the one most in harmony with Nature. In October, the hedge should receive its final shearing for the year; and if there is an apparent deficiency of vigor, the ground on both sides should receive another top-dressing, after removing the summer mulch. As the hedge grows older and stronger, the principal shearing will be done in early summer, as this checks growth and causes the close, dense interlacing of branches and formation of foliage wherein the beauty and usefulness of the hedge consist.
FRUIT-TREES AND GRASS
It is a happy proof of our civilization that a dwelling-place, a shelter from sun and storm, does not constitute a home. Even the modest rooms of our mechanics are not furnished with useful articles merely; ornaments and pictures appear quite as indispensable. Out-of-doors the impulse to beautify is even stronger; and usually the purchaser's first effort is to make his place attractive by means of trees and shrubs that are more than useful—they are essential; because the refined tastes of men and women to-day demand them.
In the first chapter I endeavored to satisfy this demand in some degree, and now will ask the reader's attention to a few practical suggestions in regard to several of the fruits which best supply the family need. We shall find, however, that while Nature is prodigal in supplying what appeals to the palate and satisfies hunger, she is also like a graceful hostess who decks her banquet with all the beauty that she can possibly bestow upon it. We can imagine that the luscious fruits of the year might have been produced in a much more prosaic way. Indeed, we are at a loss to decide which we value the more, the apple-blossoms or the apples which follow. Nature is not content with bulk, flavor, and nutriment, but in the fruit itself so deftly pleases the eye with every trick of color and form that the hues and beauty of the flower are often surpassed. We look at a red-cheeked apple or purple cluster of grapes hesitatingly, and are loth to mar the exquisite shadings and perfect outlines of the vessel in which the rich juices are served. Therefore, in stocking the acre with fruit, the proprietor has not ceased to embellish it; and should he decide that fruit-trees must predominate over those grown for shade and ornament only, he can combine almost as much beauty as utility with his plan.
All the fruits may be set out both in the spring and the fall seasons; but in our latitude and northward, I should prefer early spring for strawberries and peaches.
By this time we may suppose that the owner of the acre has matured his plans, and marked out the spaces designed for the lawn, garden, fruit trees, vines, etc. Fruit trees, like shade trees, are not the growth of a summer. Therefore there is natural eagerness to have them in the ground as soon as possible, and they can usually be ordered from the same nursery, and at the same time with the ornamental stock. I shall speak first of apples, pears, and cherries, and I have been at some pains to secure the opinions of eminent horticulturists as to the best selections of these fruits for the home table, not for market. When there is a surplus, however, there will be no difficulty in disposing of the fine varieties named.
The Hon. Marshall P. Wilder, the veteran President of the American Pomological Society, writes as follows: "Herewith is the selection I have made for family use; but I could put in as many more in some of the classes which are just as desirable, or nearly so. These have been made with reference to covering the seasons. Apples—Red Astrakhan, Porter, Gravenstein, Rhode Island Greening, Baldwin, Roxbury Russet, and Sweet Bough for baking. Pears— Clapp's Favorite (to be gathered August 20), Bartlett, Seckel, Sheldon, Beurre Bosc, Buerre d'Anjou, and Vicar of Winkfield for baking, etc. Cherries—Black Eagle, Black Tartarian, Downer, Windsor, Cumberland, and Red Jacket."
Mr. Wilder's honored name, like that of the late Charles Downing, is inseparably linked with American fruits, and the country owes these two men a debt of gratitude which never can be paid for their lifelong and intelligent efforts to guide the people wisely in the choice and culture of the very best varieties. A moment's thought will convince the reader that I am not giving too much space to this matter of selection. We are now dealing with questions which wide and varied experience can best answer. Men who give their lives to the cultivation and observation of fruits in all their myriad varieties acquire a knowledge which is almost invaluable. We cannot afford to put out trees, to give them good culture, and wait for years, only to learn that all our care has been bestowed on inferior or second-rate varieties. Life is too brief. We all feel that the best is good enough for us; and the best usually costs no more in money or time than do less desirable varieties. Therefore I seek to give on this important question of choice the opinions of some of the highest authorities in the land.
Mr. A. S. Fuller is not only a well-known horticultural author, but has also had the widest experience in the culture and observation of fruit. He prefaces his opinion with the following words: "How much and how often we horticulturists have been puzzled with questions like yours! If we made no progress, were always of the same mind, and if seasons never changed, then perhaps there would be little difficulty in deciding which of the varieties of the different kinds of fruit were really the best. But seasons, our tastes, and even the varieties sometimes change; and our preferences and opinions must vary accordingly. Apples— Early Harvest, Fall Pippins, Spitzenburgh, Rhode Island Greening, Autumn Sweet Bough, and Talman's Sweet. Cherries—Early Purple Guigne, Bigarreau of Mezel, Black Eagle, Coe's Transparent, Governor Wood, and Belle Magnifique."
The choice of Mr. E. S. Carmen, editor of the "Rural New Yorker:" "Apples—Early Harvest, Gravenstein, Jefferis, Baldwin, Mother, Spitzenburgh. Pears—Seckel, Tyson, Clapp's Favorite, Bartlett, Beurre d'Anjou, and Dana's Hovey. Cherries—Black Tartarian, Coe's Transparent, Governor Wood, Mezel, Napoleon Bigarreau."
The authorities appear to differ. And so they would in regard to any locality; but it should be remembered that President Wilder advises for the latitude of Massachusetts, Messrs. Fuller and Carmen for that of New Jersey. I will give now the selection of the eminent horticulturist Mr. P. O. Berckmans for the latitude of Georgia: "Cherries (this is not a good cherry-producing region, but I name the following as the best in order of merit)—Buttners, Governor Wood, Belle de Choisy, Early Richmond, and May Duke. Pears (in order of maturity)—Clapp's Favorite, Seckel, Duchesse, Beurre Superfine, Leconte, Winter Nellis, or Glout. Morceau. Apples—Early Harvest, Red June, Carter's Blue, Stevenson's Winter, Shockley, Buncombe, Carolina Greening."
He who makes his choice from these selections will not meet with much disappointment. I am aware, however, that the enjoyment of fruit depends much upon the taste of the individual; and who has a better right to gratify his taste than the man who buys, sets out, and cares for the trees? Some familiar kind not in favor with the fruit critics, an old variety that has become a dear memory of boyhood, may be the best one of all for him—perhaps for the reason that it recalls the loved faces that gathered about the wide, quaint fireplace of his childhood's home.
It is also a well-recognized fact that certain varieties of fruit appear to be peculiarly adapted to certain localities. Because a man has made a good selection on general principles, he need not be restricted to this choice. He will soon find his trees growing lustily and making large branching heads. Each branch can be made to produce a different kind of apple or pear, and the kindred varieties of cherries will succeed on the same tree. For instance, one may be visiting a neighbor who gives him some fruit that is unusually delicious, or that manifest great adaptation to the locality. As a rule the neighbor will gladly give scions which, grafted upon the trees of the Home Acre, will soon begin to yield the coveted variety. This opportunity to grow different kinds of fruit on one tree imparts a new and delightful interest to the orchard. The proprietor can always be on the lookout for something new and fine, and the few moments required in grafting or budding make it his. The operation is so simple and easy that he can learn to perform it himself, and there are always plenty of adepts in the rural vicinage to give him his initial lesson. While he will keep the standard kinds for his main supply, he can gratify his taste and eye with some pretty innovations. I know of an apple- tree which bears over a hundred varieties. A branch, for instance, is producing Yellow Bell-flowers. At a certain point in its growth where it has the diameter of a man's thumb it may be grafted with the Red Baldwin. When the scion has grown for two or three years, its leading shoots can be grafted with the Roxbury Russet, and eventually the terminal bough of this growth with the Early Harvest. Thus may be presented the interesting spectacle of one limb of a tree yielding four very distinct kinds of apples.
In the limited area of an acre there is usually not very much range in soil and locality. The owner must make the best of what he has bought, and remedy unfavorable conditions, if they exist, by skill. It should be remembered that peaty, cold, damp, spongy soils are unfit for fruit-trees of any kind. We can scarcely imagine, however, that one would buy land for a home containing much soil of this nature. A sandy loam, with a subsoil that dries out so quickly that it can be worked after a heavy rain, is the best for nearly all the fruit-trees, especially for cherries and peaches. Therefore in selecting the ground, be sure it is well drained.
If the acre has been enriched and plowed twice deeply, as I have already suggested, little more is necessary in planting than to excavate a hole large enough to receive the roots spread out in their natural positions. Should no such thorough and general preparation have been made, or if the ground is hard, poor, and stony, the owner will find it to his advantage to dig a good-sized hole three or four feet across and two deep, filling in and around the tree with fine rich surface soil. If he can obtain some thoroughly decomposed compost or manure, for instance, as the scrapings of a barnyard, or rich black soil from an old pasture, to mix with the earth beneath and around the roots, the good effects will be seen speedily; but in no instance should raw manure from the stable, or anything that must decay before becoming plant food, be brought in contact with the roots. Again I repeat my caution against planting too deeply—one of the commonest and most fatal errors. Let the tree be set about as deeply as it stood before removal. If the tree be planted early in spring, as it should be, there will be moisture enough in the soil; but when planting is delayed until the ground has become rather dry and warm, a pail of water poured about its roots when the hole has been nearly filled will be beneficial. Now that the tree is planted, any kind of coarse manure spread to the depth of two or three inches on the surface as a mulch is very useful. Stake at once to protect against the winds. Do not make the common mistake of planting too closely. Observe the area shaded by fully grown trees, and you will learn the folly of crowding. Moreover, dense shade about the house is not desirable. There should be space for plenty of air and sunshine. The fruit from one well- developed tree will often more than supply a family; for ten or fifteen barrels of apples is not an unusual yield. The standard apples should be thirty feet apart. Pears, the dwarfer-growing cherries, plums, etc., can be grown in the intervening spaces. In ordering from the nurseries insist on straight, shapely, and young trees, say three years from the bud. Many trees that are sent out are small enough, but they are old and stunted. Also require that there should be an abundance of fibrous and unmutilated roots.
Because the young trees come from the nursery unpruned, do not leave them in that condition. Before planting, or immediately after, cut back all the branches at least one-half; and where they are too thick, cut out some altogether. In removal the tree has lost much of its root power, and it is absurd to expect it to provide for just as much top as before.
In many books on fruit-culture much space has been given to dwarf pears, apples, and cherries, and trees of this character were planted much more largely some years ago than they are at present. The pear is dwarfed by grafting it on the quince; the apple can be limited to a mere garden fruit-tree in size by being grown on a Doucin stock, or even reduced to the size of a bush if compelled to draw its life through the roots of the Paradise. These two named stocks, much employed by European nurserymen, are distinct species of apples, and reproduce themselves without variation from the seed. The cherry is dwarfed by being worked on the Mahaleb—a small, handsome tree, with glossy, deep-green foliage, much cultivated abroad as an ornament of lawns. Except in the hands of practiced gardeners, trees thus dwarfed are seldom satisfactory, for much skill and care are required in their cultivation. Their chief advantages consist in the fact that they bear early and take but little space. Therefore they may be considered worthy of attention by the purchasers of small places. Those who are disposed to make pets of their trees and to indulge in horticultural experiments may derive much pleasure from these dwarfs, for they can be developed into symmetrical pyramids or graceful, fruitful shrubs within the limits of a garden border.
When the seeds of ordinary apples and pears are sown they produce seedlings, or free stocks, and upon these are budded or grafted the fine varieties which compose our orchards. They are known as standard trees; they come into bearing more slowly, and eventually attain the normal size familiar to us all. Standard cherries are worked on seedlings of the Mazzard, which Barry describes as a "lofty, rapid-growing, pyramidal-headed tree." I should advise the reader to indulge in the dwarfs very charily, and chiefly as a source of fairly profitable amusement. It is to the standards that he will look for shade, beauty, and abundance of fruit.
Since we have been dwelling on the apple, pear, and cherry, there are certain advantages of continuing the subject in the same connection, giving the principles of cultivation and care until the trees reach maturity. During the first summer an occasional watering may be required in long periods of drought. In many instances buds will form and start along the stem of the tree, or near the roots. These should be rubbed off the moment they are detected.
One of our chief aims is to form an evenly balanced, open, symmetrical head; and this can often be accomplished better by a little watchfulness during the season of growth than at any other time. If, for instance, two branches start so closely together that one or the other must be removed in the spring pruning, why let the superfluous one grow at all? It is just so much wasted effort. By rubbing off the pushing bud or tender shoot the strength of the tree is thrown into the branches that we wish to remain. Thus the eye and hand of the master become to the young tree what instruction, counsel, and admonition are to a growing boy, with the difference that the tree is easily and certainly managed when taken in time.
The study of the principles of growth in the young trees can be made as pleasing as it is profitable, for the readiness with which they respond to a guiding hand will soon invest them with almost a human interest. A child will not show neglect more certainly than they; and if humored and allowed to grow after their own fashion, they will soon prove how essential are restraint and training. A fruit tree is not like one in a forest—a simple, unperverted product of Nature. It is a result of human interference and development; and we might just as reasonably expect our domestic animals to take care of themselves as our grafted and budded trees. Moreover, they do not comply with their raison d'etre by merely existing, growing, and propagating their kind. A Bartlett pear-tree, like a Jersey cow, is given place for the sake of its delicious product. It is also like the cow in requiring judicious feeding and care.
Trees left to themselves tend to form too much wood, like the grape-vine. Of course fine fruit is impossible when the head of a tree is like a thicket. The growth of unchecked branches follows the terminal bud, thus producing long naked reaches of wood devoid of fruit spurs. Therefore the need of shortening in, so that side branches may be developed. When the reader remembers that every dormant bud in early spring is a possible branch, and that even the immature buds at the axil of the leaves in early summer can be forced into immediate growth by pinching back the leading shoot, he will see how entirely the young tree is under his control. These simple facts and principles are worth far more to the intelligent man than any number of arbitrary rules as to pruning. Reason and observation soon guide his hand in summer or his knife in March—the season when trees are usually trimmed.
Beyond shortening in leading branches and cutting out crossing and interfering boughs, so as to keep the head symmetrical and open to light and air, the cherry does not need very much pruning. If with the lapse of years it becomes necessary to take off large limbs from any fruit-tree, the authorities recommend early June as the best season for the operation.
It will soon be discovered—quite likely during the first summer— that fruit-trees have enemies, that they need not only cultivation and feeding, but also protection. The pear, apple, and quince are liable to one mysterious disease which it is almost impossible to guard against or cure—the fireblight. Of course there have been innumerable preventives and cures recommended, just as we see a dozen certain remedies for consumption advertised in any popular journal; but the disease still remains a disheartening mystery, and is more fatal to the pear than to its kindred fruits. I have had thrifty young trees, just coming into bearing, suddenly turn black in both wood and foliage, appearing in the distance as if scorched by a blast from a furnace. In another instance a large mature tree was attacked, losing in a summer half its boughs. These were cut out, and the remainder of the tree appeared healthy during the following summer, and bore a good crop of fruit. The disease often attacks but a single branch or a small portion of a tree. The authorities advise that everything should be cut away at once below all evidence of infection and burned. Some of my trees have been attacked and have recovered; others were apparently recovering, but died a year or two later. One could theorize to the end of a volume about the trouble. I frankly confess that I know neither the cause nor the remedy. It seems to me that our best resource is to comply with the general conditions of good and healthy growth. The usual experience is that trees which are fertilized with wood-ashes and a moderate amount of lime and salt, rather than with stimulating manures, escape the disease. If the ground is poor, however, and the growth feeble, barnyard manure or its equivalent is needed as a mulch. The apple-blight is another kindred and equally obscure disease. No better remedy is known than to cut out the infected part at once.
In coping with insects we can act more intelligently, and therefore successfully. We can study the characters of our enemies, and learn their vulnerable points. The black and green aphides, or plant-lice, are often very troublesome. They appear in immense numbers on the young and tender shoots of trees, and by sucking their juices check or enfeeble the growth. They are the milch-cows of ants, which are usually found very busy among them. Nature apparently has made ample provision for this pest, for it has been estimated that "one individual in five generations might be the progenitor of six thousand millions." They are easily destroyed, however. Mr. Barry, of the firm of Ellwanger & Barry, in his excellent work "The Fruit Garden," writes as follows: "Our plan is to prepare a barrel of tobacco juice by steeping stems for several days, until the juice is of a dark brown color; we then mix this with soap-suds. A pail is filled, and the ends of the shoots, where the insects are assembled, are bent down and dipped in the liquid. One dip is enough. Such parts as cannot be dipped are sprinkled liberally with a garden-syringe, and the application repeated from time to time, as long as any of the aphides remain. The liquid may be so strong as to injure the foliage; therefore it is well to test it on one or two subjects before using it extensively. Apply it in the evening."
The scaly aphis or bark-louse attacks weak, feeble-growing trees, and can usually be removed by scrubbing the bark with the preparation given above.
In our region and in many localities the apple-tree borer is a very formidable pest, often destroying a young tree before its presence is known. I once found a young tree in a distant part of my place that I could push over with my finger. In June a brown and white striped beetle deposits its eggs in the bark of the apple-tree near the ground. The larvae when hatched bore their way into the wood, and will soon destroy a small tree. They cannot do their mischief, however, without giving evidence of their presence. Sawdust exudes from the holes by which they entered, and there should be sufficient watchfulness to discover them before they have done much harm. I prefer to cut them out with a sharp, pointed knife, and make sure that they are dead; but a wire thrust into the hole will usually pierce and kill them. Wood-ashes mounded up against the base of the tree are said to be a preventive. In the fall they can be spread, and they at least make one of the best of fertilizers.
The codling-moth, or apple-worm, is another enemy that should be fought resolutely, for it destroys millions of bushels of fruit. In the latitude of New York State this moth begins its depredations about the middle of June. Whatever may be thought of the relation of the apple to the fall of man, this creature certainly leads to the speedy fall of the apple. Who has not seen the ground covered with premature and decaying fruit in July, August, and September? Bach specimen will be found perforated by a worm-hole. The egg has been laid in the calyx of the young apple, where it soon hatches into a small white grub, which burrows into the core, throwing out behind it a brownish powder. After about three weeks of apple diet it eats its way out, shelters itself under the scaly bark of the tree—if allowed to be scaly—or in some other hiding-place, spins a cocoon, and in about three weeks comes out a moth, and is ready to help destroy other apples. This insect probably constitutes one of Nature's methods of preventing trees from overbearing; but like some people we know, it so exaggerates its mission as to become an insufferable nuisance. The remedies recommended are that trees should be scraped free of all scales in the spring, and washed with a solution of soft soap. About the 1st of July, wrap bandages of old cloth, carpet, or rags of any kind around the trunk and larger limbs. The worms will appreciate such excellent cover, and will swarm into these hiding- places to undergo transformation into moths. Therefore the wraps of rags should often be taken down, thrown into scalding water, dried, and replaced. The fruit as it falls should be picked up at once and carried to the pigs, and, when practicable, worm-infested specimens should be taken from the trees before the worm escapes.
The canker-worm in those localities where it is destructive can be guarded against by bands of tar-covered canvas around the trees. The moth cannot fly, but crawls up the tree in the late autumn and during mild spells in winter, but especially throughout the spring until May. When, the evil-disposed moth meets the 'tarry band he finds no thoroughfare, and is either caught or compelled to seek some other arena of mischief.
We have all seen the flaunting, unsightly abodes of the tent caterpillar and the foliage-denuded branches about them. Fortunately these are not stealthy enemies, and the owner can scarcely see his acre at all without being aware of their presence. He has only to look very early in the morning or late in the evening to find them all bunched up in their nests. These should be taken down and destroyed.
Cherry and pear slugs, "small, slimy, dark brown worms," can be destroyed by dusting the trees with dry wood ashes or air-slacked lime.
Field-mice often girdle young trees, especially during the winter, working beneath the snow. Unless heaps of rubbish are left here and there as shelter for these little pests, one or two good cats will keep the acre free of them. Treading the snow compactly around the tree is also practiced.
Do not let the reader be discouraged by this list of the most common enemies, or by hearing of others. After reading some medical works we are led to wonder that the human race does not speedily die out. As a rule, however, with moderate care, most of us are able to say, "I'm pretty well, I thank you," and when ailing we do not straightway despair. In spite of all enemies and drawbacks, fruit is becoming more plentiful every year. If one man can raise it, so can another.
Be hospitable to birds, the best of all insect destroyers. Put up plenty of houses for bluebirds and wrens, and treat the little brown song-sparrow as one of your stanchest friends.
A brief word in regard to the quince, and our present list of fruits is complete.
If the quince is cultivated after the common neglectful method, it would better be relegated to an obscure part of the garden, for, left to itself, it makes a great sprawling bush; properly trained, it becomes a beautiful ornament to the lawn, like the other fruits that I have described. Only a little care, with the judicious use of the pruning-shears, is required to develop it into a miniature and fruitful tree, which can be grown with a natural rounded head or in the form of a pyramid, as the cultivator chooses. It will thrive well on the same soil and under similar treatment accorded to the pear or the apple. Procure from a nursery straight-stemmed plants; set them out about eight feet apart; begin to form the head three feet from the ground, and keep the stem and roots free from all sprouts and suckers. Develop the head just as you would that of an apple-tree, shortening in the branches, and cutting out those that interfere with each other. Half a dozen trees will soon give an ample supply. The orange and the pear shaped are the varieties usually recommended. Rea's Mammoth is also highly spoken of. Remember that the quince equally with the apple is subject to injury from the borer, and the evil should be met as I have already described.
There is a natural wish to have as much grass about the dwelling as possible, for nothing is more beautiful. If there are children, they will assuredly petition for lawn-tennis and croquet grounds. I trust that their wishes may be gratified, for children are worth infinitely more than anything else that can be grown upon the acre. With a little extra care, all the trees of which I have spoken can be grown in the spaces allotted to grass. It is only necessary to keep a circle of space six feet in diameter—the trunk forming the centre—around the tree mellow and free from any vegetable growth whatever. This gives a chance to fertilize and work the ground immediately over the roots. Of course vigorous fruit-trees cannot be grown in a thick sod, while peaches and grapes require the free culture of the garden, as will be shown hereafter. In view, however, of the general wish for grass, I have advised on the supposition that all the ornamental trees, most of the shrubs, and the four fruits named would be grown on the portions of the acre to be kept in lawn. It may be added here that plums also will do well under the same conditions, if given good care.
Grass is a product that can be cultivated as truly as the most delicate and fastidious of fruits, and I had the lawn is mind when I urged the generous initial deep plowing and enriching. Nothing that grows responds more promptly to good treatment than grass; but a fine lawn cannot be created in a season, any more than a fine tree.
We will suppose that the spring plantings of trees have been made with open spaces reserved for the favorite games. Now the ground can be prepared for grass-seed, for it need not be trampled over any more. If certain parts have become packed and hard, they should be dug or plowed deeply again, then harrowed and raked perfectly smooth, and all stones, big or little, taken from the surface. The seed may now be sown, and it should be of thick, fine-growing varieties, such as are employed in Central Park and other pleasure-grounds. Mr. Samuel Parsons, Jr., Superintendent of Central Park, writes me: "The best grass-seeds for ordinary lawns are a mixture of red-top and Kentucky blue-grass in equal parts, with perhaps a small amount of white clover. On very sandy ground I prefer the Kentucky blue-grass, as it is very hardy and vigorous under adverse circumstances." Having sown and raked in the seed very lightly a great advantage will be gained in passing a lawn- roller over the ground. I have succeeded well in getting a good "catch" of grass by sowing the seed with oats, which were cut and cured as hay as soon as the grain was what is termed "in the milk." The strong and quickly growing oats make the ground green in a few days, and shelter the slower maturing grass-roots. Mr. Parsons says, "I prefer to sow the grass-seed alone." As soon as the grass begins to grow with some vigor, cut it often, for this tends to thicken it and produce the velvety effect that is so beautiful. From the very first the lawn will need weeding. The ground contains seeds of strong growing plants, such as dock, plantain, etc., which should be taken out as fast as they appear. To some the dandelion is a weed; but not to me, unless it takes more than its share of space, for I always miss these little earth stars when they are absent. They intensify the sunshine shimmering on the lawn, making one smile involuntarily when seeing them. Moreover, they awaken pleasant memories, for a childhood in which dandelions had no part is a defective experience.
In late autumn the fallen leaves should be raked carefully away, as they tend to smother the grass if permitted to lie until spring. Now comes the chief opportunity of the year, in the form of a liberal top-dressing of manure from the stable. If this is spread evenly and not too thickly in November, and the coarser remains of it are raked off early in April, the results will be astonishing. A deep emerald hue will be imparted to the grass, and the frequent cuttings required will soon produce a turf that yields to the foot like a Persian rug. Any one who has walked over the plain at West Point can understand the value of these regular autumnal top-dressings. If the stable-manure can be composted and left till thoroughly decayed, fine and friable, all the better. If stable-manure can not be obtained, Mr. Parsons recommends Mapes's fertilizer for lawns.
We now approach that part of the acre to which its possessor will probably give his warmest and most frequent thoughts—the garden. If properly made and conducted, it will yield a revenue which the wealth of the Indies could not purchase; for whoever bought in market the flavor of fruit and vegetables raised by one's own hands or under our own eyes? Sentiment does count. A boy is a boy; but it makes a vast difference whether he is our boy or not. A garden may soon become a part of the man himself, and he be a better man for its care. Wholesome are the thoughts and schemes it suggests; healthful are the blood and muscle resulting from its products and labor therein. Even with the purse of a millionaire, the best of the city's markets is no substitute for a garden; for Nature and life are here, and these are not bought and sold. From stalls and pedlers' wagons we can buy but dead and dying things. The indolent epicure's enjoyment of game is not the relish of the sportsman who has taken his dinner direct from the woods and waters.
I am often told, "It is cheaper to buy fruit and vegetables than to raise them." I have nothing to say in reply. There are many cheap things that we can have; experience has proved that one of the BEST things to have is a garden, either to work in or to visit daily when the season permits. We have but one life to live here, and to get the cheapest things out of it is a rather poor ambition.
There are multitudes who can never possess an acre, more or less, and who must obtain Nature's products at second hand. This is not so great a misfortune as to have no desire for her companionship, or wish to work under her direction in dewy mornings and shadowy evenings. We may therefore reasonably suppose that the man who has exchanged his city shelter for a rural home looks forward to the garden with the natural, primal instinct, and is eager to make the most of it in all its aspects. Then let us plunge in medias res at once.
The ideal soil for a garden is a mellow, sandy loam, underlaid with a subsoil that is not too open or porous. Such ground is termed "grateful," and it is not the kind of gratitude which has been defined as "a lively appreciation of favors to come," which is true of some other soils. This ideal land remembers past favors; it retains the fertilizers with which it has been enriched, and returns them in the form of good crops until the gift is exhausted; therefore it is a thrifty as well as a grateful soil. The owner can bring it up to the highest degree of fertility, and keep it there by judicious management. This sandy loam—Nature's blending of sand and clay—is a safe bank. The manure incorporated with it is a deposit which can be drawn against in fruit and vegetables, for it does not leach away and disappear with one season's rains.
Light, thin, sandy soil, with a porous or gravelly subsoil, is of a very different type, and requires different treatment. It is a spendthrift. No matter how much you give it one year, it very soon requires just so much more. You can enrich it, but you can't keep it rich. Therefore you must manage it as one would take care of a spendthrift, giving what is essential at the time, and in a way that permits as little waste as possible. I shall explain this treatment more fully further on.
In the choice of a garden plot you may be restricted to a stiff, tenacious, heavy clay. Now you have a miser to deal with—a soil that retains, but in many cases makes no proper use of, what it receives. Skill and good management, however, can improve any soil, and coax luxuriant crops from the most unpropitious.
We will speak first of the ideal soil already mentioned, and hope that the acre contains an area of it of suitable dimensions for a garden. What should be the first step in this case? Why, to get more of it. A quarter of an acre can be made equal to half an acre. You can about double the garden, without adding to it an inch of surface, by increasing the depth of good soil. For instance, ground has been cultivated to the depth of six or seven inches. Try the experiment of stirring the soil and enriching it one foot downward, or eighteen inches, or even two feet, and see what vast differences will result. With every inch you go down, making all friable and fertile, you add just so much more to root pasturage. When you wish to raise a great deal, increase your leverage. Roots are your levers; and when they rest against a deep fertile soil they lift into the air and sunshine products that may well delight the eyes and palate of the most fastidious. We suggest that this thorough deepening, pulverization, and enriching of the soil be done at the start, when the plow can be used without any obstructions. If there are stones, rocks, roots, anything which prevents the treatment which a garden plot should receive, there is a decided advantage in clearing them all out at the beginning. Last fall I saw a half-acre that was swampy, and so encumbered with stones that one could walk all over it without stepping off the rocks. The land was sloping, and therefore capable of drainage. The proprietor put three men to work on the lower side with picks, shovels, and blasting-tools. They turned the soil over to the depth of eighteen inches, taking out every stone larger than a walnut. Eight or ten feet apart deep ditches were cut, and the stones, as far as possible, placed in these. The rest were carted away for a heavy wall. You may say it was expensive work. So it was; yet so complete a garden spot was made that I believe it would yield a fair interest in potatoes alone. I relate this instance to show what can be done. A more forbidding area for a garden in its original state could scarcely be found. Enough vegetables and fruit can be raised from it hereafter, with annual fertilizing, to supply a large family, and it will improve every year under the refining effects of frost, sun, and cultivation.
It should be remembered that culture does for soil what it does for men and women. It mellows, brings it up, and renders it capable of finer products. Much, indeed, can be done with a crude piece of land in a single year when treated with the thoroughness that has been suggested, and some strong-growing vegetables may be seen at their best during the first season; but the more delicate vegetables thrive better with successive years of cultivation. No matter how abundantly the ground may be enriched at first, time and chemical action are required to transmute the fertilizers into the best forms of plant-food, and make them a part of the very soil itself. Plowing or spading, especially if done in late autumn, exposes the mould to the beneficial action of the air and frost, and the garden gradually takes on the refined, mellow, fertile character which distinguishes it from the ordinary field.
In dealing with a thin, sandy soil, one has almost to reverse the principles just given. Yet there is no cause for discouragement. Fine results, if not the best, can be secured. In this case there is scarcely any possibility for a thorough preparation of the soil from the start. It can gradually be improved, however, by making good its deficiencies, the chief of which is the lack of vegetable mould. If I had such soil I would rake up all the leaves I could find, employ them as bedding for my cow and pigs (if I kept any), and spread the compost-heap resulting on the sandy garden. The soil is already too light and warm, and it should be our aim to apply fertilizers tending to counteract this defect. A nervous, excitable person should let stimulants alone, and take good, solid, blood-making food. This illustration suggests the proper course to be taken. Many a time I have seen action the reverse of this resulting disastrously. For instance, a man carts on his light thin soil hot fermenting manure from the horse-stable, and plows it under. Seeds are planted. In the moist, cool, early spring they make a great start, feeling the impulse of the powerful stimulant. There is a hasty and unhealthful growth; but long before maturity the days grow long and hot, drought comes, and the garden dries up. Therefore every effort should be made to supply cool manures with staying qualities, such as are furnished by decayed vegetable matter composted with the cleanings of the cow-stable. We thus learn the value of fallen leaves, muck from the swamp, etc.; and they also bring with them but few seeds of noxious vegetation.
On the other hand, stolid, phlegmatic clay requires the stimulus of manure from the horse-stable. It can be plowed under at once, and left to ferment and decay in the soil. The process of decomposition will tend to banish its cold, inert qualities, and make the ground loose, open, and amenable to the influences of frost, sun, and rain.
Does the owner of light, warm soils ask, "What, then, shall I do with my stable-manure, since you have said that it will be an injury to my garden?" I have not said this—only that it will do harm if applied in its raw, hot, fermenting state. Compost it with leaves, sod, earth, muck, anything that will keep it from burning up with its own heat. If you can obtain no such ingredients, have it turned over and exposed to the air so often that it will decay without passing through a process approaching combustion. When it has become so thoroughly decomposed as to resemble a fine black powder, you have a fertilizer superior to any high-priced patent compound that can be bought. Further on I will show how it can be used both in this state and also in its crude condition on light soils with the best results.
It is scarcely possible to lay too much stress on this subject of fertilizers. The soil of the garden-plot looks inert: so does heavy machinery; but apply to it the proper motive power, and you have activity at once. Manure is the motive power to soil, and it should be applied in a way and degree to secure the best results. To produce some vegetables and fruits much is required; in other growths, very little.
In laying out a garden there are several points to be considered. The proprietor may be more desirous of securing some degree of beauty in the arrangement than of obtaining the highest condition of productiveness. If this be true, he may plan to make down its centre a wide, gravelled walk, with a grape-arbor here and there, and fruit-trees and flowers in borders on each side of the path. So far from having any objection to this arrangement, I should be inclined to adopt it myself. It would be conducive to frequent visits to the garden and to lounging in it, especially if there be rustic seats under the arbors. I am inclined to favor anything which accords with my theory that the best products of a garden are neither eaten nor sold. From such a walk down the middle of the garden the proprietor can glance at the rows of vegetables and small fruits on either side, and daily note their progress. What he loses in space and crops he gains in pleasure.
Nor does he lose much; for if the borders on each side of the path are planted with grape-vines, peach and plum trees, flowers and shrubs, the very ground he walks on becomes part of their root pasturage. At the same time it must be admitted that the roots will also extend with depleting appetites into the land devoted to vegetables. The trees and vines above will, to some extent, cast an unwholesome shade. He who has set his heart on the biggest cabbages and best potatoes in town must cultivate them in ground open to the sky, and unpervaded by any roots except their own. If the general fruitfulness of the garden rather than perfection in a few vegetables is desired, the borders, with their trees, vines, and flowers, will prove no objection. Moreover, when it comes to competing in cabbages, potatoes, etc., the proprietor of the Home Acre will find that some Irishman, by the aid of his redolent pig- pen, will surpass him. The roots and shade extending from his borders will not prevent him from growing good vegetables, if not the largest.
We will therefore suppose that, as the simplest and most economical arrangement, he has adopted the plan of a walk six feet wide extending through the centre of his garden. As was the case with the other paths, it will be greatly to his advantage to stake it out and remove about four inches of the surface-soil, piling it near the stable to be used for composting purposes or in the earth-closet. The excavation thus made should be filled with small stones or cinders, and then covered with fine gravel. A walk that shall be dry at all times is thus secured, and it will be almost wholly free from weeds. In these advantages alone one is repaid for the extra first cost, and in addition the rich surface soil obtained will double the bulk and value of the fertilizers with which it is mixed.
Having made the walk, borders five feet wide can be laid out on each side of it, and the soil in these should be as rich and deep as any other parts of the garden. What shall be planted in these borders will depend largely on the tastes of the gardener; but, as has been suggested, there will assuredly be one or more shadowy grape-arbors under which the proprietor can retire to provide horticultural strategy. This brings us to that chef-d'oeuvre of Nature—
The vine. It climbs by its tendrils, and they appear to have clasped the heart of humanity. Among the best of Heaven's gifts, it has sustained the worst perversions. But we will refrain from a temperance lecture; also from sacred and classical reminiscences. The world is not composed of monks who thought to escape temptation—and vainly too—in stony cells. To some the purple cluster suggests Bacchanal revelry; to others, sitting under one's own vine and fig-tree—in brief, a home. The vine is like woman, the inspiration of the best and the worst.
It may well become one of the dreams of our life to own land, if for no other reason than that of obtaining the privilege of planting vines. As they take root, so will we, and after we have eaten their delicious fruit, the very thought of leaving our acre will be repugnant. The literature of the vine would fill a library; the literature of love would crowd many libraries. It is not essential to read everything before we start a little vineyard or go a-courting.
It is said that about two thousand known and named varieties of grapes have been and are being grown in Europe; and all these are supposed to have been developed from one species (Vitis vinifera), which originally was the wild product of Nature, like those growing in our thickets and forests. One can scarcely suppose this possible when contemplating a cluster of Tokay or some other highly developed variety of the hot-house. Yet the native vine, which began to "yield fruit after his kind, the third day" (whatever may have been the length of that day), may have been, after all, a good starting-point in the process of development. One can hardly believe that the "one cluster of grapes" which the burdened spies, returning from Palestine, bore "between two of them upon a staff," was the result of high scientific culture. In that clime, and when the world was young, Nature must have been more beneficent than now. It is certain that no such cluster ever hung from the native vines of this land; yet it is from our wild species, whose fruit the Indians shared with the birds and foxes (when not hanging so high as to be sour), that we have developed the delicious varieties of our out-door vineyards. For about two centuries our forefathers kept on planting vines imported from Europe, only to meet with failure. Nature, that had so abundantly rewarded their efforts abroad, quietly checkmated them here. At last American fruit-growers took the hint, and began developing our native species. Then Nature smiled; and as a lure along this correct path of progress, gave such incentives as the Isabella, the Catawba, and Concord. We are now bewildered by almost as great a choice of varieties from native species as they have abroad; and as an aid to selection I will again give the verdict of some of the authorities.
The choice of the Hon. Norman J. Colman, Commissioner of Agriculture: "Early Victor, Worden, Martha, Elvira, Cynthiana." This is for the region of Missouri. For the latitude of New Jersey, A.S. Fuller's selection: "Delaware, Concord, Moore's Early, Antoinette (white), Augusta (white), Goethe (amber)." E.S. Carmen: "Moore's Early [you cannot praise this too much. The quality is merely that of the Concord; but the vines are marvels of perfect health, the bunches large, the berries of the largest size. They ripen all at once, and are fully ripe when the Concord begins to color], Worden, Brighton, Victoria (white), Niagara (white), El Dorado. [This does not thrive everywhere, but the grapes ripen early—September 1, or before—and the quality is perfection—white.]" Choice of P.J. Berckman, for the latitude of Georgia: "White grapes—Peter Wylie, Triumph, Maxatawny, Scuppernong. Bed grapes—Delaware, Berckman's, Brighton. Black— Concord, Ives."
As I have over a hundred varieties in bearing, I may venture to express an opinion also. I confess that I am very fond of those old favorites of our fathers, the Isabella and Catawba. They will not ripen everywhere in our latitude, yet I seldom fail to secure a good crop. In the fall of 1885 we voted the Isabella almost unsurpassed. If one has warm, well-drained soil, or can train a vine near the south side of a building, I should advise the trial of this fine old grape. The Iona, Brighton, and Agawam also are great favorites with me. We regard the Diana, Wyoming Red, Perkins, and Rogers' hybrids, Lindley, Wilder, and Amenia, as among the best. The Rebecca, Duchess, Lady Washington, and Purity are fine white grapes. I have not yet tested the Niagara. Years ago I obtained of Mr. James Ricketts, the prize-taker for seedling grapes, two vines of a small wine grape called the Bacchus. To my taste it is very pleasant after two or three slight frosts.
Our list of varieties is long enough, and one must be fastidious indeed who does not find some to suit his taste. In many localities the chief question is, What kind CAN I grow? In our favored region on the Hudson almost all the out-door grapes will thrive; but as we go north the seasons become too cool and short for some kinds, and proceeding south the summers are too long and hot for others. The salt air of the sea-coast is not conducive to vine-culture, and only the most vigorous, like the Concord and Moore's Early, will resist the mildew blight. We must therefore do the best we can, and that will be very well indeed in most localities.
Because our list of good grapes is already so long, it does not follow that we have reached the limit of development by any means. When we remember that almost within a lifetime our fine varieties have been developed from the wild northern Fox grape (Vitis labrusca), the Summer grape (oestivalis), Frost (cordifolia), we are led to think that perhaps we have scarcely more than crossed the stile which leads into the path of progress. If I should live to keep up my little specimen vineyard ten years longer, perhaps the greater part of the varieties now cultivated will have given place to others. The delicious Brighton requires no more space than a sour, defective variety; while the proprietor starts with the best kinds he can obtain, he will find no restraint beyond his own ignorance or carelessness that will prevent his replacing the Brighton with a variety twice as good when it is developed. Thus vine-planting and grape-tasting stretch away into an alluring and endless vista.
When such exchanges are made, we do not recommend the grafting of a new favorite on an old vine. This is a pretty operation when one has the taste and leisure for it, and a new, high-priced variety can sometimes be obtained speedily and cheaply in this way. Usually, however, new kinds soon drop down within the means of almost any purchaser, and there are advantages in having each variety growing upon its own root. Nature yields to the skill of the careful gardener, and permits the insertion of one distinct variety of fruit upon another; but with the vine she does not favor this method of propagation and change, as in the case of pears and apples, where the graft forms a close, tenacious union with the stock in which it is placed. Mr. Fuller writes: "On account of the peculiar structure of the wood of the vine, a lasting union is seldom obtained when grafted above-ground, and is far from being certain even when grafted below the surface, by the ordinary method." The vine is increased so readily by easy and natural methods, to be explained hereafter, that he who desires nothing more than to secure a good supply of grapes for the table can dismiss the subject. On the other hand, those who wish to amuse themselves by experimenting with Nature can find abundant enjoyment in not only grafting old vines, but also in raising new seedlings, among which he may obtain a prize which will "astonish the natives." Those, however, whose tastes carry them to such lengths in vine-culture will be sure to purchase exhaustive treatises on the subject, and will therefore give no heed to these simple practical chapters. It is my aim to enable the business man returning from his city office, or the farmer engrossed with the care of many acres, to learn in a few moments, from time to time, just what he must do to supply his family abundantly with fruits and vegetables.
If one is about to adopt a grape-culture as a calling, common- sense requires that he should locate in some region peculiarly adapted to the vine. If the possessor of a large farm purposes to put several acres in vineyard, he should also aim to select a soil and exposure best suited to his purpose. Two thousand years ago Virgil wrote, "Nor let thy vineyard bend toward the sun when setting." The inference is that the vines should face the east, if possible; and from that day to this, eastern and southern exposures have been found the best. Yet climate modifies even this principle. In the South, I should plant my vineyard on a north- western slope, or on the north side of a belt of woods, for the reason that the long, hot days there would cause too rapid an evaporation from the foliage of the vines, and enfeeble, if not kill them. In the limited space of the Home Acre one can use only such land as he has, and plant where he must; but if the favorable exposures indicated exist, it would be well to make the most of them. I can mention, however, as encouragement to many, that I saw, last fall, splendid grapes growing on perfectly level and sandy soil in New Jersey.
A low-lying, heavy, tenacious clay is undoubtedly the worst ground in which to plant a vine; and yet by thorough drainage, a liberal admixture of sand, and light fertilizers, it can be made to produce good grapes of some varieties. A light sandy soil, if enriched abundantly with well-decayed vegetable and barnyard manures, gives wider scope in choice of kinds; while on the ideal well-drained sandy loam that we have described, any outdoor grape can be planted hopefully if the garden is sufficiently removed from the seaboard.
As a general truth it may be stated that any land in a condition to produce a fine crop of corn and potatoes is ready for the vine. This would be true of the entire garden if the suggestions heretofore made have been carried out. Therefore the borders which have been named are ready to receive the vines, which may be planted in either spring or fall. I prefer the fall season for several reasons. The ground is usually drier then, and crumbles more finely; the young vine becomes well established and settled in its place by spring, and even forms new roots before the growing season begins, and in eight cases out of ten makes a stronger growth than follows spring planting; it is work accomplished when there is usually the greatest leisure. If the ground is ready in EARLY spring, I should advise no delay. A year's growth is gained by setting out the vines at once. As a rule I do not advise late spring planting—that is, after the buds have started on the young vines. They may live, but usually they scarcely do more, the first year.
In ordering from a nursery I should ask for vigorous, well-rooted two-year-old vines, and I should be almost as well contented with first-class one-year-olds. If any one should advertise "extra large, strong vines, ready to bear at once," I should have nothing to do with him. That's a nursery trick to get rid of old stock. The first year after the shock of removal a vine should not be permitted to bear at all; and a young vigorous vine is worth a dozen old stunted ones.
Having procured the vines, keep them in a cool, moist place until ready to plant. Never permit the roots to become dry; and if some of them are long and naked, shorten them to two feet, so as to cause them to throw out side fibrous roots, which are the true feeders. Excavate holes of ample size, so that all the roots may be spread out naturally. If you have reason to think the ground is not very good, two or three quarts of fine bone-dust thoroughly mixed with the soil that is placed on and about the roots will give a fine send-off. Usually a good mulch of any kind of barnyard manure placed on the SURFACE after planting will answer all purposes. Before filling in the hole over the roots, place beside the vine a stout stake six or seven feet high. This will be all the support required the first year. Cut back the young vine to three buds, and after they get well started, let but one grow. If the planting is done in the fall, mound the earth up over the little vine at the approach of winter, so as to cover it at least six inches below the surface. In spring uncover again as soon as hard frosts are over—say early April in our latitude. Slow- growing varieties, like the Delaware, may be set out six feet apart; strong growers, like the Concord, eight feet. Vines can not be expected to thrive under the shade of trees, or to fight an unequal battle in ground filled with the roots of other plants.
Vines may be set out not only in the garden borders, but also in almost any place where their roots will not be interfered with, and where their foliage will receive plenty of light and air. How well I remember the old Isabella vines that clambered on a trellis over the kitchen door at my childhood's home! In this sunny exposure, and in the reflected heat of the building, the clusters were always the sweetest and earliest ripe. A ton of grapes may be secured annually by erecting trellises against the sides of buildings, walls, and poultry yard, while at the same time the screening vines furnish grateful shade and no small degree of beauty. With a little petting, such scattered vines are often enormously productive. An occasional pail of soapsuds gives them a drink which eventually flushes the thickly hanging clusters with exquisite color. People should dismiss from their minds the usual method of European cultivation, wherein the vines are tied to short stakes, and made to produce their fruit near the ground. This method can be employed if we find pleasure in the experiment. At Mr. Fuller's place I saw fine examples of it. Stubby vines with stems thick as one's wrist rose about three feet from the ground, then branched off on every side, like an umbrella, with loads of fruit. Only one supporting stake was required. This method evidently is not adapted to our climate and species of grape, since in that case plenty of keen, practical fruit-growers would have adopted it. I am glad this is true, for the vine-clad hills of France do not present half so pleasing a spectacle as an American cornfield. The vine is beautiful when grown as a vine, and not as a stub; and well-trained, well-fed vines on the Home Acre can be developed to almost any length required, shading and hiding with greenery every unsightly object, and hanging their finest clusters far beyond the reach of the predatory small boy.
We may now consider the vines planted and growing vigorously, as they will in most instances if they have been prepared for and planted according to the suggestions already given. Now begins the process of guiding and assisting Nature. Left to herself, she will give a superabundance of vine, with sufficient fruit for purposes of propagation and feeding the birds. Our object is to obtain the maximum of fruit from a minimum of vine. The little plant, even though grown from a single bud, will sprawl all over everything near it in three or four years, if unchecked. Pruning may begin even before midsummer of the first year. The single green shoot will by this time begin to produce what are termed "laterals." The careful cultivator who wishes to throw all the strength and growth into the main shoot will pinch these laterals back as soon as they form one leaf. Each lateral will start again from the axil of the leaf that has been left, and having formed another leaf, should again be cut off. By repeating this process during the growing season you have a strong single cane by fall, reaching probably beyond the top of the supporting stake. In our latitude I advise that this single cane—that is, the vine—be cut back to within fifteen inches of the surface when the leaves have fallen and the wood has well-ripened—say about the middle of November—and that the part left be bent over and covered with earth. When I say "bent over," I do not mean at right angles, so as to admit of the possibility of its being broken, but gently and judiciously. I cover with earth all my vines, except the Concords and Isabellas, just before hard freezing weather; and even these two hardy kinds I weight down close to the ground. I have never failed to secure a crop from vines so treated. Two men will protect over a hundred vines in a day.