How To Cultivate VEGETABLES
GROWING vegetables in the amateurs garden is an advisable practice. Home-grown vegetables are, of course, much fresher, and they are obtainable much earlier and for a longer period than market produce.
When arranging the vegetable plot it is better to see that it is away from the house, say, behind the flower garden. This plot is generally rectangular in shape, so that parallel rows of plants and seeds can be arranged, and thus allow easy access to the various sections of plants.
The average plot is from five to ten rods; attention should be centred on growing those vegetables which are most unsatisfactory and unfresh when market grown.
The main points to be considered when arranging the vegetable plot is to provide shelter on the north and east sides. This will ensure success in hard weather. Wattle hurdles are extremely useful for this purpose.
Never grow the same crop twice in succession on the piece of land. If the plot is large enough, divide it into four sections: (a) Peas and Beans. (b) Potatoes. (c) Green crops; cabbage, etc. (d) Root crops; onions, parsnips, etc. Keep a plan, and always let next years planting be altered, so that b follows a, c takes the place of b, and so on.
Grow catch crops, that is, put a few quick maturing crops between rows of plants that mature slowly. The quick crops will be harvested before the others need all the space. This is known as intercropping.
Digging. The best time to prepare for future crops is by digging the soil in autumn. Frost acts upon rough particles of clay, reducing it to a powder. Autumn-dug soil has been found by te its to retain more moisture during the dry weather than that dug over in spring time.
Soil bacteria are able to continue the work of forming nitrates throughout the winter except in very frosty spells, but they are only able to work in soil that is aerated, that is, in soil that has been deeply dug.
It is not advisable to dig when the soil is very wet. There are several ways of digging, according to the nature of the ground to be dug.
Where large patches of land are to be dug, double digging is the best method to employ. Start at one end of the plot which is to be dug and open out a trench 2 feet wide and 10 inches deep. The soil which is removed from this trench should be wheeled to another part of the plot.
The subsoil should be broken up, at the same time digging leaves, annual weeds, or farmyard manure into the soil; all these will retain moisture. Now turn the next 2 feet of soil over into the trench leaving a second trench open. Treat this in the same way and continue until the plot is dug. If the plot is dug in this manner, the same layer of soil is kept on the surface.
Keep a run of cloches handy to secure early salads, peas and beans.
Always remember that if cropping on virgin soil, it is a good plan to grow all potatoes for the first year. These have the effect of breaking in the hard soil.
With a little extra attention, three crops a year can be obtained. This will mean that plenty of nourishment must be obtainable, and heavy manuring is essential. In an ordinary garden an adoption of French gardening methods, adequate food and shelter for the plants, and the planting of numerous catch crops, will help the keen amateur to make the most of a small vegetable plot.
Dress the soil with lime, 3-8 oz. Per square yard, the heavier dressing to be used where the soil is acid, such as in 24 towns. If these steps are taken, good growth will be ensured, and they will also mako the soil easier to work the next season.
Trenching. This method of digging is usually only applied when the original top-soil has been covered by infertile clay or gravel.
This is done by making a wide trench, and laking out both the top spit of soil and 9-12 inches of the lower soil. These are piled in two separate heaps. The next top spit of soil is turned into the bottom of the trench and covered with the under soil from the second trench. This method is very troublesome and is seldom necessary.
All soils have a minimum of fertility, that is, plants will grow year after year in the soil without added manure, bub the plants would only yield meagre crops. Fertility is increased in many ways, by deep digging in winter, by working up a little of the subsoil each year, by draining waterlogged soil, by growing different crops in succession, by addition of lime, and by green manuring.
Nitrates, potash and phosphates are most essential plant foods, and all are to be found in good farmyard manure. Animal and poultry manure also provide excellent plant food.