THE CULTIVATION OF VEGETABLES

Before taking garden vegetables individually, I will outline general cultivation practices, which apply to all.

The three purposes of cultivation are to get rid of weeds, and to stimulate growth by (1) allowing air to enter the soil and freeing up unavailable plant food, and (2) by conserving moisture.

Regarding weeds, experienced gardeners need not be told about the importance of keeping their plants clean. He had learned from bitter experience and at the cost of letting them have something resembling a start. He knew that a day or two of growth, after growing well, followed perhaps by a day or two of rain, could easily double or triple the work of cleaning a patch of onions or carrots, and where the weeds had reached any size. they cannot be taken from the plants they are sown without doing much injury. He also realized, or should have, that daily growth meant that so much of the available plant food was stolen from under the legitimate roots of his plants.

Instead of letting weeds go with any plant food, it should provide more of it, because clean and frequent planting will not only mechanically destroy the soil, but let air, moisture, and heat all be important in effecting the chemical changes needed to transform not available into available plant foods. Long before the science in this case was discovered, soil cultivators had learned by observing the need to keep the soil loose for their growing crops.

Even the skinny and uneducated native made sure that his crows not only put bad fish under the corn hills but also showered their shells with hoes on them. Plants need to breathe. Their roots need air. You might as well hope to find a reddish glow of happiness on the pale cheeks of a cotton mill boy slave as one would expect to see the lush dark green of healthy plant life in a suffocating garden.

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As important as the question of air is, that water is beside it. You may not see at first what the relationship between frequent cultivation and water is. But let’s stop for a moment and look into it. Take a piece of absorbent paper, dip one end in the water, and watch the moisture rise to the top, seeping through the absorbent. Scientists have labeled the “capillary attraction” of water crawling up the tiny invisible tubes formed by the texture of the blotter. Now take the same piece, cut it crosswise, hold both ends firmly, and try again. Humidity refuses to cross the line: the connection has been lost.

In the same way, water that is stored in the ground after a rain starts immediately comes out back into the atmosphere. Those on the surface evaporate first, and those that are submerged begin to seep through the soil to the surface. It leaves your garden, through millions of earthen tubes, just as surely as if you had a two-inch pipe and a gasoline engine, pumping it down the drain day and night! Save your garden by stopping waste. It’s the easiest thing in the world to cut a pipe in half.

With frequent planting of surface soil no more than an inch or two for most small vegetables, the soil tube remains damaged, and the dust mulch is retained. Try to go through every part of your garden, especially in a place that is not shaded, every ten days or two weeks. Does that seem like too much work? You can push your wheel hoe, and thus keep the dust mulch as constant protection, as fast as you can walk.

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If you wait for weeds, you’ll almost have to crawl past them, doing quite a bit of damage by disturbing your growing plants, losing all the plant food (and they’ll take the cream) they’ve consumed, and actually wasting more time. a much less pleasant job. If a beginner in gardening is not convinced by the facts given, there is only one thing left to convince his experience.

Having left so much room for reasons for constant attention in this regard, the question of method naturally follows. Get a wheel hoe. The simplest type will not only save you infinite time and work, but do the job better, much better than it could be done by hand. You can grow good vegetables, especially if your garden is very small, without one of these labor savers, but I can assure you that you will never regret the small investment it takes to get one.

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