Planning the Vegetable Garden
The work of planning the garden; inasmuch as it consists in deciding what and how much we shall plant and where we shall plant it; may very well be done long in advance of the season of active operations. Indeed, it is a distinct and pleasurable advantage to make the long winter evenings supplement the long summer days by devoting a portion of them to the seed catalogues and other garden literature.
The selection of varieties of vegetables to grow should be largely influenced by those which form one's daily fare throughout the season. Vegetables which are seldom purchased; unless it be because of their high price or scarcity; may not profitably be cultivated in the home garden. But in the case of high-priced products, then the home garden demonstrates its economic value as enabling one to indulge in otherwise unattainable luxuries. Plainly, then, one should grow in abundance those things of which most consumption is made. There will be a demand for those vegetables which come earliest in spring; rhubarb, asparagus, radishes, lettuce, and such quick-growing things; and for vegetables which may be stored in the cool area to increase the none-too-generous variety of the winter larder; potatoes, parsnips, carrots, squash, and the like. Sweet corn, beans, peas, and beets, especially those for early greens, cabbage, cauliflower, and tomatoes, will be indispensable summer products which must be provided for.
A little study of the cataloges will show the height of these, the period at which they are in season, and the distance apart they should be planted, and this data will furnish the necessary information as to quantity of seed or number of plants required for a given area.
If the land devoted to the kitchen garden is comprised in the boundaries of a city lot the arrangement will, necessarily, be somewhat different than that which would prevail in the country, where the garden occupies more ground and is more or less retired from observation.
HOW TO REALLY START THE GARDEN
First of all, draw a plan ( to a scale) of the ground at your disposal. Make allowances for paths, borders, etc. It's fascinatingly interesting after you get started. Next, take inventory of your likes and dislikes in vegetables. Put down on paper every vegetable you wish to grow. Then go back to your plan and mark out a definite space or number of rows for the different vegetables. Select early, midseason and late sorts of these vegetables which you like best. This will give you a constant supply of them. When garden operations start, be sure to follow your plan. A disregard of your carefully planned programme may easily spoil results. I can not lay too much emphasis upon this point, since most gardens fail to yield satisfactory crops for lack of adherence to the original plan.
Study the peculiar characteristics of certain vegetables and utilize them to best advantage. Some vegetables thrive even in partially shaded positions, while others require lots of sunshine for best results. Some of the finest lettuce I ever saw was grown between rows of early peas. The two foot tall pea vines, rows running east and west, would shelter Wayahead, Black Seeded Simpson, etc., which form perfect heads.
Though the pea rows were standing only 2 1/2 feet apart, the lettuce did splendidly since peas root deeply while lettuce is a shallow rooting plant. Keeping the lettuce row free from weeds gives additional cultivation to the pea vines, which will, under such conditions, stand considerable dry weather and still bear heavy crops.
A good many vegetables are of exceedingly slow growth during the seedling stage of development. Take advantage of this by utilizing space between such rows for quick-growing crops. For example, sow beet seed by middle of April and set young lettuce plants between the rows. By the time the beet tops develop, the lettuce will be used.
A distance of 20 inches between the rows is ample for most vegetables in a carefully managed home garden. Tall peas, tomatoes and corn should be allowed at least 2 to 2 1/2 feet and should be stakedfor best results. The proper thinning out of all kinds of vegetables is advisable. Do not permit root crops to crowd each other in the row. Thin out radishes, beets, onions, turnips, etc., to stand about from 2 to 4 inches apart in the row, according to variety. Beans will yield more and better pods if plants stand 4 to 6 inches apart in the row.
Where space is rather limited, the French method of intensive cultivation may be employed. Here is how it is practiced:;
Combine a packet of spinach seed and carrot seed, mixing seeds thoroughly. Make your row uniformly half an inch deep and sow this mixture in the row. Cover, and soon the quick-growing spinach seed will break the crust, making it easier for the weak carrot seedlings to see the light of day. In four weeks, the spinach may be "thinned" to make room for the slowly developing carrots. In six weeks the spinach will be all used up, and the carrots will find room to develop. If an early carrot, such as Early Scarlet Horn, is selected, this will be ready for the table use by July 15th, when the last may be pulled to make room for endive, celery, late cabbage or any other fall crop.
This method may be employed with quite a number of vegetables. Care should be taken in experimenting along these lines, that kinds are combined having seed of about the same coarseness, but possessing different characteristics as to growth. Lettuce and radishes go well together, so do radishes and parsley, the last named being an exceedingly slow grower. The French gardeners plant extra early radishes, midseason lettuce and turnips in the same row, at one operation. This gives about as ideal a succession as can be worked out.
As to the actual location of the different rows and crops, here is a good rule to follow;
If the land runs east and west the taller plantings should be on the north, so that the light will not be shut off from the lower growing vegetables. Corn grows so much taller than anything else cultivated that it should, if possible,be placed in the rear. In front of it the few hills of early potatoes which it is possible to grow on a city lot may be planted, as they are the least ornamental of vegetables.
Cabbage and cauliflowers grow of corresponding height, and may be planted side by side and given the same treatment. Tomatoes may follow the potatoes, and so on in the order of height until the front of the garden is reached, and such ornamental vegetables as remain may be placed.