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In deciding upon the site for the home vegetable garden it is well to
dispose once and for all of the old idea that the garden "patch" must
be an ugly spot in the home surroundings. If thoughtfully planned,
carefully planted and thoroughly cared for, it may be made a beautiful
and harmonious feature of the general scheme, lending a touch of
comfortable homeliness that no shrubs, borders, or beds can ever

With this fact in mind we will not feel restricted to any part of the
premises merely because it is out of sight behind the barn or garage.
In the average moderate-sized place there will not be much choice as to
land. It will be necessary to take what is to be had and then do the
very best that can be done with it. But there will probably be a good
deal of choice as to, first, exposure, and second, convenience. Other
things being equal, select a spot near at hand, easy of access. It may
seem that a difference of only a few hundred yards will mean nothing,
but if one is depending largely upon spare moments for working in and
for watching the garden--and in the growing of many vegetables the
latter is almost as important as the former--this matter of convenient
access will be of much greater importance than is likely to be at first
recognized. Not until you have had to make a dozen time-wasting trips
for forgotten seeds or tools, or gotten your feet soaking wet by going
out through the dew-drenched grass, will you realize fully what this
may mean.


But the thing of first importance to consider in picking out the spot
that is to yield you happiness and delicious vegetables all summer, or
even for many years, is the exposure. Pick out the "earliest" spot you
can find--a plot sloping a little to the south or east, that seems to
catch sunshine early and hold it late, and that seems to be out of the
direct path of the chilling north and northeast winds. If a building,
or even an old fence, protects it from this direction, your garden will
be helped along wonderfully, for an early start is a great big factor
toward success. If it is not already protected, a board fence, or a
hedge of some low-growing shrubs or young evergreens, will add very
greatly to its usefulness. The importance of having such a protection
or shelter is altogether underestimated by the amateur.


The chances are that you will not find a spot of ideal garden soil
ready for use anywhere upon your place. But all except the very worst
of soils can be brought up to a very high degree of productiveness--
especially such small areas as home vegetable gardens require. Large
tracts of soil that are almost pure sand, and others so heavy and mucky
that for centuries they lay uncultivated, have frequently been brought,
in the course of only a few years, to where they yield annually
tremendous crops on a commercial basis. So do not be discouraged about
your soil. Proper treatment of it is much more important, and a garden-
patch of average run-down,--or "never-brought-up" soil--will produce
much more for the energetic and careful gardener than the richest spot
will grow under average methods of cultivation.

The ideal garden soil is a "rich, sandy loam." And the fact cannot be
overemphasized that such soils usually are made, not found. Let us
analyze that description a bit, for right here we come to the first of
the four all-important factors of gardening--food. The others are
cultivation, moisture and temperature. "Rich" in the gardener's
vocabulary means full of plant food; more than that--and this is a
point of vital importance--it means full of plant food ready to be used
at once, all prepared and spread out on the garden table, or rather in
it, where growing things can at once make use of it; or what we term,
in one word, "available" plant food. Practically no soils in long-
inhabited communities remain naturally rich enough to produce big
crops. They are made rich, or kept rich, in two ways; first, by
cultivation, which helps to change the raw plant food stored in the
soil into available forms; and second, by manuring or adding plant food
to the soil from outside sources.

"Sandy" in the sense here used, means a soil containing enough
particles of sand so that water will pass through it without leaving it
pasty and sticky a few days after a rain; "light" enough, as it is
called, so that a handful, under ordinary conditions, will crumble and
fall apart readily after being pressed in the hand. It is not necessary
that the soil be sandy in appearance, but it should be friable.

"Loam: a rich, friable soil," says Webster. That hardly covers it, but
it does describe it. It is soil in which the sand and clay are in
proper proportions, so that neither greatly predominate, and usually
dark in color, from cultivation and enrichment. Such a soil, even to
the untrained eye, just naturally looks as if it would grow things. It
is remarkable how quickly the whole physical appearance of a piece of
well cultivated ground will change. An instance came under my notice
last fall in one of my fields, where a strip containing an acre had
been two years in onions, and a little piece jutting off from the
middle of this had been prepared for them just one season. The rest had
not received any extra manuring or cultivation. When the field was
plowed up in the fall, all three sections were as distinctly noticeable
as though separated by a fence. And I know that next spring's crop of
rye, before it is plowed under, will show the lines of demarcation just
as plainly.

This, then, will give you an idea of a good garden soil. Perhaps in
yours there will be too much sand, or too much clay. That will be a
disadvantage, but one which energy and perseverance will soon overcome
to a great extent--by what methods may be learned in Chapter VIII.


There is, however, one other thing you must look out for in selecting
your garden site, and that is drainage. Dig down eight or twelve inches
after you have picked out a favorable spot, and examine the sub-soil.
This is the second strata, usually of different texture and color from
the rich surface soil, and harder than it. If you find a sandy or
gravelly bed, no matter how yellow and poor it looks, you have chosen
the right spot. But if it be a stiff, heavy clay, especially a blue
clay, you will have either to drain it or be content with a very late
garden--that is, unless you are at the top of a knoll or on a slope.
Chapter VII contains further suggestions in regard to this problem.


There was a further reason for, mentioning that strip of onion ground.
It is a very practical illustration of what last year's handling of the
soil means to this year's garden. If you can pick out a spot, even if
it is not the most desirable in other ways, that has been well enriched
or cultivated for a year or two previous, take that for this year's
garden. And in the meantime have the spot on which you intend to make
your permanent vegetable garden thoroughly "fitted," and grow there
this year a crop of potatoes or sweet corn, as suggested in Chapter IX.
Then next year you will have conditions just right to give your
vegetables a great start.


There are other things of minor importance but worth considering, such
as the shape of your garden plot, for instance. The more nearly
rectangular, the more convenient it will be to work and the more easily
kept clean and neat. Have it large enough, or at least open on two
ends, so that a horse can be used in plowing and harrowing. And if by
any means you can have it within reach of an adequate supply of water,
that will be a tremendous help in seasons of protracted drought. Then
again, if you have ground enough, lay off two plots so that you can
take advantage of the practice of rotation, alternating grass, potatoes
or corn with the vegetable garden. Of course it is possible to practice
crop rotation to some extent within the limits of even the small
vegetable garden, but it will be much better, if possible, to rotate
the entire garden-patch.

All these things, then, one has to keep in mind in picking the spot
best suited for the home vegetable garden. It should be, if possible,
of convenient access; it should have a warm exposure and be well
enriched, well worked-up soil, not too light nor too heavy, and by all
means well drained. If it has been thoroughly cultivated for a year or
two previous, so much the better. If it is near a supply of water, so
situated that it can be at least plowed and harrowed with a horse, and
large enough to allow the garden proper to be shifted every other year
or two, still more the better.

Fill all of these requirements that you can, and then by taking full
advantage of the advantages you have, you can discount the
disadvantages. After all it is careful, persistent work, more than
natural advantages, that will tell the story; and a good garden does
_not_ grow--it is made.



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