The secret of the cultivation of good salads is quick and steady growth from the seed to maturity. These three things are essential— good rich soil, in fine workable condition, plenty of moisture, and warmth. Moisture and soil condition go together to a great extent. Deep digging and thorough breaking of the sub-soil, and the incorporation of manure or decayed leaves, make the soil porous, and able to lift moisture from a considerable depth by capillary attraction. Warmth can be taken for granted during the summer months, that is why salads grow so much more readily and are so much more tender when they are summer grown. Unless the gardener can provide himself with cold frames, and a fair quantity of stable manure, or with a heated greenhouse, fresh salads can only be grown during the warm months; if hot beds are available, they can be grown almost all the year round.
The main vegetable plot can be treated in exactly the same way as an ordinary allotment, and as a rule the size of the average allotment (that is, 10 rods) is ample vegetable garden to allow for a small family.
To make the work easier, the plot can be divided into two or four strips, lengthways. If two strips are dug in this way, one in one direction and the other back in the opposite direction, the soil from the first trench of each can be used in the last trench of the next strip.
This Relieves The Work Of The Wheelbarrow In Carting Soil Down The Length Of The Plot
Special reference must be made here to the value of lime in the vegetable garden. To get good results, lime must be dressed all over the surface of the vegetable plot every year, using 2-8 oz. per square yard according to the soil. Apart from its value in releasing plant food in the soil, lime acts as an insecticide and a fungicide. It reduces “gall weevil” in turnips and “club root” in cabbages.
It pays to buy good seed; inferior seed germinates poorly. Moreover, inferior seed is probably seed from inferior strains of vegetables, which, however well cultivated, will not give the maximum harvest.
If a vegetable garden is being made on a patch of virgin soil, the use of soil fumigant during digging is especially advisable. If fugimant is not used it is almost certain that wireworms, leather jackets and other pests will be present in the soil, and these will ruin the finest crops.
The vegetable garden is in part planned afresh each year, but if it is run in conjunction with the cultivation of bush fruits, a certain amount of it will be planned permanently. In any case, it is necessary each winter to do some re-planning of the plot in order to arrange for a rotation of crops. One of the first things to do is to decide what crops are to be grown.
The allotment gardener can get the best possible assistance in this matter from the leaflets issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, Whitehall Place, London. These not only deal with the common allotment crops, but tell the allotment holder how to arrange his plot in succeeding years. This point is of great importance. Farmers of old used to practise rotation of crops long before the scientific reasons for doing so were established.
Vegetables take from the soil varying proportions of the different foods. Green crops such as cabbages, for instance, take a maximum amount of nitrates, and leave the soil deficient in this food in consequence. On the other hand, the legumes, that is, peas and beans, actually leave the soil richer in nitrates than it was before, owing to the power of the root nodules of fixing nitrogen in the soil. It will be obvious to the gardener that less manure will be wanted if green crops follow the legumes, and use up the supply left as a legacy by the previous tenants.
Following up this line of reasoning, horticulturists have experimented and found that a vegetable garden can be reasonably managed by following the rotation given below. This has naturally to be adapted somewhat to the particular conditions of each plot, since some of the crops may not be grown at all, while others may be wanted in larger quantities. It may be remarked here that, owing to the reliability of prepared commercial fertilizers, suited to each crop, and mixed on scientific lines, there is really less need for the amateur gardener to worry about crop rotation to-day than ever before. If he wishes, for instance, to grow peas and beans only, year after year, there is no reason why he should not do so on the same site; nor why he should not grow cabbages and cauliflowers in a similar way. All he will have to do will be to spend a little more on fertilizers than if he followed a more scientific crop rotation, but this is a relatively unimportant point in the little garden.
Suggested Rotation For A Small Vegetable Garden
Divide the site into three equal parts.
Section 1 will be planted the first year with peas and beans, the second year with parsnips, carrots, onions, shallots and allied vegetables, and the third year with green crops such as cabbage and cauliflower, brussels sprouts and savoys.
Section 2 will start with the roots, be followed by peas and beans ana carry green crops the third year.
Section 3 will start with greens and be followed by roots, and then the legumes.
This rotation does not allow for inclusion of potatoes, which are, in fact, seldom grown in the small garden. Should a few be desired, however, they could take a part of the plot allowed for the cultivation of the legumes, which could be run in rows, here and there, between other crops in all three sections, their position shifting only slightly each season.