June 1989

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Gardening for Profit

A Guide to the Successful Cultivation
of the Market and Family Garden


Peter Henderson

first published in 1866, reprinted from 1874 edition
Index to selections from Gardening for Profit

Chapter VIII


The most important implements in use in the vegetable garden are the plow and harrow, which should be always used, to the exclusion of the spade or digging fork, whenever it is practicable to do so. No digging, in the ordinary way, can pulverize the soil so thoroughly as can be done by the plow and harrow, nor no trenching much surpass in its results that done by thorough subsoiling. Fig. 5 represents the plow in use by the market gardeners, and known as Allen's Patent Cylinder Plow. So superior are its pulverizing powers to those of the spade, that we know of no market gardener who would allow his grounds to be dug, even if it were done free of cost.

Miner's Gold Medal Subsoil Plow (Fig. 5) is the best subsoil plow we know of. It involves new principles and accomplishes the work of stirring, loosening, aerating, and draining the soil beneath the furrow of the common plow, lifting and breaking (but not turning) the subsoil to the depth of 15 to 20 inches, as may be desired. On very stiff soils we use the subsoiler once in two years; on lighter soils not so often, although if time would always permit there is no doubt but that it would be beneficial to use it whenever plowing is done.

The harrow in use is rather peculiar in style, but is best suited for garden work; it contains some forty teeth about 10 inches long; these are driven through the wood-work, leaving 5 or 6 inches of the sharpened end on the one side and from 1 1/2 to 2 inches of the blunt end on the other, as shown in fig. 6. After the ground has been thoroughly pulverized by the teeth of the harrow, it is turned upside down, and "backed," as we term it; the short blunt teeth further breaking up the soil and smoothing it to a proper condition to receive the seeds or plants.

But there are many spots in the garden that it is impracticable to plow, such as our frames, borders, and occasionally between rows where the space is too narrow for a horse to walk; such places must be dug, and here we use the digging fork in preference to the spade. Its prongs enter the soil more easily than the blade of the spade, and by striking the soil turned over, with the back of the fork, it pulverizes it better than can be done by the blade of the spade. Still there are many operations in the garden, such as the digging up of roots, earthing up of Celery, etc., for which the spade is indispensable. For such purposes the one known as "Ames' No. 2, Plain-back" we find the best.

For stirring between narrow rows of Cabbage, Celery, etc., we use a small one-horse plow before using the cultivator; this is known as the skeleton plow. Following this is our main implement for cultivating between rows, which is simply a triangular adjustable harrow, represented by Fig. 7.

This implement we prefer to any variety of cultivators we have ever used, on ground where there are no weeds, (and weeds are rarely allowed to grow in our market gardens), as its teeth sink from three to four inches deep if kept sharpened; when extra depth is wanted, a weight is put on to sink it deeper.

In all hoeing operations by hand, the steel pronged hoe, Fig. 8, is used in preference to the old-fashioned blade hoe; yet, superior as this implement is to the blade hoe, it is not more than six years ago since it came into general use. A man can do full one-third more work with it, do it better, and with greater ease, than with the blade hoe; true, it is not so good in cutting over weeds, but weeds should never be seen in a garden, for whether for pleasure or profit, it is short-sighted economy to delay the destruction of weeds until they start to grow. One man will hoe over, in one day, more ground where the weeds are just breaking through, than six will, if they be allowed to grow six or eight inches in height, to say nothing of the injury done to the ground by feeding the weeds instead of the planted crops. Another benefit of this early extirpation of weeds is, that taken in this stage, they of course never seed, and in a few years they are almost entirely destroyed, making the clearing a much simpler task each succeeding year.

Another tool used in place of the hoe, is the steel rake which we use in various sizes, from 8 inches to 20 inches in width. Nearly all our first "hoeing" is done with these; that is, the ground is raked over and levelled in from two to three days after planting; this destroys the germs of the weeds; in from five to ten days, according to the state of the weather, the ground is again gone over with the rakes. We are no believers in deep hoeing on newly planted or sown crops, it is only when plants begin to grow that deep hoeing is beneficial.

For using narrow rows of crops, just starting from the ground, the push or scuffle hoe is a most effective tool; we use them from 6 to 12 inches wide; they require to be always about 3 inches narrower than the rows; thus, in rows 9 inches apart, we use the 6-inch hoe.

The clod crusher, an implement much used in England, is of great value in pulverizing the surface of rough heavy soils, following after the harrow; on light soils, that pulverize sufficiently with the harrow, it is not necessary.

Another indispensable implement is the roller; it is of great importance not only in breaking lumpy soil, but in firming it properly around newly sown seeds, besides, the ground leveled by the roller is much easier hoed than if the surface were uneven or irregular. The roller we use is made of hard wood, and is 5 or 6 feet long. and 9 inches in diameter. The roller is bored through its whole length, and through this hole is put a bar of 2-inch round iron. This bar gives the necessary weight, and its projecting ends afford points to which to attach the handle.

The double marker, Fig. 9, is used to mark 6 or 8 lines at once, as may be required; the spaces between the teeth being 12 inches on one side, and 9 inches on the other. Where rows are required only of these widths, every row is of course planted, but many of our crops require wider rows, thus, with the 12-inch marker, we plant our early Cabbages at 24 inches apart, the intervening rows being planted with Lettuce at the same time; or with the narrow side of the marker, every row, 9 inches apart, is planted with Onion sets, or in such a crop as Beets, every alternate row only is used, making the rows 18 inches apart. The manner of using the marker will readily suggest itself. A line being stretched tightly to the required length, the outer tooth is set against it and steadily drawn to the end, returning, the outer row forms the guide for the marker, and so on until finished. The marker is usually a home-made implement, of wood, but it answers rather better to have the teeth made of iron, scooped, something like a common garden trowel.

The market wagon, Fig. 10, is made after various patterns in different sections of the country; that shown in the cut is the kind used by us, and is usually drawn by one horse, it is strongly made, weighing about 1400 pounds, and is capable of carrying from 2000 to 3000 pounds.

The seed drill, Fig. 11, is used in sowing large field crops of Onions, Carrots, Turnips, etc., and can be adjusted to suit all sizes of seeds. It is, however, more an implement of the farm than the garden, and rarely used in small market gardens, most cultivators deeming it safer to sow by hand. Sowing by hand requires more than twice the quantity of seed than when sown by the drill, but the crops of our market gardens are too important to run any risk from such small considerations of economy. The greater risk in thinly sown crops being from destruction by insects, frost, or the thin sowing not having strength enough to force through the soil in dry weather.

The dibber is a very simple but indispensable tool. It is of importance to have it made in the manner represented here; it can be formed from a crooked piece of any hard wood, and shod with a sharp iron point, which gives weight to it, besides it always keeps sharp. Dibbers are too often made from an old spade or shovel handle, when they are awkward and unhandy affairs.

Planting is an operation that often required the most rapid movement to get a crop in at the proper time, and the best appliances in working are not to be disregarded. With a dibber of this style, an experienced planter, with a boy to drop the plants, as we invariable practise, will plant from 6000 to 10,000 plants per day, according to the kind of plant or condition of the ground. I have on many occasions planted, in one day, three acres of Celery, holding about 90,000 plants, with ten men, each of whom had a boy, from ten to fourteen years of age, to drop the plants down before him. This plan of using boys is not generally adopted, but I have repeatedly proved that, by thus dividing the labor, a boy and a man will do more planting than two men would if planting singly, and each carrying his own plants.

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