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Farm House 7 How To Lay Out A Kitchen Garden

The kitchen garden yields more necessaries and comforts to the family, than any other piece of ground on the premises. It is, of consequence, necessary that it be so located and planned as to be ready of access, and yield the greatest possible quantity of products for the labor bestowed upon it; and as locality and plan have much to do with the labor bestowed upon it and the productions it may yield, both these subjects should be considered.

As to locality, the kitchen
garden should lie in the warmest and most sheltered spot which may be convenient to the kitchen of the house. It should, in connection with that, be convenient of access to the dung-yards of the stables. The size may be such as your necessities or your convenience may demand. The shape, either a parallelogram or a square; for it will be recollected, that this is a place allotted, not for a show or pleasure ground, but for profit. If the garden be large, this shape will better allow the use of the plow to turn up the soil, which, in a large garden, is a much cheaper, and, when properly done, a better mode 198 than to spade it; and if small, and it be worked with the spade, right lines are easier made with the spade than curved ones. One or more walks, at least eight feet wide, should be made, leading from a broad gate, or bars, through which a cart and horse, or oxen, may enter, to draw in manure, or carry out the vegetables; and if such walk, or walks, do not extend around the garden, which, if in a large one, they should do, a sufficient area should be thrown out at the farther extremity, to turn the cart upon. If the soil be free, and stony, the stones should be taken out clean, when large—and if small, down to the size of a hen's egg—and the surface made as level as possible, for a loose soil will need no draining. If the soil be a clay, or clayey loam, it should be underdrained two and a half feet, to be perfect, and the draining so planned as to lead off to a lower spot outside. This draining warms the soil, opens it for filtration, and makes it friable. Then, properly fenced, thoroughly manured, and plowed deep, and left rough—no matter how rough—in the fall of the year, and as late before the setting in of winter as you dare risk it, that part of the preparation is accomplished.

The permanent or wide walks of the garden, after being laid out and graded, should never be plowed nor disturbed, except by the hoe and rake, to keep down the weeds and grass; yet, if a close, and well-shorn grass turf be kept upon them, it is perhaps the cheapest and most cleanly way of keeping the walks. They need only cutting off close with the hand-hook, in summer.

199 We have known a great many people, after laying out a kitchen garden, and preparing it for use, fill it up with fruit trees, supposing that vegetables will grow quite as well with them as without. This is a wide mistake. No tree larger than a currant or gooseberry bush should ever stand in a vegetable garden. These fruits being partially used in the cooking department, as much in the way of vegetables, as of fruits, and small in size, may be permitted; and they, contrary to the usual practice, should always stand in open ground, where they can have all the benefits of the sun and rain to ripen the fruit to perfection, as well as to receive the cultivation they need, instead of being placed under fences around the sides of the garden, where they are too frequently neglected, and become the resort of vermin, or make prolific harbors for weeds.

Along the main walks, or alleys, the borders for perennial plants, as well as the currant and gooseberry bushes, should be made—for the plow should run parallel to, and not at right angles with them. Here may stand the rhubarbs, the sea kales, the various herbs, or even the asparagus beds, if a particular quarter be not set apart for them; and, if it be important, a portion of these main borders may be appropriated to the more common flowers and small shrubbery, if desired to cultivate them in a plain way; but not a peach, apricot, or any other larger tree than a currant or raspberry, should come within it. They not only shade the small plants, but suck up and rob them of their food and moisture, and keep off the sun, and prevent the circulation of air—than which nothing needs all 200 these more than garden vegetables, to have them in high perfection. If it be necessary, by means of a cold exposure on the one side, to have a close plantation of shrubbery to screen the garden, let it be outside the fence, rather than within it; but if within, let there be a broad walk between such shrubbery and the garden beds, as their roots will extend under the vegetables, and rob them of their food.

A walk, alley, or cartway, on the sides of the garden, is always better next to the fence, than to fill that space with anything else, as it is usually shaded for a portion of the day, and may be better afforded for such waste purposes than the open, sunny ground within.

It will be observed that market gardeners, men who always strive to make the most profit from their land and labor, and obtain the best vegetables, cultivate them in open fields. Not a tree, nor even a bush is permitted to stand near the growing crop, if they can prevent it; and where one is not stinted in the area of his domain, their example should be followed.

A word upon plowing gardens. Clays, or clayey loams, should always be manured and plowed in the fall, just before the setting in of the winter frosts. A world of pounding and hammering of lumps, to make them fine, in spring, is saved by fall plowing, besides incorporating the manure more thoroughly with the soil, as well as freezing out and destroying the eggs of worms and insects which infest it. Thrown up deeply and roughly with the plow or spade, the frosts act mechanically upon the soil, and slack and pulverise it so thoroughly that a heavy raking in early spring, is 201 all that becomes necessary to put it in the finest condition for seeds, and make it perhaps the very best and most productive of all garden soils whatever. A light sandy loam is better to lie compact in winter, and manured and turned up in early spring. Its friable nature leaves it always open and light, and at all times in the absence of frost, accessible to the spade or the hoe. On these accounts, it is usually the most desirable and convenient soil for the kitchen garden, and on the whole, generally preferred where either kind may be a matter simply of choice.