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Home Vegetable Gardening

A Complete & Practical Guide To The Planting & Care Of Vegetables, Fruits & Berries


Chapter 5: Implements And Their Uses


It may seem to the reader that it is all very
well to make a garden with a pencil, but that the work of transferring it to the soil must be quite another problem and one entailing so much work that he will leave it to the professional market gardener. He possibly pictures to himself some bent-kneed and stoop-shouldered man with the hoe, and decides that after all there is too much work in the garden game. What a revelation would be in store for him if he could witness one day's operations in a modern market garden!

Very likely indeed not a hoe would be seen during the entire visit. Modern implements, within less than a generation, have revolutionized gardening.

This is true of the small garden as certainly as of the large one: in fact, in proportion I am not sure but that it is more so--because of the second wonderful thing about modern garden tools, that is, the low prices at which they can be bought, considering the enormous percentage of labor saved in accomplishing results. There is nothing in the way of expense to prevent even the most modest gardener acquiring, during a few years, by the judicious expenditure of but a few dollars annually, a very complete outfit of tools that will handsomely repay their cost.

While some garden tools have been improved and developed out of all resemblance to their original forms, others have changed little in generations, and in probability will remain ever with us. There is a thing or two to say about even the simplest of them, however  especially to anyone not familiar with their uses.

There are tools for use in every phase of horticultural operations; for preparing the ground, for planting the seed, for cultivation, for protecting crops from insects and disease, and for harvesting.

First of all comes the ancient and honorable spade, which, for small garden plots, borders, beds, etc., must still be relied upon for the initial operation in gardening  breaking up the soil. There are several types, but any will answer the purpose. In buying a spade look out for two things: see that it is well strapped up the handle in front and back, and that it hangs well. In spading up ground, especially soil that is turfy or hard, the work may be made easier by taking a strip not quite twice as wide as the spade, and making diagonal cuts so that one vertical edge of the spade at each thrust cuts clean out to where the soil has already been dug.

The wide-tined spading-fork is frequently used instead of the spade, as it is lighter and can be more advantageously used to break up lumps and level off surfaces. In most soils it will do this work as well, if not better, than the spade and has the further good quality of being serviceable as a fork too, thus combining two tools in one. It should be more generally known and used. With the ordinary fork, used for handling manure and gathering up trash, weeds, etc., every gardener is familiar. The type with oval, slightly up-curved tines, five or six in number, and a D handle, is the most convenient and comfortable for garden use.

For areas large enough for a large rototiller, it will be your best purchase.  There are many good makes. The requirements are that it should turn  a clean, deep furrow. In deep soil that has long been cultivated, plowing  should, with few exceptions, be down at least to the subsoil; and if the  soil is shallow it will be advisable to turn up a little of the subsoil, at each plowing--not more than an inch--in order that the soil may gradually be deepened.

Tools For Preparing The Seed-Bed

The spade or spading-fork or rototiller will be followed by the hoe, or hook, and the iron rake. The best type of hoe for use after the spade is the wide, deep-bladed type. In most soils, however, this work may be done more expeditiously with the hook or prong-hoe. With this the soil can be  thoroughly pulverized to a depth of several inches. In using either, be careful not to pull up manure or trash turned under by the spade, as all such material if left covered will quickly rot away in the soil and furnish the best sort of plant food.

The rototiller and likewise the prong-hoe, will have to be followed by the iron rake when preparing the ground for small-seeded garden vegetables. Get the sort with what is termed the "bow" head  instead of one in which the head is fastened directly to the end of the handle. It is less likely to get  broken, and easier to use. There is quite a knack in manipulating even a  garden rake, which will come only with practice. Do not rake as though you were gathering up leaves or grass. The secret in using the garden rake is not to gather things up. Small stones, lumps of earth and such things, you of course wish to remove. Keep these raked off ahead of where you are leveling the soil, which is accomplished with a backward-and-forward movement of the rake.

The tool-house of every garden of any size should contain a seed-drill. Labor which is otherwise tedious and difficult is by it rendered mere play as well as being better done. The operations of marking the row, opening the furrow, dropping the seed at the proper depth and distance, covering immediately with fresh earth, and firming the soil, are all done at one fell swoop and as fast as you can walk. It will even drop seeds in hills. But that is not all: it may be had as part of a combination  machine, which, after your seeds are planted - with each row neatly rolled on top, and plainly visible may be at once transformed into a wheel hoe that will save you as much time in caring for your plants as the seed-drill did in planting your seed. Hoeing drudgery becomes a thing of the past.  There are so many, and so varied in  usefulness, that it would require an entire chapter to detail their  special advantages and methods of use. The catalogs describing them will give you many valuable suggestions; and other ways of utilizing them will discover themselves to you in your work.

Valuable as the wheel hoe is, however, and varied in its scope of work, the time-tried hoe cannot be entirely dispensed with.  It is essential in work such as loosening soil and cutting out weeds. The heart-shaped hoe is especially valuable in opening and covering drills for seed, such as beans, peas or corn. The scuffle-hoe, or scarifier,  is used between narrow rows for  shallow work, such as cutting off small weeds and breaking  up the crust.  It has been rendered less frequently needed by the advent of  the wheel hoe,  but when crops are too large to admit of the use of the latter,  the scuffle-hoe is still an indispensable time-saver.

There remains one task connected with gardening that is dreaded by everyone. That is hand-weeding. To get down on one's hands and knees,  in the blistering hot dusty soil, with the perspiration trickling down into one's eyes, and pick small weedlets from among tender plantlets, is not a pleasant occupation. There are, however, several sorts of small weeders which lessen the work considerably. One or another of the common types will seem preferable, according to different conditions of soil and methods of work.

 Personally, I prefer the Cape Cod style weeding tool. You skim the blade underneath the surface and cut the weeds off at the root. It is a fast efficient way of keeping your beds free of weeds. There are two things to be kept in mind about hand-weeding which will reduce this work to the minimum. First, never let the weeds get a start; for even if they do not increase in number, if they once smother the ground or crop, you will wish you had never heard of a garden. Second, do your hand-weeding while the surface soil is soft, when the weeds come out easily. A hard-crusted soil will double and triple the amount of labor required.

It would seem that it should be needless, when garden tools are such savers of labor, to suggest that they should be carefully kept, always bright and clean and sharp, and in repair. But such advice is needed, to judge by most of the tools one sees. Always have a piece of cloth or old bag on hand where the garden tools are kept, and never put them away soiled and wet. Keep the cutting edges sharp.

There is as much pleasure in trying to run a dull lawnmower as in working with a rusty, battered hoe. Have an extra handle in stock in case of accident; they are not expensive. In selecting hand tools, always pick out those with handles in which the grain does not run out at the point where there will be much strain in using the tool. In rakes, hoes, etc., get the types with ferrule and shank one continuous piece, so as not to be annoyed with loose heads.

Spend a few cents to send for some implement catalogs. They will  be a great source of information, even if you do not order this year. The Internet is also an excellent source for finding the best garden tools. A few dollars spent in getting the best will save you much more in the future.

For Fighting Plant Enemies

The devices and implements used for fighting plant enemies are of two sorts: (1) those used to afford mechanical protection to the plants; (2) those used to apply insecticides and fungicides. Of the first the most useful is the covered frame. It consists usually of a wooden box, some eighteen inches to two feet square and about eight high, covered with glass, protecting cloth, mosquito netting or mosquito wire. The first two coverings have, of course, the additional advantage of retaining heat and protecting from cold, making it possible by their use to plant earlier than is otherwise safe. They are used extensively in getting an extra early and safe start with cucumbers, melons and the other vine vegetables.

Simpler devices for protecting newly-set plants, such as tomatoes or cabbage, from the cut-worm, are stiff aluminum, cardboard or tar paper collars, which are made several inches high and large enough to be put around the stem and penetrate an inch or so into the soil.

For applying poison powders the home gardener should supply himself  with a an EPA approved powder gun. If one must be restricted to a single implement, however, it will be best to get one of the EPA approved hand power, compressed air sprayers. These are used for applying  wet sprays, and should be supplied with one of the several forms of  mist-making nozzles, the non-cloggable automatic type being the best. Extension rods for use in spraying trees and vines may be obtained for your sprayer.

For operations on a very small scale a good hand-syringe may be  used, but in general, it will be best to invest a few dollars more and get a small tank sprayer, as this throws a continuous stream or spray and holds  a much larger amount of the spraying solution. Whatever type is procured, get a brass machine it will out-wear three or four of those made of cheaper metal or plastic, which succumbs very quickly to the, corroding action of the strong poisons and chemicals used in them.

Of implements for harvesting, beside the spade, prong-hoe and spading-fork already mentioned, very few are used in the small garden, as most of them need not only long rows to be economically used, but tractors also. Running the hand-plow close on either side of carrots, parsnips and other deep-growing vegetables will aid materially in getting them out. For fruit picking, with tall trees, the wire-fingered fruit-picker, secured to the end of a long handle, will be of great assistance, but with the modern method of using low-headed trees it will not be needed.

Another class of garden implements are those used in pruning  but where this is attended to properly from the start, a good sharp jack-knife and a pair of pruning shears  will easily handle all the work of the kind  necessary.

Still another sort of garden device is that used for supporting the plants; such as stakes, trellises, wires, etc. Altogether too little attention usually is given these, as with proper care in storing over winter they will not only last for years, but add greatly to the convenience of cultivation and to the neat appearance of the garden. Various contrivances are illustrated in the seed catalogs, and many may be home-made such as a stake-trellis for supporting beans.

As a final word to the intending purchaser of garden tools, I would say: first thoroughly investigate the different sorts available, and when buying, do not forget that a good tool or a well-made machine will be giving you satisfactory use long, long after the price is forgotten, while a poor one is a constant source of discomfort. Get good tools, and take good care of them. And let me repeat that a few dollars a year, judiciously spent, for tools afterward well cared for, will soon give you a very complete set, and add to your garden profit and pleasure.

 

Table of Contents


Part One

1) Introduction

2) Why You Should Garden

3) Requisites Of The Home Vegetable Garden

4) The Planting Plan

5) Implements And Their Uses

6) Manures, Fertilizers And Mulching

7) The Soil And Its Preparation

 

Part  Two  Vegetables

8) Starting The Plants

9) Sowing And Planting

10) The Cultivation Of Vegetables

11) The Vegetables And Their Special Needs

12) Best Varieties Of The Garden Vegetables

13) Insects And Disease, And Methods Of Fighting Them

14) Harvesting And Storing

 

Part  Three  Fruits

15) The Varieties Of Pome And Stone Fruits

16) Planting; Cultivation; Filler Crops

17) Pruning, Spraying, Harvesting

18) Berries And Small Fruits

19) A Calendar Of Operations

20) Conclusion


Go To Part 1- 6: Manures, Fertilizers And Mulching

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