Gardeners know better than most people, that everything man has came out of the earth. Therefore they respect earth. But if you have decided to make a garden, you must first remember that on the face of this earth there are many places with no soil and that a garden can be made only where there is soil. If you live in a city or a town, I am thinking of your back yard. which probably looks as if it were covered with soil. But the dirt may not be soil at all. It probably was soil once. And you can make it soil again”provided you know what soil is.
Gardening is so much fun that a lot of people, when spring comes around, rush to a seed store, come home laden with seeds, and start planting. Many of them never rush to a seed store again, because they find they “cant make things grow.” Nobody ever made anything grow. A seed is a tiny high-powered bundle of determination to grow. All the gardener has to do is put it where a seed can grow. The people whom spring beguiled into a seed store and could never beguile again”those people usually put the seed in dirt all right., but not in soil.
For a vegetable seed to produce a beautiful, healthy, bountiful plant, it not only needs good soil. It also needs plenty of sunlight. So, in planning your garden, watch carefully which parts of your available space get a long days sunlight. A high board fence may mean that part of your yard will do better for flowers that love shade than for vegetables. Above all, watch out for trees and big shrubs. I sometimes think that vegetables must enjoy looking at a fine tree. But vegetables like to look from a safe distance. The tree will steal the water they need to make food available to their tiny roots. It will steal the food itself. It will steal the sunlight they must have.
Finally, the vegetables you plant to grow must have water, and in the right amounts. The water they will like most is rain. But in most parts of the United States, even where annual rainfall is adequate, the rain does not always fall when the vegetable needs it. It will pay to buy quite a long garden hose in order to be able to rescue them. If you live in the country, you may need to run a pipe from the house, a spring, a well, or a brook.
But vegetables can also have too much water. Most vegetables will not grow in a marsh, or even in a spot that frequently looks like a marsh. If your garden spot slopes slightly, so the water will run gently off”without taking your soil and added organic pest spray with it, as it will do if the slope is steep”you are safe. Even better than this surface drainage is the drainage that occurs underground when you have deep crumbly soil. To get that kind of drainage, you want to make sure there is no “hardpan” under your topsoil. If you dig a hole in your garden spot, you can easily find out whether there is hardpan. The subsoil will be packed tight and water including organic fertilizer will not sink into it readily.
In that case, if your garden spot is big plow with a long sharp blade to break up the subsoil so water will enter it. If your garden spot is small, you can do this by “trenching,” digging a foot and a half to two feet all through the garden. That takes care of three things your seed will need: good soil, plenty of sunlight, an the right amounts of water.
There is a fourth you ought to consider: climate. Considerations of climate will have a great deal to do with your choice of a garden spot, if your place big enough to offer you a choice. But even if you are not choosing between spots, the climate may dictate your choice of vegetables or else what difficulties to watch for if you grow those not very well adapted to your climate.
Remember, climate, and particular temperature, is an intensely local matter. It is not whether you live in th North or the South, or whether you live in the mountains, in a river valley or on a coast. Average temperature can vary unbelievably between two places ten miles apart, and not just because there may be a range of mountains between them. On the contrary, two sides of the hill may have quite different climatic conditions.