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The New Zealand Evangelist

Notes Upon Gardening

Notes Upon Gardening.


“A Garden is the purest of Human pleasures.”— So says the immortal Bacon, the greatest philosopher that the world has produced, since the days of Aristotle. It is one of those few pleasures that can be equally enjoyed by the prince and the peasant. Its enjoyments are of that peculiarly mixed nature, which is most conducive to the constitution of man. They can only be truly felt by Labour; which, although a curse upon our fallen race, in form, has been converted, by our Beneficent Creator, into a blessing—in fact. The mind and the body are alike benefited. The first is soothed, the latter strength-ened, and both of these effects produce that calm and healthy enjoyment of life, which neither wealth, nor power, nor station, can possibly impart. Its physical effects on the human frame, as a healthy exercise, are very remarkable; inasmuch as if any one class of men were singled out as long lived, that class would be Gardeners. I could cite numerous instances in proof of this assertion; but it would be superfluous. Let any one try the experiment of working in his garden, one half hour before breakfast, and he will find his health improved, his appetite increased, and his enjoyment of both augmented.

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The effect of this occupation upon the mind,—if that mind is rightly constituted,—is even more beneficial than upon the body. Some of the most beautiful analogies employed by our Saviour to illustrate his doctrines, are drawn from the vegetable kingdom. The wheat and the tares,—the “Lilies of the field,”—the grain of mustard seed,—the fig tree, —and the vine, are those which most readily occur to me at this moment. What exquisite beauty of form—colours—structure—and usefulness, and all these in the most inexhaustible variety, are lavished upon plants—even upon those which come within our daily observation! The christian in heart, no matter what his creed may be, will ever look upon these, as so many manifestations of the Lord's power, goodness, and wisdom**,—they are commentaries on the Scriptures,—simple yet touching emblems of mortality,—silent yet powerful teachers on the pomps and vanities of a tinselled world—quiet mentors on that death and resurrection, which they annually shadow forth in themselves. They are Nature's book of Homilies.

I could pursue this exordium much further, but enough has been said to show that gardening is preeminently a christian recreation; and entitled even to rank as the first, of those which tend to raise the thoughts from earth to heaven. To encourage, if not to create, a love for this innocent and useful pursuit, will be the object of this, and similar monthly notices, connected with the culture of flowers, fruits, and vegetables.

So far as Gardening is concerned, the month of August must be considered the termination of winter, and the commencement of spring. All the early flowers of the English gardener, as the jonquille, primrose, double daffodil, and daisy, together with the garden anemone, open their blossoms in my garden usually about the first week in August. The page 103 deciduous trees, (excepting the hawthorn) begin to expand their buds, and every thing indicates that the vernal season has commenced. Now, therefore, is the best time for sowing allseeds which germinate in the open air, whether for the farm, the flower or the kitchen garden. Peas and beans, by being planted every three weeks, may give a supply for six months in the year, and all the varieties of the cabbage tribe should now be committed to the ground.

The old stalks of cabbage, Scotch kale, and brocoli, by being planted (if necessary to be removed from their original situations) in a compartment by themselves, will yield a plentiful crop of tender sprouts long before they run to seed, and even the ends of the flower stalks, before the buds have expanded, will be found tender and delicate eating.

Turnips and onions love an exposed open situation, having free exposure to the sun and wind; but parsnips, carrots, and rhubarb may be sown in more shady situtations. These, and all esculent roots, thrive the best where the upper soil is naturally light and sandy, or where it has been rendered so artifically by deep trenching, and judicious mixture.

Potatoes, for an early crop, are generally put into the ground, in this district, about the 24th of August, but the first week in September is still a good time. On lands liable like the Hutt valley, to inundations, the sets should be planted whole; for it has been found that if they are cut into pieces, as in England, they are very liable to rot, with the additional moisture given to the ground by occasional floods: more space should be allowed between the rows and sets than in England; because the stems grow more luxuriantly. The best distance is three feet between the rows and one between the sets.

September is still a good month for transplanting all kinds of perennial flowers, and all those deciduous trees, which, casting their leaves in autumn, have not yet expanded their leaf-buds. The moment, however, that these latter are so far advanced, their removal page 104 becomes more or less injurious, and in some instances fatal. There are nevertheless many sorts of evergreen climbing, roses which possess so much vitality that they may be safely removed all this month, for although the old leaves will generally wither, new buds will soon appear.

All the pasture grasses, not sown in March, may now be committed to the ground. But this must be done as early in the month as possible, otherwise the tender blade may be scorched by the mid-day heat, which is so often experienced at the end of September. I should always recommend that the quantity sown be never less than 1 1/2 bushels per acre,** and that as soon as weeds appear, they be as much as possible eradicated. It will be misplaced economy, (or rather eventually great extravagance,) to sow less than this, merely to save a few shillings, and thus leave room for weeds to occupy that space which should be filled with tufts of grass.

On pruning and planting I shall say but little; for both these operations should be completed early in August. Nevertheless, as this is a very backward season, the first week or ten days in September may not be too late for pruning or transplanting haw-thorn, blackberry, and furze (Ilex Europeus); and cuttings of all these may still be put into the ground, while their spring buds remain unopened. It is a vulgar, although a very prevalent notion among gardeners, (both professional and amateur,) that all stone fruit seedlings absolutely require being grafted, before they are worth any thing. The fact being, that all the finest sorts in the gardens of the world, were raised from seed! this being the only, and natural mode of producing new varieties! The process of grafting or budding is only necessary when you wish to make sure of possessing a particular established sort, and do not like the risk of rearing a new but inferior variety.

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I have now three peach trees, raised from seed, and trained on one end of the house, which yielded last year, between 250 and 300 peaches finer than any I ever grew in England, after thinning the trees of nearly two hundred others. Cuttings from grafted trees are very difficult to strike, but when they do, they produce, of course, the same sort of fruit as that of the parent branch.

W. Swainson.

Hawkshead, 24th August.