The Soil And Its Preparation
As to the kind of soil, Hobson's choice ranks first! It is not necessary
to move into the next county just to have an herb garden. This is one of
the cases in which the gardener may well make the best of however bad a
bargain he has.
But supposing that a selection be possible, a light sandy loam,
underlaid by a porous subsoil so as to be well drained, should be given
the preference, since it is warmed qui
kly, easily worked, and may be
stirred early in the season and after a rain. Clay loams are less
desirable upon every one of the points mentioned, and very sandy soils
also. But if Hobson has one of these, there will be an excellent
opportunity to cultivate philosophy as well as herbs. And the gardener
may be agreeably surprised at the results obtained. No harm in trying!
Whatever the quality of the soil, it should not be very rich, because in
such soils the growth is apt to be rank and the quantity of oil small in
proportion to the leafage.
The preparation of the soil should commence as soon as the grass in the
neighborhood is seen to be sprouting. Well-decayed manure should be
spread at the rate of not less than a bushel nor more than double that
quantity to the square yard, and as soon as the soil is dry enough to
crumble readily it should be dug or plowed as deeply as possible without
bringing up the subsoil. This operation of turning over the soil should
be thoroughly performed, the earth being pulverized as much as possible.
To accomplish this no hand tool surpasses the spading fork.
One other method is, however, superior especially when practiced upon
the heavier soils--fall plowing or digging. In practicing this method
care should be taken to plow late when the soil, moistened by autumn
rains, will naturally come up in big lumps. These lumps must be left
undisturbed during the winter for frost to act upon. All that will be
necessary in the spring will be to rake or harrow the ground. The clods
I once had occasion to try this method upon about 25 acres of land which
had been made by pumping mud from a river bottom upon a marsh thus
converted into dry ground by the sedimentation. Three sturdy horses were
needed to do the plowing. The earth turned up in chunks as large as a
man's body. Contrary to my plowman's doubts and predictions, Jack Frost
did a grand milling business that winter! Clods that could hardly be
broken in the autumn with a sledge hammer crumbled down in the spring at
the touch of a garden rake!