Woody plants that produce a single stem or trunk and many branches are called trees. Woody plants that produce many stems from the soil, with new ones being produced each year, are called shrubs. Plants that produce no woody stems are known as herbaceous. Any plant that lives for many years is a perennial. Those plants that remain in gardens year after year but are not woody are herbaceous perennials. Peonies, iris, and phlox are examples.
Some herbaceous perennials, called bulbous plants, produce bulbs. These include not only the true bulbs, such as tulips and onions, but also the solid bulbs, or conns, such as those the gladiolus and crocus produce. Tubers are produced by dahlias, caladiums, and other tuberous plants. Rhizomes are developed by iris, lily-of-the-valley, and other rhizomatous plants. All of these perennials produce and store food below ground so that a new plant may grow each year.
A few plants such as foxglove, Canterbury bells, and wild mullein last only two years. The first year they make a rosette of leaves close to the ground, live over winter, bloom the next year, and then they die. Such plants are called biennials. If seeds are sown each year, there is a constant supply of plants.
Some plants grow from seed each year, bloom, produce seed, and die at the end of the year. These are called annuals. Examples are petunias, marigolds, snapdragons, and zinnias.
Beginning a Garden
Everything that grows needs light, air, moisture, and food. From the carbon dioxide of the air the plant, in the presence of sunlight, manufactures sugar. This is soon changed to other substances that make up the main bulk of the plant. Additional plant food comes from the natural minerals in the soil. When the soil lacks minerals, they must be supplied as fertilizer. The food must dissolve in water, so there must be enough moisture.
There are relatively few places on Earth where plants do not grow. If the soil of the garden is not good, it can be improved by digging good soil, manure, or commercial plant food into it. If a plot of ground grows weeds, it is good soil; it will grow desirable plants equally well. Soil without weeds needs to be dug, aired, fed, and enriched with micro-organisms, supplied when manure, garden trash, peat moss, grass clippings, or good compost (peat, leaf mold, and lime mixed) are used.
As soon as the sun has warmed the soil in the spring, a garden may be started. The place chosen must have fairly good soil about eight or nine inches deep.
After an area of suitable ground is staked out, a layer of manure, peat moss, or compost is spread over the surface. Digging is important and must be done thoroughly and up to eight inches deep. It can be done with hand tools or by powered tillers. This loosens the soil and permits air to go into it and ventilate it.
The next step is a thorough raking. This breaks the soil clods and makes the top layer free from stones and as fine as possible. In this way a soft bed is formed where seeds, bulbs, or small plants can easily send down their roots in search of food and moisture.
In late fall a garden of perennial plants is often covered with leaves or straw. This covering should never be put on until after the first hard freeze. It is put on not to protect the plants from cold but to keep the ground from being disturbed by alternate freezes and thaws. These would loosen and perhaps expose the plants’ roots and might even push plants out of the ground altogether. This covering is left on until the spring when all danger of freezing is over. In some cases the covering can be worked I into the ground instead of being removed. These few hints are important:
1. Dig the soil deeply; do not just rake the surface.
2. Feed regularly with a plant food that contains all the elements the plant will need to grow and flower and fruit freely.
3. Water when rains fail. A plant that gets too dry just once may die. Unless plants are at home in swamps and pools, they also need air at their roots so the soil must drain well.
4. Prevent and control insects and diseases.
5. Pick flowers often and enjoy them. This generally results in a continuous supply.
Flowers from Bulbs
Many bulbs can be planted in beds of perennials for added color. Since gladiolus and dahlias do not stand the cold, they are planted in spring when the soil is warm. The hardy bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils, are planted in the fall and remain in the soil where they produce their roots through the late fall and [winter, and bloom in early spring.
Bulbs are planted at a depth of about three times their height That is, tulips, daffodils, and other bulbs of the same size are planted four to six inches deep. Such small bulbs as crocuses, for example, need to be planted only two inches deep. Follow the growers’ instructions in all cases.
Except for the hardiest sorts, seeds should be sown, or planted; outdoors after danger of killing frosts is past. Sometimes seeds are sown indoors and moved outside when they are partly grown. They should not be sown too early because the seedlings may become too tall and weak before they can be planted outside.
In the garden most seeds are planted in rows in seed beds. They are sown twice their own diameter deep, and then covered with fine soil to keep the surface loose and moist. This helps sprouting and growth of seedlings. Seeds such as sweet alyssum will germinate in three or four days if the sun has warmed the soil. Other seeds may take a week or more.
As soon as any kind of seed has begun to sprout the new seedling must be cared for. This is the most critical time in the plant’s life. If watering is neglected, the tiny plantlets may dry out and die because their roots are not long enough to reach into the moist layers beneath.
Many seedlings are not easy to transplant; therefore seeds such as poppies, gourds, beans, sweet peas, and mignonette should be sown in the spot where they are to grow. If the plants combinations of the following work out well for the plant boxes: petunia, lobelia, can- dytuft, begonia, coleus, geranium, morning-glory, wandering-jew, ferns, vincas, and Sprenger asparagus.
Terrariums and Bottle Gardens a terrarium is a glass or plastic container for growing plants indoors. The container—of almost any shape—may have a cover to help conserve moisture and humidity. A bottle garden is very similar—the plants are placed in soil within a bottle. Great patience and care are needed in putting a terrarium or bottle garden together. Both of these little gardens require only part sun. If placed in a hot sunny window, the plants within will be cooked. These gar-dens should not be covered too tightly because humidity will build up and fog the walls.
An old aquarium makes a fine terrarium. When small animals such as chameleons, salamanders, and insects are added, the device is called a vivarium. It can provide many hours of enjoyable observation.
A very beautiful garden is possible if moss is used around the sides of the terrarium up as high as is needed to hide the soil. Small wood plants such as ferns, partridge-berries, violets, mosses, and cuttings of all types of house plants may be set in this little garden and enjoyed throughout the winter. Turtles, crickets, and the cocoons of butterflies thrive and add to the ever changing picture of this little world.
Some thought needs to be given to the space to be used for a garden. The area may be planned for several flower gardens, as well as a rock garden, a pool, a vegetable garden, shrubs for background, and trees for shade.
Planning should begin early. In winter seed catalogs can be read, seeds and plants ordered, and a plan of the garden prepared. In advance of spring the garden tools can be checked and repaired, sharpened or replaced. Everything can be made ready for the gardening to come.
History of Gardens
Primitive human had no gardens. He wandered around from place to place, and ate wild fruits and roots. Perhaps the first garden was a great patch of melons found growing on a spot where someone had eaten the fruits and scattered the seeds the year before. Because of this new growth of melons, this person may have stayed longer than usual on that spot. He may have put up a crude brush fence around the patch to protect it from the trampling of wild animals, thus making the world’s first garden.
Gardening is one of the oldest of the arts. No details exist of the earliest recorded garden, the Garden of Eden. There are, however, gardening scenes pictured on the tombs of the ancient kings of Egypt. For thousands of years before Christ, people in the valley of the Nile raised grain, fruit, and vegetables.
In Asia, there were gardens in ancient times. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are famous as one of the ancient Seven Wonders of the World. They were built by Nebuchadnezzar when he married Princess Amytis who longed for her native hills and trees. These gardens were a series of four terraces, each one smaller than that below it. Each terrace had a beautiful planting of flowers, vines, and fruit trees. The earliest known garden plan is from an estate that may have belonged to an Egyptian official living in Thebes around 140 B.C. A canal extends outside the gateway at right, which leads to a vineyard. Waterfowl swim in four ornamental ponds, and palm trees are planted in symmetrical patterns throughout the garden.