Getting Down to Earth

This covering is firmed down by tamping it with the flat blade of the hoe. Then the rows are watered with a gentle spray that will not dislodge seeds or wash off soil.

Thinning is in order when seedlings are an inch or two high. A mark can be made in the ground where plants are to be left standing. Those in between the marks are then pulled out by hand.

About this time the young gardener can get his first lesson in cultivating and weeding, as small weeds will surely have materialized. Suggest that he carefully scrutinize and memo­rize the leaf patterns of his planted crop so that he can dis­tinguish them from the weeds. Weeds growing close to the plants must be pulled out carefully by hand. Then, with a hoe, he cuts through the surface soil to stir it up and destroy weed roots-up and down between every row for the entire width between rows. In a small, closely planted garden the child may want to get down on his hands and knees and do this with a hand cultivator.

Most plants will benefit from an extra feeding at least once during the season. Those that have been marked in the notebook as needing rich soil or being "heavy feeders" should be fed about once a month. A water soluble fertilizer, applied from a sprinkling can, will take care of this chore. Several brands are available. All are easy to handle, and come with a measuring cup and instructions for dilution.

Sometime in the late spring, when the ground still has deep moisture, but is not actually wet, the beginning gardener might well learn about the valuable practice of mulching, favored by progressive adult gardeners. Mulching means cover­ing the ground around the plants and between the rows with some bulky material like grass clippings, ground corn cobs, sawdust, hay or straw.

A mulched garden will need no more hoeing, and no more weeding except hand-pulling of weeds growing very close to the plants. There will also be less watering to do and minimized ill effects from prolonged hot, dry spells. Moreover, with a well-mulched garden the child can leave on short summer trips without sacrificing his garden, if he waters it deeply before he leaves.

Watering, nevertheless, should be one of his main concerns during the summer. He must learn to think of his plants as living things, needing a drink whenever nature does not provide it in the form of rain. Checking frequently on soil dryness should become a habit. When watering is needed it should be done so thoroughly that moisture gets clear down to the roots.