List Of Contents | Contents of My Summer in a Garden, by Charles D. Warner
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night of the day following.  And, if you do not set out plants or sow
seeds early, you fret continually; knowing that your vegetables will
be late, and that, while Jones has early peas, you will be watching
your slow-forming pods.  This keeps you in a state of mind.  When you
have planted anything early, you are doubtful whether to desire to
see it above ground, or not.  If a hot day comes, you long to see the
young plants; but, when a cold north wind brings frost, you tremble
lest the seeds have burst their bands.  Your spring is passed in
anxious doubts and fears, which are usually realized; and so a great
moral discipline is worked out for you.

Now, there is my corn, two or three inches high this 18th of May, and
apparently having no fear of a frost.  I was hoeing it this morning
for the first time,--it is not well usually to hoe corn until about
the 18th of May,--when Polly came out to look at the Lima beans.  She
seemed to think the poles had come up beautifully.  I thought they
did look well: they are a fine set of poles, large and well grown,
and stand straight.  They were inexpensive, too.  The cheapness came
about from my cutting them on another man's land, and he did not know
it.  I have not examined this transaction in the moral light of
gardening; but I know people in this country take great liberties at
the polls.  Polly noticed that the beans had not themselves come up
in any proper sense, but that the dirt had got off from them, leaving
them uncovered.  She thought it would be well to sprinkle a slight
layer of dirt over them; and I, indulgently, consented.  It occurred
to me, when she had gone, that beans always come up that way,--wrong
end first; and that what they wanted was light, and not dirt.

Observation.  --Woman always did, from the first, make a muss in a

I inherited with my garden a large patch of raspberries.  Splendid
berry the raspberry, when the strawberry has gone.  This patch has
grown into such a defiant attitude, that you could not get within
several feet of it.  Its stalks were enormous in size, and cast out
long, prickly arms in all directions; but the bushes were pretty much
all dead.  I have walked into them a good deal with a pruning-knife;
but it is very much like fighting original sin.  The variety is one
that I can recommend.  I think it is called Brinckley's Orange.  It
is exceedingly prolific, and has enormous stalks.  The fruit is also
said to be good; but that does not matter so much, as the plant does
not often bear in this region.  The stalks seem to be biennial
institutions; and as they get about their growth one year, and bear
the next year, and then die, and the winters here nearly always kill
them, unless you take them into the house (which is inconvenient if
you have a family of small children), it is very difficult to induce
the plant to flower and fruit.  This is the greatest objection there
is to this sort of raspberry.  I think of keeping these for
discipline, and setting out some others, more hardy sorts, for fruit.


Next to deciding when to start your garden, the most important matter
is, what to put in it.  It is difficult to decide what to order for
dinner on a given day: how much more oppressive is it to order in a
lump an endless vista of dinners, so to speak!  For, unless your
garden is a boundless prairie (and mine seems to me to be that when I
hoe it on hot days), you must make a selection, from the great
variety of vegetables, of those you will raise in it; and you feel
rather bound to supply your own table from your own garden, and to
eat only as you have sown.

I hold that no man has a right (whatever his sex, of course) to have
a garden to his own selfish uses.  He ought not to please himself,
but every man to please his neighbor.  I tried to have a garden that
would give general moral satisfaction.  It seemed to me that nobody
could object to potatoes (a most useful vegetable); and I began to
plant them freely.  But there was a chorus of protest against them.
"You don't want to take up your ground with potatoes," the neighbors
said; "you can buy potatoes" (the very thing I wanted to avoid doing
is buying things).  "What you want is the perishable things that you
cannot get fresh in the market."--"But what kind of perishable
things?"  A horticulturist of eminence wanted me to sow lines of
straw-berries and raspberries right over where I had put my potatoes
in drills.  I had about five hundred strawberry-plants in another
part of my garden; but this fruit-fanatic wanted me to turn my whole
patch into vines and runners.  I suppose I could raise strawberries
enough for all my neighbors; and perhaps I ought to do it.  I had a
little space prepared for melons,--muskmelons,--which I showed to an
experienced friend.

You are not going to waste your ground on muskmelons?" he asked.
"They rarely ripen in this climate thoroughly, before frost." He had
tried for years without luck.  I resolved to not go into such a
foolish experiment.  But, the next day, another neighbor happened in.
"Ah! I see you are going to have melons.  My family would rather give
up anything else in the garden than musk-melons,--of the nutmeg
variety.  They are the most grateful things we have on the table."
So there it was.  There was no compromise: it was melons, or no
melons, and somebody offended in any case.  I half resolved to plant
them a little late, so that they would, and they would n't.  But I
had the same difficulty about string-beans (which I detest), and
squash (which I tolerate), and parsnips, and the whole round of green

I have pretty much come to the conclusion that you have got to put
your foot down in gardening.  If I had actually taken counsel of my
friends, I should not have had a thing growing in the garden to-day
but weeds.  And besides, while you are waiting, Nature does not wait.
Her mind is made up.  She knows just what she will raise; and she has
an infinite variety of early and late.  The most humiliating thing to
me about a garden is the lesson it teaches of the inferiority of man.
Nature is prompt, decided, inexhaustible.  She thrusts up her plants
with a vigor and freedom that I admire; and the more worthless the
plant, the more rapid and splendid its growth.  She is at it early
and late, and all night; never tiring, nor showing the least sign of

"Eternal gardening is the price of liberty," is a motto that I should
put over the gateway of my garden, if I had a gate.  And yet it is
not wholly true; for there is no liberty in gardening.  The man who
undertakes a garden is relentlessly pursued.  He felicitates himself
that, when he gets it once planted, he will have a season of rest and
of enjoyment in the sprouting and growing of his seeds.  It is a
green anticipation.  He has planted a seed that will keep him awake
nights; drive rest from his bones, and sleep from his pillow.  Hardly
is the garden planted, when he must begin to hoe it.  The weeds have
sprung up all over it in a night.  They shine and wave in redundant
life.  The docks have almost gone to seed; and their roots go deeper
than conscience.  Talk about the London Docks!--the roots of these
are like the sources of the Aryan race.  And the weeds are not all.
I awake in the morning (and a thriving garden will wake a person up
two hours before he ought to be out of bed) and think of the
tomato-plants,--the leaves like fine lace-work, owing to black bugs
that skip around, and can't be caught.  Somebody ought to get up
before the dew is off (why don't the dew stay on till after a
reasonable breakfast?) and sprinkle soot on the leaves.  I wonder if
it is I.  Soot is so much blacker than the bugs, that they are
disgusted, and go away.  You can't get up too early, if you have a
garden.  You must be early due yourself, if you get ahead of the
bugs.  I think, that, on the whole, it would be best to sit up all
night, and sleep daytimes.  Things appear to go on in the night in
the garden uncommonly.  It would be less trouble to stay up than it
is to get up so early.

I have been setting out some new raspberries, two sorts,--a silver
and a gold color.  How fine they will look on the table next year in
a cut-glass dish, the cream being in a ditto pitcher!  I set them
four and five feet apart.  I set my strawberries pretty well apart
also.  The reason is, to give room for the cows to run through when
they break into the garden,--as they do sometimes.  A cow needs a
broader track than a locomotive; and she generally makes one.  I am
sometimes astonished, to see how big a space in, a flower-bed her
foot will cover.  The raspberries are called Doolittle and Golden
Cap.  I don't like the name of the first variety, and, if they do
much, shall change it to Silver Top.  You never can tell what a thing
named Doolittle will do.  The one in the Senate changed color, and
got sour.  They ripen badly,--either mildew, or rot on the bush.
They are apt to Johnsonize,--rot on the stem.  I shall watch the


I believe that I have found, if not original sin, at least vegetable
total depravity in my garden; and it was there before I went into it.
It is the bunch, or joint, or snakegrass,--whatever it is called.  As
I do not know the names of all the weeds and plants, I have to do as
Adam did in his garden,--name things as I find them.  This grass has
a slender, beautiful stalk : and when you cut it down) or pull up a
long root of it, you fancy it is got rid of; but in a day or two it
will come up in the same spot in half a dozen vigorous blades.
Cutting down and pulling up is what it thrives on.  Extermination
rather helps it.  If you follow a slender white root, it will be
found to run under the ground until it meets another slender white
root; and you will soon unearth a network of them, with a knot
somewhere, sending out dozens of sharp-pointed, healthy shoots, every
joint prepared to be an independent life and plant.  The only way to
deal with it is to take one part hoe and two parts fingers, and
carefully dig it out, not leaving a joint anywhere.  It will take a
little time, say all summer, to dig out thoroughly a small patch; but
if you once dig it out, and keep it out, you will have no further

I have said it was total depravity.  Here it is.  If you attempt to
pull up and root out any sin in you, which shows on the surface,--if
it does not show, you do not care for it,--you may have noticed how
it runs into an interior network of sins, and an ever-sprouting
branch of them roots somewhere; and that you cannot pull out one
without making a general internal disturbance, and rooting up your
whole being.  I suppose it is less trouble to quietly cut them off at
the top--say once a week, on Sunday, when you put on your religious
clothes and face so that no one will see them, and not try to
eradicate the network within.

Remark.--This moral vegetable figure is at the service of any
clergyman who will have the manliness to come forward and help me at
a day's hoeing on my potatoes.  None but the orthodox need apply.

I, however, believe in the intellectual, if not the moral, qualities
of vegetables, and especially weeds.  There was a worthless vine that
(or who) started up about midway between a grape-trellis and a row of
bean-poles, some three feet from each, but a little nearer the
trellis.  When it came out of the ground, it looked around to see
what it should do.  The trellis was already occupied.  The bean-pole
was empty.  There was evidently a little the best chance of light,
air, and sole proprietorship on the pole.  And the vine started for
the pole, and began to climb it with determination.  Here was as
distinct an act of choice, of reason, as a boy exercises when he goes
into a forest, and, looking about, decides which tree he will climb.
And, besides, how did the vine know enough to travel in exactly the
right direction, three feet, to find what it wanted?  This is
intellect.  The weeds, on the other hand, have hateful moral
qualities.  To cut down a weed is, therefore, to do a moral action.
I feel as if I were destroying sin.  My hoe becomes an instrument of
retributive justice.  I am an apostle of Nature.  This view of the
matter lends a dignity to the art of hoeing which nothing else does,
and lifts it into the region of ethics.  Hoeing becomes, not a
pastime, but a duty.  And you get to regard it so, as the days and
the weeds lengthen.

Observation.--Nevertheless, what a man needs in gardening is a
cast-iron back,--with a hinge in it.  The hoe is an ingenious
instrument, calculated to call out a great deal of strength at a
great disadvantage.

The striped bug has come, the saddest of the year.  He is a moral
double-ender, iron-clad at that.  He is unpleasant in two ways.  He
burrows in the ground so that you cannot find him, and he flies away
so that you cannot catch him.  He is rather handsome, as bugs go, but
utterly dastardly, in that he gnaws the stem of the plant close to
the ground, and ruins it without any apparent advantage to himself.
I find him on the hills of cucumbers (perhaps it will be a
cholera-year, and we shall not want any), the squashes (small loss),
and the melons (which never ripen).  The best way to deal with the
striped bug is to sit down by the hills, and patiently watch for him.
If you are spry, you can annoy him.  This, however, takes time.  It
takes all day and part of the night.  For he flieth in darkness, and
wasteth at noonday.  If you get up before the dew is off the plants,-
-it goes off very early,--you can sprinkle soot on the plant (soot is
my panacea: if I can get the disease of a plant reduced to the
necessity of soot, I am all right)and soot is unpleasant to the bug.
But the best thing to do is to set a toad to catch the bugs.  The
toad at once establishes the most intimate relations with the bug.
It is a pleasure to see such unity among the lower animals.  The
difficulty is to make the toad stay and watch the hill.  If you know
your toad, it is all right.  If you do not, you must build a tight
fence round the plants, which the toad cannot jump over.  This,
however, introduces a new element.  I find that I have a zoological
garden on my hands.  It is an unexpected result of my little
enterprise, which never aspired to the completeness of the Paris
"Jardin des Plantes."


Orthodoxy is at a low ebb.  Only two clergymen accepted my offer to
come and help hoe my potatoes for the privilege of using my vegetable
total-depravity figure about the snake-grass, or quack-grass as some
call it; and those two did not bring hoes.  There seems to be a lack
of disposition to hoe among our educated clergy.  I am bound to say
that these two, however, sat and watched my vigorous combats with the
weeds, and talked most beautifully about the application of the
snake-grass figure.  As, for instance, when a fault or sin showed on
the surface of a man, whether, if you dug down, you would find that
it ran back and into the original organic bunch of original sin
within the man.  The only other clergyman who came was from out of

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