List Of Contents | Contents of Summer in a Garden by Charles D. Warner
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for my figure.  He said that the snake-grass was not in my garden
originally, that it sneaked in under the sod, and that it could be
entirely rooted out with industry and patience.  I asked the
Universalist-inclined man to take my hoe and try it; but he said he
had n't time, and went away.

But, jubilate, I have got my garden all hoed the first time!  I feel
as if I had put down the rebellion.  Only there are guerrillas left
here and there, about the borders and in corners, unsubdued,--Forrest
docks, and Quantrell grass, and Beauregard pig-weeds.  This first
hoeing is a gigantic task: it is your first trial of strength with
the never-sleeping forces of Nature.  Several times, in its progress,
I was tempted to do as Adam did, who abandoned his garden on account
of the weeds.  (How much my mind seems to run upon Adam, as if there
had been only two really moral gardens,--Adam's and mine!) The only
drawback to my rejoicing over the finishing of the first hoeing is,
that the garden now wants hoeing the second time.  I suppose, if my
garden were planted in a perfect circle, and I started round it with
a hoe, I should never see an opportunity to rest.  The fact is, that
gardening is the old fable of perpetual labor; and I, for one, can
never forgive Adam Sisyphus, or whoever it was, who let in the roots
of discord.  I had pictured myself sitting at eve, with my family, in
the shade of twilight, contemplating a garden hoed.  Alas!  it is a
dream not to be realized in this world.

My mind has been turned to the subject of fruit and shade trees in a
garden.  There are those who say that trees shade the garden too
much, and interfere with the growth of the vegetables.  There may be
something in this: but when I go down the potato rows, the rays of
the sun glancing upon my shining blade, the sweat pouring from my
face, I should be grateful for shade.  What is a garden for?  The
pleasure of man.  I should take much more pleasure in a shady garden.
Am I to be sacrificed, broiled, roasted, for the sake of the
increased vigor of a few vegetables?  The thing is perfectly absurd.
If I were rich, I think I would have my garden covered with an
awning, so that it would be comfortable to work in it.  It might roll
up and be removable, as the great awning of the Roman Coliseum was,--
not like the Boston one, which went off in a high wind.  Another very
good way to do, and probably not so expensive as the awning, would be
to have four persons of foreign birth carry a sort of canopy over you
as you hoed.  And there might be a person at each end of the row with
some cool and refreshing drink.  Agriculture is still in a very
barbarous stage.  I hope to live yet to see the day when I can do my
gardening, as tragedy is done, to slow and soothing music, and
attended by some of the comforts I have named.  These things come so
forcibly into my mind sometimes as I work, that perhaps, when a
wandering breeze lifts my straw hat, or a bird lights on a near
currant-bush, and shakes out a full-throated summer song, I almost
expect to find the cooling drink and the hospitable entertainment at
the end of the row.  But I never do.  There is nothing to be done but
to turn round, and hoe back to the other end.

Speaking of those yellow squash-bugs, I think I disheartened them by
covering the plants so deep with soot and wood-ashes that they could
not find them; and I am in doubt if I shall ever see the plants
again.  But I have heard of another defense against the bugs.  Put a
fine wire-screen over each hill, which will keep out the bugs and
admit the rain.  I should say that these screens would not cost much
more than the melons you would be likely to get from the vines if you
bought them; but then think of the moral satisfaction of watching the
bugs hovering over the screen, seeing, but unable to reach the tender
plants within.  That is worth paying for.

I left my own garden yesterday, and went over to where Polly was
getting the weeds out of one of her flower-beds.  She was working
away at the bed with a little hoe.  Whether women ought to have the
ballot or not (and I have a decided opinion on that point, which I
should here plainly give, did I not fear that it would injure my
agricultural influence), 'I am compelled to say that this was rather
helpless hoeing.  It was patient, conscientious, even pathetic
hoeing; but it was neither effective nor finished.  When completed,
the bed looked somewhat as if a hen had scratched it: there was that
touching unevenness about it.  I think no one could look at it and
not be affected.  To be sure, Polly smoothed it off with a rake, and
asked me if it was n't nice; and I said it was.  It was not a
favorable time for me to explain the difference between puttering
hoeing, and the broad, free sweep of the instrument, which kills the
weeds, spares the plants, and loosens the soil without leaving it in
holes and hills.  But, after all, as life is constituted, I think
more of Polly's honest and anxious care of her plants than of the
most finished gardening in the world.


I left my garden for a week, just at the close of the dry spell.  A
season of rain immediately set in, and when I returned the
transformation was wonderful.  In one week every vegetable had fairly
jumped forward.  The tomatoes which I left slender plants, eaten of
bugs and debating whether they would go backward or forward, had
become stout and lusty, with thick stems and dark leaves, and some of
them had blossomed.  The corn waved like that which grows so rank out
of the French-English mixture at Waterloo.  The squashes--I will not
speak of the squashes.  The most remarkable growth was the asparagus.
There was not a spear above ground when I went away; and now it had
sprung up, and gone to seed, and there were stalks higher than my
head.  I am entirely aware of the value of words, and of moral
obligations.  When I say that the asparagus had grown six feet in
seven days, I expect and wish to be believed.  I am a little
particular about the statement; for, if there is any prize offered
for asparagus at the next agricultural fair, I wish to compete,-
-speed to govern.  What I claim is the fastest asparagus.  As for
eating purposes, I have seen better.  A neighbor of mine, who looked
in at the growth of the bed, said, "Well, he'd be -----": but I told
him there was no use of affirming now; he might keep his oath till I
wanted it on the asparagus affidavit.  In order to have this sort of
asparagus, you want to manure heavily in the early spring, fork it
in, and top-dress (that sounds technical) with a thick layer of
chloride of sodium: if you cannot get that, common salt will do, and
the neighbors will never notice whether it is the orthodox Na. Cl.
58-5, or not.

I scarcely dare trust myself to speak of the weeds.  They grow as if
the devil was in them.  I know a lady, a member of the church, and a
very good sort of woman, considering the subject condition of that
class, who says that the weeds work on her to that extent, that, in
going through her garden, she has the greatest difficulty in keeping
the ten commandments in anything like an unfractured condition.  I
asked her which one, but she said, all of them: one felt like
breaking the whole lot.  The sort of weed which I most hate (if I can
be said to hate anything which grows in my own garden) is the
"pusley," a fat, ground-clinging, spreading, greasy thing, and the
most propagatious (it is not my fault if the word is not in the
dictionary) plant I know.  I saw a Chinaman, who came over with a
returned missionary, and pretended to be converted, boil a lot of it
in a pot, stir in eggs, and mix and eat it with relish,--"Me likee
he."  It will be a good thing to keep the Chinamen on when they come
to do our gardening.  I only fear they will cultivate it at the
expense of the strawberries and melons.  Who can say that other
weeds, which we despise, may not be the favorite food of some remote
people or tribe?  We ought to abate our conceit.  It is possible that
we destroy in our gardens that which is really of most value in some
other place.  Perhaps, in like manner, our faults and vices are
virtues in some remote planet.  I cannot see, however, that this
thought is of the slightest value to us here, any more than weeds

There is another subject which is forced upon my notice.  I like
neighbors, and I like chickens; but I do not think they ought to be
united near a garden.  Neighbors' hens in your garden are an
annoyance.  Even if they did not scratch up the corn, and peck the
strawberries, and eat the tomatoes, it is not pleasant to see them
straddling about in their jerky, high-stepping, speculative manner,
picking inquisitively here and there.  It is of no use to tell the
neighbor that his hens eat your tomatoes: it makes no impression on
him, for the tomatoes are not his.  The best way is to casually
remark to him that he has a fine lot of chickens, pretty well grown,
and that you like spring chickens broiled.  He will take them away at

The neighbors' small children are also out of place in your garden,
in strawberry and currant time.  I hope I appreciate the value of
children.  We should soon come to nothing without them, though the
Shakers have the best gardens in the world.  Without them the common
school would languish.  But the problem is, what to do with them in a
garden.  For they are not good to eat, and there is a law against
making away with them.  The law is not very well enforced, it is
true; for people do thin them out with constant dosing, paregoric,
and soothing-syrups, and scanty clothing.  But I, for one, feel that
it would not be right, aside from the law, to take the life, even of
the smallest child, for the sake of a little fruit, more or less, in
the garden.  I may be wrong; but these are my sentiments, and I am
not ashamed of them.  When we come, as Bryant says in his "Iliad," to
leave the circus of this life, and join that innumerable caravan
which moves, it will be some satisfaction to us, that we have never,
in the way of gardening, disposed of even the humblest child
unnecessarily.  My plan would be to put them into Sunday-schools more
thoroughly, and to give the Sunday-schools an agricultural turn;
teaching the children the sacredness of neighbors' vegetables.  I
think that our Sunday-schools do not sufficiently impress upon
children the danger, from snakes and otherwise, of going into the
neighbors' gardens.


Somebody has sent me a new sort of hoe, with the wish that I should
speak favorably of it, if I can consistently.  I willingly do so, but
with the understanding that I am to be at liberty to speak just as
courteously of any other hoe which I may receive.  If I understand
religious morals, this is the position of the religious press with
regard to bitters and wringing-machines.  In some cases, the
responsibility of such a recommendation is shifted upon the wife of
the editor or clergy-man.  Polly says she is entirely willing to make
a certificate, accompanied with an affidavit, with regard to this
hoe; but her habit of sitting about the garden walk, on an inverted
flower-pot, while I hoe, some what destroys the practical value of
her testimony.

As to this hoe, I do not mind saying that it has changed my view of
the desirableness and value of human life.  It has, in fact, made
life a holiday to me.  It is made on the principle that man is an
upright, sensible, reasonable being, and not a groveling wretch.  It
does away with the necessity of the hinge in the back.  The handle is
seven and a half feet long.  There are two narrow blades, sharp on
both edges, which come together at an obtuse angle in front; and as
you walk along with this hoe before you, pushing and pulling with a
gentle motion, the weeds fall at every thrust and withdrawal, and the
slaughter is immediate and widespread.  When I got this hoe I was
troubled with sleepless mornings, pains in the back, kleptomania with
regard to new weeders; when I went into my garden I was always sure
to see something.  In this disordered state of mind and body I got
this hoe.  The morning after a day of using it I slept perfectly and
late.  I regained my respect for the eighth commandment.  After two
doses of the hoe in the garden, the weeds entirely disappeared.
Trying it a third morning, I was obliged to throw it over the fence
in order to save from destruction the green things that ought to grow
in the garden.  Of course, this is figurative language.  What I mean
is, that the fascination of using this hoe is such that you are
sorely tempted to employ it upon your vegetables, after the weeds are
laid low, and must hastily withdraw it, to avoid unpleasant results.
I make this explanation, because I intend to put nothing into these
agricultural papers that will not bear the strictest scientific
investigation; nothing that the youngest child cannot understand and
cry for; nothing that the oldest and wisest men will not need to
study with care.

I need not add that the care of a garden with this hoe becomes the
merest pastime.  I would not be without one for a single night.  The
only danger is, that you may rather make an idol of the hoe, and
somewhat neglect your garden in explaining it, and fooling about with
it.  I almost think that, with one of these in the hands of an
ordinary day-laborer, you might see at night where he had been

Let us have peas.  I have been a zealous advocate of the birds.  I
have rejoiced in their multiplication.  I have endured their concerts
at four o'clock in the morning without a murmur.  Let them come, I
said, and eat the worms, in order that we, later, may enjoy the
foliage and the fruits of the earth.  We have a cat, a magnificent
animal, of the sex which votes (but not a pole-cat),--so large and
powerful that, if he were in the army, he would be called Long Tom.
He is a cat of fine disposition, the most irreproachable morals I
ever saw thrown away in a cat, and a splendid hunter.  He spends his
nights, not in social dissipation, but in gathering in rats, mice,
flying-squirrels, and also birds.  When he first brought me a bird, I
told him that it was wrong, and tried to convince him, while he was
eating it, that he was doing wrong; for he is a reasonable cat, and
understands pretty much everything except the binomial theorem and
the time down the cycloidal arc.  But with no effect.  The killing of
birds went on, to my great regret and shame.

The other day I went to my garden to get a mess of peas.  I had seen,
the day before, that they were just ready to pick.  How I had lined
the ground, planted, hoed, bushed them!  The bushes were very fine,--
seven feet high, and of good wood.  How I had delighted in the
growing, the blowing, the podding!  What a touching thought it was
that they had all podded for me!  When I went to pick them, I found
the pods all split open, and the peas gone.  The dear little birds,
who are so fond of the strawberries, had eaten them all.  Perhaps
there were left as many as I planted: I did not count them.  I made a
rapid estimate of the cost of the seed, the interest of the ground,

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