Any of the cultivators and wheel-hoes are as useful for the subsequent tilling of the crop as for the initial preparation of the land, but there are other tools also that greatly facilitate the keeping of the plantation in order. Yet wholly aside from the value of a tool as an implement of tillage and as a weapon for the pursuit of weeds, is its merit merely as a shapely and interesting instrument. A man will take infinite pains to choose a gun or a fishing-rod to his liking, and a woman gives her best attention to the selecting of an umbrella; but a hoe is only a hoe and a rake only a rake. If one puts his personal choice into the securing of plants for a garden, so should he discriminate in the choice of hand tools, to secure those that are light, trim, well made, and precisely adapted to the work to be accomplished. A case of neat garden tools ought to be a great joy to a joyful gardener. So I am willing to enlarge on the subject of hoes and their kind.
The common rectangular-bladed hoe is so thoroughly established in the popular mind that it is very difficult to introduce new patterns, even though they may be intrinsically superior. As a general-purpose tool, it is no doubt true that a common hoe is better than any of its modifications, but there are various patterns of hoe-blades that are greatly superior for special uses, and which ought to appeal to any quiet soul who loves a garden.
[Illustration: Fig. 96. A stack of gardening weapons, comprising some of Tarryer's weeding spuds and thimbles.]
The great width of the common blade does not admit of its being used in very narrow rows or very close to delicate plants, and it does not allow of the deep stirring of the soil in narrow spaces. It is also difficult to enter hard ground with such a broad face. Various pointed blades have been introduced from time to time, and most of them have merit. Some persons prefer two points to the hoe, as shown in Marvin's blades, in Fig. 95. These interesting shapes represent the suggestions of gardeners who will not be bound by what the market affords, but who have blades cut and fitted for their own satisfaction.
Persons who followed the entertaining writings of one who called himself Mr. A.B. Tarryer, in "American Garden," a few years back, will recall the great variety of implements that he advised for the purpose of extirpating his hereditary foes, the weeds. A variety of these blades and tools is shown in Figs. 96 and 97. I shall let Mr. Tarryer tell his story at some length in order to lead my reader painlessly into a new field of gardening pleasures.
Mr. Tarryer contends that the wheel-hoe is much too clumsy an affair to allow of the pursuit of an individual weed. While the operator is busy adjusting his machine and manipulating it about the corners of the garden, the quack-grass has escaped over the fence or has gone to seed at the other end of the plantation. He devised an expeditious tool for each little work to be performed on the garden,--for hard ground and soft, for old weeds and young (one of his implements was denominated "infant-damnation").
"Scores of times during the season," Mr. Tarryer writes, "the ten or fifteen minutes one has to enjoy in the flower, fruit, and vegetable garden--and that would suffice for the needful weeding with the hoes we are celebrating--would be lost in harnessing horses or adjusting and oiling squeaky wheel-hoes, even if everybody had them. The American Garden is not big enough, nor my patience long enough, to give more than an inkling of the unspeakable merits of these weapons of society and civilization. When Mrs. Tarryer was showing twelve or fifteen acres of garden with never a weed to be seen, she valued her dozen or more of these light implements at five or ten dollars daily; whether they were in actual use or adorning the front hall, like a hunter's or angler's furniture, made no difference. But where are these millennial tools made and sold? Nowhere. They are as unknown as the Bible was in the dark ages, and we must give a few hints towards manufacturing them.
"First, about the handles. The ordinary dealer or workman may say these knobs can be formed on any handles by winding them with leather; but just fancy a young maiden setting up her hoe meditatively and resting her hands and chin upon an old leather knob to reflect upon something that has been said to her in the garden, and we shall perceive that a knob by some other name would smell far sweeter. Moreover, trees grow large enough at the butt to furnish all the knobs we want--even for broom-sticks--though sawyers, turners, dealers, and the public seem not to be aware of it; yet it must be confessed we are so far gone in depravity that there will be trouble in getting those handles….
"In a broadcast prayer of this public nature, absolute specifications would not be polite. Black walnut and butternut are fragrant as well as beautiful timber. Cherry is stiff, heavy, durable, and, like maple, takes a slippery polish. For fine, light handles, that the palm will stick to, butt cuts of poplar or cottonwood cannot be excelled, yet straight-grained ash will bear more careless usage.
"The handles of Mrs. Tarryer's hoes are never perfectly straight. All the bayonet class bend downward in use half an inch or more; all the thrust-hoe handles bend up in a regular curve (like a fiddle-bow turned over) two or three inches. Unless they are hung right, these hoes are very awkward things. When perfectly fit for one, they may not fit another; that is, a tall, keen-sighted person cannot use the hoe that is just fit for a very short one…. Curves in the handles throw centers of gravity where they belong. Good timber generally warps in a handle about right, only implement makers and babes in weeding may not know when it is made fast right side up in the hoe.
"There are plenty of thrust-hoes in market, such as they are. Some have malleable iron sockets and bows--heavier to the buyer and cheaper to the dealer--instead of wrought-iron and steel, such as is required for true worth."
For many purposes, tools that scrape or scarify the surface are preferable to hoes that dig up the ground. Weeds may be kept down by cutting them off, as in walks and often in flower-beds, rather than by rooting them out. Figure 98 shows such a tool, and a home-made implement answering the same purpose is illustrated in Fig. 99. This latter tool is easily made from strong band-iron. Another type is suggested in Fig. 100, representing a slicing-hoe made by fastening a sheet of good metal to the tines of a broken fork. The kind chiefly in the market is shown in Fig. 101.
For small beds of flowers or vegetables, hand-weeders of various patterns are essential to easy and efficient work. One of the best patterns, with long and short handles, is shown in Fig. 102. Another style, that may be made at home of hoop-iron, is drawn in Fig. 103. A finger-weeder is illustrated in Fig. 104. In Fig. 105 a common form is shown. Many patterns of hand-weeders are in the market, and other forms will suggest themselves to the operator.
Trowels and their kind.
Small hand-tools for digging, as trowels, dibbers, and spuds, may be had of dealers. In buying a trowel it is economy to pay an extra price and secure a steel blade with a strong shank that runs through the entire length of the handle. One of these tools will last several years and may be used in hard ground, but the cheap trowels are generally hardly worth the buying. A solid wrought-iron trowel all in one piece is also manufactured, and is the most durable pattern. A steel trowel may be secured to a long handle; or the blade of a broken trowel may be utilized in the same way (Fig. 106). A very good trowel may also be made from a discarded blade of a mowing machine (Fig. 107), and it answers the purpose of a hand-weeder.
Weed-spuds are shown in Figs. 108 to 111. The first is particularly serviceable in cutting docks and other strong weeds from lawns and pastures. It is provided with a brace to allow it to be thrust into the ground with the foot. It is seldom necessary to dig out perennial weeds to the tips of their deep roots, if the crown is severed a short distance below the surface.
It is often essential that the land be compacted after it has been spaded or hoed, and some kind of hand-roller is then useful. Very efficient iron rollers are in the market, but a good one can be made from a hard chestnut or oak log, as shown in Fig. 112. (It should be remembered that when the surface is hard and compact, water escapes from it rapidly, and plants may suffer for moisture on arrival of warm weather.) The roller is useful in two ways--to compact the under-surface, in which case the surface should be again loosened as soon as the rolling is done; and to firm the earth about seeds (page 98) or the roots of newly set plants.
A marker may often be combined with the roller to good advantage, as in Fig. 113. Ropes are secured about the cylinder at proper intervals, and these mark the rows. Knots may be placed in the ropes to indicate the places where plants are to be set or seeds dropped. An extension of the same idea is seen in Fig. 114, which shows iron or wooden pegs that make holes in which very small plants may be set. An L-shaped rod projects at one side to mark the place of the next row.
In most cases the best and most expeditious method of marking out the garden is by the use of the garden line, which is secured to a reel (Fig. 96), but various other devices are often useful. For very small beds, drills or furrows may be made by a simple marking-stick (Fig. 115). A handy marker is shown in Fig. 116. A marker can be rigged to a wheel-barrow, as in Fig. 117. A rod is secured underneath the front truss, and from its end an adjustable trailer, B, is hung. The wheel of the barrow marks the row, and the trailer indicates the place of the next row, thereby keeping the rows parallel. A hand sled-marker is shown in Fig. 118, and a similar device may be secured to the frame of a sulky cultivator (Fig. 119) or other wheel tool. A good adjustable sled-marker is outlined in Fig. 120.