: Stories To Tell Children
From Seeds and Plants Company, Reading.
Margery could hardly wait to open it. It was filled with little
packages, all with printed labels; and in the packages, of course, were
seeds. It made Margery dance, just to read the names,--nasturtium, giant
helianthus, canariensis, calendula, Canterbury bells: more names than I
can tell you; and other packages, bigger, that said, "Sweet Peas,"
"French beans," "Car
ots," "Wallflowers," and such things! Margery could
almost smell the posies, she was so excited. Only, she had seen so
little of flowers that she did not know what all the names meant. She
did not know that a helianthus was a sunflower until her mother told her
so, and she had never seen the dear, blue, bell-shaped flowers that
always grow in old-fashioned gardens, and are called Canterbury bells.
She thought the calendula must be a strange, grand flower, by its name;
but her mother told her it was the gay, sturdy, everydayish little
flower called a marigold. There was a great deal for a little city girl
to be surprised about, and it did seem as if morning was a long way off!
"Did you think you could plant them in the morning?" asked her mother.
"You know, dear, the ground has to be made ready first; it takes a
little time,--it may be several days before you can plant."
That was another surprise. Margery had thought she could begin to sow
the seed right off.
But this was what had happened. Early the next morning, a man came
driving up to the cottage with two strong white horses; in his wagon was
a plough. I suppose you have seen ploughs, but Margery never had, and
she watched with great interest, while the man and her father took the
plough from the cart and harnessed the horses to it. It was a great,
three-cornered piece of sharp steel, with long handles coming up from
it, so that a man could hold it in place. It looked like this:--
"I brought a two-horse plough because it's virgin soil," the man said.
Margery wondered what in the world he meant; it had not been
cultivated, of course, but what had that do with the kind of plough?
"What does he mean, father?" she whispered, when she got a chance. "He
means that this land has not been ploughed before; it will be hard to
turn the soil, and one horse could not pull the plough," said her
It took the man two hours to plough the little strip of land. He drove
the sharp end of the plough into the soil, and held it firmly so, while
the horses drew it along in a straight line. Margery found it
fascinating to watch the long line of dark earth and green grass come
rolling up and turn over, as the knife passed it. She could see that it
took real skill and strength to keep the line even, and to avoid the
stones. Sometimes the plough struck a hidden stone, and then the man was
jerked almost off his feet. But he only laughed, and said, "Tough piece
of land; it will be a lot better next year."
When he had ploughed, the man went back to his cart and unloaded another
farm implement. This one was like a three-cornered platform of wood,
with a long, curved, strong rake under it. It was called a harrow, and
it looked like the diagram on the next page.
The man harnessed the horses to it, and then he stood on the platform
and drove all over the strip of land. It was fun to watch, but perhaps
it was a little hard to do. The man's weight kept the harrow steady,
and let the teeth of the rake scratch and cut the ground up, so that it
did not stay in ridges.
"He scrambles the ground, father!" said Margery.
"It needs 'scrambling,'" laughed her father. "We are going to get more
weeds than we want on this fresh soil, and the more the ground is
broken, the fewer there will be."
After the ploughing and harrowing, the man drove off, and Margery's
father said that he himself would do the rest of the work in the late
afternoons, when he came home from business; they could not afford too
much help, he said, and he had learned to take care of a garden when he
was a boy. So Margery did not see any more done until the next day.
But the next day there was hard work for Margery's father! Every bit of
that ground had to be broken up still more with a spade, and then the
clods which were full of grass-roots had to be taken on a fork and
shaken, till the earth fell out; when the grass was thrown to one side.
That would not have had to be done if the land had been ploughed in the
autumn; the grass would have rotted in the ground, and would have made
food for the plants. Now, Margery's father put the fertiliser on the
top, and then raked it into the earth.
At last, it was time to make the place for the seeds. Margery and her
mother helped. Father tied one end of a cord to a little stake, and
drove the stake in the ground at one end of the garden. Then he took the
cord to the other end of the garden and pulled it tight, tied it to
another stake, and drove that down. That made a straight line. Then he
hoed a trench, a few inches deep, the whole length of the cord, and
scattered fertiliser in it. Pretty soon the whole garden was lined with
"Now for the seed," said father.
Margery ran and brought the seed box. "May I help?" she asked.
"If you watch me sow one row, I think you can do the next," said her
So Margery watched. Her father took a handful of peas, and, stooping,
walked slowly along the line, letting the seed trickle through his
fingers. It was pretty to watch; it made Margery think of a photograph
her teacher had, a photograph of a famous picture called "The Sower."
Perhaps you have seen it.
Putting in the seed was not so easy to do as to watch; sometimes Margery
dropped in too much, and sometimes not enough; but her father was
patient with her, and soon she did better.
They planted peas, beans, spinach, carrots, and parsnips. And Margery's
father made a row of holes, after that, for the tomato plants. He said
those had to be transplanted; they could not be sown from seed.
When the seeds were in the trenches they had to be covered up, and
Margery really helped at that. It is fun to do it. You stand beside the
little trench and walk backward, and as you walk you hoe the loose earth
back over the seeds; the same earth that was hoed up you pull back
again. Then you rake very gently over the surface, with the back of a
rake, to even it all off. Margery liked it, because now the garden began
to look _like_ a garden.
But best of all was the work next day, when her own little particular
garden was begun. Father Brown loved Margery and Margery's mother so
much that he wanted their garden to be perfect, and that meant a great
deal more work. He knew very well that the old grass would begin to come
through again on such soil, and that it would make terribly hard
weeding. He was not going to have any such thing for his two "little
girls," as he called them. So he gave that little garden particular
attention. This is what he did.
After he had thrown out all the turf, he shovelled clean earth on to the
garden,--as much as three solid inches of it; not a bit of grass was in
that. Then it was ready for raking and fertilising, and for the lines.
The little footpaths were marked out by Father Brown's feet; Margery and
her mother laughed well at his actions, for it looked like some kind of
dance. Mr Brown had seen gardeners do it when he was a little boy, and
he did it very nicely: he walked along the sides of the square, with one
foot turned a little out, and the other straight, taking such tiny steps
that his feet touched each other all the time. This tramped out a path
just wide enough for a person to walk.
The wider path was marked with lines and raked.
Margery thought, of course, all the flowers would be put in as the
vegetables were; but she found that it was not so. For some, her father
poked little holes with his finger; for some, he made very shallow
trenches; and some very small seeds were scattered lightly over the top
of the ground.
Margery and her mother had taken so much pains in thinking out the
arrangement of the flowers, that perhaps you will like to hear just how
they designed that garden. At the back were the sweet peas, which would
grow tall, like a screen; on the two sides, for a kind of hedge, were
yellow sunflowers; and along the front edge were the gay nasturtiums.
Margery planned that, so that she could look into the garden from the
front, but have it shut away from the vegetable patch by the tall
flowers on the sides. The two front corners had canariensis in them.
Canariensis is a pretty creeper with golden blossoms, very dainty and
bright. And then, in little square patches all round the garden, were
planted London pride, blue bachelor's buttons, yellow marigolds, tall
larkspur, many-coloured asters, hollyhocks and stocks. All these lovely
flowers used to grow in our grandmothers' gardens, and if you don't know
what they look like, I hope you can find out next summer.
Between the flowers and the middle path went the seeds for that
wonderful salad garden; all the things Mrs Brown had named to Margery
were there. Margery had never seen anything more wonderful than the
little round lettuce-seeds. They were so tiny that it did not seem
possible that green lettuce leaves could come from them. But they surely
Mother and father and Margery were late to supper that evening. But they
were all so happy that it did not matter. The last thing Margery
thought of, as she went to sleep at night, was the dear, smooth little
garden, with its funny footpath, and with the little sticks standing at
the ends of the rows, labelled "lettuce," "beets," "helianthus," and so
"I have a garden! I have a garden!" was Margery's last thought as she
went off to dreamland.