Margery's Garden by Sara Cone Bryant
There was once a little girl named Margery, who had always lived in the
city. The flat where her mother and father lived was at the top of a
big apartment-house, and you couldn't see a great deal from the
windows, except clothes-lines on other people's roofs. Margery did not
know much about trees and flowers, but she loved them dearly; whenever
it was a pleasant Sunday she used to go with her mother and father to
the park and look at the lovely flower-beds. They seemed always to be
finished, though, and Margery was always wishing she could see them
One spring, when Margery was nine, her father's work changed so that he
could move into the country, and he took a little house a short
distance outside the town where his new position was. Margery was
delighted. And the very first thing she said, when her father told her
about it, was, "Oh, may I have a garden? MAY I have a garden?"
Margery's mother was almost as eager for a garden as she was, and
Margery's father said he expected to live on their vegetables all the
rest of his life! So it was soon agreed that the garden should be the
first thing attended to.
Behind the little house were apple trees, a plum tree, and two or three
pear trees; then came a stretch of rough grass, and then a stone wall,
with a gate leading into the pasture. It was in the grassy land that
the garden was to be. A big piece was to be used for corn and peas and
beans, and a little piece at the end was to be saved for Margery.
"What shall we have in it?" asked her mother.
"Flowers," said Margery, with shining eyes,—"blue, and white, and
yellow, and pink,—every kind of flower!"
"Surely, flowers," said her mother, "and shall we not have a little
salad garden in the midst, as they do in England?"
"What is a salad garden?" Margery asked.
"It is a garden where you have all the things that make nice salad,"
said her mother, laughing, for Margery was fond of salads; "you have
lettuce, and endive, and romaine, and parsley, and radishes, and
cucumbers, and perhaps little beets and young onions."
"Oh! how good it sounds!" said Margery. "I vote for the salad garden."
That very evening, Margery's father took pencil and paper, and drew out
a plan for her garden; first, they talked it all over, then he drew
what they decided on; it looked like the diagram on the next page.
"The outside strip is for flowers," said Margery's father, "and the
next marks mean a footpath, all the way round the beds; that is so you
can get at the flowers to weed and to pick; there is a wider path
through the middle, and the rest is all for rows of salad vegetables."
"Papa, it is glorious!" said Margery.
Papa laughed. "I hope you will still think it glorious when the
weeding time comes," he said, "for you know, you and mother have
promised to take care of this garden, while I take care of the big one."
"I wouldn't NOT take care of it for anything!" said Margery. "I want
to feel that it is my very own."
Her father kissed her, and said it was certainly her "very own."
Two evenings after that, when Margery was called in from her first
ramble in a "really, truly pasture," she found the expressman at the
door of the little house.
"Something for you, Margery," said her mother, with the look she had
when something nice was happening.
It was a box, quite a big box, with a label on it that said:—
MISS MARGERY BROWN,
From Seeds and Plants Company, Boston.
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, coreopsis, calendula, Canterbury bells: more names
than I can tell you, and other packages, bigger, that said, "Peas:
Dwarf Telephone," and "Sweet Corn," 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 always know what the names meant.
She did not know that a helianthus was a sunflower till her mother told
her, 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, every-dayish little
posy 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 was done. Early the next morning, a man came driving
into the yard, 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 green land," the man said.
Margery wondered what in the world he meant; it was green grass, of
course, but what had that to 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, or not for many years; it will
be hard to turn the soil, and one horse could not pull the plough,"
said her father. So Margery had learned what "green land" was.
The man was for two hours ploughing the little strip of land. He drove
the sharp end of the plough into the soil, and held it firmly so, while
the horses dragged it along in a straight line. Margery found it
fascinating to see 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; be a lot better the second 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 this:—
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 green land, 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 he 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 "scrambled" turf had to be broken up still more with a mattock
and a spade, and then the pieces which were full of grass-roots had to
be taken on a fork and shaken, till the earth fell out; then the grass
was thrown to one side. That would not have had to be done if the land
had been ploughed in the fall; the grass would have rotted in the
ground, and would have made fertilizer for the plants. Now, Margery's
father put the fertilizer 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 for him
to see. Then he hoed a trench, a few inches deep, the whole length of
the cord, and scattered fertilizer in it. Pretty soon the whole garden
was in lines of little trenches.
"Now for the corn," said father.
Margery ran and brought the seed box, and found the package of corn.
It looked like kernels of gold, when it was opened.
"May I help?" Margery asked, when she saw how pretty it was.
"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 kernels, and,
stooping, walked slowly along the line, letting the kernels fall, five
or six at a time, in spots about a foot apart; he swung his arm with a
gentle, throwing motion, and the golden seeds trickled out like little
showers, very exactly. 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 got in too much, and sometimes not enough; but her father
helped fix it, 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
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 dirt 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 "green" 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 fixed that little garden
very fine! This is what he did.
After he had thrown out all the turf, he shoveled 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 fertilizing, and for the
lines. The little footpaths were marked out by Father Brown's feet;
Margery and her mother laughed well when they saw it, 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
ditches; and some very small seeds were just scattered lightly over the
top of the ground.
Margery and her mother had taken so much pains in thinking out how the
flowers would look prettiest, that maybe 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 coreopsis
in them. Coreopsis is a tall, pretty, daisy-like flower, very dainty
and bright. And then, in little square patches all round the garden,
were planted white sweet alyssum, blue bachelor's buttons, yellow
marigolds, tall larkspur, many-colored asters and zinnias. 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 so cunning as the little
round lettuce-seeds. They looked like tiny beads; it did not seem
possible that green lettuce leaves could come from those. But they
Mother and father and Margery were all 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 foot-path, and with the little sticks
standing at the end of the rows, labeled "lettuce," "beets,"
"helianthus," and so on.
"I have a garden! I have a garden!" thought Margery, and then she went
off to dreamland.