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The means of beautifying school grounds will vary with locality, character of soil, and drainage. Trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants may be used, but with all these a large part of the school lot should be a lawn. That part of the yard immediately surrounding the house and in front should be kept as a lawn. The following statement, written by Professor W. J. Beal of our Agricultural College, very tersely states the case and gives valuable suggestions:
“Attempt no grading, except to cut off and fill very slight inequalities, as the chances are that a person who has given little attention to the topic will do crude things—more harm than good. For decoration rely almost entirely on grass, trees, and shrubs. Seed the yard to June grass, using no other crop in the operation. If time will permit, this can be helped by cutting small bits of sod, say two inches across, and rolling down.
Do not scatter shrubs about, but plant in groups of five to thirty, because they will be much more easily cultivated and will look better. Shrubs of a group may in a few cases be all of the same kind. Trees and shrubs should be placed to screen outhouses and woodpiles, and in groups near the margins and in the corners of the school lot. In beginning, the first thing the person of slight experience will think of will be to plant at equal distances in straight lines to balance one tree or group of shrubs by another of the same size and make the plants exactly opposite. Don't do it. Avoid all appearance of planting in rows. Why? Because it is never done, or only to a very limited extent, by persons who have made a specialty of such work, and nature favors curved lines. A curved line is ornamental, a straight line is not. For school grounds, make it a point to plant a good variety of trees and shrubs, that they may be used as object lessons. In this be guided by what kinds are grown on other property adjacent to the school grounds or on the streets near by. If the people of the neighborhood have planted abundantly to sugar maples, elms, Norway spruces, and common lilacs, these may be very sparingly planted about the schoolhouse. To some extent, it will be better to plant liberally to trees and shrubs that are native to the neighborhood, because they are pretty, because they are available almost without cost, because they are apt to thrive, and because they will serve as ex. cellent object lessons. The grounds should have a third or more of the area destitute of plants, excepting the lawn, for playground. If possible, by all means plant one side or one corner somewhere to a thicket of wild or native plants in great variety, unless, fortunately, such a thicket already exists. If there are many white oaks, or red elms, or other trees, thin here and there to make room for other species. Get someone who knows trees and shrubs to help find these in the neighborhood.
Now for the care,-a portion of the plan usually much neglected. The chances are fifty to one that the trees, bushes and lawn will not receive much care, because the officers of the district think they must economize, because they are not accustomed to giving much, if any, attention to such things at home, and because they do not know how. What shall be done? It is as well to attempt nothing whatever in the way of outdoor planting as to plant once for all time and give no after care. In most cases, there can be found in the vicinity some tidy and observing man or woman who can be hired by the year to look after the school grounds. The district officers know where to look for such a person, because his or her work about the home advertises the fact well. The tactful person so em. ployed should by all means have the opportunity to secure and employ the services of as many school children as she can, with or without pay, assigning definite shrubs or trees to one person.
A lawn mower costs three to five dollars, and its use adds wonderfully to the appearance of the premises. Take good care of it.
Hoe and rake about the groups of shrubs every two or three weeks during all the growing season. Instead of leaving single trees to stand in the grass, where they struggle between life and death for ten years, if life is spared that long, making very slow growth, dig a circle in the lawn for each tree not less than seven feet in diameter, better eight or nine, and hoe when the shrubbery is hoed. This is not only an insurance on the tree, but its growth will delight all who behold, the upper branches often growing two to five feet in a year. After such trees have been well cared for and well started for three or four years, the cultivation may be entirely omitted and grass permitted to grow.
I have purposely said nothing about the cultivation of herbaceous plants. In the thicket referred to, and in the cultivated ground about the shrubs and trees, may be planted “flowers” at pleasure, but nowhere else, unless it be to one side or back of the house, no matter if someone thinks they should be in the front yard. Space forbids giving here a book of reasons for the directions given above.
Will it pay? Is it worth while for any school premises to be talked about by all enterprising people who pass with comments: That is pretty; that is nice; that shows enterprise; what an excellent influence such grounds must have on the children who attend school; how proud the teacher must feel to work in such a district; that beats everything I ever saw; that is worth coming ten miles to see; what a contrast between this place and the one in the district we just passed; somebody is doing excellent missionary work, whether she knows it or not; I wish Director
of our district could see this place. Perhaps he could learn something, it might stir him up."
PLANTING TREES, FLOWERS, AND SHRUBS. The man who plants a tree in a proper location becomes thereby a public benefactor. Someone, many years ago, planted the trees that now adorn the streets of our cities and the orchards that furnish us with luscious fruits. A visit to the Michigan Agricultural College will convince one of the possibilities in the way of decorating a plot of ground by means of trees, shrubs, and herbs. If we plant trees we must take a long look ahead if we wish to place them correctly and so that they will bring the greatest benefit to those who are to come after us. We are not to see the small sprout that we plant in the ground, but the beautiful oak or elm that will one day shade the multitude. Ordinarily, small trees four to eight feet high should be selected rather than large ones,
as they establish themselves more quickly and are less easily
injured by their removal and replanting. It is well for imTrees. mediate effect to plant trees and shrubs in abundance, then
thin them out as occasion requires. The soil should be thor.
oughly broken and unless already fertile should be mixed with good loam and some fertilizer. The following directions given by the Forestry Division of the Agricultural Department at Washington are most excellent.
“Planting is best done by two or three persons. A, who manipulates the tree, is the planter and is responsible for the results. B and C do the spading under his direction. A places the tree in a hole to ascertain whether this is the proper size; a broad stick laid across the hole aids in judging the depth. Trees should not be set deeper than they were before, except in loose, poor soil. More trees are killed by too deep planting than the reverse. As an illustration of this point it may be stated that trees are frequently killed, without removal, by raising the grade so that the soil is raised about their trunks a few inches higher than before. Valuable trees are frequently destroyed in this way. If the root system is developed sidewise, but not centrally, as is often the case, a hill is raised in the hole to fill out the hollow space in the root system and the earth of the hill is patted down with the spade.
When the hole is in proper order, A holds the tree perpendicularly in the middle of the hole, with the side bearing the fullest branches toward the south or the southeast for better protection of the shaft against the sun. B and C spread the roots into a natural position and then fill in the soil, using the good surface soil first,-small spadefuls deliberately thrown over the roots in all directions,—while A, by a slight shaking and pumping up and down of the stem, aids the earth in settling around the rootlets, which should also be aided by hand and fingers filling in every crevice. A, while setting the tree, must exercise care to keep it in proper position and perpendicular, until the soil is packed so as to keep the tree in place. Then B and C, rapidly fill the hole, A treading the soil firmly down after a sufficient quantity is filled in, finishing off a little above the general level to allow for settling and, finally, placing stones or any mulching around the stem. Do not use water while planting unless it is very carefully applied with a "rose" after the soil is filled in and packed around the fibrous roots. It is not uncommon to see water poured in the hole while it is being filled up. This practice does harm rather than good, for it washes the fine soil away from contact with the roots, leaving empty spaces between the roots, or even leaving, as the water dries and the earth hardens, the little rootlets in the midst of hollows like the inside of pipe-stenis. In such a case they cannot touch the earth which gives them nutriment and they die. More trees are killed by too much water in transplanting than by too little. Water after the transplanting is useful, and should be applied during the hot season, the late afternoon or evening being chosen for its application."
In addition to what has here been said it may be well to suggest, also, that if the tree is small and to be moved but a short distance it may be well to let some of the original earth remain about the roots but ordinarily this is not necessary. Improper taking up and undue exposure to sun and dry air kill many trees, or cause them to die after planting. When the hole has been dug for planting the roots care should be taken that the soil underneath the body of the tree be compact and that the roots rest down solidly upon the soil underneath. More trees die because of improper planting than from lack of moisture. Too often the tree is set in the hole and when the earth has settled there is a hollow space underneath its body and the roots which will most surely destroy its life. If the tree has a heavy top part of it should be trimmed off so that the leaf area and root area may correspond. In trimming, some branches should be cut close to the trunk, but Pruning. most of them should be cut farther out in the top, taking care to cut off the end of a main branch near a smaller branch so as to avoid a conspicuous stub. Forest trees may be best transferred in the early spring before the leaf buds open but evergreen trees may be planted later in the season.
Location of Trees.
As Professor Beal suggests, an area of from five to ten feet in diameter around each tree should be cultivated for several years after it has been planted.
A row of trees may be planted near the fence surrounding the lot but it would be best not to put them immediately in front of the house,
nor should any be planted within fifty feet of the school building, for in after years the shade would interfere with the proper lighting of the schoolroom. Grouped along the
side of the lot we may plant shrubs, and as the outbuildings should be placed at the rear of the lot, and usually in the corner, shrubs may be planted about them to serve as a screen.
If the schoolhouse is of brick or stone an excellent plan is to plant ivy, clematis, woodbine, or some other clinging vine, so that it may grow upon the walls and thus relieve the bare and bleak exterior and become
a real ornament. If the school building is a frame building then the vines should not be permitted to grow upon the building itself but eighteen inches distant, held by wire net
ting, supported above on the house, or trellises may be erected a short distance from the house on which the vines may be supported. If allowed to grow on the frame building they interfere seriously with the painting of the building and will themselves be seriously injured if torn down every few years to permit repairs. The same care should be given in planting shrubs and vines as is given in planting trees.
Trees that grow naturally in the vicinity are best for yard decoration, and the hardy shrubs, such as hydrangeas, mock orange, lilacs, and elders are easily obtainable for further ornamentation. Growing near the margin of the yard a hedge of common wild roses would be very attractive at any season of the year. For the flower gardens, bulbs of crocuses, tulips, and hyacinths may be planted in the fall for early spring blooming, and they are very easily cared for and very effective. Bulbs of such plants as lilies, peonies, and irises once planted will con. tinue to afford an abundance of flowers for several years. For fall flowers the children may plant asters, petunias, phlox, and for climbing plants, sweet peas, morning glories, and nasturtiums. No attempt is here made to give a complete list of flowering plants that may be used as there is a large number to select from.
On the shady side of the þuilding ferns may be planted and they will be a never-ending source of pleasure. On the margins of the lot near the
. shrubbery it will be an excellent plan to plant some or all of the wild flowers found in the vicinity. Many of these will grow nicely in the shade of the shrubs and trees. The following wild flowers often respond to cultivation with increased size and beauty: the spring beauty, dutchman's breeches, hepatica, anemone, bloodroot, violet, adder's tongue, columbine, and golden rod.
In connection with this it may not be out of place to suggest that there is no reason why in every schoolroom we should not have her. bariums, specimens preserved in alcohol, samples of rocks, soils, woods,
and minerals, in fact, a cabinet that will produce pleasure and will be exceedingly instructive to the children. All that is needed is a board of education who believe this to be worth
while, and a teacher who is really alive and possesses sufficient knowledge to make good use of these means for nature study. The
rural school teacher, above all others, has an opportunity to use out door and in door object lessons, such as are most appropriate for the best development of the young farmer.
CARE OF SCHOOL GROUNDS.
Under this head it will be proper to say first that it is the duty of the school board to see that the grounds are kept clean and that noxious weeds are not allowed to grow and that everything unsanitary is removed. For the immediate care of the plants and the cultivation of the soil about them the teacher and children may be easily held responsible. The great question that confronts us in this matter is the summer vacation. Who shall see that the lawn is well kept and that domestic animals are not allowed to trespass upon the property? For when young trees and plants have been planted, in case of drouth, they should be cultivated by some one in the manner previously
Children's stated. This is the problem that confronts us but its solution is not a serious thing to my mind. It is true that “what is everybody's business is nobody's business," but it will not be difficult if the parents and teachers co-operate to have several committees appointed from the boys and girls before the close of the spring term of school, whose duty it shall be to look after the grounds during the summer. One committee will act during the month of June, another during the month of July, and so on, and the school board of course will see to it that their part is punctually performed. If the children have had a part in planting the trees and plants and if they have received proper encouragement at home in regard to these matters, the terrors of the summer vacation will quickly vanish. And further, if the school ground is made so pleasant and attractive it will be a pleasure and not a hardship for the children and their parents to go there and maintain conditions of beauty and ornamentation. Of course all of these things will not come by chance. No undertaking ever managed to run itself. Somebody must think, somebody must plan, somebody must work, and the burden of the thought and planning and work will be placed upon the shoulders of the school board and the teachers who are really public servants and who ought to be the leaders in all matters of school improvement. It would be impossible to suggest any single plan that would apply in all cases, but there is no reason why we may not see a marked improvement in our school buildings and grounds and in the senti. Duty to Our ment of the people toward the schools during the coming Children. years. Many of us have distinct recollections of disagreeable schoolhouses and grounds, of schoolrooms that were actually repulsive, and we owe it to our children to arrange matters so that different impressions will be made on the little people who now venture from home and go to school. Just as we make the parlor the most beautiful room at home in order that our friends may be pleased when they visit us, why not bring together as many attractive things around the schoolhouse as can be brought together? Some will say this is simply a sentiment, but if so, it is a sentiment that will elevate and ennoble childhood and manhood, enrich lives that otherwise would be desolate, and increase the character and value of the citizenship of every community.
The following list of trees, shrubs and vines is selected from the varieties at present growing on the grounds of the Michigan Agricultural