Soil And Its Care
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
It is more profitable to use soil for gardening than for writing autographs on newly scrubbed floors. Buell McCrawley.
There is no set standard for measuring the qualities or classifying the merits of soils. Some soils are naturally fit for fruits and vegetables, others have to be bolstered up and coaxed and others are altogether out of garden and orchard classes. These last are few. They are too insignificant to serve as drawbacks. On every farm a garden patch and a fruit plantation site can be found. If not already serviceable, it can be made so. Good drainage, good tillage, an abundance of manure and high-grade fertilizers will do wonders. Stubborn the soil may be, but by proper handling in time the most stubborn soil will respond. And sour or hard or light or stiff, these five will prove a general panacea for most troubles and difficulties. In fact, every bit of knowledge gained about soils emphasizes only the more the healing effect of tillage and humus in soil difficulties.
"The real secret of tillage," writes Prof. C. W. Burkett, "lies in the depth that the soil body is stirred. Shallow spading or plowing will not do the stunt. One must have a deep body of soil, io to 15 inches, and this must be so well worked that no clods will be found anywhere. Particularly not down below, because clods resting there, although covered up, will interfere with air and water circulation and with the spread of the roots. A strict observance of these facts will aid in securing quick growth and a heavy yield.
"The soil all the way down should be fine, mellow, and yet compact. It should be healthy, rich looking, and in good heart. This condition is obtained when lime has been added to sweeten the soil and to keep it sweet when vegetables and stable manure are liberally applied to loosen and liven up, and when fertilizers are injected to stimulate growth and to keep the soil abundantly supplied with immediately available plant food.
"After getting the garden going change the crops around. Do not grow the same crop year after year in the same spot. Garden crops rebel against this hardship just as do field crops. Their roots like change; they enjoy variety just as do live, active men and women. And there are good reasons for this change. Plants differ in their tastes. Grown in the same place for some years they find the soil stale; they grow tired of it. Potatoes do well following peas and beans; melons after potatoes, and cabbage and melons after turnips and corn. Change the little spots, rotate them about, first here, then there, then elsewhere. It all pays, be-cause the change is helpful to the crop.
" Try to do the soil work at just the right time. Fall and winter plowing are very helpful. The clods are pounded and broken down by the hard frost that puts the soil in far better physical condition than would be possible by spring plowing. As a rule, too, one wishes to get certain garden crops started early. When tillage is done while the ground is still wet, the land is injured, maybe beyond help for an entire season. Especially is this the case when clay is more or less prominent in the make-up of the soil.
" But this difficulty is not presented when fall or winter plowing has been resorted to. The surface or top soil has been harrowed and pulverized by frost, the seed bed is aired and dried for early working, and the storage bed beneath has been filled, thus providing for a good moisture supply. Many seeds may be planted early, much earlier than would be possible if plowing is postponed until spring.
" Stable manure, when employed in garden making, should be added in fall and winter and not in the spring. This allows thorough decay and the residue is better incorporated in the soil. The earth, too, compacts better, capillarity is improved and better heart is secured. These things mean much in handling the garden and the orchard with ease and satisfaction.
" It is understood, of course, that no neglect will be shown in preparing the seed bed. The closest observance will be given to all details of fining, pulverizing, leveling, and even smoothing the surface earth. And since the soil is to be so full of rich humus material, every precaution at seeding will be taken to have the garden seed covered just right and the soil all about pressed or compacted. Shrewd gardeners use a board or the foot for this purpose. Such are the final touches to complete the work.