Function Of Cultivation
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Plow deeply, harrow deeply, and cultivate shallow. That is the keynote to success," says W. H. Riddle of Baltimore county, Maryland, "in raising any crop where the ground should be plowed. The deeper the plowing, the larger the bed to hold the rains as they fall. The deep plowing, say, 8 to 10 inches, prevents washing, more than shallow, as the more water that is held leaves less to run off the surface. To retain the moisture rub or roll and harrow once as you plow. The earth is like a lamp wick, full of pores, and the moisture is drawn up by the sun, as the flame draws up the oil. Leaving the ground open and rough prevents the escape of moisture ; closing up the top with fine dirt closes up the pores, so that the moisture cannot escape any more than the oil can be drawn up through the smut on the lamp wick.
" To break up the oil trust we have only to leave our lamp wicks untrimmed, and the oil will always be in the bowl ; so to cover the farm with smut in the shape of fine dirt holds the moisture, instead of letting it be drawn up by the sun to fall down as rain somewhere else. As farmers learn this way of holding moisture they will stop fearing drouth.
" Harrow deep, cut the soil positively fine all over 4 or 5 inches deep, so the crop can send out its network of roots all through the ground to take up the available plant food. A clod is not as good as a storte on top of the ground; the latter will prevent the moisture from escaping, while the clod will not give out any plant food. In preparing for any crop I go over the land and run my foot through, toe downward, in the soil, so that I cannot reach any ground not cut to fine pieces. Until I get it that way I do not want to plant.
"As I have not enough straw, or bags, or bards to cover my ground, I mulch with a blanket of fine dirt and keep the soil mulched, never letting a crust form. This is the whole secret of cultivating any crop I do not care about killing weeds. I ever want to see any to kill, so I kill the seedlings as they sprout. Only those seeds on top or very close to the top sprout and grow. I need only to stir the ground an inch deep; this inch of fine dirt mulch holds the moisture. Those weed seeds deeper down I never want anything to do with. I let them stay there, where they lie down, and they never give me any trouble.
" Now, then, get your ground plowed and harrowed right. Begin three or four days after planting any crop to kill those weed seeds on top as they sprout. Form that inch of fine dirt mulch by going over the land twice with a very fine-toothed harrow, If you have not a weeder, or a surface cultivator, whose wings or knife blades shave the ground an inch deep. Failing this, take off those root-murdering cultivator teeth from the cultivators you have, and bolt on the gangs of weeder teeth made to go on any style or size of cultivator, and if not any of these take your horse rake and go over your crop twice before it comes up. These, any of them, will kill the millions of weed seeds as they sprout."