Gardening Articles

General Remarks On Manuring With Green Crops

Experience proves that no better method can be adopted to bring up lands partially exhausted, which are remote from cities, than plowing under green crops. By this plan the farmer can take lot after lot, and soon bring all up to a high

state of fertility. True, he gathers no crop for one year, but the outlay is little; and if in the second year he gathers as much from one acre as he formerly did from three, he is still largely the gainer. It costs no more to cultivate an acre of rich, productive land than an acre of poor, unproductive land; and the pleasure and profit of harvesting a crop that abundantly rewards the husbandman for his care and labor are so overwhelmingly in favor of rich land as to need no comment. Besides, manuring with green crops is not transitory in its effects; the land remembers the generous treatment for many years, and if at times lime or ashes be added to assist decomposition, will continue to yield remunerative crops long after land but once treated with stable manure or guano fails to produce any thing but weeds. The skinning process, the taking off of every thing grown on the soil and returning nothing to it, is ruinous alike to farm and farmer. Thousands of acres can be found in various parts of the country too poor to pay for cultivating without manuring. Of the capabilities of their lands under proper treatment the owners thereof have no idea whatever. Such men say they can not make enough manure on the farm and are too poor to buy. Why not, then, commence plowing under green crops, the only manure within easy reach? If fifty acres can not be turned under the first year, put at least one acre under, which will help feed the rest. Why be contented with thirty bushels of corn per acre, when eighty or one hundred may be had? Why raise eight or twelve bushels of wheat per acre, when forty may as well be had? Why cut but one half-ton of hay per acre, when the laws of nature allow at least three? Why spend precious time digging only one hundred bushels of potatoes per acre, when with proper care and culture three or four hundred may easily be obtained? And, finally, why toil and sweat, and have the poor dumb beasts toil and sweat, cultivating thirty acres for the amount of produce that should grow, may grow, can grow, and has grown on ten acres? The poorest, most forsaken side-hills, cobble-hills, and knolls, if the sand or gravel be of moderate depth, underlaid by a subsoil rather retentive, by turning under green crops grow potatoes of the first quality. If land be so poor that clover will not take, as is sometimes the case, seed to clover with millet very early in the spring, and harrow in with the millet thirty bushels of wood-ashes, or two hundred pounds of guano per acre; then sow the clover-seed one peck per acre; brush it in. If neither ashes nor guano can be obtained at a reasonable price, sow two hundred pounds of gypsum per acre as soon as the bushing is completed. This will not fail in giving the clover a fair foothold on the soil. Before the millet blossoms, cut and cure it for hay. Keep all stock off the clover, plaster it the following spring, plow it under when in full bloom; sow buckwheat immediately; when up, sow plaster; when in full bloom, plow under and sow the ground immediately with rye, to be plowed under the next May. Thus three crops are put under within a year, the ground is left strong, light, porous, free from weeds, ready to grow a large crop of potatoes, or almost any thing else. Much is gained every way by having and keeping land in a high state of fertility. Some crops require so long a season for growth, that high condition of soil is absolutely necessary to carry them through to maturity in time to escape autumnal frosts. In the Western States manure has hitherto been considered of but little value. The soil of these States was originally very rich in humus. For a time wheat was produced at the rate of forty bushels per acre; but according to the statistics given by the Agricultural Department at Washington, for the year 1866, the average yield in some of these States was but four and a half bushels per acre. It is evident from this that Mr. Skinflint has had things pretty much his own way. His land now produces four and a half bushels per acre; what time shall elapse when it shall be four and one half acres per bushel? Who dare predict that manure will not at some day be of value west of the Alleghanies? New-Jersey, with a soil naturally inferior to that of Illinois, contains extensive tracts that yearly yield over one hundred bushels of Indian corn per acre, while the average of the State is over forty-three; and the average yield of the same cereal in Illinois is but little over thirty-one bushels per acre. In the Western States, where potatoes are grown extensively for Southern markets, the average yield is about eighty bushels per acre; while in old Pennsylvania could be shown the last year potatoes yielding at the rate of six hundred and forty bushels per acre. There are those who argue that manure is never necessary--that plant-food is supplied in abundance by the atmosphere; it was also once said a certain man had taught his horse to live without eating; but it so happened that just as he got the animal perfectly schooled, it died. Good, thorough cultivation and aeration of the soil undoubtedly do much toward the production of crops; but mere manipulation is not all that is needed. That growing plants draw much nourishment from the atmosphere, and appropriate largely of its constituents in building up their tissue, is certainly true; it is also certainly true that they require something of the soil besides mere anchorage. All facts go to show that if the constituents needed by the plant from the soil are not present in the soil, the efforts of the plant toward proper development are abortive? What sane farmer expects to move a heavy load over a rugged road with a team so lean and poverty-stricken that they cast but a faint shadow? Yet is he much nearer sanity when he expects farming to be pleasant and profitable, and things to _move aright_, unless his land is strong and fat? Is he perfectly sane when he thinks he can skin his farm year after year, and not finally come to the bone? The farmer on exhausted land must of necessity use manure. Manure of _some_ kind must go under, or he must go under; and to the great mass of cultivators no mode of enriching is so feasible, so cheap, and attended with such satisfactory results, as that of plowing under green crops. The old plan of leaving an exhausted farm, and going West in search of rich "government land," must soon be abandoned. Already the head of the column of land-hunters have "fetched up" against the Pacific, and it is doubtful whether their anxious gaze will discover any desirable unoccupied soil over its waters. The writer would not be understood as saying that all farms are exhausted, or that there is _no_ way of recuperation but by plowing under green crops. What he wishes understood is, that where poor, sandy, or gravelly lands are found, which bring but small returns to the owner, by subjecting them to the process indicated, such lands bring good crops of the kind under consideration. And further, that land in the proper condition to yield a maximum crop of potatoes, is fitted to grow other crops equally well. Neither would the writer be understood as arguing that a crop of clover and one of buckwheat should be turned under for each crop of potatoes; where land is already in high condition, it may not be necessary. A second growth of clover plowed under in the fall for planting early kinds, and a clean clover sod turned in _flat_ furrows in the spring, for the late market varieties, answer very well. To turn flat furrows, take the furrow-slice wide enough to have it fall completely inside the preceding one. Potatoes should not be planted year after year on the same ground; trouble with weeds and rapid deterioration of quality and quantity of tubers soon render the crop unprofitable. Loamy soil planted continuously soon becomes compact, heavy, and lifeless. Where of necessity potatoes must be grown yearly on the same soil, it is advisable to dig rather early, and bury the vines of each hill in the one last dug; then harrow level, and sow rye to be plowed under next planting time. The intelligent farmer, who grows large crops for market, will always so arrange as to have a clover-sod on dry land in high condition each year for potatoes. It is said by many, in regard to swine, that "the breed is in the trough;" though this is certainly untrue to a certain extent, yet it is undeniable that in potato-growing success or failure is in the character of soil chosen for their production. Why clover, or clover and buckwheat lands, are so strongly urged is, such lands have in them just what the tubers need for their best and healthiest development; the soil is rendered so rich, light, and porous, and so free from weeds, that the cultivation of such land is rather a pleasure than otherwise, and at the close of the season the tangible profits in dollars and cents are highly gratifying.

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