« ForrigeFortsæt »
is clean cultivation. This is often the quickest and cheapest way of bringing such lands into fit condition for the growing of the fruit, and the longer the process is delayed after the plants are set, the more difficult and the less efficient the labor will be. This summer-fallow should be begun very early in the season and continued until midsummer, at which time some cover crop may be sown.
THE FERTILIZING OF FRUIT LANDS.
ANY land which is fit for the growing of crops will maintain a fruit plantation throughout its existence without the addition of plant-food, and enable the trees to produce at the same time a normal quantity and quality of fruit. But the profit in fruitgrowing lies in securing the extra normal or superior quantity and quality, and this result demands fertilizing of the land and every other good care. How much plant-food the farmer should add to his land depends upon the amount of increase or profit which he secures. It is a matter of business, an item of profit and loss. If the fruit-grower applies five tons of fertilizer to every acre and secures a profit on the investment, the quantity is none too large; but in many instances it is a loss of the material to add anything. The successful merchant is the one who is dissatisfied with a normal and common trade, but he forces the demand by attracting and interesting his customers beyond the point of their actual needs.
There are many causes which contribute to the unsatisfactory results of applying fertilizers, but the commonest one is lack of proper tillage and preparation of the land. Poorly-tilled land, as we have
seen, not only refuses to yield up its own stores of wealth, but it will delay and even preclude the good results from plant-foods which may be added to it. The first thing to do, then, is to make it possible for the plant to grow. Make the physical and environmental conditions right, and the addition of plant-food will be felt and appreciated. The plant must be made comfortable before it will thrive. A cow will not relish even the fanciest ration if she shivers with cold.
The grower must set himself in line with natural methods. He must see that the soil has a good supply of humus or decaying organic matter (got from crops turned under, dressings of stable manure, muck, and the like), and that it generally has some cover upon it. Early in the season, this cover is the surface mulch of cultivated soil, and later it is the cover crop of rye or crimson clover, or something of the kind.
Nature is a kindly and solicitous mother. She knows that bare land becomes unproductive land. Its elements must be unlocked and worked over and digested by the roots of plants. The surface must be covered to catch the rains and to hold the snows, to retain the moisture, and to prevent the baking and cementing of the soil. The plant tissues add fiber and richness to the land, and make it amenable to all the revivifying influences of sun and rain and air and warmth. The plant is co-partner with the weather in the building of the primal soils. The lichen spreads its thin sub
Evolution of Soils.
stance over the rock, sending its fibers into the crevices and filling the chinks, as they enlarge, with the decay of its own structure; and finally the rock is fit for the moss or fern or creeping vine, each newcomer leaving its impress by which some later newcomer may profit. Finally the rock is disintegrated and comminuted, and is ready to be still further elaborated by corn and ragweed. Nature intends to leave no vacant or bare surfaces. She providently covers the railway embankment with quack-grass or willows, and she scatters daisies in the old meadows where the land has grown sick and tired of grass. If one pulls up a weed, he must quickly fill the hole with some other plant, or nature will tuck another weed into it. Man is yet too ignorant or too negligent to care for the land, and nature must still stand at his back and supplement the work which he so shabbily performs. She knows no plants as weeds. They are all equally useful to her. It is only when we come to covet some plant that all those which attempt to crowd it out become weeds to us. If, therefore, we are competent to make a choice of plants in the first place, we should also be able to maintain the choice against intruders. It is only a question of which plants we desire to cultivate.
We must keep the land at work, for it grows richer and better for the exercise. A good crop on the land, aided by good tillage, will keep down all weeds. The weeds do not "run out" the sod, but the sod has grown weak through some fault of
our own, and thus the dandelions and plantains find a chance to live. So the best treatment for a weedy lawn is more grass. Loosen up the poor places with an iron garden rake, scatter a little fertilizer, and then sow heavily of grass seed. Do not plow up the lawn, for then you undo all that has been accomplished; you kill all the grass and leave all the ground open for a free fight with every ambitious weed in the neighborhood. If the farmer occupies only half the surface of his field with oats, the other half is bound to be occupied with mustard or wild carrot or pigweed; but if his land is all taken with oats, few other plants can thrive. So, a weedy farm is a poorly farmed farm. But if it does get foul and weedy, then what? Then use a short, quick, sharp rotation. Keep the ground moving or keep it covered. No Russian thistle or live-for-ever or jimson-weed can ever keep pace with a lively and resourceful farmer.
THE LESSON OF NURSERY LANDS.
The injurious effects of leaving soils bare, and of tilling at untimely seasons, are well illustrated in most nursery plantations. The best nursery lands are the "strong" lands, or those which contain a basis of clay, and these are the ones which soonest suffer under unwise treatment. The nursery land is kept under clean culture, and it is, therefore, deeply pulverized. There is practically no herbage on the soil to protect it during the winter.