Part 6 out of 9
promote decay, and is even then too indestructible. It is also possible
that its decay may induce root rot of trees. We should burn the stuff
and spread the ashes. Vineyard prunings are more promising because more
easily and quickly reduced by decay. Vinecane-hashers have been proposed
from time to time, but we do not know anyone who long used them.
Gypsum on Grain Land.
Is there any profit in sowing gypsum on grain land, say on wheat or oat
crop? At what stage should it be applied and in what quantity?
It would have a tendency to make the surface more friable and therefore
better for moisture retention, and it could be used at the rate of 1000
pounds to the acre, broadcasted before plowing for grain. As our soils
are, however, usually well supplied with lime, there is a question
whether there would be any profit in the use of gypsum, for, aside from
lime, it contains no plant food, although it does act rather
energetically upon other coil contents. Gypsum is a tonic and not a
fertilizer from that point of view. The best way to satisfy yourself of
its effect would be to try a small area, marked so as you could note its
behavior as compared with the rest of the field.
Gypsum and Alfalfa.
What is gypsum composed of? Is it detrimental to land in future years?
Have the lands of California any black alkali in them? I notice my
neighbors who sow gypsum on their alfalfa get a very much better yield
of hay than those who do not.
Gypsum is sulphate of lime. It is not detrimental to the land in after
years except that its action is to render immediately available other
plant foods and this may render the land poorer - not by the addition of
anything that is injurious but by the quicker using up of plant food
which it already contains. Black alkali is very common in California in
alkali lands. In lands which show their quality by good cropping, there
is no reason to apprehend black alkali nor to use gypsum to prevent its
occurrence. The use of gypsum does stimulate the growth of alfalfa and
makes its product greater just as you observe in the experience of your
neighbors, but the more they use up the land now the less they will have
later, unless they resort to regular fertilization to restore what has
been exhausted. But even that may be a good business proposition.
What Gypsum Does.
I intend to fertilize alfalfa and should like to know about gypsum. I
have heard it stimulates the growth temporarily but in three or four
years hurts the land. I have heavy land.
The functions of gypsum are: (a) to supply lime when the soil lacks it;
(b) to make a heavy soil more mellow, and (c) to act upon other soil
substances to render them more available for plant food. These are some
of the soil aspects of gypsum; it may have plant aspects also. It is too
much to say that gypsum hurts the land; it does, however, help the plant
to more quickly exhaust its fertility, and in this respect is not like
the direct plant foods which comprise the true fertilizers - one of
which gypsum is not. It might be best for your pocketbook and for the
mechanical condition of the soil to use it, but do not think that it is
maintaining the fertility of the land (a service which we expect from
the true fertilizers) except as it may supply a possible deficiency of
How Much Gypsum?
How much per acre, how frequently and what seasons of the year are the
best time to apply gypsum?
Of gypsum on alkali, we should begin at the rate of one ton to the acre
and repeat the application as frequently as necessary to achieve the
desired result. If the alkali was quite strong we would use twice as
much. Without reference to an alkaline condition in the soil, and to
give heavy soil a more friable character, which promotes cultivation,
aeration, etc., and, therefore, ministers to more successful production,
half a ton to the acre can be used, applications to be repeated as
conditions seem to warrant it.
Wood Ashes in the Garden.
There is available in my neighborhood a free supply of wood ashes. Can
you tell me how best to distribute the same in a garden (flowers and
garden truck), and what, if any, treatment is to be given the ashes for
the best results.
Wood ashes long exposed to rain lose most of their valuable contents,
and leached ashes are only of small value. If they are fresh ashes or
ashes which have been kept dry, they are chiefly valuable for potash,
which is good in its way, but not all that a plant needs. If, however,
your soil is shy of potash, the use of ashes will notably improve growth
if not applied in excess in the caustic form in which it occurs in the
ashes. They require no treatment. Spread, say, a quarter of an inch
thickness all over the ground and dig in deeply. It may also help you by
destruction of wire worms and other ground pests.
Coal Ashes in the Garden.
What is the effect of coal ashes on the red clay soil of Redlands or
wood and coal ashes combined?
Coal ashes are exceedingly desirable upon clay land because their
mechanical mixture with the fine particles of the clay renders the soil
more friable, permeable and better adapted to the growth of most plants.
Coal ashes, however, possess no fertilizing value - their action is
merely mechanical. The wood ashes which may be combined with them are
desirable as a source of potash which most plants require.
Liming a Chicken Yard.
I have a small family orchard of half an acre, fenced in as a chicken
yard, the soil of which has become very foul. When would be the best
time to apply lime and how much?
Put on 500 pounds of lime and plow under as soon as you can - that is,
spread the lime just before the plowing, with a shower or two on the
lime before plowing, if the weather runs that way.
Give directions for using chicken manure. For use of young trees, is
there any difference in treatment of deciduous and citrus trees? For use
in the vegetable garden and the flower garden, what should be mixed with
it and in what proportions? So many people say poultry manure is so
strong, I am afraid to use it.
It is a fact that poultry manure, free from earth, contains even as high
as four times as much plant food as ordinary stable manure. It is,
therefore, to be used with proportional care, so that the plants shall
not receive too much, and particularly so that there may not be too much
collected in one place. Probably the best way to guard against this is
to thoroughly mix the manure with three or four times its bulk of
ordinary garden soil and then use this mixture at about the same rate
you would stable manure. If you do not desire to go to all this trouble,
make an even scattering of the manure and work it into the soil. There
is no reason to fear the material; simply guard against the unwise use
of it. It is good for all the plants which you mention; in fact, for any
plant grown, provided it is sparingly and evenly distributed.
It should be pulverized so that there shall not be lumps and masses in
the same place for fear of root injury. Of course, the strength depends
upon how much earth is gathered up with the manure. Sometimes there is
so much waste material that it can be handled just as ordinary farm
We should not use over 20 pounds of clean droppings to a young tree and
should mix it with the soil for a considerable distance around the tree.
Old bearing trees might stand two or three tons to the acre if
distributed all over the ground. The material contains everything that
is necessary for the growth of the tree and formation of the fruit.
Ashes and Poultry Manure.
It is said that ashes mixed with chicken manure is not good. I use ashes
altogether on the drop boards because I can keep the boards cleaner. The
refuse is then scattered around the fruit trees.
Wood ashes and lime should never be used as you propose, because they
set free the nitrogen compounds which are the most valuable content of
poultry manures. This action is conditioned largely upon the presence of
moisture, and if the droppings are kept dry and hurried into the soil
the loss is lessened. Coal ashes, on the other hand, are a thoroughly
good absorbent when the coal burns to a fine ash or is sifted. They do
not act as wood ashes do, because they do not contain soluble alkali.
They also have a good mellowing effect on heavy soil.
Caustic Lime Not a Good Absorbent.
Would air-slackened lime be suitable to sprinkle over the dropping
boards in hen houses?
Gypsum is greatly superior to air-slacked lime for the hen houses, as it
has every beneficial effect of the latter, while the air-slacked lime
will set free much of the fertilizing value of the manure, which the
gypsum will not do.
Too Much Chicken Manure for Young Trees.
I have peach trees and apple trees, 3 to 6 years old, that are very
thrifty but grow only wood. The soil was poor when planting, and I have
put on plenty of sweepings from the chicken-yards. I suppose that is the
cause of the trouble.
Undoubtedly you have overmanured your soil with chicken manure, which is
a very strong fertilizer and should only be used in limited quantities.
In order to counteract any acidity or ill effects which have been
produced by its excessive application, it would be desirable for you to
apply about 500 to 1000 pounds per acre of common builders' lime at the
beginning of the rainy season, working it into the soil with the fall or
early winter plowing. Do not cut back the tree during the dormant
season, although, of course, you may have to remove surplus or
interfering branches for the sake of shaping the tree. Winter pruning
induces a greater wood growth during the following summer; therefore, it
should be avoided under such conditions as you describe. Having adopted
such a policy, there is nothing for you to do but to wait for the trees
to slow down and assume a normal bearing habit proper for their ages.
Summer pruning is an offset for excessive wood growth.
We keep a cow and poultry and have a dry-earth toilet. We have been
burying the manure in the little garden spot or along by the fences or
spreading it out on the alfalfa before it is rotted, but do not get good
results. How shall we apply it to get the best results ? We have a town
ordinance against leaving it in piles to rot.
You can compost it in a tight bin made of planks, and using enough water
to prevent too rapid fermentation and loss of valuable ingredients.
During the dry season you can probably use enough dry earth or road dust
to render the material inoffensive, and you can also distribute it then
without undesirable results.
Composting Garden Wastes.
You recommend making a compost of all scrapings, garbage, weeds, etc. Is
there any danger in having this in a pit near the house?
If you desire to put garden wastes, including manure, into a pit, the
only objection would be the heavy work of digging it out again. If you
allow waste water from the house to run into the pit, there would
probably be not enough dry material to absorb it, and the pit would be
not only objectionable on account of odors, but possibly dangerous to
health. The water would also prevent decomposition, because of exclusion
of air. At the same time, enough moisture to promote slow decomposition
is essential. It is usually more convenient to compost garden wastes on
the surface of the ground, enclosing them with a plank retainer, because
moisture can easily be applied with a hose, as desirable, the material
can be occasionally forked over to promote decay, and the heavy work of
digging material out of a pit is avoided. Such a collection is neither
offensive nor dangerous if handled right.
Will the dry barnyard manure, when heaped up and dampened with water,
make a valuable fertilizer?
For garden use, dry manure in heaps should be dampened with water from
time to time so as to prevent too active fermentation. Of course, water
should not be supplied so freely as to cause a leaching of the pile. It
is also desirable that the material should be forked over from time to
time to distribute moisture and promote decay. When this is done a
thoroughly first-class fertilizer is produced.
Barnyard Manure and Alkali.
In spots my land is hard and has some black alkali. Will barnyard manure
help the hard land if cultivated in?
Use stable manure because that would not only furnish nitrogen, if your
plants need any more, but it would add coarse material and ultimately
humus which would overcome the tendency of your soil to become compact
and thus concentrate alkali near the surface by evaporation. Mellow the
soil, increase the humus, make water movement freer and good cultivation
easier and alkali will become weaker by distribution through a greater
mass of the soil and may be too weak at any point to be troublesome,
unless you have too much to start with. Put on manure at the beginning
of the rainy season and plow it under, with all the green stuff which
grows upon it, during the winter or early spring.
Stable Manure and Bean Straw.
What are the approximate contents of common stable manure; also, how
much of the above is contained in bean straw?
The composition of mixed stable manure is given as containing in one
ton: Nitrogen, 10 pounds; phosphoric acid, 5 pounds; potash, 10 pounds.
The constituents of bean straw in one ton, are given as: Nitrogen, 28
pounds; phosphoric acid, 6 pounds; potash, 38 pounds; Of course, a large
part of the difference in composition is due to the excessive amount of
moisture which ordinary stable manure contains. Air dried stable manure,
such as is found in a California corral, would have much higher
fertilizing value than such moist manure as an Eastern chemist would be
likely to handle.
Roofing a Manure Pit.
Is it necessary to roof a manure pit, if the pit is tight so that all
rain on manure is caught in the liquid manure and nothing is lost?
To secure satisfactory composting of stable manures in a pit it is
necessary to be able to regulate the moisture of the mass. If it becomes
too dry, too rapid fermentation takes place and the material is
destroyed by what is called fire-fanging. If too much liquid enters the
pit, so that the material is submerged, the air is excluded and
fermentation stops. For these reasons it is necessary that a pit in the
region of large rainfall be covered, and water be used from a hose or
other source of supply in just sufficient quantity to keep the material
right for slow fermentation. How much water should be added to bring the
moisture to a right condition depends upon how much liquid waste runs
into the pit, and where water is used for cleaning a stable care has to
be taken that the pit is not submerged. Success with a pit is,
therefore, conditioned on the amount of moisture admitted, and this
cannot be controlled unless the pit has a cover fit to shed rainfall. Of
course, it may be adjustable so that some rainfall may be admitted as
may be desirable.
Value of Animals in Manure.
In the operation of our fruit and dairy ranch we have the manure from
some forty head of horses and cattle, which is distributed over the
place. We cut our alfalfa and feed it and do very little pasturing. In
order to give our dairy the proper credit, we would kindly ask what you
consider a fair price for the manure of a cow for one year. Also what
would the manure from a horse for one year be worth?
A compilation of a considerable number of weighings, analyses and
valuations in Europe, cited by Prof. Roberts in his book on the
"Fertility of the Land," gives an average value of the voidings of a cow
for a year as $32.25 and of a horse at $24.06. This is based, of course,
upon the collection and saving of all excrements which is never secured
except in careful experimentation. The value of manure depends upon the
quality of the feed. In two experiments, considered a safe substitute
for the straw, apart from the fact that the gave a value in manure of $1
per ton of hay fed; cows fed on clover and bran gave value in manure of
3.80 per ton of mixed feed. Your alfalfa feeding would approach the
higher value. You will have to make an estimate from the above data to
serve your purpose and you can figure it either by the number of animals
or by the tonnage of the feed.
Value of Fresh and Dry Manure.
What is the relative value of the weekly or semi-weekly corral scrapings
which are tramped fine and air-dried; and of the fresh, wet manure from
the stable? I do not understand that the latter has appreciable water
added, and the amount of sand in the corral scrapings would be small.
Fresh, mixed animal manure is usually calculated to contain about 75 per
cent of water. Manure which has been quickly dried, without fermentation
and without leaching by rains, may be worth four or five times as much
per ton. Nothing, however, short of analysis would determine the value
of any particular lot, for that depends somewhat upon the way the
animals are fed, as well as upon the moisture content.
Shavings in Stable Manure.
Is barnyard fertilizer containing shavings instead of straw, desirable?
Barnyard manure containing shavings is chiefly objectionable because of
the amount of inert material. The shavings are exceedingly slow to
decompose, and in light soil in considerable quantities would cause a
serious loss of moisture. If applied, on the other hand, to a heavy soil
and accompanied by sufficient irrigation water, the effect of making the
soil more friable might be very desirable. It depends then upon
circumstances whether shavings can be concited by Prof. Snyder in his
"Soils and Fertilizers," cows fed on hay straw is more valuable not only
because more easily decomposed, but because its content of plant food is
Handling Grape Pomace.
In the case of grape pomace, would not the large value shown by analysis
be chiefly in the seeds? My observation is that these are exceedingly
slow to became available in the soil. Would composting break down the
shell of the seed?
Grape pomace is slowly available because of the slow disintegration you
mention. It could be hastened by drying and grinding, but we doubt if
this or other treatment would return its cost. Decay by moisture
promoted by composting with manure, kept at a low temperature by
continuous moisture would render it sooner available, but this would
involve labor which, at our wage rates, would probably make the material
cost more than it is worth. This is probably a cost in which time is
cheaper than money.
Sheep and Goat Manure.
I can buy goat manure from an inclosure where this is deposited to an
amount of about five carloads. Will goat manure be of great value in
fertilizing an orchard? If so, how much of it should be spread an an
Accumulations of sheep and goat manure in a dry situation, that is,
where not leached out by heavy rainfall, have been found to run as high
as $13 per ton in fertilizing constituents. The average would, however,
be not above $7.50, and would depend not only upon the unleached
condition of the material but upon the amount of sand mixed with it. If
it is in a situation where sand blows very freely, it might not be worth
over $4 or $5 per ton, possibly not that much. You have, therefore, to
deal with a condition largely unknown. So far as its fertilizing quality
goes, however, it is freely available and directly calculated to
stimulate the growth of plants, and probably four or five tons could be
used to the acre without injury if well distributed over the surface of
the land. Application can be made at any time of the year, for the
drying will not injure it. It will not, however, become available until
the soil is sufficiently moist to carry its contents to the roots of the
plants. Under ordinary conditions in California, application should be
made just before the beginning of the rainy season.
Hog Manure and Potatoes.
What is the fertilizing value of hog manure, and also what is the best
fertilizer to use for potatoes? Our potatoes are planted early in
Hog manure is rather a rank and strong fertilizer, usually very rich,
although the quality of it depends upon how well the hogs have been fed
- that from grain-fed hogs being notably better. The valuation of hog
manure ranges from $2.50 to $3.25 per ton, according to the feeding as
noted, while ordinary stable manure may be worth from $2 to $2.75 per
ton. It is not a good idea to apply these organic manures directly for
the growth of potatoes. It is better to apply them to the land for the
growth of a grain or forage crop, plowing in the stubble and using the
land for potatoes the following year. If you wish to fertilize directly
for potatoes, the use of a commercial fertilizer containing a good
amount of potash would be a better proposition.
Fertilizer for Sweet Potatoes and Melons.
I have sandy soil that has been used for sweet potatoes until it is worn
out for that crop, and would like your advice as to the best fertilizer
to use. Also, what fertilizer would be best for melons on land that has
been planted to melons for the past three years?
There is not much difference in the plant food required by the two crops
you mention, but both evidently need a freshened soil and an increase of
humus. We should apply a half ton to the acre of a complete fertilizer,
of which any dealer can give you descriptions and prices. If you wish to
do a good job, start a growth of peas or vetches or burr clover, and sow
the fertilizer evenly with the seed. Plow the growth under in February
and roll (as the soil is sandy) to close down and promote the decay of
the green stuff, which ought to be so well accomplished by the date that
it is safe to plant sweet potatoes or melons that it will give no
trouble in summer cultivation.
An Abuse of Grape Pomace.
I got in an argument with a neighbor of mine who stated that grape
pomace is not a fertilizer. Is it so? My neighbor says that two years
ago he had two apricot trees in his yard, and they were fine bearing and
healthy trees. After making his wine he put the pomace on the ground and
they died. Could that be the cause?
Yes, probably. He used too much fresh pomace and the resulting
fermentation of its products may have killed the trees. But grape
pomace, after going through fermentation and in the process of decay,
makes humus in addition to giving potash and other desirable substances
to the soil.
Does barnyard manure have any injurious effect on the vines if applied
on my vineyard? One of my neighbors claims barnyard manure burned his
vines so he got no crop wherever he spread the manure, and nothing would
now induce him to use it again.
Barnyard manure can be safely used in a vineyard at the beginning of the
rainy season, working it in with the plowing, but not using too much.
Wine grapes are sometimes injuriously affected in flavor by the use of
such fertilizer, but the growth of the vine itself can be stimulated by
the rational use of it. Your neighbor apparently either used too much or
made the application at the beginning of the dry season or made some
Bones for Grape Vines.
I am going to plant out some grape vines, and would like to know if it
is a good plan to put old bones, broken up fine, into the holes when
Yes, if you do not use too much and it is mixed with earth, a little
beyond the touch of the roots at planting. You do not need to finely
break the bones. The roots will take care of that. But do not put in too
much coarse stuff, for fear of causing too rapid drainage.
Reviving Blighted Trees.
I have a couple of apple trees here that were hurt by the pear blight
three years ago and were cut back since then; they come out each year,
but the leaves curl up, and they do not do anything. I would like to
know if putting any fertilizer around them would help them to put out
their leaves, and if so what I should use?
Put some stable manure on the top of the soil around your trees now so
that the rains may reach the contents of the soil, then later in the
season dig the manure into the soil. Apply water during the summer time
and this will encourage the trees to grow, if there is any vigor
remaining in them. This treatment, however, will not protect them from
Fertilizing Pear Orchard.
I have pear trees 15 years old which have fruited heavily for years and
have never been fertilized. What is the best fertilizer for the soil
which is heavy, and when is the best time to apply it? I intend planting
rye to plow under in the spring, but thought possibly the fertilizer
should be applied first.
If you have stable manure available, nothing could be better for the
feeding of the trees and for its mellowing effect upon your heavy soil.
Application can be made at once, to be worked into the land when the rye
is sown. It will help the trees and give you more rye which in the end
will help the trees. If you have no stable manure available, what is
called by the dealers a "complete fertilizer" for orchard purposes is
what you should use and apply it when you work the land for rye.
What is the best means of fertilizing an olive orchard? My orchard gives
me a perfect quality of oil, but a poor quantity. My soil is dry
calcareous, red and gray, and is very thin in places, therefore, it
An olive orchard can be fertilized with stable manure or with a
"complete fertilizer," or with the special brands of different
manufacturers of special fruit fertilizers. But you must be sure that
your trees do not need moisture more than they need fertilizers, for
without adequate moisture fertilizers cannot do their best work. The
increase of the humus content of the soil, either secured by stable
manure or by the plowing under of winter-grown cover crops, is
desirable, as they not only give the trees more plant food, but make the
soil also more retentive of moisture. You will have to experiment along
this line to see just what is best for your trees.
Consult the Trees.
Can I send you a little soil out of my one-year-old pear orchard so that
you can advise me what I can do to improve its fertility. The trees are
fairly thrifty, but as fruit growing is my pleasure I wish to make it a
model orchard and add whatever it requires of nitrogen, humus, etc.,
immediately so as to increase the growth for this summer. Next winter I
intend to put manure around them and cultivate about every other month.
Careful experimenting with fertilizers will teach you more than analysis
would do, because the behavior of the tree under various conditions
tells you more than a chemist possibly could. Besides, we are of the
conviction that on good soils young fruit trees should not be pushed
beyond the growth which they would naturally make with a regular and
adequate moisture supply. Be careful about using fertilizers on young
trees, either in the summer or in the winter. When they come to bearing
age and yield large crops of fruit, that is another question. Any
California soil which will not grow young fruit trees thriftily should
not be used for orchard purposes unless an amateur desires to grow trees
on a picturesque lot of rocks or sand.
Results of Fertilizing Olives.
We have 100 acres in olives about six miles northeast of Rialto in San
Bernardino county. In 1908 we got about five tons from the 100 acres. We
began fertilizing and cultivating in 1909, and have put on the 100 acres
about the same amount of fertilizer each year. In 1909 we got 15 tons;
in 1910, 116 tons, and 1911 is estimated at 325 to 350 tons.
It is important that your olive trees are responding to good treatment
and fertilization. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be always the
case and a good many olive trees have been made into firewood because
nothing seemed to bring them into satisfactory bearing. Good bearing
olive trees are now among the very best of our horticultural properties,
while non-bearing olive trees are worth about $7 a cord for fire wood.
I have light sandy loam, well drained. It has been in blackberries, and
I now have it planted to nursery fruit tree stock. I have given it this
spring two applications of nitrate of soda, but no other fertilizer.
Will the nitrate act alone, or must I apply also the phosphate and
potash to get results?
Nitrate of soda will act alone and will stimulate growth, and there are
cases in which there is enough phosphate and potash already in the soil
to act with it. Usually, however, it is customary to use a complete
fertilizer containing phosphate and potash as well as nitrogen, in order
that the plant may be more roundly supplied and promoted, and one would
be a little safer in using that sort of fertilizer than in relying upon
the nitrate of soda alone. You will, of course, be careful not to use
these fertilizers in too large amounts, for nitrate of soda is
especially dangerous if used in excess.
Almond Hulls and Sawdust.
Is there any fertilizing value in the hulls of almonds? Would pine
sawdust from the lumber mills be a good substance to mix in and plow
under in a three-acre adobe patch in order to loosen and lighten the
soil for truck gardening?
Almond hulls have considerable fertilizing value, but they are slow to
decompose, and, therefore, may be a long time unused by the plant. They
also have a good feeding value for stock, and if you can expose them in
the corral so the stock can eat as they like, this is the best way to
get them into fertilizing form. If they can be cheaply ground their
availability as a fertilizer would, of course, be quickened. Redwood
sawdust is better than pine sawdust, but any kind of sawdust can be made
to serve a good purpose in mellowing heavy soils if not used to excess
and if there is plenty of moisture to promote decay.
Fertilizing Fruit Trees.
I have an orchard of prunes, apricots and cherries, which has been
bearing since some 30 years ago, without fertilization, except possibly
muddy sediment from occasional irrigations of mountain streams. Various
people are advocating the use of nitrates and other fertilizers. Should
I have samples of this earth analyzed in order to ascertain what the
soil most needs?
To find out whether your trees need fertilization, study the tree and
the product and do not depend upon chemical analysis of the soil. If
your trees are growing thriftily and have sufficiently goodsized leaves
of good color, and if fruit of good size and quality is obtained, it is
not necesssary to think of fertilization. If the trees are not
satisfactory in all these respects, the first thing to do is to
determine whether they have moisture enough during the later part of the
summer. This should be determined by digging or boring to a depth or
three or four feet in July or August. The subsoil should be reasonably
moist in order to sustain the tree during the late summer and early fall
when strong fruit buds for the coming year will be finished. If you are
sure the moisture supply is ample, then fertilization either with stable
manure or with commercial fertilizers containing especially nitrates and
phosphates should be undertaken experimentally, in accordance with
suggestions for application made to you by dealers in these articles,
who are usually well informed by observation. When you have the tree to
advise you of the condition of the soil, you do not need a chemist,
although if the tree manifests serious distress and is unable to make
satisfactory growth the suggestions of a chemist may be very helpful.
What is the general and what do you consider the ideal, manuring, and
when applied for orange trees from 15 to 12 years old under irrigation?
I use about 2 cwt. each of superphosphate, nitrate of soda and sulphate
of potash per acre, but am dissatisfied with my yields as compared with
yours in California.
There is not only no standard for fertilizing orange trees, but there is
no "ideal" which might be considered as a basis for a standard. All
growers who are awake to the necessity of doing something for bearing
trees, try all things and hold fast to what (they think) is good.
Practically none of them has any enduring conviction or demonstration as
to what is good, but they keep on trying. There is, however, one clear
and enduring conviction, and that is, that continuous fertilizing must
be done for profit, and our best growers are using the same materials
you mention in considerably larger amounts than you apply, and use also
other forms of nitrogenous fertilizers. The amounts of superphosphate
and nitrate which you use would be considered homeopathic treatment by
Cow Stable Drainage for Fruit.
I have been told that the drainings from a cow barn make an excellent
fertilizer for orange and lemon trees, in fact, anywhere on plants where
manure is considered beneficial.
The drainage from a cow barn is excellent for fertilizing almost any
crop unless it is used in too large quantity. If it should be combined
with a considerable amount of water used for cleaning out the stable, it
would be excellent for the irrigation of all kinds of fruit trees. Care
should be taken, however, not to oversaturate the ground, which would be
the case if the washing of the stable was allowed to run continuously
alongside a single row of trees. The water should be changed from row to
row in succession, cultivating the ground meantime to promote aeration
and to prevent too great compacting of the soil.
Seed Farm Refuse as a Fertilizer.
Would cleanings from sweet peas or all kinds of seeds grown on a seed
farm be of any value as a fertilizer on sandy loam soil for an orchard?
This has been in a pile for three years or more, and I can get it for
the hauling. There are a hundred loads or more of it and not very far to
It would be worth more on a heavy soil, because the danger of drying out
would be less and the surety of reduction to humus greater. To get the
highest value from such stuff it should be composted with water and
turning in heaps, but that would occasion expense beyond value probably,
unless it could be composted with manure for market garden purposes. The
hauling might be good work for idle teams. Spread the stuff rather
thinly to be covered in with fall plowing, so that its decay could be
promoted during the rainy season.
Slow Stuff as a Fertilizer.
How can we use sawdust and shavings from our high school shop so as to
combine it with street sweepings, lawn cuttings, etc., and insure ready
decay without objectionable features?
Do not mix sawdust and shavings with lawn clippings and street
sweepings, because of the great difference in susceptibility to decay.
The lawn clippings and street sweepings, which would contain
considerable horse manure, would be readily transformed into a good
fertilizer by composting. Such treatment, however, would have no
appreciable effect upon sawdust or shavings for a considerable period of
time, and they would still be too coarse in their character to be of any
value unless you have to deal with heavy clay soil, and in that case the
sawdust and fine shavings might be dug in at once and trusted to decay
slowly in the soil, at the same time improving its friability by their
coarser particles. If, however, you are dealing with light sandy loam,
such coarse material would cause too rapid drying out and injure the
plant, which might be benefited by lawn clippings and street sweepings.
The best way to get rid of the sawdust and shavings is to set up an
altar, such as we have in our own backyard - a piece of an old boiler
about two feet in diameter and two and a half feet high, in which we
currently burn all rubbish which is not available for quick composting
into a fertilizer.
Lime on Sandy Soil.
Do you think 500 pounds of lime per acre would help a sandy soil which
has not been enriched by pasturing or legumes? Of course, we would not
apply the lime until next fall before plowing.
Lime is not usually called for in a sandy soil, which probably requires
direct fertilizing with stable or commercial fertilizers.
Lime on Alfalfa.
What effect does putting lime on land have in holding moisture? Also,
will it pay to put it on a large field of alfalfa? The land is adobe. I
can get slaked lime for the hauling, distance being about five miles.
The lime will make the land more friable and, therefore, less disposed
to bake and lose moisture by evaporation. Alfalfa is hungry for lime and
is generally advanced by the application of it.
Can new cow manure be put on alfalfa? Is not the best way to use the
above as a fertilizer in form of liquid being run from barn via pipes to
a settling-tank and from there via irrigation ditches to the land to be
irrigated? What is the best way to get rid of cow manure so as to keep a
barn sanitary and the place free from stench?
Cow manure can be used to advantage on alfalfa. Corrals can be cleaned
up and the manure spread at the beginning of the rainy season. During
the winter the manure can be spread as it is produced and very good
results will be noticed in the growth during the following summer. It is
perfectly rational for you to use the liquid fertilizer as you propose
in connection with irrigation water, but this is not generally done
because of the cost of the outfit and the labor of handling the material
in that way. The best way to keep a barn sanitary is to keep it clean,
removing all the waste matter to a considerable distance daily, allowing
nothing to accumulate, and have the stable drainage arranged so that the
stable can be frequently flushed out into good drainage outlets,
carrying the water to grass or alfalfa land if possible.
We are going to plant about 20 acres to corn on a sidehill and intend to
put some fertilizer on, but want to give it to the corn only. Would it
be a good plan, after we have marked out our rows, to scatter some
fertilizer in these marks and put the corn right on top of it?
We take it you ask about the use of a readily soluble commercial
fertilizer. If so, you can do as you propose, being careful not to use
too much. The operation of planting will distribute the fertilizer
through enough soil if the application is not too heavy. The effect will
depend something upon what showers you get after planting.
Scrap Iron as a Fertilizer.
Is cast or other iron in small pieces plowed into the land of any
benefit to trees as a fertilizer? If so, what would be the value as such
per 100 pounds? Junk dealers sometimes offer 25 cents per 100 pounds. If
it has any value as a fertilizer, I am satisfied it must be worth four
times that price. We pay three cents a pound for sulphate of iron as a
fertilizer. Of course, it is a salt and dissolves quickly, therefore, I
believe cast iron, even if it works slowly, has some value, and at the
same time farmers can clean up and get rid of a lot of rubbish.
In most cases the California soils are sufficiently supplied with iron
by nature. Iron scraps have a little and remote value because they are
so slowly available by the process of rust disintegration. It might,
therefore, be worth while for farmers to bury such scrap iron as
accumulates on the place below the reach of the cultivating tools. But
it would not be profitable to buy iron scraps at junk dealers' price,
nor would it be profitable to haul this material any long distance, even
if it could be had for nothing.
Kelp as a Fertilizer.
Are there ill effects from using sea kelp as a fertilizer for orange
There is no ill effect. Sea kelp has been dragged from the beaches at
low tide, partly dried and used, for centuries perhaps, as field
fertilizer for all sorts of crops in Europe, and for decades, to some
extent, on the New England coast. The dangerous substance in it would
seem to indicate that that is not present in sufficient quantity to
cause trouble. The great difficulty lies in securing and transporting
the substance, for less than its fertilizing equivalent can be obtained
by purchase of other more concentrated manures.
Applying Thomas Phosphate.
When is the best time to apply Thomas phosphate slag on orchard land?
As Thomas phosphate is slowly soluble, it can be applied at any time
during the rainy season without danger of loss, and for the same fact,
it should be applied early during the rainy season in order to be
available to trees during the following summer's growth. It ought,
perhaps, to be added that other forms of phosphate have largely
displaced slag during the last few years in the United States, other
forms being more available.
Sugar Factory Lime for Fertilizing.
Is the lime from a sugar factory a good fertilizer for either oranges or
walnuts; if so, about what amount to the acre would you recommend?
If your land needs lime or if it is heavy and needs to be more friable,
or if you have reason to think that it may be soured by exclusion of air
or by excessive use of fermenting manures, the refuse lime you speak of
will do as a corrective just as other lime does, though, perhaps, not so
actively. Beyond that there is nothing of great value in it. You can use
two or three applications of 500 pounds to the acre without overdoing it
- if your land needs it at all.
Nitrate With Stable Manure.
I am going to plant about 2000 plants of rhubarb. I intend to put some
cow and horse manure under the plants as a fertilizer, but I do not
think I will have enough for all the plants, so I bought some nitrate of
lime, with the intention of mixing the cow and horse manure with the
lime nitrate, which I thought would allow me to spread the manure much
thinner and I could cover more surface. Now I am not sure but the
nitrate of lime will burn the manure if mixed with it.
You can mix either nitrate of lime or nitrate of soda with the stable
manure as you propose; in fact, it is frequently done. These nitrates
are neutral salts and do not act on manure as caustic lime or wood ashes
would do. They are quite content to keep along without kicking their
neighbors. But, of course, the more nitrate you add the more careful you
must be about using too much of the mixture, and as for putting manure
under any plant, at spring planting particular, it is dangerous
Nitrate of Soda.
How shall I apply nitrate of soda as fertilizer for roses and other
flowers and lawns during the summer months?
One has to be very careful in the use of nitrate of soda not to use too
much and not to apply it unevenly, so that too much is brought in
contact with the roots of particular plants. From one to two hundred
pounds an acre evenly distributed is the usual prescription for nitrate
of soda, although in the case of bearing orange trees considerably
larger amounts have been successfully used. This would be at the rate of
about one ounce to one square yard of surface. It would be a safe
application to begin with and could be increased a little on the basis
of observation of results. Of course, the application should be
accompanied by copious irrigation in order to dissolve and distribute
I have half an acre of strawberries which will fruit their second season
this spring, and half an acre set last month. I had intended to use
nitrate of soda on them, but was talking to a friend who told me it
would kill my soil. That the first year it would produce an enormous
crop and the next year I couldn't raise anything. Which would be better
to use here, stable manure or commercial fertilizer?
It is true that nitrate of soda is a stimulant of plants, and by
rendering soil fertility immediately available may seem to reduce the
supply later, and yet it is a most available forcing fertilizer if used
with great caution, not over 200 pounds to the acre evenly scattered
over the whole surface or a less amount, of course, if confined to
particular areas. If used in excess it may actually kill the plants.
Still nitrate of soda is being used actively and intelligently by nearly
all growers of plants and must be counted on the whole a valuable
agency. If you can get stable manure, nothing is better as a complete
plant food. Application to strawberries must be made at the close of the
season, rubbish scraped away and manure applied and allowed to stand on
the surface during the early rains, being worked into the soil during
the rainy season. If the soil is light, sandy loam, too much coarse
material must be avoided. Therefore, well-rotted manure is important on
such soils while on a heavy soil coarser material may be used to
advantage if applied early in the rainy season. If you have no
well-rotted manure, a complete commercial fertilizer will give best
Late Applications of Nitrate.
I have some prune trees which blossomed some time ago and the prunes are
already set, and of small size. Would you recommend me to use an
application of, say 100 pounds per acre of nitrate of soda, applied
immediately, or is it a little too late in the season to get the desired
It would be perfectly safe to use 100 pounds of nitrate of soda to the
acre well distributed now; in fact, you could safely use twice as much,
but we doubt if you would get any benefit from it unless you should
irrigate, for there is no reason to expect showers that would have
penetrating powers enough to carry the nitrate any appreciable distance
into the soil. Of course, the nitrate could be plowed or cultivated in
to a considerable depth, but that would probably result in losing
moisture by deep opening or turning, which would do more harm than any
gain which the nitrate produces, if it were to become available. Our
judgment would be, then, that it is too late for any benefit to accrue
unless the land can be irrigated.
Charcoal is a Medicine, Not a Food.
Recently a lumberyard burned, leaving quite a quantity of charcoal. I
have a lot 50 x 150 feet in rhubarb. Would the charcoal be of any
service on that lot as a fertilizer? I now have it well fertilized with
horse manure, but would like to use the charcoal if it would be of any
material assistance to the plants.
Charcoal is of no value as a fertilizer. It is practically
indestructible in the soil. In fact, they are digging up now charcoal in
the graves of ancient Egyptians, who departed this life five thousand
years ago. Charcoal has corrective influence in absorbing some
substances which might make the soil sour or otherwise inhospitable to
plants. It has been found desirable sometimes to mix a certain amount of
charcoal with soil used in potting plants for the purpose of preventing
such trouble. The only way to make your charcoal of any value as a
fertilizer would be to set it on fire again and maintain the burning
until it was reduced to ashes, which are a source of potash and,
therefore, desirable, but it will probably cost more than the product of
potash will be worth.
Humus Burning Out.
I would like to know whether or not dry-plowing land, in preparation for
sowing oats for hay, injures the soil? I have heard that dry plowing
tends to wear out the soil, as the soil is exposed to the sun a long
time before harrowing. I have been dry-plowing my land to kill the,
weeds, but had a light crop of hay this year.
There is believed to be what is called "a burning out of humus," by long
exposure of the soil to the intense heat of our interior districts. It
is probable that the reduction of humus is due more to the lack of
effort to maintain the supply than to the actual destruction of it by
culture methods. Such a little time as might intervene between dry
plowing and sowing could not be charged with any appreciable destruction
of soil fertility. It is altogether more probable that your hay crop was
less from loss of moisture than from loss of other plant food; and it is
desirable to harrow a dry plowing, not so much to save the soil from the
action of the atmosphere, as to conserve the moisture, which, as you
know, will rise from below and will rapidly be evaporated from the
undisturbed bases of your furrows. Therefore, we should harrow a dry
plowing as soon as practicable, but with particular reference to the
moisture supply rather than to other forms of fertility.
Straw for Humus.
Do you consider straw good to plow under for humus, and which kind,
wheat, oat, or barley straw, is best?
Straw, by its decay in the soil, produces humus and, therefore acts in
the same way just as does the decay of other forms of vegetation. As,
however, straw is less easily decomposed than fresh vegetation, it is
less valuable and may be troublesome by acquiring a greater amount of
moisture by interfering with cultivation or by tending to dry out the
soil to the injury of other plants. If the soil is heavy and moisture
abundant, straw may be desirable, while in the case of a light soil and
scant moisture, may be injurious. There is no particular difference in
the straw of the different grains from this point of view.
The Best Legume for Cover Crop.
What would you advise to sow as a crop to plow under? When should it be
sowed, and when plowed under?
The best crop for green-manuring in any locality is the one which will
make the best growth when surplus moisture is available for it, and when
its growth can be undertaken with least interference with irrigation,
cultivation and other orchard operation. Generally in California, such a
crop can be most conveniently grown during the rainy season, but in some
parts of the State where irrigation water is available, a summer growth
can be procured with very satisfactory results; so that we are now
growing in California both wintergrowing legumes, like field peas,
vetches, burr clover, etc., which are hardy enough to grow in spite of
the light frosts which may prevail, and are also growing summer legumes
which thrive under high temperature, like cowpeas and other members of
the bean family, and for which water can be spared without injury to the
fruit trees which share the application of the land with them. The
plants which are worth trying are burr clover, common or Oregon vetch,
Canadian field pea, and the common California or Niles pea. Whichever
one of these makes the best winter growth so that it can be plowed under
early in the spring, say in February or March, while there is still
plenty of moisture in the soil for its decay, without robbing the trees
or rendering the soil difficult of summer cultivation, is the plant for
you to use largely. All these plants should be sown in California
valleys and foothills, as soon as there is moisture enough from rainfall
to warrant you in believing they will catch and continue to grow. If the
land is light they can be put in with a cultivator and plowed under
deeply in the spring, as stated. If the land is heavy, probably a
shallow plowing would be better to begin with.
Cowpeas for Cover Crop.
I planted cowpeas between peach trees which I have kept irrigated; when
should they be plowed under?
Cowpeas will be killed by frost in most places and should, therefore, be
plowed in this fall whenever you have a large growth of green stuff and
the ground gets moist enough so that the trees will not be endangered by
drying out of the soil, which is likely to occur after plowing in coarse
material, unless the soil is kept moist by rain or otherwise.
Garden Peas for Green Manure.
Would it be possible to plant the Yorkshire Hero pea in on orange grove
as late as December 25 and get a crop from the peas? Would this pea add
much to the fertility of the soil?
You can sow any garden peas as late as December 25, if the ground is in
good condition and the temperature not too low. They are grown as a
winter crop except when the ground freezes. You would not get as much
good for the grove by growing these peas for the market as you would by
plowing the whole growth under green, but you certainly will get
advantage from the decomposition of the pea straw and of the root growth
of the plant.
Grass for Green Manuring.
I wish to sow this fall some green grass to be plowed in next spring to
improve the soil of part of my land. I read for that purpose a bulletin
I had from the government, but the conditions are so different here in
California that I am very much puzzled which kind to select.
There is no grass which grows quickly enough to be worth seeding in the
fall for spring plowing. It is a good deal better to use a grain, either
barley or rye, for the seed is cheap, the growth quick and you can get a
good deal of green stuff to plow under. Legumes are, of course, better
because of their ability to absorb atmospheric nitrogen, but any plant
which makes a large green growth is good, and it is better to have a
heavy weight of wild vegetation than to have a light growth of an
Manure with a Clover Crop.
I have an old apple orchard in which I intend to sow burr clover. In
order to get the clover to grow I know that I shall have to use
fertilizer of some kind and this is what I want your advice about.
If you can get it, use stable manure at the time of sowing the clover
seed. Stable manure alone will restore the humus and overcome the
rebellious behavior of the soil. Possibly you cannot secure sufficient
quantities of it. In that case a little with the burr clover seed will
give the plant a good start, or use a complete fertilizer to secure the
growth of a legume in the freest and quickest way.
Fenugreek as a Cover Crop.
Fenugreek has been recommended to be as a nitrogen-gathering plant, but
I cannot find information as to the amount of nitrogen it gathers in its
roots and tops, nor the amount of crop per acre.
Fenugreek is a good nitrogen gatherer and is desirable for green
manuring wherever you can get a good growth of the plant. You can count
it worth as much as peas, vetches, etc., if you can get as much growth
of the plant. It is most largely used in the lemon district near Santa
Paula. The best way to proceed would be to try a small area of all the
nitrogen gathering plants of which you can get the seed easily, and
determine by your own observation which makes the best growth under your
Improvement of Cementing Soils.
I would like some advice in handling the "cementy" gravel soil. Manure
is beneficial in loosening up the soil, but there is not enough
available. Would the Canadian field pea make a satisfactory growth here
if sown as soon as the rains begin? I would try to grow either peas or
vetch and plow under in February or March and then set trees or vines on
The way to mellow your soil is certainly to use stable manure or to plow
under green stuff, as you propose. This increases the humus which the
soil needs and imparts all the desirable characters and qualities which
humus carries. You ought to get a good growth of Canadian field peas or
common California field peas or the common Oregon vetch by sowing in the
fall, as soon as the ground can be moistened by rain or irrigation, and,
if the season is favorable, secure enough growth for plowing under in
February to make it worth while. Be careful, however, not to defer
planting trees and vines too late in order to let the green stuff grow,
because this would hazard the success of your planting by the reduction
of the moisture supply during the following summer by the amount which
might be required to keep the covered-in stuff decaying, plus loss of
moisture from the fact that the covered stuff prevented you from getting
thorough surface cultivation during the dry season. For these reasons
one is to be careful about planting on covered-in stuff which has not
had a chance to decay. This consideration, of course, becomes negligible
if you have water for summer irrigation, but if you expect to get the
growth of your trees and vines with the rainfall of the previous winter,
be careful not to waste it in either of the ways which have been
indicated, and above all, do not plant trees and vines too late.
Theoretically, your position is perfect. The application of it, however,
requires some care and judgment. Rather than plant too late, you had
better grow the green stuff the winter after the trees have been
Needs Organic Matter.
I have what I believe to be decomposed sandstone. Many rocks are still
projecting out of land which I blast and break up. The soil works freely
when moist or wet, but when dry it takes a pick-axe to dig it up; a plow
won't touch it. Among my young fruit trees I tried to grow peas, beans,
carrots and beets, and although I freely irrigated them during the
summer and fall, and although I planted at different times, my peas and
beans have been a total failure, and the beets, carrots and onions
nearly so. For years the land has grown nothing but weeds.
Your soil needs organic matter which would make it more easy of
cultivation, more retentive of moisture, and in every way better suited
to the growth of plants. Liberal applications of stable manure would
produce best effects. No commercial fertilizer would begin to be so
desirable. If you can dig into the soil large amounts of weeds or other
vegetable waste material, you would be proceeding along the same line,
but stable manure is better on account of its greater fertilizing
content. You ought to be thankful that the soil has spunk enough to grow
weeds. The Immanent Creator is still doing the best he can to help you
out; take a hand yourself on the same line.
Two Legumes in a Year.
I have land on which I wish to plant to fruits, and I wish to build up
the soil all I can, by planting cover crops and plowing under. What
would be the best to plant this fall, to be plowed under next spring,
and to plant again next spring to plow under in the fall? I will not be
able to plant any trees before next fall or the following spring.
Get in vetches as soon as the ground is in shape in the fall. Plow them
under early in the spring and close the covering and compact the green
stuff by running a straight disk over the ground after plowing. This
will help decay and save moisture. Follow with cow peas as soon as you
are out of the frost, disking in the seed so as not to disturb the stuff
previously covered in. Do not wait to put under the winter growth until
it is safe to put on the cowpeas, for, if you do, you will lose so much
moisture that the cowpeas will not amount to much.
Handling Orchard Soil.
We average about 35 inches of rainfall. With this heavy rainfall, is
there any advantage to be gained by early plowing and clean cultivation
right through the winter? Would such plowing and cultivation result in
any serious loss of plant food? Would you advise an early or late
application of nitrogen, such as nitrate or guano? If there is any loss
from an early application, can it be determined by any means?
The old policy of clean winter cultivation has been largely abandoned.
Nearly everyone is trying to grow something green during the rainy
season to plow under toward the end of it. Even those who do not sow
legumes for this purpose are plowing under as good a weed cover as they
can get. This improves the soil both in plant food and in friability,
which promotes summer pulverization and saves moisture from summer
evaporation. Much less early plowing is done than formerly unless it be
shallow to get in the seed for the cover crop; the deeper plowing being
done to put it under. Guano can be applied earlier in the winter than
nitrate, which can be turned in with the cover crop, while the former
may be sown with the seed to promote the winter growth. Whether you are
losing your nitrate or not the chemist might determine for you by
before-and-after analyses. If you are a good observer you may detect
loss by absence of the effects you desire to secure.
Do you think it a good practice to soak seeds before planting?
It is more desirable with some seeds than others and when the ground is
rather dry or the sowing time rather late, than when sowing in moister
ground or earlier in the rainy season, when heavy rains are to be
expected. Soaking is simply a way to be sure that the seed covering has
ample moisture for softening and the kernel has what it requires for
awakening it germ and meeting its needs. The soil may not always have
enough to spare for these purposes and germination may be delayed or
started and arrested. Ordinarily seeds can be helped by soaking a few
hours in water at ordinary temperatures. Some very hard seeds like those
of acacia trees, etc., are helped by hot water - even near the boiling
My palms are quite small, but they do not seem to grow; they seem to be
The growth of palms is proportional to the amount of soil moisture
available, providing it is not in excess and not too alkaline. Some
palms are quite drouth-resisting, but it is a mistake to think of a palm
as a desert plant and try to make a desert for it. A young palm,
especially, needs regular and ample water supply until it gets well
established. Your plants may be drying up, or they may have had too much
frost or too much alkali. If they are not too far gone, they will come
out later if you give them regular moisture and cultivation.
Water from Wells or Streams.
One of our neighbors insists that water from a well is, in the long run,
very hard on the land, and that irrigation water is much to be
There is no characteristic and permanent difference between waters from
wells and waters from streams so far as irrigation is concerned. The
character depends upon the sources from which both are derived. Some
wells may carry too much mineral matter in the form of salt, alkali,
etc., and some stream waters sometimes carry considerable alkali. For
this reason some wells may be better than streams and some streams
better than wells. There is no general rule in the matter. Your neighbor
may be right as applied to your location, and may know from his
experience that the well water carries too much undesirable material.
That could only be determined by analysis, and the analysis must be made
when the water is rather low, because during the rainy season, or soon
after it, the water may have less mineral impurity than later in the
season when it may be more concentrated.
Shall He Irrigate or Cultivate?
Our soil is of an excellent quality, and I feel if the moisture were
properly conserved by suitable methods it could be made to produce
fruits or some other very much more profitable than from hay and grain
Whether you can grow deciduous fruits successfully without irrigation
depends not only upon how well you conserve the moisture by cultivation,
but also whether the total rainfall conveys water enough, even if as
much as possible of it is conserved. Again, you might find that thorough
cultivation will give you satisfactory young trees, but would not
conserve moisture enough for the same trees when they come into bearing.
This proposition should be studied locally. If you can find trees in the
vicinity which do give satisfactory fruit under the rainfall, you would
have a practical demonstration which would be more trustworthy than any
forecast which could be prepared upon theoretical grounds.
Condensation for Irrigation.
If a circular funnel of waterproofed building paper, or some better
cheap device, were fastened about the base of the tree in such a manner
as to catch and concentrate most of the drippings from the leaves, and
that water made to run down through a tube leading a suitable depth into
the earth, it seems to me that the number of foggy nights that occur in
many localities during the season might thus supply ample water for a
The probability is that water would not be secured in sufficient
quantities to serve any notable irrigation purposes, or if the fogs were
so thick as to yield water enough, the sunshine would be too scant for
the success of the plant. Put your idea to the test and see how much
water you could get from a tree of definite leaf area, which could be
Last May I irrigated my prune trees for the first time, again during the
first two weeks of last December. If no rain should come within the next
two weeks, would you advise me to irrigate then? Should I plow before
irrigating, or should irrigation be done before the buds swell?
Unless your ground is deeply wet down by the rains which are now coming,
irrigate it once, and do not plow before irrigating. The point is to get
as much water into the ground and as much grass growth on top as you can
before the spring plowing. Never mind about the swelling of the buds.
The trees will not be affected injuriously by getting a good supply of
winter water into the soil. There might be some danger with trees which
bloom late in the spring, like citrus trees or olives, because by that
time the ground has become warm and the roots very active. At the
blooming time of deciduous trees less danger would threaten, because
there is less difference between the temperature of the ground and the
water which you were then applying from a running stream. If you
irrigated in furrows and, therefore, did not collect the water in mass,
its temperature would rise by contact with air, which would be another
reason for not apprehending trouble from it.
How Much Water for Oranges?
How much water would you consider absolutely necessary to carry to
full-bearing citrus trees an clay loam-that is, how many acres to a
miner's inch, figuring nine gallons per minute to the inch?
It would, of course, depend upon the age of the trees, as old bearing
trees may require twice as much as young trees. We would estimate for
bearing trees, on such retentive soil, 30-acre inches per year applied
in the way best for the soil.
My orange seed-bed stack has "damp-off." Same say "too much water;" "not
enough water;" "put on lime;" etc. I use a medium amount of water and
more of my stack is affected than that of any other grower. One man has
kept his well soaked since planting, and only about six plants were
affected. Another has used but little water, keeping them very dry; he
has lost none.
Damping-off is due to a fungus which attacks the tender growth when
there is too much surface moisture. It may be produced by rather a small
amount of water, providing the soil is heavy and the water is not
rapidly absorbed and distributed. On the other hand, a lighter soil
taking water more easily may grow plants without damping-off, even
though a great deal more water has been used than on the heavier soil.
Too much shade, which prevents the sun from drying the surface soil, is
also likely to produce damping-off, therefore, one has to provide just
the right amount of shade and the right amount of ventilation through
circulation of the air, etc. The use of sand on the surface of a heavier
soil may save plants from damping-off, because the sand passes the water
quickly and dries, while a heavier surface soil would remain soggy. Lime
may be of advantage if not used in too great quantities because it
disintegrates the surface of the soil and helps to produce a dryness
which is desirable. Keeping the surface dry enough and yet providing the
seedlings with moisture for a free and satisfactory growth is a matter
which must be determined by experience and good judgment.
Irrigated or Non-Irrigated Trees.
Is there any difference between the same kind of fruit trees grown
without irrigation and with it?
It does not make a particle of difference, if the trees are grown well
and matured well. Overirrigated trees or trees growing on land naturally
moist may be equally bad. Excessively large trees and stunted trees are
both bad; with irrigation you may be more likely to get the first kind;
without it you are more likely to get the latter. There is, however, a
difference between a stunted tree and a wellgrown small tree, and as a
rule medium-sized trees are most desirable than overgrown trees. The
mere fact of irrigation does not make either good trees or bad trees: it
is the man at the ditch.
Too Little Rather Than Too Much Water.
Looking through an orchard of 18-year-old prune trees on riverbottom
land, I found a number of the trees had died. A well bored in the
orchard strikes water at about 15 feet. I find no apparent reason far
the death of these trees unless it is that the tap roots reach this body
of water and are injuriously affected thereby.
We do not believe that water at 15 feet depth could possibly kill a
prune tree. It is more likely that owing to spotted condition of the
soil, gravel should occur in different places, and with gravel three or
four feet below the surface a tree might actually die although there was
plenty of water at a depth of 15 feet. There is more danger that the
trees died from lack of water than from an oversupply of it, and it is
quite likely also that you could pump and irrigate to advantage large
trees which did not seem to be up to the standard of the whole place, as
manifested by lack of bearing, smallness of leaves, which would be apt
to turn yellow too early in the season.
Possibly Too Much Water.
My trees are four years old and are as follows: Peach, fig, loquat,
apple, apricot and plum. Last year they had plenty of blossoms, but I
got no fruit. I always watered them twice a week in summer.
You are watering your trees too much; stimulating their growth too much,
and this, while a tree is young, is apt to postpone its fruit bearing.
Give the soil a good soaking about once a mouth, unless you are situated
in a sandy or gravelly soil, in which more frequent applications may be
Too Little Water After Dynamiting.
In planting almonds on a dry hard soil I dynamited the holes and ran
about 200 gallons of water into each hole before planting. About 95 per
cent of the trees started growth, but seem now to be in a somewhat
dormant state, the leaves of some being slightly wilted. All the trees
were watered since planting. I have been told I made a mistake by
throwing water in the dynamited holes. When the holes were watered the
ground was very dry and the water disappeared in a few minutes.
You have used too little water rather than too much. Dry soil of fine
texture can suck up an awful lot of moisture, which can be drawn off so
far, or so widely distributed, that there will not be enough for the
immediate vicinity of the roots. The dynamiting tended to deep drying
and necessitated much more irrigation.
Irrigating Young Trees.
We have just put out 50 acres to walnuts. The party who put them out
wants me to have some boxes or troughs made 15 inches long with a 3-inch
opening, and put in on the slant so as to have the water hit the roots.
Many such arrangements of boxes, perforated cans, pieces of tile, etc.,
have been proposed during the last fifty years in California for
accomplishing the purposes which are mentioned in your letter, and all
such devices have been abandoned as undesirable. They may bring the
water to bear upon a lower level as intended, but the free access of air
and the fact that, with their use, proper stirring of the soil is
neglected renders them undesirable. The best way to water young trees
singly is to make a trench around tree, but not allowing the water to
touch the bark, applying the water and then thoroughly hoe when the
surface soil comes into proper condition. Young trees treated in this
way, with the surface always in good condition, do not require much
water. The amount depends, of course, upon whether the soil is naturally
porous or retentive.
How extensively used and with what results is the underground tile
system for irrigation used, and what especial character of soil is it
best suited for?
Not extensively at all; in fact, if there is an acre of it which has
been for three years in continuous and successful operation, it has
escaped us. After forty years of trial of different systems, none has
demonstrated value enough to warrant its use. Theoretically, they are
excellent; in practice they are defective. Surface application in
different ways, according to the nature of the soil, accompanied with
thorough cultivation, is the only thing that at the present time
promises satisfactory results, except that where the land suits it,
irrigation by underflow from ditches on higher elevations is being
successfully used on small areas in the foothills. For gardens the most
promising arrangement seems to be a laying of drain tiles rather near
the surface, which shall be taken up each year, cleaned of silt and
plant roots, and relaid along the rows before planting; but this calls
for too much labor, except perhaps for amateur gardeners. The kind of
soil best suited to such a system is a medium loam which will distribute
water sufficiently to avoid saturation and air-exclusion. Both a heavy
soil which does this, and a coarse sandy loam which takes water down out
of reach of shallow-rooting plants too rapidly and lacks capillarity to
draw it up again, are ill adapted to underground distribution.
Irrigation of Potatoes.
Will you kindly tell me when is the proper time to irrigate potatoes,
before they bloom or after they bloom, and do they require much water?
It should seldom be necessary to irrigate potatoes after the bloom
appears. Potatoes do not need much water, and there is danger of giving
them too much. It is absolutely essential to see that there is no check
in the growth of the plant, for once the growth is at all checked by
drought, and irrigation is done, a new lot of potatoes start and new and
old growth of tubers are worthless. Give what irrigation is needed and
make cultivation do the rest. The secret of success is keeping the soil
continually at the right moisture, so that the first growth of the plant
may continue regularly until the tubers are brought to maturity.
Irrigated or Non-Irrigated Apples.
Where soil and climatic conditions are favorable to the raising of
apples, what effect has irrigation an them?
The commercial product of California apples is chiefly made upon deep
soils in districts of ample rainfall so that the fruit can be perfected
and the trees maintained in thrift by thorough cultivation and without
irrigation. In the foothill and mountain regions, however, apple trees
are irrigated and first-class fruit produced by the process. There is no
particular virtue in the absence of irrigation nor in the presence of
it. All that the tree requires is that the moisture supply should be
adequate and timely. There are undoubtedly many apple orchards grown
without irrigation where a little water during the latter part of the
summer would be a great advantage for the perfection of winter
Irrigating Walnuts-Checks or Furrows.
Which is the best method to irrigate a tract of 25 acres of sandy
sediment sail, nearly level, preparatory to planting walnuts?
By all means use the furrow system of irrigation unless your land should
be so light that the water would sink in the furrows and distribution
would be very unequal without covering the whole surface as is done by
filling checks. When the land cannot be covered well by the furrow
system, checking is resorted to, but not otherwise.
Summer and Fall Irrigation.
Is it desirable to irrigate peach trees in the fall after the crop is
The popularity of autumn irrigation for peaches in the San Joaquin
valley is based upon the experience of the last few years where trees
that have been allowed to become dormant too early in the season and
have been weakened by a long period of soil-drought during the autumn,
have cast their blossoms or manifested other indications of weakness
during the following year. It is thoroughly rational to apply irrigation
to hold the leaves and secure their service in the strengthening of
bloom buds for the following year by irrigation. Such irrigation should
be applied immediately after the fruit is gathered or even before that,
if the yellowing of the leaves indicates lack of strength in the tree
and the frequency and amount of irrigation during the autumn depends
upon whether the soil will hold moisture enough to carry the tree to its
proper period of dormancy. This may be determined by the aspect of the
trees and by digging down two or three feet to see whether the soil
carries moisture which is likely to be sufficient until the coming of
the rains. Whether late irrigation will be necessary is also
determinable by the character of the soil; on close retentive soil it
may not be necessary, while on loose, sandy or gravelly soil it may be
essential to the life of the tree. One has to settle all these matters
by judgment and not by recipe.
Fertilizers in Irrigation Water.
Do you recommend putting fertilizers in irrigating water? I am about to
water the orchard and am thinking of putting some nitrate in the water.
You can distribute any soluble fertilizer by dissolving it in irrigation
water, but few have ever done it because of the difficulties of getting
equal strength in running water. It is much easier to distribute on land
Irrigating Alfalfa on Heavy Soils.
How does alfalfa succeed on adobe and soils slightly modified from it?
Does irrigation work well an adobe planted to alfalfa?
If you get the irrigation adjusted so that the soil shall not be
water-logged and so that the water does not stand on the surface when
the sun is hot, you can get plenty of good alfalfa on a heavy soil.
Irrigation on adobe soils must be done more frequently and a less amount
at each application to guard against the dangers named above.
How Much Water for Crops?
Same of my land is heavy but the most of it is light soil. I want
alfalfa mostly, same potatoes and grain, and later oranges, olives and
other fruit. How much water in inches or acre feet is required per acre
per year far the irrigation of it?
The amount of water required to grow different crops depends upon the
crop itself, upon the time of the year in which it grows, the character
of the soil, etc. There is no such thing as stating how much water would
be used for all crops on all soils, and at all times of the year. The
range would be from, say, ten acre inches for irrigation of deciduous
fruits, which need moisture supplementary to rainfall; twice or thrice
as much for citrus fruit trees; four or five times as much for alfalfa
where a full number of cuttings are required. These are, of course, only
rough estimates which would have to be modified according to local
rainfall and soil character. Water should be applied frequently enough
to keep the lower soil amply moist. A color of moisture is not enough
and a muddy condition results from too much water. One has to learn to
judge when there is moisture enough, and a good test of this to take up
a handful of soil, squeeze it and open the hand. If the ball retains its
shape it is probably moist enough. If it has a tendency to crack upon
opening the hand, it is too dry. This test, of course, is somewhat
affected by the character of the soil, but one has to form the best
judgment possible how far allowance has to be made for that.
What is the usefulness or harmfulness of the outflow from septic tanks
for use an fruits and vegetables?
There is no question as to the suitability of the affluent from a septic
tank for irrigation purposes. Waste waters are sometimes injurious when
they are loaded with antiseptics, but the septic tank will not work
unless it has a chance for free fermentation in the absence of
antiseptics, therefore, this objection against waste water does not hold
with the out-flow from septic tanks. It has the advantage over straight
sewage irrigation because fermentation in the septic tank is believed to
free the water from many dangerous germs, though not all of them.
Creamery Wastes for Irrigation.
Will the waste water from a creamery, pumped into a ditch and used for
irrigating sandy loam orchard land, or nursery stack, in any way be
injurious to the land or the trees?
It will depend upon the amounts of salt and alkaline washing materials
which it carries. This would be governed, of course, by the amount of
fresh water used for dilution in the irrigation ditch. There are two
ways to determine the question. One would be to make an analysis of a
sample of the water taken when it contains the largest amount of these
materials after the dilution with ditch water. Another way would be to
plant some corn, squashes, barley and other plants, so that they would
be freely irrigated by the water during one growing season. This would
be rather better than an analysis, because everybody could see whether
the plants grew well or not, and would be apt to be better convinced by
what they see than by an opinion which a chemist might give on the basis
of an analysis. The use of this water on a sandy loam would obviously be
less injurious than upon a heavy retentive soil.
House Waste Water.
Is it feasible to use wash water, etc., for watering fruit trees and
Kitchen sink water is not desirable because of its great content of
grease, but wash-tub and bathtub water are good. Strong soapsuds should
be mixed with considerable rinsing water to escape excessive content of
alkali. Run the water in hoe-ditches, along the rows of vegetables,
hoeing thoroughly as soon as the land hoes well, changing the runs of
water so that the soil does not become compacted but is kept friable and
Draining a Wet Spot.
I have a spot of about an acre that in a wet winter becomes very miry
and as a rule is wet up to July. Can I put in a ditch two and one-half
feet deep and fill in with small stones for a foot or a foot and a half,
until I can afford to buy tiles?
Drains made of small stones are often quickly filled with soil and stop
running. However, it will work for a time, and such drains were formerly
largely employed in Eastern situations when cash was scant and stones
abundant. Dig the ditch bottom to a depth of not less than 3 or 3 1/2
feet, then put in the stones deep enough not to be interfered with by
plowing. If you have flat stones you can make quite a water-way with
them and fill in with small stones above it.
Part V. Live Stock and Dairy
Legal Milk House.
What is a legal milk house in California?
The State dairy law says little concerning the construction or equipment
of the milk house. It says that the house, or room, shall be properly
screened to exclude flies and insects, and is to be used for the purpose
of cooling, mixing, canning and keeping the milk. The milk room shall
not be used for any other purpose than milk handling and storing, and
must be 100 feet or more distant from hogpen, horse stable, cesspool or
similar accumulation of filth, and must be over 50 feet from cow stalls
or places where milking is done. In regard to the size of the milk room
and equipment, nothing is said provided it is large enough for the milk
to be handled conveniently. Concrete milk houses, however, had best have
smooth-finished floors and walls. The interior of the milk house is also
to be whitewashed once in two years or oftener. If milk from the dairy
is to go to a city, the requirements will be more severe than provided
in the State law, and must conform to the ordinances of the city to
which the milk is to be sent.
Cure for a Self-Milker.
What shall I do for a young cow that milks herself?
Fit a harness consisting of two light side slats and a girth and neck
strap in such a way that the cow cannot reach her udder. Unless she is
particularly valuable for milk, it will save you a lot of worry to fix
her up for beef.
How can I overcome strong milk in a three-quarter Jersey cow? I had been
feeding alfalfa hay with two quarts alfalfa meal and one quart middlings
twice a day. Thinking the strong milk came from the feed I changed to
oat hay and alfalfa with a soft feed of bran and middlings.
There is nothing in either ration that could cause strong milk, nor will
a change of feed likely benefit the trouble. If the cow is in good
physical condition the trouble probably comes from the entrance of
bacteria during or after milking. Thoroughly clean up around the milking
stable, followed by a disinfection of the premises. Have the flanks,
udder and teats of the cow thoroughly cleaned before milking and scald
all utensils used for the milk. Harmful bacteria may have gotten well
established on the premises and the entrance of a few is enough to
seriously affect the flavor of the milk. Once the trouble is checked it
can be kept down with the usual sanitary methods.
Separator as Milk Purifier.
I have a neighbor who contends that a cream separator purifies the milk
that passes through it. I say that it does not purify the milk. I agree
that it does take out some of the heavy particles of dirt and filth, but
that it cannot take out what is already in solution with the milk.
The purification naturally cannot be very great, and if milk is produced