THE SOIL AND MANURES
The back yard gardener must use the
soil he has, but he can improve it if it is poor, and he must do this as far
as possible. Stable manure will help even the richest soil, and you are not
likely to use too much of it. During a single season professional gardeners
apply as much as six inches of it. From 400 to 600 pounds can be used to
advantage on a plot 20 by 20 feet. Coarse manure should be applied and
thoroughly plowed or spaded under in the fall. In the spring, fine, rotted
manure is applied, just before plowing or spading, preceding the planting of
any crop. If the ground is fairly rich, and well-rotted manure is scarce,
the manure may be scattered in the row only, and should be mixed into the
soil before the planting of seed.
Loam is the best garden soil. Sand, with manure, gives
good results. Clay is hardest to work, but is greatly improved by
well-rotted manure and vegetable matter––called humus. These should be well
worked in with hoe and rake. Sifted coal ashes, entirely free from clinkers,
will help loosen up clay when mixed into it, but will not remove an acid
condition nor increase fertility.
Many gardeners experience
difficulty in obtaining supplies of well-rotted manure. In such cases
commercial fertilizers should be used. Even where stable manure has been
secured and worked into the soil it is well to supplement with moderate
quantities of quick-acting fertilizer in order to give plants an early start
and hasten maturity.
It is safest to rely upon the ready-mixed fertilizers
usually obtainable at seed and hardware stores. Several specially prepared
mixtures in convenient packages are now on the market. For large areas, 100
to 200 pound bags may be obtained. A mixture containing 3 to 4 per cent
nitrogen and 8 to 10 per cent phosphoric acid is about right for the average
garden. Your dealer will inform you on this point. If the fertilizer also
contains potash, so much the better, but this year potash is scarce and high
* [ed. note]
earthly pursuits encourages the use of organic, not chemical, fertilizers.
Where no manure is used the fertilizer should be spread over the surface of
the finely prepared seed-bed at the rate of 5 pounds for a plot 10 feet
square, just before planting. The surface soil should then be thoroughly
raked so as to mix the fertilizer evenly to a depth of 2 inches. Never place
seed or transplanted plants in direct contact with fertilizer. Thorough
mixing of the fertilizer with the soil is essential to prevent injury of
seed or roots.
Fig. 2––This shows the construction of an outdoor cold
frame. A hotbed is built in the same way, except that for the hotbed a pit
and manure are required. See page 7 for directions for making cold frames
Where manure has been worked into the soil,
reduce the fertilizer application approximately one-half.
Tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, spinach and some other
crops requiring rather long growing seasons, are materially benefited by a
second application of fertilizer when half grown. Side dressings of this
kind should be scattered between the rows at the rate of four ounces
(one-half pint) to 10 feet of row, when rows are spaced 2 feet apart; and
pro rata for rows spaced a greater or lesser distance. To insure even
distribution mix the fertilizer with fine, dry earth just before spreading.
Compost is especially desirable when quick
growth is wanted. Compost is thoroughly rotted manure or organic material.
It is prepared from six to twelve months before being used, by putting the
manure and other material in piles having perpendicular sides and flat tops.
These piles are usually from 2 to 4 feet high and 6 to 8 feet long.
Besides the usual waste of garden rubbish, there is a
large waste of leaves, weeds and the skins and other unused portions of
fruits and vegetables. These should all be thrown on the compost pile to
decay for use on the garden next spring.
(continued on page 6)