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Alkalis Salt Ashes Lime
Bones Phosphates Guano
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Co-operation In Farming
Commercial Fertilizers Gypsum
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What I Know Of Farming




Alkalis Salt Ashes Lime








I do not know a rood of our country's surface so rich in all the
materials which enter into the production of the Grains, Grasses,
Fruits, and Vegetables, which are the objects and rewards of
cultivation, that it could not be improved by the application of
fertilizers; if there be such, I heartily congratulate the owners, and
advise them not to sell. Nor do I believe that there are many acres so
fertile that they would not produce more Indian Corn, more Hemp, more
Cotton, and more of whatever may be their appropriate staple, if
judiciously fertilized. If there be farms or fields originally so good
that manure would not increase their yield, I am confident that the
first half-dozen crops will have taken that conceit out of them.
Prairies and river-bottoms may yield ever so bounteously; but that very
luxuriance of growth insures their gradual exhaustion of certain
elements of crops, which must needs be replaced or their product will
dwindle. Whoever has sold a thousand bushels of grain, or its equivalent
in meat, from his farm, has thereby impoverished that farm, unless he
has applied something that balances its loss. "I perceive that virtue
has gone out of me," observed the Saviour, because the hem of his
garment had been touched; and every field that had been cropped might
make a similar report whenever its annual loss by abstraction has not
been balanced by some kind of fertilizer. The farmer who grows the
largest crops is the most merciless exhauster of the soil, unless he
balances his annual drafts (as good farmers rarely fail to do) by at
least equal reenforcements of the productive capacity of his fields.

The good farmer begins by inquiring, "Wherein was my soil originally
deficient? and of what has it been exhausted by subsequent crops?" I
judge that my gravelly hill-sides would reward the application of two
hundred loads (or tuns) of pure clay per acre, as I think the clay flats
which border Lake Champlain would pay for a like application of sand or
fine gravel where that material is found in convenient proximity; and
yet, I know very well that, on at least three-fourths of our country's
area, such application would cost far more than it would be worth. Every
farmer must act on his knowledge of his soil and its peculiar needs, and
not blindly follow the dictum of another. Yet I know few farms which,
were they mine, I would not consider enhanced in value by a vigorous
application of some alkaline substance--Lime, Salt, Ashes, or some of
the cheaper Nitrates. I should be very glad to apply one thousand
bushels of good house-made, hard-wood Ashes to my twenty acres of
arable upland, if I could buy them, delivered, at twenty five cents per
bushel; but they are not to be had. I doubt that there are a hundred
acres of warm, dry, gravelly or sandy soil east of the Alleghanies that
would not amply reward a similar application. But Ashes in quantity are
unattainable, since no good farmer sells them, and Coal is the chief
fuel of cities and villages. The Marls of New-Jersey I judge fully equal
in average value to Ashes which have been nearly deprived of their
potash by leaching, but not quite half equal, bushel for bushel, to
unleached Ashes. I judge that average Marl is worth 10 cents per
bushel where Ashes may be had for 25. But Marl is found only in a few
localities, and a material worth but 10 cents per bushel will not bear
transportation beyond 40 miles by wagon or 200 by water. Salt is only
found or made at a few points, and is too dear for general use as a
fertilizer. Where the refuse product of Salt-Works can be cheaply
bought, good farmers will eagerly compete for it, if their lands at all
resemble mine. I judge the tun of Potash I ordered fifteen years ago
from Syracuse, paying $50 and transportation, was the cheapest
fertilizer I ever bought. It was so impregnated with Salt (from the
boiling over of the salt-kettles into the ashes) as to be worthless for
other than agricultural purposes; but I mixed it with a large pile of
Muck that I had recently dug, and, six or eight months thereafter,
applied the product to a very poor, gravelly hill-side which I had just
broken up; and the immediate result was a noble crop of Corn. That
hill-side has not yet forgotten the application.

--If I should try to explain just how and why Lime is a fertilizer, I
should probably fail; and I am well assured that liming has in some
cases been overdone; yet I think most observers will concur in my
statement that any region which has been limed year after year produces
crops of noticeable excellence. I cite as examples Chester and
Lancaster Counties, Pennsylvania, with Stark and adjacent counties of
Ohio. Possibly, results equally gratifying might be secured by applying
some other substance; I only know that frequently limed lands are
generally good lands, as their crops do testify. I heartily wish that
the flat clay intervales of Western Vermont could have a fair trial of
the virtues of liming. I should expect to see them thereby rendered
friable and arable; no longer changing speedily from the semblance of
tar to that of brick, but readily plowed and tilled, and yielding
liberally of Grain as well as Grass. I am confident that most farms in
our country will pay for liming to the extent of fifty bushels per acre
where the cost of quick-lime does not exceed ten cents per bushel; and
most farmers, by taking, hot from the kiln, the refuse lime that is
deemed unfit for building purposes, can obtain it cheaper than that.

I wish some farmer who gives constant personal attention to his work--as
I cannot--would make some careful tests of the practical value of
alkalis. For instance: the abundance and tenacity of our common sorrel
is supposed to indicate an acid condition of the soil; and all who have
tried it know that sorrel is hard to kill by cultivation. I suggest that
whoever is troubled with it should cover two square rods with one bushel
of quick-lime just after plowing and harrowing this Spring; then apply
another bushel to four square rods adjacent; then make similar
applications of ashes to two and four square rods respectively, taking
careful note of the boundaries of each patch, and leaving the rest of
the field destitute of either application. I will not anticipate the
result: more than one year may be required to evolve it; but I am
confident that a few such experiments would supply data whereof I am in
need; and there are doubtless others whose ignorance is nearly equal to
mine.

Many have applied Lime to their fields without realizing any advantage
therefrom. In some cases, there was already a sufficiency of this
ingredient in the soil, and the application of more was one of those
many wasteful blunders induced by our ignorance of Chemistry. But much
Lime is naturally adulterated with other minerals, especially with
Manganese, so that its application to most if not to all soils subserves
no good end. In the absence of exact, scientific knowledge, I would buy
fifty bushels of quick-lime, apply them to one acre running through a
field, and watch the effect. If it doesn't pay, you have a bad article,
or your soil is not deficient in Lime.





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