Corn Growing for Silage.
With fair cultivation, will an acre produce about 10 tons of ensilage without fertilization - it being bottom land? How should it be planted? - the rows closer together than 3 feet, or should it be planted the usual width between rows, and thick in the rows? If fertilizers were to be used, what kind would you recommend? Would you recommend deep plowing followed by a packer and harrow so as to preserve the moisture?
You ought to be able to get 10 tons of silage per acre from corn grown on good corn land. It can be best grown in rows sufficiently distant for cultivation, closer in the row than would be desirable for corn, and yet not too crowded, because corn for silage should develop good ears and should be cut for silage about the time when the glazing begins to appear. If your land needs fertilization, stable manure or a "complete fertilizer" of the dealers would be the proper thing to use. It would be very desirable to plow corn land deeply the preceding fall, followed by a packer or harrow to settle down the land below, but do not work down fine. Keep the surface stirred from time to time during the winter and put in the crop with the usual cultivation in the spring as soon as the frost danger is over.
Irrigation for Corn.
What amount of water is necessary per acre for the best possible yield of corn under acreage conditions and proper cultivation in the San Joaquin or Sacramento valleys?
No one can answer such a question with anything more than a guess. It depends upon how much rain has fallen the previous winter, how retentive the soil is naturally, and what has been done to help the soil to hold it. Nearly all the corn that is grown is carried without any irrigation at all on moist lowlands, which may be too wet for winter crops. If you demand a guess, make it six acre-inches, with a good surface pulverizing after each run of water in furrows between the rows. This water would be best used in two or three applications.
Eastern Seed Corn for California.
The question has been raised as to Eastern-grown seed corn, comparing it with California-grown seed. Some claim that the former does not yield well the first season.
We cannot give a complete refutation of the impression that Eastern seed corn does not yield well the first season in California. It is a somewhat prevalent impression. All that we can announce now is that we have grown collections of Eastern seed corn and have found the product quite as good as could have been expected, and did not encounter, apparently, the trouble of which you write.
Need of Corn Suckering.
To insure the best crop of corn possible, does it pay to sucker it or not?
The removal of suckers is a matter of local conditions largely in California, and growers are getting out of the habit of suckering. In some places suckering is needed, and in others it apparently does not pay to do so, although with very rare exceptions a larger yield can be secured by suckering than without.
Cow Peas Not Preparatory for Corn.
What time of the year can cow peas be planted, and can the entire crop be plowed under in time for planting field corn?
Cowpeas are very subject to frost. They are really beans, and therefore can be grown in the winter time only in a few practically frostless places. Wherever frosts are likely to occur they must be planted, like beans and corn, when the frost danger is over. Field peas, Canadian peas and vetches are hardy against frost and therefore safer for winter growth, and treated as you propose they may be preparatory for corn-growing providing you plow them under soon enough to get a month or more for decay before planting the corn.
Oats and Rust
Is there any variety of oats that is rust-proof, or any method of treating oats that will render them rust resistant? We are situated on a mountain, only about 12 miles from the coast, and have considerable foggy weather, which most of the farmers here say is the cause of the rust.
There is no way of treating oats which will prevent smut, if the variety is liable to it. There is a great difference in the resistance of different varieties. A few dark-colored oats are practically rust-proof, and you can get seed of them from the seedsmen in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Such varieties are chiefly grown on the southern coast. Foggy weather has much to do with the rust, because it causes atmospheric moisture which is favorable to the growth of the fungus, which is usually checked by dry heat, and yet there are atmospheric conditions occasionally which favor the rust even in the driest parts of the State. The fog favors rust, but does not cause it. The cause is a fungus, long ago thoroughly understood and named puccinia graminis.
Midsummer Hay Sowing.
Can I sow oats or barley in July upon irrigated mesa land, with the object of making hay in the fall? Which of the two would do the better in summer time? I have plenty of water.
We have never seen this done to advantage. If you desire to try it, irrigate thoroughly and plow and sow afterward. Use barley rather than oats and irrigate when the plant shades the land well, if you get growth enough to warrant it. It will be easier to get the crop than to figure a profit in it.
Loose Hay by Measure.
How many cubic feet should be allowed for a ton of alfalfa hay loaded on a wagon from the shock? I must sell more or less in that way, as no scales are near enough to be used.
It is a proposition, as to the weight of loose hay, which could of course keep changing the higher you built the load on the wagon. It is easier to give figures on weight from a stack in which there has been something like uniform pressure for a time. In the case from a 30-day stack it is common to allow an eight-foot cube to a ton, etc. Perhaps you can guess from that.
When to Cut Oat Hay.
To make the best red oat hay should it be cut when in the "milk," "dough" or nearly ripe!
It should be cut in the "soft dough" or, as some express it, "between the milk and the dough." This is probably as near an approach in words as can be made to that condition which loses neither by immaturity or by over-maturity from the point of view of hay which is to get as much as can be in the head without losing nutritiveness in the straw. Of course there are other conditions intruding sometimes, like the outbreak of rust or the premature ripening through drought. In such cases care must be taken not to let the plant stand too long for the sake of reaching an ideal condition in the head - which for lack of favorable growing conditions the plant may not be able to reach.
Rye for Hay.
When is the best time to cut rye for hay, and how should it best be handled? Would it be well to cut it up and blow it into the barn, and would it do all right for silage?
Rye makes poor hay on account of its woody stems and must be cut earlier than other grains. After that it is handled as is other hay. Cutting it up would probably be more of a help than to other grain hay. It could be put into the silo, but would of course have to be cut pretty green and would have to run through a cutter and blower. Putting it in whole would be out of the question. In the silo, the fermentation would largely overcome the woodiness of the stems. It would also as a silage balance up nicely with alfalfa, and the best way to do would be to mix it with alfalfa when putting it in.
Rye in California.
Which kind of rye is the hardiest, the best yielding, and the best hay varieties in your State?
Rye is the least grown of all the cereals in California, and no attention has been paid to selection of varieties. That which is produced is "just rye," of some common variety which came to the State years ago and still remains. No rye is grown for hay, as the toughness of the stem renders it undesirable for that purpose. There is a certain amount of rye grown for winter feeding. This is grown in the foothills principally and it serves an excellent purpose, but it is fed off before approaching maturity.
That Old Seven-Headed Wheat.
We are sending you some heads of grain which was grown in this county. The land was planted with an imported Australian wheat, which we believe the smaller heads to be, but the wheat is about evenly mired with grain like the large heads, which we think to be a species of barley.
The grain is an old, coarse, bearded wheat which is continually appearing in fields of ordinary grain and naturally excites interest among all to whom the variety is a novelty. It is the old seven-headed Egyptian wheat, which has never proved of any cultural value, because its manifolding of the head is of no advantage. It is better to have a straight well-filled head than to have a branching head of this kind. This matter has been fully demonstrated by experience during the last thirty or forty years, not only in this State, but in other States, for the variety has a way of getting around the world, and seed has sometimes been sold at exorbitant prices to people who have been persuaded that it is of particular value.
I have heard of a Russian grain called "Speltz" or "Emmer." Can I raise it successfully and, if so, what is the very best time of year to sow some for the best crop obtainable? Can it be sown in the fall, say November? Would springtime be a better time to sow it on soil that is very soft in winter?
If your land yields good crops of wheat or barley or oats, you have little to expect from speltz or emmer. This is a grain generally considered inferior to those just mentioned and advocated for conditions under which the better known grains do not do well. It is hardy against drought and frost, particularly the latter, and is, therefore, chiefly grown in the extreme north of Europe. It may be sown in the fall or in the spring in places where rains are late and carry the plant to maturity.
Italian Rye Grass.
What kind of grass is enclosed? Also the best method to eradicate it?
The grass is the Italian rye grass, or as it is sometimes called, the Italian variety of the perennial rye grass. It is proving a very satisfactory grass in California for moderate drought resistance and for winter growing, and a great deal of it is being sown for these purposes. You can readily kill it out by cultivation, but most people are more occupied with its propagation than with its destruction.
Can I irrigate and plant a forage crop n July to feed dairy cows this fall and winter? Would you recommend cow peas or some kind of sugar corn? If cow peas, how many pounds to the acre?
If you wet down the land thoroughly and then plow and harrow and plant either cow peas or Indian corn, you ought to get a good green crop before frost. Drill in or drop the seed in rows about three feet apart and keep cultivating and irrigating as long as you can get through without injuring the crop too much. Use about 40 pounds of cow peas to the acre.
What can I plant this fall which would produce pasturage for a small amount of stock this winter, and until I can get the land under irrigation and seeded to alfalfa?
For quick fall and winter growth nothing is better probably than oats and vetches sown together as soon as you get rain enough to plow, but it would be a question whether it is worth while to work for that, because you ought to get your land ready for February sowing of alfalfa and that will keep the land busy after the rain gets it into working condition.
I am informed that Johnson grass makes fine hay. I have not sown the seed yet, but would like to know if the hay is good and if it will grow on dry land. I have the seed on hand, but do not want to sow it if it is not good.
Johnson grass is poor, coarse stuff. The plant is most valuable for grazing when young. Johnson grass will not grow on really dry land, but it will take the best moist land it can find and hold on to it. It is sensitive to frost and is not a winter grower except in the absence of frost.
Improving Heavy Land for Alfalfa.
My land is very heavy, red loam, and crusts over very hard in dry seasons. I would like to know if it would be best to use barnyard compost over the surface as a mulch, or would it be best to use plain straw for that purpose?
A very heavy soil can be brought into better surface condition for alfalfa by plowing in stable manure as soon as possible after the fall rains, in order that the manure may have opportunity to become disintegrated and mixed with the soil by the time for alfalfa sowing, which is from February to April - whenever the heavy frosts of the locality are over. For a small piece, you might get a better stand by using a light mulch of disintegrated coarse manure or even straw, scattering it after the sowing, but for a large acreage this would involve too much labor. It is not desirable to work in much manure or other coarse stuff at the time of sowing the seed, but you can make a light surface application after the plant has made a start.
When is the best time to cultivate alfalfa, and how often during the season is it advantageous to do so? Which is the best implement to use?
Cultivated alfalfa is a term applied to alfalfa sown in rows and allowed to grow in narrow bands with cultivated land between, and the irrigation is then done in a furrow in the narrow cultivated strip. This will give thriftier growth and perhaps more hay to the acre than flooded, broad-casted alfalfa, but it will cost so much more that the acre profit would probably be less. This is an intensive culture of alfalfa, which is still to be tested out in California, if any one should be inclined to do it. Some one-cow suburbanite would be in condition to try the scheme first. Probably you refer to disking, and for that an ordinary disk is used with the disks set pretty straight to reduce the side cutting, and this is done at different times of the year by different growers. By doing it when the ground gets dry in the early spring much of the foul stuff is cut out before the alfalfa starts strongly. But disking seems to be good whenever in the year the soil is dry enough to take it well.
Suburban Alfalfa Patch.
How can we rid the alfalfa of weeds? As we are obliged to hire help, and do not succeed in getting the hay cared for until we have mostly stalks without leaves, I have put the cow on it to pasture it off.
The cow knows how to handle it, but you will not get as much alfalfa as if you cut and carried it to her. If you cut sooner you will get rid of many plants which are propagated by the seeds which they produce, and you will also get better hay, more leaves and fewer stalks. Cut it about the time it begins to bloom, not waiting for the full bloom to appear.
Alfalfa and Bermuda.
I have land which was seeded to alfalfa some 15 years ago and has been pastured continuously until it was almost all Bermuda. I had it thoroughly plowed, disk harrowed and sowed to oats; disk harrowed in, and drag harrowed. After cutting for hay this year I intend putting it in Egyptian corn in rows, so it can be cultivated to get rid of Bermuda. I have also been advised to plow the land immediately after harvesting corn and let it lie until next January and then plow and sow to barley and alfalfa as I wish to grow alfalfa. Kindly let me know if method is right. The land is sandy loam and under irrigation.
Whether you will fully succeed against Bermuda grass or not is doubtful. It is probable, however, that you can reduce the Bermuda so that other cultivated crops can be continuously grown. Common experience is that Bermuda will hold on unless you have hard freezing of the ground to a considerable depth, as they have in the northern States. The best use that you can make of land infested with Bermuda is to get as good a stand as you can of alfalfa and let the alfalfa fight for itself. The combination of alfalfa and Bermuda grass makes very good hay or pasturage. We should, however, sow the alfalfa alone and not handicap it by sowing with barley. The Bermuda will smile at that advice. Egyptian corn can be planted in rows, 2 1/2 to 3 feet between the rows to admit of easy cultivation
What is the value of Bermuda grass as a forage crop for cattle, more particularly dairy cows?
Bermuda grass is generally condemned because of getting in places where it is not desirable and of being almost impossible of eradication therefrom. Still, Bermuda grass will make good pasturage on land which is too alkaline to make other crops, and therefore is highly esteemed by some owners of waste lands in the San Joaquin valley. It is good pasturage and is most easily propagated by cutting the roots up into short pieces by use of the hay-cutter, nearly all the pieces retaining an eye which will make a new plant. It is easy to get in and hard to get out.
Salt Grass and Alfalfa.
I have some land in Sutter county and it has some of this salt grass in spots. I am about to take a twenty-acre piece and put in alfalfa, but some old-timers tell me that the salt grass on it is bad stuff to handle.
Your trouble will probably be not so much the salt grass, but the alkali in the soil which the salt grass can tolerate and which other plants cannot stand. You cannot then substitute alfalfa for salt grass without getting the alkali out of the soil, and you cannot do this without having sufficient drainage so that the rainfall may wash the alkali out from the soil and carry it away in the drainage water. You probably cannot get a satisfactory growth of alfalfa on the spots where the salt grass has established itself, although the land round about may be very satisfactory to alfalfa.
I would like information about spurry. How much frost will it stand? What is time for sowing? Its value as crop to plow under?
From a California point of view, spurry is a winter-growing weed which has been approved by orchardists in Sonoma county because it yields a considerable amount of vegetation for turning under with the spring plowing of the orchard. For this purpose it should be sown at the beginning of the rainy season. Its value as a crop to turn under depends upon the amount of growth you can get. It is not a legume and, therefore, does not have the value of the nitrogen-gathering plant. Still, it yields humus and, therefore, is valuable for winter growing as ordinary weeds, grasses, grains, etc., are.
Light Soil and Scant Moisture.
Advise me as to plowing under a crop of last year's weeds where I intend to plant beans, corn, etc. The soil is "slickens," on the Yuba river, and the weeds grew up last year in a crop of volunteer barley, which was hogged off. I expect to plow five inches deep, and calculate that the barley straw and weeds will contribute to the supply of humus, which is always deficient in most of our soils. I expect to try to grow beans without irrigation, and wonder if the trash would hold the soil too open so as to dry them out.
Considering the character of the soil which you describe and the shallow plowing you intend we should certainly burn off all the trash upon the land. With deep plowing early in the season this coarse stuff could be covered in to advantage, but it would be dangerous to do it in the spring. Clean land and thorough cultivation to save moisture enough for summer's growth is the only rational spring treatment.
Clovers and Drought.
I have sandy loam with some alkali. In wet years it is regarded as too damp in some places. Can you give me any information on the following points? I have practically no water for irrigation and I feel sure that alfalfa would not grow without it. Do you think that clover would make one or more cuttings without water?
Red and white clover are less tolerant of drought than alfalfa, which, being a deep-rooting plant, is especially commended in dry-farming undertakings. Red clover will grow better on low wet lands than will alfalfa, but the land must not dry out or the red clover will die during the dry season. None of the plants will stand much alkali.
Clover for Wet Lands.
What kind of alfalfa will do best on sub-irrigated land which is very wet? I have sown it in alfalfa and it grows finely for two or three years, but then the roots rot and die.
It is impossible to make any kind of alfalfa grow well on very wet land, that is, where the water comes too near the surface. Alfalfa has a deep-running tap root which is very subject to standing water. You can get very good results from the Eastern red clover on such land, because the red clover has a fibrous root which is content to live in a shallow layer of soil above water. But red clover will not stand drought as well as alfalfa, because it is shallower rooting. It is necessary, therefore, that water should be permanently near the surface or surface irrigation be frequently applied, in order to secure satisfactory growth of red clover in the drier sections of California. It is also necessary that neither land nor water carry alkali.
Frosted Grain for Hay.
The freeze struck us pretty severely. I had 125 acres of summer-fallowed wheat which I had estimated to make 20 sacks to the acre of grain. It was breast high in places already, and was just heading out. The frost pinched the stalks of this grain in several places and the heads are now turning white. It is ruined for grain. There is lots of fodder in it, and it should be made into hay. If so, should it not be cut and cured at once? What is the relative worth of such hay as compared with more matured hay? Would the fact that it is frozen make it injurious to feed?
If the whole plant seems to be getting white, the sooner it is cut the better. If the head is affected and the leaf growth continued, cutting might be deferred for the purpose of getting more of it. Hay made from such material will not be in any way dangerous, although it would be inferior as containing less nutritive and more non-nutritive matter. Such hay would seem to be most serviceable as roughage for cows or steers in connection with alfalfa hay or some other feed which would supply this deficiency.
Forage Plants in the Foothills.
We have 3,000 acres of foothill land and hope to be able to irrigate some land this spring and wish to know the best forage crops, for sheep and hogs, especially. Kafir corn, stock peas, rape, sugar-beets and artichokes are the varieties about which we desire information.
Where you have irrigation water available in the foothills you can get a very satisfactory growth of red clover. We have seen it doing very well on sloping land in your county where water was allowed to spill over from a ditch on the ridge to moisten the slope below. Winter rye and other hardy stock feeds could also be grown in the winter time on the protected slopes with the rainfall. Some such plants are not good summer growers, owing to the drought. Rape is a good winter grower by rainfall, but not so satisfactory as vetches and kale. Sugar beets are not so good for stock purposes as stock beets, which give you much more growth for the same labor and are more easily gathered because they grow a good part out of the ground. They will stand considerable freezing and may be sown at different times throughout the year, whenever the land is moist, either by irrigation or rainfall. Artichokes are of doubtful value. We have never found anyone who continued to grow them long. Of course, on good, deep land, with irrigation, nothing can be better than alfalfa as supplementary to hill range during the summer season.
At what time of the year should I plant kale, Swiss chard, etc., so as to have them ready for use during the months from February to June?
You should plant Swiss chard, kale, etc., as soon as the ground is sufficiently moist from the rain in the fall. In fact, it would be desirable for you to plant the seed earlier in boxes and thus secure plants for planting out when the ground is sufficiently moist. These plants are quite hardy against frost, and in order to have them available by February, a start in the autumn is essential.
A Summer Hay Crop.
What can I put on the land after the oat crop is taken off to furnish hay for horses during the coming winter? I had thought millet would be good. I have water for irrigation.
You could get most out of the land you mention during the hot season by growing Kafir corn or milo, cutting for hay before the plant gets too far advanced. If your land can be flooded and takes water well, so that you can wet it deeply before plowing, the sorghum seed can be broadcast and the crop cut with the mower while the stalks are not more than half an inch in diameter. This makes a good coarse hay. If you have not water enough or the land does not lie right for flooding, you can grow the sorghum in drills and irrigate by the furrow method, being careful, however, not to let the crop go too far if you desire to feed it as hay.
What about "Teosinte," its food value, method of culture, and adaptability to our climate, character of soil required?
Teosinte is a corn-like plant of much lower growth than Indian corn. It may be of value as a forage plant on low, moist, interior lands in the summer season. It is very sensitive to frost and is, therefore, not a winter grower. It abhors drought and, therefore, is not a plant for plains or hillsides. It was grown to some extent in California 25 years ago and abandoned as worthless so far as tried.
Bermuda grass as pasture for summer to supplement burr clover and alfilaria in winter on the cheap hill pasture lands along the coast or the foothill ranges of the Sierras. Stock like it and do well on it, and I have noticed it growing in places where it had no water but the little rains of winter in southern California. So the question occurred to me, why should it not be a profitable pasture for the dry summers on the coast or foothill ranges of the State?
Bermuda grass will not make summer growth enough on dry pasture land to make it worth having. It will not make much growth in the rainy season because of frost, and if it has possession of the ground it will not allow either burr clover or alfilaria to make such winter growth as they will on clean land. Besides, this grass is generally counted a nuisance, because it will get into all the good cultivated land and it is almost impossible of eradication. Bermuda grass is of some account on alkali land where it finds moisture enough for free growth. We would not plant it in any other situation.
Rye Grasses Better than Brome.
I see in an Eastern seed catalogue "Bromus Inermis" very highly spoken of as pasturage. Do you know anything of it, and do you think it would be suitable for reclaimed tule land in the bay section?
Both English and Italian rye grasses have proved better than Bromus Inermis on such land as you mention. The latter is commonly known as Hungarian brome grass or awniess brome grass and it was introduced to this State from Europe about 25 years ago and the seed distributed by the University Experiment Station. Hungarian brome may be better on rather dry lands, although it will not live through the summer on very dry lands in this State, but we would rather trust the rye grasses or reclaimed lands, providing, of course, that they are sufficiently free from salt to carry tame grass at all. On the upper coast Hungarian brome has been favorably reported as an early-winter growing grass with comparatively low nutritive value, but is especially valuable because it will grow in poor soil. It is especially suited to sandy pasture and meadow lands and is quite resistant to drought. It is a perennial grass, reproducing by a stout rootstock, which makes it somewhat difficult to eradicate when it is not desired. It is desirable to keep stock off the fields during the first year to get a good stand.
Will you kindly name the enclosed; also explain its value as forage!
The plant is black medic. It has been very widely distributed over the State during the last few years. It is sometimes called a new burr clover, which it somewhat resembles. It is not very freely eaten by stock and is apparently inferior to burr clover for forage purposes. It is a good plant to plow under for green manure.
About crimson clover in California. Has it proved satisfactory? If so, can you give me data how to plant, etc.!
Crimson clover must be sown after frost, for it is tender. It will give a great show in June and July on low moist land. It is not good against either frost or drought. It has been amply tried in California and proved on the whole of little account.
California Winter Pastures.
We have a great deal of pasture land on which the native grasses yield less feed each year. A great part of this land can be cleared of brush and stone, ready for the plow, but what can we sow to take the place of the native pasture? The ground in many places is not level enough for alfalfa and in some places water is not available. Can we break up the land and sow pasture grasses as the farmers are exhorted to do at the East? The annual rainfall is from 12 to 15 inches.
The perennial grasses which they rely upon for pasturage in the East and which will maintain themselves from year to year, will not live at all on the dry lands of California, nor has investigation of the last twenty-five or thirty years found anything better for these California uplands than the winter growth of plants which are native to them. Such lands should be better treated, first by not being overstocked; second, by taking off cattle at the time the native plant needs to make seed, because, as they are not perennial, they are dependent upon each year's seed. After the plants have seeded, the land can be pastured for dry feed without losing the seed.
Of course, if one has land capable of irrigation he can grow forage plants, even the grasses which grow in moist climates, like the rye grasses, the brome grasses and the oat grasses, etc., which will do well if given a little moisture, but it will be a loss of money to break up the dryer lands with the idea of establishing perennial grasses upon them without irrigation. California pastures are naturally good. In early days they were wonderful, but they are restricted to growth during the rainy season, or for a little time after that, and are therefore suited for winter and spring pasturage, while the summer feeding of stock, aside from dry feed, should be provided from other lands where water can be used. The improvement of these wild pastures consists in a more intelligent policy for their production and preservation rather than an effort to improve them by the introduction of new plants. Pastures may, however, be often improved by clearing off the brush and harrowing in seed of burr clover, alfilaria, etc., at the beginning of the rainy season.
Alfilaria and Winter Pasturage.
Will alfilaria (Erodium cicutarium) grow well on the hills of Sonoma county partially covered with shrubs? I want something that will be food for stock another year. I have heard of alfilaria and that it grows well without being irrigated.
Alfilaria is a good winter-growing forage plant in places where it accepts the situation. It is an annual and therefore does not make permanent pasturage except where it may re-seed itself. On the coming of the dry season it will speedily form seed and disappear. It is therefore of no summer use under the conditions which you describe, nor is it possible to secure any perennial grass which will be satisfactory on dry hillsides without irrigation. Improved winter pasturage can be secured by scattering seed of common rye at the beginning of the rainy season, or of burr clover, both of which are winter-growing plants. Pasturage is also capable of improvement by being careful not to overstock the land, so that the native annuals may be able to produce seed and provide for their own succession. The secret of successful pasturage on dry uplands is to improve the winter growth. It is too much to expect much of them for summer growth without irrigation.
Grasses for Bank-Holding.
We desire a grass to be used on levees, to keep from washing. Bermuda or Johnson gross are dangerous to farming lands. What we desire is a grass that will grow in good dirt with no water to support it during most of the year, except the annual rainfall of Fresno county. Of course, this grass will also have to endure a great deal of water during the flooded season of the year. We have heard that the Italian rye grass would be suitable.
The rye grasses do not have running roots; therefore are not calculated to bind soil particles together as Bermuda grass does. If you want a binding grass, you must take the chances of its spreading to adjacent lands. Of course, if you could get a sod of rye grass it would prevent surface washing from overflow, etc., to a certain extent. We are not sure how far it would prevent bank cutting by the flowing water, for it makes a bunchy and not a sod-like growth. It would not live through the summer unless the levee soil keeps somewhat moist. The only way to determine whether you can get a permanent growth of it, will be by making a trial. Seed should be sown as soon as the ground becomes moistened by rain. It is a very safe proposition, because if it is willing to live through the summer, it is one of the best pasturage grasses for places in California where it will consent to grow, and it is not liable to become an annoyance by taking possession of adjacent land, because it would be readily killed by cultivation.
Alfalfa and Alkali.
I sowed several acres of alfalfa seed with a disc this season and none of it has come up. I think the reason for it not coming up is that the disc put it into the ground too deep. We sowed some by hand and it came up very well. Is there any probability that later in the season this seed will germinate, or has it rotted in the ground? Water stands within three feet of the surface and has considerable alkali. What can I plant on this land and get a crop? It is our intention to sow it to alfalfa next fall. The land adjoining, although higher, has a good stand of alfalfa now.
You are right about covering the alfalfa seed too deeply. It is not likely to appear. Your chance of getting a durable stand of alfalfa on such shallow soil over alkali water is not good, but you can hardly determine that without trying. Sometimes conditions are better than you think; sometimes worse. The plant itself is the best judge. On your lower land you could probably get a better stand of rye grass than anything else - sowing at the beginning of the rainy season. Of course, however, even that will depend upon how much alkali you have to deal with.
Alfalfa on Adobe.
Is adobe land good for alfalfa? Is it harder to start than in other soils or not? How much seed is required to sow an acre? Also state what time alfalfa should be sowed.
Alfalfa will thrive on an adobe soil if the moisture is kept right - especially guarding against too much water at a time. It is necessary to irrigate more frequently and apply only as much as can be absorbed by the soil before the hot sun comes on the field, for that scalds the plant badly. It is harder to get a good stand because of the cracking and hardening of the surface. Sow about 20 pounds to the acre just as soon as the soil comes into good condition - that is, moist and warm. February and March are usually the best months, according to the season in the interior valleys.
Alfalfa and Soil Depth.
Do you consider soil which is from 4 to 6 feet deep to hardpan of sufficient depth for alfalfa? Is there hardpan in the region of Lathrop in San Joaquin county, and can it be dissolved by irrigation, or can any good be accomplished by blowing holes at different places to allow the water to pass to lower levels? Are other crops affected by hardpan being so close to the surface?
You can grow alfalfa successfully on land which is from four to six feet deep if you irrigate rather more frequently and use less amounts of water each time, so that the plant shall be adequately supplied and yet not forced to carry its roots in standing water. The Eastern alfalfa grower is fortunate when he gets half the depth you mention, although it does seem rather shallow in California. Shallow lands are distributed over the valley quite widely. A deepening of the available soil is usually accomplished by dynamiting, especially so if the hardpan is underlaid by permanent strata. Alfalfa will penetrate some kinds and thicknesses of hardpan when it is kept moist, but not too wet, to encourage root growth.
Winter-growing green crops are less affected by shallow soil because they generally make their growth while the moisture is ample, if the season is good.
Curing Alfalfa with Artificial Heat.
It is current rumor that "out in California they are hauling alfalfa green and curing it by artificial heat," thus reducing loss through bad weather and producing a superior hay for feeding or milling purposes.
It is true that alfalfa is being cut green and dried by artificial heat, but this is only being done in preparation for grinding. No one thinks of doing it for the making of hay for storage or for feeding. This method is undertaken, not because the alfalfa hay does not dry quickly enough in the field, but because after drying in the field so many leaves are lost in hauling to the mill. We have no trouble sun-drying alfalfa for ordinary hay purposes; in fact, we have to be very careful that it does not get too dry.
Cheap Preparation of Land for Alfalfa.
I am about to put a piece of land into alfalfa, and want to use the most economical system of preparing the land for irrigation. My neighbors tell me that it will be necessary for me to have the land leveled; at a cost of $6 to $10 per acre. Now I am informed that in Alberta, and some places in California, they do not go to the expense of leveling land, but use a system of preparing land for irrigation at a cost of about 60 cents per acre.
Nothing except a highly educated gale of wind, with discriminating cutting and filling ability of a very high order, could do it for that price. The cheapest way to prepare land for irrigation is the contour check method, which is largely used, or the flooding in strips between levees at right angles to the supply ditch; but neither of these could be put in properly for that money, even if the land was naturally in such shape that a minimum amount of soil-shifting is necessary.
Where Alfalfa is Grown.
In what counties is alfalfa most successfully grown? By this I mean where three crops of hay may be had each growing season. Also, will corn grow good paying crops in same sections?
Alfalfa is grown all through the valleys and foothills of interior California; also to a certain extent in coast valleys. On suitable lands, three crops can sometimes be secured without irrigation, while twice or three times as many cuttings are secured on irrigated lands where the frost-free season is particularly long. According to the last census, we are growing alfalfa on 19,104 farms with a total acreage of 484,098. The total value of the product is over $13,000,000. Corn is widely grown, but is small as compared with alfalfa. It is grown in alfalfa districts and in coast valleys where there is not much done with alfalfa.
What is the proper time to sow alfalfa? Some advocate fall and others spring sowing. What seasons are given for each sowing?
We shall undoubtedly soon get to sowing alfalfa all the year round except in the short season of sharp frosts and cold wet ground in November, December and January. If you can get a good start in September and October, all right; if not, wait until February and March, according to the season. Where it is never very cold or wet, sow whenever moisture is right. There never can be any rule about it, for localities will differ.
Foxtail and Alfalfa.
Will foxtail choke out and exterminate alfalfa? Some fields look as though the foxtail had crowded the alfalfa out, but I hold that the alfalfa died from some other cause and the foxtail merely took its place.
Foxtail will not choke out alfalfa, providing, soil and moisture conditions are right for the latter, and a good stand of plant has been secured. If anything is wrong with the alfalfa, the foxtail will be on the alert to take advantage of it. You will always have foxtail with you, and considerable quantities of it, perhaps, in the first cutting, because foxtail will grow at a lower temperature than alfalfa, and, therefore, will keep very busy during the rainy season, while the alfalfa is more or less dormant, but as the heat increases, if the soil is good and moisture ample, the alfalfa will put the foxtail out of sight until the following winter invites it to make another aggressive growth. Therefore, we answer that alfalfa does not die from foxtail, but from some condition unfavorable to the alfalfa, which must be sought in the soil, or in the moisture supply, or traced back to bad seed, and a poor stand at the beginning.
Which Alfalfa is Best?
I have in Stanislaus county ten acres of Arabian alfalfa, which was sown the first week in April this year. It was clipped in July and irrigated. It is now about 14 inches high, but looks sickly, turns white at the tips, and some dies down. There are several places here with the Arabian alfalfa on them and with the same trouble, while the ordinary variety is looking fine by the side of it.
Arabian alfalfa usually makes a good show at first and begins to run out afterward. It does not seem to be so long-lived and satisfactory as the common variety. With this prospect ahead of you, according to present experience, it would seem to be desirable to plow the crop in and seed again with the common variety, or with the Turkestan, which is proving the most satisfactory of the recently introduced varieties.
Fall Sowing of Alfalfa.
We have summer-fallowed land which we know will grow good alfalfa, and as we have just had four inches of rainfall upon it, we were wondering if we could not plow the twenty acres and get a stand upon it in time to stand the cold weather this winter. Do you think this is practicable?
If four inches of rain on summer fallow connects well with the lower moisture which a good summer fallow ought to conserve in the soil, such sowing is rational; but if the summer fallowing was not done well, that is, if it was rough plowing without enough harrowing, as is too often the case, the four inches of rain might not be safe because of the dry ground beneath waiting to seize the moisture and so dry the surface that sprouting alfalfa plants would perish between dry soil below and dry wind above. Fall sowing will give enough growth to resist frost killing in many places in the valley if the moisture in the soil is enough to carry the plant as well as start it, or if showers come frequently - otherwise it is dangerous, not from frost but from drouth.
Alfalfa Hay and Soil Fertility.
We are feeding all our hay to dairy cows, returning the manure to the soil. At present prices of hay, my neighbors who sell theirs, seem to be as well off, with considerable less work; but how about the future? Can this soil be cropped indefinitely and the crops sold, without returning anything to the land?
It is a mistake to think that you can sell alfalfa hay indefinitely without reducing the soil. It may gain in nitrogen by the wastes of the plant, but it will lose in other constituents unless reinforced by fertilization. No single act can make for the maintenance of the soil as the growing and feeding of crops and return of manure does.
I am in a country of strictly dry farming. I have a wash or gulch on my place and would like to know if I could, with success, plant it to alfalfa without irrigation; soil is sandy loam, no evidences of springy moisture at all. What kind should I try?
Alfalfa will endure much drouth. What it will do in a particular place can only be told by trying. Sow Turkestan alfalfa. If the rains come early so as to wet the land down in September and October, sow the seed then. The endurance of the plant will depend much upon its having a chance to root deeply before the drouth comes on.
Is it profitable to inoculate alfalfa seed before planting to increase its yield? Can it be done by leaching soil from old alfalfa ground, providing it has been plowed up and allowed to stand for a year? Are commercial inoculants a safe thing to inoculate with?
Apparently alfalfa does not need inoculation in this State. Probably not one acre in ten thousand now profitably growing alfalfa has ever had artificial introduction of germs. You can make germ-tea, if you wish, of the soil you describe; one year's exposure would not destroy the germs. It is safe enough to use commercial cultures. You will have to decide for yourself whether it is worth while.
I am making parallel ridges for alfalfa, sending a full head of water down to the end of the field between each ridge. Should I calculate the lands to be mowed one at a time in even swaths? The mower being 5-foot cut, would you count on cutting a 4 1/2 or 5-foot swath? This soil is sandy, water percolating rapidly. The fall is 8 feet to the mile. How wide, then, would you advise making the ridges to suit the mower, and to flood economically, using from 2 to 4 cubic feet per second? The length of the lands is across 40 acres.
Growing alfalfa in long parallel checks, to be flooded between the levees, is the way in which much alfalfa is being put in at the present time where the land has such a slope as you indicate. It is calculated, however, to seed the levees as well as the check bottoms, and to run the mowers across the levees, thus leaving no waste land and mowing across the whole field and not between the levees as you propose. For that purpose these levees are made low, not over a foot in height, calculating that they will settle to about six or eight inches, which is sufficient to hold the water and direct its flow gently down the slope. There is, however, a limit to the distance over which water can be evenly distributed in this way, the difference being dependent upon the character of the soil, slope, etc. A length of nine hundred feet is sometimes found too great for an even distribution, and, for this reason, supply ditches at shorter intervals are introduced.
In what part of the State does alfalfa grow best without irrigation?
Obviously the parts which have the greatest rainfall in connection with retentive soil and plenty of summer heat. Alfalfa grows best without irrigation on "sub-irrigated" land where the ground water is sufficiently deep to allow a deep rooting of the plant in free soil and yet not too far down to be readily reached by the deep-running roots. Good results can be obtained with anywhere from four to ten or twelve feet of soil above water. On shallower soils the plant is apt to be short-lived through root troubles. Unirrigated alfalfa is also reduced by the incursions of gophers which flooding at least once a year will destroy.
Alfalfa and Overflow.
How long can alfalfa stand water without being drowned out? I have a piece of alfalfa on which the water will stand for considerable time in the winter time.
Alfalfa while dormant will endure submergence for several weeks. We do not know exactly how long, but evidently for a considerable period, providing temperatures are too low to invite growth. On the other hand, growing alfalfa is quickly and seriously injured by overflow.
No Nurse-Crop for Alfalfa.
Is it advisable to use oats with alfalfa seeds in seeding for alfalfa? Some growers of alfalfa here advise it strongly, others advise against it.
The general experience in California is decidedly against using oats, barley, or any other nursecrop with alfalfa. Get the land in the best possible condition and let the alfalfa have the full benefit of it. The ripening of the grain crop will do the young alfalfa plants more harm by robbing them of moisture than any protection which the taller plant can afford.
This spring I planted alfalfa and only got about half a stand on some of the land. I want to reseed this fall and I thought of putting more seed on the ground and then disc it in. Or would you advise replanting the land? What do you think of putting manure on young alfalfa? Do you think there is any danger of burning it out?
Stir it up with a spring tooth harrow or disc it lightly to make a nice seed bed and then sow your seed as if you were planting alfalfa for the first time. This will give you a good seed bed and will not hurt the alfalfa already growing. Prepare the surface first and then sow, rather than disking in the seed. The manure in moderate application would not burn out the young alfalfa if properly applied after the rains begin.
Taking the Bloat Out of Alfalfa.
Will Italian rye grass and red top clover be a success under irrigation as cow pasture in this county, either separately or mixed with alfalfa? To sow in bare spots in the alfalfa, would the rye grass prevent bloat?
Italian rye grass and red clover will make good pasturage under irrigation and will make a fight with the alfalfa to the best of their ability. The admixture of rye grass will reduce the danger from bloating. Red clover will not have that effect, because red clover is a pretty good bloater on its own account. This seems to be the function of all the clovers according to the rankness of their growth at the time that they are grazed.
The Time to Cut Alfalfa.
What is the best period to cut alfalfa hay for cow feed and the best method for curing?
The best time to cut alfalfa is just when new shoots are starting out at the crown. This will give the greatest yield of hay during a season, and the hay will be much more palatable than if the alfalfa is permitted to get well into the blossoming period. The leaves, which are the best part of the hay, also remain on better than if the stems are older. If a person does not care to take the trouble to find out whether the new shoots are coming out or not, he can approximate the time to cut fairly well by waiting until a blossom here and there appears, cutting immediately. It would be difficult to tell on paper exactly when alfalfa was properly cured, as that is a matter of individual judgment. It is usual to cut in the morning and rake into windrows in the afternoon. With the usual weather in interior California that stage of the curing is completed by that time. The next day it can be gathered into cocks and gotten ready to move. That is about all the curing that is done. The size of the windrows depends upon the amount of hay, as thick hay should be put up in small windrows to give plenty of circulation of air. It is considered better also to build the cocks on raked land, otherwise the hay lying flat at the bottom will not cure properly and cannot be gathered up clean.
Which Crop of Alfalfa for Seed?
Which cutting of alfalfa should be left for seed bearing?
Which cutting is best for seed depends, of course, on the way the plant grows in your locality. Where it starts early and gives many cuttings in a season with irrigation a later growth should be chosen for seed than with a short season where fewer cuttings can be had. The second cutting is best in many places, but O. E. Lambert of Modesto after threshing about 30 lots in one year tells us that some growers had left second, some third and some fourth cuttings for seed. He found the second cutting very poor both in yield and grade, much of it not being well filled and the seed blighted, as the growth of hay was too heavy. The seed on third cutting was good both in grade and yield. Much of the seed on fourth cutting was not matured. For good results the stand should be thin. Our drier, heavier lands give the best results, sub-irrigated lands not seeding. All irrigation should stop with the previous cutting for hay.
Siloing First Crop Alfalfa.
How about putting first cutting of alfalfa and foxtail into the silo? Do you think there is any danger of fire in a wooden silo, and do you add salt and water when filling, and how long after it is cut would you advise putting it into the silo?
Put it through the silo cutter as soon as you can get it from the field. Do not let it cure at all, and be sure to cut and pack well. If at all dry, use water at the time of filling, and some salt then also, if you desire. There is no danger of firing if you put it in with good moisture, and by short cutting and hard packing you exclude the air. If you do not do this you will get a silo full of manure, and possibly have a fire while it is rotting.
Soil for Alfalfa.
What kind of soil is best for alfalfa on a dairy ranch?
An ideal soil for alfalfa is a deep well drained soil into which the roots can run deeply without danger of encountering standing water or alkali. Still we are finding that alfalfa is very successful on soils which are not strictly ideal, providing the moisture is supplied in such a way that the soil shall not be waterlogged nor the water be allowed to remain upon the surface during the hot weather, because this kills the plant.
Handling Young Alfalfa.
I have alfalfa that is doing very well for the first year. My soil is sandy loam with light traces of white alkali, although it does not seem to be detrimental to the growth thus far. I am in the dairy business and will have by winter enough manure to top-dress the field. Would it be good policy to use the manure, or would it be more satisfactory to top-dress with gypsum? Would it injure alfalfa to pasture lightly after the last cutting?
Presumably your soil contains enough lime, and therefore the application of gypsum at this time of the year would not be necessary. It may be desirable to top-dress with gypsum near the end of the rainy season to stimulate the growth of the plant. Gypsum, however, has no effect upon white alkali. So far as alkali goes, gypsum merely changes black alkali into white, thus making it less corrosive.
There would be no objection to pasturing lightly this fall. Be careful, however, to keep off the stock while the land is wet and not to overstock so as to injure root crowns by tramping. The manure can be used as a top dressing during the rainy season, unless you think it better to save it for the growth of other crops. Alfalfa is so deep rooting where conditions are favorable that it does not require fertilization usually on land which has been used for a long time for grain or other shallow-rooting plants.
Alfalfa Sowing with Gypsum.
I intend sowing alfalfa this fall on land that has some very compact hard spots. I aim to doctor these spots with gypsum at the rate of about 1000 pounds per acre and cultivate the gypsum in thoroughly two or three weeks before sowing the alfalfa seed. Would this be all right? Is there danger of injury to seed by coming in contact with gypsum?
Gypsum will not hurt the alfalfa seed. It is not corrosive like an alkali. Whether it will have time enough to ameliorate the soil in the spots in the period you mention depends upon there being moisture enough present at the time.
Red Clover for Shallow Land.
What can you say of red clover on shallow soils in the Sacramento valley under irrigation? How many crops, etc.?
Red clover is fine under the conditions you describe. We could never understand why people do not grow more of it on shallow land over hardpan which is free from alkali and not irrigated too much at a time. It is good on shallow land over water, where alfalfa roots decay, etc. Though we have no exact figures, we should expect to get about two-thirds as much weight from it as from an equally good stand of alfalfa.
Clovers for High Ground-Water.
Where, in California, is alfalfa being raised successfully above a water-table of, say, 4 feet or less, and are any unusual means used to accomplish this?
Over a high water-table, the alfalfa plant will be shorter lived according to the shallowness of soil above water. One could get very good results at from 4 to 6 feet, whereas at 2 or 3 feet the stand of alfalfa would soon become scant through decay of its fleshy root. Where the water comes very near the surface, a more shallow and fibrous rooting plant, like the Eastern red clover, should be substituted for alfalfa in California. It is a very vigorous grower and will yield a number of crops in succession although the water might be very near the surface, as in the case of the reclaimed islands in the Stockton and Sacramento regions and in shallow irrigated soils over bedrock in the foothills or over hardpan on the valley plains. In this statement, freedom from alkali is presumed.
Vetches in San joaquin.
In Michigan I was familiar with the use of the sand vetch as a forage plant, for hay, for green manure, and as a nitrogen producer. In western Michigan, on the loose sandy soil, I sowed in September or October 20 pounds per acre for a seed crop and 40 pounds per acre for pasture, hay, or green manure. Can I expect good results in Fresno and Tulare counties without irrigation? Will fall seeding the same as wheat produce a seed crop? Will sand vetch grow on soil having one-half of one per cent alkali?
Most of the vetches grow well in the California valleys during the rainy season; the common vetch, Vicia sativa, and the hairy vetch, Vicia hirsuta, are giving best results. The proper time to plant is at the beginning of the rainy season. They will stand some alkali, especially during the rainy season, when it is likely to be distributed by the downward movement of water, but it is very easy to find land which has too much alkali for them. These plants seed well in some parts of the valley, but a local trial must be made to give you definite information.
Growing Vetch for Hay.
How many pounds of vetch seed should be sown to the acre? How many tons per acre in the crop? As I desire to change my crop, having to some extent exhausted the soil with oats, how advisable will it be to sow wheat with the vetch to give it something to climb on? If so, and wheat is not desirable under the circumstances, what? In using vetch for horse fodder, how much barley should be fed with it per day for a driving horse? For a draught horse? Is vetch sown and harvested at about the same time as other crops?
Except in very frosty places, vetch can be sown after the rain begins at about 40 to 60 pounds of seed to the acre. The yield will depend upon the land and on the moisture supply, and cannot be prophesied. One grower reports three tons of hay per acre near Napa. If the land usually yields a good hay crop, it should yield a greater weight of vetch. In mowing for hay purposes it is desirable to raise the vetch off the ground to facilitate the action of the mower. Oats would be better than wheat, because rather quicker in winter growth. If the vetch is to be fed green, rye is a good grain, but not good for hay purposes because of the hardness of the stem. There is no particular difference in the plant-food requirements of the different grains, so that there is nothing gained in that way in the choice of wheat. In feeding a combined vetch and barley hay, the ration is balanced; the feeding of grain would not be necessary, except in case of hard work under the same conditions grain is usually fed to horses and in about the same amounts. Vetch requires a longer season than ordinary oat or barley hay crop to make a larger growth, consequently an early sowing is desirable.
Cover Crop in Hop Yard.
Will you please give information concerning cow peas or the most suitable crop to sow in a hop field for winter growth, to be plowed under as a fertilizer in the spring? Also, would it injure the vines to be cut down before they die, so as to sow the mulch crop soon as possible after the hops are gathered?
Cow peas would not do for the use which you propose, because they would be speedily killed by frost on low lands, usually chosen for hops, and would give you no growth during the frosty season. Probably there is nothing better than burr clover for such a winter growth. Hop vines should be allowed to grow as long as they maintain the thrifty green color, because the growth of the leaves strengthens the root. But when they begin to become weakened and yellow they can be removed without injury. It is not necessary to wait for them to become fully dead.
What is the best variety of cow peas for a forage crap? I want a variety which with irrigation will come up after it has been cut, so as to keep growing and not be like some which I tried last year. They grew up like ordinary garden peas and were just a waste of ground.
Possibly you did not get cowpeas; they do not look like garden peas at all: they look more like running beans, which they are. The crop is not counted satisfactory except on low, moist land, for on uplands, even with irrigation, it does not seem to behave right. We do not know that a second growth can be expected, for in the Southern States it is grown as a single crop, and resowing is done if a succession is desired, the point being made at the South that the plant is adapted to this method of culture because it grows so rapidly that it can be twice sown and harvested during the frost-free period.
Cowpeas in the San Joaquin.
How late in the season will it be profitable to plant cowpeas? What is the best manner of planting? Are there several varieties? If so, which one is best adapted to plant after oats? The land can be irrigated until about August 10. Will it be advisable to plow up a poor stand of alfalfa about July 1 and plant to cow peas?
You can plant cowpeas all summer on land which is moist enough by natural moisture or irrigation to promote growth. What you will get by late planting depends upon moisture and absence of an early fall frost. If your alfalfa stand is bad enough to need re-sowing anyway, you may get a good catch crop of cowpeas by doing as you propose. If, however, you plow under much coarse stuff in putting in the peas the growth may be irregular. It can, of course, be improved by free irrigation. On clear land moderately retentive much more is being done in summer growth of cowpeas without irrigation than expected. There are several good varieties. One of these is the Whippoorwill. Cowpeas can be sown in furrows three feet apart and cultivated, using about 40 pounds of seed to the acre, or they may be broadcasted, which takes about twice as much seed.
Cowpeas and Canadian Peas.
Would Canadian field peas and cow peas be valuable as a forage crop for cows and hogs; also as fertilizer? Please tell us also when to plant, how to plant, etc.
These plants are of high forage value as cow feed; also as a soil restorative when the whole crop is plowed under green or when the roots and manure from feeding add to the soil. But for either purpose the result depends upon how much growth you can get, and that should be told by local trial before any great outlay is undertaken. Canadian peas are hardy against frost and can be broadcasted and covered with shallow plowing as soon as the land is moist enough from fall rains - except in very frosty parts of the State. They can also be sown in drills to advantage. Cow peas are beans, and cannot be planted until frost danger is over in the spring. They are only available for summer feeding, and whether they will be worth while or not depends upon how much moisture can be held in the soil for summer growth. They should be sown in drills and cultivation continued for moisture conservation until the plants cover the ground too much to get the cultivator through.
Canadian or Niles Peas.
I send a sample of peas which I bought for Canada field peas, and they were so labeled. I would like to know what they are.
The peas are, apparently, one kind of Canada peas. There is some variation in Canada peas, but these are peas of that class. Some of the Canada pea are hardly distinguishable from the so-called Niles pea of California growth, and it does not matter much, anyway, for one is about as good as the other.
Sunflowers and Soy Beans.
I would like information concerning cultivation, method of feeding and food value of soy beans. Also sunflowers.
Soy beans are grown like other beans, in rows which, for convenience in field culture, should be about 2 1/2 feet apart and cultivated up to blooming time at least. They should be sown after frost danger is over and the weather is settled warm, for they enjoy heat. For feeding they can be made into hay before maturity, or the beans can be matured and prepared for feeding by grinding. As with other beans, small amounts should be used in connection with other feeds. They are a rich food and somewhat heavy on the digestion. The same is true of sunflowers, except that the seed is richer in oil than in protein, as beans are. Sunflowers in field culture are planted and cultivated like beans. The seed is flailed out of the heads after they lie for a time to dry.
Please inform me how to plant Jersey or cow kale.
Jersey kale can be planted by thin scattering of seeds in rows 2 1/2 feet apart so as to admit of cultivation, or the plants can be grown just as cabbage plants are and set out 2 1/2 or 3 feet apart, the squares to admit of cultivation both ways. The plant needs a good deal more space than an ordinary cabbage, for it makes a tall free growth, and space must be had for the growth of the plant and for going into the patch for stripping off leaves and cultivation. The plant can be started in the rainy season whenever the land comes into good condition. It is a winter grower in California valleys.
Rape and Milo.
Would rape be a good pasture crop sown broadcast? If so, at what time should it be planted? Will Milo maize grow profitable in Sonoma county?
Rape can be sown as soon as the land gets moist enough from early rains to start the seed and hold the growth. It is a wintergrowing plant in this State. We believe, however, you will get better results with common vetch, which is also a winter grower and more nutritious. If you desire one of the cabbage family, kale will probably serve you better than rape. Milo is one of the sorghums and will only grow during the frostless period, like Kafir, Egyptian corn and other sorghums. It will do well with you, but probably make less growth than in the interior valleys.
Sweet Clover Not an Alfalfa.
I send you a sample of alfalfa which grows very vigorous here on my place spontaneously and would like you to give me all the information about it you will, as a feed for cows and hogs. The stock seem to eat it well.
The plant is not alfalfa at all. It is white sweet clover (melilotus alba), and it is usually considered a great pest in alfalfa fields, because although it grows vigorously as you describe, it is not generally accepted by stock, unless once in awhile some one considers it a good thing, perhaps because he keeps stock hungry enough to enjoy it in spite of its rank taste and smell, but, usually when they can get alfalfa they will not pay much attention to this plant. It is good for bee pasturage, however, and is grown to some extent for that purpose. You probably had the seed of it in your alfalfa seed. It is a biennial and not a perennial like alfalfa. It will disappear if you can keep it from going to seed.
Sweet Clover as a Cover Crop.
How about melilotus as a cover crop? Last year in certain sections it proved very successful, while in others it did not give satisfaction.
Melilotus, by virtue of its hardiness in growing at low temperatures, its depth of root penetration, the availability of the seed, the smallness of the seed so that the weight required for the acre is not large, is to be favored for a cover crop. The objections are two: The fact that it does not seem to grow well under some conditions; second, that when a growth is made it is coarse and rangey, and the amount of green stuff to the acre is much less than its appearance would indicate. We know of cases where what seemed to be a good stand of melilotus yielded only about ten tons of green stuff to the acre, and what appeared to be a less growth of vetches or peas yielded from fifteen to twenty tons to the acre. And yet we believe that in some places it will be found extremely desirable for a cover crop in harmony with what was reported some time ago as the result of experiments by the Arizona Experiment Station.
There seems to be two distinct kinds of cactus: One for forage, the other for fruit. It is claimed by some people that the spineless cactus is more valuable as a forage plant than alfalfa. What is your opinion?
There are many varieties of smooth cacti. Some of them bear higher quality fruit than others, and some are freer growers and bear a greater amount of leaf substance for forage purposes; therefore, varieties are being developed which are superior for fruit or for forage, as the case may be. Spineless cactus is in no way comparable with alfalfa, either in nutritive content or in value of crop, providing you have land and water which will produce a good product of alfalfa. Cactus is for lands which are in an entirely different class and which are not capable of alfalfa production.
Probably Not Broom-Corn.
I have a side-hill ranch on which I would very much like to raise broom corn. The soil produces good grapes, fruit, corn, oats, peas, etc., and I wish to know if there are possibilities of broom-straw.
All the broom-corn which has been successfully produced in California has been produced on moist, riverside land. The plant is a sorghum - consequently subject to frost injury, and can only be grown during the frostless season as Indian corn is. This makes it impossible to get the advantage of rainfall on winter upland and necessitates the use of lowlands, which carry moisture enough to secure a free growth of the brush, for poor broom-corn is worthless practically, being too low priced to be profitable for brooms and too fibrous to be of value for feeding purposes. Even in a place where the plant grows well its product is worthless unless properly treated, and that requires full knowledge and a good deal of work.
The Outlook for Broom Corn.
Broom corn is way up in price, but that is an indication that everyone who has ever grown broom corn is likely to plant it this year. What is the outlook in California?
Nothing but a local experiment will determine whether you can get a satisfactory brush under the conditions prevailing in your vicinity. Undoubtedly, the high price of broom corn will stimulate production, but under quite sharp limitations in California, because a good, satisfactory brush cannot be grown on dry plains, although a good product is made in the river bottoms not far away. But there are so few people in California who understand how to handle broom corn to produce a good commercial article, and there are such rigid requirements in the size, quality, etc., that those who break into the business without proper knowledge cannot command even profitable prices. Therefore, if your enterprise is conducted with a full knowledge and with proper local conditions it would not encounter such a local disadvantage in the great increase of the product as one might think at first.
The various plantings of Egyptian corn on the ranch have turned smutty, very much after the manner of wheat and barley. Is there any unusual reason for this, or could irrigation have caused it, and what is the best method of preventing it?
Sorghum is affected by a smut similar to that of other grains. It is due to the introduction of the germ of the disease which comes with the use of smutty seed. Possibly the growth of the smut may have been promoted by moisture arising from soil rendered very wet by irrigation, and for this plant free irrigation should not be used, because it will do more with less water than any other plant we are growing, and is likely to be more thrifty in a drier atmosphere. Get seed for next year from an absolutely clean field; get as much growth as you can without irrigation, and then use water in moderate quantities as may be necessary, followed by a cultivation for the drying of the surface.
How late can Egyptian corn be planted on good sediment soil capable of growing 40 to 50 socks of barley per acre in good years with ordinary rain? The field was cut this year for hay on account of rank growth of wild oats, after irrigating; land is still moist. Can I put in Egyptian corn with on assurance of crop, or is it too late? How much seed should be planted to the acre, also should seed be drilled in or broad-casted?
There is no difficulty in getting a start of Egyptian corn during the dry season providing the soil contains moisture enough to germinate the seed. Afterward the growth will be more or less according to the moisture present and will be available for forage purposes. Whether a seed crop can be had by late sowing depends upon the frost occurrence in the particular locality, for it only takes a light frost to destroy the plant. To get the best results, particularly with late sowing, the seeds should be drilled in rows far enough apart for horse cultivation; about forty pounds of seed to the acre. What you get in this way will depend upon the amount of moisture in the soil and the duration of the frost-freedom.
Kaffir and Egyptian Corn.
Does Kaffir corn yield as well here as Egyptian corn? The fodder is good feed and the heads stand erect and at a more even height from the ground, which makes three advantages over Egyptian. Irrigation in either case is the some.
The reasons you mention have no doubt had much to do with the present popularity of an upright plant like Kafir over a gooseneck like the old dhoura or Egyptian, which was the type first introduced in California. For years there has been more gooseneck sorghum in the Sacramento valley than in any other part of the State. It may have superior local adaptions or the people may be more conservative. The way to determine which is better is to try it out, and, unless the Egyptian does better in grain and forage than the upright growers, take to the grain which holds its head up.
Sorghums for Seed.
Which sorghum is the most profitable to plant for the seed only White Egyptian, Brawn Egyptian or Yellow Mila?
Which sorghum is best is apparently a local question and governed by local conditions to a certain extent. Egyptian corn (with the goose-neck stem) has held more popularity in your part of the Sacramento than elsewhere, while Kaffir corn (holding its head upright, as do many other sorghums) has been for years very popular in the San Joaquin. In the Imperial valley Dwarf Milo is chiefly grown for a seed crop shattering and bird invasion are very important. G. W. Dairs of the San Joaquin valley, says there is a very great difference in the different varieties regarding waste from the blackbird. The ordinary white Egyptian corn is very easily shelled, and the birds waste many times more of the grain than they eat, after it has become thoroughly ripe. The Milo maize, or red Egyptian corn, does not shell nearly so easily as the white corn, and the grain is considerably harder and less attractive to the blackbirds. In fact, blackbirds will not work in a field of this variety of corn if there is any white corn in the vicinity to be had. The dwarf Milo maize yields much more crop than the white Egyptian corn, or any other variety. Blackbirds do not damage the white Kaffir corn to the extent they do the ordinary white Egyptian corn.
What is the best time to sow Egyptian corn; also how much per acre to sow?
All the sorghums, of which Egyptian corn is one, must be sown after frost danger is over - the time widely known as suitable for Indian corn, squashes and other tender plants. Sow thinly in shallow furrows or "marks," 3 1/2 or 4 feet apart and cultivate as long as you can easily get through the rows with a horse. About 8 pounds of seed is used per acre. If grown for green fodder, sow more thickly and make the rows closer, say 2 1/2 feet apart.
Two or three farmers in this locality desire to plant buckwheat. Not having done so heretofore they are in doubt as to the soil and other conditions that go to make a successful crop.
The growing of buckwheat in California is an exceedingly small affair. The local market is very limited, as most California hot cakes are made of wheat flour. There is no chance for outward shipment, and the crop itself, being capable of growing only during the frostless season, has to be planted on moist lands where there is not only abundant summer moisture but an air somewhat humid. Irrigated uplands, even in the frostless season, are hardly suitable for the common buckwheat, although they may give the growth of Japanese buckwheat for beekeepers who use dark honey for bee feeding. The Japanese buckwheat is well suited for this because it keeps blooming and produces a scattered crop of seed, but this characteristic makes it less suitable for a grain crop, and it has therefore never become very popular in this State. We consider buckwheat as not worthy of much consideration by California farmers.
Variation in Russian Sunflowers.
In an acre of mammoth Russian sunflowers there seems to be three varieties, some of the plants bear but one large flower; others bear a flower at the top with many other smaller ones circling it, while others have long stalks just above the leaf stems from the ground level all the way up to the largest flower, which appears at the very top. Are all these varieties true mammoth Russian sunflowers? What explanation is there for these variations? Will the seed from the variety carrying but one natural head produce seed that will reproduce true to the parent?
Your sunflowers are probably only playing the pranks their grandfathers enjoyed. If seed is gathered indiscriminately from all the heads which appear in the crop, succeeding generations will keep reverting until they return to the wild type, or something near it. If there is a clear idea of what is the best type (one great head or several heads, placed in a certain way) and seed is continually taken from such plants only for planting, more and more plants will be of this kind until the type becomes fixed and reversions will only rarely appear. No seed should be kept for planting without selecting it from what you consider the best type of plant; no field should be grown for commercial seed without rogue-ing out the plants which show reversions or bad variations. If you find sunflowers profitable as a crop in your locality, rigid selection of seed should be practiced by all growers, after careful comparison of views and a decision as to the best characters to select for.
My attention has been brought to a plant called Sacaline by an Eastern plant dealer. He states that this plant will grow in any kind of soil and needs practically no water.
The plant Sacaline (Polygonum saghalience) was introduced to California as a dry-land forage plant about 1893, and has never demonstrated any particular forage value. It is a browsing shrub, making woody stem, and cattle will eat it readily when not provided with better food. It has possible value on waste land, but probably is in no sense superior to the native shrubs of California which serve that purpose. It is a handsome ornamental plant for gardens or parks.
What will destroy patches of moss which are spreading over our lawns and apparently destroying the grass?
More sunlight would have a tendency to discourage the growth of moss on a lawn. If this is not feasible, irrigation less frequently but a more thorough soaking each time will give the surface a better chance to dry off, and moss will not grow on a dry surface. The frequent spraying of a lawn with just enough water to keep the surface moist and not enough water to penetrate deeply will tend to the growing of moss and to less vigor in the growth of the grass, A good soaking of the soil once a week is better than daily sprinkling, but, of course, very much more water must be used when you only sprinkle at long intervals. The drying of the surface may be assisted by sprinkling with air-slaked lime and this will discourage the growth of moss, but of course lime must not be used in excess or it will also injure the grass.
Scattering Grass Seeds.
We live on the west side of Sonoma valley, and want to seed some of our fields with a good wild grass. We want to carry bags of it in our pockets to scatter when we ride. Timothy we should like, but this is not its habitat, is it? Can you suggest a grass or grasses that would do well here?
There are really wild grasses worthy of multiplication, but no one makes a business of collecting the seed for sale, so that such seeds are not available for such purpose as you describe. Of the introduced grasses, those which are most likely to catch from early scattered seed are Australian and Italian rye grasses, orchard grass, wild oat grass and red top. You can get seed of all these from dealers in any quantity which you desire at from 15 to 30 cents a pound, according to the variety, and make a mixture of equal parts of each grass, which you can carry and scatter as you propose. Some of them will catch somewhere, particularly in spots where the shade modifies the summer heat and where seepage moisture reduces soil drought. You are right about timothy; it is good farther up the coast and in the mountain valleys, but not in your district.
I have light sandy loam on which I desire to grow forage for chickens. It lies too high for irrigation.
You could probably grow alfalfa to advantage if the soil still deep and loose, getting less, of course, than by irrigation, but still an amount that would be very helpful in your chicken business. Otherwise, as the land lies higher and perhaps out of sharp frosts, you could grow winter crops of vetches and peas and thus improve the land while furnishing you additional poultry pasture. The latter purpose could also be served by growing beets, cabbage or other hardy vegetables during the rainy season. This is prescribed because of the apprehension that the soil may not contain moisture enough for summer cropping without irrigation.
No Grain Elevators in California.
Is California wheat shipped in bulk or in bags at the present time?
There are no elevators in this State, owing to the fact that hitherto grain cargoes have been acceptable to ship only as sacked grain, because of claimed danger of shifting cargo and disaster during the long voyage around the Horn. A novel by Frank Norris, entitled the "Octopus," describes a man being killed by smothering in a grain elevator at Port Costa, but there never was an elevator at that point, and consequently there never was a man killed by getting under the spout thereof. Answering specifically your question, California grain is shipped in bags and not in bulk. It is handled in sacks from the separator to roadside or riverside storage, to the loading point into the ships and out of the ships on the other side - still in bags.
New Zealand Flax.
Give information about Phormiun tenax (New Zealand flax), which I see is imported to San Francisco in large quantities yearly for making cordage and binder twine, and is said also to be the best of bee pasture. Can I get the plants on the coast, and is California soil and climate adapted to the culture?
New Zealand flax grows admirably in the coast region of California. You will find it in nearly all the public parks and in private gardens, for it is a very ornamental perennial. Plants can be had in any quantity from the California nurserymen and florists. It produces plenty of leaves, but we should doubt whether it is floriferous enough for bee pasturage except where it occurs wild over a large acreage. You could get vastly more honey from other plants grown for that purpose.
No Home-made Beet Sugar.
Is there any simple process of making sugar from beets so that I could make my own sugar at home from my own beets while sugar is so very expensive to buy?
There is no simple way of making beet sugar. It can only be economically done in factories costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Don't Get Crazy About Special Crops.
I want information about flax as a crop. I have been having some land graded for alfalfa and I have had to wait so long I am now doubting the advisability of seeding it all under these conditions until fall, as hot weather will soon come. I want some good crop to plant in the checks and give two good irrigations. What would you think about rye for straw for horse collars? I do not wish to consider corn, as the stalks would be troublesome. Potatoes would necessitate disarranging the land too much and would require more attention than I am in shape to give just flow. Everybody grows wheat, barley and oats. I want something that I can get a special market for.
To succeed with flax, the seed ought to be sown in the fall, or early winter, in California, and the plant will make satisfactory growth under about the same conditions that suit barley or wheat. Spring sowing would not give you anything worth while except on moist bottom land. Rye is also a winter-growing grain. To grow rye straw for horse collars would be unprofitable unless you could find some local saddler who could use a little, and it is probable you could not get a summer growth of rye which would give good straw, even if you had a market for it. You could get a growth of stock beets, field squashes, or pumpkins for stock feeding. In fact, the latter would give you most satisfaction if you have stock to which they can be fed to advantage. Sorghum is our chief dry-season crop, but that makes stalks like corn and would, therefore, be open to the same objections. Has it never occurred to you that people grow the common crops, not because they are stupid, but because those are the things for which there is a constant demand and the best chance for profitable sale? Efforts to supply special markets are worth thinking of, but seldom worth making unless you know just who is going to buy the product and at what price.
California Insect Powder.
What part of the plant is used in making insect powder and how is it prepared? Is the plant a perennial? What soil suits it best?
The plant is Pyrethrum cinerariaefolium and has a white blossom resembling the common marguerite. The powder is made of the petals and the seed capsules or heads are thoroughly dried in the sun and ground with a run of stone such as was formerly used for making flour. The powder must be finely ground, and only good powder can be made in a mill suitably equipped for that purpose. The plant is a perennial, beginning to bloom the second year from seed. It will grow in any good soil with ordinary cultivation. Twenty-five years ago it was thought that a great California industry might be established on that basis, but there is at the present time but one establishment, which grows about all the material it can use on its own ranch in Merced county, on a fine, deep loam which the plant seems to enjoy.
Rotations for California.
I wish to work out a practical system of crop rotation suitable to the climate and conditions obtaining in southern California. Would you recommend different systems for grain lands and irrigated lands?
General schemes of rotation are hard to work out in California. They must be locally revised according to the local temperature conditions and the local market also. We should endeavor to find out what has been successfully grown on similar lands to those which you have in mind and arrange the rotation on that basis, from what we knew of the relation of the different plants to soil fertility, etc. You cannot make out a satisfactory local scheme for the seven counties in southern California, because of the widely different behavior of the separate plants in the different parts of the district. You can hardly work on the basis of soil character: moisture supply and temperatures are more determinative. Surely you should make a scheme for irrigated land different from that for dry land, and it could not only be a longer rotation, but many more plants would be available for its service.
Berseem has been introduced into this country from Egypt, and would like to know if it has been used in California, and if it has came up to expectations.
Berseem is an annual clover supposed to grow only during the summer time. It has been tried widely in California, but practically abandoned because it will not grow during the rainy season. It is in no way comparable to alfalfa, which is a deep rooted perennial plant, nor would it be comparable with burr clover as a winter grower on lands which have a moderate amount of water.
Heating and Fermentation.
Please explain why dampness will cause anything like hay, Egyptian corn or other like products to heat.
Heating is due to fermentation, which means the action upon the vegetable substance of germs which begin to grow and multiply after their kind whenever conditions favor them. The earlier stages of this action is called "sweating," and it is beneficial as in the case of hay, tobacco, dried fruits, etc., as is commonly recognized - resulting in what is known as curing - and it is the art of the handler of such products not to allow the action to go beyond what may be called the normal "sweating." If not checked by proper handling, which involves drying, cooling, etc., fermentation will continue, and other germs will find conditions suitable for them to take up their work of destruction, and this new action produces higher temperature still, and if not checked by cooling or drying or otherwise making the substance inhospitable to them, "heating" will result, and thence onward rapidly to decay, if they have everything their own way.
What influence, if any, has the moon on plant growth? Are there any reliable data of experiments available?
Very prolonged investigation by the Weather Bureau determined that no difference was found in planting in different phases of the moon. If we paid any attention to it, we should plant in the dark of the moon, so as to get the plants up so that they could use the little more light which the moon gives. It is, however, more important to have the soil right than the moon.
Part IV. Soils, Fertilizers and Irrigation
What is Intensive Cultivation?
From whom can I receive instruction or information regarding intensive cultivation?
Intensive cultivation has, so far as we know, not been made the subject of any treatise or publication. Intensive cultivation means the use of a maximum amount of labor, fertilizers and water for products of high market value. There is no better example of intensive cultivation in the world than is afforded by the practice of the best market gardeners and producers of small fruit. Next to them, on larger areas, would be the policies and methods of the fruit growers of California. Intensive culture, then, is not a particular method or system, but consists in doing the best thing for maximum production of any product which is valuable enough to spend the large outlay which is required. Just how this cultivation should be done depends upon the nature of the product and the conditions of soil and climate in whatever locality intensive cultivation may be undertaken.
Can a Man Farm?
Is it possible for a man with a few acres well cared for and carefully tilled to make a living and pay out on a purchase of land at $123 per acre? Could a good carpenter make wages and take care of a small tract for a year or so until well under way?
We consider $125 per acre for good land with a good water right a fair price. Financing a farming operation depends more upon the man than upon the good land. There are men who would, by intensive cultivation of salable stuff and right use of water, pay off the full value of the land from its produce in a couple of years. Others will never pay off. Of course, the nearer you can come to paying for the land at the beginning, and the more money you have for improvements, the more satisfactory your situation should be in every respect. There is a good chance for carpenter work in colony development, and considerable self-help could be secured in that way. You do not say whether you know anything about farming. Farming is a very complicated business and a basic knowledge derived from experience is a proper foundation to build upon in the light of the fuller application of scientific principles.
Soil Depth for Citrus Trees.
I have a top soil of rich loam containing small rocks and pebbles. Underneath it is washed gravel, rocks, boulders, yellow sand, etc. What is the limit as to thinness before trees will not grow, or thrive?
Orange trees are growing quite successfully on shallow soil overlying clay where the use of water and fertilizers was carefully adjusted so as to keep the trees supplied with just the right amount. Under such conditions a good growth may be expected so long as this treatment is maintained. There should be, however, not less than three feet of good soil to make the large expenditure necessary to establish an orange orchard permanently productive, and all the depth you can get beyond three feet is desirable. We question the desirability of planting orange trees even on a good soil overlying gravel, rocks or sand. Roots will penetrate such material only a short distance usually. It is almost impossible with such a leachy foundation to keep the surface soil properly moistened and enriched; You are apt to lose both water and fertilizer into the too rapid drainage.
Soils and Oranges.
I find this entire district underlaid with hardpan at various depths, from 1 to 6 feet down, and of various thicknesses. This hardpan is more or less porous and seeps up water to some extent, but is too hard for roots to penetrate. It is represented to me that if this hard pan is down from 4 to 5 feet it does not interfere with the growth of the orange tree or its producing. Is 4 or 5 feet of the loam enough?
Four or five feet of good soil over a hardpan, which was somewhat porous, is likely to be satisfactory for orange planting. There has been trouble from hardpan too near the surface and from the occurrence of a hardpan too rich in lime, which has resulted in yellow leaf and other manifestations of unthrift in the tree. Discussion of this subject is given on page 434 of the fifth edition of our book on "California Fruits," where we especially commend a good depth of "strong, free loam." This does not mean necessarily deep. The orange likes rather a heavier soil, while a deep sandy loam is preferred by some other fruits. If you keep the moisture supply regular and right and feed the plant with fertilizers, as may be required, the soil you mention is of sufficient depth - if it is otherwise satisfactory.