One Thousand Questions in California Agriculture Answered
by E.J. Wickson
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Oranges Over High Ground Water.

Does California experience show that citrus trees can be grown upon land successfully where the water-level is 6 feet from the surface; that is, where water is found at that level at all seasons and does not appear to rise higher during the rainy season?

We do not know of citrus trees in California with ground-water permanently at six feet below the surface. If the soil should be a free loam and the capillarity therefore somewhat reduced, orange trees would probably be permanently productive. If the soil were very heavy, capillary rise might be too energetic and saturate the soil for some distance above the water-level. In a free soil without this danger the roots could approach the water as they find it desirable and be permanently supplied. Orange trees are largely dependent upon a shallow root system, the chief roots generally occupying the first four feet below the surface. From this fact we conclude that deep rooting is not necessary to the orange, although unquestionably deep rooting and deep penetration for water are desirable as allowing the tree to draw upon a much greater soil mass and therefore be less dependent upon frequent irrigations and fertilizations.

Depth of Ground-Water.

Is there probable harm from water standing 12 feet from the surface in an orchard? Also probable age of trees before any effect of said water would be felt by them? The soil is almost entirely chocolate dry bog. - W. E. Wahtoke.

Water at twelve feet from the surface is desirable, and water at that point will be indefinitely desirable for the growing of fruit trees. Of course, conditions would change rapidly as standing water might approach more nearly to the surface, a condition which has to be carefully guarded against in irrigation. But it can come nearer than twelve feet without danger.

Summer Fallow and Summer Cropping.

I own some hill land which has been run down by continuous hay cropping. I am told that a portion must be summer-fallowed each year, but I wish to grow some summer crop on this fallow ground that will both enrich the soil and at the same time furnish good milk-producing feed for cows - thoroughly cultivating it between the rows. What crop would be best? I am told the common Kaffir or Egyptian corn are both soil enriching and milk producing.

If you grow a summer crop on the summer-fallowed upland, you lose the chief advantage of summer fallowing, which is the storing of moisture for the following year's crop. A cultivated crop would waste less moisture than a broadcast crop, surely, but on uplands without irrigation it would take out all the moisture available and not act in the line of a summer fallow.

Kaffir corn is not soil enriching. It has no such character. It probably depletes the soil just as much as an ordinary corn or hay crop. It is a good food to continue a milking period into the dry season, but you must be careful not to allow your cattle to get too much green sorghum, for it sometimes produces fatal results. We do not know anything which you can grow during the summer without irrigation which would contribute to the fertility of your land. If you had water and could grow clover or some legume during the summer season, the desired effect on the soil would be secured.

Soils and Crop Changes.

Peas and sweet peas do not grow well continuously in the same ground. I know this practically in my experience, but in no book have I ever found why they do not grow.

There are two very good reasons why some classes of plants cannot be well grown continuously in the same piece of ground. One is the depletion of available plant food, the other the formation of injurious compounds by the plants, or the gradual increase of fungoid, bacterial or animate pests in the soil, which finally become abundant enough to seriously hinder growth. Different plants take the plant foods, as nitrogen, lime, potash, phosphates, etc., in different proportion. More important, perhaps, is the fact that the root acids that extract these foods are of different types and strength. Thus before many seasons it may happen that most of the plant food of one or more kinds may be nearly exhausted as far as that kind of plant is concerned that has grown there continually, while there would be plenty of easily available food for plants with a different kind of root system and different root acids, etc. This is one reason why rotation of crops is so good; it gives a combination of root acids and root systems to the soil during a term of years, and it also frees the soil from one certain kind of organism because it cannot survive the absence of the particular plants on which it thrives.

Summer-Fallow Before Fruit Planting.

I recently bought a ranch at Sheridan, Placer county, and was intending to put 10 acres to peaches and 50 acres to wheat or barley, but the residents tell me that the land must be summer-fallowed before I can do anything. The soil is a red loam and has not been plowed for six years.

Your local advisers are probably right as to the necessity for summer-fallowing in order to conserve moisture from a previous year's rainfall and to get the land otherwise into good condition. There might be such a generous rainfall that an excellent crop might come without summer-fallowing, and the results will depend upon the rainfall. If it should be small in amount, you might not recover your seed. By the same sign you might not get much growth on your fruit trees, but you could help them by constant cultivation and by using the water-wagon if the season should be very dry. Therefore, you are likely to do better with trees than with grain without summer-fallowing, although even for trees it is a decided advantage to have more moisture stored in the subsoil and the surface soil pulverized by more tillage.

Defects in Soil Moisture.

I have apricot trees that appear to be almost dead; all but a very few small green leaves are gone, and they look bad, still I think they might be saved if I only knew what to do.

Presumably your apricot tree is suffering from too much standing water during the dormant season, or from a lack of water during the dry season. The remedy would be to correct moisture conditions, either by underdrainage for winter excess or by irrigation for summer deficiency. When a tree gets into a position such as you describe, it should be cut back freely and irrigation supplied, if the soil is dry, in the house that the roots may be able to restore themselves and promote a new growth in the top.

Dry Plowing for Soil and Weed Growth.

Is there any scientific reason to support the belief that it is injurious to the soil to dry-plow it for seeding to grain this fall and winter? Will dry-plowing now cause a worse growth of filth after the rains than the customary fallowing in the spring? Should the stubble be burned, or plowed under!

The points against dry-plowing to which you allude may arise from two claims or beliefs: first, that turning up land to the sun has a tendency to "burn out the humus"; second, that dry-plowing may leave the land so rough and cloddy that a small rainfall is currently lost by evaporation and leaves less moisture available for a crop than if it is plowed in the usual way after the rains. The first claim is probably largely fanciful, so far as an upturning in the reduced sunshine of the autumn goes. Whatever there may be in it would occur in vastly increased degree in a properly worked summer-fallow, and even that is negligible, because of the greater advantage which the summer-fallow yields. There may be cases in which one will get less growth on dry-plowing than on winter plowing, if the land is rough and the rain scant, and yet dry-plowing before the rains is a foundation for moisture reception and retention - if the land is not only plowed, but is also harrowed or otherwise worked down out of its large cloddy condition. When that is done, dry-plowing may be a great help toward early sowing and large growth afterward. As for weeds, dry-plowing may help their starting, but that is an advantage and not otherwise, because they can be destroyed by cultivation before sowing. If the land is full of weed seed, the best thing to do is to start it and kill it. The trouble with dry-plowing probably arises, not from the plowing, but from lack of work enough between the plowing and the sowing. Stubble should often be burned: it depends upon the soil and the rainfall. On a heavy soil with a good rainfall, plowing-in stubble is an addition to the humus of the soil, because conditions favor its reduction to that form, and there is moisture enough to accomplish that and promote also a satisfactory growth of the new crop.

Treatment of Dry-Plowed Land.

We are plowing a piece of light sandy mesa land, dry, which has considerable tarweed and other weeds growing before plowing. Which would be best, to leave the land as it is until the rains come and then harrow, or harrow now? Would the land left without harrowing gather any elements from the air before rain comes! The above land is for oat hay and beans next season.

Roll down the 'tar-weed, if it is tall and likely to be troublesome, and plow in at once so that decay may begin as soon as the land gets moisture from the rain. It would be well to allow the land to lie in that shape, and disc in the seed without disturbing the weeds which have been plowed under. If all this is done early, with plenty of rain coming there is likely to be water enough to settle the soil, decay the weeds, and grow the hay crop. Of course, such practice could not be commenced much later in the season. The land gains practically nothing from the atmosphere by lying in its present condition. If there is any appreciable gain, it would be larger after breaking up as proposed. In dry farming, harrowing or disking should be done immediately after plowing, not to produce a fine surface as for a seed bed, but to settle the soil enough to prevent too free movement of dry air. If your rainfall is ample, the land may be left looser for water-settling.

For a Refractory Soil.

What can I do to soil that dries out and crusts over so hard that it won't permit vegetable growth? A liberal amount of stable manure has been applied, and the land deeply plowed, harrowed and cultivated, but as soon as water gets on it, it forms a deep crust on evaporation. Will guano help, or is sodium nitrate or potash the thing?

None of the things you mention are of any particular use for the specific purpose you describe. Keep on working in stable manure or rotten straw, or any other coarse vegetable matter, when the soil is moist enough for its decay. Plow under all the weeds you can grow, or green barley or rye, and later grow a crop of peas or vetches to plow in green. Keep at this till the pesky stuff gets mellow. If you think the soil is alkaline, use gypsum freely; if not, dose it with lime to the limit of your purse and patience, and put in all the tillage you can whenever the soil breaks well.

More Manure, Water and Cultivation Required.

I have a small place on a hillside, with brown soil about one to two feet deep to hardpan and I am getting rather discouraged, as so many things fail to come up and others grow so very slowly after they are up. A neighbor planted some dahlia roots the same time I did. Only one of mine came up and it is not in bloom yet, while several of his have been blooming for some weeks and are ten times as large in mass of foliage as mine with its lone stalk and one little bud on the top. Peas came up and kept dying at the bottom with blossoms at the top tilt they were four or five feet high, but I never could get enough peas for a mess. Can you help me get this thing right?

Use of stable manure and water freely. Your trouble probably lies either in the lack of plant food or of moisture in the soil. This, of course, is supposing that you cultivate well so that the moisture you use shall not be evaporated and the ground hardened by the process. During the summer a good surface application of stable manure to which water can be applied would be better than to work manure into the soil, which should be done at the beginning of the rainy season. As your soil is so shallow it will be well for you to stand along the side of the plant much of the time with a bucket of water in one hand and a shovel of manure in the other.

Planting Trees in Alkali Soil.

My land contains a considerable quantity of both the black and white alkalies, the upper two feet being a rather heavy, sticky clay, the next three feet below being fine sand, containing more or less alkali, while immediately underneath this sand is a dense black muck in which, summer and winter, is found the ground-water. Do you think the following method of setting trees would be advantageous. Excavate for each tree a hole three feet in diameter and three feet deep. Fill in a layer of three or four inches of coarse hay, forming a lining for the excavation. Then fill the hole with sandy loam in which the tree is to be set. The sandy loam would give the young tree a good start, while the lining of hay would break up the capillary attraction between the filled-in sand and the ground-water in the surrounding alkali-charged soil.

The fresh soil which you put in would before long be impregnated through the surface evaporation of the rising moisture, which your straw lining would not long exclude. The trees would not be permanently satisfactory under such conditions as you describe, though they might grow well at first. It would be interesting, of course, to make a small-scale experiment to demonstrate what would actually occur and it would, perhaps, give you a chance to sell out to a tenderfoot.

Planting in Mud.

Why does ground lose its vitality or its growing qualities when it is plowed or stirred when wet, and does this act in all kinds of soil in the same way? We are planting a fig and olive orchard at the present time, but some were planted when the ground was extremely wet. The holes were dug before the rain and after a heavy rain they started to plant. After placing the trees in the holes they filled them half full with wet dirt, in fact so wet that it was actually slush. What would you advise under the circumstances and what can be done to counteract this? We have not finished filling in the holes since the planting was done, which was about a week ago.

The soil loses its vitality after working when too wet, because it is thrown into bad mechanical (or physical) condition and therefore becomes difficult of root extension and of movement of moisture and air. How easily soil may be thrown into bad mechanical condition depends upon its character. A light sandy loam could be plowed and trees planted as you describe without serious injury perhaps, while such a treatment of a clay would bring a plant into the midst of a soil brick which would cause it to spindle and perhaps to fail outright. The best treatment would consist in keeping the soil around the roots continually moist, yet not too wet. The upper part of the holes should be filled loosely and the ground kept from surface compacting. The maintenance of such a condition during the coming summer will probably allow the trees to overcome the mistake made at their planting, unless the soil should be a tough adobe or other soil which has a disposition to act like cement.


Kindly tell me of any one who is working upon the application of electricity to stimulating agricultural growth-especially here on the Coast. A friend who has done some work in this line seeks to interest me. I have seen notices of this work, and have read of Professor Arrhenius stimulating the mental activity of children, etc., but I desire more definite information, if possible. Does the idea seem to you to be feasible?

So far as we know, there has been no local trial of the effect of electric light in stimulating plant growth. Much has been done with it in Europe and in this country. There is much about it in European scientific literature. It is perfectly rational that increased growth should be attained by continuous light in the same way, though in less degree than occurs in the extreme north during the period of the midnight sun. It is known that moonlight, to the extent of its illumination, increases plant growth, and it has been amply demonstrated that light is light, just as heat is heat, irrespective of the source thereof. Of course, the commercial advantage must be sought in the relative amount of increased growth and the selling value of whatever is gained in point of time.

High Hardpan and Low Water.

What detriment is hardpan if 14 inches below the surface and in some places 12 inches? I have been plowing so I could set peach trees, but I have been told that they will not grow. I would like your opinion about it. I intended to blast holes for the trees, and the water is 30 feet from surface. The top soil is red sandy and clay mixed, but it works very easily.

You cannot expect much from trees on such a shallow soil over hardpan without breaking it up, because the soil mass available to the trees is small; also because the shallow surface layer over hardpan will soon dry out in spite of the best cultivation, because there is no moisture supply from below. If such a soil should be selected for fruit trees at all, the breaking through the hardpan by dynamite or otherwise is desirable, and irrigation will be, probably, indispensable.

Depth of Cultivation.

I would be glad to know whether in cultivating an orchard a light-draft harrow could profitably be used, which cultivates three and a half inches deep? I have used another cultivator, and try to have it go at least seven inches.

A depth of 3 1-2 inches is not satisfactory in orchard cultivation, although there may be some condition under which greater depth would be difficult to obtain because of root injury to trees, which have been encouraged to root near the surface. Both experience and actual determinations of moisture in this State show that cultivation to a depth of 5 inches conserves twice as much moisture in the lower soil as can be saved by a 3-inch depth of cultivation under similar soil conditions and water supply. It is all the better to go 7 inches if young trees have been treated that way from the beginning.

Alfalfa Over Hardpan.

I have land graded for alfalfa and some of the checks are low and water will stand on the low checks in the winter. There is on an average from two to three feet of soil on top of hardpan and hardpan is about two feet thick. Will water drain off the low checks if the hardpan is dynamited, and will this land grow alfalfa with profit?

Yes; much of the hardpan in your district is thin enough and underlaid by permeable strata so that drainage is readily secured by breaking up the hardpan. Standing water on dormant alfalfa is not injurious.

Trees Over High-Water.

Which are the best fruit trees to plant on black adobe soil with water table between 3 and 4 feet from surface? The soil is very rich and productive. The land is leveled for alfalfa also; will the alfalfa disturb the growth of trees?

We would not plant such land to fruit at all, except a family orchard. The fruits most likely to succeed are pears and pecans. On such land alfalfa should not hurt trees unless it is allowed to actually strangle them. The alfalfa may help the trees by pumping out some of the surplus water.

Soil Suitable for Fruits.

I am sending samples of soil in which there are apricots and prunes growing, and ask you to examine it with reference to its suitability for other fruits. Will lemons thrive in this soil?

It is not necessary to have analysis of the soil. If you find by experience that apricot and prune trees are doing well, it is a demonstration of its suitability for the orange, so far as soil is concerned. The same would also be a demonstration for soil suitability for the lemon because the lemon is always grown on orange root. The thing to be determined is whether the temperature conditions suit the lemon and whether you have an irrigation supply available, because citrus fruits, being evergreen, require about fifty per cent more moisture than deciduous fruits, and they are not grown successfully anywhere in this State without irrigation, except, possibly, on land with underflow. The matter to determine then is the surety of suitable temperatures and water supply.

For Blowing Soils.

I am going to dry-sow rye late this fall. I want some leguminous plant to seed with the rye for a wind-break crop, not to plow under. The land varies from heavy loam to blow-sand. I have under consideration sweet clover, burr clover, vetches. I see occasional stray plants of sweet clover (the white-blossomed) growing in the alfalfa on both hard and sandy soil. I read in an Eastern bee journal that sweet clover can be sowed on hard uncultivated land with success. Could I grow it on the hard vacant spots that occur in the alfalfa fields?

You can sow these leguminous plants all along during the earlier part of the rainy season (September to December) except that they will not make a good start in cold ground which does not seem to bother rye much. But on sand you are not likely to get cold, waterlogged soil, so you can put in there whenever you like - the earlier the better, however, if you have moisture enough in the soil to sustain the growth as well as start it. We should sow rye and common vetch. Sweet clover will grow anywhere, from a river sandbar to an uncovered upland hardpan, but it will not do much if your vacant spots are caused by alkali.

More Than Dynamite Needed.

I have some peculiar land. People here call it cement. It does not take irrigation water readily, and water will pass over it for a long time and not wet down more than an inch or so. When really wet it can be dipped up with a spoon. Hardpan is down about 24 to 36 inches. I have tried blowing up between the vines with dynamite, and see little difference. Can you suggest anything to loosen up the soil?

You could not reasonably expect dynamite to transform the character of the surface soil except as its rebelliousness might in some cases be wholly due to lack of drainage - in that case blasting the hardpan might work wonders. But you have another problem, viz: to change the physical condition of the surface soil to prevent the particles from running together and cementing. This is to be accomplished by the introduction of coarse particles, preferably of a fibrous character. To do this the free use of rotten straw or stable manure, deeply worked into the soil, and the growth of green crops for plowing under, is a practical suggestion. Such treatment would render your soil mellow, and, in connection with blasting of the hardpan to prevent accumulation of surplus water over it, would accomplish the transformation which you desire. The cost and profit of such a course you can figure out for yourself.

Is Dynamite Needed?

I have an old prune orchard on river bottom lands; soil about 15 or 16 feet deep. Quite a number of trees have died, I presume from old age. I desire to remove them and to replace them with prune trees. I have been advised to use dynamite in preparing the soil for the planting of the new trees.

Whether you need dynamite or not depends upon the condition of the sub-soil. If you are on river flats with an alluvial soil, rather loose to a considerable depth, dynamiting is not necessary. If, by digging, you encounter hardpan, or clay, dynamiting may be very profitable. This matter must be looked into, because the failure of trees on river lands is more often due to their planting over gravel streaks, which too rapidly draw off water and cause the tree to fail for lack of moisture. In such cases dynamite would only aggravate the trouble. Dynamiting should be done in the fall and not in the spring. The land should have a chance to settle and readjust itself by the action of the winter rains; otherwise, your trees may dry out too much next summer.

Improving Heavy Soils.

What is adobe? What kind of plants will grow best in adobe? In this Redwood City I find clay-like soil which looks very dark and heavy. What kind of plants will grow best in this soil?

The term adobe does not mean any particular kind of soil. It is applied locally to clay and clay-loam soils indiscriminately. It generally signifies the heaviest, stickiest, crackingest soil in the vicinity. Most plants will grow well on heavy soils if they are kept from getting too dry and too full of water. This is done by using plenty of stable manure and other coarse stuff to make the soil more friable, which favors aeration, drainage, root extension and plant thrift. Friability is also promoted by the use of lime and by good tillage. The particular soil to which you refer is a black clay loam which can be improved in all the ways stated. It is a good soil for most flowers and vegetables if handled as suggested. You can get hints of what does best by studying your neighbors' earlier plantings.

For a Reclaimed Swamp.

I have land, formerly a pond which dried up in the summer months. It has been thoroughly drained now for several years. The land surrounding it is good fertile soil and produces good crops. On this piece, however, crops come up and look fairly well until about two inches high when they turn yellow and die. Mesquite grass and strawberries seem to be the only crops that will live, and they do not do at all well. Sorrel grows abundantly in the natural state.

Apparently the reclaimed land which you speak of needs liming to overcome the acidity in the soil. Common builders' lime applied at the rate of 1000 pounds to the acre at the beginning of the rainy season ought to make the land much more productive and the soil, at the same time, more friable. Deep plowing with aeration will also help the land, and this treatment can begin at once if the soil is workable. Other additions of lime can be made later as they may be required to make the improvement permanent.

Improving Uncovered Subsoil.

What is the best treatment for spots that have been scraped in leveling for irrigation?

The land can be improved by plowing deeply and turning in stable manure or green alfalfa or any other vegetable matter which may decay, rendering the soil rich in humus and more friable. Of course, it will take some time to accomplish this improvement, and it is necessary that there be moisture enough present to cause the material to decay in order that the improvement may be secured.

Sand for Clay Soils.

Will beach sand do adobe or clay soil any good? It gets hard at times and I thought that if I was to put beach sand in the ground the salt in the sand would do the ground harm.

It is certainly desirable to mix sand with heavy soil for the purpose of making it lighter - that is, better drained and more friable and therefore improving it for the growth of plants. Sometimes beach sand contains a good deal of salt, which, however, is readily removed by fresh water, and sand hauled and exposed to the rains rapidly loses any excess of salt it may contain. Probably with such an amount of sand as you are likely to use to mix with your adobe, there is no danger at all from salt. Even if such sand should contain considerable salt, if applied at the beginning of the rainy season it would be so quickly distributed as to not constitute a menace to the growth of plants. The worst adobe can be transformed into a most beautiful garden soil by the application of sand and stable manure.

Plowing from or Towards.

Which is the proper way to plow an orchard? First to plow to the trees and then to plow from them, or to plow from the trees and then to them, and your reasons? I have had many arguments with my neighbor farmers.

There is difference of opinion everywhere as to whether the first plowing should be toward or away from the trees. In places where the soil is pretty heavy and the rainfall is apt to be quite large, plowing toward the trees and opening a dead furrow near the center seems to promote rapid distribution of surplus water. If the rainfall is less and arrangements for deep penetration are more necessary, the plowing can well be away from the trees, so as to direct the water toward the row. It is, of course, exceedingly important in this case, that the land should be worked back before it has a chance to dry out by exposure and this is one of the chief objections to the practice, because one is apt to let the land lie away from the trees, hoping for a late rain which may not come. Whatever theoretical advantages there may be in either of these methods, they can only be secured by the greatest care to avoid the dangers which attend them. This uncertainty is the reason why people so generally disagree as to which is the best practice, and they are right in disagreeing.

Dry Plowing and Sowing.

I dry-plowed my grain field to a depth averaging seven inches; it turned up very rough. I then disked and harrowed it, but it is still very rough. I intended to drill the seed, wait for sufficient rain, and harrow to a satisfactory condition, but have been advised to put no implement on after the drill, as a harrow would spoil the work done by the drill, and a slab or roller would cause the ground to bake. If I wait for rain to work the soil before drilling, it will bring the seeding too late.

You have probably done a pretty good job of dry work. If the land is still too rough for the drill, we should broadcast and harrow again. It is not desirable to harrow after the drill, and to roll or rub is likely to smooth too much, because the land would bake or crust after the heavy rains. This would cause loss of moisture and it is therefore better to leave the surface a little rough. You can roll lightly after the grain is up, if the surface seems to need closing a little.

Artesian Water.

I have a large tract of adobe soil, a black clay top soil. For about five months in the year there is not sufficient water on the place. I have sunk wells in different parts, but with very poor results, the further we went down the drier and harder the soil got. What little water we did obtain was unfit for domestic use. Can you give me an idea as to what might be the result of an artesian well in such soil?

Artesian water has nothing to do with the soils. It is a deeper proposition than that. Artesian water comes from gravel strata overlaid with impervious layers of rock or clay in such a way that water in the gravel is under pressure because the gravel leads up and away to some point where water is poured into it by rain falling or snow melting on mountain or high plateau. As the water cannot get out of this gravel until you punch a hole in its lid, its effort will be to shoot up to something less than the elevation at which it gained entrance to this gravel - as soon as your puncture gives it a chance. Geologists who know the locality may be able to tell you that you have little or no chance, but no one can tell you whether you have a good chance or not until he has tested the matter by boring. The quality of the artesian water is determined by its distant source and the bad water you have found is therefore no indication of the quality of what may be below it. No one should enter an artesian undertaking, except to tap a stratum of known depth, without a long purse. Probably one in a thousand of the bores made into the crust of the earth yields as many gallons of artesian water as gallons of various liquids used in boring it - and yet some of them are good wells to pump from because they pierce other strata carrying water, but not under pressure causing it to rise.

Treatment of Alkali.

I am advised that in some cases alkali may be drained and that in others it is treated with gypsum.

Gypsum is not a cure for alkali, but simply a means of transforming black alkali into white, which is less corrosive and therefore less destructive to plants, but there may be easily too much white alkali present - so much that the land would be made sterile by it. You cannot remove alkali by flooding unless two conditions can be assured: first, that the water itself is free from alkali before application to the land; second, that you underdrain the land at a depth of from three to four feet with tile, so that the fresh water on the surface can flow through the soil into the drains, carrying away from the land the alkali, which it dissolves in its course. To flood land even with fresh water without making arrangements for carrying off the alkali water below, is to increase the alkali on the surface as the water evaporates, and such treatment does land injury rather than benefit. We cannot give you any estimate as to the cost of washing out. It depends altogether upon local conditions: whether you use hand work or machinery for the ditching, and what your water will cost.

Alkali, Gypsum and Shade Trees.

Kindly advise how to apply gypsum, and how much, to heavy, sticky soil, the worst sort of adobe and heavily saturated with alkali. We want to plant shade trees. Eucalyptus and peppers succeed fairly well after once started. Gypsum seems to help, but I don't know how much to use.

The amount of gypsum required to neutralize black alkali depends upon how much black alkali there is to be neutralized, and no definite amount, therefore, can be prescribed beforehand as sufficient without a determination of the amount of alkali. In some experiments gypsum to the amount of thirty tons to the acre or more has been used just for the purpose of seeing how much the land would take, and a fine growth of grain has been secured after using that much gypsum, but that, of course, would be out of the question because the outlay would be more than the land or the crop would be worth.

In the planting of trees at some distance apart, the tree can be protected from destruction and enabled to make a stand in the soil by using gypsum on the spot rather than the treatment of the whole surface. In this way five or ten pounds of gypsum could be used by mixing with the soil to fill a good-sized hole.

Distribution of Alkali.

I am told by all the ranchers on the east and south sides of the valley that their wells are excellent. But they all say that on the west side - they are bringing up alkali. One also said that the water level was rising throughout all the valley. Is it safe to depend on this in part, or will the alkali spread over all the valley and the foothills?

It is not unusual to find people who predict the rise of alkali almost anywhere except on their own premises. No one can exactly tell where alkali will go, because no one has complete knowledge of the water movement in underlying strata. Wherever the ground water rises on lower levels because of irrigation on higher levels there is danger of the rising of the alkali, for which the only cure is underdrainage with tile so that this rising water is carried to an outflow and not allowed to approach within three or four feet of the surface. If you have such an outflow and desire to undertake the expense of tiling, you can insure yourself against a serious rise of alkali indefinitely. We do not see, however, how alkali can rise to the higher lands of the valley. Its first effect would be to make lakes or ponds in the lowest parts of the valley, and even then the surrounding mesa lands would not be injured.

Plants Will Tell About Alkali.

Please give information as to the application of gypsum to my soil which is somewhat alkaline. I do not care to have an analysis made of my soil, and believe that you can advise me without it.

If your soil is too alkaline for the growth of plants you can demonstrate that fact by experiment, or if it is capable of being used by the application of gypsum, that also can be determined by experiment and noting the behavior of the same plants afterwards. It is rather a slow process but it is sure enough.

Litmus and Alkali.

Is there any simple soil test for alkali that can be made without a chemical analysis?

You can ascertain the presence of alkali by using red litmus paper, which will be turned blue by the alkali in the soil, if the soil is moist enough. This does not determine the amount of alkali, but the quickness of the turning to the blue color and the depth of the color are both attained when the alkali is very strong. When there is less alkali, the reaction is slower and weaker. This test, however, gives you only a rough idea whether the soil is suitable for growing plants. You can tell that better by the appearance of the plants which you find. Any druggist can furnish the litmus paper, and give you a demonstration of how it acts on contact with alkali.

Using Gypsum for Alkali.

Is it better, to kill the black alkali in the soil with gypsum, just to scatter it over an alkalied spot or to plow the soil first and then use the gypsum? I am going to sow alfalfa.

Use the gypsum after plowing, for it will wet down more quickly, and the gypsum has to be dissolved to act freely. The best way to cure your spot is to run an underdrain into it, if possible, so the rain-water can run through the soil freely and take the alkali with it.

Blasting or Tiling.

In planting trees where hardpan is four feet from the surface is it necessary to blast the hardpan, or is there no benefit derived by the blasting?

If there should be a good available soil under a shallow layer of hardpan, which you say is four feet from the surface, it might be of considerable advantage to bore into the hardpan and explode a dynamite cartridge in it. But if your good soil is really only four feet deep and hardpan continuous below, the blast might cause fissures which would prevent standing water in the upper stratum. If you are sure of four feet of good soil above the hardpan you will have no difficulty in growing good trees, if you get the moisture just right and the hardpan slopes in such a way that surplus moisture will move away. If, however, you have hardpan at different depths on the tract, so that it may really make basins which will hold water, you are likely to have trouble from accumulations of water which will not only prevent the roots extending to the full depths of the soil, but will also cause some trees to die. Such a danger could be removed by draining the soil to a depth of three and a half or four feet with tile, in order to prevent accumulations at any point. This would be expensive perhaps, but you would be sure that you had rendered your four feet of soil safe and available. If you trust to blasting you will have to wait several years for the trees to tell you whether you helped them or not.

Effects of Blasting.

I have land which is underlaid with hardpan two or three feet deep and this in turn is underlaid with sand or sandpan. What I would like to know is whether blasting the holes before setting trees would allow more moisture coming from this sandpan, or, rather, what effect it would have as to moisture.

We do not know. It might make the soil better for the trees by allowing escape for surplus water through previous layers. It might allow the tree to root more deeply for moisture in those strata. It might allow water to rise from such strata if they have water under pressure. It might do other things good or bad, according to conditions prevailing under the hardpan. If you are to irrigate the land the effects would probably be good.

The Sub-soil Plow.

I am contemplating using a sub-soil plow for the purpose of breaking plow-sole on grain land. This is about 4 1/2 inches below the surface and is about 5 inches thick. This soil is comparatively loose and seems to be of good quality. Do you think that the sub-soil plow run low enough to break this plow-sole will benefit the land?

There can be no question about the benefit of breaking up this tight stratum, provided you use a long-tooth harrow or a subsoil packer afterward to reduce the land so that it will not be too open to loss of moisture by too free circulation of air. The best way to treat such a soil would be to use a tractor and plow to a full foot of depth, for this, followed by good harrowing, would disintegrate the hard stuff and commingle it with the loose surface soil and make it somewhat more retentive - doing this when the moisture is just right for disintegration and mixing. If you are not ready to go to this expense, a subsoiler, following the plow with another team, would put your land in better shape for dry farming or for irrigation than it is now. Starting late, however, might give you less crop the first year on such deep working than by shallow plowing if the year's rainfall should be scant. It would, however, be a good start for summer-fallowing and a big crop the next year.

Sour Soil.

What is "sour" soil? Is that the name by which it is commonly known, and what is the treatment for it?

Sour soil is soil in which an acid is developed by plant decay and exclusion of air. The proper treatment is the application of lime, and aeration by open tillage and underdrainage.

Old Plaster for Sour Land.

Can house plaster be used in reclaiming sour ground and how much per acre? The ground produces some sour grass - not a great deal. The plaster is from an old building that is being torn down.

House plaster is desirable as an application to land which is sour. It also adds to the mellowness of land which is hard, because of the sand contained in it. It has always been considered a good dressing for garden land. So far as the correction of sourness goes, it is much less active than fresh lime, but it acts in the same way to a limited extent. It is certainly worth using, providing it does not cost too much for delivery, and can be freely used if the land is heavy and needs friability.

Application of Manure Ashes.

Having recently got a lot of manure plentifully supplied with redwood shavings that had been used with the bedding, and being afraid to use the same in that shape, as it takes such a long time for the wood to rot, I reduced the pile to a heap of ashes. How can it be best applied to ornamental trees and shrubbery in a light gravelly soil?

You have done unwisely in burning the manure. We would have taken the risk of a single use of shavings for the sake of the manurial matter associated with them, and this risk of too much lightening of a gravelly soil would be especially small in connection with deep rooting plants like ornamental trees and shrubbery. You have left merely the skeleton of the manure, and much of that of doubtful solubility, if the temperature ran very high by burning in a mass. You need not be fearful about using these ashes. Scatter or spread them over the ground just as you would have spread the manure, let the rains dissolve and carry down what they can and go on with your usual methods of cultivation.

The Best Fertilizer for Sand.

How can I best fertilize soil that is pure sand?

The best fertilizer for pure sand is well-rotted stable manure, because it not only supplies all kinds of plant food, but increases the humus in the soil, which is exceedingly important in making the sand more retentive of moisture as well as more productive.

Fertilizers in Tree Holes.

Would it be harmful to add 2 or 3 pounds of steamed bone meal to the hole of a young tree just before planting?

There would be no injury, providing you mix it with a considerable amount of soil by digging over the bottom of the hole, but our conviction is that on lands which are good enough for the commercial planting of fruit trees, it is not necessary to stimulate a young tree in this way, but that it is better to postpone the use of fertilizers until the trees come into bearing and show the desirability of more liberal feeding. Of course, if young trees do not make satisfactory growth, they may be stimulated either with some kind of a fertilizer or with a freer use of water, and it is generally the latter that they are chiefly in need of.

Wood Ashes and Tomatoes.

Is there any harm to vegetable growing to dig sufficient of wood ashes in for mellowing heavy soil? My tomato plants grew splendidly this year, but the fruits were all rough and wrinkled. I gave them plenty of horse and poultry manure at planting and plenty of wood ashes and falling leaves of cypress later.

Wood ashes do not mellow a heavy soil. The effect of the potash is to overcome the granular structure and increase compactness. Coal ashes, because they are coarser in particles and devoid of potash, do promote mellowness, and are valuable mechanically on a heavy soil although they do not contain appreciable amounts of plant food. You are overfeeding your tomato plants, probably. The chances are that you had poor seed. There is no best tomato, because you ought to grow early and late kinds: there is also some difference in the behavior of varieties in different places.

Was It the Potash or the Water?

Last year the lye from the prune dipper was turned on the ground near two almond trees which seemed to be dying, and to my surprise they have taken a new lease of life. Hence my conclusion that potash was good for our soil.

Your experience seems to justify the application of potash, surely, but the question still remains, how much good the potash did the trees, and how much they needed the extra water which the waste dips supplied. It would be desirable for you to make another experiment with other trees, applying wood ashes, if you have them, or about four pounds per tree of the potash which you use for dipping, scattering well and working it into the soil after it is moistened by the rains, and not using any more water than the trees ordinarily received from rainfall. After this trial you will be in a position to know whether your trees need potash or irrigation - by comparing with other trees adjacent. Besides are you sure that your lye dip was caustic potash and not caustic soda? The latter has no fertilizing value.

Prunings as Fertilizer.

Is orchard and vineyard brush worth enough as a fertilizer to pay for cutting or breaking and putting back on the land?

We should say not. It takes too much labor to put it in any form to promote decay, and is even then too indestructible. It is also possible that its decay may induce root rot of trees. We should burn the stuff and spread the ashes. Vineyard prunings are more promising because more easily and quickly reduced by decay. Vinecane-hashers have been proposed from time to time, but we do not know anyone who long used them.

Gypsum on Grain Land.

Is there any profit in sowing gypsum on grain land, say on wheat or oat crop? At what stage should it be applied and in what quantity?

It would have a tendency to make the surface more friable and therefore better for moisture retention, and it could be used at the rate of 1000 pounds to the acre, broadcasted before plowing for grain. As our soils are, however, usually well supplied with lime, there is a question whether there would be any profit in the use of gypsum, for, aside from lime, it contains no plant food, although it does act rather energetically upon other coil contents. Gypsum is a tonic and not a fertilizer from that point of view. The best way to satisfy yourself of its effect would be to try a small area, marked so as you could note its behavior as compared with the rest of the field.

Gypsum and Alfalfa.

What is gypsum composed of? Is it detrimental to land in future years? Have the lands of California any black alkali in them? I notice my neighbors who sow gypsum on their alfalfa get a very much better yield of hay than those who do not.

Gypsum is sulphate of lime. It is not detrimental to the land in after years except that its action is to render immediately available other plant foods and this may render the land poorer - not by the addition of anything that is injurious but by the quicker using up of plant food which it already contains. Black alkali is very common in California in alkali lands. In lands which show their quality by good cropping, there is no reason to apprehend black alkali nor to use gypsum to prevent its occurrence. The use of gypsum does stimulate the growth of alfalfa and makes its product greater just as you observe in the experience of your neighbors, but the more they use up the land now the less they will have later, unless they resort to regular fertilization to restore what has been exhausted. But even that may be a good business proposition.

What Gypsum Does.

I intend to fertilize alfalfa and should like to know about gypsum. I have heard it stimulates the growth temporarily but in three or four years hurts the land. I have heavy land.

The functions of gypsum are: (a) to supply lime when the soil lacks it; (b) to make a heavy soil more mellow, and (c) to act upon other soil substances to render them more available for plant food. These are some of the soil aspects of gypsum; it may have plant aspects also. It is too much to say that gypsum hurts the land; it does, however, help the plant to more quickly exhaust its fertility, and in this respect is not like the direct plant foods which comprise the true fertilizers - one of which gypsum is not. It might be best for your pocketbook and for the mechanical condition of the soil to use it, but do not think that it is maintaining the fertility of the land (a service which we expect from the true fertilizers) except as it may supply a possible deficiency of lime.

How Much Gypsum?

How much per acre, how frequently and what seasons of the year are the best time to apply gypsum?

Of gypsum on alkali, we should begin at the rate of one ton to the acre and repeat the application as frequently as necessary to achieve the desired result. If the alkali was quite strong we would use twice as much. Without reference to an alkaline condition in the soil, and to give heavy soil a more friable character, which promotes cultivation, aeration, etc., and, therefore, ministers to more successful production, half a ton to the acre can be used, applications to be repeated as conditions seem to warrant it.

Wood Ashes in the Garden.

There is available in my neighborhood a free supply of wood ashes. Can you tell me how best to distribute the same in a garden (flowers and garden truck), and what, if any, treatment is to be given the ashes for the best results.

Wood ashes long exposed to rain lose most of their valuable contents, and leached ashes are only of small value. If they are fresh ashes or ashes which have been kept dry, they are chiefly valuable for potash, which is good in its way, but not all that a plant needs. If, however, your soil is shy of potash, the use of ashes will notably improve growth if not applied in excess in the caustic form in which it occurs in the ashes. They require no treatment. Spread, say, a quarter of an inch thickness all over the ground and dig in deeply. It may also help you by destruction of wire worms and other ground pests.

Coal Ashes in the Garden.

What is the effect of coal ashes on the red clay soil of Redlands or wood and coal ashes combined?

Coal ashes are exceedingly desirable upon clay land because their mechanical mixture with the fine particles of the clay renders the soil more friable, permeable and better adapted to the growth of most plants. Coal ashes, however, possess no fertilizing value - their action is merely mechanical. The wood ashes which may be combined with them are desirable as a source of potash which most plants require.

Liming a Chicken Yard.

I have a small family orchard of half an acre, fenced in as a chicken yard, the soil of which has become very foul. When would be the best time to apply lime and how much?

Put on 500 pounds of lime and plow under as soon as you can - that is, spread the lime just before the plowing, with a shower or two on the lime before plowing, if the weather runs that way.

Poultry Manure.

Give directions for using chicken manure. For use of young trees, is there any difference in treatment of deciduous and citrus trees? For use in the vegetable garden and the flower garden, what should be mixed with it and in what proportions? So many people say poultry manure is so strong, I am afraid to use it.

It is a fact that poultry manure, free from earth, contains even as high as four times as much plant food as ordinary stable manure. It is, therefore, to be used with proportional care, so that the plants shall not receive too much, and particularly so that there may not be too much collected in one place. Probably the best way to guard against this is to thoroughly mix the manure with three or four times its bulk of ordinary garden soil and then use this mixture at about the same rate you would stable manure. If you do not desire to go to all this trouble, make an even scattering of the manure and work it into the soil. There is no reason to fear the material; simply guard against the unwise use of it. It is good for all the plants which you mention; in fact, for any plant grown, provided it is sparingly and evenly distributed.

It should be pulverized so that there shall not be lumps and masses in the same place for fear of root injury. Of course, the strength depends upon how much earth is gathered up with the manure. Sometimes there is so much waste material that it can be handled just as ordinary farm manure is.

We should not use over 20 pounds of clean droppings to a young tree and should mix it with the soil for a considerable distance around the tree. Old bearing trees might stand two or three tons to the acre if distributed all over the ground. The material contains everything that is necessary for the growth of the tree and formation of the fruit.

Ashes and Poultry Manure.

It is said that ashes mixed with chicken manure is not good. I use ashes altogether on the drop boards because I can keep the boards cleaner. The refuse is then scattered around the fruit trees.

Wood ashes and lime should never be used as you propose, because they set free the nitrogen compounds which are the most valuable content of poultry manures. This action is conditioned largely upon the presence of moisture, and if the droppings are kept dry and hurried into the soil the loss is lessened. Coal ashes, on the other hand, are a thoroughly good absorbent when the coal burns to a fine ash or is sifted. They do not act as wood ashes do, because they do not contain soluble alkali. They also have a good mellowing effect on heavy soil.

Caustic Lime Not a Good Absorbent.

Would air-slackened lime be suitable to sprinkle over the dropping boards in hen houses?

Gypsum is greatly superior to air-slacked lime for the hen houses, as it has every beneficial effect of the latter, while the air-slacked lime will set free much of the fertilizing value of the manure, which the gypsum will not do.

Too Much Chicken Manure for Young Trees.

I have peach trees and apple trees, 3 to 6 years old, that are very thrifty but grow only wood. The soil was poor when planting, and I have put on plenty of sweepings from the chicken-yards. I suppose that is the cause of the trouble.

Undoubtedly you have overmanured your soil with chicken manure, which is a very strong fertilizer and should only be used in limited quantities. In order to counteract any acidity or ill effects which have been produced by its excessive application, it would be desirable for you to apply about 500 to 1000 pounds per acre of common builders' lime at the beginning of the rainy season, working it into the soil with the fall or early winter plowing. Do not cut back the tree during the dormant season, although, of course, you may have to remove surplus or interfering branches for the sake of shaping the tree. Winter pruning induces a greater wood growth during the following summer; therefore, it should be avoided under such conditions as you describe. Having adopted such a policy, there is nothing for you to do but to wait for the trees to slow down and assume a normal bearing habit proper for their ages. Summer pruning is an offset for excessive wood growth.

Suburban Wastes.

We keep a cow and poultry and have a dry-earth toilet. We have been burying the manure in the little garden spot or along by the fences or spreading it out on the alfalfa before it is rotted, but do not get good results. How shall we apply it to get the best results ? We have a town ordinance against leaving it in piles to rot.

You can compost it in a tight bin made of planks, and using enough water to prevent too rapid fermentation and loss of valuable ingredients. During the dry season you can probably use enough dry earth or road dust to render the material inoffensive, and you can also distribute it then without undesirable results.

Composting Garden Wastes.

You recommend making a compost of all scrapings, garbage, weeds, etc. Is there any danger in having this in a pit near the house?

If you desire to put garden wastes, including manure, into a pit, the only objection would be the heavy work of digging it out again. If you allow waste water from the house to run into the pit, there would probably be not enough dry material to absorb it, and the pit would be not only objectionable on account of odors, but possibly dangerous to health. The water would also prevent decomposition, because of exclusion of air. At the same time, enough moisture to promote slow decomposition is essential. It is usually more convenient to compost garden wastes on the surface of the ground, enclosing them with a plank retainer, because moisture can easily be applied with a hose, as desirable, the material can be occasionally forked over to promote decay, and the heavy work of digging material out of a pit is avoided. Such a collection is neither offensive nor dangerous if handled right.

Composting Manure.

Will the dry barnyard manure, when heaped up and dampened with water, make a valuable fertilizer?

For garden use, dry manure in heaps should be dampened with water from time to time so as to prevent too active fermentation. Of course, water should not be supplied so freely as to cause a leaching of the pile. It is also desirable that the material should be forked over from time to time to distribute moisture and promote decay. When this is done a thoroughly first-class fertilizer is produced.

Barnyard Manure and Alkali.

In spots my land is hard and has some black alkali. Will barnyard manure help the hard land if cultivated in?

Use stable manure because that would not only furnish nitrogen, if your plants need any more, but it would add coarse material and ultimately humus which would overcome the tendency of your soil to become compact and thus concentrate alkali near the surface by evaporation. Mellow the soil, increase the humus, make water movement freer and good cultivation easier and alkali will become weaker by distribution through a greater mass of the soil and may be too weak at any point to be troublesome, unless you have too much to start with. Put on manure at the beginning of the rainy season and plow it under, with all the green stuff which grows upon it, during the winter or early spring.

Stable Manure and Bean Straw.

What are the approximate contents of common stable manure; also, how much of the above is contained in bean straw?

The composition of mixed stable manure is given as containing in one ton: Nitrogen, 10 pounds; phosphoric acid, 5 pounds; potash, 10 pounds. The constituents of bean straw in one ton, are given as: Nitrogen, 28 pounds; phosphoric acid, 6 pounds; potash, 38 pounds; Of course, a large part of the difference in composition is due to the excessive amount of moisture which ordinary stable manure contains. Air dried stable manure, such as is found in a California corral, would have much higher fertilizing value than such moist manure as an Eastern chemist would be likely to handle.

Roofing a Manure Pit.

Is it necessary to roof a manure pit, if the pit is tight so that all rain on manure is caught in the liquid manure and nothing is lost?

To secure satisfactory composting of stable manures in a pit it is necessary to be able to regulate the moisture of the mass. If it becomes too dry, too rapid fermentation takes place and the material is destroyed by what is called fire-fanging. If too much liquid enters the pit, so that the material is submerged, the air is excluded and fermentation stops. For these reasons it is necessary that a pit in the region of large rainfall be covered, and water be used from a hose or other source of supply in just sufficient quantity to keep the material right for slow fermentation. How much water should be added to bring the moisture to a right condition depends upon how much liquid waste runs into the pit, and where water is used for cleaning a stable care has to be taken that the pit is not submerged. Success with a pit is, therefore, conditioned on the amount of moisture admitted, and this cannot be controlled unless the pit has a cover fit to shed rainfall. Of course, it may be adjustable so that some rainfall may be admitted as may be desirable.

Value of Animals in Manure.

In the operation of our fruit and dairy ranch we have the manure from some forty head of horses and cattle, which is distributed over the place. We cut our alfalfa and feed it and do very little pasturing. In order to give our dairy the proper credit, we would kindly ask what you consider a fair price for the manure of a cow for one year. Also what would the manure from a horse for one year be worth?

A compilation of a considerable number of weighings, analyses and valuations in Europe, cited by Prof. Roberts in his book on the "Fertility of the Land," gives an average value of the voidings of a cow for a year as $32.25 and of a horse at $24.06. This is based, of course, upon the collection and saving of all excrements which is never secured except in careful experimentation. The value of manure depends upon the quality of the feed. In two experiments, considered a safe substitute for the straw, apart from the fact that the gave a value in manure of $1 per ton of hay fed; cows fed on clover and bran gave value in manure of 3.80 per ton of mixed feed. Your alfalfa feeding would approach the higher value. You will have to make an estimate from the above data to serve your purpose and you can figure it either by the number of animals or by the tonnage of the feed.

Value of Fresh and Dry Manure.

What is the relative value of the weekly or semi-weekly corral scrapings which are tramped fine and air-dried; and of the fresh, wet manure from the stable? I do not understand that the latter has appreciable water added, and the amount of sand in the corral scrapings would be small.

Fresh, mixed animal manure is usually calculated to contain about 75 per cent of water. Manure which has been quickly dried, without fermentation and without leaching by rains, may be worth four or five times as much per ton. Nothing, however, short of analysis would determine the value of any particular lot, for that depends somewhat upon the way the animals are fed, as well as upon the moisture content.

Shavings in Stable Manure.

Is barnyard fertilizer containing shavings instead of straw, desirable?

Barnyard manure containing shavings is chiefly objectionable because of the amount of inert material. The shavings are exceedingly slow to decompose, and in light soil in considerable quantities would cause a serious loss of moisture. If applied, on the other hand, to a heavy soil and accompanied by sufficient irrigation water, the effect of making the soil more friable might be very desirable. It depends then upon circumstances whether shavings can be concited by Prof. Snyder in his "Soils and Fertilizers," cows fed on hay straw is more valuable not only because more easily decomposed, but because its content of plant food is greater.

Handling Grape Pomace.

In the case of grape pomace, would not the large value shown by analysis be chiefly in the seeds? My observation is that these are exceedingly slow to became available in the soil. Would composting break down the shell of the seed?

Grape pomace is slowly available because of the slow disintegration you mention. It could be hastened by drying and grinding, but we doubt if this or other treatment would return its cost. Decay by moisture promoted by composting with manure, kept at a low temperature by continuous moisture would render it sooner available, but this would involve labor which, at our wage rates, would probably make the material cost more than it is worth. This is probably a cost in which time is cheaper than money.

Sheep and Goat Manure.

I can buy goat manure from an inclosure where this is deposited to an amount of about five carloads. Will goat manure be of great value in fertilizing an orchard? If so, how much of it should be spread an an acre?

Accumulations of sheep and goat manure in a dry situation, that is, where not leached out by heavy rainfall, have been found to run as high as $13 per ton in fertilizing constituents. The average would, however, be not above $7.50, and would depend not only upon the unleached condition of the material but upon the amount of sand mixed with it. If it is in a situation where sand blows very freely, it might not be worth over $4 or $5 per ton, possibly not that much. You have, therefore, to deal with a condition largely unknown. So far as its fertilizing quality goes, however, it is freely available and directly calculated to stimulate the growth of plants, and probably four or five tons could be used to the acre without injury if well distributed over the surface of the land. Application can be made at any time of the year, for the drying will not injure it. It will not, however, become available until the soil is sufficiently moist to carry its contents to the roots of the plants. Under ordinary conditions in California, application should be made just before the beginning of the rainy season.

Hog Manure and Potatoes.

What is the fertilizing value of hog manure, and also what is the best fertilizer to use for potatoes? Our potatoes are planted early in January.

Hog manure is rather a rank and strong fertilizer, usually very rich, although the quality of it depends upon how well the hogs have been fed - that from grain-fed hogs being notably better. The valuation of hog manure ranges from $2.50 to $3.25 per ton, according to the feeding as noted, while ordinary stable manure may be worth from $2 to $2.75 per ton. It is not a good idea to apply these organic manures directly for the growth of potatoes. It is better to apply them to the land for the growth of a grain or forage crop, plowing in the stubble and using the land for potatoes the following year. If you wish to fertilize directly for potatoes, the use of a commercial fertilizer containing a good amount of potash would be a better proposition.

Fertilizer for Sweet Potatoes and Melons.

I have sandy soil that has been used for sweet potatoes until it is worn out for that crop, and would like your advice as to the best fertilizer to use. Also, what fertilizer would be best for melons on land that has been planted to melons for the past three years?

There is not much difference in the plant food required by the two crops you mention, but both evidently need a freshened soil and an increase of humus. We should apply a half ton to the acre of a complete fertilizer, of which any dealer can give you descriptions and prices. If you wish to do a good job, start a growth of peas or vetches or burr clover, and sow the fertilizer evenly with the seed. Plow the growth under in February and roll (as the soil is sandy) to close down and promote the decay of the green stuff, which ought to be so well accomplished by the date that it is safe to plant sweet potatoes or melons that it will give no trouble in summer cultivation.

An Abuse of Grape Pomace.

I got in an argument with a neighbor of mine who stated that grape pomace is not a fertilizer. Is it so? My neighbor says that two years ago he had two apricot trees in his yard, and they were fine bearing and healthy trees. After making his wine he put the pomace on the ground and they died. Could that be the cause?

Yes, probably. He used too much fresh pomace and the resulting fermentation of its products may have killed the trees. But grape pomace, after going through fermentation and in the process of decay, makes humus in addition to giving potash and other desirable substances to the soil.

Manuring Vineyard.

Does barnyard manure have any injurious effect on the vines if applied on my vineyard? One of my neighbors claims barnyard manure burned his vines so he got no crop wherever he spread the manure, and nothing would now induce him to use it again.

Barnyard manure can be safely used in a vineyard at the beginning of the rainy season, working it in with the plowing, but not using too much. Wine grapes are sometimes injuriously affected in flavor by the use of such fertilizer, but the growth of the vine itself can be stimulated by the rational use of it. Your neighbor apparently either used too much or made the application at the beginning of the dry season or made some other mistake.

Bones for Grape Vines.

I am going to plant out some grape vines, and would like to know if it is a good plan to put old bones, broken up fine, into the holes when planting.

Yes, if you do not use too much and it is mixed with earth, a little beyond the touch of the roots at planting. You do not need to finely break the bones. The roots will take care of that. But do not put in too much coarse stuff, for fear of causing too rapid drainage.

Reviving Blighted Trees.

I have a couple of apple trees here that were hurt by the pear blight three years ago and were cut back since then; they come out each year, but the leaves curl up, and they do not do anything. I would like to know if putting any fertilizer around them would help them to put out their leaves, and if so what I should use?

Put some stable manure on the top of the soil around your trees now so that the rains may reach the contents of the soil, then later in the season dig the manure into the soil. Apply water during the summer time and this will encourage the trees to grow, if there is any vigor remaining in them. This treatment, however, will not protect them from the blight.

Fertilizing Pear Orchard.

I have pear trees 15 years old which have fruited heavily for years and have never been fertilized. What is the best fertilizer for the soil which is heavy, and when is the best time to apply it? I intend planting rye to plow under in the spring, but thought possibly the fertilizer should be applied first.

If you have stable manure available, nothing could be better for the feeding of the trees and for its mellowing effect upon your heavy soil. Application can be made at once, to be worked into the land when the rye is sown. It will help the trees and give you more rye which in the end will help the trees. If you have no stable manure available, what is called by the dealers a "complete fertilizer" for orchard purposes is what you should use and apply it when you work the land for rye.

Fertilizing Olives.

What is the best means of fertilizing an olive orchard? My orchard gives me a perfect quality of oil, but a poor quantity. My soil is dry calcareous, red and gray, and is very thin in places, therefore, it lacks moisture.

An olive orchard can be fertilized with stable manure or with a "complete fertilizer," or with the special brands of different manufacturers of special fruit fertilizers. But you must be sure that your trees do not need moisture more than they need fertilizers, for without adequate moisture fertilizers cannot do their best work. The increase of the humus content of the soil, either secured by stable manure or by the plowing under of winter-grown cover crops, is desirable, as they not only give the trees more plant food, but make the soil also more retentive of moisture. You will have to experiment along this line to see just what is best for your trees.

Consult the Trees.

Can I send you a little soil out of my one-year-old pear orchard so that you can advise me what I can do to improve its fertility. The trees are fairly thrifty, but as fruit growing is my pleasure I wish to make it a model orchard and add whatever it requires of nitrogen, humus, etc., immediately so as to increase the growth for this summer. Next winter I intend to put manure around them and cultivate about every other month.

Careful experimenting with fertilizers will teach you more than analysis would do, because the behavior of the tree under various conditions tells you more than a chemist possibly could. Besides, we are of the conviction that on good soils young fruit trees should not be pushed beyond the growth which they would naturally make with a regular and adequate moisture supply. Be careful about using fertilizers on young trees, either in the summer or in the winter. When they come to bearing age and yield large crops of fruit, that is another question. Any California soil which will not grow young fruit trees thriftily should not be used for orchard purposes unless an amateur desires to grow trees on a picturesque lot of rocks or sand.

Results of Fertilizing Olives.

We have 100 acres in olives about six miles northeast of Rialto in San Bernardino county. In 1908 we got about five tons from the 100 acres. We began fertilizing and cultivating in 1909, and have put on the 100 acres about the same amount of fertilizer each year. In 1909 we got 15 tons; in 1910, 116 tons, and 1911 is estimated at 325 to 350 tons.

It is important that your olive trees are responding to good treatment and fertilization. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be always the case and a good many olive trees have been made into firewood because nothing seemed to bring them into satisfactory bearing. Good bearing olive trees are now among the very best of our horticultural properties, while non-bearing olive trees are worth about $7 a cord for fire wood.

Nursery Fertilizers.

I have light sandy loam, well drained. It has been in blackberries, and I now have it planted to nursery fruit tree stock. I have given it this spring two applications of nitrate of soda, but no other fertilizer. Will the nitrate act alone, or must I apply also the phosphate and potash to get results?

Nitrate of soda will act alone and will stimulate growth, and there are cases in which there is enough phosphate and potash already in the soil to act with it. Usually, however, it is customary to use a complete fertilizer containing phosphate and potash as well as nitrogen, in order that the plant may be more roundly supplied and promoted, and one would be a little safer in using that sort of fertilizer than in relying upon the nitrate of soda alone. You will, of course, be careful not to use these fertilizers in too large amounts, for nitrate of soda is especially dangerous if used in excess.

Almond Hulls and Sawdust.

Is there any fertilizing value in the hulls of almonds? Would pine sawdust from the lumber mills be a good substance to mix in and plow under in a three-acre adobe patch in order to loosen and lighten the soil for truck gardening?

Almond hulls have considerable fertilizing value, but they are slow to decompose, and, therefore, may be a long time unused by the plant. They also have a good feeding value for stock, and if you can expose them in the corral so the stock can eat as they like, this is the best way to get them into fertilizing form. If they can be cheaply ground their availability as a fertilizer would, of course, be quickened. Redwood sawdust is better than pine sawdust, but any kind of sawdust can be made to serve a good purpose in mellowing heavy soils if not used to excess and if there is plenty of moisture to promote decay.

Fertilizing Fruit Trees.

I have an orchard of prunes, apricots and cherries, which has been bearing since some 30 years ago, without fertilization, except possibly muddy sediment from occasional irrigations of mountain streams. Various people are advocating the use of nitrates and other fertilizers. Should I have samples of this earth analyzed in order to ascertain what the soil most needs?

To find out whether your trees need fertilization, study the tree and the product and do not depend upon chemical analysis of the soil. If your trees are growing thriftily and have sufficiently goodsized leaves of good color, and if fruit of good size and quality is obtained, it is not necesssary to think of fertilization. If the trees are not satisfactory in all these respects, the first thing to do is to determine whether they have moisture enough during the later part of the summer. This should be determined by digging or boring to a depth or three or four feet in July or August. The subsoil should be reasonably moist in order to sustain the tree during the late summer and early fall when strong fruit buds for the coming year will be finished. If you are sure the moisture supply is ample, then fertilization either with stable manure or with commercial fertilizers containing especially nitrates and phosphates should be undertaken experimentally, in accordance with suggestions for application made to you by dealers in these articles, who are usually well informed by observation. When you have the tree to advise you of the condition of the soil, you do not need a chemist, although if the tree manifests serious distress and is unable to make satisfactory growth the suggestions of a chemist may be very helpful.

Fertilizing Oranges.

What is the general and what do you consider the ideal, manuring, and when applied for orange trees from 15 to 12 years old under irrigation? I use about 2 cwt. each of superphosphate, nitrate of soda and sulphate of potash per acre, but am dissatisfied with my yields as compared with yours in California.

There is not only no standard for fertilizing orange trees, but there is no "ideal" which might be considered as a basis for a standard. All growers who are awake to the necessity of doing something for bearing trees, try all things and hold fast to what (they think) is good. Practically none of them has any enduring conviction or demonstration as to what is good, but they keep on trying. There is, however, one clear and enduring conviction, and that is, that continuous fertilizing must be done for profit, and our best growers are using the same materials you mention in considerably larger amounts than you apply, and use also other forms of nitrogenous fertilizers. The amounts of superphosphate and nitrate which you use would be considered homeopathic treatment by our growers.

Cow Stable Drainage for Fruit.

I have been told that the drainings from a cow barn make an excellent fertilizer for orange and lemon trees, in fact, anywhere on plants where manure is considered beneficial.

The drainage from a cow barn is excellent for fertilizing almost any crop unless it is used in too large quantity. If it should be combined with a considerable amount of water used for cleaning out the stable, it would be excellent for the irrigation of all kinds of fruit trees. Care should be taken, however, not to oversaturate the ground, which would be the case if the washing of the stable was allowed to run continuously alongside a single row of trees. The water should be changed from row to row in succession, cultivating the ground meantime to promote aeration and to prevent too great compacting of the soil.

Seed Farm Refuse as a Fertilizer.

Would cleanings from sweet peas or all kinds of seeds grown on a seed farm be of any value as a fertilizer on sandy loam soil for an orchard? This has been in a pile for three years or more, and I can get it for the hauling. There are a hundred loads or more of it and not very far to haul.

It would be worth more on a heavy soil, because the danger of drying out would be less and the surety of reduction to humus greater. To get the highest value from such stuff it should be composted with water and turning in heaps, but that would occasion expense beyond value probably, unless it could be composted with manure for market garden purposes. The hauling might be good work for idle teams. Spread the stuff rather thinly to be covered in with fall plowing, so that its decay could be promoted during the rainy season.

Slow Stuff as a Fertilizer.

How can we use sawdust and shavings from our high school shop so as to combine it with street sweepings, lawn cuttings, etc., and insure ready decay without objectionable features?

Do not mix sawdust and shavings with lawn clippings and street sweepings, because of the great difference in susceptibility to decay. The lawn clippings and street sweepings, which would contain considerable horse manure, would be readily transformed into a good fertilizer by composting. Such treatment, however, would have no appreciable effect upon sawdust or shavings for a considerable period of time, and they would still be too coarse in their character to be of any value unless you have to deal with heavy clay soil, and in that case the sawdust and fine shavings might be dug in at once and trusted to decay slowly in the soil, at the same time improving its friability by their coarser particles. If, however, you are dealing with light sandy loam, such coarse material would cause too rapid drying out and injure the plant, which might be benefited by lawn clippings and street sweepings. The best way to get rid of the sawdust and shavings is to set up an altar, such as we have in our own backyard - a piece of an old boiler about two feet in diameter and two and a half feet high, in which we currently burn all rubbish which is not available for quick composting into a fertilizer.

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