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Manure and manuring is essential for a productive garden
The method by which plants secure their food from the soil was not discovered until comparatively a few years ago. From the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans down to the beginning of the nineteenth century, investigators sought to find someone substance in the soil that was the real food of plants. At different times it was thought to be fire, water, nitre, oil, and many other materials; and the idea was rather generally held that plants fed on a single substance. During this period all plant food was supposed to come from the soil; it was not known that the greater part comes from the air. One theory that was held for a long time was that humus, or organic matter, furnished the material from which growing plants secured their food. After it became known that the carbon of plants is derived from the carbon dioxide gas in the air and that only ash comes from the soil, it was easy to find the real function of the soil and how to control its plant food.
Scientifically, there are at least ten elements necessary for plant growth and the maturing of a crop, and the three most important may be secured from the soil, air and water. To ensure success, the soil must contain these three elements in an available form in sufficient quantities and no one of these – three may be left out or the crop will suffer. In fact, in their absence it is doubtful if the crop can be carried through to maturity. The elements referred to are:
NITROGEN ~ PHOSPHORUS ~ POTASSIUM
The important points to consider in manuring are the class of soil under cultivation, what it lacks and the needs as far as these three elements are concerned of the particular crop to be raised, and this knowledge is essential to produce a maximum yield. This plant food may be secured from different sources. Cultivation alone will not render sufficient available plant food to mature a perfect crop in the average soil, therefore the direct application of plant food in the form of animal manures (horse, cow or otherwise), green manures, or commercial fertilisers, is necessary in every well managed garden. The term ”manure” includes both organic and inorganic substances; the former consists of vegetable and animal matter, while the latter is of mineral origin. It is not intended to deal fully with all the different fertilisers available, only the better known and most largely used will be mentioned.
Garden manuring in the kitchen garden is absolutely essential. Do not even attempt to grow vegetables without first manuring the soil. Flowers may bloom well on poor soil, but vegetables are different. If farmyard manure is obtainable, it well repays the expense and effort; it is indispensable for intensive and successful vegetable cultivation. Yields is always increased by the use of farmyard manure, and it pays for itself two or three times over. Dig in the manure during the autumn, especially on heavy land. Leave the earth as rough as possible all winter. Do not dig again in spring, but break up the lumps with a fork and rake well before planting.
Green Manuring vs Chemical Fertilizers
Chemical fertilizers are compounds containing high concentration of nutrients required for plant growth. The disadvantage of chemical spreads is that they do not supply the soil with humus, or decayed vegetable matter, which helps to retain the moisture in the soil. This difficulty is overcome by sowing agricultural mustard seed on the ground made vacant by the removal of the crops in the autumn.
During winter the mustard covers the ground, preventing the growth of weeds and preventing the nitrates from being washed out of the soil. When the time comes for planting the land, the mustard is dug in and buried as deeply as possible.
Water vegetables as little as possible. Water drawn straight from the tap can do more harm than good, as if its too cold and always gives the plants a shock. The best way is to fill a watering can and and let the water stand until it is of the same temperature as the air, or to take off the chill by the addition of a little hot water – or indeed vice-versa!
If the soil in hoed over once a week to check the evaporation of moisture, you will be surprised how moist the soil will be about two inches down. The gardener’s motto should be : “The Hoe is the Best Watering Pot.”
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