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Title: The Elements of Agriculture - A Book for Young Farmers, with Questions Prepared for the Use of Schools
Author: Waring, George E. (George Edwin), 1833-1898
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Elements of Agriculture - A Book for Young Farmers, with Questions Prepared for the Use of Schools" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

Literature in Agriculture (CHLA), Cornell University)


Most pages of the book include at the bottom a number of questions for
the student to consider. These have been retained in this version and
enclosed in square brackets.

Some corrections to typographical errors have been made. These are
recorded at the end of the text.

       *       *       *       *       *


Consulting Agriculturist.


Letters of advice on analyses will be written for those who require
them, for $25 each.

Letters on other branches of the subject, inclosing a suitable fee, will
receive prompt attention.












Book of Husbandry.



This book is intended as a sequel to the Elements of Agriculture, being
a larger and more complete work, containing fuller directions for the
treatment of the different kinds of soils, for the _preparation of
manures_, and especially for the drainage of lands, whether level,
rolling, hilly, or springy. Particular attention will be paid to the use
of analysis. The feeding of different animals, and the cultivation of
the various crops, will be described with care.

The size of the work will be about 400 pp. 8vo., and it will probably be
published January 1st, 1856. Price $1. Orders sent to the publishers, or
to the author, at Rye, N. Y., will be supplied in the order in which
they are received.




Extract from a letter to the author from Prof. Mapes, editor of the
_Working Farmer_:

    * * * "After a perusal of your manuscript, I feel authorized in
    assuring you that, for the use of young farmers, and schools,
    your book is superior to any other elementary work extant. JAMES
    J. MAPES."

       *       *       *       *       *

Letter from the Editor of the N. Y. Tribune:


    If all who need the information given in your _Elements of
    Agriculture_ will confess their ignorance as frankly as I do,
    and seek to dispel it as promptly and heartily, you will have
    done a vast amount of good by writing it. * * * * * I have found
    in every chapter important truths, which I, as a
    would-be-farmer, needed to know, yet which I _did not_ know, or
    had but a confused and glimmering consciousness of, before I
    read your lucid and straightforward exposition of the bases of
    Agriculture as a science. I would not have my son grow up as
    ignorant of these truths as I did for many times the price of
    your book; and, I believe, a copy of that book in every family
    in the Union, would speedily add at least ten per cent. per acre
    to the aggregate product of our soil, beside doing much to stem
    and reverse the current which now sets so strongly away from the
    plow and the scythe toward the counter and the office. Trusting
    that your labors will be widely regarded and appreciated,

                          I remain yours truly,
                                                     HORACE GREELEY.

    New York, June 23, 1854.


A Book for Young Farmers,




The effort to extend the dominion of man over nature is the most healthy
and most noble of all ambitions.--BACON.

346 & 348 BROADWAY.


Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1854, by


in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the
Southern District of New York.





This Book





This book is presented to you, not as a work of science, nor as a dry,
chemical treatise, but as a plain statement of the more simple
operations by which nature produces many results, so common to our
observation, that we are thoughtless of their origin. On these results
depend the existence of man and the lower animals. No man should be
ignorant of their production.

In the early prosecution of the study, you will find, perhaps, nothing
to relieve its tediousness; but, when the foundation of agricultural
knowledge is laid in your mind so thoroughly that you know the character
and use of every stone, then may your thoughts build on it fabrics of
such varied construction, and so varied in their uses, that there will
be opened to you a new world, even more wonderful and more beautiful
than the outward world, which exhibits itself to the senses. Thus may
you live two lives, each assisting in the enjoyment of the other.

But you may ask the _practical_ use of this. "The world is made up of
little things," saith the proverb. So with the productive arts. The
steam engine consists of many parts, each part being itself composed of
atoms too minute to be detected by our observation. The earth itself, in
all its solidity and life, consists entirely of atoms too small to be
perceived by the naked eye, each visible particle being an aggregation
of thousands of constituent elements. The crop of wheat, which the
farmer raises by his labor, and sells for money, is produced by a
combination of particles equally small. They are not mysteriously
combined, nor irregularly, but each atom is taken from its place of
deposit, and carried to its required location in the living plant, by
laws as certain as those which regulate the motion of the engine, or the
revolutions of the earth.

It is the business of the practical farmer to put together these
materials, with the assistance of nature. He may learn her ways, assist
her action, and succeed; or he may remain ignorant of her operations,
often counteract her beneficial influences, and often fail.

A knowledge of the _inner_ world of material things about us will
produce pleasure to the thoughtful, and profit to the practical.





CHAPTER I.--Introduction,                                            11

   "   II.--Atmosphere,                                              15

   "  III.--Hydrogen, Oxygen, and Nitrogen,                          23

   "   IV.--Inorganic Matter,                                        29

   "    V.--Growth,                                                  40

   "   VI.--Proximate division of Plants,                            43

   "  VII.--Location of the Proximates, and variations in the
              Ashes of Plants,                                       52

   " VIII.--Recapitulation,                                          56



CHAPTER I.--Formation and Character of the Soil,                     65

   "   II.--Uses of Organic Matter,                                  77

   "  III.--Uses of Inorganic Matter,                                84



CHAPTER I.--Character and varieties of Manure,                       93

   "   II.--Excrements of Animals,                                   96

   "  III.--Waste of Manure,                                        101

   "   IV.--Absorbents,                                             109

   "    V.--Composting Stable Manure,                               118

   "   VI.--Different kinds of Animal Excrement,                    126

   "  VII.--Other Organic Manures,                                  136

   " VIII.--Mineral Manures,                                        149

   "   IX.--Deficiencies of Soils, means of Restoration, etc.,      155

   "    X.--Atmospheric Fertilizers,                                197

   "   XI.--Recapitulation,                                         203



CHAPTER I.--Mechanical Character of the Soil,                       209

   "   II.--Under-draining,                                         211

   "  III.--Advantages of Under-draining,                           217

   "   IV.--Sub-soil Plowing,                                       232

   "    V.--Plowing and other modes of Pulverizing the Soil,        239

   "   VI.--Rolling, Mulching, Weeding, etc.,                       245



CHAPTER I.--Nature of Analysis,                                     259

   "   II.--Tables of Analysis,                                     264

THE PRACTICAL FARMER,                                               279

EXPLANATION OF TERMS,                                               287





[What is the object of cultivating the soil?

What is necessary in order to cultivate with economy?

Are plants created from nothing?]

The object of cultivating the soil is to raise from it a crop of
_plants_. In order to cultivate with economy, we must _raise the largest
possible quantity with the least expense, and without permanent injury
to the soil_.

Before this can be done we must study the character of plants, and learn
their exact composition. They are not _created_ by a mysterious power,
they are merely made up of matters already in existence. They take up
water containing food and other matters, and discharge from their roots
those substances that are not required for their growth. It is necessary
for us to know what kind of matter is required as food for the plant,
and where this is to be obtained, which we can learn only through such
means as shall separate the elements of which plants are composed; in
other words, we must _take them apart_, and examine the different pieces
of which they are formed.

[What must we do to learn the composition of plants?

What takes place when vegetable matter is burned?

What do we call the two divisions produced by burning?

Where does organic matter originate? Inorganic?

How much of chemistry should farmers know?]

If we burn any vegetable substance it disappears, except a small
quantity of earthy matter, which we call _ashes_. In this way we make an
important division in the constituents of plants. One portion dissipates
into the atmosphere, and the other remains as ashes.

That part which burns away during combustion is called _organic matter_;
the ashes are called _inorganic matter_. The organic matter has become
air, and hence we conclude that it was originally obtained from air. The
inorganic matter has become earth, and was obtained from the soil.

This knowledge can do us no good except by the assistance of chemistry,
which explains the properties of each part, and teaches us where it is
to be found. It is not necessary for farmers to become chemists. All
that is required is, that they should know enough of chemistry to
understand the nature of the materials of which their crops are
composed, and how those materials are to be used to the best advantage.

This amount of knowledge may be easily acquired, and should be possessed
by every person, old or young, whether actually engaged in the
cultivation of the soil or not. All are dependent on vegetable
productions, not only for food, but for every comfort and convenience of
life. It is the object of this book to teach children the first
principles of agriculture: and it contains all that is absolutely
necessary to an understanding of the practical operations of
cultivation, etc.

[Is organic matter lost after combustion?

Of what does it consist?

How large a part of plants is carbon?]

We will first examine the _organic_ part of plants, or that which is
driven away during combustion or burning. This matter, though apparently
lost, is only changed in form.

It consists of one solid substance, _carbon_ (or charcoal), and three
gases, _oxygen_, _hydrogen_ and _nitrogen_. These four kinds of matter
constitute nearly the whole of most plants, the ashes forming often less
than one part in one hundred of their dry weight.

[What do we mean by gas?

Does oxygen unite with other substances?

Give some instances of its combinations]

When wood is burned in a close vessel, or otherwise protected from the
air, its carbon becomes charcoal. All plants contain this substance, it
forming usually about one half of their dry weight. The remainder of
their organic part consists of the three gases named above. By the word
gas, we mean _air_. Oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen, when pure, are always
in the form of air. Oxygen has the power of uniting with many
substances, forming compounds which are different from either of their
constituents alone. Thus: oxygen unites with _iron_ and forms oxide of
iron or _iron-rust_, which does not resemble the gray metallic iron nor
the gas oxygen; oxygen unites with carbon and forms carbonic acid, which
is an invisible gas, but not at all like pure oxygen; oxygen combines
with hydrogen and forms water. All of the water, ice, steam, etc., are
composed of these two gases. We know this because we can artificially
decompose, or separate, all water, and obtain as a result simply oxygen
and hydrogen, or we can combine these two gases and thus form pure
water; oxygen combines with nitrogen and forms nitric acid. These
chemical changes and combinations take place only under certain
circumstances, which, so far as they affect agriculture, will be
considered in the following pages.

As the organic elements of plants are obtained from matters existing in
the atmosphere which surrounds our globe, we will examine its



[What is atmospheric air composed of?

In what proportions?

What is the use of nitrogen in air?

Does the atmosphere contain other matters useful to vegetation?

What are they?]

Atmospheric air is composed of oxygen and nitrogen. Their proportions
are, one part of oxygen to four parts of nitrogen. Oxygen is the active
agent in the combustion, decay, and decomposition of organized bodies
(those which have possessed animal or vegetable life, that is, organic
matter), and others also, in the breathing of animals. Experiments have
proved that if the atmosphere consisted of pure oxygen every thing would
be speedily destroyed, as the processes of combustion and decay would be
greatly accelerated, and animals would be so stimulated that death would
soon ensue. The use of the nitrogen in the air is to _dilute_ the
oxygen, and thus reduce the intensity of its effect.

Besides these two great elements, the atmosphere contains certain
impurities which are of great importance to vegetable growth; these are,
_carbonic acid, water, ammonia, etc._


[What is the source of the carbon of plants?

What is carbonic acid?

What is its proportion in the atmosphere?

Where else is it found?

How does it enter the plant?

What are the offices of leaves?]

Carbonic acid is in all probability the only source of the carbon of
plants, and consequently is of more importance to vegetation than any
other single sort of food. It is a gas, and is not, under natural
circumstances, perceptible to our senses. It constitutes about 1/2500 of
the atmosphere, and is found in combination with many substances in
nature. Marble, limestone and chalk, are carbonate of lime, or carbonic
acid and lime in combination; and carbonate of magnesia is a compound of
carbonic acid and magnesia. This gas exists in combination with many
other mineral substances, and is contained in all water not recently
boiled. Its supply, though small, is sufficient for the purposes of
vegetation. It enters the plant in two ways--through the roots in the
water which goes to form the sap, and at the leaves, which absorb it
from the air in the form of gas. The leaf of the plant seems to have
three offices: that of absorbing carbonic acid from the atmosphere--that
of assisting in the chemical preparation of the sap--and that of
evaporating its water. If we examine leaves with a microscope we shall
find that some have as many as 170,000 openings, or mouths, in a square
inch; others have a much less number. Usually, the pores on the under
side of the leaf absorb the carbonic acid. This absorptive power is
illustrated when we apply the lower side of a cabbage leaf to a wound,
as it draws strongly--the other side of the leaf has no such action.
Young sprouts may have the power of absorbing and decomposing carbonic

[What parts of roots absorb food?

How much of their carbon may plants receive through their roots?

What change does carbonic acid undergo after entering the plant?

In what parts of the plant, and under what influence, is carbonic acid

The roots of plants terminate at their ends in minute spongioles, or
mouths for the absorption of fluids containing nutriment. In these
fluids there exist greater or less quantities of carbonic acid, and a
considerable amount of this gas enters into the circulation of the
plants and is carried to those parts where it is required for
decomposition. Plants, under favorable circumstances, may thus obtain
about one-third of their carbon.

Carbonic acid, it will be recollected, consists of _carbon and oxygen_,
while it supplies only _carbon_ to the plant. It is therefore necessary
that it be divided, or decomposed, and that the carbon be retained while
the oxygen is sent off again into the atmosphere, to reperform its
office of uniting with carbon. This decomposition takes place in the
_green_ parts of plants and only under the influence of daylight. It is
not necessary that the sun shine directly on the leaf or green shoot,
but this causes a _more rapid_ decomposition of carbonic acid, and
consequently we find that plants which are well exposed to the sun's
rays make the most rapid growth.

[Explain the condition of different latitudes.

Does the proportion of carbonic acid in the atmosphere remain about the

The fact that light is essential to vegetation explains the conditions
of different latitudes, which, so far as the assimilation of carbon is
concerned, are much the same. At the Equator the days are but about
twelve hours long. Still, as the growth of plants is extended over eight
or nine months of the year, the duration of daylight is sufficient for
the requirements of a luxuriant vegetation. At the Poles, on the
contrary, the summer is but two or three months long; here, however, it
is daylight all summer, and plants from continual growth develop
themselves in that short time.

It will be recollected that carbonic acid constitutes but about 1/2500
of the air, yet, although about one half of all the vegetable matter in
the world is derived from this source, as well as all of the carbon
required by the growth of plants, its proportion in the atmosphere is
constantly about the same. In order that we may understated this, it
becomes necessary for us to consider the means by which it is formed.
Carbon, by the aid of fire, is made to unite with oxygen, and always
when bodies containing carbon are burnt _with the presence of
atmospheric air_, the oxygen of that air unites with the carbon, and
forms carbonic acid. The same occurs when bodies containing carbon
_decay_, as this is simply a slower _burning_ and produces the same
results. The respiration (or breathing) of animals is simply the union
of the carbon of the blood with the oxygen of the air drawn into the
lungs, and their breath, when thrown out, always contains carbonic acid.
From this we see that the reproduction of this gas is the direct effect
of the destruction of all organized bodies, whether by fire, decay, or
consumption by animals.

[Explain some of the operations in which this reproduction
takes place.

How is it reproduced?]

Furnaces are its wholesale manufactories. Every cottage fire is
continually producing a new supply, and the blue smoke issuing from the
cottage-chimney, as described by so many poets, possesses a new beauty,
when we reflect that besides indicating a cheerful fire on the hearth,
it contains materials for making food for the cottager's tables and new
faggots for his fire. The wick of every burning lamp draws up the carbon
of the oil to be made into carbonic acid at the flame. All matters in
process of combustion, decay, fermentation, or putrefaction, are
returning to the atmosphere those constituents, which they obtained from
it. Every living animal, even to the smallest insect, by respiration,
spends its life in the production of this material necessary to the
growth of plants, and at death gives up its body in part for such
formation by decay.

Thus we see that there is a continual change from the carbon of plants
to air, and from air back to plants, or through them to animals. As each
dollar in gold that is received into a country permanently increases its
amount of circulating medium, and each dollar sent out permanently
decreases it until returned, so the carbonic acid sent into the
atmosphere by burning, decay, or respiration, becomes a permanent stock
of constantly changeable material, until it shall be locked up for a
time, as in a house which may last for centuries, or in an oak tree
which may stand for thousands of years. Still, at the decay of either of
these, the carbon which they contain must be again resolved into
carbonic acid.

[What are the coal-beds of Pennsylvania?

What are often found in them?]

The coal-beds of Pennsylvania are mines of carbon once abstracted from
the atmosphere by plants. In these coal-beds are often found fern
leaves, toads, whole trees, and in short all forms of organized matter.
These all existed as living things before the great floods, and at the
breaking away of the barriers of the immense lakes, of which our present
lakes were merely the deep holes in their beds, they were washed away
and deposited in masses so great as to take fire from their chemical
changes. It is by many supposed that this fire acting throughout the
entire mass (without the presence of air _to supply oxygen_ except on
the surface) caused it to become melted carbon, and to flow around those
bodies which still retained their shapes, changing them to coal without
destroying their structures. This coal, so long as it retains its
present form, is lost to the vegetable kingdom, and each ton that is
burned, by being changed into carbonic acid, adds to the ability of the
atmosphere to support an increased amount of vegetation.

[Explain the manner in which they become coal.

How does the burning of coal benefit vegetation?

Is carbon ever permanent in any of its forms?

What enables it to change its condition?]

Thus we see that, in the provisions of nature, carbon, the grand basis,
on which all organized matter is founded, is never permanent in any of
its forms. Oxygen is the carrier which enables it to change its
condition. For instance, let us suppose that we have a certain quantity
of charcoal; this is nearly pure carbon. We ignite it, and it unites
with the oxygen of the air, becomes carbonic acid, and floats away into
the atmosphere. The wind carries it through a forest, and the leaves of
the trees with their millions of mouths drink it in. By the assistance
of light it is decomposed, the oxygen is sent off to make more carbonic
acid, and the carbon is retained to form a part of the tree. So long as
that tree exists in the form of wood, the carbon will remain unaltered,
but when the wood decays, or is burned, it immediately takes the form of
carbonic acid, and mingles with the atmosphere ready to be again taken
up by plants, and have its carbon deposited in the form of vegetable

[Give an instance of such change.

How do plants and animals benefit each other?

Describe the experiment with the glass tube.]

The blood of animals contains carbon derived from their food. This
unites with the oxygen of the air drawn into the lungs and forms
carbonic acid. Without this process, animals could not live. Thus, while
by the natural operation of breathing, they make carbonic acid for the
uses of the vegetable world, plants, in taking up carbon, throw off
oxygen to keep up the life of animals. There is perhaps no way in which
we can better illustrate the changes of form in carbon than by
describing a simple experiment.

Take a glass tube filled with oxygen gas, and put in it a lump of
charcoal, cork the ends of the tube tightly, and pass through the corks
the wires of an electrical battery. By passing a stream of electrical
fluid over the charcoal it may be ignited, when it will burn with great
brilliancy. In burning it is dissolved in the oxygen forming carbonic
acid, and disappears. It is no more lost, however, than is the carbon of
wood which is burned in a stove; although invisible, it is still in the
tube, and may be detected by careful weighing. A more satisfactory proof
of its presence may be obtained by _decomposing_ the carbonic acid by
drawing the wires a short distance apart, and giving a _spark_ of
electricity. This immediately separates the oxygen from the carbon which
forms a dense black smoke in the tube. By pushing the corks together we
may obtain a wafer of charcoal of the same weight as the piece
introduced. In this experiment we have changed carbon from its solid
form to an invisible gas and back again to a solid, thus fully
representing the continual changes of this substance in the destruction
of organic matter and the growth of plants.




[What is water composed of?

If analyzed, what does it yield?

How do plants obtain their hydrogen and oxygen?]

Let us now consider the three gases, _hydrogen_, _oxygen_ and
_nitrogen_, which constitute the remainder of the organic part of

Hydrogen and oxygen compose _water_, which, if analyzed, yields simply
these two gases. Plants perform such analysis, and in this way are able
to obtain a sufficient supply of these materials, as their sap is
composed chiefly of water. Whenever vegetable matter is destroyed by
burning, decay, or otherwise, its hydrogen and oxygen unite and form
water, which is parted with usually in the form of an invisible vapor.
The atmosphere of course contains greater or less quantities of watery
vapor arising from this cause and from the evaporation of liquid water.
This vapor condenses, forming rains, etc.

Hydrogen and oxygen are never taken into consideration in manuring
lands, as they are so readily obtained from the water constituting the
sap of the plant, and consequently should not occupy our attention in
this book.


[If vegetable matter be destroyed, what becomes of these

What is the remaining organic constituent?

Why is it worthy of close attention?

Do plants appropriate the nitrogen of the atmosphere?]

_Nitrogen_, the only remaining _organic_ constituent of vegetable
matter, is for many reasons worthy of close attention.

1. It is necessary to the growth and perfection of all cultivated

2. It is necessary to the formation of animal muscle.

3. It is often deficient in the soil.

4. It is liable to be easily lost from manures.

Although about four fifths of atmospheric air are pure nitrogen, it is
almost certain that plants get no nutriment at all from this source. It
is all obtained from some of its compounds, chiefly from the one called
ammonia. Nitric acid is also a source from which plants may obtain
nitrogen, though to the farmer of less importance than ammonia.


[What is the principal source from which they obtain nitrogen?

What is ammonia?

How is it formed?

Where does it always exist?

How do plants take up ammonia?]

_Ammonia_ is composed of nitrogen and hydrogen. It has a pungent smell
and is familiarly known as _hartshorn_. The same odor is perceptible
around stables and other places where animal matter is decomposing. All
animal muscle, certain parts of plants, and other organized substances,
consist of compounds containing nitrogen. When these compounds undergo
combustion, or are in any manner decomposed, the nitrogen which they
contain usually unites with hydrogen, and forms ammonia. In consequence
of this the atmosphere always contains more or less of this gas, arising
from the decay, etc., which is continually going on all over the world.

This ammonia in the atmosphere is the capital stock to which all plants,
not artificially manured, must look for their supply of nitrogen. As
they can take up ammonia only through their roots, we must discover
some means by which it may be conveyed from the atmosphere to the soil.

[Does water absorb it?

What is _spirits of hartshorn_?

Why is this power of water important in agriculture?

What instance may be cited to prove this?]

Water may be made to absorb many times its bulk of this gas, and water
with which it comes in contact will immediately take it up. Spirits of
hartshorn is merely water through which ammonia has been passed until it
is saturated.[A] This power of water has a direct application to
agriculture, because the water constituting rains, dews, &c., absorbs
the ammonia which the decomposition of nitrogenous matter had sent into
the atmosphere, and we find that all rain, snow and dew, contain
ammonia. This fact may be chemically proved in various ways, and is
perceptible in the common operations of nature. Every person must have
noticed that when a summer's shower falls on the plants in a flower
garden, they commence their growth with fresh vigor while the blossoms
become larger and more richly colored. This effect cannot be produced by
watering with spring water, unless it be previously mixed with ammonia,
in which case the result will be the same.

Although ammonia is a gas and pervades the atmosphere, few, if any,
plants can take it up, as they do carbonic acid, through their leaves.
It must all enter through the roots in solution in the water which goes
to form the sap. Although the amount received from the atmosphere is of
great importance, there are few cases where artificial applications are
not beneficial. The value of farm-yard and other animal manures, depends
chiefly on the ammonia which they yield on decomposition. This subject,
also the means for retaining in the soil the ammoniacal parts of
fertilizing matters, will be fully considered in the section on manures.

[Can plants use more ammonia than is received from the

On what does the value of animal manure chiefly depend?

What changes take place after ammonia enters the plant?

May the same atom of nitrogen perform many different offices?]

After ammonia has entered the plant it may be decomposed, its hydrogen
sent off, and its nitrogen retained to answer the purposes of growth.
The changes which nitrogen undergoes, from plants to animals, or, by
decomposition, to the form of ammonia in the atmosphere, are as varied
as those of carbon and the constituents of water. The same little atom
of nitrogen may one year form a part of a plant, and the next become a
constituent of an animal, or, with the decomposed dead animal, may form
a part of the soil. If the animal should fall into the sea he may become
food for fishes, and our atom of nitrogen may form a part of a fish.
That fish may be eaten by a larger one, or at death may become food for
the whale, through the marine insect, on which it feeds. After the
abstraction of the oil from the whale, the nitrogen may, by the
putrefaction of his remains, be united to hydrogen, form ammonia, and
escape into the atmosphere. From here it may be brought to the soil by
rains, and enter into the composition of a plant, from which, could its
parts speak as it lies on our table, it could tell us a wonderful tale
of travels, and assure us that, after wandering about in all sorts of
places, it had returned to us the same little atom of nitrogen which we
had owned twenty years before, and which for thousands of years had been
continually going through its changes.

[Is the same true of the other constituents of plants?

Is any atom of matter ever lost?]

The same is true of any of the organic or inorganic constituents of
plants. They are performing their natural offices, or are lying in the
earth, or floating in the atmosphere, ready to be lent to _any_ of their
legitimate uses, sure again to be returned to their starting point.

Thus no atom of matter is ever lost. It may change its place, but it
remains for ever as a part of the capital of nature.


[A] By _saturated_, we mean that it contains all that it is capable of



[What are ashes called?

How many kinds of matter are there in the ashes of plants?

Into what three classes may they be divided?

What takes place when alkalies and acids are brought together?]

We will now examine the ashes left after burning vegetable substances.
This we have called inorganic matter, and it is obtained from the soil.
Organic matter, although forming so large a part of the plant, we have
seen to consist of four different substances. The inorganic portion, on
the contrary, although forming so small a part, consists of no less than
_nine_ or _ten_ different kinds of matter.[B] These we will consider in
order. In their relations to agriculture they may be divided into
_three_ classes--_alkalies_, _acids_, and _neutrals_.[C]

[Is the character of a compound the same as that of its

Give an instance of this.

Do neutrals combine with other substances?

Name the four alkalies found in the ashes of plants.]

Alkalies and acids are of opposite properties, and when brought together
they unite and neutralize each other, forming compounds which are
neither alkaline nor acid in their character. Thus, carbonic acid (a
gas,) unites with lime--a burning, caustic substance--and forms marble,
which is a hard tasteless stone. Alkalies and acids are characterized
by their desire to unite with each other, and the compounds thus formed
have many and various properties, so that the characters of the
constituents give no indication of the character of the compound. For
instance, lime causes the gases of animal manure to escape, while
sulphate of lime (a compound of sulphuric acid and lime) produces an
opposite effect, and prevents their escape.

The substances coming under the signification of neutrals, are less
affected by the laws of combination, still they often combine feebly
with other substances, and some of the resultant compounds are of great
importance to agriculture.


The alkalies which are found in the ashes of plants are four in number;
they are _potash_, _soda_, _lime_ and _magnesia_.


[How may we obtain potash from ashes?

What are some of its agricultural uses?]

When we pour water over wood ashes it dissolves the _potash_ which they
contain, and carries it through in solution. This solution is called
_ley_, and if it be boiled to dryness it leaves a solid substance from
which pure potash may be made. Potash left exposed to the air absorbs
carbonic acid and becomes carbonate of potash, or _pearlash_; if another
atom of carbonic acid be added, it becomes super-carbonate of potash, or
_salæratus_. Potash has many uses in agriculture.

1. It forms a constituent of nearly all plants.

2. It unites with silica (a neutral), and forms a compound which water
can dissolve and carry into the roots of plants; thus supplying them
with an ingredient which gives them much of their strength.[D]

3. It is a strong agent in the decomposition of vegetable matter, and is
thus of much importance in preparing manures.

4. It roughens the smooth round particles of sandy soils, and prevents
their compacting, as they are often liable to do.

5. It is also of use in killing certain kinds of insects, and, when
artificially applied, in smoothing the bark of fruit trees.

The source from which this and the other inorganic matters required are
to be obtained, will be fully considered in the section on manures.


[Where is soda found most largely?

What is Glauber's salts?

What is washing soda?

What are some of the uses of lime?]

_Soda_, one of the alkalies contained in the ashes of plants, is very
much the same as potash in its agricultural character. Its uses are the
same as those of potash--before enumerated. Soda exists very largely in
nature, as it forms an important part of common salt, whether in the
ocean or in those inland deposits known as rock salt. When combined with
sulphuric acid it forms sulphate of soda or _Glauber's salts_. In
combination with carbonic acid, as carbonate of soda, it forms the
common washing soda of the shops. It is often necessary to render soils


_Lime_ is in many ways important in agriculture:

1. It is a constituent of plants and animals.

2. It assists in the decomposition of vegetable matter in the soil.

3. It corrects the acidity[E] of sour soils.

4. As chloride or sulphate of lime it is a good absorbent of fertilizing

[How is caustic lime made?

How much carbonic acid is thus liberated?

How does man resemble Sinbad the sailor?]

In nature it usually exists in the form of carbonate of lime: that is,
as marble, limestone, and chalk--these all being of the same
composition. In manufacturing caustic (or quick) lime, it is customary
to burn the carbonate of lime in a kiln; by this means the carbonic acid
is thrown off into the atmosphere and the lime remains in a pure or
caustic state. A French chemist states that every cubic yard of
limestone that is burned, throws off _ten thousand_ cubic yards of
carbonic acid, which may be used by plants. This reminds us of the story
of Sinbad the sailor, where we read of the immense _genie_ who came out
of a very small box by the sea-shore, much to the surprise of Sinbad,
who could not believe his eyes, until the _genie_ changed himself into a
cloud of smoke and went into the box again. Sinbad fastened the lid, and
the _genie_ must have remained there until the box was destroyed.

Now man is very much like Sinbad, he lets the carbonic acid out from the
limestone (when it expands and becomes a gas); and then he raises a
crop, the leaves of which drink it in and pack the carbon away in a very
small compass as vegetable matter. Here it must remain until the plant
is destroyed, when it becomes carbonic acid again, and occupies just as
much space as ever.

The burning of limestone is a very prolific source of carbonic acid.


[What do you know about magnesia?

What is phosphoric acid composed of?

With what substance does it form its most important compound?]

_Magnesia_ is the remaining alkali of vegetable ashes. It is well known
as a medicine, both in the form of calcined magnesia, and, when mixed
with sulphuric acid, as epsom salts.

Magnesia is necessary to nearly all plants, but too much of it is
poisonous, and it should be used with much care, as many soils already
contain a sufficient quantity. It is often found in limestone rocks
(that class called _dolomites_), and the injurious effects of some kinds
of lime, as well as the barrenness of soils made from dolomites, may be
attributed entirely to the fact that they contain too much magnesia.



_Phosphoric acid._--This subject is one of the greatest interest to the
farmer. Phosphoric acid is composed of phosphorus and oxygen. The end
of a loco-foco match contains phosphorus, and when it is lighted it
unites with the oxygen of the atmosphere and forms phosphoric acid; this
constitutes the white smoke which is seen for a moment before the
sulphur commences burning. Being an acid, this substance has the power
of combining with any of the alkalies. Its most important compound is
with lime.

[Will soils, deficient in phosphate of lime, produce good

From what source do plants obtain their phosphorus?]

_Phosphate of lime_ forms about 65 per cent. of the dry weight of the
bones of all animals, and it is all derived from the soil through the
medium of plants. As plants are intended as food for animals, nature has
provided that they shall not attain their perfection without taking up a
supply of phosphate of lime as well as of the other earthy matters;
consequently, there are many soils which will not produce good crops,
simply because they are deficient in phosphate of lime. It is one of the
most important ingredients of manures, and its value is dependent on
certain conditions which will be hereafter explained.

Another use of phosphoric acid in the plant is to supply it with a small
amount of _phosphorus_, which seems to be required in the formation of
the seed.


[What is sulphuric acid composed of?

What is plaster?

What is silica?

Why is it necessary to the growth of plants?

What compounds does it form with alkalies?]

_Sulphuric acid_ is important to vegetation and is often needed to
render soils fertile. It is composed of sulphur and oxygen, and is made
for manufacturing purposes, by burning sulphur. With lime it forms
_sulphate of lime_, which is gypsum or 'plaster.' In this form it is
often found in nature, and is generally used in agriculture. Other
important methods for supplying sulphuric acid will be described
hereafter. It gives _to_ the plant a small portion of _sulphur_, which
is necessary to the formation of some of its parts.



[How can you prove its existence in corn stalks?

What instance does Liebig give to show its existence in grass?

How do we supply silicates?

Why does grain lodge?

What is the most important compound of chlorine?]

This is sand, the base of flint. It is necessary for the growth of all
plants, as it gives them much of their strength. In connection with an
alkali it constitutes the hard shining surface of corn stalks, straw,
etc. Silica unites with the alkalies and forms compounds, such as
_silicate of potash_, _silicate of soda, etc._, which are soluble in
water, and therefore available to plants. If we roughen a corn stalk
with sand-paper we may sharpen a knife upon it. This is owing to the
hard particles of silica which it contains. Window glass is silicate of
potash, rendered insoluble by additions of arsenic and litharge.

Liebig tells us that some persons discovered, between Manheim and
Heidelberg in Germany, a mass of melted glass where a hay-stack had been
struck by lightning. They supposed it to be a meteor, but chemical
analysis showed that it was only the compound of silica and potash which
served to strengthen the grass.

There is always _enough_ silica in the soil, but it is often necessary
to add an alkali to render it available. When grain, etc., lodge or fall
down from their own weight, it is altogether probable that they are
unable to obtain from the soil a sufficient supply of the soluble
silicates, and some form of alkali should be added to the soil to unite
with the sand and render it soluble.


[Of what use is chloride of lime?

What is oxide of iron?

What is the difference between the _per_oxide and the _prot_oxide of

_Chlorine_ is an important ingredient of vegetable ashes, and is often
required to restore the balance to the soil. It is not found alone in
nature, but is always in combination with other substances. Its most
important compound is with sodium, forming _chloride of sodium_ (or
common salt). Sodium is the base of soda, and common salt is usually the
best source from which to obtain both soda and chlorine. Chlorine unites
with lime and forms _chloride of lime_, which is much used to absorb the
unpleasant odors of decaying matters, and in this character it is of use
in the treatment of manures.


_Oxide of iron_, one of the constituents of ashes, is common iron rust.
_Iron_ itself is naturally of a grayish color, but when exposed to the
atmosphere, it readily absorbs oxygen and forms a reddish compound. It
is in this form that it usually exists in nature, and many soils as well
as the red sandstones are colored by it. It is seldom, if ever,
necessary to apply this as a manure, there being usually enough of it in
the soil.

This red oxide of iron, of which we have been speaking, is called by
chemists the _peroxide_. There is another compound which contains less
oxygen than this, and is called the _protoxide of iron_, which is
poisonous to plants. When it exists in the soil it is necessary to use
such means of cultivation as shall expose it to the atmosphere and allow
it to take up more oxygen and become the peroxide. The black scales
which fly from hot iron when struck by the blacksmith's hammer are
protoxide of iron.

The _peroxide of iron_ is a very good absorbent of ammonia, and
consequently, as will be hereafter described, adds to the fertility of
the soil.

[What can you say of the oxide of manganese?

How do you classify the inorganic constituents?]

OXIDE OF MANGANESE, though often found in small quantities in the ashes
of cultivated plants, cannot be considered indispensable.

Having now examined all of the materials from which the ashes of plants
are formed,[F] we are enabled to classify them in a simple manner, so
that they may be recollected. They are as follows:--


Potash.    Sulphuric acid.   Silica.
Soda.      Phosphoric "      Chlorine.
Lime.                        Oxide of Iron.
Magnesia.                      "  Manganese.


[B] Bromine, iodine, etc., are sometimes detected in particular plants,
but need not occupy the attention of the farmer.

[C] This classification is not strictly scientific, but it is one which
the learner will find it well to adopt. These bodies are called neutrals
because they have no decided alkaline or acid character.

[D] In some soils the _fluorides_ undoubtedly supply plants with soluble
silicates, as _fluoric acid_ has the power of dissolving silica. Thus,
in Derbyshire (England), where the soil is supplied with fluoric acid,
grain is said never to lodge.

[E] Sourness.

[F] There is reason to suppose that _alumina_ is an essential
constituent of many plants.



[Of what does a perfect young plant consist?

How must the food of plants be supplied?

Can carbon and earthy matter be taken up at separate stages of growth,
or must they both be supplied at once?]

Having examined the materials of which plants are made, it becomes
necessary to discover how they are put together in the process of
growth. Let us therefore suppose a young wheat-plant for instance to be
in condition to commence independent growth.

It consists of roots which are located in the soil; leaves which are
spread in the air, and a stem which connects the roots and leaves. This
stem contains sap vessels (or tubes) which extend from the ends of the
roots to the surfaces of the leaves, thus affording a passage for the
sap, and consequently allowing the matters taken up to be distributed
throughout the plant.

[What seems to be nature's law with regard to this?

What is the similarity between making a cart and raising a crop?

In the growth of a young plant, what operations take place about the
same time?]

It is necessary that the materials of which plants are made should be
supplied in certain proportions, and at the same time. For instance,
carbon could not be taken up in large quantities by the leaves, unless
the roots, at the same time, were receiving from the soil those mineral
matters which are necessary to growth. On the other hand, no
considerable amount of earthy matter could be appropriated by the roots
unless the leaves were obtaining carbon from the air. This same rule
holds true with regard to all of the constituents required; Nature
seeming to have made it a law that if one of the important ingredients
of the plant is absent, the others, though they may be present in
sufficient quantities, cannot be used. Thus, if the soil is deficient in
potash, and still has sufficient quantities of all of the other
ingredients, the plant cannot take up these ingredients, because potash
is necessary to its life.

If a farmer wishes to make a cart he prepares his wood and iron, gets
them all in the proper condition, and then can very readily put them
together. But if he has all of the _wood_ necessary and no _iron_, he
cannot make his cart, because bolts, nails and screws are required, and
their place cannot be supplied by boards. This serves to illustrate the
fact that in raising plants we must give them every thing that they
require, or they will not grow at all.

In the case of our young plant the following operations are going on at
about the same time.

The leaves are absorbing carbonic acid from the atmosphere, and the
roots are drinking in water from the soil.

[What becomes of the carbonic acid?

How is the sap disposed of?

What does it contain?

How does the plant obtain its carbon?

Its oxygen and hydrogen?

Its nitrogen?

Its inorganic matter?]

Under the influence of daylight, the carbonic acid is decomposed; its
oxygen returned to the atmosphere, and its carbon retained in the plant.

The water taken in by the roots circulates through the sap vessels of
the plant, and, from various causes, is drawn up towards the leaves
where it is evaporated. This water contains the _nitrogen_ and the
_inorganic matter_ required by the plant and some carbonic acid, while
the water itself consists of _hydrogen_ and _oxygen_.

Thus we see that the plant obtains its food in the following manner:--

CARBON.--In the form of _carbonic acid_ from the atmosphere, and from
           that contained in the sap, the oxygen being returned to the

OXYGEN   } From the elements of the water constituting the sap.
   &     }

NITROGEN.--From the soil (chiefly in form of ammonia). It is carried
           into the plant through the roots in solution in water.

INORGANIC} From the soil, and only _in solution_ in water.

[What changes does the food taken up by the plant undergo?]

Many of the chemical changes which take place in the interior of the
plant are well understood, but they require too much knowledge of
chemistry to be easily comprehended by the young learner, and it is not
absolutely essential that they should be understood by the scholar who
is merely learning the _elements_ of the science.

It is sufficient to say that the food taken up by the plant undergoes
such changes as are required for its growth; as in animals, where the
food taken into the stomach, is digested, and formed into bone, muscle,
fat, hair, etc., so in the plant the nutritive portions of the sap are
resolved into wood, bark, grain, or some other necessary part.

The results of these changes are of the greatest importance in
agriculture, and no person can call himself a _practical farmer_ who
does not thoroughly understand them.



We have hitherto examined what is called the _ultimate_ division of
plants. That is, we have looked at each one of the elements separately,
and considered its use in vegetable growth.

[Of what do wood, starch and the other vegetable compounds
chiefly consist?

Are their small ashy parts important?

What are these compounds called?

Into how many classes may proximate principles be divided?

Of what do the first class consist? The second?

What vegetable compounds do the first class comprise?]

We will now examine another division of plants, called their _proximate
division_. We know that plants consist of various substances, such as
wood, gum, starch, oil, etc., and on examination we shall discover that
these substances are composed of the various _organic_ and _inorganic_
ingredients described in the preceding chapters. They are made up almost
entirely of _organic_ matter, but their ashy parts, though very small,
are (as we shall soon see) sometimes of great importance.

These compounds are called _proximate principles_,[G] or _vegetable
proximates_. They may be divided into two classes.

The first class are composed of _carbon_, _hydrogen_, and _oxygen_.

The second class contain the same substances and _nitrogen_.

[Are these substances of about the same composition?

Can they be artificially changed from one to another?

Give an instance of this.

Is the ease with which these changes take place important?

From what may the first class of proximates be formed?]

The first class (those compounds not containing nitrogen) comprise the
wood, starch, gum, sugar, and fatty matter which constitute the greater
part of all plants, also the acids which are found in sour fruits, etc.
Various as are all of these things in their characters, they are
entirely composed of the same ingredients (carbon, hydrogen and oxygen),
and usually combined in about the _same proportion_. There may be a
slight difference in the composition of their _ashes_, but the organic
part is much the same in every case, so much so, that they can often be
artificially changed from one to the other.

As an instance of this, it may be recollected by those who attended the
Fair of the American Institute, in 1834, that Prof. Mapes exhibited
samples of excellent sugar made from the juice of the cornstalk, starch,
linen, and woody fibre.

The ease with which these proximates may be changed from one to the
other is their most important agricultural feature, and should be
clearly understood before proceeding farther. It is one of the
fundamental principles on which the growth of both vegetables depends.

The proximates of the first class constitute usually the greater part of
all plants, and they are readily formed from the carbonic acid and water
which in nature are so plentifully supplied.

[Why are those of the second class particularly important to

What is the general name under which they are known?

What is the protein of wheat called?

Why is flour containing much gluten preferred by bakers?

Can protein be formed without nitrogen?

If plants were allowed to complete their growth without a supply of this
ingredient, what would be the result?]

The _second class_ of proximates, though forming only a small part of
the plant, are of the greatest importance to the farmer, being the ones
from which _animal muscle_[H] is made. They consist, as will be
recollected, of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and _nitrogen_, or of _all_ of
the organic elements of plants. They are all of much the same character,
though each kind of plant has its peculiar form of this substance, which
is known under the general name of _protein_.

The protein of wheat is called _gluten_--that of Indian corn is
_zein_--that of beans and peas is _legumin_. In other plants the protein
substances are _vegetable albumen_, _casein_, etc.

Gluten absorbs large quantities of water, which causes it to swell to a
great size, and become full of holes. Flour which contains much gluten,
makes light, porous bread, and is preferred by bakers, because it
absorbs so large an amount of water.

[What is the result if a field be deficient in nitrogen?]

The protein substances are necessary to animal and vegetable life, and
none of our cultivated plants will attain maturity (complete their
growth), unless allowed the materials required for forming this
constituent. To furnish this condition is the object of nitrogen given
to plants as manure. If no _nitrogen_ is supplied the protein
substances cannot be formed, and the plant must cease to grow.

When on the contrary _ammonia_ is given to the soil (by rains or
otherwise), it furnishes nitrogen, while the carbonic acid and water
yield the other constituents of protein, and a healthy growth continues,
provided that the soil contains the _mineral_ matters required in the
formation of the ash, in a condition to be useful.

The wisdom of this provision is evident when we recollect that the
protein substances are necessary to the formation of muscle in animals,
for if plants were allowed to complete their growth without a supply of
this ingredient, our grain and hay might not be sufficiently well
supplied with it to keep our oxen and horses in working condition, while
under the existing law plants must be of nearly a uniform quality (in
this respect), and if a field is short of nitrogen, its crop will not be
large, and of a very poor quality, but the soil will produce good plants
as long as the nitrogen lasts, and then the growth must cease.[I]


That this principle may be clearly understood, it may be well to explain
more fully the application of the proximate constituents of plants in
feeding animals.

[Of what are the bodies of animals composed?

What is the office of vegetation?

What part of the animal is formed from the first class of proximates?

From the second?

Which contains the largest portions of inorganic matter, plants or

Must animals have a variety of food, and why?]

Animals are composed (like plants) of organic and inorganic matter, and
every thing necessary to build them up exists in plants. It seems to be
the office of the vegetable world to prepare the gases in the
atmosphere, and the minerals in the earth for the uses of animal life,
and to effect this plants put these gases and minerals together in the
form of the various _proximates_ (or compound substances) which we have
just described.

In animals the compounds containing _no nitrogen_ comprise the fatty
substances, parts of the blood, etc., while the protein compound, or
those which _do contain nitrogen_, form the muscle, a part of the bones,
the hair, and other portions of the animal.

Animals contain a larger proportion of inorganic matter than plants do.
Bones contain a large quantity of phosphate of lime, and we find other
inorganic materials performing important offices in the system.

In order that animals may be perfectly developed, they must of course
receive as food all of the materials required to form their bodies. They
cannot live if fed entirely on one ingredient. Thus, if _starch_ alone
be eaten by the animal, he might become _fat_, but his strength would
soon fail, because his food contains nothing to keep up the vigor of his
_muscles_. If on the contrary the food of an animal consisted entirely
of _gluten_, he might be very strong from a superior development of
muscle, but would not be fat. Hence we see that in order to keep up the
proper proportion of both fat and muscle in our animals (or in
ourselves), the food must be such as contains a proper proportion of the
two kinds of proximates.

[Why is grain good for food?

On what does the value of flour depend?

Is there any relation between the ashy part of plants and those of

How may we account for unhealthy bones and teeth?]

It is for this reason that grain, such as wheat for instance, is so good
for food. It contains both classes of proximates, and furnishes material
for the formation of both fat and muscle. The value of _flour_ depends
very much on the manner in which it is manufactured. This will be soon

[What is a probable cause of consumption?

What is an important use of the first class of proximates?

What may lungs be called?

Explain the production of heat during decomposition.

Why is the heat produced by decay not perceptible?]

Apart from the relations between the _proximate principles_ of plants,
and those of animals, there exists an important relation between their
_ashy_ or _inorganic_ parts; and, food in order to satisfy the demands
of animal life, must contain the mineral matter required for the
purposes of that life. Take bones for instance. If phosphate of lime is
not always supplied in sufficient quantities by food, animals are
prevented from the formation of healthy bones. This is particularly to
be noticed in teeth. Where food is deficient of phosphate of lime, we
see poor teeth as a result. Some physicians have supposed that one of
the causes of consumption is the deficiency of phosphate of lime in

[Why is the heat produced by combustion apparent?

Explain the production of heat in the lungs of animals?

Why does exercise augment the animal heat?

Under what circumstances is the animal's own fat used in the production
of heat?]

The first class of proximates (starch, sugar, gum, etc.), perform an
important office in the animal economy aside from their use in making fat.
They constitute the _fuel_ which supplies the animal's fire, and gives him
his _heat_. The lungs of men and other animals may be called delicate
_stoves_, which supply the whole body with heat. But let us explain this
matter more fully. If wood, starch, gum, or sugar, be burned in a stove,
they produce heat. These substances consist, as will be recollected, of
carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, and when they are destroyed in any way
(provided they be exposed to the atmosphere), the hydrogen and oxygen unite
and form water, and the carbon unites with the oxygen of the air and forms
carbonic acid, as was explained in a preceding chapter. This process is
always accompanied by the liberation of _heat_, and the _intensity_ of this
heat depends on the _time_ occupied in its _production_. In the case of
decay, the chemical changes take place so slowly that the heat, being
conducted away as soon as formed, is not perceptible to our senses. In
combustion (or burning) the same changes take place with much greater
rapidity, and the same _amount_ of heat being concentrated, or brought out
in a far shorter time, it becomes intense, and therefore apparent. In the
lungs of animals the same law holds true. The blood contains matters
belonging to this carbonaceous class, and they undergo in the lungs the
changes which have been described under the head of combustion and decay.
Their hydrogen and oxygen unite, and form the moisture of the breath, while
their carbon is combined with the oxygen of the air drawn into the lungs,
and is thrown out as carbonic acid. The same consequence--heat--results in
this, as in the other cases, and this heat is produced with sufficient
rapidity for the animal necessities. When an animal exercises violently,
his blood circulates with increased rapidity, thus carrying carbon more
rapidly to the lungs. The breath also becomes quicker, thus supplying
increased quantities of oxygen. In this way the decomposition becomes more
rapid, and the animal is heated in proportion.

Thus we see that food has another function besides that of forming
animal matter, namely to supply heat. When the food does not contain a
sufficient quantity of starch, sugar, etc., to answer the demands of
the system the _animal's own fat_ is carried to the lungs, and there
used in the production of heat. This important fact will be referred to


[G] By _proximate principle_, we mean that combination of vegetable
elements which is known as a vegetable product, such as _wood_, etc.

[H] _Muscle_ is _lean meat_, it gives to animals their strength and
ability to perform labor.

[I] This, of course, supposes that the soil is fertile in other



[Of what proximate are plants chiefly composed?

What is the principal constituent of the potato root?

Of the carrot and turnip?

What part of the plant contains usually the most nutriment?]

Let us now examine plants with a view to learning the _location_ of the
various plants.

The stem or trunk of the plant or tree consists almost entirely of
_woody fibre_; this also forms a large portion of the other parts except
the seeds, and, in some instances, the roots. The roots of the potato
contain large quantities of _starch_. Other roots such as the _carrot_
and _turnip_ contain _pectic acid_,[J] a nutritious substance resembling

It is in the _seed_ however that the more nutritive portions of most
plants exist, and here they maintain certain relative positions which
it is well to understand, and which can be best explained by reference
to the following figures, as described by Prof. Johnston:--

[Illustration: Fig. 1.]

"Thus _a_ shows the position of the oil in the outer part of the
seed--it exists in minute drops, inclosed in six-sided cells, which
consists chiefly of gluten; _b_, the position and comparative quantity
of the starch, which in the heart of the seed is mixed with only a small
proportion of gluten; _c_, the germ or chit which contains much

[Is the composition of the inorganic matter of different parts
of the plant the same, or different?

What is the difference between the ash of the straw and that of the
grain of wheat?]

The location of the _inorganic_ part of plants is one of much interest,
and shows the adaptation of each part to its particular use. Take a
wheat plant, for instance--the stalk, the leaf, and the grain, show in
their ashes, important difference of composition. The stalk or straw
contains three or four times as large a proportion of ash as the grain,
and a no less remarkable difference of composition may be noticed in
the ashes of the two parts. In that of the straw, we find a large
proportion of silica and scarcely any phosphoric acid, while in that of
the grain there is scarcely a trace of silica, although phosphoric acid
constitutes more than one half of the entire weight. The leaves contain
a considerable quantity of lime.

[What is the reason for this difference?

In what part of the grain does phosphoric acid exist most largely?]

This may at first seem an unimportant matter, but on examination we
shall see the use of it. The straw is intended to support the grain and
leaves, and to convey the sap from the roots to the upper portions of
the plant. To perform these offices, _strength_ is required, and this is
given by the _silica_, and the woody fibre which forms so large a
proportion of the stalk. The silica is combined with an alkali, and
constitutes the glassy coating of the straw. While the plant is young,
this coating is hardly apparent, but as it grows older, as the grain
becomes heavier, (verging towards ripeness), the silicious coating of
the stalk assumes a more prominent character, and gives to the straw
sufficient strength to support the golden head. The straw is not the
most important part of the plant as _food_, and therefore requires but
little phosphoric acid.

[Why is Graham flour more wholesome than fine flour?

Are the ashes of all plants the same in their composition?]

The grain, on the contrary, is especially intended as food, and
therefore must contain a large proportion of phosphoric acid--this
being, as we have already learned, necessary to the formation of
bone--while, as it has no necessity for strength, and as silica is not
needed by animals, this ingredient exists in the grain only in a very
small proportion. It may be well to observe that the phosphoric acid of
grain exists most largely in the hard portions near the shell, or bran.
This is one of the reasons why Graham flour is more wholesome than fine
flour. It contains all of the nutritive materials which render the grain
valuable as food, while flour which is very finely bolted[L] contains
only a small part of the outer portions of the grain (where the
phosphoric acid, protein and fatty matters exist most largely). The
starchy matter in the interior of the grain, which is the least capable
of giving strength to the animal, is carefully separated, and used as
food for man, while the better portions, not being ground so finely, are
rejected. This one thing alone may be sufficient to account for the
fact, that the lives of men have become shorter and less blessed with
health and strength, than they were in the good old days when a stone
mortar and a coarse sieve made a respectable flour mill.

Another important fact concerning the ashes of plants is the difference
of their composition in different plants. Thus, the most prominent
ingredient in the ash of the potato is _potash_; of wheat and other
grains, _phosphoric acid_; of meadow hay, _silica_; of clover, _lime_;
of beans, _potash_, etc. In grain, _potash_ (or _soda_), etc., are among
the important ingredients.

[Of what advantage are these differences to the farmer?

Of what are plants composed?]

These differences are of great importance to the practical farmer, as by
understanding what kind of plants use the most of one ingredient, and
what kind requires another in large proportion, he can regulate his
crops so as to prevent his soil from being exhausted more in one
ingredient than in the others, and can also manure his land with
reference to the crop which he intends to grow. The tables of analyses
in the fifth section will point out these differences accurately.


[J] This pectic acid gelatinizes food in the stomach, and thus renders
it more digestible.

[K] See Johnston's Elements, page 41.

[L] Sifted through a fine cloth called a bolting cloth.



We have now learned as much about the plant as is required for our
immediate uses, and we will carefully reconsider the various points with
a view to fixing them permanently in the mind.

Plants are composed of _organic_ and _inorganic_ matter.

[What is organic matter? Inorganic?

Of what does organic matter consist? Inorganic?

How do plants obtain their organic food?

How their inorganic?

How is ammonia supplied? Carbonic acid?]

Organic matter is that which burns away in the fire. Inorganic matter is
the ash left after burning.

The organic matter of plants consists of three gases, oxygen, hydrogen
and nitrogen, and one solid substance carbon (or charcoal). The
inorganic matter of plants consists of potash, soda, lime, magnesia,
sulphuric acid, phosphoric acid, chlorine, silica, oxide of iron, and
oxide of manganese.

Plants obtain their organic food as follows:--Oxygen and hydrogen from
water, nitrogen from some compound containing nitrogen (chiefly from
ammonia), and carbon from the atmosphere where it exists as carbonic
acid--a gas.

They obtain their inorganic food from the soil.

The water which supplies oxygen and hydrogen to plants is readily
obtained without the assistance of manures.

Ammonia is obtained from the atmosphere, by being absorbed by rain and
carried into the soil, and it enters plants through their roots. It may
be artificially supplied in the form of animal manure with profit.

Carbonic acid is absorbed from the atmosphere by leaves, and decomposed
in the green parts of plants under the influence of daylight; the carbon
is retained, and the oxygen is returned to the atmosphere.

[When plants are destroyed by combustion or decay, what
becomes of their constituents?

How does the inorganic matter enter the plant?

Are the alkalies soluble in their pure forms?

Which one of them is injurious when too largely present?

How may sulphuric acid be supplied?

Is phosphoric acid important?

How must silica be treated?

From what source may we obtain chlorine?]

When plants are destroyed by decay, or burning, their organic
constituents pass away as water, ammonia, carbonic acid, etc., ready
again to be taken up by other plants.

The inorganic matters in the soil can enter the plant only when
dissolved in water. _Potash_, _soda_, _lime_, and _magnesia_, are
soluble in their pure forms. Magnesia is injurious when present in too
large quantities.

_Sulphuric_ acid is often necessary as a manure, and is usually most
available in the form of sulphate of lime or plaster. It is also
valuable in its pure form to prevent the escape of ammonia from

_Phosphoric_ acid is highly important, from its frequent deficiency in
worn-out soils. It is available only under certain conditions which will
be described in the section on manures.

_Silica_ is the base of common sand, and must be united to an alkali
before it can be used by the plant, because it is insoluble except when
so united.

_Chlorine_ is a constituent of common salt (chloride of sodium), and
from this source may be obtained in sufficient quantities for manurial

[What is the difference between _per_oxide and _prot_oxide of

How must the food of plants be supplied?

What takes place after it enters the plant?

What name is given to the compounds thus formed?

How are proximates divided?

Which class constitutes the largest part of the plant?

Of what are animals composed, and how do they obtain the materials from
which to form their growth?]

_Oxide of iron_ is iron rust. There are two oxides of iron, the
_peroxide_ (red) and the _protoxide_ (black). The former is a
fertilizer, and the latter poisons plants.

_Oxide of manganese_ is often absent from the ashes of our cultivated

The food of plants, both organic and inorganic, must be supplied in
certain proportions, and at the time when it is required. In the plant,
this food undergoes such chemical changes as are necessary to growth.

The compounds formed by these chemical combinations are called

Proximates are of two classes, those not containing nitrogen, and those
which do contain it.

The first class constitute nearly the whole plant.

The second class, although small in quantity, are of the greatest
importance to the farmer, as from them all animal muscle is made.

Animals, like plants, are composed of both organic and inorganic matter,
and their bodies are obtained directly or indirectly from plants.

[What parts of the animal belong to the first class of

What to the second?

What is necessary to the perfect development of animals?

Why are seeds valuable for working animals?

What other important use, in animal economy, have proximates of the
first class?

Under what circumstances is animal fat decomposed?]

The first class of proximates in animals comprise the fat, and like

The second class form the muscle, hair, gelatine of the bones, etc.

In order that they may be perfectly developed, animals must eat both
classes of proximates, and in the proportions required by their natures.

They require the phosphate of lime and other inorganic food which exist
in plants.

Seeds are the best adapted to the uses of working animals, because they
are rich in all kinds of food required.

Aside from their use in the formation of _fat_, proximates of the first
class are employed in the lungs, as fuel to keep up animal heat, which
is produced (as in fire and decay) by the decomposition of these

When the food is insufficient for the purposes of heat, the animal's own
fat is decomposed, and carried to the lungs as fuel.

The stems, roots, branches, etc., of most plants consist principally of
_woody fibre_.

Their seeds, and sometimes their roots, contain considerable quantities
of _starch_.

[Name the parts of the plant in which the different proximates

State what you know about flour.

Do we know that different plants have ashes of different composition?]

The _protein_ and the _oils_ of most plants exist most largely in the

The location of the proximates, as well as of the inorganic parts of the
plant, show a remarkable reference to the purposes of growth, and to the
wants of the animal world, as is noticed in the difference between the
construction of the straw and that of the kernel of wheat.

The reason why the fine flour now made is not so healthfully nutritious
as that which contained more of the coarse portions, is that it is
robbed of a large proportion of protein and phosphate of lime, while it
contains an undue amount of starch, which is available only to form fat,
and to supply fuel to the lungs.

Different plants have ashes of different composition. Thus--one may take
from the soil large quantities of potash, another of phosphoric acid,
and another of lime.

By understanding these differences, we shall be able so to regulate our
rotations, that the soil may not be called on to supply more of one
ingredient than of another, and thus it may be kept in balance.

[How are farmers to be benefited by such knowledge?]

The facts contained in this chapter are the _alphabet of agriculture_,
and the learner should not only become perfectly familiar with them, but
should also clearly understand the _reasons_ why they are true, before
proceeding further.





[What is a necessary condition of growth?]

In the foregoing section, we have studied the character of plants and
the laws which govern their growth. We learned that one necessary
condition for growth is a fertile soil, and therefore we will examine
the nature of different soils, in order that we may understand the
relations between them and plants.

[What is a fixed character of soils?

How is the chemical character of the soil to be ascertained?

What do we first learn in analyzing a soil?

How do the proportions of organic or inorganic parts of soils compare
with those of plants?

Of what does the organic part of soils consist?]

The soil is not to be regarded as a mysterious mass of dirt, whereon
crops are produced by a mysterious process. Well ascertained scientific
knowledge has proved beyond question that all soils, whether in America
or Asia, whether in Maine or California, have certain fixed properties,
which render them fertile or barren, and the science of agriculture is
able to point out these characteristics in all cases, so that we can
ascertain from a scientific investigation what would be the chances for
success in cultivating any soil which we examine.

The soil is a great chemical compound, and its chemical character is
ascertained (as in the case of plants) by analyzing it, or taking it

We first learn that fertile soils contain both organic and inorganic
matter; but, unlike the plant, they usually possess much more of the
latter than of the former.

In the plant, the organic matter constitutes the most considerable
portion of the whole. In the soil, on the contrary, it usually exists in
very small quantities, while the inorganic portions constitute nearly
the whole bulk.

[Can the required proportion be definitely indicated?

From what source is the inorganic part of soils derived?

Do all soils decompose with equal facility?

How does frost affect rocks?

Does it affect soils in the same way?]

The organic part of soils consists of the same materials that constitute
the organic part of the plants, and it is in reality decayed vegetable
and animal matter. It is not necessary that this organic part of the
soil should form any particular proportion of the whole, and indeed we
find it varying from one and a half to fifty, and sometimes, in peaty
soils, to over seventy per cent. All fertile soils contain some organic
matter, although it seems to make but little difference in fertility,
whether it be ten or fifty per cent.

The inorganic part of soils is derived from the crumbling of rocks. Some
rocks (such as the slates in Central New York) decompose, and crumble
rapidly on being exposed to the weather; while granite, marble, and
other rocks will last for a long time without perceptible change. The
_causes_ of this crumbling are various, and are not unimportant to the
agriculturist; as by the same processes by which his soil was formed, he
can increase its depth, or otherwise improve it. This being the case, we
will in a few words explain some of the principal pulverizing agents.

1. The action of frost. When water lodges in the crevices of rocks, and
_freezes_, it expands, and bursts the rock, on the same principle as
causes it to break a pitcher in winter. This power is very great, and by
its assistance, large cannon may be burst. Of course the action of frost
is the same on a small scale as when applied to large masses of matter,
and, therefore, we find that when water freezes in the _pores_[M] of
rocks or stones, it separates their particles and causes them to
crumble. The same rule holds true with regard to stiff clay soils. If
they are _ridged_ in autumn, and left with a rough surface exposed to
the frosts of winter, they will become much lighter, and can afterwards
be worked with less difficulty.

[What is the effect of water on certain rocks?

How are some rocks affected by exposure to the atmosphere? Give an
instance of this.]

2. The action of water. Many kinds of rock become so soft on being
soaked with water, that they readily crumble.

3. The chemical changes of the constituents of the rock. Many kinds of
rock are affected by exposure to the atmosphere, in such a manner, that
changes take place in their chemical character, and cause them to fall
to pieces. The red kellis of New Jersey (a species of sandstone), is,
when first quarried, a very hard stone, but on exposure to the
influences of the atmosphere, it becomes so soft that it may be easily
crushed between the thumb and finger.

[What is the similarity between the composition of soils and
the rocks from which they were formed?

What does feldspar rock yield? Talcose slate? Marls?

Does a soil formed entirely from rock contain organic matter?

How is it affected by the growth of plants?]

Other actions, of a less simple kind, exert an influence on the
stubbornness of rocks, and cause them to be resolved into soils.[N] Of
course, the composition of the soil must be similar to that of the rock
from which it was formed; and, consequently, if we know the chemical
character of the rock, we can tell whether the soil formed from it can
be brought under profitable cultivation. Thus feldspar, on being
pulverized, yields potash; talcose slate yields magnesia; marls yield
lime, etc.

The soil formed entirely from rock, contains, of course, no organic
matter.[O] Still it is capable of bearing plants of a certain class, and
when these die, they are deposited in the soil, and thus form its
organic portions, rendering it capable of supporting those plants which
furnish food for animals. Thousands of years must have been occupied in
preparing the earth for habitation by man.

As the inorganic or mineral part of the soil is usually the largest, we
will consider it first.

As we have stated that this portion is formed from rocks, we will
examine their character, with a view to showing the different qualities
of soils.

[What is the general rule concerning the composition of rocks?

Do these distinctions affect the fertility of soils formed from them?

What do we mean by the mechanical character of the soil?

Is its fertility indicated by its mechanical character?]

As a general rule, it may be stated that _all rocks are either
sandstones, limestones, or clays; or a mixture of two or more of these
ingredients_. Hence we find that all mineral soils are either _sandy_,
_calcareous_, (limey), or _clayey_; or consist of a mixture of these, in
which one or another usually predominates. Thus, we speak of a sandy
soil, a clay soil, etc. These distinctions (sandy, clayey, loamy, etc.)
are important in considering the _mechanical_ character of the soil, but
have little reference to its fertility.

By _mechanical_ character, we mean those qualities which affect the ease
of cultivation--excess or deficiency of water, ability to withstand
drought, etc. For instance, a heavy clay soil is difficult to
plow--retains water after rains, and bakes quite hard during drought;
while a light sandy soil is plowed with ease, often allows water to pass
through immediately after rains, and becomes dry and powdery during
drought. Notwithstanding those differences in their mechanical
character, both soils may be very fertile, or one more so than the
other, without reference to the clay and sand which they contain, and
which, to _our observation_, form their leading characteristics. The
same facts exist with regard to a loam, a calcareous (or limey) soil, or
a vegetable mould. Their mechanical texture is not essentially an index
to their fertility, nor to the manures required to enable them to
furnish food to plants. It is true, that each kind of soil appears to
have some general quality of fertility or barrenness which is well known
to practical men, yet this is not founded on the fact that the clay or
the sand, or the vegetable matter, enter more largely into the
constitution of plants than they do when they are not present in so
great quantities, but on certain other facts which will be hereafter

[What is a sandy soil? A clay soil? A loamy soil? A marl? A
calcareous soil? A peaty soil?]

As the following names are used to denote the character of soils, in
ordinary agricultural description, we will briefly explain their

A _Sandy soil_ is, of course, one in which sand largely predominates.

_Clay soil_, one where _clay_ forms a large proportion of the soil.

_Loamy soil_, where sand and clay are about equally mixed.

_Marl_ contains from five to twenty per cent. of carbonate of lime.

_Calcareous soil_ more than twenty per cent.

_Peaty soils_, of course, contain large quantities of organic matter.[P]

[How large a part of the soil may be used as food by plants?

What do we learn from the analyses of barren and fertile soils?]

We will now take under consideration that part of the soil on which
depends its ability to supply food to the plant. This portion rarely
constitutes more than five or ten per cent. of the entire soil,
sometimes less--and it has no reference to the sand, clay, and vegetable
matters which they contain. From analyses of many fertile soils, and of
others which are barren or of poorer quality, it has been ascertained
that the presence of certain ingredients is necessary to fertility. This
may be better explained by the assistance of the following table:

  In one hundred pounds.    | Soil fertile |  Good       | Barren.
                            | without      | wheat soil. |
                            | manure.      |             |
 Organic matter,            |  9.7         |  7.0        |  4.0
 Silica (sand),             | 64.8         | 74.3        | 77.8
 Alumina (clay),            |  5.7         |  5.5        |  9.1
 Lime,                      |  5.9         |  1.4        |   .4
 Magnesia,                  |   .9         |   .7        |   .1
 Oxide of iron,             |  6.1         |  4.7        |  8.1
 Oxide of manganese,        |   .1         |             |   .1
 Potash,                    |   .2         |  1.7        |
 Soda,                      |   .4         |   .7        |
 Chlorine,                  |   .2         |   .1        |
 Sulphuric acid,            |   .2         |   .1        |
 Phosphoric acid,           |   .4         |   .1½       |
 Carbonic acid,             |  4.0         |             |
 Loss during the analysis   |  1.4         |  3.6½       |   .4
                            |100.0         |100.0        |100.0

[What can you say of the soils represented in the table of

What proportion of the fertilizing ingredients is required?

If the soil represented in the third column contained all the
ingredients required except potash and soda, would it be fertile?

What would be necessary to make it so?

What is the reason for this?

What are the offices performed by the inorganic part of soils?]

The soil represented in the first column might still be fertile with
less organic matter, or with a larger proportion of clay (alumina), and
less sand (silica). These affect its _mechanical_ character; but, if we
look down the column, we notice that there are small quantities of lime,
magnesia, and the other constituents of the ashes of plants (except ox.
of manganese). It is not necessary that they should be present in the
soil in the exact quantity named above, but _not one must be entirely
absent, or greatly reduced in proportion_. By referring to the third
column, we see that these ingredients are not all present, and the soil
is barren. Even if it were supplied with all but one or two, potash and
soda for instance, it could not support a crop without the assistance of
manures containing these alkalies. The reason for this must be readily
seen, as we have learned that no plant can arrive at maturity without
the necessary supply of materials required in the formation of the ash,
and these materials can be obtained only from the soil; consequently,
when they do not exist there, it must be barren.

The inorganic part of soils has two distinct offices to perform. The
clay and sand form a mass of material into which roots can penetrate,
and thus plants are supported in their position. These parts also absorb
heat, air and moisture to serve the purposes of growth, as we shall see
in a future chapter. The minute portions of soil, which comprise the
acids, alkalies, and neutrals, furnish plants with their ashes, and are
the most necessary to the fertility of the soil.


[What is geology?

Is the same kind of rock always of the same composition?

How do rocks differ?]

The relation between the inorganic part of soils and the rocks from
which it was formed, is the foundation of Agricultural Geology. Geology
may be briefly named the _science of rocks_. It would not be proper in
an elementary work to introduce much of this study, and we will
therefore simply state that the same kind of rock is of the same
composition all over the world; consequently, if we find a soil in New
England formed from any particular rock, and a soil from the same rock
in Asia, their natural fertility will be the same in both localities.
Some rocks consist of a mixture of different kinds of minerals; and
some, consisting chiefly of one ingredient, are of different degrees of
_hardness_. Both of these changes must affect the character of the soil,
but it may be laid down as rule that, _when the rocks of two locations
are exactly alike, the soils formed from them will be of the same
natural fertility, and in proportion as the character of rocks changes,
in the same proportion will the soils differ_.

[What rule may be given in relation to soils formed from the
same or different rocks?

Are all soils formed from the rocks on which they lie?

What instances can you give of this?]

In most districts the soil is formed from the rock on which it lies; but
this is not always the case. Soils are often formed by deposits of
matter brought by water from other localities. Thus the alluvial banks
of rivers consist of matters brought from the country through which the
rivers have passed. The river Nile, in Egypt, yearly overflows its
banks, and deposits large quantities of mud brought from the uninhabited
upper countries. The prairies of the West owe a portion of their soil to
deposits by water. Swamps often receive the washings of adjacent hills;
and, in these cases, their soil is derived from a foreign source.

We might continue to enumerate instances of the relations between soils
and the sources whence they originated, thus demonstrating more fully
the importance of geology to the farmer; but it would be beyond the
scope of this work, and should be investigated by scholars more advanced
than those who are studying merely the _elements_ of agricultural

The mind, in its early application to any branch of study, should not
be charged with intricate subjects. It should master well the
_rudiments_, before investigating those matters which should _follow_
such understanding.

[In what light will plants and soils be regarded by those who
understand them?]

By pursuing the proper course, it is easy to learn all that is necessary
to form a good foundation for a thorough acquaintance with the subject.
If this foundation is laid thoroughly, the learner will regard plants
and soils as old acquaintances, with whose formation and properties he
is as familiar as with the construction of a building or simple machine.
A simple spear of grass will become an object of interest, forming
itself into a perfect plant, with full development of roots, stem,
leaves, and seeds, by processes with which he feels acquainted. The soil
will cease to be mere dirt; it will be viewed as a compound substance,
whose composition is a matter of interest, and whose care is productive
of intellectual pleasure. The commencement of study in any science must
necessarily be wearisome to the young mind, but its more advanced stages
amply repay the trouble of early exertions.


[M] The spaces between the particles.

[N] In very many instances the crevices and seams of rocks are permeated
by roots, which, by decaying and thus inducing the growth of other
roots, cause these crevices to become filled with organic matter. This,
by the absorption of moisture, may expand with sufficient power to burst
the rock.

[O] Some rocks contain sulphur, phosphorus, etc., and these may,
perhaps, be considered as organic matter.

[P] These distinctions are not essential to be learned, but are often



[What proportion of organic matter is required for fertility?

How does the soil obtain its organic matter?

How does the growth of clover, etc., affect the soil?]

It will be recollected that, in addition to its mineral portions, the
soil contains organic matter in varied quantities. It may be fertile
with but one and a half per cent. of organic matter, and some peaty
soils contain more than fifty per cent. or more than one half of the

The precise amount necessary cannot be fixed at any particular sum;
perhaps five parts in a hundred would be as good a quantity as could be

The soil obtains its organic matter in two ways. First, by the decay of
roots and dead plants, also of leaves, which have been brought to it by
wind, etc. Second, by the application of organic manures.

[When organic matter decays in the soil, what becomes of it?

Is charcoal taken up by plants?

Are humus and humic acid of great practical importance?]

When a crop of clover is raised, it obtains its carbon from the
atmosphere; and, if it be plowed under, and allowed to decay, a portion
of this carbon is deposited in the soil. Carbon constitutes nearly the
whole of the dry weight of the clover, aside from the constituents of
water; and, when we calculate the immense quantity of hay, and roots
grown on an acre of soil in a single season, we shall find that the
amount of carbon thus deposited is immense. If the clover had been
removed, and the roots only left to decay, the amount of carbon
deposited would still have been very great. The same is true in all
cases where the crop is removed, and the roots remain to form the
organic or vegetable part of the soil. While undergoing decomposition, a
portion of this matter escapes in the form of gas, and the remainder
chiefly assumes the form of carbon (or charcoal), in which form it will
always remain, without loss, unless driven out by fire. If a bushel of
charcoal be mixed with the soil now, it will be the same bushel of
charcoal, neither more nor less, a thousand years hence, unless some
influence is brought to bear on it aside from the growth of plants. It
is true that, in the case of the decomposition of organic matter in the
soil, certain compounds are formed, known under the general names of
_humus_ and _humic acid_, which may, in a slight degree, affect the
growth of plants, but their practical importance is of too doubtful a
character to justify us in considering them. The application of manures,
containing organic matter, such as peat, muck, animal manure, etc.,
supplies the soil with carbon on the same principle, and the decomposing
matters also generate[Q] carbonic acid gas while being decomposed. The
agricultural value of carbon in the soil depends (as we have stated),
not on the fact that it enters into the composition of plants, but on
certain other important offices which it performs, as follows:--

[On what does the agricultural value of the carbon in the soil

Why does it make the soil more retentive of manure?

What is the experiment with the barrels of sand?]

1. It makes the soil more retentive of manures.

2. It causes it to appropriate larger quantities of the fertilizing
gases of the atmosphere.

3. It gives it greater power to absorb moisture.

4. It renders it warmer.

1. Carbon (or charcoal) makes the soil retentive of manures, because it
has in itself a strong power to absorb, and retain[R] fertilizing
matters. There is a simple experiment by which this power can be shown.

Ex.--Take two barrels of pure beach sand, and mix with the sand in one
barrel a few handfuls of charcoal dust, leaving that in the other pure.
Pour the brown liquor of the barn-yard through the pure sand, and it
will pass out at the bottom unaltered. Pour the same liquor through the
barrel, containing the charcoal, and pure water will be obtained as a
result. The reason for this is that the charcoal retains all of the
impurities of the liquor, and allows only the water to pass through.
Charcoal is often employed to purify water for drinking, or for
manufacturing purposes.

[Will charcoal purify water?

If a piece of tainted meat, or a fishy duck be buried in a rich garden
soil, what takes place?

What is the reason of this?

How does charcoal overcome offensive odors?

How can you prove that charcoal absorbs the _mineral_ impurities of

A rich garden-soil contains large quantities of carbonaceous matter;
and, if we bury in such a soil a piece of tainted meat or a fishy duck,
it will, in a short time, be deprived of its odor, because the charcoal
in the soil will entirely absorb it.

Carbon absorbs gases as well as the impurities of water; and, if a
little charcoal be sprinkled over manure, or any other substance,
emitting offensive odors, the gases escaping will be taken up by the
charcoal, and the odor will cease.

It has also the power of absorbing _mineral_ matters, which are
contained in water. If a quantity of salt water be filtered through
charcoal, the salt will be retained, and the water will pass through

We are now able to see how carbon renders the soil retentive of manures.

1st. Manures, which resemble the brown liquor of barn-yards, have their
fertilizing matters taken out, and retained by it.

[How does charcoal in the soil affect the manures applied?

Why does charcoal in the soil cause it to appropriate the gases of the

What fertilizing gases exist in the atmosphere?

How are they carried to the soil?

Does the carbon retain them after they reach the soil?

What can you say of the air circulating through the soil?

How does carbon give the soil power to absorb moisture?]

2d. The gases arising from the decomposition (_rotting_) of manure are
absorbed by it.

3d. The soluble mineral portions of manure, which might in some soils
leach down with water, are arrested and retained at a point at which
they can be made use of by the roots of plants.

2. Charcoal in the soil causes it to appropriate larger quantities of
the fertilizing gases of the atmosphere, on account of its power, as
just named, to absorb gases.

The atmosphere contains results, which have been produced by the
breathing of animals and by the decomposition of various kinds of
organic matter, which are exposed to atmospheric influences. These gases
are chiefly ammonia and carbonic acid, both of which are largely
absorbed by water, and consequently are contained in rain, snow, etc.,
which, as they enter the soil, give up these gases to the charcoal, and
they there remain until required by plants. Even the air itself, in
circulating through the soil, gives up fertilizing gases to the carbon,
which it may contain.

3. Charcoal gives to the soil power to absorb moisture, because it is
itself one of the best absorbents in nature; and it has been proved by
accurate experiment that peaty soils absorb moisture with greater
rapidity, and part with it more slowly than any other kind.

[How does it render it warmer?

Is the heat produced by the decomposition of organic matter perceptible
to our senses?

Is it so to the growing plant?

What is another important part of the organic matter in the soil?]

4. Carbon in the soil renders it warmer, because it darkens its color.
Black surfaces absorb more heat than light ones, and a black coat, when
worn in the sun, is warmer than one of a lighter color. By mixing carbon
with the soil, we darken its color, and render it capable of absorbing a
greater amount of heat from the sun's rays.

It will be recollected that, when vegetable matter decomposes in the
soil, it produces certain gases (carbonic acid, etc.), which either
escape into the atmosphere, or are retained in the soil for the use of
plants. The production of these gases is always accompanied by _heat_,
which, though scarcely perceptible to our senses, is perfectly so to the
growing plant, and is of much practical importance. This will be
examined more fully in speaking of manures.

[How is it obtained by the soil?

What offices does the organic matter in the soil perform?]

Another important part of the organic matter in the soil is that which
contains _nitrogen_. This forms but a very small portion of the soil,
but it is of the greatest importance to vegetables. As the nitrogen in
food is of absolute necessity to the growth of animals, so the nitrogen
in the soil is indispensable to the growth of cultivated plants. It is
obtained by the soil in the form of ammonia (or nitric acid), from the
atmosphere, or by the application of animal matter. In some cases,
manures called _nitrates_[S] are used; and, in this manner, nitrogen is
given to the soil.

We have now learned that the organic matter in the soil performs the
following offices:--

Organic matter thoroughly decomposed is _carbon_, and has the various
effects ascribed to this substance on p. 79.

Organic matter in process of decay produces carbonic acid, and sometimes
ammonia in the soil; also its decay causes heat.

Organic matter containing _nitrogen_, such as animal substances, etc.,
furnish ammonia, and other nitrogenous substances to the roots of


[Q] Produce.

[R] By absorbing and retaining, we mean taking up and holding.

[S] Nitrates are compounds of nitric acid (which consists of nitrogen
and oxygen), and alkaline substances. Thus nitrate of potash
(saltpetre), is composed of nitric acid and potash: nitrate of soda
(cubical nitre), of nitric acid and soda.



[What effect has clay besides the one already named?

How does it compare with charcoal for this purpose?]

The offices performed by the inorganic constituents of the soil are many
and important.

These, as well as the different conditions in which the bodies exist,
are necessary to be thoroughly studied.

Those parts which constitute the larger proportion of the soil, namely
the clay, sand, and limy portions, are useful for purposes which have
been named in the first part of this section, while the _clay_ has an
additional effect in the absorption of ammonia.

For this purpose, it is as effectual as charcoal, the gases escaping
from manures, as well as those existing in the atmosphere, and in
rain-water, being arrested by clay as well as charcoal.[T]

[What particular condition of inorganic matter is requisite
for fertility?

What is the fixed rule with regard to this?

What is the condition of the alkalies in most of their combinations? Of
the acids?

What is said of phosphate of lime?]

The more minute ingredients of the soil--those which enter into the
construction of plants--exist in conditions which are more or less
favorable or injurious to vegetable growth. The principal condition
necessary to fertility is _capacity to be dissolved_, it being (so far
as we have been able to ascertain) a fixed rule, as was stated in the
first section, that _no mineral substance can enter into the roots of a
plant except it be dissolved in water_.

The _alkalies_ potash, soda, lime, and magnesia, are in nearly all of
their combinations in the soil sufficiently soluble for the purposes of

The _acids_ are, as will be recollected, sulphuric and phosphoric. These
exist in the soil in combination with the alkalies, as sulphates and
phosphates, which are more or less soluble under natural circumstances.
Phosphoric acid in combination with lime as phosphate of lime is but
slightly soluble; but, when it exists in the compound known as
_super_-phosphate of lime, it is much more soluble, and consequently
enters into the composition of plants with much greater facility. This
matter will be more fully explained in the section on manures.

[How may silica be rendered soluble?

What is the condition of chlorine in the soil?

Do peroxide and protoxide of iron affect plants in the same way?

How would you treat a soil containing protoxide of iron?

On what does the usefulness of all these matters in the soil depend?]

The _neutrals_, silica, chlorine, oxide of iron, and oxide of manganese,
deserve a careful examination. Silica exists in the soil usually in the
form of _sand,_ in which it is, as is well known, perfectly insoluble;
and, before it can be used by plants, which often require it in large
quantities, it must be made soluble, which is done by combining it with
an alkali.

For instance, if the silica in the soil is insoluble, we must make an
application of an alkali, such as potash, which will unite with the
silica, and form the silicate of potash, which is in the exact condition
to be dissolved and carried into the roots of plants.

Chlorine in the soil is probably always in an available condition.

Oxide of iron exists, as has been previously stated, usually in the form
of the _per_oxide (or red oxide). Sometimes, however, it exists in the
form of the _prot_oxide (or black oxide), which is poisonous to plants,
and renders the soil unfertile. By loosening the soil in such a manner
as to admit air and water, this compound takes up more oxygen, which
renders it a peroxide, and makes it available for plants. The oxide of
manganese is probably of little consequence.

The usefulness of all of these matters in the soil depends on their
_exposure_; if they are in the _interior_ of particles, they cannot be
made use of; while, if the particles are so pulverized that their
constituents are exposed, they become available, because water can
immediately attack to dissolve, and carry them into roots.

[What is one of the chief offices of plowing and hoeing?

Is the subsoil usually different from the surface soil?

What circumstances have occasioned the difference? In what way?]

This is one of the great offices of plowing and hoeing; the _lumps_ of
soil being thereby more broken up and exposed to the action of
atmospheric influences, which are often necessary to produce a fertile
condition of soil, while the trituration of particles reduces them in


[May the subsoil be made to resemble the surface soil?

May all soils be brought to the highest state of fertility?

On what examination must improvement be based?

What is the difference between the soil of some parts of Massachusetts
and that of the Miami valley?]

The subsoil is usually of a different character from the surface soil,
but this difference is more often the result of circumstances than of
formation. The surface soil from having been long cultivated has been
more opened to the influences of the air than is the case with the
subsoil, which has never been disturbed so as to allow the same action.
Again the growth of plants has supplied the surface soil with roots,
which by decaying have given it organic matter, thus darkening its
color, rendering it warmer, and giving greater ability to absorb heat
and moisture, and to retain manures. All of these effects render the
surface soil of a more fertile character than it was before vegetable
growth commenced; and, where frequent cultivation and manures have been
applied, a still greater benefit has resulted. In most instances the
subsoil may by the same means be gradually improved in condition until
it equals the surface soil in fertility. The means of producing this
result, also farther accounts of its advantages, will be given under the
head of _Cultivation_ (Sect. IV.)


From what has now been said of the character of the soil, it must be
evident that, as we know the _causes_ of fertility and barrenness, we
may by the proper means improve the character of all soils which are not
now in the highest state of fertility.

Chemical analysis will tell us the _composition_ of a soil, and an
examination, such as any farmer may make, will inform us of its
deficiencies in _mechanical_ character, and we may at once resort to the
proper means to secure fertility. In some instances the soil may contain
every thing that is required, but not in the necessary condition. For
instance, in some parts of Massachusetts, there are nearly _barren_
soils which show by analysis precisely the same chemical composition as
the soil of the Miami valley of Ohio, one of the most _fertile_ in the
world. The cause of this great difference in their agricultural
capabilities, is that the Miami soil has its particles finely
pulverized; while in the Massachusetts soil the ingredients are combined
within particles (such as pebbles, etc.), where they are out of the
reach of roots.

[Why do soils of the same degree of fineness sometimes differ
in fertility?

Can soils always be rendered fertile with profit?

Can we determine the cost before commencing the work?

What must be done before a soil can be cultivated understandingly?

What must be done to keep up the quality of the soil?]

In other cases, we find two soils, which are equally well pulverized,
and which appear to be of the same character, having very different
power to support crops. Chemical analysis will show in these instances a
difference of composition.

All of these differences may be overcome by the use of the proper means.
Sometimes it could be done at an expense which would be justified by the
result; and, at others, it might require too large an outlay to be
profitable. It becomes a question of economy, not of ability, and
science is able to estimate the cost.

Soil cannot be cultivated understandingly until it has been subjected to
such an examination as will tell us exactly what is necessary to render
it fertile. Even after fertility is perfectly restored it requires
thought and care to maintain it. The ingredients of the soil must be
returned in the form of manures as largely as they are removed by the
crop, or the supply will eventually become too small for the purposes of


[T] It is due to our country, as well as to Prof. Mapes and others, who
long ago explained this absorptive power of clay and carbon, to say that
the subject was perfectly understood and practically applied in America
a number of years before Prof. Way published the discovery in England as





[What must a farmer know in order to avoid failures?

Can this be learned entirely from observation?

What kind of action have manures?

Give examples of each of these.

May mechanical effects be produced by chemical action?

How does potash affect the soil?]

To understand the science of _manures_ is the most important branch of
practical farming. No baker would be called a good practical baker who
kept his flour exposed to the sun and rain. No shoemaker would be called
a good practical shoemaker, who used morocco for the soles of his shoes,
and heavy leather for the uppers. No carpenter would be called a good
practical carpenter, who tried to build a house without nails, or other
fastenings. So with the farmer. He cannot be called a good practical
farmer if he keeps the materials, from which he is to make plants, in
such a condition, that they will have their value destroyed, uses them
in the wrong places, or tries to put them together without having every
thing present that is necessary. Before he can avoid failures _with
certainty_, he must know what manures are composed of, how they are to
be preserved, where they are needed, and what kinds are required. True,
he may from observation and experience, _guess_ at results, but he
cannot _know_ that he is right until he has learned the facts above
named. In this section of our work, we mean to convey some of the
information necessary to this branch of _practical farming_.

We shall adopt a classification of the subject somewhat different from
that found in most works on manures, but the _facts_ are the same. The
action of manures is either _mechanical_ or _chemical_, or a combination
of both. For instance: some kinds of manure improve the mechanical
character of the soil, such as those which loosen stiff clay soils, or
others which render light sandy soils compact--these are called
_mechanical_ manures. Some again furnish food for plants--these are
called _chemical_ manures.

Many mechanical manures produce their effects by means of chemical
action. Thus _potash_ combines chemically with sand in the soil. In so
doing, it roughens the surfaces of the particles of sand, and renders
the soil less liable to be compacted by rains. In this manner, it acts
as a _mechanical_ manure. The compound of sand and potash,[U] as well as
the potash alone, may enter into the composition of plants, and hence it
is a _chemical_ manure. In other words, potash belongs to both classes
described above.

It is important that this distinction should be well understood by the
learner, as the words "mechanical" and "chemical" in connection with
manures will be made use of throughout the following pages.

[What are absorbents?

What kind of manure is charcoal?]

There is another class of manures which we shall call _absorbents_.
These comprise those substances which have the power of taking up
fertilizing matters, and retaining them for the use of plants. For
instance, _charcoal_ is an absorbent. As was stated in the section on
soils, this substance is a retainer of all fertilizing gases and many
minerals. Other matters made use of in agriculture have the same effect.
These absorbents will be spoken of more fully in their proper places.


MECHANICAL MANURES are those which improve the mechanical condition of

CHEMICAL      "    are those which serve as food for plants.

ABSORBENTS         are those substances which absorb and retain
                   fertilizing matters.

[Into what classes may manures be divided?

What are organic manures?

Inorganic? Atmospheric?]

Manures may be divided into three classes, viz.: _organic_, _inorganic_,
and _atmospheric_.

ORGANIC manures comprise all _animal_ and _vegetable_ matters which are
used to fertilize the soil, such as dung, muck, etc.

INORGANIC manures are those which are of a purely _mineral_ character,
such as lime, ashes, etc.

ATMOSPHERIC manures consist of those organic manures which are in the
form of gases in the atmosphere, and which are absorbed by rains and
carried to the soil. These are of immense importance. The ammonia and
carbonic acid in the air are atmospheric manures.


[U] Silicate of potash.



[Of what is animal excrement composed?

Explain the composition of the food of animals.

What does hay contain?

To what does Liebig compare the consumption of food by animals, and

The first organic manure which we shall examine, is animal _excrement_.

This is composed of those matters which have been eaten by the animal as
food, and have been thrown off as solid or liquid manure. In order that
we may know of what they consist, we must refer to the composition of
food and examine the process of digestion.

The food of animals, we have seen to consist of both organic and
inorganic matter. The organic part may be divided into two classes, _i.
e._, that portion which contains nitrogen--such as gluten, albumen,
etc., and that which does not contain nitrogen--such as starch, sugar,
oil, etc.

The inorganic part of food may also be divided into _soluble_ matter and
_insoluble_ matter.


[Of what does that part of dung consist which resembles soot?

What else does the dung contain?

In what manner does the digested part of food escape from the body?]

Let us now suppose that we have a full-grown ox, which is not increasing
in any of his parts, but only consumes food to keep up his respiration,
and to supply the natural wastes of his body. To this ox we will feed a
ton of hay which contains organic matter, with and without nitrogen, and
soluble and insoluble inorganic substances. Now let us try to follow it
through its changes in the animal, and observe its destination. Liebig
compares the consumption of food by animals to the imperfect burning of
wood in a stove, where a portion of the fuel is resolved into gases and
ashes (that is, it is completely burned), and another portion, which is
not thoroughly burned, passes off as _soot_. In the animal action in
question, the food undergoes changes which are similar to this burning
of wood. A part of the food is _digested_ and taken up by the blood,
while another portion remains undigested, and passes the bowels as solid
dung--corresponding to soot. This part of the dung then, we see is
merely so much of the food as passes through the system without being
materially changed. Its nature is easily understood. It contains organic
and inorganic matter in nearly the same condition as they existed in the
hay. They have been rendered finer and softer, but their chemical
character is not materially altered. The dung also contains small
quantities of nitrogenous matter, which _leaked out_, as it were, from
the stomach and intestines. The digested food, however, undergoes
further changes which affect its character, and it escapes from the body
in three ways--_i. e._, through the lungs, through the bladder, and
through the bowels. It will be recollected from the first section of
this book, p. 22, that the carbon in the blood of animals, unites with
the oxygen of the air drawn into the lungs, and is thrown off in the
breath as carbonic acid. The hydrogen and oxygen unite to form a part of
the water which constitutes the moisture of the breath.

[Explain the escape of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.

What becomes of the nitrogenous parts?

How is the _soluble_ ash of the digested food parted with?

The insoluble?

If any portions of the food are not returned in the dung, how are they
disposed of?]

That portion of the organic part of the hay which has been taken up by
the blood of the ox, and which does not contain nitrogen (corresponding
to the _first_ class of proximates, as described in Sect. I), is emitted
through the lungs. It consists, as will be recollected, of carbon,
hydrogen and oxygen, and these assume, in respiration, the form of
carbonic acid and water.

The organic matter of the digested hay, in the blood, which contains
nitrogen (corresponding to the _second_ class of proximates, described
in Sect. I), goes to the _bladder_, where it assumes the form of urea--a
constituent of urine or liquid manure.

We have now disposed of the imperfectly digested food (dung), and of the
_organic_ matter which was taken up by the blood. All that remains to be
examined is the inorganic or mineral matter in the blood, which would
have become _ashes_, if the hay had been burned. The _soluble_ part of
this inorganic matter passes into the bladder, and forms the _inorganic
part of urine_. The _insoluble_ part passes the bowels, in connection
with the dung.

[How is their place supplied?

Is food put out of existence when it is fed to animals?

What does the solid dung contain? Liquid manure? The breath?]

If any of the food taken up by the blood is not returned as above
stated, it goes to form fat, muscle, hair, bones, or some other part of
the animal, and as he is not growing (not increasing in weight) an
equivalent amount of the body of the animal goes to the manure to take
the place of the part retained.[V]

We now have our subject in a form to be readily understood. We learn
that when food is given to animals it is not _put out of existence_, but
is merely _changed in form_; and that in the impurities of the breath,
we have a large portion of those parts of the food which plants obtain
from air and from water; while the solid and liquid excrements contain
all that was taken by the plants from the soil and manures.

The SOLID DUNG contains the undigested parts of the food, the
                _insoluble_ parts of the ash, and the nitrogenous
                matters which have _escaped_ from the digestive organs.

"LIQUID MANURE" the nitrogenous or _second class_ of proximates of the
                digested food, and the _soluble_ parts of the ash.

THE BREATH contains the _first class_ of proximates, those which contain
                carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, but _no nitrogen_.[W]


[V] This account of digestion is not, perhaps, strictly accurate in a
physiological point of view, but it is sufficiently so to give an
elementary understanding of the character of excrements as manures.

[W] The excrements of animals contain more or less of sulphur, and
sometimes small quantities of phosphorus.



[What are the first causes of loss of manure?

What is _evaporation_?]

The loss of manure is a subject which demands most serious attention.
Until within a few years, little was known about the true character of
manures, and consequently, of the importance of protecting them against

The first causes of waste are _evaporation_ and _leaching_.


[Name a solid body which evaporates.

What takes place when a dead animal is exposed to the atmosphere for a
sufficient time?

What often assist the evaporation of solids?]

Evaporation is the changing of a solid or liquid body to a vapory form.
Thus common smelling salts, a solid, if left exposed, passes into the
atmosphere in the form of a gas or vapor. Water, a liquid, evaporates,
and becomes a vapor in the atmosphere. This is the case with very many
substances, and in organic nature, both solid and liquid, they are
liable to assume a gaseous form, and become mixed with the atmosphere.
They are not destroyed, but are merely changed in form.

As an instance of this action, suppose an animal to die and to decay on
the surface of the earth. After a time, the flesh will entirely
disappear, but is not lost. It no longer exists as the flesh of an
animal, but its carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, still exist in
the air. They have been liberated from the attractions which held them
together, and have passed away; but (as we already know from what has
been said in a former section) they are ready to be again taken up by
plants, and pressed into the service of life.

The evaporation of liquids may take place without the aid of any thing
but heat; still, in the case of solids, it is often assisted by decay
and combustion, which break up the bonds that hold the constituents of
bodies together, and thus enable them to return to the atmosphere, from
which they were originally derived.

[What is the cause of odor?

When we perceive an odor, what is taking place?

Why do manures give off offensive odors?

How may we detect ammonia escaping from manure?]

It must be recollected that every thing, which has an _odor_ (or can be
smelled), is evaporating. The odor is caused by parts of the body
floating in the air, and acting on the nerves of the nose. This is an
invariable rule; and, when we perceive an odor, we may be sure that
parts of the material, from which it emanates, are escaping. If we
perceive the odor of an apple, it is because parts of the volatile oils
of the apple enter the nose. The same is true when we smell hartshorn,
cologne, etc.

Manures made by animals have an offensive odor, simply because volatile
parts of the manure escape into the air, and are therefore made
perceptible. All organic parts in turn become volatile, assuming a
gaseous form as they decompose.

We do not see the gases rising, but there are many ways by which we can
detect them. If we wave a feather over a manure heap, from which ammonia
is escaping, the feather having been recently dipped in manure, white
fumes will appear around the feather, being the muriate of ammonia
formed by the union of the escaping gas with the muriatic acid. Not only
ammonia, but also carbonic acid, and other gases which are useful to
vegetation escape, and are given to the winds. Indeed it may be stated
in few words that all of the organic part of _plants_ (all that was
obtained from the air, water, and ammonia), constituting more than nine
tenths of their dry weight, may be evaporated by the assistance of decay
or combustion. The organic part of _manures_ may be lost in the same
manner; and, if the process of decomposition be continued long enough,
nothing but a mass of mineral matter will remain, except perhaps a small
quantity of carbon which has not been resolved into carbonic acid.

[What remains after manure has been long exposed to

What gaseous compounds are formed by the decomposition of manures?]

The proportion of solid manure lost by evaporation (made by the
assistance of decay), is a very large part of the whole. Manure cannot
be kept a single day in its natural state without losing something. It
commences to give out an offensive odor immediately, and this odor is
occasioned, as was before stated, by the loss of some of its fertilizing

Animal manure contains, as will be seen by reference to p. 100, all of
the substances contained in plants, though not always in the correct
relative proportions to each other. When decomposition commences, the
carbon unites with the oxygen of the air, and passes off as carbonic
acid; the hydrogen and oxygen combine to form water (which evaporates),
and the _nitrogen is mostly resolved into ammonia, which escapes into
the atmosphere_.

[Describe fire-fanging.

What takes place when animal manure is exposed in an open barn-yard?

What does liquid manure lose by evaporation?]

If manure is thrown into heaps, it often ferments so rapidly as to
produce sufficient heat to set fire to some parts of the manure, and
cause it to be thrown off with greater rapidity. This may be observed in
nearly all heaps of animal excrement. When they have lain for some time
in mild weather, gray streaks of _ashes_ are often to be seen in the
centre of the pile. The organic part of the manure having been _burned_
away, nothing but the ash remains,--this is called _fire-fanging_.

Manures kept in cellars without being mixed with refuse matter are
subject to the same losses.

When kept in the yard, they are still liable to be lost by evaporation.
They are here often saturated with water, and this water in its
evaporation carries away the ammonia, and carbonic acid which it has
obtained from the rotting mass. The evaporation of the water is rapidly
carried on, on account of the great extent of surface. The whole mass is
spongy, and soaks the liquids up from below (through hollow straws,
etc.), to be evaporated at the surface on the same principle as causes
the wick of a lamp to draw up the oil to supply fuel for the flame.

LIQUID MANURE containing large quantities of nitrogen, and forming much
ammonia, is also liable to lose all of its organic part from evaporation
(and fermentation), so that it is rendered as much less valuable as is
the solid dung.[X]

[When does the waste of exposed manure commence?

What does economy of manure require?

What is the effect of leaching?

Give an illustration of leaching.]

From these remarks, it may be justly inferred that a very large portion
of the _value_ of solid and liquid manure as ordinarily kept is lost by
evaporation in a sufficient length of time, depending on circumstances,
whether it be three months or several years. The wasting commences as
soon as the manure is dropped, and continues, except in very cold
weather, until the destruction is complete. Hence we see that true
economy requires that the manures of the stable, stye, and
poultry-house, should be protected from evaporation (as will be
hereafter described), as soon as possible after they are made.


The subject of _leaching_ is as important in considering the _inorganic_
parts of manures as evaporation is to the organic, while leaching also
affects the organic gases, they being absorbed by water in a great

A good illustration of leaching is found in the manufacture of potash.
When water is poured over wood-ashes, it dissolves their potash which
it carries through in solution, making ley. If ley is boiled to dryness,
it leaves the potash in a solid form, proving that this substance had
been dissolved by the water and removed from the insoluble parts of the

[How does water affect decomposing manures?

Does continued decomposition continue to prepare material to be leached

How far from the surface of the soil may organic constituents be carried
by water?]

In the same way water in passing through manures takes up the soluble
portions of the ash as fast as liberated by decomposition, and carries
them into the soil below; or, if the water runs off from the surface,
they accompany it. In either case they are lost to the manure. There is
but a small quantity of ash exposed for leaching in recent manures; but,
as the decomposition of the organic part proceeds, it continues to
develope it more and more (in the same manner as burning would do, only
slower), thus preparing fresh supplies to be carried off with each
shower. In this way, while manures are largely injured by evaporation,
the soluble inorganic parts are removed by water until but a small
remnant of its original fertilizing properties remains.

[What arrests their farther progress?

What would be the effect of allowing these matters to filter downwards?

What does evaporation remove from manure? Leaching?]

It is a singular fact concerning leaching, that water is able to carry
no part of the organic constituents of vegetables more than about
thirty-four inches below the surface in a fertile soil. They would
probably be carried to an unlimited distance in pure sand, as it
contains nothing which is capable of arresting them; but, in most soils,
the clay and carbon which they contain retain all of the ammonia; also
nearly all of the matters which go to form the inorganic constituents of
plants within about the above named distance from the surface of the
soil. If such were not the case, the fertility of the earth must soon be
destroyed, as all of those elements which the soil must supply to
growing plants would be carried down out of the reach of roots, and
leave the world a barren waste, its surface having lost its elements of
fertility, while the downward filtration of these would render the water
of wells unfit for our use. Now, however, they are all retained near the
surface of the soil, and the water issues from springs comparatively

EVAPORATION removes from manure--

    Carbon, in the form of carbonic acid.

    Hydrogen and oxygen, in the form of water.

    Nitrogen, in the form of ammonia.

LEACHING removes from manure--

    The soluble and most valuable parts of the ash in solution in
    water, besides carrying away some of the named above forms of
    organic matter.


[X] It should be recollected that every bent straw may act as a syphon,
and occasion much loss of liquid manure.



[What substances are called absorbents?

What is the most important of these?

What substances are called charcoal in agriculture?

How is vegetable matter rendered useful as charcoal?]

Before considering farther the subject of animal excrement, it is
necessary to examine a class of manures known as _absorbents_. These
comprise all matters which have the power of absorbing, or soaking up,
as it were, the gases which arise from the evaporation of solid and
liquid manures, and retaining them until required by plants.

The most important of these is undoubtedly _carbon_ or charcoal.


_Charcoal_, in an agricultural sense, means all forms of carbon, whether
as peat, muck, charcoal dust from the spark-catchers of locomotives,
charcoal hearths, river and swamp deposits, leaf mould, decomposed spent
tanbark or sawdust, etc. In short, if any vegetable matter is decomposed
with the partial exclusion of air (so that there shall not be oxygen
enough supplied to unite with all of the carbon), a portion of its
carbon remains in the exact condition to serve the purposes of charcoal.

[What is the first-named effect of charcoal? The second?
Third? Fourth?

Explain the first action.]

The offices performed in the soil by carbonaceous matter were fully
explained in a former section (p. 79, Sect. 2), and we will now examine
merely its action with regard to manures. When properly applied to
manures, in compost, it has the following effects:

1. It absorbs and retains the fertilizing gases evaporating from
decomposing matters.

2. It acts as a _divisor_, thereby reducing the strength (or intensity)
of powerful manures--thus rendering them less likely to injure the roots
of plants; and also increases their bulk, so as to prevent _fire
fanging_ in composts.

3. It in part prevents the leaching out of the soluble parts of the ash.

4. It keeps the compost moist.

The first-named office of charcoal, _i. e._, absorbing and retaining
gases, is one of the utmost importance. It is this quality that gives to
it so high a position in the opinion of all who have used it. As was
stated in the section on soils, carbonaceous matter seems to be capable
of absorbing every thing which may be of use to vegetation. It is a
grand purifier, and while it prevents offensive odors from escaping, it
is at the same time storing its pores with food for the nourishment of

[Explain its action as a divisor.

How does charcoal protect composts against injurious action of rains?

How does it keep them moist?]

2d. In its capacity as a _divisor_ for manures, charcoal should be
considered as excellent in all cases, especially to use with strongly
concentrated (or heating) animal manures. These, when applied in their
natural state to the soil, are very apt to injure young roots by the
violence of their action. When mixed with a divisor, such manures are
_diluted_, made less active, and consequently less injurious. In
composts, manures are liable, as has been before stated, to become
burned by the resultant heat of decomposition; this is called _fire
fanging_, and is prevented by the liberal use of divisors, because, by
increasing the bulk, the heat being diffused through a larger mass,
becomes less intense. The same principle is exhibited in the fact that
it takes more fire to boil a cauldron of water than a tea-kettle full.

3d. Charcoal has much power to arrest the passage of mineral matters in
solution; so much so, that compost heaps, well supplied with muck, are
less affected by rains than those not so supplied. All composts,
however, should be kept under cover.

4th. Charcoal keeps the compost moist from the ease with which it
absorbs water, and its ability to withstand drought.

[What source of carbon is within the reach of most farmers?

What do we mean by muck?

Of what does it consist?

How does it differ in quality?]

With these advantages before us, we must see the importance of an
understanding of the modes for obtaining charcoal. Many farmers are so
situated that they can obtain sufficient quantities of charcoal dust.
Others have not equal facilities. Nearly all, however, can obtain
_muck_, and to this we will now turn our attention.


[What is the first step in preparing muck for decomposition?

With what proportion of the lime and salt mixture should it be

Why should this compost be made under cover?

What is this called after decomposition?

Why should we not use muck immediately after taking it from the swamp?]

By _muck_, we mean the vegetable deposits of swamps and rivers. It
consists of decayed organic substances, mixed with more or less earth.
Its principal constituent is _carbon_, in different degrees of
development, which has remained after the decomposition of vegetable
matter. Muck varies largely in its quality, according to the amount of
carbon which it contains, and the perfection of its decomposition. The
best muck is usually found in comparatively dry locations, where the
water which once caused the deposit has been removed. Muck which has
been long in this condition, is usually better decomposed than that
which is saturated with water. The muck from swamps, however, may soon
be brought to the best condition. It should be thrown out, if possible,
at least one year before it is required for use (a less time may
suffice, except in very cold climates) and left, in small heaps or
ridges, to the action of the weather, which will assist in pulverizing
it, while, from having its water removed, its decomposition goes on more

After the muck has remained in this condition a sufficient length of
time, it may be removed to the barn-yard and composted with the lime and
salt mixture (described on page 115) in the proportion of one cord of
muck to four bushels of the mixture. This compost ought to be made under
cover, lest the rain leach out the constituents of the mixture, and thus
occasion loss; at the end of a month or more, the muck in the compost
will have been reduced to a fine pulverulent mass, nearly equal to
charcoal dust for application to animal excrement. When in this
condition it is called _prepared_ muck, by which name it will be
designated in the following pages.

Muck should not be used immediately after being taken from the swamp, as
it is then almost always _sour_, and is liable to produce sorrel. Its
_sourness_ is due to _acids_ which it contains, and these must be
rectified by the application of an alkali, or by long exposure to the
weather, before the muck is suitable for use.


[What proportions of lime and salt are required for the
decomposing mixture?

Explain the process of making it.

Why should it be made under cover?]

The lime and salt mixture, used in the decomposition of muck, is made in
the following manner:

RECIPE.--Take _three_ bushels of shell lime, _hot from the kiln_, or as
fresh as possible, and slake it with water in which _one_ bushel of salt
has been dissolved.

Care must be taken to use only so much water as is necessary to dissolve
the salt, as it is difficult to induce the lime to absorb a larger

In dissolving the salt, it is well to hang it in a basket in the upper
part of the water, as the salt water will immediately settle towards the
bottom (being heavier), and allow the freshest water to be nearest to
the salt. In this way, the salt may be all dissolved, and thus make the
brine used to slake the lime. It may be necessary to apply the brine at
intervals of a day or two, and to stir the mass often, as the amount of
water is too great to be readily absorbed.

This mixture should be made under cover, as, if exposed, it would obtain
moisture from rain or dew, which would prevent the use of all the
brine. Another objection to its exposure to the weather is its great
liability to be washed away by rains. It should be at least ten days old
before being used, and would probably be improved by an age of three or
four months, as the chemical changes it undergoes will require some time
to be completed.

[Explain the character of this mixture as represented in the
diagram. (Black board.)]

The character of this mixture may be best described by the following

We have originally--

|                                  |
 Lime-+                        Salt
      |                    consisting of
      |                   +---Chlorine  }   Chloride
      |                   |     and     }      of
      |                   | +-Sodium.   }   Sodium.
      |                   | | --Carbonic acid
      |                   | |        and
      |                   | | --Oxygen in the air.
      +-Chloride of lime.-+ |
                            +-Carbonate of Soda.

The lime unites with the chlorine of the salt and forms _chloride of

The sodium, after being freed from the chlorine, unites with the oxygen
of the air and forms soda, which, combining with the carbonic acid of
the atmosphere, forms carbonate of soda.

Chloride of lime and carbonate of soda are better agents in the
decomposition of muck than pure salt and lime; and, as these compounds
are the result of the mixture, much benefit ensues from the operation.

When _shell_ lime cannot be obtained, Thomaston, or any other very pure
lime, will answer, though care must be taken that it do not contain much


[What effect has lime on muck?

On what does the energy of this effect depend?

Why should a compost of muck and lime be protected from rain?]

Muck may be decomposed by the aid of other materials. _Lime_ is very
efficient, though not as much so as when combined with salt. The action
of lime, when applied to the muck, depends very much on its condition.
Air-slaked lime (carbonate of lime), and hydrate of lime, slaked with
water, have but a limited effect compared with lime freshly burned and
applied in a caustic (or pure) form. When so used, however, the compost
should not be exposed to rains, as this would have a tendency to make
_mortar_ which would harden it.


[Is potash valuable for this use?

From what sources may potash be obtained?

In what proportion should ashes be applied to muck? Sparlings?]

_Potash_ is a very active agent in decomposing vegetable matter, and may
be used with great advantage, especially where an analysis of the soil
which is to be manured shows a deficiency of potash.

_Unleached_ wood ashes are generally the best source from which to
obtain this, and from five to twenty-five bushels of these mixed with
one cord of muck will produce the desired result.[Z]

The sparlings (or refuse) of potash warehouses may often be purchased at
sufficiently low rates to be used for this purpose, and answer an
excellent end. They may be applied at the rate of from twenty to one
hundred pounds to each cord of muck.

       *       *       *       *       *

By any of the foregoing methods, muck may be _prepared_ for use in


[Y] There is, undoubtedly, some of this lime which does not unite with
the chlorine; this, however, is still as valuable as any lime.

[Z] _Leached_ ashes will not supply the place of these, as the leaching
has deprived them of their potash.



[What principles should regulate us in composting?

In what condition is solid dung of value as a fertilizer?

What do we aim to do in composting?]

In composting stable manure in the most economical manner, the
evaporation of the organic parts and the leaching of the ashy (and
other) portions must be avoided, while the condition of the mass is such
as to admit of the perfect decomposition of the manure.

Solid manures in their fresh state are of but very little use to plants.
It is only as they are decomposed, and have their nitrogen turned into
ammonia, and their other ingredients resolved into the condition
required by plants, that they are of much value as fertilizers. We have
seen that, if this decomposition takes place without proper precautions
being made, the most valuable parts of the manure would be lost. Nor
would it be prudent to keep manures from decomposing until they are
applied to the soil, for then they are not immediately ready for use,
and time is lost. By composting, we aim to save every thing while we
prepare the manures for immediate use.


[What is the first consideration for composts?

Describe the arrangement of floor.]

The first consideration in preparing for composting, is to provide
proper shelter. This may be done either by means of a shed or by
arranging a cellar under the stables, or in any other manner that may be
dictated by circumstances. It is no doubt better to have the manure shed
enclosed so as to make it an effectual protection; this however is not
absolutely necessary if the roof project far enough over the compost to
shelter it from the sun's rays and from driving rains.

The importance of some protection of this kind, is evident from what has
already been said, and indeed it is impossible to make an economical use
of manures without it. The trifling cost of building a shed, or
preparing a cellar, is amply repaid in the benefit resulting from their


The _floor_ or foundation on which to build the compost deserves some
consideration. It may be of plank tightly fitted, a hard bed of clay, or
better, a cemented surface. Whatever material is used in its
construction (and stiff clay mixed with water and beaten compactly down
answers an excellent purpose), the floor must have such an inclination
as will cause it to discharge water only at one point. That is, one part
of the edge must be lower than the rest of the floor, which must be so
shaped that water will run towards this point from every part of it;
then--the floor being water-tight--all of the liquids of the compost may
be collected in a


[How should the tank be attached?]

This _tank_ used to collect the liquids of the manure may be made by
sinking a barrel or hogshead (according to the size of the heap) in the
ground at the point where it is required, or in any other convenient

In the tank a pump of cheap construction may be placed, to raise the
liquid to a sufficient height to be conveyed by a trough to the centre
of the heap, and there distributed by means of a perforated board with
raised edges, and long enough to reach across the heap in any direction.
By altering the position of this board, the liquid may be carried evenly
over the whole mass.

The appearance of the apparatus required for composting, and the compost
laid up, may be better shown by the following figure.

[Illustration: Fig. 2.

_a_, tank; _b_, pump; _c_ & _g_, perforated board; _d_, muck; _e_,
manure; _f_, floor.]

[How is the compost made?]

The compost is made by laying on the floor ten or twelve inches of muck,
and on that a few inches of manure, then another heavy layer of muck,
and another of manure, continuing in this manner until the heap is
raised to the required height, always having a thick layer of muck at
the top.

[What liquids are best for moistening the compost?

How should they be applied?

What are the advantages of this moistening?

How does it compare with forking over?]

After laying up the heap, the tank should be filled with liquid manure
from the stables, slops from the house, soap-suds, or other water
containing fertilizing matter, to be pumped over the mass. There should
be enough of the liquid to saturate the heap and filter through to fill
the tank twice a week, at which intervals it should be again pumped up,
thus continually being passed through the manure. This liquid should not
be changed, as it contains much soluble manure. Should the liquid
manures named above not be sufficient, the quantity may be increased by
the use of rain-water. That falling during the first ten minutes of a
shower is the best, as it contains much ammonia.

The effects produced by frequently watering the compost is one of the
greatest advantages of this system.

The soluble portions of the manure are equally diffused through every
part of the heap.

Should the heat of fermentation be too great, the watering will reduce

When the compost is saturated with water, the air is driven out; and, as
the water subsides, _fresh_ air enters and takes its place. This fresh
air contains oxygen, which assists in the decomposition of the manure.

In short, the watering does all the work of forking over by hand much
better and much more cheaply.

[Why will the ammonia of manure thus made, not escape if it be
used as a top dressing?

What are the advantages of preparing manures in this manner?

What is the profit attending it?]

At the end of a month or more, this compost will be ready for use. The
layers in the manure will have disappeared, the whole mass having become
of a uniform character, highly fertilizing, and ready to be immediately
used by plants.

It may be applied to the soil, either as a top-dressing, or otherwise,
without fear of loss, as the muck will retain all of the gases which
would otherwise evaporate.

The cost and trouble of the foregoing system of composting are trifling
compared with its advantages. The quantity of the manure is much
increased, and its quality improved. The health of the animals is
secured by the retention of those gases, which, when allowed to escape,
render impure the air which they have to breathe.

The cleanliness of the stable and yard is much advanced as the effete
matters, which would otherwise litter them, are carefully removed to the

As an instance of the profit of composting, it may be stated that Prof.
Mapes has decomposed ninety-two cords of swamp muck, with four hundred
bushels of the lime and salt mixture, and then composted it with eight
cords of _fresh_ horse dung, making one hundred cords of manure fully
equal to the same amount of stable-manure alone, which has lain one
year exposed to the weather. Indeed one cord of muck well decomposed,
and containing the chlorine lime and soda of four bushels of the
mixture, is of itself equal in value to the same amount of manure which
has lain in an open barn-yard during the heat and rain of one season,
and is then applied to the land in a _raw_ or undecomposed state.

[In what other manners may muck be used in the preservation of

How may liquid manure be made most useful?]

The foregoing system of composting is the best that has yet been
suggested for making use of solid manures. Many other methods may be
adopted when circumstances will not admit of so much attention. It is a
common and excellent practice to throw prepared muck into the cellar
under the stables, to be mixed and turned over with the manure by swine.
In other cases the manures are kept in the yard, and are covered with a
thin layer of muck every morning. The principle which renders these
systems beneficial is the absorbent power of charcoal.


_Liquid manure_ from animals may, also, be made useful by the assistance
of prepared muck. Where a tank is used in composting, the liquids from
the stable may all be employed to supply moisture to the heap; but where
any system is adopted, not requiring liquids, the urine may be applied
to muck heaps, and then allowed to ferment. Fermentation is necessary in
urine as well as in solid dung, before it is very active as a manure.
Urine, as will be recollected, contains nitrogen and forms ammonia on

[Describe the manner of digging out the bottoms of stalls.]

It is a very good plan to dig out the bottoms of the stalls in a
circular or gutter-like form, three or four feet deep in the middle,
cement the ground, or make it nearly water-tight, by a plastering of
stiff clay, and fill them up with prepared muck. The appearance of a
cross section of the floor thus arranged would be as follows:

[Illustration: Fig. 3.]

The prepared muck in the bottom of the stalls would absorb the urine as
soon as voided, while yet warm with the animal heat, and receive heat
from the animal's body while lying down at night. This heat will hasten
the decomposition of the urea,[AA] and if the muck be renewed twice a
month, and that which is removed composted under cover, it will be found
a most prolific source of good manure. In Flanders, the liquid manure of
a cow is considered worth $10 per year, and it is not less valuable
here. As was stated in the early part of this section, the inorganic (or
mineral) matter contained in urine, is soluble, and consequently is
immediately useful as food for plants.

By referring to the analysis of liquid and solid manure, in section V.,
their relative value may be seen.



The manures of different animals are, of course, of different value, as
fertilizers, varying according to the food, the age of the animals, etc.


By stable manure we mean, usually, that of the horse, and that of
horned cattle. The case described in chap. 2 (of this section), was one
where the animal was not increasing in any of its parts, but returned,
in the form of manure, and otherwise, the equivalent of every thing
eaten. This case is one of the most simple kind, and is subject to many

[Is the manure of full-grown animals of the same quality as
that of other animals?

Why does that of the growing animal differ?

Why does not the formation of _fat_ reduce the quality of manure?

What does _milk_ remove from the food?]

The _growing_ animal is increasing in size, and as he derives his
increase from his food, he does not return in the form of manure as much
as he eats. If his bones are growing, he is taking from his food
phosphate of lime and nitrogenous matter; consequently, the manure will
be poorer in these ingredients. The same may be said of the formation of
the muscles, in relation to nitrogen.

The _fatting_ animal, if full grown, makes manure which is as good as
that from animals that are not increasing in size, because the fat is
taken from those parts of the food which is obtained by plants from the
atmosphere, and from nature, (_i. e._ from the 1st class of proximates).
Fat contains no nitrogen, and, consequently, does not lessen the amount
of this ingredient in the manure.

_Milch Cows_ turn a part of their food to the formation of milk, and
consequently, they produce manure of reduced value.

[How do the solid and liquid manure of the horse and ox

What occasions these differences?]

The solid manure of the horse is better than that of the ox, while the
liquid manure of the ox is comparatively better than that of the horse.
The cause of this is that the horse has poorer digestive organs than the
ox, and consequently passes more of the valuable parts of his food, in
an undigested form, as dung, while the ox, from chewing the cud and
having more perfect organs, turns more of his food into urine than the


FULL GROWN animals not     }
  producing milk, and full } make the best manure.
  grown animals fattening  }

GROWING ANIMALS reduce the value of their manure, taking portions of
their food to form their bodies.

MILCH COWS reduce the value of their manure by changing a part of their
food into milk.

THE OX makes poor dung and rich urine.

THE HORSE makes rich dung and poor urine.[AB]


[What is the most valuable manure accessible to the farmer?

What is the probable value of the night soil yearly lost in the United

Of what does the manure of man consist?]

The _best_ manure within the reach of the farmer is _night soil_, or
human excrement. There has always been a false delicacy about mentioning
this fertilizer, which has caused much waste, and great loss of health,
from the impure and offensive odors which it is allowed to send forth to
taint the air.

The value of the night soil yearly lost in the United States is,
probably, about _fifty millions of dollars_ (50,000,000); an amount
nearly equal to the entire expenses of our National Government. Much of
the ill health of our people is undoubtedly occasioned by neglecting the
proper treatment of night soil.

[Describe this manure as compared with the excrements of other

Does the use of night soil produce disagreeable properties in plants?]

That which directly affects agriculture, as treated of in this book, is
the value of this substance as a fertilizer. The manure of man consists
(as is the case with that of other animals) of those parts of his food
which are not retained in the increase of his body. If he be _growing_,
his manure is poorer, as in the case of the ox, and it is subject to all
the other modifications named in the early part of this chapter. His
food is usually of a varied character, and is rich in nitrogen, the
phosphates, and other inorganic constituents; consequently, his manure
is made valuable by containing large quantities of these matters. As is
the case with the ox, the _dung_ contains the undigested food, the
secretions (or leakings) of the digestive organs, and the insoluble
parts of the ash of the digested food. The _urine_, in like manner,
contains a large proportion of the nitrogen and the soluble inorganic
parts of the digested food. When we consider how much richer the _food_
of man is than that of horned cattle, we shall see the superior value of
his _excrement_.

Night soil has been used as a manure, for ages, in China, which is,
undoubtedly, one great secret of their success in supporting a dense
population, for so long a time, without impoverishing the soil. It has
been found, in many instances, to increase the productive power of the
natural soil three-fold. That is, if a soil would produce ten bushels of
wheat per acre, without manure, it would produce thirty bushels if
manured with night soil.

Some have supposed that manuring with night soil would give disagreeable
properties to plants: such is not the case; their quality is invariably
improved. The color and odor of the rose become richer and more delicate
by the use of the most offensive night soil as manure.

[What is the direct object of plants?

What would result if this were not the case?

How may night soil be easily prepared for use, and its offensive odor

It is evident that this is the case from the fact that plants have it
for their direct object to make over and put together the refuse organic
matter, and the gases and the minerals found in nature, for the use of
animals. If there were no natural means of rendering the excrement of
animals available to plants, the earth must soon be shorn of its
fertility, as the elements of growth when once consumed would be
essentially destroyed, and no soil could survive the exhaustion. There
is no reason why the manure of man should be rejected by vegetation more
than that of any other animal; and indeed it is not, for ample
experience has proved that for most soils there is no better manure in

A single experiment will suffice to show that night soil may be so kept
that there shall be no loss of its valuable gases, and consequently no
offensive odor arising from it, while it may be removed and applied to
crops without unpleasantness. All that is necessary to effect this
wonderful change in night soil, and to turn it from its disagreeable
character to one entirely inoffensive, is to mix with it a little
charcoal dust, prepared muck, or any other good absorbent--thus making
what is called poudrette. The mode of doing this must depend on
circumstances. In many cases, it would be expedient to keep a barrel of
the absorbent in the privy and throw down a small quantity every day.
The effect on the odor of the house would amply repay the trouble.

[Should pure night soil be used as a manure?

What precaution is necessary in preparing hog manure for use?]

The manure thus made is of the most valuable character, and may be used
under any circumstances with a certainty of obtaining a good crop. It
should not be used unmixed with some absorbent, as it is of such
strength as to kill plants.

For an analysis of human manure, see Section V.


_Hog Manure_ is very valuable, but it must be used with care. It is so
violent in its action that, when applied in a pure form to crops, it
often produces injurious results. It is liable to make cabbages
_clump-footed_, and to induce a disease in turnips called _ambury_ (or
fingers and toes). The only precaution necessary is to supply the stye
with prepared muck, charcoal-dust, leaf-mould, or any absorbent in
plentiful quantities, often adding fresh supplies. The hogs will work
this over with the manure; and, when required for use, it will be found
an excellent fertilizer. The absorbent will have overcome its injurious
tendency, and it may be safely applied to any crop. From the variety and
rich character of the food of this animal, his manure is of a superior

[Why is the manure from butchers' hog-pens very valuable?

How does the value of poultry manure compare with that of guano?

How may it be protected against loss?]

_Butchers' hog-pen manure_ is one of the best fertilizers known. It is
made by animals that live almost entirely on blood and other animal
refuse, and is very rich in nitrogen and the phosphates. It should be
mixed with prepared muck, or its substitute, to prevent the loss of its
ammonia, and as a protection against its injurious effect on plants.


Next in value to night soil, among domestic manures, are the excrements
of poultry, pigeons, etc. Birds live on the nice bits of creation,
seeds, insects, etc., and they discharge their solid and liquid
excrements together. Poultry-dung is nearly equal in value to guano
(except that it contains more water), and it deserves to be carefully
preserved and judiciously used. It is as well worth twenty-five cents
per bushel as guano is worth fifty dollars a ton (at which price it is
now sold).

Poultry-manure is liable to as much injury from evaporation and leaching
as is any other manure, and equal care should be taken (by the same
means) to prevent such loss. Good shelter over the roosts, and daily
sprinkling with prepared muck or charcoal-dust will be amply repaid by
the increased value of the manure, and its better action and greater
durability in the soil. The value of this manure should be taken into
consideration in calculating the profit of keeping poultry (as indeed
with all other stock). It has been observed by a gentleman of much
experience, in poultry raising, that the yearly manure of a hundred
fowls applied to previously unmanured land would produce _extra_ corn
enough to keep them for a year. This is probably a large estimate, but
it serves to show that this fertilizer is very valuable, and also that
poultry may be kept with great profit, if their excrements are properly

The manure of pigeons has been a favorite fertilizer in some countries
for more than 2000 years.

Market gardeners attach much value to rabbit-manure.


[What can you say of the manure of sheep?]

The manure of sheep is less valuable than it would be, if so large a
quantity of the nitrogen and mineral parts of the food were not employed
in the formation of wool. This has a great effect on the richness of the
excrements, but they are still a very good fertilizer, and should be
protected from loss in the same way as stable manure.


[Should the use of guano induce us to disregard other manures?

Where and in what manner is the best guano deposited?]

_Guano_ as a manure has become world renowned. The worn-out tobacco
lands of Virginia, and other fields in many parts of the country, which
seemed to have yielded to the effect of an ignorant course of
cultivation, and to have sunk to their final repose, have in many cases
been revived to the production of excellent crops, and have had their
value multiplied many fold by the use of guano. Although an excellent
manure, it should not cause us to lose sight of those valuable materials
which exist on almost every farm. Every ton of guano imported into the
United States is an addition to our national wealth, but every ton of
stable-manure, or poultry-dung, or night soil evaporated or carried away
in rivers, is equally a _deduction_ from our riches. If the imported
manure is to really benefit us, we must not allow it to occasion the
neglect and consequent loss of our domestic fertilizers.

The Peruvian guano (which is considered the best) is brought from
islands near the coast of Peru. The birds which frequent these islands
live almost entirely on fish, and drop their excrements here in a
climate where rain is almost unknown, and where, from the dryness of the
air, there is but little loss sustained by the manure. It is brought to
this country in large quantities, and is an excellent fertilizer,
superior even to night soil.

[How should it be prepared for use?]

It should be mixed with an absorbent before being used, unless it is
plowed deeply under the soil, as it contains much ammonia which would be
lost from evaporation. It would probably also injure plants. The best
way to use guano, is in connection with sulphuric acid and bones, as
will be described hereafter.

The composition of the various kinds of guano may be found in the
section on analysis.


[AA] The nitrogenous compound in the urine.

[AB] Comparatively.



The number of organic manures is almost countless. The most common of
these have been described in the previous chapters on the excrements of
animals. The more prominent of the remaining ones will now be
considered. As a universal rule, it may be stated that all organic
matter (every thing which has had vegetable or animal life) is capable
of fertilizing plants.


[What are the chief fertilizing constituents of dead animals?

What becomes of these when exposed to the atmosphere?

How may this be prevented?]

The bodies of animals contain much _nitrogen_, as well as valuable
quantities, the phosphates and other inorganic materials required in the
growth of plants. On their decay, the nitrogen is resolved into
_ammonia_,[AC] and the mineral matters become valuable as food for the
inorganic parts of plants.

If the decomposition of animal bodies takes place in exposed situations,
and without proper precautions, the ammonia escapes into the atmosphere,
and much of the mineral portion is leached out by rains. The use of
absorbents, such as charcoal-dust, prepared muck, etc., will entirely
prevent evaporation, and will in a great measure serve as a protection
against leaching.

If a dead horse be cut in pieces and mixed with ten loads of muck, the
whole mass will, in a single season, become a most valuable compost.
Small animals, such as dogs, cats, etc., may be with advantage buried by
the roots of grape-vines or trees.


[Of what do the bones of animals consist?

What is gelatine?

Describe the fertilizing qualities of fish.]

The _bones_ of animals contain phosphate of lime and gelatine. The
gelatine is a nitrogenous substance, and produces ammonia on its
decomposition. This subject will be spoken of more fully under the head
of 'phosphate of lime' in the chapter on mineral manures, as the
treatment of bones is more directly with reference to the fertilizing
value of their inorganic matter.


In many localities near the sea-shore large quantities of fish are
caught and applied to the soil. These make excellent manure. They
contain much nitrogen, which renders them strongly ammoniacal on
decomposition. Their bones consist of phosphate and carbonate of lime;
and, being naturally soft, they decompose in the soil with great
facility, and become available to plants. The scales of fish contain
valuable quantities of nitrogen, phosphate of lime, etc., all of which
are highly useful.

Refuse fishy matters from markets and from the house are well worth
saving. These and fish caught for manure may be made into compost with
prepared muck, etc.; and, as they putrefy rapidly, they soon become
ready for use. They may be added to the compost of stable manure with
great advantage.

[Should these be applied as a top dressing to the soil?

What are the fertilizing properties of woollen rags?

What is the best way to use them?]

Fish (like all other nitrogenous manures) should never be applied as a
top dressing, unless previously mixed with a good absorbent of ammonia,
but should when used alone be immediately plowed under to considerable
depth, to prevent the evaporation--and consequent loss--of their
fertilizing gases.


_Woollen rags, hair, waste of woollen factories_, etc., contain both
nitrogen and phosphate of lime; and, like all other matters containing
these ingredients, are excellent manures, but must be used in such a way
as to prevent the escape of their fertilizing gases. They decompose
slowly, and are therefore considered a _lasting_ manure. Like all
_lasting_ manures, however, they are _slow_ in their effects, and the
most advantageous way to use them is to compost them with stable manure,
or with some other rapidly fermenting substance, which will hasten their
decomposition and render them sooner available.

Rags, hair, etc., thus treated, will in a short time be reduced to such
a condition that they may be immediately used by plants instead of lying
in the soil to be slowly taken up. It is better in all cases to have
manures act _quickly_ and give an immediate return for their cost, than
to lie for a long time in the soil before their influence is felt.

[What is their value compared with that of farm-yard manure?

How should old leather be treated?

Describe the manurial properties of tanners' refuse.

How should they be treated?

Are horn piths, etc. valuable?]

A pound of woollen rags is worth, as a manure, twice as much as is paid
for good linen shreds for paper making; still, while the latter are
always preserved, the former are thrown away, although considered by
good judges to be worth forty times as much as barn-yard manure.

Old leather should not be thrown away. It decomposes very slowly, and
consequently is of but a little value; but, if put at the roots of young
trees, it will in time produce appreciable effects.

_Tanners' and curriers' refuse_, and all other animal offal, including
that of the slaughter-house, is well worth attention, as it contains
more or less of those two most important ingredients of manures,
nitrogen and phosphate of lime.

It is unnecessary to add that, in common with all other animal manures,
these substances must be either composted, or immediately plowed under
the soil. Horn piths, and horn shavings, if decomposed in compost, with
substances which ferment rapidly, make very good manure, and are worth
fully the price charged for them.


_Muck_, the most important of the purely vegetable manures, has been
already sufficiently described. It should be particularly borne in mind
that, when first taken from the swamp it is often _sour_, or _cold_, but
that if exposed for a long time to the air, or if well treated with
lime, unleached ashes, the lime and salt mixture, or any other alkali,
its acids will be _neutralized_ (or overcome), and it becomes a good
application to any soil, except peat or other soils already containing
large quantities of organic matter. In applying muck to the soil (as has
been before stated), it should be made a vehicle for carrying ammoniacal


[Why is decomposed bark more fertilizing than that of decayed

_Spent tan bark_, if previously decomposed by the use of the lime and
salt mixture, or potash, answers all the purposes of prepared muck, but
is more difficult of decomposition.

[How may bark be decomposed?

Why should tan bark be composted with an alkali?

Why is it good for mulching?

Is sawdust of any value?]

The bark of trees contains a larger proportion of inorganic matter than
the wood, and much of this, on the decomposition of the bark, becomes
available as manure. The chemical effect on the bark, of using it in
the tanning of leather, is such as to render it difficult to be rotted
by the ordinary means, but, by the use of the lime and salt mixture it
may be reduced to the finest condition, and becomes a most excellent
manure. It probably contains small quantities of nitrogen (obtained from
the leather), which adds to its value. Unless tan bark be composted with
lime, or some other alkali, it may produce injurious effects from the
_tannic acid_ which it is liable to contain. Alkaline substances will
neutralize this acid, and prevent it from being injurious.

One great benefit resulting from the use of spent tan bark, is due to
its power of absorbing moisture from the atmosphere. For this reason it
is very valuable for _mulching_[AD] young trees and plants when first
set out.


[Why is sawdust a good addition to the pig-stye?

What is the peculiarity of sawdust from the beech, etc.?

What is a peculiarity of soot?

Why may soot be used as a top dressing without losing its ammonia?]

_Sawdust_ in its natural state is of very little value to the land, but
when decomposed, as may be done by the same method as was described for
tan bark, it is of some importance, as it contains a large quantity of
carbon. Its ash, too, which becomes available, contains soluble
inorganic matter, and in this way it acts as a direct manure. So far as
concerns the value of the ash, however, the bark is superior to sawdust.
Sawdust may be partially rotted by mixing it with strong manure (as hog
manure), while it acts as a _divisor_, and prevents the too rapid action
of this when applied to the soil. Some kinds of sawdust, such as that
from beech wood, form acetic acid on their decomposition, and these
should be treated with, at least, a sufficient quantity of lime to
correct the acid.

_Soot_ is a good manure. It contains much carbon, and has, thus far, all
of the beneficial effects of charcoal dust. The sulphur, which is one of
its constituents, not only serves as food for plants, but, from its
odor, is a good protection against some insects. By throwing a handful
of soot on a melon vine, or young cabbage plant, it will keep away many

Soot contains some ammonia, and as this is in the form of a _sulphate_,
it is not volatile, and consequently does not evaporate when the soot is
applied as a top dressing, which is the almost universal custom.


[What plants are most used as green crops?

What office is performed by the roots of green crops?

How do such manures increase the organic matter of soils?]

_Green crops_, to plow under, are in many places largely raised, and are
always beneficial. The plants most used for this purpose, in our
country, are clover, buckwheat, and peas. These plants have very long
roots, which they send deep in the soil, to draw up mineral matter for
their support. This mineral matter is deposited in the plant. The leaves
and roots receive carbonic acid and ammonia from the air, and from
water. In this manner they obtain their carbon. When the crop is turned
under the soil, it decomposes, and the carbon, as well as the mineral
ingredients obtained from the subsoil, are deposited in the surface
soil, and become of use to succeeding crops. The hollow stalks of the
buckwheat and pea, serve as tubes, in the soil, for the passage of air,
and thus, in heavy soils, give a much needed circulation of atmospheric

[What office is performed by the straw of the buckwheat and

What treatment may be substituted for the use of green crops?

Which course should be adopted in high farming?

Why is the use of green crops preferable in ordinary cultivation?

Name some other valuable manures.]

Although green crops are of great benefit, and are managed with little
labor, there is no doubt but the same results may be more economically
produced. A few loads of prepared muck will do more towards increasing
the organic matter in the soil, than a very heavy crop of clover, while
it would be ready for immediate cultivation, instead of having to lie
idle during the year required in the production and decomposition of
the green crop. The effect of the roots penetrating the subsoil is, as
we have seen, to draw up inorganic matter, to be deposited within reach
of the roots of future crops. In the next section we shall show that
this end may be much more efficiently attained by the use of the
sub-soil plow, which makes a passage for the roots into the subsoil,
where they can obtain for themselves what would, in the other case, be
brought up for them by the roots of the green crop.

The offices of the hollow straws may be performed by a system of ridging
and back furrowing, having previously covered the soil with leaves, or
other refuse organic material.

In _high farming_, where the object of the cultivator is to make a
profitable investment of labor, these last named methods will be found
most expedient; but, if the farmer have a large quantity of land, and
can afford but a limited amount of labor, the raising of green crops, to
be plowed under in the fall, will probably be adopted.

Before closing this chapter, it may be well to remark that there are
various other fertilizers, such as the _ammoniacal liquor of
gas-houses_, _soapers' wastes_, _bleachers' lye_, _lees of old oil
casks, etc._, which we have not space to consider at length, but which
are all valuable as additions to the compost heap, or as applications,
in a liquid form, to the soil.

[What are the advantages arising from burying manure in its
green state?

Which is generally preferable, this course, or composting? Why?]

In many cases (when heavy manuring is practised), it may be well to
apply organic manures to the soil in a green state, turn them under, and
allow them to undergo decomposition in the ground. The advantages of
this system are, that the _heat_, resulting from the chemical changes,
will hasten the growth of plants, by making the soil warmer; the
carbonic acid formed will be presented to the roots instead of escaping
into the atmosphere; and if the soil be heavy, the rising of the gases
will tend to loosen it, and the leaving vacant of the spaces occupied by
the solid matters will, on their being resolved into gases, render the
soil of a more porous character. As a general rule, however, in ordinary
farming, where the amount of manure applied is only sufficient for the
supply of food to the crop, it is undoubtedly better to have it
previously decomposed--_cooked_ as it were, for the uses of the
plants--as they can then obtain the required amount of nutriment as fast
as needed.


It is often convenient to know the relative power of different manures
to absorb moisture from the atmosphere, especially when we wish to
manure lands that suffer from drought. The following results are given
by C. W. Johnson, in his essay on salt, (pp. 8 and 19). In these
experiments the animal manures were employed without any admixture of

1000 parts of horse dung, dried in a temperature
           of 100°, absorbed by exposure
           for three hours, to air saturated
           with moisture, of the temperature of
           62°                                         145
1000 parts of cow dung, under the same circumstances,
           absorbed                                    130
1000 parts pig dung                                    120
1000   "   sheep  "                                     81
1000   "   pigeon "                                     50
1000   "   rich alluvial soil                           14
1000   "   fresh tanner's bark                         115
1000   "   putrified   "                               145
1000   "   refuse marine salt sold as manure            49½
1000   "   soot                                         36
1000   "   burnt clay                                   29
1000   "   coal ashes                                   14
1000   "   lime                                         11
1000   "   sediment from salt pans                      10
1000   "   crushed rock salt                            10
1000   "   gypsum                                        9
1000   "   salt                                          4[AE]

Muck is a most excellent absorbent of moisture, when thoroughly


The following table from Johnson, on manures, will be found convenient
in the distribution of manures.

By its assistance the farmer will know how many loads of manure he
requires, dividing each load into a stated number of heaps, and placing
them at certain distances. In this manner manure may be applied evenly,
and calculation may be made as to the amount, per acre, which a certain
quantity will supply.[AF]

OF        |
          |  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  |  7  |  8  | 9   | 10
3 yards.  | 538 | 269 | 179 | 134 | 108 |  89½|  77 |  67 |  60 |  54
3½ do.    | 395 | 168 | 132 |  99 |  79 |  66 |  56½|  49½|  44 |  39½
4  do.    | 303 | 151 | 101 |  75½|  60½|  50½|  43¼|  37¾|  33½|  30¼
4½ do.    | 239 | 120 |  79½|  60 |  47¾|  39¾|  34¼|  30 |  26½|  24
5  do.    | 194 |  97 |  64½|  48½|  38¾|  32¼|  27¾|  24¼|  21½|  19¼
5½ do.    | 160 |  80 |  53½|  40 |  32 |  26¾|  22¾|  20 |  17¾|  16
6  do.    | 131 |  67 |  44¾|  33½|  27 |  22½|  19¼|  16¾|  15 |  13½
6½ do.    | 115 |  57½|  38¼|  28¾|  23 |  19 |  16¼|  14¼|  12¾|  11½
7  do.    |  99 |  49½|  33 |  24¾|  19¾|  16½|  14 |  12¼|  11 |  10
7½ do.    |  86 |  43 |  28¾|  21½|  17¼|  14¼|  12¼|  10¾|   9½|   8½
8  do.    |  75½|  37¾|  25¼|  19 |  15¾|  12½|  10¾|   9½|   8½|   7½
8½ do.    |  67 |  33½|  22¼|  16¾|  13½|  11¼|   9½|   8½|   7½|   6¾
9  do.    |  60 |  30 |  20 |  15 |  12 |  10 |   8½|   7¾|   6¾|   6
9½ do.    |  53½|  26¾|  18 |  13½|  10¾|   9 |   7¾|   6¾|   6 |   5¼
10 do.    |  48½|  24¼|  16¼|  12 |   9¾|   8 |   7 |   6 |   5½|   4¾

_Example 1._--Required, the number of loads necessary to manure an acre
of ground, dividing each load into six heaps, and placing them at a
distance of 4½ yards from each other? The answer by the table is 39¾.

_Example 2._--A farmer has a field containing 5½ acres, over which he
wishes to spread 82 loads of dung. Now 82 divided by 5½, gives 15 loads
per acre; and by referring to the table, it will be seen that the
desired object may be accomplished, by making 4 heaps of a load, and
placing them 9 yards apart, or by 9 heaps at 6 yards, as may be thought


[AC] Under some circumstances, _nitric acid_ is formed, which is equally
beneficial to vegetable growth.

[AD] See the glossary at the end of the book.

[AE] Working Farmer, vol. 1, p. 55.

[AF] It is not necessary that this and the foregoing table should be
learned by the scholar, but they will be found valuable for reference by
the farmer.



[How many kinds of action have inorganic manures?

What is the first of these? The second? Third? Fourth?

Do all mineral manures possess all of these qualities?]

The second class of manures named in the general division of the
subject, in the early part of this chapter, comprises those of a mineral
character, or _inorganic_ manures.

These manures have four kinds of action when applied to the soil.

1st. They furnish food for the inorganic part of plants.

2d. They prepare matters already in the soil, for assimilation by roots.

3d. They improve the mechanical condition of the soil.

4th. They absorb ammonia.

Some of the mineral manures produce in the soil only one of these
effects, and others are efficient in two or all of them.

The principles to be considered in the use of mineral manures are
essentially given in the first two sections of this book. It may be
well, however, to repeat them briefly in this connection, and to give
the _reasons_ why any of these manures are needed, from which we may
learn what rules are to be observed in their application.

[Relate what you know of the properties of vegetable ashes?

How does this relate to the fertility of the soil?

According to what two rules may we apply mineral manures?

What course would you pursue to raise potatoes on a soil containing a
very little phosphoric acid and no potash?]

1st. Those which are used as food by plants. It will be recollected that
the _ash_ left after burning plants, and which formed a part of their
structures, has a certain chemical composition; that is, it consists of
alkalies, acids, and neutrals. It was also stated that the ashes of
plants of the same kind are always of about the same composition, while
the ashes of different kinds of plants may vary materially. Different
parts of the same plant too, as we learned, are supplied with different
kinds of ash.

For instance, _clover_, on being burned, leaves an ash containing
_lime_, as one of its principal ingredients, while the ash of _potatoes_
contains more of _potash_ than of any thing else.

In the second section (on soils), we learned that some soils contain
every thing necessary to make the ashes of all plants, and in sufficient
quantity to supply what is required, while other soils are either
entirely deficient in one or more ingredients, or contain so little of
them that they are unfertile for certain plants.

[Would you manure it in the same way for wheat?


From this, we see that we may pursue either one of two courses. After we
know the exact composition of the soil--which we can learn only from
correct analysis--we may manure it with a view either to making it
fertile for all kinds of plants or only for one particular plant. For
instance, we may find that a soil contains a very little phosphoric
acid, and no potash. If we wish to raise potatoes on such a soil, we
have only to apply potash (if the soil is good in other particulars),
which is largely required by this plant, though it needs but little
phosphoric acid; while, if we wish to make it fertile for wheat, and all
other plants, we must apply more phosphoric acid as well as potash. As a
universal rule, it may be stated that to render a soil fertile for any
particular plant, we must supply it (unless it already contains them)
with those matters which are necessary to _make_ the ash of that plant;
and, if we would render it capable of producing _all_ kinds of plants,
it must be furnished with the materials required in the formation of
_all kinds of vegetable ashes_.

It is not absolutely necessary to have the soil analyzed before it can
be cultivated with success, but it is the _cheapest_ way.

[How is the fertility of the soil to be maintained, if the
crops are _sold_?

What rule is given for general treatment?

Give an instance of matters in the soil that are to be rendered
available by mineral manures?]

We might proceed from an analysis of the plant required (which will be
found in Section V.), and apply to the soil in the form of manure every
thing that is necessary for the formation of the ash of that plant. This
would give a good crop on _any_ soil that was in the proper _mechanical_
condition, and contained enough organic matter; but a moment's
reflection will show that, if the soil contained a large amount of
potash, or of phosphate of lime, it would not be necessary to make an
application of more of these ingredients--at an expense of perhaps three
times the cost of an analysis. It is true that, if the crop is _sold_,
and it is desired to maintain the fertility of the soil, the full amount
of the ash must be applied, either before or after the crop is grown;
but, in the ordinary use of crops for feeding purposes, a large part of
the ash will exist in the excrements of the animals; so that the
judicious farmer will be able to manure his land with more economy than
if he had to apply to each crop the whole amount and variety required
for its ash. The best rule for practical manuring is probably to
_strengthen the soil in its weaker points, and prevent the stronger ones
from becoming weaker_. In this way, the soil may be raised to the
highest state of fertility, and be fully maintained in its productive

2d. Those manures which render available matter already contained in the

[How may silica be developed?

How does lime affect soils containing coarse particles?

How do mineral manures sometimes improve the mechanical texture of the

Silica (or sand), it will be recollected, exists in all soils; but, in
its pure state, is not capable of being dissolved, and therefore cannot
be used by plants. The alkalies (as has been stated), have the power of
combining with this silica, making compounds, which are called
_silicates_. These are readily dissolved by water, and are available in
vegetable growth. Now, if a soil is deficient in these soluble
silicates, it is well known that grain, etc., grown on it, not being
able to obtain the material which gives them strength, will fall down or
_lodge_; but, if such measures be taken, as will render the sand
soluble, the straw will be strong and healthy. Alkalies used for this
purpose, come under the head of those manures which develope the natural
resources of the soil.

Again, much of the mineral matter in the soil is combined within
particles, and is therefore out of the reach of roots. Lime, among other
thing, has the effect of causing these particles to crumble and expose
their constituents to the demand of roots. Therefore, lime has for one
of its offices the development of the fertilizing ingredients of the

3d. Those manures which improve the mechanical condition of the soil.

The alkalies, in combining with sand, commence their action on the
surfaces of the particles, and roughen them--_rust_ them as it were.
This roughening of particles of the soil prevents them from moving among
each other as easily as they do when they are smooth, and thus keeps the
soil from being compacted by heavy rains, as it is liable to be in its
natural condition. In this way, the mechanical texture of the soil is

It has just been said that _lime_ causes the pulverization of the
particles of the soil; and thus, by making it finer, improves its
mechanical condition.

Some mineral manures, as plaster and salt, have the power of absorbing
moisture from the atmosphere; and this is a mechanical improvement to
dry soils.

[Name some mineral manures which absorb ammonia?]

4th. Those mineral manures which have the power of absorbing ammonia.

_Plaster_, _chloride of lime_, _alumina_ (_clay_), etc., are large
absorbents of ammonia, whether arising from the fermentation of animal
manures or washed down from the atmosphere by rains. The ammonia thus
absorbed is of course very important in the vegetation of crops.

Having now explained the reasons why mineral manures are necessary, and
the manner in which they produce their effects, we will proceed to
examine the various deficiencies of soils and the character of many
kinds of this class of fertilizers.



As will be seen by referring to the analyses of soils on p. 72, they
may be deficient in certain ingredients, which it is the object of
mineral manures to supply. These we will take up in order, and endeavor
to show in a simple manner the best means of managing them in practical



[Do all soils contain a sufficient amount of potash?

How may its deficiency have been caused?

How may its absence be detected?

Does barn-yard manure contain sufficient potash to supply its deficiency
in worn-out soils?]

_Potash_ is often deficient in the soil. Its deficiency may have been
caused in two ways. Either it may not have existed largely in the rock
from which the soil was formed, and consequently is equally absent from
the soil itself, or it may have once been present in sufficient
quantities, and been carried away in crops, without being returned to
the soil in the form of manure until too little remains for the
requirements of fertility.

In either case, its absence may be accurately detected by a skilful
chemist, and it may be supplied by the farmer in various ways. Potash,
as well as all of the other mineral manures, is contained in the
excrements of animals, but not (as is also the case with the others) in
sufficient quantities to restore the proper balance to soils where it is
largely deficient, nor even to make up for what is yearly removed with
each crop, except that crop (or its equivalent) has been fed to such
animals as return _all_ of the fertilizing constituents of their food in
the form of manure, and this be all carefully preserved and applied to
the soil. In all other cases, it is necessary to apply more potash than
is contained in the excrements of animals.

[What is generally the most available source from which to
obtain this alkali?

Will leached ashes answer the same purpose?

How may ashes be used?]

_Unleached wood ashes_ is generally the most available source from which
to obtain this alkali. The ashes of all kinds of wood contain potash
(more or less according to the kind--see analysis section V.) If the
ashes are _leached_, the potash is removed; and, hence for the purpose
of supplying it, they are worthless; but _unleached_ ashes are an
excellent source from which to obtain it. They may be made into compost
with muck, as directed in a previous chapter, or applied directly to the
soil. In either case the potash is available directly to the plant, or
is capable of uniting with the silica in the soil to form silicate of
potash. Neither potash nor any other alkali should ever be applied to
animal manures unless in compost with an absorbent, as they cause the
ammonia to be thrown off and lost.

[From what other sources may potash be obtained?

How may we obtain soda?

In what quantities should pure salt be applied to the soil?]

_Potash sparlings_, or the refuse of potash warehouses, is an excellent
manure for lands deficient in this constituent.

_Potash marl_, such as is found in New Jersey, contains a large
proportion of potash, and is an excellent application to soils requiring

_Feldspar_, _kaolin_, and other minerals containing potash, are, in some
localities, to be obtained in sufficient quantities to be used for
manurial purposes.

_Granite_ contains potash, and if it can be crushed (as is the case with
some of the softer kinds,) it serves a very good purpose.


[If applied in large quantities will it produce permanent

In what quantities should salt be applied to composts? To asparagus?]

_Soda_, the requirement of which is occasioned by the same causes as
create a deficiency of potash, and all of the other ingredients of
vegetable ashes, may be very readily supplied by the use of _common
salt_ (chloride of sodium), which consists of about one half sodium (the
base of soda). The best way to use salt is in the lime and salt mixture,
previously described, or as a direct application to the soil. If too
much salt be given to the soil it will kill any plant. In small
quantities, however, it is highly beneficial, and if _six bushels per
acre_ be sown broadcast over the land, to be carried in by rains and
dews, it will not only destroy many insects (grubs, worms, etc.), but
will, after decomposing and becoming chlorine and soda, prove an
excellent manure. Salt, even in quantities large enough to denude the
soil of all vegetation, is never _permanently_ injurious. After the
first year, it becomes resolved into its constituents, and furnishes
chlorine and soda to plants, without injuring them. One bushel of salt
in each cord of compost will not only hasten the decomposition of the
manures, but will kill all seeds and grubs--a very desirable effect.
While small quantities of salt in a compost heap are beneficial, too
much (as when applied to the soil) is positively injurious, as it
arrests decomposition; fairly _pickles_ the manures, and prevents them
from rotting.

[What is generally the best way to use salt?

What is nitrate of soda?

What plants contain lime?]

For _asparagus_, which is a marine plant, salt is an excellent manure,
and may be applied in almost unlimited quantities, _while the plants are
growing_, if used after they have gone to top, it is injurious. Salt has
been applied to asparagus beds in such quantities as to completely cover
them, and with apparent benefit to the plants. Of course large doses of
salt kill all weeds, and thus save labor and the injury to the asparagus
roots, which would result from their removal by hoeing. Salt may be used
advantageously in any of the foregoing manners, but should always be
applied with care. For ordinary farm purposes, it is undoubtedly most
profitable to use the salt with lime, and make it perform the double
duty of assisting in the decomposition of vegetable matter, and
fertilizing the soil.

Soda unites with the silica in the soil, and forms the valuable
_silicate of soda_.

_Nitrate of soda_, or cubical nitre, which is found in South America,
consists of soda and nitric acid. It furnishes both soda and nitrogen to
plants, and is an excellent manure.


The subject of _lime_ is one of most vital importance to the farmer;
indeed, so varied are its modes of action and its effects, that some
writers have given it credit for every thing good in the way of farming,
and have gone so far as to say that _all_ permanent improvement of
agriculture must depend on the use of lime. Although this is far in
excess of the truth (as lime cannot plow, nor drain, nor supply any
thing but _lime_ to the soil), its many beneficial effects demand for it
the closest attention.

[Do all soils contain enough lime for the use of plants?

What amount is needed for this purpose?

What is its first-named effect on the soil?

Its second? Third? Fourth? Fifth?

How are acids produced in the soil?]

As food for plants, lime is of considerable importance. All plants
contain lime--some of them in large quantities. It is an important
constituent of straw, meadow hay, leaves of fruit trees, peas, beans,
and turnips. It constitutes more than one third of the ash of red
clover. Many soils contain lime enough for the use of plants, in others
it is deficient, and must be supplied artificially before they can
produce good crops of those plants of which lime is an important
ingredient. The only way in which the exact quantity of lime in the soil
can be ascertained is by chemical analysis. However, the amount required
for the mere feeding plants is not large, (much less than one per
cent.), but lime is often necessary for other purposes; and setting
aside, for the present, its feeding action, we will examine its various
effects on the mechanical and chemical condition of the soil.

1. It corrects acidity (sourness).

2. It hastens the decomposition of the organic matter in the soil.

3. It causes the mineral particles of the soil to crumble.

4. By producing the above effects, it prepares the constituents of the
soil for assimilation by plants.

5. It is _said_ to exhaust the soil, but it does so in a very desirable
manner, the injurious effects of which may be easily avoided.

[How does lime correct them?

How does it affect animal manures in the soil?]

1. The decomposition of organic matter in the soil, often produces
acids which makes the land _sour_, and cause it to produce sorrel and
other weeds, which interfere with the healthy growth of crops. Lime is
an _alkali_, and if applied to soils suffering from sourness, it will
unite with the acids, and neutralize them, so that they will no longer
be injurious.

2. We have before stated that lime is a decomposing agent, and hastens
the rotting of muck and other organic matter. It has the same effect on
the organic parts of the soil, and causes them to be resolved into the
gases and minerals of which they are formed. It has this effect,
especially, on organic matters containing _nitrogen_, causing them to
throw off ammonia; consequently, it liberates this gas from the animal
manures in the soil.

3. Various inorganic compounds in the soil are so affected by lime, that
they lose their power of holding together, and crumble, or are reduced
to finer particles, while some of their constituents are rendered
soluble. One way in which this is accomplished is by the action of the
lime on the silica contained in these compounds, forming the silicate of
lime. This crumbling effect improves the mechanical as well as the
chemical condition of the soil.

4. We are now enabled to see how lime prepares the constituents of the
soil for the use of plants.

[Inorganic compounds?

How does lime prepare the constituents of the soil for use?

What can you say of the remark that lime exhausts the organic matter in
the soil?]

By its action on the roots, buried stubble, and other organic matter in
the soil, it causes them to be decomposed, and to give up many of their
gaseous and inorganic constituents for the use of roots. In this manner
the organic matter is prepared for use more rapidly than would be the
case, if there were no lime present to hasten its decomposition.

By the decomposing action of lime on the mineral parts of the soil (3),
they also are placed more rapidly in a useful condition than would be
the case, if their preparation depended on the slow action of
atmospheric influences.

Thus, we see that lime, aside from its use directly as food for plants,
exerts a beneficial influence on both the organic and inorganic parts of
the soil.

5. Many contend that lime _exhausts_ the soil.

If we examine the manner in which it does so, we shall see that this is
no argument against its use.

[How can lime exhaust the mineral parts of the soil?

Must the matter taken away be returned to the soil?]

It exhausts the organic parts of the soil, by decomposing them, and
resolving them into the gases and minerals of which they are composed.
If the soil do not contain a sufficient quantity of absorbent matter,
such as clay or charcoal, the gases arising from the organic matter are
liable to escape; but when there is a sufficient amount of these
substances present (as there always should be), these gases are all
retained until required by the roots of plants. Hence, although the
organic matter of manure and vegetable substances may be _altered in
form_, by the use of lime, it can escape (except in very poor soils)
only as it is taken up by roots to feed the crop, and such exhaustion is
certainly profitable; still, in order that the fertility of the soil may
be _maintained_, enough of organic manure should be applied, to make up
for the amount taken from the soil by the crop, after liberation for its
use by the action of the lime. This will be but a small proportion of
the organic matter contained in the crop, as it obtains the larger part
from the atmosphere.

The only way in which lime can exhaust the inorganic part of the soil
is, by altering its condition, so that plants can use it more readily.
That is, it exposes it for solution in water. We have seen that
fertilizing matter cannot be leached out of a good soil, in any material
quantity, but can only be carried down to a depth of about thirty-four
inches. Hence, we see that there can be no loss in this direction; and,
as inorganic matter cannot evaporate from the soil, the only way in
which it can escape is through the structure of plants.

[If this course be pursued, will the soil suffer from the use
of lime?

Is it the lime, or its crop, that exhausts the soil?

Is lime containing magnesia better than pure lime?

What is the best kind of lime?]

If lime is applied to the soil, and increases the amount of crops grown
by furnishing a larger supply of inorganic matter, of course, the
removal of inorganic substances from the soil will be more rapid than
when only a small amount of crop is grown, and the soil will be sooner
exhausted--not by the lime, but by the plants. In order to make up for
this exhaustion, it is necessary that a sufficient amount of inorganic
matter be supplied to compensate for the increased quantity taken away
by plants.

Thus we see, that it is hardly fair to accuse the _lime_ of exhausting
the soil, when it only improves its character, and increases the amount
of its yield. It is the _crop_ that takes away the fertility of the soil
(the same as would be the case if no lime were used, only faster as the
crop is larger), and in all judicious cultivation, this loss will be
fully compensated by the application of manures, thereby preventing the
exhaustion of the soil.

[Is the purchase of marl to be recommended?

How is lime prepared for use? (Note.)

Describe the burning and slaking of lime.]

_Kind of lime to be used._ The first consideration in procuring lime for
manuring land, is to select that which contains but little, if any
_magnesia_. Nearly all stone lime contains more or less of this, but
some kinds contain more than others. When magnesia is applied to the
soil, in too large quantities, it is positively injurious to plants, and
great care is necessary in making selection. As a general rule, it may
be stated, that the best plastering lime makes the best manure. Such
kinds only should be used as are known from experiment not to be

_Shell lime_ is undoubtedly the best of all, for it contains no
magnesia, and it does contain a small quantity of _phosphate of lime_.
In the vicinity of the sea-coast, and near the lines of railroads,
oyster shells, clam shells, etc., can be cheaply procured. These may be
prepared for use in the same manner as stone lime.[AG]

_The preparation of the lime_ is done by first burning and then slaking,
or by putting it directly on the land, in an unslaked condition, after
its having been burned. Shells are sometimes _ground_, and used without
burning; this is hardly advisable, as they cannot be made so fine as by
burning and slaking. As was stated in the first section of this book,
lime usually exists in nature, in the form of carbonate of lime, as
limestone, chalk, or marble (being lime and carbonic acid combined), and
when this is burned, the carbonic acid is thrown off, leaving the lime
in a pure or caustic form. This is called burned lime, quick-lime, lime
shells, hot lime, etc. If the proper quantity of water be poured on it,
it is immediately taken up by the lime, which falls into a dry powder,
called _slaked lime_. If _quick-lime_ were left exposed to the weather,
it would absorb moisture from the atmosphere, and become what is termed
_air slaked_.

[What is air slaking?

If slaked lime be exposed to the air, what change does it undergo?

What is the object of slaking lime?

How much carbonic acid is contained in a ton of carbonate of lime?

How much lime does a ton of slaked lime contain?

What is the most economical form for transportation?]

When _slaked lime_ (consisting of lime and water) is exposed to the
atmosphere, it absorbs carbonic acid, and becomes carbonate of lime
again; but it is now in the form of a very fine powder, and is much more
useful than when in the stone.

If quick-lime is applied directly to the soil, it absorbs first
moisture, and then carbonic acid, becoming finally a powdered carbonate
of lime.

One ton of _carbonate of lime_ contains 11¼ cwt. of lime; the remainder
is carbonic acid. One ton of _slaked lime_ contains about 15 cwt. of
lime; the remainder is water.

Hence we see that lime should be burned, and not slaked, before being
transported, as it would be unprofitable to transport the large quantity
of carbonic acid and water contained in carbonate of lime and slaked
lime. The quick-lime may be slaked, and carbonated after reaching its
destination, either before or after being applied to the land.

[What is the best form for immediate action on the inorganic
matter in the soil?

For most other purposes?]

As has been before stated, much is gained by slaking lime with _salt
water_, thus imitating the lime and salt mixture. Indeed in many cases,
it will be found profitable to use all lime in this way. Where a direct
action on the inorganic matters contained in the soil is desired, it may
be well to apply the lime directly in the form of quick-lime; but, where
the decomposition of the vegetable and animal constituents of the soil
is desired, the correction of _sourness_, or the supplying of lime to
the crop, the mixture with salt would be advisable.

_The amount of lime_ required _by plants_ is, as was before observed,
usually small compared with the whole amount contained in the soil;
still it is not unimportant.

                                  OF LIME.
25 bus. of wheat contain about    13   lbs.
25     "   barley        "        10½   "
25     "   oats          "        11    "
 2 tons of turnips       "        12    "
 2     "  potatoes       "         5    "
 2     "  red clover     "        77    "
 2     "  rye grass      "        30    "[AH]

[What is the best guide concerning the quantity of lime to be

What is said of the sinking of lime in the soil?

What is plaster of Paris composed of?

Why is it called plaster of Paris?]

The amount of lime required at each application, and the frequency of
those applications, must depend on the chemical and mechanical condition
of the soil. No exact rule can be given, but probably the custom of each
district--regulated by long experience--is the best guide.

_Lime sinks in the soil_; and therefore, when used alone, should always
be applied as a top dressing to be carried into the soil by rains. The
tendency of lime to settle is so great that, when cutting drains, it may
often be observed in a whitish streak on the top of the subsoil. After
heavy doses of lime have been given to the soil, and have settled so as
to have apparently ceased from their action, they may be brought up and
mixed with the soil by deeper plowing.

_Lime should never be mixed with animal manures_, unless in compost with
muck, or some other good absorbent, as it is liable to cause the escape
of their ammonia.


_Plaster of Paris or Gypsum_ (sulphate of lime) is composed of sulphuric
acid and lime in combination. It is called 'plaster of Paris,' because
it constitutes the rock underlying the city of Paris.

[Is it a constituent of plants?

What else does it furnish them?

How does it affect manure?

How does it produce sorrel in the soil?

How may the acidity be overcome?]

It is a constituent of many plants. It also furnishes them with
sulphur--a constituent of the sulphuric acid which it contains.

It is an excellent absorbent of ammonia, and is very useful to sprinkle
around stables, poultry houses, pig-styes, and privies, where it absorbs
the escaping gases, saving them for the use of plants, and purifying the
air, thus rendering stables, etc., more healthy than when not so

It has been observed that the extravagant use of plaster sometimes
induces the growth of _sorrel_. This is probably the case only where the
soil is deficient in lime. In such instances, the lime required by
plants is obtained by the decomposition of the plaster. The lime enters
into the construction of the plant, and the sulphuric acid remains
_free_, rendering the soil _sour_, and therefore in condition to produce
sorrel. In such a case, an application of _lime_ will correct the acid
by uniting with it and converting it into _plaster_.


[What does chloride of lime supply to plants?

How does it affect manures?

How may it be used?

How may magnesia be supplied, when wanting?

What care is necessary concerning the use of magnesia?]

_Chloride of lime_ is a compound of _lime and chlorine_. It furnishes
both of these constituents to plants, and it is an excellent absorbent
of ammonia and other gases arising from decomposition--hence its
usefulness in destroying bad odors, and in preserving fertilizing
matters for the use of crops.

It may be used like plaster, or in the decomposition of organic matters,
where it not only hastens decay, but absorbs and retains the escaping
gases. It will be recollected that _chloride of lime_ is one of the
products of the _lime and salt mixture_.

_Lime_ in combination with _phosphoric acid_ forms the valuable
_phosphate of lime_, of which so large a portion of the ash of grain,
and the bones of animals, is formed. This will be spoken of more at
length under the head of 'phosphoric acid.'


Magnesia is a constituent of vegetable ashes, and is almost always
present in the soil in sufficient quantities. When analysis indicates
that it is needed, it may be applied in the form of _magnesian lime_, or
_refuse epsom salts_, which are composed of sulphuric acid and magnesia
(sulphate of magnesia).

The great care necessary concerning the use of magnesia is, not to apply
too much of it, it being, when in excess, as has been previously
remarked, injurious to the fertility of the soil. Some soils are
hopelessly barren from the fact that they contain too much magnesia.



[What is sulphuric acid commonly called?

How may it be used?

How does it prevent the escape of ammonia?]

_Sulphuric acid_ is a very important constituent of vegetable ashes,
especially of oats and the root-crops.

It is often deficient in the soil, particularly where potatoes have been
long cultivated. One of the reasons why _plaster_ (sulphate of lime) is
so beneficial to the potato crop is undoubtedly that it supplies it with
sulphuric acid.

Sulphuric acid is commonly known by the name of _oil vitriol_, and may
be purchased for agricultural purposes at a low price. It may be used in
a very dilute form (weakened by mixing it with a large quantity of
water) to the compost heap, where it will change the ammonia to a
sulphate as soon as formed, and thus prevent its loss, as the sulphate
of ammonia is not volatile; and, being soluble in water, is useful to
plants. Some idea of the value of this compound may be formed from the
fact that manufacturers of manures are willing to pay seven cents per
lb., or even more, for sulphate of ammonia, to insure the success of
their fertilizers. Notwithstanding this, many farmers persist in
throwing away hundreds of pounds of _ammonia_ every year, as a tax for
their ignorance (or indolence), while a small tax in _money_--not more
valuable, nor more necessary to their success--for the support of common
schools, and the better education of the young, is too often unwillingly

[What is the effect of using too much sulphuric acid?]

If a tumbler full of sulphuric acid (costing a few cents), be thrown
into the tank of the compost heap once a month, the benefit to the
manure would be very great.

Where a deficiency of sulphuric acid in the soil is indicated by
analysis, it may be supplied in this way, or by the use of plaster or
refuse epsom salts.

Care is necessary that _too much_ sulphuric acid be not used, as it
would prevent the proper decomposition of manures, and would induce a
growth of sorrel in the soil by making it _sour_.

In many instances, it will be found profitable to use sulphuric acid in
the manufacture of super-phosphate of lime (as directed under the head
of 'phosphoric acid,') thus making it perform the double purpose of
preparing an available form of phosphate, and of supplying sulphur and
sulphuric acid to the plant.


[How large a part of the ashes of grain consists of phosphoric

Of what other substances does it form a leading ingredient?

How many pounds of sulphuric acid are contained in one hundred bushels
of wheat?]

We come now to the consideration of one of the most important of all
subjects connected with agriculture, that is, _phosphoric acid_.

_Phosphoric acid_, forming about one half of the ashes of wheat, rye,
corn, buckwheat, and oats; nearly the same proportion of those of
barley, peas, beans and linseed; an important ingredient of the ashes of
potatoes and turnips; one quarter of the ash of milk and a large
proportion of the bones of animals, often exists in the soil in the
proportion of only about one or two pounds in a thousand. The
cultivation of our whole country has been such, as to take away the
phosphoric acid from the soil without returning it, except in very
minute quantities. Every hundred bushels of wheat sold contains (and
removes permanently from the soil) about _sixty pounds_ of phosphoric
acid. Other grains, as well as the root crops and grasses, remove
likewise a large quantity of it. It has been said by a contemporary
writer, that for each cow kept on a pasture through the summer, there is
carried off in veal, butter and cheese, not less than _fifty_ lbs. of
phosphate of lime (bone-earth) on an average. This would be _one
thousand lbs._ for twenty cows; and it shows clearly why old dairy
pastures become so exhausted of this substance, that they will no longer
produce those nutritious grasses, which are favorable to butter and

[How much phosphate of lime will twenty cows remove from a
pasture during a summer?

What has this removal of phosphate of lime occasioned?

How have the Genesee and Mohawk valleys been affected by this removal of
phosphoric acid?]

That this removal of the most valuable constituent of the soil, has been
the cause of more exhaustion of farms, and more emigration, in search of
fertile districts, than any other single effect of injudicious farming,
is a fact which multiplied instances most clearly prove.

It is stated that the Genesee and Mohawk valleys, which once produced an
average of _thirty-five_ or _forty bushels_ of wheat, per acre, have
since been reduced in their average production to _twelve and a half_
bushels. Hundreds of similar cases might be stated; and in a large
majority of these, could the cause of the impoverishment be ascertained,
it would be found to be the removal of the phosphoric acid from the

[How may this devastation be arrested?

Is any soil inexhaustible?

What is usually the best source from which to obtain phosphoric acid?]

The evident tendency of cultivation being to continue this murderous
system, and to prey upon the vital strength of the country, it is
necessary to take such measures as will arrest the outflow of this
valuable material. This can never be fully accomplished until laws shall
be made preventing the wastes of cities and towns. Such laws have
existed for a long time in China, and have doubtlessly been the secret
of the long subsistence and present prosperity of the millions of people
inhabiting that country.

We have, nevertheless, a means of restoring to fertility many of our
worn-out lands, and preserving our fertile fields from so rapid
impoverishment as they are now suffering. Many suppose that soils which
produce good crops, year after year, are inexhaustible, but time will
prove to the contrary. They may possess a sufficiently large stock of
phosphoric acid, and other constituents of plants, to last a long time,
but when that stock becomes so reduced, that there is not enough left
for the uses of full crops, the productive power of the soil will yearly
decrease, until it becomes worthless. It may last a long time, a
century, or even more, but as long as the system is--to _remove every
thing, and return nothing_,--the fate of the most fertile soil is

The source mentioned, from which to obtain phosphoric acid, is the bones
of animals. These contain large quantities of _phosphate of lime_. They
are the receptacles which collect nearly all of the phosphates in crops,
which are fed to animals, and are not returned in their excrements. For
the grain, etc., sent out of the country, there is no way to be repaid
except by the importation of this material; but, all that is fed to
animals, or to human beings, may, if a proper use be made of their
excrement, and of their bones after death, be returned to the soil. With
the treatment of animal excrements we are already familiar, and we will
now turn our attention to the subject of


[Of what do dried bones consist?

What is the organic matter of bones?

The inorganic?

What can you say of the use of whole bones?]

_Bones_ consist, when dried, of about one third organic matter, and two
thirds inorganic matter.

The organic matter consists chiefly of _gelatine_--a compound containing

The inorganic part is chiefly _phosphate of lime_.

Hence, we see that bones are excellent, as both organic and mineral
manure. The organic part, containing nitrogen, forms _ammonia_, and the
inorganic part supplies the much needed _phosphoric acid_ to the soil.

Liebig says that, as a producer of ammonia, 100 lbs. of dry bones are
equivalent to 250 lbs. of human urine.

[How does the value of bone dust compare with that of broken

What is the reason of the superiority of bone dust?

How is bone-black made?

Of what does it consist?]

Bones are applied to the soil in almost every conceivable form. _Whole
bones_ are often used in very large quantities; their action, however,
is extremely slow, and it is never advisable to use bones in this form.

Ten bushels of bones, finely ground, will produce larger results, during
the current ten years after application, than would ensue from the use
of one hundred bushels merely broken, not because the dust contains more
fertilizing matter than the whole bones, but because that which it does
contain is in a much more available condition. It ferments readily, and
produces ammonia, while the ashy parts are exposed to the action of

[Should farmers burn bones before using them?

How would you compost bones with ashes?

In what way would you prevent the escape of ammonia?]

_Bone-black._ If bones are burned in retorts, or otherwise protected
from the atmosphere, their organic matter will all be driven off, except
the carbon, which not being supplied with oxygen cannot escape. In this
form bones are called _ivory black_, or _bone-black_. It consists of the
inorganic matter, and the carbon of the bones. The nitrogen having been
expelled it can make no ammonia, and thus far the original value of
bones is reduced by burning; that is, one ton of bones contains more
fertilizing matter before, than after burning; but one ton of bone black
is more valuable than one ton of raw bones, as the carbon is retained in
a good form to act as an absorbent in the soil, while the whole may be
crushed or ground much more easily than before being burned. This means
of pulverizing bones is adopted by manufacturers, who replace the
ammonia in the form of guano, or otherwise; but it is not to be
recommended for the use of farmers, who should not lose the ammonia,
forming a part of bones, more than that of other manure.

_Composting bones with ashes_ is a good means of securing their
decomposition. They should be placed in a water-tight vessel (such as a
cask); first, three or four inches of bones, then the same quantity of
strong unleached wood ashes, continuing these alternate layers until the
cask is full, and keeping them _always wet_. If they become too dry they
will throw off an offensive odor, accompanied by the escape of ammonia,
and consequent loss of value. In about one year, the whole mass of bones
(except, perhaps, those at the top) will be softened, so that they may
be easily crushed, and they are in a good condition for manuring. The
ashes are, in themselves, valuable, and this compost is excellent for
many crops, particularly for Indian corn. A little dilute sulphuric
acid, occasionally sprinkled on the upper part of the matter in the
cask, will prevent the escape of the ammonia.

[What is the effect of boiling bones under pressure?

How is super-phosphate of lime made?

Describe the composition of phosphate of lime, and the chemical changes
which take place in altering it to super-phosphate of lime.]

_Boiling bones under pressure_, whereby their gelatine is dissolved
away, and the inorganic matter left in an available condition, from its
softness, is a very good way of rendering them useful; but, as it
requires, among other things, a steam boiler, it is hardly probable that
it will be largely adopted by farmers of limited means.

Any or all of these methods are good, but bones cannot be used with true
economy, except by changing their inorganic matter into


_Super-phosphate of lime_ is made by treating phosphate of lime, or the
ashes of bones, with _sulphuric acid_.

Phosphate of lime, as it exists in bones, consists of one atom of
phosphoric acid and three atoms of lime. It may be represented as

                 { Lime
Phosphoric acid  { Lime
                 { Lime

By adding a proper quantity of sulphuric acid with this, it becomes
_super_-phosphate of lime; that is, the same amount of phosphoric acid,
with a smaller proportion of lime (or a _super_-abundance of phosphoric
acid), the sulphuric acid, taking two atoms of lime away from the
compound, combined with it making sulphate of lime (plaster). The
changes may be thus represented.

                  {Phosphoric acid} Super-phosphate
Phosphate of lime {Lime           }   of lime.
                  {Lime} Sulphate of lime.
         Sulphuric acid}

Super-phosphate of lime may be made from whole bones, bone dust,
bone-black, or from the pure ashes of bones.

[How should sulphuric acid be applied to whole bones?

What is the necessity for so large an amount of water?]

The process of making it from whole bones is slow and troublesome, as it
requires a long time for the effect to diffuse itself through the whole
mass of a large bone. When it is made in this way, the bones should be
_dry_, and the acid should be diluted in many times its bulk of water,
and should be applied to the bones (which may be placed in a suitable
cask, with a spiggot at the bottom), in quantities sufficient to cover
them, about once in ten days; and at the end of that time, one half of
the liquid should be drawn off by the spiggot. This liquid is a solution
of super-phosphate of lime, containing sulphate of lime, and may be
applied to the soil in a liquid form, or through the medium of a compost
heap. The object of using so much water is to prevent an incrustation of
sulphate of lime on the surfaces of the bones, this must be removed by
stirring the mass, which allows the next application of acid to act
directly on the phosphate remaining. The amount of acid required is
about 50 or 60 lbs. to each 100 lbs. of bones. The gelatine will remain
after the phosphate is all dissolved, and may be composted with muck, or
plowed under the soil, where it will form ammonia.

[May less water be employed in making super-phosphate from
bone dust or crushed bones?]

_Bone dust_, or _crushed bones_, may be much more easily changed to the
desired condition, as the surface exposed is much greater, and the acid
can act more generally throughout the whole mass. The amount of acid
required is the same as in the other case, but it may be used
_stronger_, two or three times its bulk of water being sufficient, if
the bones are finely ground or crushed--more or less water should be
used according to the fineness of the bones. The time occupied will also
be much less, and the result of the operation will be in better
condition for manure.

Bones may be made fine enough for this operation, either by grinding,
etc., or by boiling under pressure, as previously described; indeed, by
whatever method bones are pulverized, they should always be treated with
sulphuric acid before being applied to the soil, as this will more than
double their value for immediate use.

Bone-black is chiefly used by manufacturers of super-phosphate of lime,
who treat it with acid the same as has been directed above, only that
they grind the black very finely before applying the acid.

[What other forms of bones may be used in making
super-phosphate of lime?

Why is super-phosphate of lime a better fertilizer than phosphate of

What can you say of the _lasting manures_?]

_Bone ashes_, or bones burned to whiteness, may be similarly treated.
Indeed, in all of the forms of bones here described, the phosphate of
lime remains unaltered, as it is indestructible by heat; the differences
of composition are only in the admixture of organic constituents.

_The reason why super-phosphate of lime is so much better than
phosphate_, may be easily explained. The _phosphate_ is very _slowly_
soluble in water, and consequently furnishes food to plants slowly. A
piece of bone as large as a pea may lie in the soil for years without
being all consumed; consequently, it will be years before its value is
returned, and it pays no interest on its cost while lying there. The
_super-phosphate_ dissolves very _rapidly_ and furnishes food for plants
with equal facility; hence its much greater value as a manure.

It is true that the _phosphate_ is the most _lasting_ manure; but, once
for all, let us caution farmers against considering this a virtue in
mineral manures, or in organic manures either, when used on soils
containing the proper absorbents of ammonia. They are _lasting_, only
in proportion as they are _lazy_. Manures are worthless unless they are
in condition to be immediately used. The farmer who wishes his manures
to _last_ in the soil, and to lose their use, may be justly compared
with the _miser_, who buries his gold and silver in the ground for the
satisfaction of knowing that he owns it. It is an old and a true saying
that "a nimble sixpence is better than a slow shilling."


[What are the ingredients of the _improved_ super-phosphate of

To show the manner in which super-phosphate of lime is perfected, and
rendered the best manure for general uses, which has yet been made,
containing large quantities of phosphoric acid and a good supply of
ammonia,--hereby covering the two leading deficiencies in a majority of
soils, it may be well to explain the composition of the _improved
super-phosphate of lime_ invented by Prof. Mapes.

This manure consists of the following ingredients in the proportions

100  lbs.  bone-black (phosphate of lime and carbon).
56    "    sulphuric acid.
36    "    guano.
20    "    sulphate of ammonia.

[Explain the uses of these different constituents.

What is nitrogenized phosphate?]

The sulphuric acid has the before-mentioned effect on the bone-black,
and _fixes_ the ammonia of the guano by changing it to a sulphate. The
twenty pounds of sulphate of ammonia added increase the amount, so as to
furnish nitrogen to plants in sufficient quantities to give them energy,
and induce them to take up the super-phosphate of lime in the manure
more readily than would be done, were there not a sufficient supply of
ammonia in the soil.

The addition of the guano, which contains all of the elements of
fertility, and many of them in considerable quantities, renders the
manure of a more general character, and enables it to produce very large
crops of almost any kind, while it assists in fortifying the soil in
what is usually its weakest point--phosphoric acid.

Prof. Mapes has more recently invented a new fertilizer called
nitrogenized super-phosphate of lime, composed of the improved
super-phosphate of lime and blood, dried and ground before mixture, in
equal proportions. This manure, from its highly nitrogenous character,
theoretically surpasses all others, and probably will be found in
practice to have great value; its cost will be rather greater than

We understand its manufacture will shortly be commenced by a company now
forming for that purpose.

[What should be learned before purchasing amendments for the

What do you know of silica?]

Many farmers will find it expedient to purchase bones, or bone dust, and
manufacture their own super-phosphate of lime; others will prefer to
purchase the prepared manure. In doing so, it should be obtained of men
of known respectability, as manures are easily adulterated with
worthless matters; and, as their price is so high, that such deception
may occasion great loss.

We would not recommend the application of any artificial manure, without
first obtaining an analysis of the soil, and knowing _to a certainty_
that the manure is needed; still, when no analysis has been procured, it
may be profitable to apply such manures as most generally produce good
results--such as stable manure, night soil, the improved super-phosphate
of lime; or, if this cannot be procured, guano.



_Silica_ (or sand) always exists in the soil in sufficient quantities
for the supply of food for plants; but, as has been often stated in the
preceding pages, not always in the proper condition. This subject has
been so often explained to the student of this book, that it is only
necessary to repeat here, that when the weakness of the straw or stalk
of plants grown on any soil indicates an inability in that soil to
supply the silicates required for strength, not more sand should be
added, but _alkalies_, to combine with the sand already contained in it,
and make _soluble silicates_ which are available to roots.

Sand is often necessary to stiff clays, as a _mechanical_ manure, to
loosen their texture and render them easier of cultivation, and more
favorable to the distribution of roots, and to the circulation of air
and water.


[How may chlorine be applied?]

_Chlorine_, a necessary constituent of plants, and often deficient in
the soil (as indicated by analysis), may be applied in the form of salt
(chloride of sodium), or chloride of lime. The former may be dissolved
in the water used to slake lime, and the latter may, with much
advantage, be sprinkled around stables and other places where
fertilizing gases are escaping, and, after being saturated with ammonia,
applied to the soil, thus serving a double purpose.


[How may the protoxide of iron be changed to peroxide?]

Nearly all soils contain sufficient quantities of _oxide of iron_, or
iron rust, so that this substance can hardly be required as a manure.

Some soils, however, contain the _prot_oxide of iron in such quantities
as to be injurious to plants,--see page 86. When this is the case, it is
necessary to plow the soil thoroughly, and use such other mechanical
means as shall render it open to the admission of air. The _prot_oxide
of iron will then take up more oxygen, and become the _per_oxide--which
is not only inoffensive, but is absolutely necessary to fertility.


This can hardly be called an essential constituent of plants, and is
never taken into consideration in manuring lands.



[Why are leached ashes inferior to those that have not been

On what do the benefits of leached ashes depend?

Can these ingredients be more cheaply obtained in another form?

Why do unleached ashes, applied in the spring, sometimes cause grain to

Among the mineral manures which have not yet been mentioned--not coming
strictly under any of the preceding heads, is the one known as _leached

These are not without their benefits, though worth much less than
unleached ashes, which, besides the constituents of those which have
been leached, contain much potash, soda, etc.

Farmers have generally overrated the value of leached ashes, because
they contain small quantities of available phosphate of lime, and
soluble silicates, in which most old soils are deficient. While we
witness the good results ensuing from their application, we should not
forget that the fertilizing ingredients of _thirty bushels_ of these
ashes may be bought in a more convenient form for _ten_ or _fifteen
cents_, or for less than the cost of spreading the ashes on the soil. In
many parts of Long Island farmers pay as much as eight or ten cents per
bushel for this manure, and thousands of loads of leached ashes are
taken to this locality from the river counties of New York, and even
from the State of Maine, and are sold for many times their value,
producing an effect which could be as well and much more cheaply
obtained by the use of small quantities of super-phosphate of lime and

These ashes often contain a little charcoal (resulting from the
imperfect combustion of the wood), which acts as an absorbent of

It is sometimes observed that _unleached_ ashes, when applied in the
spring, cause grain to lodge. When this is the case, as it seldom is, it
may be inferred that the potash which they contain causes so rapid a
growth, that the soil is not able to supply silicates as fast as they
are required by the plants, but after the first year, the potash will
have united with the silica in the soil, and overcome the difficulty.


[What are the most fertilizing ingredients of old mortar?]

_Old mortar_ is a valuable manure, because it contains nitrate of potash
and other compounds of nitric acid with alkalies.

These are slowly formed in the mortar by the changing of the nitrogen of
the hair (in the mortar) into nitric acid, and the union of this with
the small quantities of _potash_, or with the _lime_ of the plaster.
Nitrogen, presented in other forms, as ammonia, for instance, may be
transformed into nitric acid, by uniting with the oxygen of the air, and
this nitric acid combines immediately with the alkalies of the

The lime contained in the mortar may be useful in the soil for the many
purposes accomplished by other lime.


[How may gas-house lime be prepared for use?

Why should it not be used fresh, from the gas house?

On what do its fertilizing properties depend?

What use may be made of its offensive odor?]

_The refuse lime of gas works_, where it can be cheaply obtained, may be
advantageously used as a manure. It consists, chiefly, of various
compounds of sulphur and lime. It should be composted with earth or
refuse matter, so as to expose it to the action of air. It should never
be used fresh from the gas house. In a few months the sulphur will have
united with the oxygen of the air, and become sulphuric acid, which
unites with the lime and makes sulphate of lime (plaster), which form it
must assume, before it is of much value. Having been used to purify gas
made from coal, it contains a small quantity of ammonia, which adds to
its value. It is considered a profitable manure in England, at the price
there paid for it (forty cents a cartload), and, if of good quality, it
may be worth double that sum, especially for soils deficient in plaster,
or for such crops as are much benefited by plaster. Its price must, of
course, be regulated somewhat by the price of lime, which constitutes a
large proportion of its fertilizing parts. The offensive odor of this
compound renders it a good protection against many insects.

The refuse _liquor of gas works_ contains enough ammonia to make it a
valuable manure.


[What use may be made of the refuse ley of soap-makers and

What peculiar qualities does soapers' ley possess?]

The refuse ley of soap factories and bleaching establishments contains
greater or less quantities of soluble silicates and alkalies (especially
soda and potash), and is a good addition to the tank of the compost
heap, or it may be used directly as a liquid application to the soil.
The soapers' ley, especially, will be found a good manure for lands on
which grain lodges.

Much of the benefit of this manure arises from the soluble silicates it
contains, while its nitrogenous matter,[AJ] obtained from those parts of
the fatty matters which cannot be converted into soap, and consequently
remains in this solution, forms a valuable addition. Heaps of soil
saturated with this liquid in autumn, and subjected to the freezings of
winter, form an admirable manure for spring use. Mr. Crane, near Newark
(N. J.), has long used a mixture of spent ley and stable manure, applied
in the fall to trenches plowed in the soil, and has been most successful
in obtaining large crops.


[On what does the benefit arising from irrigation chiefly

What kind of water is best for irrigation?

How do under-drains increase the benefits of irrigation?]

_Irrigation_ does not come strictly under the head of inorganic manures,
as it often supplies ammonia to the soil. Its chief value, however, in
most cases, must depend on the amount of mineral matter which it

The word "irrigation" means simply _watering_. In many districts water
is in various ways made to overflow the land, and is removed when
necessary for the purposes of cultivation. All river and spring water
contains some impurities, many of which are beneficial to vegetation.
These are derived from the earth over, or through which, the water has
passed, and ammonia absorbed from the atmosphere. When water is made to
cover the earth, especially if its rapid motion be arrested, much of
this fertilizing matter settles, and is deposited on the soil. The water
which sinks into the soil carries its impurities to be retained for the
uses of plants. When, by the aid of under-drains, or in open soils, the
water passes _through_ the soil, its impurities are arrested, and become
available in vegetable growth. It is, of course, impossible to say
exactly what kind of mineral matter is supplied by water, as that
depends on the kind of rock or soil from which the impurities are
derived; but, whatever it may be, it is generally soluble and ready for
immediate use by plants.

[What is the difference between water which only runs over the
surface of the earth, and that which runs out of the earth?

Why should strong currents of water not be allowed to traverse the

Water which has run over the surface of the earth contains both ammonia
and mineral matter, while that which has arisen out of the earth,
contains usually only mineral matter. The direct use of the water of
irrigation as a solvent for the mineral ingredients of the soil, is one
of its main benefits.

To describe the many modes of irrigation would be too long a task for
our limited space. It may be applied in any way in which it is possible
to cover the land with water, at stated times. Care is necessary,
however, that it do not wash more fertilizing matter from the soil than
it deposits on it, as would often be the case, if a strong current of
water were run over it. Brooks may be dammed up, and thus made to cover
a large quantity of land. In such a case the rapid current would be
destroyed, and the fertilizing matter would settle; but, if the course
of the brook were turned, so that it would run in a current over any
part of the soil, it might carry away more than it deposited, and thus
prove injurious. Small streams turned on to land, from the washing of
roads, or from elevated springs, are good means of irrigation, and
produce increased fertility, except where the soil is of such a
character as to prevent the water from passing away, in which case it
should be under-drained.

Irrigation was one of the oldest means of fertility ever used by man,
and still continues in great favor wherever its effects have been


[How are soils improved by mixing?]

The _mixing of soils_ is often all that is necessary to render them
fertile, and to improve their _mechanical_ condition. For instance,
soils deficient in potash, or any other constituent, may have that
deficiency supplied, by mixing with them soil containing this
constituent in excess.

It is very frequently the case, that such means of improvement are
easily availed of. While these chemical effects are being produced,
there may be an equal improvement in the mechanical character of the
soil. Thus stiff clay soils are rendered lighter, and more easily
workable, by an admixture of sand, while light blowy sands are
compacted, and made more retentive of manure, by a dressing of clay or
of muck.

[Why may the same effect sometimes be produced by deep

What is absolutely necessary to economical manuring?]

Of course, this cannot be depended on as a sure means of chemical
improvement, unless the soils are previously analyzed, so as to know
their requirements; but, in a majority of cases, the soil will be
benefited, by mixing with it soil of a different character. It is not
always necessary to go to other locations to procure the soil to be
applied, as the subsoil is often very different from the surface soil,
and simple deep plowing will suffice, in such cases, to produce the
required admixture, by bringing up the earth from below to mingle it
with that of a different character at the surface.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the foregoing remarks on the subject of mineral manures, the writer
has endeavored to point out such a course as would produce the "greatest
good to the greatest number," and, consequently, has neglected much
which might discourage the farmer with the idea, that the whole system
of scientific agriculture is too expensive for his adoption. Still,
while he has confined his remarks to the more simple improvements on the
present system of management, he would say, briefly, that _no manuring
can be strictly economical that is not based on an analysis of the soil,
and a knowledge of the best means of overcoming the deficiencies
indicated, together with the most scrupulous care of every ounce of
evaporating or soluble manure_.


[AG] Marl is earth containing lime, but its use is not to be recommended
in this country, except where it can be obtained at little cost, as the
expenses of carting the _earth_ would often be more than the value of
the _lime_.

[AH] The straw producing the grain and the turnip and potato tops
contain more lime than the grain and roots.

[AI] See Working Farmer, vol. 2, p. 278.

[AJ] Glycerine, etc.



[Are the gases in the atmosphere manures?

What would be the result if they were not so?]

It is not common to look on the gases in the atmosphere in the light of
manures, but they are decidedly so. Indeed, they are almost the only
organic manure ever received by the uncultivated parts of the earth, as
well as a large portion of that which is occupied in the production of
food for man.

If these gases were not manures; if there were no means by which they
could be used by plants, the fertility of the soil would long since have
ceased, and the earth would now be in an unfertile condition. That this
must be true, will be proved by a few moments' reflection on the facts
stated in the first part of this book. The fertilizing gases in the
atmosphere being composed of the constituents of decayed plants and
animals, it is as necessary that they should be again returned to the
form of organized matter, as it is that constituents taken from the
_soil_ should not be put out of existence.


[How is ammonia used by plants?

How may it be carried to the soil?

How may the value of organic manures be estimated?

What effects has ammonia beside supplying food to plants?]

The _ammonia_ in the atmosphere probably cannot be appropriated by the
leaves of plants, and must, therefore, enter the soil to be assimilated
by roots. It reaches the soil in two ways. It is either arrested from
the air circulating through the soil, or it is absorbed by rains in the
atmosphere, and thus carried to the earth, where it is retained by clay
and carbon, for the uses of plants. In the soil, ammonia is the most
important of all organic manures. In fact, the value of organic manure
may be estimated, either by the amount of ammonia which it will yield,
or by its power of absorbing ammonia from other sources.

The most important action of ammonia in the soil is the supply of
_nitrogen_ to plants; but it has other offices which are of consequence.
It assists in some of the chemical changes necessary to prepare the
matters in the soil for assimilation. Some argue that ammonia
_stimulates_ the roots of plants, and causes them to take up increased
quantities of inorganic matter. The discussion of this question would be
out of place here, and we will simply say, that it gives them such vigor
that they require increased amounts of ashy matter, and enables them to
take this from the soil.

[To how great a degree can the farmer control atmospheric

What should be the condition of the soil?

What substances are good absorbents in the soil?

How may sandy soils be made retentive of ammonia?]

Although, in the course of nature, the atmospheric fertilizers are
plentifully supplied to the soil, without the immediate attention of the
farmer, it is not beyond his power to manage them in such a manner as
to arrest a greater quantity. The precautions necessary have been
repeatedly given in the preceding pages, but it may be well to name them
again in this chapter.

The condition of the soil is the main point to be considered. It must be
such as to absorb and retain ammonia--to allow water to pass _through_
it, and be discharged _below_ the point to which the roots of crops are
searching for food--and to admit of a free circulation of air.

The power of absorbing and retaining ammonia is not possessed by sand,
but it is a prominent property of clay, charcoal, and some other matters
named as absorbents. Hence, if the soil consists of nearly pure sand, it
will not make use of the ammonia brought to it from the atmosphere, but
will allow it to evaporate immediately after a shower. Soils in this
condition require additions of absorbent matters, to enable them to use
the ammonia received from the atmosphere. Soils already containing a
sufficient amount of clay or charcoal, are thus far prepared to receive
benefit from this source.

[Why does under-draining increase the absorptive power of the

How do plants obtain their carbonic acid?

How does carbonic acid affect caustic lime in the soil?]

The next point is to cause the water of rains to pass _through_ the
soil. If it lies on the surface, or runs off without entering the soil,
or even if it only enters to a slight depth, and comes in contact with
but a small quantity of the absorbents, it is not probable that the
fertilizing matters which it contains will all be abstracted. Some of
them will undoubtedly return to the atmosphere on the evaporation of the
water; but, if the soil contains a sufficient supply of absorbents, and
will allow all rain water to pass through it, the fertilizing gases will
all be retained. They will be filtered (or raked) out of the water.

This subject will be more fully treated in Section IV. in connection
with under-draining.

Besides the properties just described, the soil must possess the power
of admitting a free circulation of air. To effect this, it is necessary
that the soil should be well pulverized to a great depth. If, in
addition to this, the soil be such as to admit water to pass through, it
will allow that circulation of air necessary to the greatest supply of


[What power does it give to water?

What condition of the soil is necessary for the reception of the largest
quantity of carbonic acid?

May oxygen be considered a manure?

What is the effect of the oxidation of the constituents of the soil?]

Carbonic acid is received from the atmosphere, both by the leaves and
roots of plants.

If there is caustic lime in the soil, it unites with it, and makes it
milder and finer. It is absorbed by the water in the soil, and gives it
the power of dissolving many more substances than it would do without
the carbonic acid. This use is one of very great importance, as it is
equivalent to making the minerals themselves more soluble. Water
dissolves carbonate of lime, etc., exactly in proportion to the amount
of carbonic acid which it contains. We should, therefore, strive to have
as much carbonic acid as possible in the water in the soil; and one way,
in which to effect this, is to admit to the soil the largest possible
quantity of atmospheric air which contains this gas.

The condition of soil necessary for this, is the same as is required for
the deposit of ammonia by the same circulation of air.


[How does it affect the protoxide of iron?

How does it neutralize the acids in the soil?

How does it affect its organic parts?

How does it form nitric acid?

How may it affect excrementitious matter of plants?

What effect has it on the mechanical condition of the soil?]

_Oxygen_, though not taken up by plants in its pure form, may justly be
classed among manures, if we consider its effects both chemical and
mechanical in the soil.

1. By oxidizing or _rusting_ some of the constituents of the soil, it
prepares them for the uses of plants.

2. It unites with the _prot_oxide of iron, and changes it to the

3. If there are _acids_ in the soil, which make it sour and unfertile,
it may be opened to the circulation of the air, and the oxygen will
prepare some of the mineral matters contained in the soil to unite with
the acids and neutralize them.

4. Oxygen combines with the carbon of organic matters in the soil, and
causes them to decay. The combination produces carbonic acid.

5. It combines with the nitrogen of decaying substances and forms
_nitric acid_, which is serviceable as food for plants.

6. It undoubtedly affects in some way the matter which is thrown out
from the roots of plants. This, if allowed to accumulate, and remain
unchanged, is often very injurious to plants; but, probably, the oxygen
and carbonic acid of the air in the soil change it to a form to be
inoffensive, or even make it again useful to the plant.

7. It may also improve the _mechanical_ condition of the soil, as it
causes its particles to crumble, thus making it finer; and it roughens
the surfaces of particles, making them less easy to move among each

These properties of oxygen claim for it a high place among the
atmospheric fertilizers.


[Why may water be considered an atmospheric manure?

What classes of action have manures?

What are chemical manures? Mechanical?]

_Water_ may be considered an atmospheric manure, as its chief supply to
vegetation is received from the air in the form of rain or dew. Its many
effects are already too well known to need farther comment.

The means of supplying water to the soil by the deposit of _dew_ will be
fully explained in Section IV.



Manures have two distinct classes of action in the soil, namely,
_chemical_ and _mechanical_.

_Chemical_ manures are those which enter into the construction of
plants, or produce such chemical effects on matters in the soil as shall
prepare them for use.

_Mechanical_ manures are those which improve the mechanical condition
of the soil, such as loosening stiff clays, compacting light sands,
pulverizing large particles, etc.

[What are the three kinds of manures?

What are organic manures, and what are their uses? Mineral?

Manures are of three distinct kinds, namely, _Organic_, _mineral_, and

_Organic_ manures comprise all vegetable and animal matters (except
ashes) which are used to fertilize the soil. Vegetable manures supply
carbonic acid, and inorganic matter to plants. Animal manures supply the
same substances and ammonia.

_Mineral_ manures comprise ashes, salt, phosphate of lime, plaster, etc.
They supply plants with inorganic matter. Their usefulness depends on
their solubility.

Many of the organic and mineral manures have the power of absorbing
ammonia arising from the decomposition of animal manures, as well as
that which is brought to the soil by rains--these are called absorbents.

_Atmospheric_ manures consist of ammonia, carbonic acid, oxygen and
water. Their greatest usefulness requires the soil to allow the water of
rains to pass _through_ it, to admit of a free circulation of air among
its particles, and to contain a sufficient amount of absorbent matter to
arrest and retain all ammonia and carbonic acid presented to it.

[What rule should regulate the application of manures?

How must organic manures be managed? Atmospheric?]

Manures should never be applied to the soil without regard to its

Ammonia and carbon are almost always useful, but mineral manures become
mere _dirt_ when applied to soils not deficient of them.

The only true guide to the exact requirements of the soil is _chemical
analysis_; and this must always be obtained before farming can be
carried on with true economy.

Organic manures must be protected against the escape of their ammonia
and the leaching out of their soluble parts. One cord of stable manure
properly preserved, is worth ten cords which have lost all of their
ammonia by evaporation, and their soluble parts by leaching--as is the
case with much of the manure kept exposed in open barn-yards.

Atmospheric manures cost nothing, and are of great value when properly
employed. In consequence of this, the soil which is enabled to make the
largest appropriation of the atmospheric fertilizers, is worth many
times as much as that which allows them to escape.





[What is the first office of the soil?

How does it hold water for the uses of the plant?

How does it obtain a part of its moisture?]

The mechanical character of the soil is well understood from preceding
remarks, and the learner knows that there are many offices to be
performed by the soil aside from the feeding of plants.

1. It admits the roots of plants, and holds them in their position.

2. By a sponge-like action, it holds water for the uses of the plant.

3. It absorbs moisture from the atmosphere to supply the demands of

[How may it obtain heat?

What is the use of the air circulating among its particles?

Could most soils be brought to the highest state of fertility?

What is the first thing to be done?

Should its color be darkened?]

4. It absorbs heat from the sun's rays to assist in the process of

5. It admits air to circulate among roots, and supply them with a part
of their food, while the oxygen of that air renders available the
minerals of the soil; and its carbonic acid, being absorbed by the water
in the soil, gives it the power of dissolving, and carrying into roots
more inorganic matter than would be contained in purer water.

6. It allows the excrementitious matter thrown out by roots to be
carried out of their reach.

All of these actions the soil must be capable of performing, before it
can be in its highest state of fertility. There are comparatively few
soils now in this condition, but there are also few which could not be
profitably rendered so, by a judicious application of the modes of
cultivation to be described in the following chapters.

The three great objects to be accomplished are:--

1. To adopt such a system of drainage as will cause all of the water of
rains to pass _through_ the soil, instead of evaporating from the

2. To pulverize the soil to a considerable depth.

3. To darken its color, and render it capable of absorbing atmospheric

[Name some of the means used to secure these effects.

Why are under-drains superior to open drains?]

The means used to secure these effects are _under-draining, sub-soil and
surface-plowing, digging, applying muck, etc._



The advantages of _under_-drains over _open_ drains are very great.

When open drains are used, much water passes into them immediately from
the surface, and carries with it fertilizing parts of the soil, while
their beds are often compacted by the running water and the heat of the
sun, so that they become water-tight, and do not admit water from the
lower parts of the soil.

The sides of these drains are often covered with weeds, which spread
their seeds throughout the whole field. Open drains are not only a great
obstruction to the proper cultivation of the land, but they cause much
waste of room, as we can rarely plow nearer than within six or eight
feet of them.

There are none of these objections to the use of under-drains, as these
are completely covered, and do not at all interfere with the
cultivation of the surface.

[With what materials may under-drains be constructed?

Describe the tile.]

Under drains may be made with brush, stones, or tiles. Brush is a very
poor material, and its use is hardly to be recommended. Small stones are
better, and if these be placed in the bottoms of the trenches, to a
depth of eight or ten inches, and covered with sods turned upside down,
having the earth packed well down on to them, they make very good


The best under-drains are those made with tiles, or burnt clay pipes.
The first form of these used was that called the _horse-shoe tile_,
which was in two distinct pieces; this was superseded by a round pipe,
and we have now what is called the _sole tile_, which is much better
than either of the others.

[Illustration: Fig. 4--Sole Tile.]

[Why is the sole tile superior to those of previous

How are these tiles laid?

How may the trenches be dug?]

This tile is made (like the horse-shoe and pipe tile) of common brick
clay, and is burned the same as bricks. It is about one half or three
quarters of an inch thick, and is so porous that water passes directly
through it. It has a flat bottom on which to stand, and this enables it
to retain its position, while making the drain, better than would be
done by the round pipe. The orifice through which the water passes is
egg-shaped, having its smallest curve at the bottom. This shape is the
one most easily kept clear, as any particles of dirt which get into the
drain must fall immediately to the point where even the smallest stream
of water runs, and are thus removed. An orifice of about two inches is
sufficient for the smaller drains, while the main drains require larger

These tiles are laid, so that their ends will touch each other, on the
bottoms of the trenches, and are kept in position by having the earth
tightly packed around them. Care must be taken that no space is left
between the ends of the tiles, as dirt would be liable to get in and
choke the drain. It is advisable to place a sod--grass side down--over
each joint, before filling the trench, as this more effectually protects
them against the entrance of dirt. There is no danger of keeping the
water out by this operation, as it will readily pass through any part of
the tiles.

In _digging the trenches_ it is not necessary (except in very stony
ground) to dig out a place wide enough for a man to stand in, as there
are tools made expressly for the purpose, by which a trench may be dug
six or seven inches wide, and to any required depth. One set of these
implements consists of a long narrow spade and a hoe to correspond, such
as are represented in the accompanying figure.

[Illustration: Fig. 5.

Upton tool.

Spade and hoe.]

With these tools, and a long light crowbar, for hard soils, trenches may
be dug much more cheaply than with the common spade and pickaxe. Where
there are large boulders in the soil, these draining tools may dig under
them so that they will not have to be removed.

When the trenches are dug to a sufficient depth, the bottoms must be
made perfectly smooth, with the required descent (from six inches to a
few feet in one hundred feet). Then the tiles may be laid in, so that
their ends will correspond, be packed down, and the trenches filled up.
Such a drain, if properly constructed, may last for ages. Unlike the
stone drain, it is not liable to be frequented by rats, nor choked up by
the soil working into it.

The position of the tile may be best represented by a figure, also the
mode of constructing stone drains.

[Why are small stones better than large stones in the
construction of drains?

On what must the depth of under-drains depend?]

It will be seen that the tile drain is made with much less labor than
the stone drain, as it requires less digging, while the breaking up of
the stone for the stone drain will be nearly, or quite as expensive as
the tiles. Drains made with large stones are not nearly so good as with
small ones, because they are more liable to be choked up by animals
working in them.[AK]

[Illustration: Fig. 6.

_a_--Tile drain trench.
_b_--Stone drain trench.
_c_--Sod laid on the stone.]

[Describe the principle which regulates these relative depths
and distances. (Blackboard.)

Which is usually the cheaper plan of constructing drains?]

The _depth_ of the drains must depend on the distances at which they are
placed. If but _twenty_ feet apart, they need be but _three_ feet deep;
while, if they are _eighty_ feet apart, they must be _five_ feet deep,
to produce the same effect. The reason for this is, that the water in
the drained soil is not level, but is higher midway between the drains,
than at any other point. It is necessary that this highest point should
be sufficiently far from the surface not to interfere with the roots of
plants, consequently, as the water line between two drains is _curved_,
the most distant drains must be the deepest. This will be understood by
referring to the following diagram.

[Illustration: Fig. 7.

_aa_--5 feet drains, 80 ft. apart. _bb_--3 feet drains, 20 ft. apart.]

The curved line represents the position of the water.

In most soils it will be easier to dig one trench five feet deep, than
four trenches three feet deep, and the deep trenches will be equally
beneficial; but where the soil is very hard below a depth of three feet,
the shallow trenches will be the cheapest, and in such soils they will
often be better, as the hard mass might not allow the water to pass down
to enter the deeper drains.

By following out these instructions, land may be cheaply, thoroughly,
and permanently drained.


[AK] It is probable that a composition of hydraulic cement and some
soluble material will be invented, by which a continuous pipe may be
laid in the bottoms of trenches, becoming porous as the soluble material
is removed by water.



The advantages of under-draining are many and important.

1. It entirely prevents drought.

2. It furnishes an increased supply of atmospheric fertilizers.

3. It warms the lower portions of the soil.

4. It hastens the decomposition of roots and other organic matter.

5. It accelerates the disintegration of the mineral matters in the soil.

6. It causes a more even distribution of nutritious matters among those
parts of soil traversed by roots.

7. It improves the mechanical texture of the soil.

8. It causes the poisonous excrementitious matter of plants to be
carried out of the reach of their roots.

9. It prevents grasses from running out.

10. It enables us to deepen the surface soil.

By removing excess of water--

11. It renders soils earlier in the spring.

12. It prevents the throwing out of grain in winter.

13. It allows us to work sooner after rains.

14. It keeps off the effects of cold weather longer in the fall.

15. It prevents the formation of _acetic_ and other organic acids, which
induce the growth of sorrel and similar weeds.

16. It hastens the decay of vegetable matter, and the finer comminution
of the earthy parts of the soil.

17. It prevents, in a great measure, the evaporation of water, and the
consequent abstraction of heat from the soil.

18. It admits fresh quantities of water from rains, etc., which are
always more or less imbued with the fertilizing gases of the atmosphere,
to be deposited among the absorbent parts of soil, and given up to the
necessities of plants.

19. It prevents the formation of so hard a crust on the surface of the
soil as is customary on heavy lands.

       *       *       *       *       *

[How does under-draining prevent drought?]

1. Under-draining _prevents drought_, because it gives a better
circulation of air in the soil; (it does so by making it more open).
There is always the same amount of water _in_ and _about_ the surface of
the earth. In winter, there is more in the soil than in summer, while in
summer, that which has been dried out of the soil exists in the
atmosphere in the form of a _vapor_. It is held in the vapory form by
_heat_, which acts as _braces_ to keep it distended. When vapor comes in
contact with substances sufficiently colder than itself, it gives up its
heat--thus losing its braces--contracts, and becomes liquid water.

This may be observed in hundreds of common operations.

[Why is there less water in the soil in summer than in winter,
and where does it exist?

What holds it in its vapory form?

How is it affected by cold substances?

Describe the deposit of moisture on the outside of a pitcher in summer.

What other instances of the same action can be named?]

It is well known that a cold pitcher in summer robs the vapor in the
atmosphere of its heat, and causes it to be deposited on its own
surface. It looks as though the pitcher were _sweating_, but the water
all comes from the atmosphere, not, of course, through the sides of the

If we breathe on a knife-blade, it condenses in the same manner the
moisture of the breath, and becomes covered with a film of water.

Stone houses are damp in summer, because the inner surfaces of the
walls, being cooler than the atmosphere, cause its moisture to be
deposited in the manner described. By leaving a space, however, between
the walls and the plaster, this moisture is prevented from being

[How does this principle affect the soil?

Explain the experiment with the two boxes of soil.]

Nearly every night in the summer season, the cold earth receives
moisture from the atmosphere in the form of dew.

A cabbage, which at night is very cold, condenses water to the amount of
a gill or more.

The same operation takes place in the soil. When the air is allowed to
circulate among its lower and _cooler_ particles, they receive moisture
from the same process of condensation. Therefore, when, by the aid of
under-drains, the lower soil becomes sufficiently open to admit of a
circulation of air, the deposit of atmospheric moisture will keep the
soil supplied with water at a point easily accessible to the roots of

If we wish to satisfy ourselves that this is _practically_ correct, we
have only to prepare two boxes of finely pulverized soil, one, five or
six inches deep, and the other fifteen or twenty inches deep, and place
them in the sun at mid-day in summer. The thinner soil will be
completely dried, while the deeper one, though it may have been
perfectly dry at first, will soon accumulate a large amount of water on
those particles which, being lower and more sheltered from the sun's
heat than the particles of the thin soil, are made cooler.

With an open condition of subsoil, then, such as may be secured by
under-draining, we entirely overcome drought.

[How does under-draining supply to the soil an increased
amount of atmospheric fertilizers?

How does it warm the lower parts of the soil?]

2. Under-draining _furnishes an increased supply of atmospheric
fertilizers_, because it secures a change of air in the soil. This
change is produced whenever the soil becomes filled with water, and then
dried; when the air above the earth is in rapid motion, and when the
comparative temperature of the upper and lower soils changes. It causes
new quantities of the ammonia and carbonic acid which it contains to be
presented to the absorbent parts of the soil.

3. Under-draining _warms the lower parts of the soil_, because the
deposit of moisture (1) is necessarily accompanied by an abstraction of
heat from the atmospheric vapor, and because heat is withdrawn from the
whole amount of air circulating through the cooler soil.

When rain falls on the parched surface soil, it robs it of a portion of
its heat, which is carried down to equalize the temperature for the
whole depth. The heat of the rain-water itself is given up to the soil,
leaving the water from one to ten degrees cooler, when it passes out of
the drains, than when received by the earth.

There is always a current of air passing from the lower to the upper end
of a well constructed drain; and this air is always cooler in warm
weather, when it issues from, than when it enters the drain. Its lost
heat is imparted to the soil.

[How does it hasten the decomposition of roots and other
organic matter in the soil?

How does it accelerate the disintegration of its mineral parts?

Why is this disintegration necessary to fertility?]

This heating of the lower soil renders it more favorable to vegetation,
partially by expanding the spongioles at the end of the roots, thus
enabling them to absorb larger quantities of nutritious matters.

4. Under-draining _hastens the decomposition of roots and other organic
matters in the soil_, by admitting increased quantities of air, thus
supplying _oxygen_, which is as essential in decay as it is in
combustion. It also allows the resultant gases of decomposition to pass
away, leaving the air around the decaying substances in a condition to
continue the process.

This organic decay, besides its other benefits, produces an amount of
heat perfectly perceptible to the smaller roots of plants, though not so
to us.

5. Draining _accelerates the disintegration of the mineral matters in
the soil_, by admitting water and oxygen to keep up the process. This
disintegration is necessary to fertility, because the roots of plants
can feed only on matters dissolved from _surfaces_; and the more finely
we pulverize the soil, the more surface we expose. For instance, the
interior of a stone can furnish no food for plants; while, if it were
finely crushed, it might make a fertile soil.

Any thing, tending to open the soil to exposure, facilitates the
disintegration of its particles, and thereby increases its fertility.

[How does under-draining equalize the distribution of the
fertilizing parts of the soil?

Why does this distribution lessen the impoverishment of the soil?

How does under-draining improve the mechanical texture of the soil?

How do drains affect the excrementitious matter of plants?]

6. Draining _causes a more even distribution of nutritious matters among
those parts of soil traversed by roots_, because it increases the ease
with which water travels around, descending by its own weight, moving
sideways by a desire to find its level, or carried upward by attraction
to supply the evaporation at the surface. By this continued motion of
the water, soluble matter of one part of the soil may be carried to some
other part; and another constituent from this latter position may be
carried back to the former. Thus the food of vegetables is continually
circulating around among their roots, ready for absorption at any point
where it is needed, while the more open character of the soil enables
roots to occupy larger portions, making a more even drain on the whole,
and preventing the undue impoverishment of any part.

7. Under-drains _improve the mechanical texture of the soil_; because,
by the decomposition of its parts, as previously described (4 and 5), it
is rendered of a character to be more easily worked; while smooth round
particles, which have a tendency to pack, are roughened by the oxidation
of their surfaces, and move less easily among each other.

8. Drains _cause the excrementitious matter of plants to be carried out
of the reach of their roots_. Nearly all plants return to the soil those
parts of their food, which are not adapted to their necessities, and
usually in a form that is poisonous to plants of the same kind. In an
open soil, this matter may be carried by rains to a point where roots
cannot reach it, and where it may undergo such changes as will fit it to
be again taken up.

[Why do they prevent grasses from running out?]

9. By under-draining, _grasses are prevented from running out_, partly
by preventing the accumulation of the poisonous excrementitious matter,
and partly because these grasses usually consist of _tillering_ plants.

These plants continually reproduce themselves in sprouts from the upper
parts of their roots. These sprouts become independent plants, and
continue to tiller (thus keeping the land supplied with a full growth),
until the roots of the _stools_ (or clumps of tillers), come in contact
with an uncongenial part of the soil, when the tillering ceases; the
stools become extinct on the death of their plants, and the grasses run

The open and healthy condition of soil produced by draining prevents the
tillering from being stopped, and thus keeps up a full growth of grass
until the nutriment of the soil is exhausted.

10. Draining _enables us to deepen the surface-soil_, because the
admission of air and the decay of roots render the condition of the
subsoil such that it may be brought up and mixed with the surface-soil,
without injuring _its quality_.

The second class of advantages of under-draining, arising in the removal
of the excess of water in the soil, are quite as important as those just

[How does the removal of water render soils earlier in spring?

Why does it prevent the throwing out of grain in winter?

Why does it enable us to work sooner after rains?

Why does it keep off the effects of cold weather longer in the fall?]

11. _Soils are, thereby, rendered earlier in spring_, because the water,
which rendered them cold, heavy, and untillable, is earlier removed,
leaving them earlier in a growing condition.

12. _The throwing out of grain in winter_ is prevented, because the
water falling on the earth is immediately removed instead of remaining
to throw up the soil by freezing, as it always does from the upright
position taken by the particles of ice.

13. _We are enabled to work sooner after rains_, because the water
descends, and is immediately removed instead of lying to be taken off by
the slow process of evaporation, and sinking through a heavy soil.

14. _The effects of cold weather are kept off longer in the fall_,
because the excess of water is removed, which would produce an unfertile
condition on the first appearance of cold weather.

The drains also, from causes already named (3), keep the soil warmer
than before being drained, thus actually lengthening the season, by
making the soil warm enough for vegetable growth earlier in spring, and
later in autumn.

[How does it prevent lands from becoming sour?

Why does it hasten the decay of roots, and the comminution of mineral

How does it prevent the abstraction of heat from the soil?]

15. _Lands are prevented from becoming sour by the formation of acetic
acid_, etc., because these acids are produced in the soil only when the
decomposition of organic matter is arrested by the _antiseptic_
(preserving) powers of water. If the water is removed, the decomposition
of the organic matter assumes a healthy form, while the acids already
produced are neutralized by atmospheric influences, and the soil is
restored from sorrel to a condition in which it is fitted for the growth
of more valuable plants.

16. _The decay of roots_, etc., is allowed to proceed, because the
preservative influence of too much water is removed. Wood, leaves, or
other vegetable matter kept continually under water, will last for ages;
while, if exposed to the action of the weather, as in under-drained
soils, they soon decay.

The presence of too much water, by excluding the oxygen of the air,
prevents the _comminution of matters_ necessary to fertility.

[How much heat does water take up in becoming vapor?

Why does water sprinkled on a floor render it cooler?

Why is not a cubic inch of vapor warmer than a cubic inch of water?

Why does a wet cloth on the head make it cooler when fanned?

How does this principle apply to the soil?]

17. _The evaporation of water, and the consequent abstraction of heat
from the soil, is in a great measure prevented_ by draining the water
out at the _bottom_ of the soil, instead of leaving it to be dried off
from the surface.

When water assumes the gaseous (or vapory) form, it takes up 1723 times
as much _heat_ as it contained while a liquid. A large part of this heat
is derived from surrounding substances. When water is sprinkled on the
floor, it cools the room; because, as it becomes a vapor, it takes heat
from the room. The reason why vapor does not feel hotter than liquid
water is, that, while it contains 1723 times as much heat, it is 1723 as
large. Hence, a cubic inch of vapor, into which we place the bulb of a
thermometer, contains no more heat than a cubic inch of water. The
principle is the same in some other cases. A sponge containing a
table-spoonful of water is just as _wet_ as one twice as large and
containing two spoonsful.

If a wet cloth be placed on the head, and the evaporation of its water
assisted by fanning, the head becomes cooler--a portion of its heat
being taken to sustain the vapory condition of the water.

The same principle holds true with the soil. When the evaporation of
water is rapidly going on, by the assistance of the sun, wind, etc., a
large quantity of heat is abstracted, and the soil becomes cold.

When there is no evaporation taking place, except of water which has
been deposited on the lower portions of soil, and carried to the surface
by capillary attraction (as is nearly true on under-drained soils), the
loss of heat is compensated by that taken from the moisture in the
atmosphere by the soil, in the above-named manner.

This cooling of the soil by the evaporation of water, is of very great
injury to its powers of producing crops, and the fact that under-drains
avoid it, is one of the best arguments in favor of their use. Some idea
may, perhaps, be formed of the amount of heat taken from the soil in
this way, from the fact that, in midsummer, 25 hogsheads of water may be
evaporated from a single acre in twelve hours.

[When rains are allowed to _enter_ the soil, how do they
benefit it?

How do under-drains prevent the formation of a crust on the surface of a

18. When not saturated with water the soil admits the water of rains,
etc., which bring with them _fertilizing gases from the atmosphere_, to
be deposited among the absorbent parts of soil, and given up to the
necessities of the plant. When this rain falls on lands already
saturated, it cannot enter the soil, but must run off from the surface,
or be removed by evaporation, either of which is injurious. The first,
because fertilizing matter is washed away. The second, because the soil
is deprived of necessary heat.

19. _The formation of crust on the surface of the soil_ is due to the
evaporation of water, which is drawn up from below by capillary
attraction. It arises from the fact that the water in the soil is
saturated with mineral substances, which it leaves at its point of
evaporation at the surface. This soluble matter from below, often forms
a very hard crust, which is a complete shield to prevent the admission
of air with its ameliorating effects, and should, as far as possible, be
avoided. Under-draining is the best means of doing this, as it is the
best means of lessening the evaporation.

The foregoing are some of the more important reasons why under-draining
is always beneficial. Thorough experiments have amply proved the truth
of the theory.

[What kinds of soil are benefited by under-draining?]

The _kinds of soil benefited by under-draining_ are nearly as unlimited
as the kinds of soil in existence. It is a common opinion, among
farmers, that the only soils which require draining are those which are
at times covered with water, such as swamps and other low lands; but the
facts stated in the early part of this chapter, show us that every kind
of soil--wet, dry, compact, or light--receives benefit from the
treatment. The fact that land is _too dry_, is as much a reason why it
should be drained, as that it is _too wet_, as it overcomes drought as
effectually as it removes the injurious effects of too much water.

All soils in which the water of heavy rains does not immediately pass
down to a depth of at least _thirty inches_, should be under-drained,
and the operation, if carried on with judgment, would invariably result
in profit.

[What do English farmers name as the profits of

What stand has been taken by the English government with regard to

Of the precise _profits_ of under-draining this is not the place to
speak: many of the agricultural papers contain numerous accounts of its
success. It may be well to remark here, that many English farmers give
it, as their experience, that under-drains pay for themselves every
three years, or that they produce a perpetual profit of 33-1/3 per
cent., or their original cost. This is not the opinion of _theorists_
and _book farmers_. It is the conviction of practical men, who know,
_from experience_, that under-drains are beneficial.

The best evidence of the utility of under-draining is the position, with
regard to it, which has been taken by the English national government,
which affords much protection to the agricultural interests of her
people--a protection which in this country is unwisely and unjustly

In England a very large sum from the public treasury has been
appropriated as a fund for loans, on under-drains, which is lent to
farmers for the purpose of under-draining their estates, the only
security given being the increased value of the soil. The time allowed
for payments is twenty years, and only five per cent. interest is
charged. By the influence of this patronage, the actual wealth of the
kingdom is being rapidly increased, while the farmers themselves, can
raise their farms to any desired state of fertility, without immediate

[How does under-draining affect the healthfulness of marshy

Describe the sub-soil plow.]

The best proof that the government has not acted injudiciously in this
matter is, that private capitalists are fast employing their money in
the same manner, and loans on under-drains are considered a very safe

There is no doubt that we may soon have similar facilities for improving
our farms, and when we do, we shall find that it is unnecessary to move
West to find good soil. The districts nearer market, where the expense
of transportation is much less, may, by the aid of under-drains, and a
judicious system of cultivation, be made equally fertile.

One very important, though not strictly agricultural, effect of thorough
drainage is its removal of certain local diseases, peculiar to the
vicinity of marshy or low moist soils. The health-reports in several
places in England, show that where _fever and ague_ was once common, it
has almost entirely disappeared since the general use of under-drains in
those localities.



[Describe the Mapes plow.

Why is the motion in the soil of one and a half inches sufficient?

How does the oxidation of the particles of the soil resemble the rusting
of cannon balls in a pile?]

The _sub-soil plow_ is an implement differing in figure from the surface
plow. It does not turn a furrow, but merely runs through the subsoil
like a mole--loosening and making it finer by lifting, but allowing it
to fall back and occupy its former place. It usually follows the surface
plow, entering the soil to the depth of from twelve to eighteen inches
below the bottom of the surface furrow.

The best pattern now made (the Mapes plow) is represented in the
following figure.

[Illustration: Fig. 8.

The Mapes plow and its mode of action. _a_--Shape of the foot of the
plow, _b_--Its effect on the soil.]

The sub-soil plows first made raised the whole soil about eight inches,
and required very great power in their use often six, eight, or even ten
oxen. The Mapes plow, raising the soil but slightly, may be worked with
much less power, and produces equally good results. It may be run to its
full depth in most soils by a single yoke of oxen.

Of course a motion in the soil of but one and a half inches is very
slight, but it is sufficient to move each particle from the one next to
it which, in dry soils, is all that is necessary. Whoever has examined a
pile of cannon-balls must have observed that at the points where they
touch each other, there is a little rust. In the soil, the same is often
the case. Where the particles touch each other, there is such a chemical
change produced as renders them fit for the use of plants. While these
particles remain in their first position, the changed portions are out
of the reach of roots; but, if, by the aid of the sub-soil plow, their
position is altered, these parts are exposed for the uses of plants. If
we hold in the hand a ball of dry clay, and press it hard enough to
produce the least motion among its particles, the whole mass becomes
pulverized. On the same principle, the sub-soil plow renders the compact
lower soil sufficiently fine for the requirements of fertility.

[Why are the benefits of sub-soiling not permanent on wet

Does sub-soiling overcome drought?

How does it deepen the surface soil?]

Notwithstanding its great benefits on land, which is sufficiently dry,
sub-soiling cannot be recommended for wet lands; for, in such case, the
rains of a single season would often be sufficient to entirely overcome
its effects by packing the subsoil down to its former hardness.

On lands not overcharged with water, it is productive of the best
results, it being often sufficient to turn the balance between a gaining
and a losing business in farming.

It increases nearly every effect of under-draining; especially does it
overcome drought, by loosening the soil, and admitting air to circulate
among the particles of the subsoil and deposit its moisture on the
principle described in the chapter on under-draining.

It deepens the surface-soil, because it admits roots into the subsoil
where they decay and leave carbon, while the circulation of air so
affects the mineral parts, that they become of a fertilizing character.
The deposit of carbon gives to the subsoil the power of absorbing, and
retaining the atmospheric fertilizers, which are more freely presented,
owing to the fact that the air is allowed to circulate with greater
freedom. As a majority of roots decay in the surface-soil, they there
deposit much mineral matter obtained from the subsoil.

[Why is the retention of atmospheric manures ensured by

Why are organic manures plowed deeply under the soil, less liable to
evaporation than when deposited near the surface?

How does sub-soiling resemble under-draining in relation to the
tillering of grasses?

When the subsoil consists of a thin layer of clay on a sandy bed, what
use may be made of the sub-soil plow?]

The retention of atmospheric manures is more fully ensured by the
better exposure of the clayey portions of the soil.

Those manures which are artificially applied, by being plowed under to
greater depths, are less liable to evaporation, as, from the greater
amount of soil above them, their escape will more probably be arrested;
and, from the greater prevalence of roots, they are more liable to be
taken up by plants.

The subsoil often contains matters which are deficient in the
surface-soil. By the use of the sub-soil plow, they are rendered

Sub-soiling is similar to under-draining in continuing the tillering of
grasses, and in getting rid of the poisonous excrementitious matter of

When the subsoil is a thin layer of clay on a sandy bed (as in some
plants of Cumberland Co. Maine), the sub-soil plow, by passing through
it, opens a passage for water, and often affords a sufficient drainage.

[To how great a depth will the roots of plants usually occupy
the soil?

What is the object of loosening the soil?

How are these various effects better produced in deep than in shallow

If plants will grow better on a soil six inches deep than on one of
three inches, there is no reason why they should not be benefited in
proportion, by disturbing the soil to the whole depth to which roots
will travel--which is usually more than two feet. The minute rootlets
of corn and most other plants, will, if allowed by cultivation, occupy
the soil to the depth or thirty-four inches, having a fibre in nearly
every cubic inch of the soil for the whole distance. There are very few
cultivated plants whose roots would not travel to a depth of thirty
inches or more. Even the onion sends its roots to the depth of eighteen
inches when the soil is well cultivated.

The object of loosening the soil is to admit roots to a sufficient depth
to hold the plant in its position--to obtain the nutriment necessary to
its growth--to receive moisture from the lower portions of the
soil--and, if it be a bulb, tuber, or tap, to assume the form requisite
for its largest development.

It must be evident that roots, penetrating the soil to a depth of two
feet, anchor the plant with greater stability than those which are
spread more thinly near the surface.

The roots of plants traversing the soil to such great distances, and
being located in nearly every part, absorb mineral and other food, in
solution in water, only through the _spongioles at their ends_.
Consequently, by having these ends in _every part_ of the soil, it is
_all_ brought under contribution, and the amount supplied is greater,
while the demand on any particular part may be less than when the whole
requirements of plants have to be supplied from a depth of a few inches.

[May garden soils be profitably imitated in field culture?]

The ability of roots, to assume a natural shape in the soil, and grow to
their largest sizes, must depend on the condition of the soil. If it is
finely pulverized to the whole depth to which they ought to go, they
will be fully developed; while, if the soil be too hard for penetration,
they will be deformed or small. Thus a carrot may grow to the length of
two and a half feet, and be of perfect shape, while, if it meet in its
course at a depth of eight or ten inches a _cold, hard_ subsoil, its
growth must be arrested, or its form injured.

Roots are turned aside by a hard sub-soil, as they would be if received
by the surface of a plate of glass.

Add to this the fact that cold, impenetrable subsoils are _chemically_
uncongenial to vegetation, and we have sufficient evidence of the
importance, and in many cases the absolute necessity of sub-soiling and

It is unnecessary to urge the fact that a garden soil of two feet is
more productive than a field soil of six inches; and it is certain that
proper attention to these two modes of cultivation will in a majority of
cases make a garden of the field--more than doubling its value in ease
of working, increased produce, certain security against drought, and
more even distribution of the demands on the soil--while the outlay will
be immediately repaid by an increase of crops.

[Is the use of the sub-soil plow increasing?

Will its use ever injure crops?]

The subsoil will be much improved in its character the first year, and a
continual advancement renders it in time equal to the original
surface-soil, and extending to a depth of two feet or more.

The sub-soil plow is coming rapidly into use. There are now in New
Jersey more foundries casting sub-soil plows than there were sub-soil
plows in the State six years ago. The implement has there, as well as in
many other places, ceased to be a curiosity; and the man who now objects
to its use, is classed with him who shells his corn on a shovel over a
half-bushel, instead of employing an improved machine, which will enable
him to do more in a day than he can do in the "good old way" in a week.

Had we space, we might give many instances of the success of
sub-soiling, but the agricultural papers of the present day (at least
one of which every farmer should take) have so repeatedly published its
advantages, that we will not do so.

In no case will its use be found any thing but satisfactory, except in
occasional instances where there is some chemical difficulty in the
subsoil, which an analysis will tell us how to overcome.

As was before stated, its use on wet lands is not advisable until they
have been under-drained, as excess of water prevents its effects from
being permanent.



[May the satisfaction attending labor be increased by an
understanding of the natural laws which regulate our operations?

On what depends the kind of plow to be used?]

The advantages of pulverizing the soil, and the _reasons_ why it is
necessary, are now too well known to need remark. Few farmers, when they
plow, dig, or harrow, are enabled to give substantial reasons for so
doing. If they will reflect on what has been said in the previous
chapters, concerning the supply of mineral food to the plant by the
soil, and the effect of air and moisture about roots, they will find
more satisfaction in their labor than it can afford when applied without


[What is a general rule with regard to this?

Should deep plowing be immediately adopted? Why?

Why is this course of treatment advisable for garden culture?]

The kind of plow used in cultivating the surface-soil must be decided
by the kind of soil. This question the practical, _observing_ farmer
will be able to solve.

As a general rule, it may be stated that the plow which runs the
_deepest_, with the same amount of force, is the best.

We might enter more fully into this matter but for want of space.

The advantages of _deep plowing_ cannot be too strongly urged.

The statement that the _deeper_ and the _finer_ the soil is rendered,
the more productive it will become, is in every respect true, and which
no single instance will contradict.

It must not be inferred from this, that we would advise a farmer, who
has always plowed his soil to the depth of only six inches, to double
the depth at once. Such a practice in some soils would be highly
injurious, as it would completely bury the more fertile and better
cultivated soil, and bring to the top one which contains no organic
matter, and has never been subject to atmospheric influences. This
would, perhaps, be so little fitted for vegetation that it would
scarcely sustain plants until their roots could reach the more fertile
parts below. Such treatment of the soil (turning it upside down) is
excellent in _garden_ culture, where the great amount of manures
applied is sufficient to overcome the temporary barrenness of the soil,
but it is not to be recommended for all _field_ cultivation, where much
less manure is employed.

[How should field plowing be conducted?

How does such treatment affect soils previously limed?

How may it sometimes improve sandy or clay soils?]

The course to be pursued in such cases is to _plow one inch deeper each
year_. By this means the soil maybe gradually deepened to any desired
extent. The amount of uncongenial soil which will thus be brought up, is
slight, and will not interfere at all with the fertility of the soil,
while the elevated portion will become, in one year, so altered by
exposure, that it will equal the rest of the soil in fertility.

Often where lime has been used in excess, it has sunk to the subsoil,
where it remains inactive. The slight deepening of the surface plowing
would mix this lime with the surface-soil, and render it again useful.

When the soil is light and sandy, resting on a heavy clay subsoil, or
clay on sand, the bringing up of the mass from below will improve the
texture of the soil.

As an instance of the success of deep plowing, we call to mind the case
of a farmer in New Jersey, who had a field which had yielded about
twenty-five bushels of corn per acre. It had been cultivated at ordinary
depths. After laying it out in eight step lands (24 feet), he plowed it
at all depths from five to ten inches, on the different lands, and
sowed oats evenly over the whole field. The crop on the five inch soil
was very poor, on the six inch rather better, on the seven inch better
still, and on the ten inch soil it was as fine as ever grew in New
Jersey; it had stiff straw and broad leaves, while the grain was also
much better than on the remainder of the field.

[What kind of soils are benefited by fall plowing?]

There is an old anecdote of a man who died, leaving his sons with the
information that he had buried a pot of gold for them, somewhere on the
farm. They commenced digging for the gold, and dug over the whole farm
to a great depth without finding the gold. The digging, however, so
enriched the soil that they were fully compensated for their
disappointment, and became wealthy from the increased produce of their

Farmers will find, on experiment, that they have gold buried in their
soil, if they will but dig deep enough to obtain it. The law gives a man
the ownership of the soil for an indefinite distance from the surface,
but few seem to realize that there is _another farm_ below the one they
are cultivating, which is quite as valuable as the one on the surface,
if it were but properly worked.

_Fall plowing_, especially for heavy lands, is a very good means of
securing the action of the frosts of winter to pulverize the soil. If it
be a stiff clay, it may be well to throw the soil up into ridges (by
ridging and back furrowing), so as to expose the largest possible amount
of surface to the freezing and thawing of winter. Sandy soils should not
be plowed in the fall, as it renders them too light.


[What is the digging machine?]

A recent invention has been made in England, known as the digging
machine or rotary spade, which--although from having too much gearing
between the power and the part performing the labor, it is not adapted
to general use--has given such promise of future success, that Mr. Mechi
(an agricultural writer of the highest standing) has said that "the plow
is doomed." This can hardly be true, for the varied uses to which it may
be applied, will guarantee its continuance in the favor of the farmer.

Already, in this country, Messrs. Gibbs & Mapes, have invented a digging
machine of very simple construction, which seems calculated to serve an
excellent purpose, even in the hands of the farmer of limited means.

Its friends assert that, with one pair of oxen, it will dig perfectly
three feet wide, and for a depth of fifteen inches. An experiment with
an unperfected machine, in the presence of the writer, seemed to justify
their hopes.

This machine thoroughly pulverizes the soil to a considerable depth, and
for smooth land must prove far superior to the plow.


[Why is the harrow a defective implement?

Why is the cultivator superior to the harrow?]

The _harrow_, an implement largely used in all parts of the world, to
pulverize the soil, and break clods, has become so firmly rooted in the
affections of farmers, that it must be a very long time before they can
be convinced that it is not the best implement for the use to which it
is devoted. It is true that it pulverizes the soil for a depth of two or
three inches, and thus much improves its appearance, benefiting it,
without doubt, for the earliest stages of the growth of plants. Its
action, however, is very defective, because, from the _wedge_ shape of
its teeth, it continually acts to _pack_ the soil; thus--although
favorable for the germination of the seed--it is not calculated to
benefit the plant during the later stages of its growth, when the roots
require the soil to be pulverized to a considerable depth.

The _cultivator_ may be considered an _improved harrow_. The principal
difference between them being, that while the teeth of the harrow are
pointed at the lower end, those of the cultivator are shaped like a
small double plow, being large at the bottom and growing smaller
towards the top. They lift the earth up, instead of pressing it
downwards, thus loosening instead of compacting the soil.

Many styles of cultivators are now sold at agricultural warehouses. A
very good one, for field use, may be made by substituting the cultivator
teeth for the spikes in an old harrow frame.




[Name some of the benefits of rolling?]

_Rolling_ the soil with a large roller, arranged to be drawn by a team,
is in many instances a good accessory to cultivation. By its means, the
following results are obtained:--

1. The soil at the surface is pulverized without the compacting of the
lower parts, the area of contact being large.

2. The stones on the land are pressed down so as to be out of the way of
the scythe in mowing.

3. The soil is compacted around seeds after sowing in such a manner as
to exclude light and to _touch_ them in every part, both of which are
essential to their germination and to the healthfulness of the plants.

[Under what circumstances should the roller be used?]

4. The soil is so compacted at the surface, that it is less frequented
by _grubs_, etc., than when it is more loose.

5. When the soil is smoothed in this manner, there is less surface
exposed for the evaporation of water with its cooling effect.

6. Light sandy lands, by being rolled in the fall, are rendered more
compact, and the loosening effects of frequent freezing and thawing are

Although productive of these various effects, rolling should be adopted
only with much care, and should never be applied to very heavy lands,
except in dry weather when lumpy after plowing, as its tendency in such
cases would be to render them still more difficult of cultivation. Soils
in which air does not circulate freely, are not improved by rolling, as
it presses the surface-particles still more closely together, and
prevents the free admission of the atmosphere.

If well _under-drained_, a large majority of soils would doubtless be
benefited by a judicious use of the roller.[AL]


[What is mulching?

What are some of its benefits?]

_Mulching_ (called Gurneyism in England) consists in covering the soil
with salt hay, litter, seaweed, leaves, spent tanbark, chips, or other
refuse matter.

Every farmer must have noticed that, if a board or rail, or an old
brush-heap be removed in spring from soil where grass is growing, the
grass afterwards grows in those places much larger and better than in
other parts of the field.

This improvement arises from various causes.

1. The evaporation of water from the soil is prevented during drought by
the shade afforded by the mulch; and it is therefore kept in better
condition, as to moisture and temperature, than when evaporation goes on
more freely. This condition is well calculated to advance the chemical
changes necessary to prepare the matters--both organic and mineral--in
the soil for the use of plants.

2. By preventing evaporation, we partially protect the soil from losing
ammonia resultant from decaying organic matter.

3. A heavy mulch breaks the force of rains, and prevents them from
compacting the soil, as would be the result, were no such precaution

4. Mulching protects the surface-soil from freezing as readily as when
exposed, and thus keeps it longer open for the admission of air and
moisture. When unprotected, the soil early becomes frozen; and all water
falling, instead of entering as it should do, passes off on the surface.

[Why does mulching take the place of artificial watering?

Why is the late sowing of oats beneficial?

From what arises the chief benefit of top dressing the soil with manure
in autumn?]

5. The throwing out of winter grain is often prevented, because this is
due to the freezing of the surface-soil.

6. Mulching prevents the growth of some weeds, because it removes from
them the fostering heat of the sun.

Many of the best nursery-men keep the soil about the roots of young
trees mulched continually. One of the chief arguments for this treatment
is, that it prevents the removal of the moisture from the soil and the
consequent loss of heat. Also that it keeps up a full supply of water
for the uses of the roots, because it keeps the soil cool, and causes a
deposit of dew.

7. It also prevents the "baking" of the soil, or the formation of a

It is to be recommended in nearly all cases to sow oats very thinly over
land intended for winter fallow after the removal of crops, as they will
grow a little before being killed by the frost, when they will fall
down, thus affording a very beneficial mulch to the soil.

When farmers spread manure on their fields in the fall to be plowed
under in the spring, they benefit the land by the mulching more than by
the addition of fertilizing matter, because they give it the protecting
influence of the straw, etc., while they lose much of the ammonia of
their manure by evaporation. The same mulching might be more cheaply
done with leaves, or other refuse matter, and the ammonia of the manure
made available by composting with absorbents.

[Why is snow particularly beneficial?]

It is an old and true saying that "snow is the poor man's manure." The
reason why it is so beneficial is, chiefly, that it acts as a most
excellent mulch. It contains no more ammonia than rain-water does; and,
were it not for the fact that it protects the soil against loss of heat,
and produces other benefits of mulching, it would have no more
advantageous effect. The severity of winters at the North is partially
compensated by the long duration of snow.

It is a well known fact that when there is but little snow in cold
countries, wheat is very liable to be _winter killed_. The same
protection is afforded by artificial mulching.

This treatment is peculiarly applicable to the cultivation of flowers,
both in pots and in beds out of doors. It is almost indispensable to the
profitable production of strawberries, and many other garden crops, such
as asparagus, rhubarb, etc. Many say that the best treatment for trees
is to put stones about their roots. This is simply _mulching_ them, and
might be done more cheaply by the use of leaves, copying the action of
nature in forests;[AM] for, unless these stones be removed in spring,
they will sink and compact the soil in part during open weather.


[What are some of the uses of weeds? Their disadvantages?]

If a farmer were asked--what is the use of _weeds_? he might make out
quite a list of their benefits, among which might be some of the

1. They shade tender plants, and in a measure serve as a mulch to the

2. Some weeds, by their offensive odor, drive away many insects.

3. They may serve as a green crop to be plowed into the soil, and
increase its organic matter.

4. _They make us stir the soil_, and thus increase its fertility.

Still, while thinking out these excuses for weeds, he would see other
and more urgent reasons why they should not be allowed to grow.

1. They occupy the soil to the disadvantage of crops.

2. They exclude light and heat from cultivated plants, and thus
interfere with their growth.

3. They take up mineral and other matters from the soil, and hold them
during the growing season, thus depriving crops of their use.

It is not necessary to argue the injury done by weeds. Every farmer is
well convinced that they should be destroyed, and the best means of
accomplishing this are of the greatest importance.

[How may we protect ourselves against their increase?

Why is it especially important for this purpose to maintain the balance
of the soil?]

In the first place, we should protect ourselves against their increase.
This may be done:--

By decomposing all manures in compost, whereby the seeds contained will
be killed by the heat of fermentation; or, if one bushel of salt be
mixed through each cord of compost (as before recommended), it will kill
seeds as well as grubs,--

By hoeing, or, otherwise, destroying growing weeds before they mature
their seeds, and

By keeping the soil in the best chemical condition.

This last point is one of much importance. It is well known that soils
deficient in potash, will naturally produce one kind of plants, while
soils deficient in phosphoric acid will produce plants of another
species, etc. Many soils produce certain weeds which would not grow on
them if they were made chemically perfect, as indicated by analysis. It
is also believed that those weeds, which naturally grow on the most
fertile soils, are the ones most easily destroyed. There are exceptions
(of which the Thistle is one), but this is given as a general rule.

[How much salt may be used with advantage?

Why is the scuffle-hoe superior to the common hoe?]

By careful attention to the foregoing points, weeds may be kept from
increasing while those already in the soil may be eradicated in various
ways, chiefly by mechanical means, such as hoeing, plowing, etc.[AN]

Prof. Mapes says that six bushels of salt annually sown broadcast over
each acre of land, will destroy very many weeds as well as grubs and

The _common hoe_ is a very imperfect tool for the purpose of removing
weeds, as it prepares a better soil for, and replants in a position to
grow, nearly as many weeds as it destroys.

The _scuffle-hoe_ (or push-hoe) is much more effective, as, when worked
by a man walking backwards, and retiring as he works, it leaves nearly
all of the weeds on the surface of the soil to be killed by the sun.
When used in this way, the earth is not trodden on after being hoed--as
is the case when the common hoe is employed. This treading, besides
compacting the soil, covers the roots of many weeds, and causes them to
grow again.

[How may much labor be saved in removing weeds?

What is the Langdon horse-hoe?

Describe the _universal_ cultivator?]

Much of the labor of weeding usually performed by men, might be more
cheaply done by horses. There are various implements for this purpose,
some of which are coming, in many parts of the country, into very
general use.

One of the best of these is the _Langdon Horse Hoe_, which is a
shovel-shaped plow, to be run one or two inches deep. It has a wing on
each side to prevent the earth from falling on to the plants in the
rows. At the rear, or upper edge, is a kind of rake or comb, which
allows the earth to pass through, while the weeds pass over the comb and
fall on the surface of the soil, to be killed by the heat of the sun. It
is a simple and cheap tool, and will perform the work of twenty men with
hoes. The hand hoe will be necessary only in the rows.


The _cultivator_, which was described in the preceding chapter, and of
which there are various patterns in use, is excellent for weeding, and
for loosening the soil between the rows of corn, etc. The one called
the _universal_ cultivator, having its side bars made of iron, curved so
that at whatever distance it is placed the teeth will point _straight
forward_, is a much better tool than those of the older patterns, which
had the teeth so arranged that when set for wide rows, they pointed
towards the clevis. It is difficult to keep such a cultivator in its
place, while the "_universal_" is as difficult to move out of a straight


[What is the improved horse-hoe?]

The _improved horse-hoe_ is a combination of the "Langdon" horse hoe and
the cultivator, and is the best implement, for many purposes, that has
yet been made.[AO]

[Illustration: Fig. 9]


Until within a comparatively short period, but little attention has been
paid to the production of machines for harvesting the various crops.

During the past few years, however, many valuable inventions have
appeared. Among these we notice Ketchum's mower, Hussey's mower and
reaper, and Wagener's grain and grass seed harvester. The latter machine
gathers only the grain and seeds of the crop, leaving the straw to be
plowed under the soil, thus maintaining its supply of soluble silicates,
and increasing its amount of organic matter. After taking the seed heads
from the standing straw and grasses, it thrashes them, blows out the
chaff, separates the different kinds of seeds, and discharges them into
bags ready for market. It consists of a car containing the machinery; to
this may be attached any required number of horses. The inventor affirms
that it has harvested the grain of two acres in one hour, performing the
work with accuracy.[AP]

       *       *       *       *       *

There is much truth in the following proverbs:

"A garden that is well kept, is kept easily."

"You must conquer weeds, or weeds will conquer you."

[What are the two great rules in mechanical cultivation?]

It is almost impossible to give a _recapitulation_ of the matters
treated in this section, as it is, itself, but an outline of subjects
which might occupy our whole book. The scholar and the farmer should
understand every principle which it contains, as well as they understand
the multiplication table; and their application will be found, in every
instance, to produce the best results.

The two great rules of mechanical cultivation are--




[AL] Field rollers should be made in sections, for ease of turning.

[AM] The beneficial effects of mulching is so great as to lead us to the
conclusion that it has other means of action than those mentioned in
this book. Future experiments may lead to more knowledge on this

[AN] It is possible that the excrementitious matter thrown out by some
plants may be sufficiently destructive to other kinds to exterminate
them from the soil--thus, farmers in Maine say that a single crop of
turnips will entirely rid the soil of _witch grass_. This is,
undoubtedly, the effect of the excrementitious matter of the turnips.
This subject is one of practical importance, and demands close
investigation by farmers, which may lead to its being reduced to a

[AO] The improved horse-hoe is made and sold by Ruggles, Nourse & Mason,
of Worcester, Mass., and Quincy Hall, Boston.

[AP] This machine is more fully noticed in the advertising pages.




[Why does true practical economy require that the soil should
be analyzed?]

At the present time, when such marked improvements have been, and are
still being made, in the practice of agriculture, the farmer cannot be
too strongly advised to procure an analysis of his soil, and for obvious

It has been sufficiently proved that the plant draws from the soil
certain kinds of mineral matter, in certain proportions; also, that if
the soil do not contain the constituents required, the plants cannot
obtain them, and consequently cannot grow. Furthermore, in proportion to
the ability of the soil to supply these materials, in exactly the same
proportion will it, when under good treatment, produce good and
abundant crops.

[Can each farmer make his own analyses?

Why will not travelling chemists answer the purpose?

How must an analysis be used?]

All admit the value and the necessity of manures; they are required to
make up deficiencies in the soil, and consequently, they must supply to
it the matters which are wanting. In order to know what is wanting, we
must know the composition of the soil. This can be learned only by
accurate chemical analysis. Such an analysis every farmer must possess
before he can conduct his operations with _true practical economy_.

An important question now arises as to whether each farmer can make his
own analyses. He cannot do so without long study and practice. The late
Prof. Norton said that, at least _two years'_ time would be necessary to
enable a man to become competent to make a reliable analysis. When we
reflect that a farmer may never need more than five or six analyses, we
shall see that the time necessary to learn the art would be much more
valuable than the cost of the analyses (at $5 or $10 each), setting
aside the cost of apparatus, and the fact that while practising in the
laboratory, he must not use his hands for any labor that would unfit
them for the most delicate manipulations.

Neither will _travelling_ chemists be able to make analyses as
accurately and as cheaply as those who work in their own laboratories,
where their apparatus is not liable to the many injuries consequent on
frequent removal. The cost of sending one hundred samples of soil to a
distant chemist, would be much less than the expense of having his
apparatus brought to the town where his services are required.

[How may a farmer obtain the requisite knowledge?

When are the services of a consulting agriculturist required?]

_The way in which an analysis should be used_ is a matter of much
importance. To a man who knows nothing of chemistry (be he ever so
successful a farmer), an analysis, as received from a chemist, would be
as useless and unintelligible as though it were written in Chinese;
while, if a chemist who knew nothing of farming, were to give him advice
concerning the application of manures, he would be led equally astray,
and his course would be any thing but _practical_. It is necessary that
chemical and practical knowledge should be combined, and then the value
of analysis will be fully demonstrated. The _amount_ of knowledge
required is not great, but it must be _thorough_. The information
contained in this little book is sufficient, but it would be folly for a
man to attempt to use an analysis from reading it once hurriedly over.
It must be studied and thought on with great care, before it can be of
material assistance. The evenings of one winter, devoted to this
subject, will enable a farmer to understand the application of analysis
to practical farming, especially if other and more compendious works
are also read. A less time could hardly be recommended.

[Is there any doubt as to the practical value of analysis?

How should samples of soil for analysis be selected?]

Where this attention cannot be given to the subject, the services of a
Consulting Agriculturist should be employed to advise the treatment
necessary to render fertile the soil analyzed.

Every farmer, however, should learn enough of the principles of
agriculture to be able to use an analysis, when procured, without such

Nearly all scientific men (all of the highest merit) are unanimous in
their conviction of the _practical_ value of an analysis of soils; and a
volume of instances of their success, with hardly a single failure,
might be published.

Prof. Mapes says, in the _Working Farmer_, that he has given advice on
hundreds of different soils, and _not a single instance_ can be found
where he has failed to produce a profit greater than the cost of
analysis and advice. Dr. T. C. Jackson, of Boston, the late Prof.
Norton, of Yale College, and others, have had universal success in this

Analysis must be considered the only sure road to economical farming.

_To select samples of soil for analysis_, take a spadeful from various
parts of the field--going to exactly the depth to which it has been
plowed--until, say a wheel-barrow full, has been obtained. Mix this
well together, and send about a quart or a pint of it (free from stones)
to the chemist. This will represent all of that part of the farm which
has been subject to the same cultivation, and is of the same mechanical
character. If there are marked differences in the kinds of soil,
separate analyses will be necessary.

[Give an instance of the success of treatment according to

When an analysis is obtained, a regular debtor and creditor account may
be kept with the soil; and the farmer may know by the composition of the
ashes of his crops, and the manures supplied, whether he is maintaining
the fertility of his soil.

Prof. Mapes once purchased some land which could not produce corn at
all, and by applying only such manures as analysis indicated to be
necessary, at a cost of less than $2 per acre, he obtained the first
year over _fifty bushels of shelled corn per acre_. The land has since
continued to improve, and is as fertile as any in the State. It has
produced in one season a sufficient crop of cabbages to pay the expense
of cultivation, and over $250 per acre besides, though it was apparently
_worthless_ when he purchased it.

These are strong facts, and should arouse the farmers of the whole
country to their true interests. Let them not call the teachings of
science "book-farming," but "prove all things--hold fast that which is


[AQ] See Author's card in the front of the book.




No. I.

                              | Wheat.  |   Wheat   |   Rye.  |  Rye
                              |         |   Straw.  |         |  Straw.
Ashes in 1000 dry parts       |   20    |     60    |    24   |   40
Silica (_sand_)               |   16    |    654    |     5   |  645
Lime                          |   28    |     67    |    50   |   91
Magnesia                      |  120    |     33    |   104   |   24
Peroxide of Iron              |    7    |     13    |    14   |   14
Potash                        |  237    |    124    |   221   |  174
Soda                          |   91    |      2    |   116   |    3
Chlorine                      |         |     11    |         |    5
Sulphuric Acid                |    3    |     58    |    10   |    8
Phosphoric Acid               |  498    |     31    |   496   |   38

No. II.

                              |  Corn.  |  Corn     | Barley. |  Barley
                              |         |  Stalks.  |         |  Straw.
Ashes in 1000 dry parts.      |     15  |      44   |     28  |    61
Silica (_sand_)               |     15  |     270   |    271  |   706
Lime                          |     15  |      86   |     26  |    95
Magnesia                      |    162  |      66   |     75  |    32
Peroxide of Iron              |      3  |       8   |     15  |     7
Oxide of Manganese            |         |           |         |     1
Potash                        |    261  |      96   |    136  |    62
Soda                          |     63  |     277   |     81  |     6
Chlorine                      |      2  |      20   |      1  |    10
Sulphuric Acid                |     23  |       5   |      1  |    16
Phosphoric Acid               |    449  |     171   |    389  |    31

No. III.

                        |   Oats.   |  Oat   |  Buck  | Potatoes.
                        |           | Straw. | Wheat. |
Ashes in 1000 dry parts |     20    |   51   |   21   |    90
Silica (_sand_)         |      7    |  484   |    7   |    42
Lime                    |     60    |   81   |   67   |    21
Magnesia                |     99    |   38   |  104   |    53
Peroxide of Iron        |      4    |   18   |   11   |     5
Potash                  |   {262}   |  191   |   87   |   557
Soda                    |   {   }   |   97   |  201   |    19
Chlorine                |      3    |   32   |        |    43
Sulphuric Acid          |    104    |   33   |   22   |   137
Phosphoric Acid         |    438    |   27   |  500   |   126
Organic Matter          |           |        |        |   750
                        |           |        |        |  Water.

No. IV.

                        |  Peas.  | Beans. | Turnips. | Turnip
                        |         |        |          |  Tops.
Ashes in 1000 dry parts |    25   |   27   |    76    |   170
Silica (_sand_)         |     5   |   12   |    71    |     8
Lime                    |    53   |   58   |   128    |   233
Magnesia                |    85   |   80   |    48    |    31
Peroxide of Iron        |    10   |    6   |     9    |     8
Potash                  |   361   |  336   |   398    |   286
Soda                    |    91   |  106   |   108    |    54
Chlorine                |    23   |    7   |    37    |   160
Sulphuric Acid          |    44   |   10   |   131    |   125
Phosphoric Acid         |   333   |  378   |    67    |    93
Organic Matter          |         |        |870 Water.|

No. V.

                          |  Flax. | Linseed. | Meadow |  Red
                          |        |          |  Hay.  | Clover.
Ashes in 1000 dry parts   |    50  |    46    |   60   |    75
Silica (_sand_)           |   257  |    75    |  344   |    48
Alumina (_clay_)          |    37? |          |        |
Lime                      |   148  |    83    |  196   |   371
Magnesia                  |    44  |   146    |   78   |    46
Peroxide of Iron          |    36? |     9    |    7   |     2
Potash                    |   117  |   240    |  236   |   267
Soda                      |   118  |    45    |   19   |    71
Chlorine                  |    29  |     2    |   28   |    48
Sulphuric Acid            |    32  |    23    |   29   |    60
Phosphoric Acid           |   130  |   365    |   58   |    88

No. VI.

Amount of Inorganic Matter removed from the soil by ten bushels of
grains, etc., and by the straw, etc., required in their
production--estimated in pounds:

                   |        | 1200 lbs. |          | 1620 lbs.
                   | Wheat. |   Wheat   |   Rye.   |    Rye
                   |        |   Straw.  |          |  Straw.
Potash             |  2.86  |    8.97   |   2.51   |    11.34
Soda               |  1.04  |     .12   |   1.33   |      .20
Lime               |   .34  |    4.84   |    .56   |     5.91
Magnesia           |  1.46  |    2.76   |   1.18   |     1.58
Oxide of Iron      |   .08  |     .94   |    .15   |      .88
Sulphuric Acid     |   .03  |    4.20   |    .11   |      .05
Phosphoric Acid    |  6.01  |    2.22   |   5.64   |     2.49
Chlorine           |        |     .79   |          |      .30
Silica             |   .14  |   47.16   |    .05   |    42.25
Pounds carried off |   12   |    72     |   11½    |    66

No. VII.

                   |       | 1620 lbs.|       | 700 lbs.
                   | Corn. |   Corn   | Oats. |  Oat
                   |       |  Stalks. |       |  Straw.
Potash             | 2.78  |   6.84   |  1.69 |  12.08
Soda               |       |  19.83   |       |
Lime               |  .12  |   6.02   |   .39 |   3.39
Magnesia           | 1.52  |   4.74   |   .64 |   1.59
Oxide of Iron      |       |    .57   |   .02 |    .78
Sulphuric Acid     |       |    .36   |   .66 |   1.41
Phosphoric Acid    | 4.52  |  12.15   |  2.80 |   1.07
Chlorine           |       |   1.33   |   .02 |   1.36
Silica             |  .06  |  19.16   |   .18 |  20.32
Pounds carried off |   9   |    71    |  6½   |   42


                   | Buck   |         | 660 lbs. | 2000 lbs.
                   | Wheat. | Barley. |  Barley  |   Flax.
                   |        |         |  Straw.  |
Potash             |  1.01  |   1.90  |   2.57   |   11.78
Soda               |  2.13  |   1.18  |    .23   |   11.82
Lime               |   .78  |    .96  |   3.88   |   11.85
Magnesia           |  1.20  |   1.00  |   1.31   |    9.38
Oxide of Iron      |   .14  |    .20  |    .90   |    7.32
Sulphuric Acid     |   .25  |    .01  |    .66   |    3.19
Phosphoric Acid    |  5.40  |   5.35  |   1.25   |   13.05
Chlorine           |        |    .01  |    .40   |    2.90
Silica             |   .09  |   3.90  |  28.80   |   25.71
Pounds carried off |   11   |    14   |    40    |   100

No. IX.

                    |          | 1120 lbs.|          |1366 lbs.
                    |  Beans.  |  Bean    |  Field   |  Pea
                    |          | Straw.   |  Peas.   | Straw.
Potash              |  5.54    | 36.28    |  5.90    |  3.78
Soda                |  1.83    |  1.09    |  1.40    |
Lime                | 98.98    | 13.60    |   .81    | 43.93
Magnesia            |   .28    |  4.55    |  1.30    |  5.50
Oxide of Iron       |   .10    |   .20    |   .15    |  1.40
Sulphuric Acid      |   .16    |   .64    |   .64    |  5.43
Phosphoric Acid     |  7.80    |  5.00    |  5.50    |  3.86
Chlorine            |   .13    |  1.74    |   .23    |   .08
Silica              |   .18    |  4.90    |   .7     | 16.02
Pounds carried off  |   17     |   68     |   16     |   80

No. X.

                    |            | 635 lbs. |             | 2000 lbs.
                    |    1 Ton   |  Turnip  |    1 Ton    |   Red
                    |  Turnips.  |   Tops.  |  Potatoes.  |  Clover.
Potash              |   7.14     |  4.34    |   27.82     |  31.41
Soda                |    .86     |   .84    |     .93     |   8.34
Lime                |   2.31     |  3.61    |    1.03     |  43.77
Magnesia            |    .91     |   .48    |    2.63     |   5.25
Oxide of Iron       |    .23     |   .13    |     .26     |    .23
Sulphuric Acid      |   2.30     |  1.81    |    6.81     |   7.05
Phosphoric Acid     |   1.29     |  1.31    |    6.25     |  10.28
Chlorine            |    .61     |  2.35    |    2.13     |   5.86
Silica              |   1.36     |   .13    |    2.14     |   5.81
Pounds carried off  |    17      |   15     |     50      |    118

No. XI.

                                  | 2000 lbs.|  2000 lbs.
                                  |  Meadow  |  Cabbage
                                  |   Hay.   | Water 9-10
Potash                            | 18.11    |     5.25
Soda                              |  1.35    |     9.20
Lime                              | 22.95    |     9.45
Magnesia                          |  6.75    |     2.70
Oxide of Iron                     |  1.69    |      .25
Sulphuric Acid                    |  2.70    |     9.60
Phosphoric Acid                   |  5.97    |     5.60
Chlorine                          |  2.59    |     2.60
Silica                            | 37.89    |      .35
Pounds carried off                |  100     |       45

No. XII.

Composition of Ashes, leached and unleached, showing their manurial

                         |  Oak      |  Oak      | Beech     |  Beech
                         |unleached. | leached.  |unleached. | leached.
Potash                   |    84     |     --    |   158     |     --
Soda                     |    56     |     --    |    29     |     --
Lime                     |   750     |    548    |   634     |    426
Magnesia                 |    45     |      6    |   113     |     70
Oxide of Iron            |     6     |     --    |     8     |     15
Sulphuric Acid           |    12     |     --    |    14     |     --
Phosphoric Acid          |    35     |      8    |    31     |     57
Chlorine                 |           |           |     2     |


                  |  Birch    |  Seaweed   | Bituminous
                  |  leached. | unleached. |  Coal
                  |           |            | unleached.
Potash            |    --     |   180      |    2
Soda              |    --     |   210      |    2
Lime              |   522     |   94       |   21
Magnesia          |    30     |   99       |    2
Oxide of Iron     |     5     |    3       |   40
Sulphuric Acid    |    --     |  248       |    9
Phosphoric Acid   |    43     |   52       |    2
Chlorine          |    --     |   98       |    1

No. XIV.


Analysis of the ash of the PLANT [Will & Fresedius]--

Potash             19.55
Soda                0.27
Magnesia           11.07
Lime               48.68
Phosphoric Acid     3.66
Sulphuric Acid      3.29
Oxide of Iron       2.99
Chloride of Sodium  3.54
Loss                6.95

Analysis of the ash of the ROOT [Berthier]--

Soluble Matter                 12.3
Insoluble                      87.7

The Soluble parts consist of nearly--

Carbonic Acid                  10.0
Sulphuric Acid                 10.3
Muriatic Acid (Chlorine, &c.)  18.26
Potash and Soda                61.44

No. XV.

Composition of some of the more common Compounds of Acids and Alkalies.

            100 Parts of              | Contain of the |  Contain of the
                                      |    Alkalies    |      Acids
Carbonate of Potash (Pearlash)        |  Potash  68.09 | Carbonic   31.91
Bi-Carbonate of Potash (Saleratus)    |    do.   51.62 | Carbonic   48.38
Nitrate of Potash (Saltpetre)         |    do.   46.56 | Nitric     53.44
Silicate of Potash                    |    do.   50.54 | Silicic    49.46
Carbonate of Soda                     |   Soda   58.58 | Carbonic   41.42
Bi-Carbonate of Soda (Common Soda)[AR]|    do.   41.42 | Carbonic   58.58
Nitrate of Soda                       |    do.   36.60 | Nitric     63.40
Sulphate of Soda (Glauber Salts)[AR]  |    do.   19.38 | Sulphuric  24.85
Silicate of Soda                      |    do.   40.37 | Silicic    59.63
Carbonate of Lime (Limestone)         |   Lime   56.29 | Carbonic   43.71
Sulphate of Lime (Plaster Paris)[AR]  |    do.   32.90 | Sulphuric  46.31
Sulphate of Lime (Burned)             |    do.   41.53 | Sulphuric  58.47
Phosphate of Lime                     |    do.   54.48 | Phosphoric 45.52
Super-Phosphate of Lime               |    do.   28.52 | Phosphoric 71.48
Silicate of Lime                      |    do.   38.15 | Silicic    61.85
Carbonate of Magnesia                 | Magnesia 48.31 | Carbonic   51.69
Sulphate of Magnesia (Epsom Salts)[AR]|    do.   16.70 | Sulphuric  32.40
Silicate of Alumina                   | Alumina  17.05 | Silicic    72.95
Sulphate of Iron (Green Vitriol)[AR]  | Oxide of       | Sulphuric  31.03
                                      |    Iron  27.19 |

No. XVI.

Proximate Analyses of Crops, showing the amount of the different Organic
Compounds contained in Grain, Roots, Hay, etc.--estimated in pounds:

                          | Water. | Husk or | Starch, | Gluten,  | Fatty
                          |        | Woody   | Gum and | Albumen, | Matter.
                          |        | Fibre.  | Sugar.  | Legumin. |
       10 Bushels.        |        |         |         |          |
Wheat            600 lbs. |    90  |     90  |  330    |   87     |   18
Barley           515 lbs. |    77  |     77  |  309    |   70     |   13
Oats             425 lbs. |    68  |     85  |  255    |   70     |   25
Rye              520 lbs. |    62  |     78  |  312    |   65     |   18
Indian Corn      600 lbs. |    84  |     36  |  420    |   72     |   42
Buck Wheat       425 lbs. |    64  |    106  |  212    |   34     |   2?
Beans            640 lbs. |    90  |     61  |  256    |  166     |   16
Peas             640 lbs. |    90  |     58  |  320    |  154     |   14
                          |        |         |         |          |
       2000 lbs.          |        |         |         |          |
Potatoes                  |  1500  |     80  |  360    |   40     |    6
Turnips                   |  1760  |     40  |  180[AS]|   30     |    6
Carrots                   |  1700  |     60  |  200[AS]|   30     |    8
Mangold Wurtzel           |  1700  |     40  |  220[AS]|   40     |    ?
Meadow Hay                |   280  |    600  |  800    |  140     |   70
Clover Hay                |   280  |    500  |  800    |  186     |   80
Pea Straw                 |   250  |    500  |  900    |  246     |   30
Rye Straw                 |   270  |    900  |  760    |   26     |    ?
Corn Stalks               |   240  |    500  | 1040    |   60     |   34
100 lbs. Fine Wheat Flour |    10  |         |   79    |   11     |
100 lbs. Wheat Bran       |    13  |         |   55    |   19     |    5


Amount of Ash left after burning 1000 lbs. of various plants, ordinarily

Wheat         20            its straw   50
Barley        30                   "    50
Oats          40                   "    60
Rye           20                   "    40
Indian Corn   15                   "    50
Pea           30                   "    50
Bean          30
Meadow   Hay  50  to    100
Clover    "   90
Rye Grass "   95
Potato         8  to     15
Turnip         5  to      8
Carrot        15  to     20




Solid Dung--
Combustible Matter                19.68
Ash                                3.07
Water                             77.25

Composition of the Ash--

Silica                            62.40
Potash                            11.30
Soda                               1.98
Oxide of Iron                      1.17
Lime                               4.63
Magnesia                           3.84
Oxide of Manganese                 2.13
Phosphoric Acid                   10.49
Sulphuric Acid                     1.89
Chlorine                           0.03
Loss                               0.14

No. XIX.


Solid (Ash)--
  Earthy Phosphates and a trace of Sulphate of Lime      100
  Sulphate of Soda and Potash, and Phosphate of Soda       8
  Carbonate of Soda                                        8
  Silica                                                  16
  Charcoal and Loss                                       18

  Urea[AT]                                             30.10
  Uric Acid                                             1.00
  Sal Ammoniac[AT]                                      1.50
  Lactic Acid, etc.                                    17.14
  Mucus                                                  .32
  Sulphate of Potash                                    3.71
  Sulphate of Soda                                      3.16
  Phosphate of Ammonia[AT]                              1.65
  Earthy Phosphates                                     3.94
  Salt (Chloride of Sodium)                             4.45
  Silica                                                0.03
Water                                                 933.00

No. XX.


Solid (Ash)--
  Phosphates                                           20.9
  Peroxide of Iron                                      8.8
  Lime                                                  1.5
  Sulphate of Lime (Plaster)                            3.1
  Chloride of Potassium                               trace
  Silica                                               63.7
    Loss                                                2.0

No. XXI.


               Solid Matter.
          Organic.      Inorganic.           Total.
Man         23.4           7.6                31
Horse       27.           33.                 60
Cow         50.           20.                 70
Pig         56.           18.                 74
Sheep       28.           12.                 40



Water                       6.40
Ammonia                     2.71
Uric Acid                  34.70
Oxalic Acid, etc.          26.79
  Fixed Alkaline Salts.
Sulphate of Soda            2.94
Phosphate of Soda            .48
Chloride of Sodium (salt)    .86
  Earthy Salts.
Carbonate of Lime           1.36
Phosphates                 19.24
  Foreign Matter.
Silicious grit and sand     4.52

For the analysis of fertile and barren soils, see page 72.


[AR] Contain a large amount of Water.

[AS] Pectic Acid.

[AT] Supply Ammonia.


Who is the _practical farmer_? Let us look at two pictures and decide.

Here is a farm of 100 acres in ordinary condition. It is owned and
tilled by a hard-working man, who, in the busy season, employs one or
two assistants. The farm is free from debt, but it does not produce an
abundant income; therefore, its owner cannot afford to purchase the best
implements, or make other needed improvements; besides, he don't
_believe_ in such things. His father was a good solid farmer; so was his
grandfather; and so is he, or thinks he is. He is satisfied that 'the
good old way' is best, and he sticks to it. He works from morning till
night; from spring till fall. In the winter, he _rests_, as much as his
lessened duties will allow. During this time, he reads little, or
nothing. Least of all does he read about farming. He don't want to learn
how to dig potatoes out of a book. Book farming is nonsense. Many other
similar ideas keep him from agricultural reading. His house is
comfortable, and his barns are quite as good as his neighbors', while
his farm gives him a living. It is true that his soil does not produce
as much as it did ten years ago; but prices are better, and he is

Let us look at his premises, and see how his affairs are managed. First,
examine the land. Well, it is good fair land. Some of it is a little
springy, but is not to be called _wet_. It will produce a ton and a half
of hay to the acre--it used to produce two tons. There are some stones
on the land, but not enough in his estimation to do harm. The plowed
fields are pretty good; they will produce 35 bushels of corn, 13 bushels
of wheat, or 30 bushels of oats per acre, when the season is not dry.
His father used to get more; but, somehow, the _weather_ is not so
favorable as it was in old times. He has thought of raising root crops,
but they take more labor than he can afford to hire. Over, in the back
part of the land there is a muck-hole, which is the only piece of
_worthless_ land on the whole farm.

Now, let us look at the barns and barn-yards. The stables are pretty
good. There are some wide cracks in the siding, but they help to
ventilate, and make it healthier for the cattle. The manure is thrown
out of the back windows, and is left in piles under the eaves on the
sunny side of the barn. The rain and sun make it nicer to handle. The
cattle have to go some distance for water; and this gives them exercise.
All of the cattle are not kept in the stable; the fattening stock are
kept in the various fields, where hay is fed out to them from the stack.
The barn-yard is often occupied by cattle, and is covered with their
manure, which lies there until it is carted on to the land. In the shed
are the tools of the farm, consisting of carts, plows--not deep plows,
this farmer thinks it best to have roots near the surface of the soil
where they can have the benefit of the sun's heat,--a harrow, hoes,
rakes, etc. These tools are all in good order; and, unlike those of his
less prudent neighbor, they are protected from the weather.

The crops are cultivated with the plow, and hoe, as they have been since
the land was cleared, and as they always will be until this man dies.

Here is the 'practical farmer' of the present day. Hard working, out of
debt, and economical--of dollars and cents, if not of soil and manures.
He is a better farmer than two thirds of the three millions of farmers
in the country. He is one of the best farmers in his town--there are but
few better in the county, not many in the State. He represents the
better class of his profession.

With all this, he is, in matters relating to his business, an unreading,
unthinking man. He knows nothing of the first principles of farming, and
is successful by the _indulgence_ of nature, not because he understands
her, and is able to make the most of her assistance.

This is an unpleasant fact, but it is one which cannot be denied. We do
not say this to disparage the farmer, but to arouse him to a realization
of his position and of his power to improve it.

But let us see where he is wrong.

He is wrong in thinking that his land does not need draining. He is
wrong in being satisfied with one and a half tons of hay to the acre
when he might easily get two and a half. He is wrong in not removing as
far as possible every stone that can interfere with the deep and
thorough cultivation of his soil. He is wrong in reaping less than his
father did, when he should get more. He is wrong in ascribing to the
weather, and similar causes, what is due to the actual impoverishment of
his soil. He is wrong in not raising turnips, carrots, and other roots,
which his winter stock so much need, when they might be raised at a cost
of less than one third of their value as food. He is wrong in
considering worthless a deposit of muck, which is a mine of wealth if
properly employed. He is wrong in _ventilating_ his stables at the cost
of _heat_. He is wrong in his treatment of his manures, for he loses
more than one half of their value from evaporation, fermentation, and
leaching. He is wrong in not having water at hand for his cattle--their
exercise detracts from their accumulation of fat and their production of
heat, and it exposes them to cold. He is wrong in not protecting his
fattening stock from the cold of winter; for, under exposure to cold,
the food, which would otherwise be used in the formation of _fat_, goes
to the production of the animal heat necessary to counteract the
chilling influence of the weather, p. 50. He is wrong in allowing his
manure to lie unprotected in the barn-yard. He is wrong in not adding to
his tools the deep surface plow, the subsoil plow, the cultivator, and
many others of improved construction. He is wrong in cultivating with
the plow and hoe, those crops which could be better or more cheaply
managed with the cultivator or horse-hoe. He is wrong in many things
more, as we shall see if we examine all of his yearly routine of work.
He is right in a few things; and but a few, as he himself would admit,
had he that knowledge of his business which he could obtain in the
leisure hours of a single winter. Still, he thinks himself a _practical_
farmer. In twenty years, we shall have fewer such, for our young men
have the mental capacity and mental energy necessary to raise them to
the highest point of practical education, and to that point they are
gradually but surely rising.

Let us now place this same farm in the hands of an educated and
understanding cultivator; and, at the end of five years, look at it

He has sold one half of it, and cultivates but fifty acres. The money
for which the other fifty were sold has been used in the improvement of
the farm. The land has all been under-drained, and shows the many
improvements consequent on such treatment. The stones and small rocks
have been removed, leaving the surface of the soil smooth, and allowing
the use of the sub-soil plow, which with the under-drains have more than
doubled the productive power of the farm. Sufficient labor is employed
to cultivate with improved tools, extensive root crops, and they
invariably give a large yield. The grass land produces a yearly average
of 2½ tons of hay per acre. From 80 to 100 bushels of corn, 30 bushels
of wheat, and 45 bushels of oats are the average of the crops reaped.
The soil has been analyzed, and put in the best possible condition,
while it is yearly supplied with manures containing every thing taken
away in the abundant crops. The analysis is never lost sight of in the
regulation of crops and the application of manures. The _worthless_ muck
bed was retained, and is made worth one dollar a load to the compost
heap, especially as the land requires an increase of organic matter. A
new barn has been built large enough to store all of the hay produced on
the farm. It has stables, which are tight and warm, and are well
ventilated _above_ the cattle. The stock being thus protected from the
loss of their heat, give more milk, and make more fat on a less amount
of food than they did under the old system. Water is near at hand, and
the animals are not obliged to over exercise. The manure is carefully
composted, either under a shed constructed for the purpose with a tank
and pump, or is thrown into the cellar below, where the hogs mix it with
a large amount of muck, which has been carted in after being thoroughly
decomposed by the lime and salt mixture.

They are thus protected against all loss, and are prepared for the
immediate use of crops. No manures are allowed to lie in the barn-yard,
but they are all early removed to the compost heap, where they are
preserved by being mixed with carbonaceous matter. In the tool shed, we
find deep surface-plows, sub-soil plows, cultivators, horse-hoes,
seed-drills, and many other valuable improvements.

This farmer takes one or more agricultural papers, from which he learns
many new methods of cultivation, while his knowledge of the _reasons_ of
various agricultural effects enables him to discard the injudicious
suggestions of mere _book farmers_ and uneducated dreamers.

Here are two specimens of farmers. Neither description is over-drawn.
The first is much more careful in his operations than the majority of
our rural population. The second is no better than many who may be found
in America.

We appeal to the common sense of the reader of this work to know which
of the two is the _practical farmer_--let him imitate either as his
judgment shall dictate.



ABSORB--to soak in a liquid or a gas.

ABSTRACT--to take from.

ACID--sour; a sour substance.

AGRICULTURE--the art of cultivating the soil.

ALKALI--the direct opposite of an _acid_, with which it has a tendency
    to unite.

ALUMINA--the base of clay.

ANALYSIS--separating into its primary parts any compound substance.

CARBONATE--a compound, consisting of carbonic acid and an alkali.


CHLORIDE--a compound containing chlorine.

CLEVIS--that part of a plow by which the drawing power is attached.

DECOMPOSE--to separate the constituents of a body from their
    combinations, forming new kinds of compounds.

DIGESTION--the decomposition of food in the stomach and intestines of
    animals (agricultural).

DEW--deposit of the insensible vapor of the atmosphere on cold bodies.

EXCREMENT--the matter given out by the organs of plants and animals,
    being those parts of their food which they are unable to assimilate.

FERMENTATION--a kind of decomposition.

GAS--air--aeriform matter.

GURNEYISM--see _Mulching_.

INGREDIENT--component part.

INORGANIC--mineral, or earthy.

MOULDBOARD--that part of a surface plow which turns the sod.

MULCHING--covering the soil with litter, leaves, or other refuse matter.
    See p. 247.

NEUTRALIZE--To overcome the characteristic properties of.

ORGANIC MATTER--that kind of matter which at times possesses an
    organized (or living) form, and at others exists as a gas in the

OXIDE--a compound of oxygen with a metal.

PHOSPHATE--a compound of phosphoric acid with an alkali.

PROXIMATE--an organic compound, such as wood, starch, gum, etc.; a
    product of life.



SATURATE--to _fill_ the pores of any substance, as a sponge with water,
    or charcoal with ammonia.

SILICATE--a compound of silica with an alkali.

SOLUBLE--capable of being dissolved.

SOLUTION--a liquid containing another substance dissolved in it.

SATURATED SOLUTION--one which contains as much of the foreign substance
    as it is capable of holding.

SPONGIOLES--the mouths at the ends of roots.

SULPHATE--a compound of sulphuric acid with an alkali.





=The greatest Improvement ever made for Simplicity, Durability, and Ease
of Action.=

It is now beyond a question, from the complete triumph over all other
machines this season, that this is the _only_ successful Grass Cutter
known. It is in fact the _only_ machine that has ever cut _all kinds of
grass_ without _clogging_ or _interruption_. More than 1000 have been
sold the present season under the following warranty, and not in a
single instance have we been called on to take one back.

(Warranty:) That said machines are capable of Cutting and Spreading,
with one span of horses and driver, from ten to fifteen acres per day,
_of any kind of grass, heavy or light, wet or dry, lodged or standing_,
and do it as well as is done with a scythe by the best mowers.

The price of our machine, with two sets of knives and extras, is $110,
cash, delivered on board of cars or boat, free of charge.

Manufacturers and Proprietors, Buffalo, N. Y.

_Buffalo_, Aug. 1, 1853.

RUGGLES, NOURSE, MASON & Co., Manufacture Ketchum's Mower for New

WARDER & BROKAW, Springfield, Ohio; for Southern Ohio and Kentucky.

SEYMOUR & MORGAN, Brockport, N. Y.; for Michigan and Illinois.




A new and much, enlarged edition of



Containing a clear Exposition of their principles and practice.
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    The numerous errors in the typography of the London edition have
    been corrected in this.



Or, the Modern Changes of the Earth and its Inhabitants, considered as
illustrative of Geology. A new and much enlarged edition. Illustrated
with maps, plates, and wood-cuts. 1 vol. 8vo., of 850 pages. Price



Or, the Ancient Changes of the Earth and its Inhabitants, as illustrated
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    [***] The author of these works, stands in the very front rank
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    extensive details of all the important parts of the Earth.


Popular Science.

The Chemistry of Common Life.

BY JAMES F. W. JOHNSTON, M.A., F.R.S.S. L. & E., &c.

Author of "Lectures on Agricultural Chemistry and Geology," a "Catechism
of Agricultural Chemistry and Geology," &c.


    The common life of man is full of wonders, Chemical and
    Physiological. Most of us pass through this life without seeing
    or being sensible of them, though every day our existence and
    our comforts ought to recall them to our minds. One main cause
    of this is, that our schools tell us nothing about them--do not
    teach those parts of modern learning which would fit us for
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    attention and cares, are in early life almost sedulously kept
    from our knowledge. Those who would learn any thing regarding
    them, must subsequently teach themselves through the help of the
    press: hence the necessity for a Popular Chemical Literature.

    It is with a view to meet this want of the Public, and at the
    same time to supply a Manual for the Schools, that the present
    work has been projected. It treats, in what appears to be their
    natural order, of THE AIR WE BREATHE and THE WATER WE DRINK, in
    their relations to human life and health--THE SOIL WE CULTIVATE
    AND THE PLANT WE REAR, as the sources from which the chief
    sustenance of all life is obtained--THE BREAD WE EAT AND THE
    BEEF WE COOK, as the representatives of the two grand divisions
    of human food--THE BEVERAGES WE INFUSE, from which so much of
    the comfort of modern life, both savage and civilized, is
    derived--THE SWEETS WE EXTRACT, the history of which presents so
    striking an illustration of the economical value of chemical
    science--THE LIQUORS WE FERMENT, so different from the sweets in
    their action on the system, and yet so closely connected with
    them in chemical history--THE NARCOTICS WE INDULGE IN, as
    presenting us with an aspect of the human constitution which,
    both chemically and physiologically, is more mysterious and
    wonderful than any other we are acquainted with--THE ODOURS WE
    ENJOY AND THE SMELLS WE DISLIKE; the former because of the
    beautiful illustration it presents of the recent progress of
    organic chemistry in its relations to comforts of common life,
    and the latter because of its intimate connection with our most
    important sanitary arrangements--WHAT WE BREATHE FOR and WHY WE
    DIGEST, as functions of the body at once the most important to
    life, and the most purely chemical in their nature--THE BODY WE
    CHERISH, as presenting many striking phenomena, and performing
    many interesting chemical functions not touched upon in the
    discussion of the preceding topics--and lastly, THE CIRCULATION
    OF MATTER, as exhibiting in one view the end, purpose, and
    method of all the changes in the natural body, in organic
    nature, and in the mineral kingdom, which are connected with and
    determine the existence of life.

    It has been the object of the Author in this Work to exhibit the
    present condition of chemical knowledge and of matured
    scientific opinion upon the subjects to which it is devoted. The
    reader will not be surprised, therefore, should he find in it
    some things which differ from what is to be found in other
    popular works already in his hands or on the shelves of his

    The Work is being published in 5 or 6 NUMBERS, price 25 cents
    each, in the following order, forming 1 vol. 12mo. of about 400

    1. The AIR we Breathe and
    2. The WATER we Drink.
    3. The SOIL we Cultivate and
    4. The PLANT we Rear.
    5. The BREAD we Eat and
    6. The BEEF we Cook.
    7. The BEVERAGES we Infuse.
    8. The SWEETS we Extract.
    9. The LIQUORS we Ferment.
    10. The NARCOTICS we Indulge in.
    11. The ODOURS we Enjoy and
    12. The SMELLS we Dislike.
    13. What we BREATHE and BREATHE FOR, and
    14. What, How, and Why we DIGEST
    15. The BODY we Cherish, and
    16. The CIRCULATION of MATTER, a Recapitulation.


_Published by D. Appleton, & Co._


Being a Full and Complete Guide for the Farmer and Emigrant.
Comprising--The Clearing of Forest and Prairie Lands; Gardening; Farming
Generally; Farriery; The Management and Treatment of Cattle; Cookery;
The Construction of Dwellings; Prevention and Cure of Disease; with
copious Tables, Recipes, Hints, &c., &c. By JOSIAH T. MARSHALL. One
volume, 12mo., illustrated with numerous wood engravings. Neatly bound.
Price $1; paper cover, 62½ cents.

    "One of the most useful books we ever saw."--_Boston Post._


In its relations with Chemistry, Physics, and Meteorology; or, Chemistry
applied to Agriculture. By J. B. BOUISSANGAULT. Translated, with Notes,
etc., by George Law, Agriculturist. 12mo, over 500 pages, $1 50.

    "The work is the fruit of a long life of study and experiment,
    and its perusal will aid the farmer greatly in obtaining a
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A Practical Treatise on the Nature and Value of Manures, founded from
Experiments on various Crops, with a brief account of the most Recent
Discoveries in Agricultural Chemistry. By F. FALKNER and the Author of
"British Husbandry." 12mo, 50 cts.


Containing "Falkner's Farmer's Manual," and "Smith's Productive
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A Treatise on the Management of Horses, in relation to Stabling,
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    "No one should build a stable or own a horse without consulting
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With Illustrations by WILLIAM MILES, Esq., from the Third London
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This work has received the unqualified recommendation of the Quarterly,
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    "It should be in the hands of every owner or friend of the


Directions as to their general Management. With numerous original
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    This is not only a cheap, but one of the best works ever
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pages. Price $2 25, bound.



Comprising Historical Notices and General Principles of the Art, Directions for
      Laying Out Grounds and Arranging Plantations, the Description and
         Cultivation of Hardy Trees, Decorative Accompaniments of the
           House and Grounds, the Formation of pieces of Artificial
              Water, Flower Gardens, etc., with remarks on Rural
                    Architecture. A new edition, enlarged,
                       revised and newly illustrated.

By A. J. DOWNING, author of "Designs for Cottage Residences," etc.

A new and improved edition, 8vo., illustrated, $3 50.

    "Insult not Nature with absurd expense,
    Nor spoil her simple charms by vain pretense;
    Weigh well the subject, be with caution bold,
    Profuse of genius, not profuse of gold."

RIKER, THORPE & CO., 129 Fulton st., New York.

"There is no work extant which can be compared in ability to Downing's
volume on this subject. It is not overlaid with elaborate and learned
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practical."--_Louisville Journal._

"Mr. Downing's works have been greatly influential in recommending among
us that life which has always seemed to us the perfection of human
existence--the life of men of education, living upon and cultivating
their own farms."--_Cour. and Enq._

"The principles he lays down are not only sound, but are developed on a
uniform system, which is not paralleled in any English work."--_Prof.
Lindley's Chronicle, London._



And Wholesale and Retail Dealers in


=Garden, Field and Flower Seeds=,



Also, Agricultural and Horticultural Publications, and Agents for
Principal Nurseries,









=At the World's Fair Exhibition of the Industry of all Nations, 1853.=



This Machine consists of a simple frame and box mounted on wheels, in
front of which is a cylinder, set with spiral knives, acting in concert
with curved spring teeth, in combination with a straight knife, which
forms a perfect shear, and severs the head from the stalk; the heads are
at the same time discharged into the box. The teeth being made to spring
and vibrate, not a particle of clover, however stalky or thick, can
possibly escape being cut, or allow the teeth to become clogged. The
Cylinder and Knives are protected by an adjustible guard plate, thus
allowing only the heads to pass to the Knives, retaining the head, and
the head only--thus leaving the stalk to enrich the soil. The machine is
so constructed that it can be made adjustible to the height of the
Clover and Timothy.

To be seen at the Crystal Palace. Price of the machines moderate.

    The Farmer will find that by this process, he may save two crops
    of Timothy per year. When the seed is ripe the tops can be
    clipped, and the straw left until fall to mature. You now have
    your seed and hay in two crops of equal value; in case of
    clover, you mow the first crop for hay, the second for seed; you
    in both cases get better seed and hay with less labor and
    expense than grain crops, at the same time leaving the soil
    clothed with a coat of straw, for the coming season, which will
    increase the value of the soil for crops, make fine pastures and
    fine stock, while it fits the land for fine grain. In this way
    lands in our states have been raised in production from five to
    twenty-five or thirty bushels of wheat per acre, in the course
    of a few years.

    This is within the reach of every farmer, without money or
    labor, as organic matter accumulates from the atmosphere and is
    deposited in the soil.

Manufactured and for sale by the Patentee and Proprietor,

_Office 348 West Twenty-Fourth Street, New York._

All orders for Machines this season should be sent in immediately, in
order to have them in readiness for harvest time.

=Price of Machines, $100 and $110, two sizes, at the Manufactory.=

--> Rights of States and Counties on favorable terms.

    "Wagener's Clover and Timothy Seed Harvester has been in
    successful operation two seasons, and has received the premium
    at the World's Fair and at the Fair of the American Institute,
    and various other testimonials of superior value. They are
    manufactured and for sale by the inventor, Jeptha A. Wagener, at
    348 West 24th street, New York."--_U. S. Journal._

The Grain Harvester is in course of preparation, and will soon be
offered for sale.



At 143 Fulton St., (upper side,) a few doors east of Broadway, New York.


One year, _payable in advance_,                         $1 00
Clubs of six subscribers,                                5 00
Clubs of twelve subscribers,                            10 00
Clubs of twenty-five subscribers,                       20 00
Single copies,                                             10
Volume one, in paper cover,                                50
Volumes two, three, four and five, in paper cover, each  1 00

Postage on the WORKING FARMER, _if paid at the Subscriber's Post
Office_, is, for

Any distance within the United States, 3000 miles and under, _one cent_
for each paper. If paid at a Subscriber's Post Office, _in advance_, 1¾
cents per quarter, or 7 cents per year.

Postage on bound volumes in _paper covers, if pre-paid at the New York
Post Office_,

                            Vol. I.  | Vols. II., III., IV & V.
Any distance within United     cts.  | cts.
States, 3000 miles and under     22  | 26 each volume.

If not pre-paid at the New York Post Office, double the above rates will
be charged.

Subscriptions must commence with the year, namely, March; or the even
half year, September; and for not less than one year.

Remittances can be made, from such States as have no small paper
circulation, in gold dollars, Post Office stamps, or the bills of other


Five lines, one dollar each insertion, and in the same ratio for more
lengthy advertisements.

Post-paid Letters, addressed to the Publisher, will meet with prompt

143 Fulton street, upper side, a few doors east of Broadway.





160 lbs.




SEVERAL IMITATIONS of this celebrated fertilizer having been introduced
among the dealers since the introduction of the _Improved
Super-Phosphate of Lime_, I beg to state that all manufactured under the
recipe of Prof. J. J. Mapes, is


and each bag contains his certificate of having been made under his

--> Orders for the above fertilizer by mail, from strangers, should be
accompanied with the money, a draft, or proper references. The bags
contain exactly 160 lbs., which at two and a half cents per pound,
amounts to four dollars.

FRED'K McCREADY, 143 Fulton street, New York.



Described on page 254,

Is represented in the above cut. It is manufactured by us, and is sold
by all implement dealers.



Of which a cut may be seen on p. 254,

Is now manufactured at our establishment, and is sold throughout the
Union. It is the best implement for weeding, etc. ever made.


(Sometimes called the MICHIGAN PLOW,)

Consists of two plows on the same beam. The first inverts the sod to the
depth of a few inches, and the hindmost plow brings up the lower soil,
depositing it on the inverted sod.

FOR DEEP TILLAGE, especially on prairie land, this is superior to any of
its competitors.

Worcester, Mass., and Quincy Hall, Boston.


Page   8 Page number added for tables of analysis
Page  22 Period added after "great brilliancy"
Page  33 seashore standardised to sea-shore; genii standardised to genie
Page  39 No footnote anchor was in place. Anchor added after "are
         formed," as this seemed most reasonable in context.
Page  52 quanties corrected to quantities; nutricious corrected to
Page  53 Footnote marker added for "See Johnston's Elements, page 41."
Page  55 ? added after "in their composition" in footer
Page  74 Removed second "the" in "is the the foundation of Agricultural
Page 142 pigstye standardised to pig-stye
Page 144 plough standardised to plow
Pages 145, 211 subsoil plow standardised to sub-soil plow [Note that in
         line with the more common usage in this work, the phrases
         sub-soil plow and sub-soiling have retained their hyphens]
Page 148 Removed second n in mannures
Page 152 postash corrected to potash
Page 157 suplying corrected to supplying
Page 167 carbonia corrected to carbonic
Page 174 buck-wheat standardised to buckwheat
Pages 196, 232, 234, 235, 237, 238, 241 sub-soil standardised to subsoil
Page 204 ? Added after Mineral in the question section
Page 211 water tight standardised to water-tight
Page 223 Second 6. changed to 7.
Page 232 oxydation standardised to oxidation
Page 266 Period added after lbs in 1620 lbs rye straw
Page 272 Title No. XVI. added to table
Page 273 10,000 corrected to 100.00
Page 290 accurracy corrected to accuracy
Page 292 Number of pages unclear. 464 Guessed.

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