Some practical experiments[edit | edit source]
The Department of Agriculture at Washington, also Cornell University and various other schools publish special studies and monographs of different branches. For some a small charge is made, but they are mostly distributed free. Many of them are very valuable. The United States Department's pamphlet on the Diseases of the Violet is a notable example. The average person does not know how these can be obtained or even that they exist. The Department's Year Books are most interesting reading, and both its Professors and the state colleges will answer particular questions of citizens.
These and the various United States and State Experiment Station publications will serve instead of most books (except this one), if properly filed, indexed, and crossindexed so that you can readily turn to all the information on a given subject--on bugs, for instance, before the insects have harvested your crop. I am trying only to suggest things, not to advise, nor to induce my readers to try to do anything that they don't like or have no capacity for. It is difficult to make people understand that.
One reader of this book, a dear creature, wrote her experience for a Crafts magazine. She got the acres, built her house, and raised one fine crop of--swans? nuts grafted on wild trees? partridge berries? No--three tons of hay! She called it " Three Acres and Starving"; I called it "Three Acres and Stupidity." She didn't eat the hay, and the Editor wouldn't publish my reply. Everybody raises hay and potatoes; so don't you raise any unless for your own use. Potatoes are a laborious crop, requiring constant care, manuring, cutting the seed eyes (on which there is much uncertain lore), hilling up or down according to drainage and rainfall, spraying with Pyrox or dusting with Paris green, and, neither least nor last, bug hunting.
The seed is expensive, but for your own use you may plant from whatever seed, otherwise wasted, may grow on the potato vine, on the tops of the plants. The crop will be small potatoes and all kinds of varieties, which won't sell in the market but which make each dinner a surprise party. You may strike a new and improved strain, though there are over a thousand varieties of potato listed already. New creations of merit bring good returns, and 'tis the enterprising experimenter that reaps the honor and the harvest, and he is worthy of his reward.
To select the most productive plants and breed again from these is, however, a more promising profit plan. Even then don't plant the tubers unless you will take the pains to soak the seed potatoes in scab preventer. If you won't, likely you will raise mostly scab, and the spores thereof will spoil your ground for potatoes for years.
It costs little in money to make it--half a pint of formalin to fifteen gallons of water. Not guessed but measured gallons. Then soak for an hour and a half by the Ingersoll. Don't reckon that one little hour or a few will do just as well. With one hour they will be under-done and spotty, with three over-done and weakly.
There is lots to be discovered yet about "the spuds." Sawdust is an excellent mulch for them, as for small fruits. When you store any seeds to plant, put carbolic moth balls with them. it checks insects and mice and helps to protect the planted seeds from birds.
In a general way, with potatoes and with other things that you want good and plenty, get specific directions and follow them. Most people won't read directions; more can't follow them. Those people have their knives out for "book farmers and professors," but you can't improve on experience and experiment by the light of laziness or of nature.
A delicate jelly is made out of the red outer pulp of rose berries.
It would be romantic to develop a Rose fruit from those seed pods,as the peach was developed from the almond. We have invented stranger fruits than that, such as the Logan-berry and the pomato.
But there is better chance for profit in doing the old things better, especially when the experiment costs little or nothing
You can have a strawberry garden on your roof or even on a balcony.
This need not be costly. Clinch all the nails on the inside of a stout barrel. Bore half a dozen two-inch holes in the bottom, or put in a layer of stones, for drainage. Bore a row of eight holes about eight inches from the bottom of the barrel and about eight inches apart. Eight inches above this bore a second row of holes "staggered," and a third eight inches above those. Pile several old tomato cans with perforated bottoms one on the other in the center of the barrel: these should be the height of the barrel and placed upright in its middle. This is the conductor down which water should be poured at intervals before the soil gets quite dry. Fill the barrel with soil made of one half loam and one half well-rotted manure. Be sure the manure is not fresh. A little bone meal is a good addition.
Now plant the first row of strawberry plants ("ever-bearing" are best, though they don't ever-bear). Put each plant inside, spread the roots, and pull the leaves of each out through one of the holes.
Press the soil down firmly around each root. Repeat the process for the other two rows; fill the barrel and set say six plants on the top. That will give you thirty plants, which should grow ten to twentyfive quarts of fine berries, or more. The illustration makes the holes twelve inches apart--for big leafy plants.
If there are any more, those will be you. Anyhow, you will know a lot about strawberries at the end of the season. Other things can be grown in the same way.
Better than growing vegetables, or where dry land can't be obtained,is to raise some crop like water cress that usually comes from a distance.
Often an otherwise poor season will help a specialty. One year wet weather jumped the price of mint and it sold at double prices. Hot,dry weather is required to make it produce its best.
Most of the mint produced in this country for peppermint oil is grown in Michigan. More than 4000 acres are reported from a single county. Mint oil is worth about $3.50 a pound and costs about a dollar to produce. Nice bright dried leaves sell for about 15 cent a pound.
The production of mint is sometimes as high as fifty pounds of oil to the acre. The bulk of it is grown on marshlands, which a few years ago were nowhere worth more than a few dollars an acre. The mint is sent to the manufacturers, where it is purified and made into flavoring extract or used in chewing gum, etc.
Why should we, with our infinite variety of climates, soils, and labor, import from England the coarser varieties of seeds of the cabbage family, savoy, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, or kale? We owe England enough already for the seed of Liberty we got from her.
California now supplies some seed for onions, carrots, parsnips, and a few others. The finest cauliflower comes mostly from Denmark now.
Turnip seed, too, mangel-wurzel and swedes, onion, pea, bean,carrot, parsnip, radish, and beet seeds could be grown here by the same skill, care, and training as they are grown abroad.
An interesting method of forcing plants by the use of hot water baths is described in _La Nature _(Paris), by Henri Coupin. The process is much simpler than others now in use and may be employed by any one who has a small greenhouse, no expert treatment being necessary. Says Mr. Coupin:
"Most trees in our countries undergo a period of rest, during which all growth appears to be suspended. Branches do not enlarge and the buds on them remain as they are. They do not arouse from their torpor until spring, first, because they then find the conditions necessary for their development, and again, because, during the period of rest, chemical changes have taken place in them. These are indispensable, because if they did not occur, the trees, even in the most favorable conditions, would not open their buds. For example,plant branches that have quite recently dropped their leaves, in a warm greenhouse. They will not bud; but make the same experiment at the end of several months and the buds will appear.
"There are several ways of shortening this period of rest, some of which are rather odd. The best known is the process of etherification, which has been so much discussed recently, and which consists in placing the plants to be forced in the vapor of ether or chloroform for twenty-four to forty-eight hours. Afterwards when placed in a hothouse, the branches begin to develop almost immediately.
"A very ingenious botanist, Hans Molisch, professor in the University of Prague, has devised a method of forcing, simpler still and quite as effective. It consists in plunging the branches into warm water during a time that varies with the species. The best method is to plunge the plants in a reservoir of warm water, head downward, without moistening the roots, which would injure them.
After a certain time, the plants are withdrawn, turned right side up with care, and placed in a greenhouse, where they develop at once.
"The duration of the warm bath should be nine to twelve hours at most. The best temperature is 30 degree to 35 degree [86 degree to 95 degree F] . . . That is to say, in the majority of cases, one may simply employ the water available in hothouses, which is just at the proper temperature. The process is thus at the disposal of all gardeners.
"It should be said that the good effects of the hot baths are confined to the parts actually immersed and do not extend to the whole plant. Thus, on the same stem we may see developing only the branches that have been treated with the bath, while the others remain torpid. This is easy to verify with the lilac or the willow.
"If Lobner is to be believed, we may substitute for the water bath one of steam. He has obtained good results with the lily of the valley. The thing is possible, but the method used by Molisch is more practical.
"How shall we explain the good effect of warm water on branches in a resting state? We are absolutely ignorant of its mechanism, as we are also in the case of etherification. But if we knew everything,science would be no longer amusing!"--Condensed, from _THE LITERARY DIGEST._
There are many new uses for water: It will not be long before every truck and every commercial flower garden will have overhead irrigation. This is merely gas pipes ("seconds" rejected for blow holes or porosity are usually used) supported on posts say six feet above the ground. They are usually placed parallel about fifty feet apart, which will make four to the acre square, and have a single row of holes and a handle on each pipe, so that the spray can be turned in either direction; with a high-water pressure, often supplied by gravity, they may be farther apart with larger holes.
These not only have saved us from fear of drought, but they supply the moisture in the natural manner and at the right time and increase fertility to an astonishing degree.
When you take a shower bath yourself, that is overhead irrigation.
The gasoline, kerosene, or heavy oil one man farm tractor, so made that it can be used to plow, to climb a side hill, to run a saw or a pump, is the coming factor in garden and farm advance. Huge fortune awaits the first manufacturer who will standardize it, cheapen it,and specialize on it. The horse is the greatest care and the greatest risk on the little farm. He costs more than a tractor would, he is eating his head off half the time, he can't he worked overtime without injury, not even as much as a man can be; all too soon he dies, more missed than any member of the family.
When this is popularized the "Three Acres" can well be extended to five.