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|Part IV. Soils, Fertilizers and Irrigation
Information on California Soils.
Where can I get the latest and best information on southern California soils, how to tell what defects exist and how to remedy them?
Much information on these points is to be obtained in Hilgard's "Soils," and in the publications of the University of California Agricultural Experiment Station at Berkeley, which you can find in any of the larger town libraries. Reports and soil maps of certain districts of California are available from the Division of Soils, U. S. Dept. Agr., Washington, D. C. Professor Lipman says that the great deficiency of southern California soils is in organic matter. That can only be remedied by the use of large quantities of barnyard manure where available, the continual use of green manure crops, and in addition to that, the rather limited use of tillage during the hot summer months, replacing tillage with surface straw or manure mulch in order to prevent oxidation of the organic matter introduced in the form of the first two classes of materials named above. By the addition of this organic matter, and also of the nitrogen, which in part is added by means of the organic matter, but also may be added in the form of fertilizer, the greatest defects of the soils in question can be readily remedied within a period of three to five years.
Beet Tops for Alkali.
I have heard that they reclaim alkali spots in the beet fields by covering with the tops and plowing under.
The plowing under of beet tops or stable manure loosens the surface soil and thus decreases evaporation of moisture and makes the alkali weaker in the upper soil so that it may not be strong enough to prevent the germination of the seed. After starting the plant can handle more alkali and be more thrifty. But it all depends upon how much alkali there is in the soil. Plowing in such stuff is not a panacea.
Treatment of Alkali Spots.
I have land with some low spots seeming to have alkali. In plowing these spots plow deeper than the surrounding ground, being wet and somewhat baggy. Could these be overcome by filling in with good soil from surrounding points to a level with the other land? Would it be desirable to plow stalks or straw under in these spots? I have plenty of water for flooding and the land can be well drained. The soil around these spots is fine and produces fine alfalfa and grain, while they do not produce.
You could reduce the accumulation of water in the low spots by filling them up to grade - in fact that is the proper thing to do in preparation of the land for irrigated alfalfa whether there is alkali or not because alfalfa will be killed out if the soil is heavy enough to hold the water too long. If the spots are alkaline you should first under-drain them to get rid of alkali, or it will rise later through your filling and make that alkaline also. Plowing in coarse stuff, before filling in, will help to keep down the alkali.
Sub-soiling in Orchard.
I am thinking of doing some sub-soiling. The trees are 26 feet apart and I would not go closer to the row than 8 feet. I plan to put three furrows from 16 to 20 inches deep down between the rows of trees. The ground has been irrigated for the last 10 or 12 years and when you get down seven or eight inches it is very hard. The trees look well. Would it injure the trees to run those furrows so deep and cutting the roots?
You may anticipate benefit rather than injury. You can open a way for rainfall to the lower soil about as well with two deep furrows as with three and this would enable you to begin your experiment by keeping 10 feet away from the tree row. If you wish to be still more cautious run the furrows one way this year and the other way next year. Start in anyway, and be bold or cautious according to the amount of root cutting you find yourself doing.
Cultivation of Sandy Soil.
I have a peach orchard on "blow sand" in Merced county. I have given instruction to cultivate every two weeks, but my man objects that turning up moist sand loses moisture.
Sandy soil which is gotten into loose condition need not be disturbed by cultivation so long as that friable condition is not interfered with and so long as weeds do not grow. It would certainly be undesirable to use any form of disk or cultivator which turned up moist soil to the air, but on loose sandy soils there is sometimes a firm, evaporating surface formed at a little depth and not on the immediate surface, as is the case with heavy soils. When this takes place there is a loss of moisture by evaporation into the dry air which readily penetrates the granular covering to the crusting place below. To prevent this the soil should be stirred by a narrow straight-toothed harrow or a disk set upright so that there may be pulverization to a depth of five or six inches without turning moist soil up to the air. If you are sure that the cultivated layer remains loose to a satisfactory depth, it need not be stirred. But be careful that a loose layer on top does not deceive you.
Soil Crust Dries Out.
I planted 80 acres of Egyptian corn on land which can not be irrigated. The soil is a rich mellow loam and does not crack open. The neighbors advise not to disturb the top crust, claiming it would dry out more quickly. I have been informed that continual stirring of the top soil would conserve the moisture.
It will surely dry out if you do not disturb the top crust. Cultivate shallow to keep a thin layer of loose soil on top. Deep cultivation in the dry season exposes too much soil surface to drying.
Trouble in Soil, Not in Climate.
Near the north shore of San Francisco Bay I have six acres of apple orchard and five acres to crop and garden. Conditions are peculiar here and trying. Every afternoon during the summer we get a westerly trade wind that continues well into the night. During June we had temperatures ranging from 90 degrees at noon to 50 degrees at 8 p. m., accompanied by a cold fog. This extreme in 24 hours seems to check all plant growth. Peas bloom when 6 inches high; beans remain stationary at 12 inches; corn makes little growth and turns yellow. Squash, vine, etc., are thrashed to pieces by the wind and all stuff grows so slowly it seems tough and tasteless. What crops can one grow under conditions of this sort?
You are blaming the climate too much. Your land needs trenching (or at least deep plowing) and a heavy bombardment with stable manure. This would feed the plants and hold more moisture for them. Your land must be made more loamy - whether it be now either too sandy or too hard, and plenty of organic matter will help it in either case. Your working last winter was too shallow or too late, so that much rainfall moisture was lost and your planting of all the things you mention was too late. The poor growth of plants you describe is caused chiefly by drying out and not by the temperature. With manure and better tillage the corn will grow high enough to wind-break the squashes and other tender foliage. Get manure, save moisture by better tillage, get more busy and get busy earlier in the rainy season. Your climate is like that which prevails on the lower lands, in most northern Coast valleys, and it will make good crops if the soil is fed and worked right.
Probably Too Much Alkali for Peaches.
On land, too high to flood from irrigating ditch, I planted apricot trees which grew finely until August, when most of them died, and the balance died this winter. For two years previously I had planted peach trees, but they also died the same way. I am thinking of placing a 2-inch centrifugal pump on the bank to pump water out of the ditch. Each year I have tried to keep trees alive by watering with hose from tank-house, but have failed. The land on the surface looks right, but when digging holes for trees it shows a little alkali, but does not seem to me too strong.
If it were simply a case of dying from drouth, you could easily settle it by pumping from the ditch as you propose. Pumping from ditches to higher lands is done on both large and small scale in all parts of the State. But the probability is that your trees did not die from drouth. They died too suddenly and uniformly for that. Some of them would surely have pulled through with the hose irrigation you gave them, even if inadequate for good growth. It is altogether likely that there is too much alkali. You can have that determined by sending a sample of the lower soil to the Experiment Station at Berkeley, and sending a letter with it describing what your experience has been. It may be that the land would carry pears even if too alkaline, when you get water on it, for peaches and apricots.
Lime and Chicken Manure on Clover Lawn.
Can I fertilize my lawn (mostly clover) with fresh chicken fertilizer, in which there is a generous sprinkling of lime. Will the lime prove detrimental instead of enriching the soil? I intend to apply it, and if it isn't raining will turn the sprinklers on, to get it close to the roots.
Lime is one of the best things for clover, for clover will not do well unless there is plenty of lime in the soil. Too much fresh lime might do harm, but being exposed to the air takes out the bite. Mixing lime with manure, however, is not good, as lime drives off nitrogen - the best part of it - and you should use gypsum rather than lime for the hen houses.
Danger in Fertilizing at Planting Seeds.
When I planted rhubarb seed I put a little commercial fertilizer in each hill, but in the hills I put it in only a few seeds came up. So when I planted some peanuts I put about a teaspoonful in each hill and mixed it with the ground, but only a few of the hills that I put it in came up. Did I get it too strong?
It is always dangerous to use a quickly soluble fertilizer in contact with seed, and it is otherwise undesirable. No thrifty plant keeps its roots where the seed starts; they go forth considerable distances after moisture and plant food. If, however, you still wish to get right on the spot, mix the fertilizer with several times its bulk of fine sandy loam well pulverized, and it will work on the plants and not get too much in one place. On the whole, however, it is better to get the fertilizer into moist earth between the rows and invite the roots to go after it.
Do They Need Irrigation?
Will it pay to fall irrigate a prune orchard (where the water stands 10 feet below the surface) for the fruit buds for the next crop?
Take a look at the, trees and see if the leaves at the growing tips are welt nourished and the general aspect of the foliage indicative of vigor or otherwise. Then dig down to a depth of three or four feet and see if the soil in which the roots are growing is moist enough to ball in the hand with pressure. If the soil is manifestly too dry at that depth, irrigate as soon as the fruit is gathered. Another condition indicating desirability of irrigating your trees would be the coming of the fall rains. If you are pretty sure of good rains in September and October and the trees are looking well when the fruit is gathered, the probability is that they do not need irrigation.
Windbreak on Irrigation Ditch.
What deciduous tree will make a good erect windbreak along an irrigation ditch in the San Joaquin Valley? How far apart should they be planted?
If you want it very upright nothing beats the Lombardy poplar and by planting close, say 20 feet, you can get an effective windshield. It does well in your valley.
What is the best way to sub-irrigate citrus trees and where is there published information on the subject?
No method has been demonstrated to be of continued value and success. Since 1870 every kind of subterranean distribution has been tried, including board boxes, cement pipes or tiles, perforated or otherwise, iron pipes with various outlets - all these have been tried and abandoned. The literature on the subject consists of descriptions of patented systems in the publications of the U. S. Patent Office and subsequent announcements of their undesirability in the horticultural journals. Often one hears of the success of fruit on "sub-irrigated land," but the term applies to land moistened by gravity or lateral seepage in the form of natural underflow, and does not indicate any method of artificial subterranean distribution. (For sub-irrigation in gardens see Part IV, Vol. 1.)
I have planted Egyptian corn. The ground was thoroughly watered before planting and the corn is just now coming up. The soil is getting very dry on the surface. I have been told that Egyptian corn should not be watered at all. Would you advise permitting it to go through the dry hot months without irrigation? If not, when and how often should it have water?
The sorghums are especially valuable for drouth and heat toleration, and because they will give most growth with least water, but that does not mean that they do not enjoy moisture. They make amount of growth proportional to the moisture available and will grow from six inches to six feet high according to the soil moisture available. Therefore, unless your ground is naturally moist, you will get more green feed or grain by irrigation, the water being run in furrows between the rows, or flooded if sown broadcast. How much and how frequently irrigated depends upon whether the soil is retentive or not. Ordinarily irrigation once a month is desirable. Watch the plants and keep the foliage from yellowing until it is natural for it to mature the seed. Whether you will irrigate or get the most you can without it, good cultivation while the plant is growing is the surety of a good product, unless the land is naturally moist, and then the plant should be kept clean of weeds.
I lost about 40% of my young almond trees this year on account of drouth, but now have a good well and pumping plant so that I can irrigate the trees next year. My advisers say that if the almond trees are irrigated the trees will not become as deeply rooted as they would if the top of the ground were kept dry, forcing the roots to go downward for moisture.
Irrigation of almond trees on a deep, free soil such as should be selected for the almond, will not produce undesirable surface rooting, if the irrigation water is applied in considerable amounts so as to secure deep penetration rather than frequent light applications which would confine the moisture to the upper layers of the soil. Rational irrigation is good both for young trees and old and irrigation water is desirable always in case rainfall should be inadequate. There is no need to be worried about it; if the soil does not have moisture enough, irrigate and be glad that you have the water.
Blasting a Well Bottom.
I have been advised that by using dynamite in the bottom of the, well, so as to blast out quite a basin and then sand pump out all possible, that it will make a much better well.
There is grave danger of destroying the well by blasting and generally no well driller will dynamite a well unless the owner assumes all responsibility. A well should not be dynamited where the water bearing strata are ordinary water-gravel and sand. If such a condition exists, to develop an open-bottom well, end the well in the water-bearing stratum itself and do not pass through this and land in the clay. If the well ends in the water strata, develop the well with a centrifugal pump and have a well with a large cavity or reservoir at the bottom. There is, however, a certain amount of danger in the gravel and sand flowing too fast and sanding the well. If all the water will be obtained from a stratum of shale only, and the well does not supply sufficient water after test, then try dynamite, but this is for a shale or a sandstone stratum only. - E. P. McMurtry.
Increasing Output of Wells.
I have a 10-inch well, cased 100 feet deep. Good water gravel was encountered at 34 feet 4 inches, at 65 feet 8 inches, at 90 feet 3 inches, and at 106 feet 3 inches or more. The best wells in the valley yield only 400 gallons per minute, and I want more. I am advised to sink a dug well, say 5 feet by 6 to include the two upper strata of gravel and, if found necessary, mine a tunnel at right angles to the vein of water gravel, so as to get all the water.
We would not recommend this method. The cost of tunneling below the water line is very expensive and unless the ground on each side of the water stratum is of solid clay it would be necessary to curb the tunnels, which, if done with redwood, would last but a short time and if of concrete would be very expensive. Obtaining water by tunnels is commended where there is one stratum only a short distance below the ground and a foot or two in thickness only or where the character of the water-bearing strata is so close, such as shale or sand only, that sufficient water will not flow through to an ordinary well. The tunnel method increases the percolating area and increases the supply. Our recommendation would be to sink a pit to the first water, drill one or more 10-inch wells, 20 to 30 feet from the present well, run narrow tunnels, which in this case will be above the water line, out to these new wells and connect all of the wells with proper pipes to one vertical centrifugal pump placed in the pit. The cost of drilling additional 10-inch wells will be very slight compared to the cost of the tunnel method. - E. P. McMurtry.
Linings for Irrigation Ditches.
Please give information about cementing or lining a ditch, as to the best and cheapest way and approximate cost.
From experience with the efficiency of the different types of linings, the following results can be anticipated: 1. A good oil lining, constructed with heavy asphalt road oil, applied on the ditch sides and bed at the rate of about 3 gallons per square yard, will stop 50 to 60% of the seepage. 2. A well-constructed clay puddle lining is as efficient as a good oil lining. 3. A thin cement mortar lining, about one inch thick, made of one part cement to four of sand, will prevent 75% of the seepage. 4. A first-class concrete lining, three inches thick, made of one part of cement to two of sand and four of gravel, will stop 95% of the seepage. 5. A wooden lining, when new, is as efficient as a concrete lining, but after two or three years repairs will become an important item, and by eight or ten years will require complete renewal.
The cost of an oil lining where oil can be bought at California prices (about two cents a gallon) is about one-half cent per square foot. Cement mortar lining one inch thick costs about 2 to 4 cents per square foot. Cement concrete two inches thick costs from about 4 to 6 cents, and three inches thick from about 6 to 8 cents a square foot. These prices do not include the trimming and preparation of the ditch before the lining is put on, which would add from 3/4 to 1 1/2 cents per square foot. If clay is close at hand it can be hauled and spread on the canal, then either tramped in by cattle or worked in by dragging chains over it, at a cost of less than 1 cent per square foot, but there are localities where enough money has been spent on clay linings to pay for a good concrete lining. Wooden lining built of two-inch lumber nailed on sills and side yokes will cost as much as a two-inch concrete lining and is not nearly as durable.
An oil lining stops only a part of the seepage losses, and while it will resist erosion well, it probably will not prevent the growth of weeds for more than one season unless a high velocity is used, and it will not stop the activities of burrowing animals. Clay puddle will not prevent the burrowing of animals and weeds grow rapidly, especially since the velocity of the water must be small in order to prevent the eroding or washing of the lining. A concrete lining has none of these disadvantages and the only objection is its higher first cost. But where water is valuable its expense is well justified. In southern California the use of concrete lining dates from about 1880, when the increasing value of water made it necessary to do away with losses. Since that time practically all canals in that section have been lined with concrete, and in some cases replaced with concrete pipes. - Prof. B. A. Etcheverry.
Oiling Irrigation Hose.
What is the kind of oil to soak cloth hose in, to preserve it and to keep it from leaking water!
Use boiled linseed oil, to which has been added a liberal amount of litharge, for drying purposes. Apply with an ordinary paint brush.
How Much Water for Four Acres?
How much water do I need for four acres of heavy loam in fruit trees-mostly young trees!
It requires local experience to tell how much water is needed in any place, and some wide-awake neighbor can advise you exactly. Theoretically you might expect to carry 950 trees, while they are young, with one miner's inch continuous flow, delivered in multiples, of course, according to the number of days intervening between the runs. The duty of that much water will depend upon the retentiveness of the soil; also upon how well you handle the water and how much you conserve by good cultivation.
Water Conduits to Take Less Land.
I am laying out some ditches to carry about 4.2 second feet of water. There is a ditch described in Farmer's Bulletin 375, having this capacity of 4.2 second feet. It takes up too much land as it is 12 feet wide over all. Would it be possible to make a ditch with very much steeper banks than the one mentioned by oiling it with an asphalt base oil to protect it from erosion! The soil is clay loam.
The ditch to which you refer can be built with steeper slopes, so that it will not need to take over about eight feet of ground if slopes of 1:1 are used. The use of the asphalt base oil would not probably be of any particular advantage, as a clay loam soil would probably stand on this slope. To save the land, an 18-inch pipe would give about the same capacity as this ditch. Also a flume, 18 inches wide by 12 inches deep, would carry the same amount of water. The pipe could be buried, so as to require practically no space and the flume would also need little width.
Laying Pipe Before Leveling.
A and B each bought land in a tract owned by a development company. The company reserved the right to lay irrigating laterals across the land. This they laid at a uniform depth across the land in its natural state without taking into consideration the contours as reported by their civil engineers. When the land was leveled so that it could be irrigated the pipe line was exposed so as to prevent farming across it. Will A and B be obliged to lower the pipe at their own expense, or should the company pay for their own negligence!
Each instrument reserving the rights of way for irrigating laterals, etc., must be carefully interpreted in order to understand the conditions for which it was drawn. If there is no specification regarding the size, location and method of constructing the conduit, the rule of reasonableness alone governs. If, considering all existing conditions, the conduit has been laid in an unreasonable manner, the company is liable.
Bermuda on Reservoir Bottom.
I have a reservoir covering an acre which has a complete sod of Bermuda grass in the bottom. What would your idea be of the most practical way to get rid of it! Could it be done with distillate!
If you wish to remove the Bermuda so that you can work the soil bottom to make the reservoir hold water, undercut the sod with a weed knife or flat-tooth cultivator, dry, rake into windrows and burn and then get on with your harrows, clay, sheep, etc. - whichever you choose to use to puddle the bottom. If you wish to kill the top growth, distillate will do that, but it will not get the bottom of the Bermuda. It will come up again when it gets ready, providing the surface has air and light. But if it is simply a question of killing the Bermuda on the reservoir bottom, why do you worry? Fill the reservoir and that will settle it. Bermuda is not an aquatic plant. It will probably climb out over the banks, but that will not be a bad idea; it will keep the banks from washing.
Oil Lining for Reservoirs.
Is it practical to cover the bottom of a reservoir with heavy oil to overcome seepage - say such oil as they use on the roads in California! Or would the oil rise on the water and go out on the alfalfa when irrigated!
It gives satisfaction and there are a number so constructed in this State. You must get an even distribution. The oil must be thoroughly mixed with the soil for several inches deep and rolled hard, then no more oil is taken up from the bottom than there is from a road in a rainstorm, and that is not enough to do harm. Possibly the first time the reservoir is filled the water might take off an appreciable quantity, depending largely on the way the oiling was done, but later no trouble would be expected, and a very impervious bottom would be secured.
What Is "Horsepower."
I have been told that a horsepower is just the same an all kinds of engines, and that a 20 horsepower automobile, if harnessed for it, could do the same work as 20 horsepower stationary engine. I would like to know if this is true.
Yes: whether it be a draft animal, or an engine, or a gale of wind, or a kicking burro, or a stick of dynamite, it is a theoretical horsepower if it can lift 33,000 pounds one foot high in one minute; actual horse power, however, is whatever horsepower is really developed as proved by trial. Whether you can use a thing able to do this, under certain conditions, depends upon the working requirements of the machine or agency and its environment. The tides of the ocean have more horsepower than all other earthly motors combined, but to cultivate a row of corn we would rather have a lame mule.
What a 2-Inch Well May Do.
Is it possible to pump water out of a 2-inch cased well fast enough to water 10 acres of young fig trees?
It depends upon how good your pump is and whether there is plenty of water in the well; also whether your soil will carry water well in a furrow, or whether it will only run a few feet and sink out of sight. Supposing the pump is good, the well wet, the soil furrow fit to carry water, and the trees blocked up and not stretched out Indian-file, you can surely irrigate ten acres of young deciduous trees in one or two furrows to the row as many times as the trees need it - providing the rest of the land is idle and kept well cultivated. If you have to fill checks or if you wish to irrigate inter-crops, you would need a reservoir or a larger well and pump, or both, perhaps. In the former case your head-ditch should be a flume or a pipe, so as not to lose water before it gets to the furrow heads. As your trees get larger you will probably need a larger well and pump.
Work and Cost of Pumping Plant.
I have a bored well cased, seven inches in diameter, 100 feet deep; abundant supply. What is the best method of obtaining the greatest supply? What horsepower engine and what sort of pump, also probable cost?
To answer this one should know the distance at which the water stands in the well when not being pumped. Also the amount of water that is needed, if for domestic purposes, or the number of acres of land, if for irrigation. In either case it is simply a matter of size of pump and size of engine, which is controlled by the amount of money the owner wishes to invest. Water for domestic supply can be accomplished by a lift pump at the rate of from 15 to 70 gallons a minute. The cost is controlled by the number of feet the water has to be raised and the number of gallons per minute required. If a lift pump, several parts must be considered. They are: a cylinder in the well, a number of feet of pipe from this cylinder to the point of discharge, a pumping head, either geared or belted to an engine or motor, and a gas engine or motor. For a supply of 15 gallons a minute and a lift of 100 feet the cost would be as follows:
Cylinder ------------------- $9 to $14
100 feet of pipe at 12c --- $12
Pumping head -------------- $14 to $25
1 1/2-horsepower gas engine $75
Approximate cost --------- $125
For a supply of 70 gallons a minute and a lift of 100 feet:
Cylinder ----------------- $20
100 feet of pipe at 20c -- $20
Pumping head ------------- $60
5-horsepower gas engine - $150 to $350
Or 5-horsepower motor ---- $68.10
Approximate cost -------- $250 to $450
(Running cost probably more.)
Gasoline used would be about one-fourth gallon per horsepower per hour.
For irrigation purposes one is again controlled by the amount of water needed and of money to be invested; the number of acres to be irrigated, the local rainfall and its distribution, and the number of feet the water is to be lifted. A centrifugal pump would probably be chosen in this case. The cost varies with the quantity of water required and the distance it is to be lifted. Doubling the lift or quantity of water handled also doubles the power required and the cost rises in proportion. With a centrifugal pump it is necessary to dig a pit to the water surface in the well, as it is not advisable to suck water over a suction-lift of from 20 to 25 feet to the pump. The price of the digging varies with the size and depth of the pit from $1.00 per foot up. The water level controls the depth of pit. We shall figure on a discharge of 200 to 225 gallons a minute which is sufficient to cover one acre six inches deep in a twelve-hour run, not allowing for loss by seepage. Based on a pump efficiency of fifty per cent with a lift of 30 feet a discharge of 200 gallons a minute may be obtained with 3 horsepower, while with a lift of 100 feet, 10 horsepower will be necessary to discharge the same amount of water. It is simply a question of power, lift and quantity required. Doubling the lift or doubling the quantity doubles the power needed. With the 30-foot lift one would use a No. 3 horizontal centrifugal pump, which pumps about 225 gallons per minute and costs from $100 to $150. A 5-horsepower gas engine or motor would be used with this lift and size of pump. The engine varies in price from $200 to $350, but the initial cost is a small item compared with economy in operation as time goes on. There are engines on the market costing $350 which consume only one-half gallon of stove distillate an hour at the rate of less than 5 cents a gallon. This would allow a run of twelve hours for 30 cents. Gasoline at 15 cents a gallon would bring it up to 90 cents. A motor of the same horsepower would cost about $70 and use about 4 KWH of power an hour. At a power rate of 3 cents a KWH a twelve-hour run would cot $1.44. In the case of a 100-foot lift, one would prefer a 15 horsepower gas engine or motor and a No. 3 vertical centrifugal pump, two stage. The engine would cost up to $640 and would use two gallons of stove distillate per hour at 5 cents. Thus a twelve-hour run would cost $1.20. A motor of the same size would cost $190 and would use 11 KWH an hour. At an average of 2 1/2c a KWH a twelve-hour run would cost $3.30. Though the motor costs a great deal less in the beginning one should study the local power rate schedule and figure on the cost of operation as time goes on. The approximate costs of the two lifts are as follows:
Pump - $100 Pump - $100
Engine $350 Motor - $70
Pipe -- $15 Pipe -- $15
------ $465 ------ $185
Pump - $330 Pump -- $330
Engine $640 Motor - $190
Pipe -- $50 Pipe --- $50
---- $1,020 ------- $570
So we are impressed with the fact that the lift and equipment chosen have a great deal to do with the installation, to say nothing of the cost of maintenance and operation. - Holter & Rogers.
Pumping for Alfalfa.
Is it possible to pump water 100 feet for alfalfa and make a good profit, when alfalfa will sell for $10 per ton or upward? Water is in abundant supply. From one well a flow of from 1,000 to 1,500 gallons per minute can be secured.
With the cheap fuel engines now on the market the fuel cost is comparatively low. Take a crude oil engine that is said to burn oil of as low as 24 degrees gravity. We wish to pump 1,200 gallons per minute. This will require a No. 7 pump. To raise this amount of water a distance of 100 feet a 75 horsepower crude oil engine will be needed. This engine consumes, say, from 9 to 10 gallons of fuel per hour at from 2 to 3 cents a gallon. Take the higher figure and the fuel cost will be 30 cents an hour or $3.60 for a 12-hour run. The water will cover 3 1/2 acres 6 inches deep. Practically a cost of $1.00 for each 6-inch irrigation, or $5.00 an acre for a 30-inch irrigation for the season. Cost of attendance will amount to another $1.00 for each 6-inch irrigation, or $5.00 per acre per season. Thus the total irrigation cost will amount to about $10 per acre per season. One should expect at least 5 tons to the acre of alfalfa per season, which will give a gross return of $50. Deducting $10, for irrigation costs, $40 remains to be divided between field attendance, harvesting costs and profit. The 75 horsepower crude oil engine costs about $3500 and the No. 7 pump may be obtained for about $400. Probably a simpler and cheaper way would be to build a reservoir at the highest point to be irrigated. A smaller crude oil engine and smaller pump, which can be run continually, may then be used. Thus 24 hours' pumping will afford 12 hours' irrigation at a nominal cost for fuel, fixed charges and attendance. The smaller plant will give a proportionally higher cost for fuel consumption, but the cost of attendance can be greatly reduced. The area to be irrigated and the amount of water to be applied through the season will control the economy of raising water 100 feet for alfalfa production. The amount of water to be pumped, or the height it is to be lifted, is simply a question of power, and, in this case, cheap power. Alfalfa should have at least 30 acre inches of water per season. To put a depth of 2 feet of water on one acre, it takes a flow of 450 U. S. gallons per minute for 24 hours, irrespective of losses by seepage, which is very important. Knowing the acreage, one can figure the number of days required to cover a field to a given depth. From this the cost per acre may be figured. - Holter & Rogers, San Francisco.
Who Owns Underground Water?
I bought land, the deed of which says that I have only the use for domestic purposes of any of the waters arising on or flowing through or over the property, and the company has the right to the water's uninterrupted flow through and over the property. Can I dig a well and pump for irrigation?
Many lands have been subdivided and sold in small tracts with the reservation that all waters, either surface or underground, on or under such land, shall remain the property of the original company, with the exception that the purchaser may use water for domestic and irrigation purposes on the tract purchased. From his account it seems that the writer above is given the right to use water for domestic purposes only. The deed will have to be inspected in order to ascertain his right to develop underground water. He has title only to what the deed conveys.
Running Ditches Across Others' Land.
I own a pumping plant and can sell water provided I can get it across intervening property. Can the owner of this intervening property stop me from running the ditch if I pay him a reasonable price for the privilege?
By statute adopted in 1913, anyone distributing water to land not owned by himself must be considered a public utility and subject to regulation by the California Railroad Commission. Being in public service, the owner of such a system would have the right to condemn a right-of-way, the cost of which would have to be fixed by a jury. It would undoubtedly be in excess of the ordinary acreage price of the land. The only way to avoid being a public utility in such a case would be to sell an interest in the pumping system to those whose lands are to be irrigated. Under such conditions the system would no longer be considered in public service, and it would therefore not have the right of condemnation. It would have to pay whatever the owner of the land desired for the right-of-way.
Riparian Rights and Winter Irrigation.
I have land on a creek which flows a good part of the year. I want to put in a pipe so that in the winter, when there is a good stream flowing I can give irrigation and be sure that no one can stop me after the pipe has been installed. I plan to buy land on both sides of the creek above me, to give me the necessary head. If I file a water right on a certain part of the water, will that give me a clear right to use it?
As a riparian owner you have a right to take and use water flowing in the creek, which right must be shared with other riparian owners. As you desire to irrigate when there is "a good stream flowing," the probability is that at that time there will be sufficient for all riparian owners who care to use the water. If any lower riparian owner objects, a division must be made so that each will have a reasonable use of the full flow. There is no necessity of filing a notice of water appropriation, as the right acquired thereby is inferior to the riparian right. Any riparian owner can enjoin the diversion of water by a mere appropriator.
I have a water right on a creek that flows through my lands. A neighbor above me, who has never filed a water right, claims that he is entitled to take water from the creek from the fact that he has been taking water from it for a good many years prior to my filing a water right. Is he right?
From the statement that the creek flows through the land, it is assumed that all of the land lies along the bank of the creek and is, therefore, riparian thereto. As a riparian owner you are entitled to a reasonable use of the waters of the creek in common with all other riparian owners. A riparian owner, or an appropriator above you may have secured a better right to the water by using it to your detriment for a period of five years-thus acquiring a so-called prescriptive right. There are a number of elements entering into the determination of a prescriptive right and the one so claiming it must submit proofs. It is therefore certain that where an upper owner has within the past five years started to divert the water from the creek and use it upon his land, he has no greater right to do so than any other riparian owner below him.
Irrigation or Fertilization.
If it is advisable to keep the tree growing and thus hold its foliage till as late in the season as possible in order to strengthen the fruit buds, why is it that they practice fall pruning, denuding the tree of nearly all foliage and exposing the fruit buds to all the sun and light they can get? I don't think that fall watering of the prune will cause it to produce heavier craps. My idea is that the soil needs nourishment.
It is well to place emphasis on the need of fertilization and fall irrigation is not at all at enmity with that claim. However, one can never be sure that the tree needs fertilizers until he has given it a chance to grow well and bear well under the influence of adequate moisture. Besides, the tree can only use fertilizers when there is enough moisture present. But on the other hand it may be urged that in many cases if ample humus is present by cover crops or stable manure the soil will be more retentive and the trees stand in less need of fall irrigation, and that is true. In fact, irrigation and fertilization are so intimately related in effects that one should never try to stand one off against the other. The wise grower assures himself that the tree has moisture enough, and if water does not help the hearing, turns to fertilization. Every kind of a fruit tree must have moisture enough to hold foliage active until fruit buds are adequately strong and to protect the tissues of the new growth against desiccation (as shown by shriveling in extreme cases). When the soil is dry and rains late, this moisture must come from fall irrigation. This lesson has been clearly learned in the San Joaquin Valley with peach trees and when a tree has fall moisture enough to keep it in good condition it is protected against starting too early from its dormancy.
Purity of Domestic Water Supply.
Will a cesspool dug to gravel and a few feet from water table have any effect on the water of a drinking well 100 feet away? Would there be danger to health and fear for the typhoid germ? Is it sanitary to keep an elevated water tank covered that is used for household purposes and drinking? Will the water keep pure and sweet?
Putting in a cesspool as you describe is dangerous as in the loose gravel there is quite sure to be a movement of injurious material from cesspool to well and typhoid could easily be carried to user of the water. If, however, you have a bored well and the gravel stratum with which the cesspool connects is cased off, there can be no practical danger. It is sanitary to keep a tank covered. Better to do that than allow it to remain open to injury from birds and other sources of contagion. Whether the water remains pure and sweet or not depends more on the amount used than anything else. If the water is frequently renewed, a covered tank will give good water.
Reclaiming Overflow Land.
How can I reclaim a piece of swamp land that is flooded by water from a creek, caused by the tide from the ocean? It is well drained as the tide recedes, and it can easily be shut out.
Shut out the salt water, of course, and give the fresh water a chance to get out when the tide recedes. This is usually done with a levee with gates in it, at the lowest points, which close as the inflow begins and are pushed open by the outflow. These can be made to work automatically. It sounds easy, but it isn't always easy or cheap.
Behavior of a Tight Soil.
If I bore fifteen feet and strike water, which rises to within five feet of the surface, is my water table five or fifteen feet? I cover an acre of land with water, and I find that it goes into the ground at the rate of one-eighth inch a day. Under the above conditions, do I stand a fair show of washing alkali out of the soil?
Your water table is practically at five feet unless you have broken an impervious hardpan in boring - which, if not broken, might hold down water below it. Under the conditions you describe the water-movement is too slow to wash out alkali. You will have to dig deep, open drains or lay tile to move away the water faster. The one-eighth inch of which you speak is partly lost by evaporation, probably.
Preventing Flow of Waste Water.
Has the man below a legal right to build temporary dams on his own land, to prevent waste irrigation water flowing in storm-water channels during the irrigation season when there is no storm water? Can the man above be legally restrained from making use, of storm-water channels to get rid of his waste irrigation, water where such use will lead to damage of the land below at a time when there is no storm water?
It is well settled in California that the owner of upper lands has a right to the discharge of surface or rain water as it is accustomed to naturally flow. He, however, has no right to change the natural mode of discharge to the injury of the lower land owner. The upper land owner can, therefore, be restrained from discharging waste irrigation water (that is, not natural waters) into storm-water channels, if such discharge damages the lower land owner. As the lower land owner has this right of injunction, he may also throw temporary dams across storm-water channels on his own land to prevent said waste irrigation waters from doing injury to his land.
Draining Low Places.
I have a large depression in my land where I lost about 100 vines and when we irrigate the water makes a lake for several days. In another place there is a squirrel hole and water runs into this hole for several days with no sign of filling it up. If I could put a large hole in the low spot and keep it open would it not take care of the water? I put a hole down in this place last March; we struck mud at 12 feet. Later the water came up about eight feet more and remained at that level for a long time.
Frequently it is possible to drain low places entirely surrounded by higher ground by digging a hole such as you suggest. Go down until you reach sand or gravel through which the water can flow easily. Many large swales have been reclaimed in this way, but to be successful the stratum of loose material must be reached, and sometimes it is too far from the surface to make the work profitable. In your case if such gravel stratum occurs it evidently is below the bed of mud and probably separated from it by hardpan which you must get through. The only other way to drain will be by putting in tile drains to take water to lower ground-digging deep enough through the sides of the depression to allow the water to run off. If you put in tile to draw the water down to three and one-half feet below the surface, you need not worry about the water below that.
Uses of Saltpetre.
What about the use of saltpetre as a fertilizer of crops? I have seen it stated that it has been used with great benefit on garden crops.
It is Chile saltpetre or sodium nitrate which is used as a stimulating nitrogenous fertilizer. When the term saltpetre is used in connection with preservation of meats, etc., it means potassium nitrate which is too expensive for use in fertilizers. Chile saltpetre is largely used in the way you mention and it can be bought from all fertilizer dealers. Great care must be taken, however, not to use too much and not to apply it in quantity near the plants. The usual dose is 200 pounds per acre, well distributed. That is perfectly safe and considerably more may be sometimes used to advantage; but increasing the dose should be carefully done after some experience has been gained in the use of it.
What Is Meant by "Nitrate Spraying."
What is meant by "nitrate spraying" in connection with insecticides to stimulate fruit trees?
In 1912 W. H. Volck, horticultural commissioner of Santa Cruz County, and Mr. Ballard of the U. S. Department of Agriculture, sprayed apple trees which previously had refused to bear with a solution of nitrate of soda and they bore large crops of fine apples. Unsprayed trees were unproductive, although as much nitrate of soda was applied to the roots as was put on the tops of the first lot, the advantages all coming from the spraying, apparently. Messrs. Volck and Ballard continued the experiments, with favorable results and the practice was taken up by Watsonville growers. The dose is one pound of nitrate to a gallon of water, or sometimes half a pound to the gallon. It can be applied with ordinary lime-sulphur or other sprayings, or by itself with about 15 to 20 pounds of caustic soda to the 200 gallon tank added to make it stick to branches. At first it was thought that it should be applied when the buds were swelling, but later it was shown that it can be applied any time to dormant trees.
Pie Melons Poor Fertilizer.
We have a large quantity of volunteer pie melons in the vineyard and are selling them at a dollar a load. Would it be better to allow them to rot on the ground as fertilizer?
Sell them, unless you can feed them to advantage. They surely are not worth a dollar a load as a fertilizer.
Potato Vines as Fertilizer.
How can I best use potato vines for fertilizer? They seem to enrich the ground when plowed under or mixed with other manure, but they help to perpetuate the potato disease, which I am trying to eliminate by disinfecting seed, rotation, etc. Is there any way to disinfect the vines, or don't you think they are worth it?
They are not worth the labor and chemicals required for disinfection. Plow them in and use the land for grain or hay or other crop which is not affected by potato diseases. That is one of the advantages which pertain to rotation. This would bring your potatoes on ground new to them each year and your question disappears.
Price for Poultry Manure.
What is a proper price for poultry manure free of sand and feathers, and put up in sacks? I find that a sack of the dry manure weighs about 60 pounds, and my idea was to run it through a fanning mill so as to blow out the feathers and screen the sand so as to leave the manure clear and clean. As I have had the poultry running in the peach orchard for twenty years I well know the value of this manure.
The composition of hen manure (fresh) averages about 1% nitrogen, 0.80% phosphoric acid, and 0.40% potash; in other words, 20 pounds nitrogen per ton, 16 pounds phosphoric acid, and 8 pounds potash. This contains 55% moisture and when thoroughly dried would contain probably only about about half as much, which would make the amounts of plant foods just double what is stated above. At the values given by the State Fertilizer Control for these plant foods, the manure prepared as you describe might sell for about $10 per ton, for the same materials in other forms could be purchased for about that price.
Fertilizing Young Trees.
On an acreage of pears and apples, most of them two years old, I desire to use fertilizer. Thus far both apples and pears look well, but feel that I should fertilize.
If the trees made enough wood growth and had good-sized and colored leaves, it is a question whether fertilizing would be any advantage at this stage of their growth. It is the same way with irrigation: if one gets good growth on a young tree, neither irrigation nor fertilization is necessary; but both may be very necessary later and probably it will be more useful to take to irrigating first, because in a shortage of moisture fertilizing must be ineffective. However, if there is stable or corral manure available we would get it and top-spread it in advance of the rains and turn it in with the green stuff whenever it is right to plow on that land. This will not only increase the plant food, but will make the cultivation easier and better and prepare the way for profitable use of commercial fertilizers later.
Excess Ashes and Mottle-Leaf.
Before my orange trees were planted, two years ago, brush was burned on one corner of the land. The trees planted there show mottling. As a rule the trees look well and are vigorous. Could there be an excess of alkali due to the presence of the wood ashes? If so, how can we correct. it?
Possibly excess of potash caused the trouble. The way to remove the potash is to leach it out with water or in this way distribute it through a greater bulk of soil. If the soil is loose and distributes the water well, simply irrigate generously from time to time. If water stands, however, you must under-drain the spot or you may give the trees something worse than mottled leaf. Unless you burned a large amount of brush in that spot, however, the possible excess of potash would disappear soon, under ordinary irrigation and rainfall.
Lime, Litmus and Daffodils.
Will a top dressing of air-slaked lime, sprinkled and cultivated into a bed of daffodils, do any harm to the young roots already started? They have been in but a short time, but I find on testing land with blue litmus paper traces of sourness.
A good whitening of the surface with air-slaked lime is not dangerous if soon followed by rain or sprinkling. It might not be advisable with some small seeds, but larger seeds do not object and growing plants or bulbs are not injuriously affected. The litmus test is good if one has had experience enough not to attach too much importance to slight colorations. If various plants are growing well, the soil is not injuriously acid. The lime, however, if not used in excess, will do no harm and may do good in several ways.
Carbide Refuse as Lime for Soil.
Can carbide refuse be used beneficially on vineyard, orchard or alfalfa land?
The lime in carbide refuse is excellent for soil where lime is needed. If used too fresh it may contain some carbide which might injure the roots if turned under at once, but when the refuse is exposed fully to air and moisture for some time all this carbide passes off and the rest is practically like water or air-slaked lime.
Lime and Gypsum in Gardening
How much air-slaked lime should be applied per 100 square feet? Is gypsum as desirable as lime for rendering the soil friable?
You can use 5 pounds of lime to the 100 square feet. Lime is more energetic than gypsum in promoting friability. Gypsum is a safer plant stimulant than caustic lime.
Horse and Cow Manure.
Is horse manure the equal of cow manure in gardening?
Both horse and cow manure are good. The latter may be as good as the former for plant food-that depends upon how well each kind of animal is fed. Cow manure is less likely to ferment rapidly and produce too much heat, and for that reason horse manure is specially good for use in hotbeds.
Lime and Other Fertilizers.
Is it wise to put lime on land that has become sour, when the trees and vines are growing? It is light land. How much to the acre, etc.? Would it require other fertilizer afterward to get best results?
Five hundred pounds of lime per acre, during the growing season, properly distributed and cultivated in would be safe, and other applications of the same amount may be made annually as conditions seem to require. It is better to make application during the early part of the rainy season. The use of other fertilizers would be desirable later, either to stimulate wood growth or to promote fruit-bearing as the trees seem to require. Lime is not a substitute for other fertilizers. One of its chief purposes in California is in rendering the soil more fit for active root action and thus promote assimilation of other plant food by the plants or trees which may be put upon it. We suppose you have demonstrated that the land has become sour. It is not usual for light land, unless it has been too wet for a considerable period.
Liming Orchard Soil.
Should lime be applied to improve the texture of adobe soil of a prune orchard? After plowing or before? In the spring or fall? How much lime to the acre? Is ground lime rock better than lime for this purpose? The orchard will be irrigated as soon as the prunes are all picked. What other method of improving this kind of soil do you recommend?
If you do not mind wheeling or tramping over the plowed ground you can spread after plowing and avoid burning your horses' feet and your own shoe leather. It is easier to spread before plowing, and in that case do it some time before, so the rain may slake and carry much of it into the ground - that is, do not lime and plow immediately. Liming should be done early in the rainy season, or you can spread lime in advance of your irrigation after fruit picking. Caustic lime acts on texture more quickly and effectively than ground limestone. Other ways to improve texture are to use stable manure and grow cover crops-also to watch and work the soil when it crumbles best. You can use 500 pounds of lime per acre and keep doing it for two or three years.
Supplementing Stable Manure.
What is the best commercial fertilizer for light, sandy soil? I have not enough manure to cover all the ground this fall.
Theoretically at least, the best way to use a limited amount of stable manure is to spread it more thinly and use with it a complete commercial fertilizer, which approximates its composition. Good practice is to grow a cover crop with fall and winter rainfall and to apply the fertilizer to push the growth of the cover crop, or to scatter the commercial fertilizer on the cover crop and plow the two in together. Nitrate of soda is also used to stretch out stable manure, but it should be applied toward the end of the rainy season usually, although of course it may be used to push a winter growing crop. On land not covered with plants to use it, nitrate should not be used while there is too much water moving to carry it away.
Nitrate in Tree Planting.
We are setting a young orchard on land rich in phosphoric acid and potash, but lacking in humus and nitrogen. We wish the trees to make a good start. Will nitrate of potash (of which we happen to have a supply on hand) give the desired effect? How much should we use per tree?
If you are sure that your soil is too poor to grow a young tree, which is not often true, it is rational enough to use nitrate, and nitrate of potash is better than nitrate of soda. It is dangerous to put nitrate in the hole with the tree because of the chance of its not being mixed with enough earth. You might safely mix a small handful in the loosened earth in the bottom of the hole, then fill and pack around the roots with fine earth without nitrate and scatter a little more nitrate on the earth which you are to use in finishing the fill. If you wish to take all that trouble you could safely use a quarter of a pound to the tree. It would, however, be altogether better to plant without nitrate and then if, when it has water and cultivation enough, the tree does not grow to suit you, make a surface scattering of half a pound of nitrate to the tree and let it go in with irrigation water and following cultivation.
Dissolved Nitrate for Flowers.
In applying nitrate of soda to flowers, can I dissolve it in water; some say it will burn the plant?
Nitrate is largely used by florists at the rate of one teaspoonful to three gallons of water. If scattered over the surface, before rain or sprinkling one ounce to one square yard of surface may be used. If used too often, it may kill the plants or cause overgrowth. Watch the plants; their appearance will indicate when to use the pushing fertilizer.
Nitrate on Citrus Trees.
When is the best time to apply nitrate of soda on citrus orchards? I hear it would hurt blossoms if applied at that time.
Nearly all authorities and citrus growers of much experience agree that the best time to apply nitrate of soda is early in the spring. Nitrogen in that form is particularly desirable for application at that time because of its availability. With other forms of nitrogen, such as blood, it is absolutely necessary that the soil be very warm when the application is made in order that best results be obtained, but with nitrate of soda, or nitrate of lime, or sulphate of ammonia, the nitrogen is supposed to be in a form that the plant can immediately take up. I have never heard of any danger of weakening of blossoms by applying in the spring and should think that the tendency would be just the opposite, as anything that would tend to make a strong, vigorous condition should tend toward setting a better crop - C. C. Teague.
Fertilizing Grape Vines.
I intend to use a little commercial fertilizer for my young grape vines - 1, 2 and 3 years old. I would put a little near each vine and cover it up several inches deep. How much would you put on each vine to stimulate growth?
About two pounds of commercial fertilizer per vine is a good amount. It should not be put too close to the trunk. Better if none came nearer than a foot. Whenever the trees, vines or other crops do not come up to expectation fertilization probably will be profitable. Whenever vegetation flourishes vigorously fertilization is probably not necessary. When in doubt use some, as most are inclined to overestimate the thrift of their trees. A good mixture is 4 per cent nitrogen, about 1 per cent being from nitrate and 3 per cent organic, 2 per cent potash, and 8 per cent phosphoric acid. This combination is a good one for growth.
When to Apply Fertilizer.
I have some soluble complete fertilizer over after fertilizing my orchard, and as I intend planting some corn and potatoes next spring, I would like to know when to apply it.
Apply the fertilizer when preparing the ground for planting in spring. For trees and vines a fall application might be better with most fertilizers and in fact might be well with you if only potash and phosphoric acid were present. With so much soluble nitrogen and the crop you intend to fertilize not planted yet, you can wait.
Gypsum as a Fertilizer Absorbent.
Does the action of gypsum reduce the fly pest and preserve the manure from loss of volatile matter?
Unless properly handled fermentation rapidly sets in in manure and volatile contents pass off into the air, which can be detected by the odor of ammonia. By using finely ground gypsum or land plaster the escape of ammonia can be somewhat lessened. This is the chief reason for using gypsum as an absorbent, although it materially aids in solving the fly question. Many dairymen use from one-half to a pound of gypsum per 1,000 pounds of animals in their milking barns, scattering it on the floor after the barn has been cleaned. They do this to keep flies down as well as foul odors.
Corn Stalks for Fertilizer.
Can I work in corn stalks profitably as an orchard fertilizer? Can the stalks be spread, a disk run over the same and then plow them in in the spring, or would it be feasible to rent a gasoline corn stalk chopper and cut them up?
If you are dealing with a light soil, the plowing in of the stalks will give you more trouble than could be compensated for by the humus which they might ultimately produce. On a heavier soil they can be hashed up and plowed in as you propose. It is doubtful if their value would warrant even hiring machinery for the purpose. A better proposition would be to trade them to some local cow feeder in return for as many loads of manure as he is willing to give you.
Leaf Mold and Oak-Root Fungus.
We have been gathering leaf mold from an oak grove and placing the same (mixed with droppings from cattle pastured in the grove) around our young orange trees to provide humus fertilizer and put the heavy soil in good mechanical condition. The results have been fine. Would it be possible to infect the orchard with "oak-root fungus" providing it were present in the oak grove?
One can hardly say it is impossible, but it is so improbable that we would not hesitate a moment to continue your practice because of fear of it.
Plowing-in Tomato Vines.
We had between our young oranges tomatoes. Of what value as a fertilizer would the frozen vines be? Would it pay to plow them under? Unless it would, we would not plow the orchard this year.
You should surely plow them under for humus; besides, do not let the land go unplowed this year.
Highest Value in a Vetch.
In all my reading regarding the value of vetch as nitrogenous fertilizer, I haven't as yet seen a statement as to when is the time to plow under to get the greatest results, regardless of any conditions.
If you mean when the plant has highest value in itself it is while the pods are still green and the stem yellowing a little at the base.
Nettles as a Cover Crop.
How could I get rid of nettles that persist in coming up thick every winter in my orchard and fairly smother out the cover crop, notwithstanding the orchard is irrigated and kept quite clean through the summer?
Make a cover crop of the nettles. Run a mower over them as soon as they get about a foot and a half high; let them make a second growth and then plow all the stuff under in February or early March. In this way you can keep the growth from getting too stemy and hard to handle with the plow. Nettles are all right for humus, if your irrigation water brings in the seed you are likely to be in the nettle business right along unless you get the ditch company to clean their ditch banks. If the seed does not come in the water your summer and winter tillage will soon clean them out.
Lupins and Bacteria.
Is growth of small lupins on land an indication of sufficient nitrogen-gathering bacteria being present for alfalfa?
Presumably, yes. You can tell whether bacteria are operating by taking up a young plant carefully and see if there are nodules on the roots. Presumably also the presence of germs on lupins, bur clover and other wild legumes equips the soil for alfalfa, beans, etc., or we would not get the crops we do by planting without inoculation.
Nitrogen Bacteria and Bur Clover.
Will the nitrogen-producing bacilli of the bur clover live and work on alfalfa? Would a soil solution containing tubercular roots of bur clover be a satisfactory means of "inoculating" alfalfa seed?
It is believed that the reason alfalfa succeeds so generally in California is that the widespread bur clover has loaded the soil with the proper bacteria. The earlier view that different legumes required different bacteria for each of them is losing force in the face of recent investigations. Whether you need to use bur clover soil solution is doubtful. It is probable that the bacteria are already installed in most California soils.
Sweet Pea Straw.
What is the best way of using sweet pea straw for fertilizer? What crop would best follow sweet peas? How can the green aphis be prevented from damaging a crop of sweet peas?
When thoroughly dry, as it comes from gathering a seed crop, the straw can be spread, disked to break it up, and plowed into a heavy soil as soon as there is rain enough to deeply wet the soil. The straw can be spread in the corral, trampled fine by the stock, and spread with other corral cleanings at the beginning of the rainy season. It may also be piled, wet down and reduced by composting with farm manure. This will make a rich manure for garden use. Sweet peas improve the land for any crop which it is profitable to grow in the locality; so far as we know, everything from grain to vegetables is better when following them. Pea aphis must be killed with a tobacco spray as soon as they appear. They are hard to handle if allowed to get headway. Therefore, the young plants must be closely watched and spraying done as soon as the pest is discovered.
Fertilizing With Alfalfa.
Will a six-foot strip of alfalfa in the center of the rows one way furnish sufficient fertilizer in an apricot orchard? I would let it grow continuously. We have no water in August and September, but plenty in the spring.
Alfalfa does not add all forms of plant food to the soil. Some substances it takes from the soil; and though its growth processes may render them more easily available to other plants, the most it can do in that line does not actually add more of these substances to the soil. If then the alfalfa is grown as a crop and sold away from the land in the form of hay, the supply of these substances is constantly being reduced by growing alfalfa in this way. But alfalfa and other legumes do add nitrogen by their ability to take it from the air through the action of bacteria on their roots. For this reason you cannot count upon alfalfa as restoring to the soil all the plant food which the apricot tree takes from it in its wood growth and fruit crop. All except nitrogen must be made good by other means of fertilization, if alfalfa is grown without cutting, or is cut and the cuttings allowed to remain and decay, the plant will, theoretically, not take anything off the land, but, at the same time, it adds nothing but nitrogen to it. If the soil is naturally richly supplied with all other plant foods, then the addition of nitrogen, by alfalfa growing or otherwise, is a rational proceeding. If only a small addition is needed to the natural supply of nitrogen, then a narrow strip of alfalfa may be enough, but this is probably not often the case.
A more important consideration for you is whether you have soil-moisture enough to grow the strip, supply the waste by evaporation and meet the needs of the trees. You have no water in the autumn, and the probability is that the alfalfa will rob the trees during that period, weaken the next year's fruit buds and perhaps cause die-back of branches if not the death of the trees in extreme cases. Rational enrichment of the soil consists in growing a legume when there is naturally more water in the soil than the tree can use, or when the soil can be kept adequately moist by irrigation. Therefore a winter-growing legume, and not alfalfa, is indicated in your case. However, if you can grow enough alfalfa hay on that strip to spread as a mulch over all the rest of the ground between the trees and thus substitute a mulch for summer cultivation, you may save enough moisture by checking evaporation to more than compensate for that which the alfalfa uses in its growth. This is the latest problem in the summer handling of California fruit lands which is now awaiting demonstration.
Dry Vegetation Makes Humus.
Do the dry leaves of vetch that have fallen in the stubble contain the same fertilizing properties if plowed under as a like number of green leaves?
They contain the same fertilizing properties. Whether they would contain as much (allowing for water in green tissue) might be a question to be determined by analysis, but they are all right in quality. This is practically shown by the fertilizing effect demonstrated to belong to alfalfa hay and by the mold formation by dry leaves of forest trees, etc.
How to Find the Best Cover Crop.
What would be the best cover crop to plant in a prune orchard in Sutter County? Both rye and clover have been recommended.
The best cover crop is the one you are sure to get most growth of before the spring date at which you have to plow it under. Any legume (clover, vetch, etc.) is better than rye, theoretically, because of its greater content of nitrogen and its ability to get nitrogen from the air, but you are not sure if a legume will make enough winter growth until you try it. You are sure of rye. Therefore, sow rye largely and several legumes (field peas, vetch, bur clover) in small areas so you will know next year whether you can depend upon any of them for the free winter growth which you need. If you prove out such a one as satisfactory, sow that forever afterwards.