This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V22", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
B. H., Woodbury, N. J., sends in the following, and asks what we think of it: " Some time ago we remarked that an acre of swamp muck of good quality, three feet deep, was actually worth $25,000 (twenty-five thousand dollars). No doubt such a statement is surprising - so was the statement of Dr. Lawes, of England, that a ton of bran fed to cows returned more than its cost, in manure. Swamp muck free from sand, contains 2 per cent, or 40 lbs. of nitrogen to the ton. Nitrogen is worth in the market 25 cents a pound - so that a ton of swamp muck is actually worth $10 for the nitrogen in it. All that is needed is to work up the muck so as to make the nitrogen available. An acre of swamp muck three feet deep contains 2500 tons, and would require eight months to draw out at ten loads per day. Few persons realize the value of the fertilizing elements of common waste matter which lie under their feet, and the innumerable tons of matter that may be available for fertilizing purposes, and that much of the idle and neglected materials represent a vast amount of wealth." - American Agriculturist, April, 1880.
[We quite agree with the Agriculturist that all that is needed is to work up the muck so as to make the nitrogen available. But it is this working up that is the bother. In the writer's experience it would cost about $30,000 to work up the $25,000 available, and the effort to utilize it has been abandoned. If any one can give in detail profitable methods of utilizing swamp muck, it would be doing excellent service. - Ed. G. M].
A late Monthly says, in effect, that getting the richness of swamp muck into crop food costs a good deal more than it comes to. A loss is claimed of $5,000 per acre on a three foot depth of mould.
"'Tis pity if 'tis true." Nature thus would seem to have wasted long years in storing their food beyond the reach of the pinched harvests. She is not apt thus to hide her riches from man's patient search. Has she set a puzzle which no deft wit has yet worked out? Is there no way yet found to delve into this richness, and cheaply turn its store to swell the puny crop? Or must they, like that hungry fellow in the myth of yore, starve in sight of piles of choice food? Nature does not dump gold into our laps, nor does it float in running brooks. Food is not showered like manna in our paths. But to all her store helps are found to bright and faithful search.
Let's talk this up a little, brother. I have studied some over this hope of the harvests. In a kindred journal I have had a good deal to say about the promise of the muck-bed to worn out soils.
I have not put forth in the Monthly this resource of the garden, because it seemed rather the property of the farm. But the cost and loss lately set down by you, and other disheartening search after these massive lodes and placers of richness, prompt me to offer hope of better handling, or cheaper assay, to mine or pan out its wealth.
But really the first thing in order should be, for him who dumped these dollars into a muck bed, to show up the methods and cyphering which foot so big a loss: Men of skill and science report lots of better luck in field and laboratory. I have abiding faith that their story of more hopeful tests will not cheat the longings of the hungry. Either that $5,000 loss per acre came of blundering trials or the sanguine tales and figures of big profit, easily had from the muck-bed, are a delusion and a snare. All agree that the value is there. I say if it cannot be put into crops without such cost, the brains of our day have got but little ahead of the cave-dwellers. Let's see how this is.