Although various soils have been often alluded" to as most suitable for different plants I cannot impress on you too much the importance of being always well supplied with this most necessary article of our business. We too frequently are careless and often falsely economical in not buying a good pile of soil. Greenhouse establishments in or near cities, or where they have been surrounded by a city's growth, have often a difficulty in getting a good supply, and it is too often a case of get what you can. I have learned lately that when a teamster asks: "Do you want twenty loads of good earth?" you had better investigate at once, and if it is good buy it; you don't know when you will get the next.
We pay out without a murmur thousands of dollars for fuel, but squirm a good deal over one-quarter the amount for soil and manure. And if by these words I have made you think seriously how important a matter is good soil I shall have done you some good.
Those having five or six acres, or better, fifteen acres, can help themselves off their own place, and they should take care to husband their land or they will find that with broad acres they can soon use it up and have little in the right condition. No one nowadays thinks of using soil for roses or carnations or violets the second year, and these crops take a great deal of soil.
Yet take care of the soil that you throw out annually from your rose and carnation benches. There are always many uses for it. If it is given one winter outside it will be found good enough for most of your bedding plants, or a third or one-half can be used with your new carnation soil, especially with varieties that make a strong growth.
When an acre is what we call "skinned," three, four or five inches deep, it should be restored as soon as possible with the soil that comes out of the benches. Put as much back as you took away, and what you put back will be good soil, for while in use in the greenhouse you added animal manure, bone meal and other fertilizers. You can grow a crop of potatoes on it the first summer, or use it for your planted out crops for a couple of years, or better still, after the potatoes lay it down to winter wheat and sow clover in the spring and in two years plow the clover under, and you have a grand field for your carnations.
I have proved within a few years what I only knew by report, not being a farmer, that a growth of a foot of clover plowed under is a wonderful agency in mellowing and fertilizing any land unless it be a black muck. Farmers consider red clover a foot high plowed in for wheat equal to an ordinary dressing of farm-yard manure. Other pieces of your farm should be after a year's tillage laid down with timothy or redtop, and in two or three years you have again a sod for your roses. Even in country villages you cannot always buy good soil. The thrifty farmer does not want to skin his land at any price, and the indigent farmer, who is sure to have a big mortgage on it, dares not or Mr. Mortgage-holder will step in and forbid, and quite right he should. The majority of unthinking men are very glad to get the loan on their property, but when interest comes due they turn round and abuse the loaner for a Shylock.
The way a Pennsylvania Rose Grower Works the Soil.
There is often a very poor provision made for keeping soil over winter. Flower growers who have large places in the country don't feel this so much, but even they need a shed under which the soil can be hauled when it is dry and in good condition. In the fall it is a great help. If taken under cover in October and no rain or snow falls on it during winter it can be brought in, even if frozen, at any time, and when it thaws it will fall to pieces and be mellow and usable in a short time; if in the open and saturated with water when frozen and brought in, it will be days and perhaps weeks before it can be used. It takes a long time in winter in our sheds to dry out.
The plant man uses the great bulk of his soil from March 1 to the middle of April, and it is very seldom that even at the latter late date our outside soil heap is dry enough to handle, so you should either have a shed with a big supply, which can be got at during any weather, or else an ample supply stored in your potting sheds in fall, enough to last you till about May 1. We speak from experience and know what it is to be running round in April for a few loads of soil and offering as much for a load as would have purchased ten in September. I don't like soil under the benches if it can be helped.
Soil is much better mixed with manure several months before using than mixed on the potting bench just before potting. A good pile of soil (sod if possible) should be piled up in July or August with a layer of manure every six inches, about a fifth or sixth of its bulk, built up square, three or four feet high, and then thoroughly soaked, and in four or five weeks chopped down and thrown in a long ridge to shed the rain. If you have time another turn over will be all the better and in a dry time in October a good supply of this should be stored in your potting shed or some place under cover.
I make no pretense to any knowledge of the chemical ingredients of soil, and however desirable it would be that all gardeners did have that knowledge, it is not necessary to a practical acquaintance and use of soils. Soils the world over have very much the same properties.
Broadly, they consist of two kinds-that made or deposited from vegetable matter, like peat or what you will find on the surface of clays, a few inches of vegetable matter which is the deposit of centuries of forest leaves; and the others, clays and sands or loams, are the grinding up of surface rocks which have been largely distributed and deposited during the glacial period.