Flat Culture 150089

FOR a number of years there has been a diversity of opinion in regard to two strongly contrasted modes of culture, the one termed flat culturet and the other hilling, the distinguishing feature of the first consisting in leaving the surface of the soil level, that of the latter consisting in drawing masses of earth up to the plants in the form of hillocks or ridges, according to the mode of planting adopted. As usual, something may be said on both sides of the question. Judge Buel, we believe, was among the first to give a special direction to the system of flat culture, and since his day it has made very considerable progress among a large class of intelligent cultivators. The subject may be thought to pertain more generally to the farmer, and somewhat out of place here; but we are far from regarding it in that light; it concerns all who have a kitchen garden, however small. The kitchen garden, in our estimation, is no mean thing, to be put aside in a corner, and spoken of contemptuously; it contributes essentially to the necessities and pleasures of all, and deserves a more prominent place than it has heretofore occupied. In the garden, moreover, have been initiated most of the improved modes of culture that have added so much to the productive industry of the land.

The garden is the school in which our best lessons are learned; and the principles there demonstrated, when judiciously and intelligently applied to the broad surface of the farm, give us our best results.

Culture, then, be it flat or otherwise, concerns the gardener even more than the farmer. When our attention, many years ago, was first called to the subject of flat culture, we determined to give it a fair trial by the side of the common system, noting carefully time, labor, and general results. We began with corn, then beans, next potatoes, etc., and with results so satisfactory, that we at last adopted the principle of drawing earth up to no plants, except for the purpose of blanching. After considerable experience, we do not hesitate to give "flat culture" a distinct approval. It is the system for our dry atmosphere, warm sun, and frequent droughts, as the hilling system may be the best for the moist climate and wet soils of England, especially where those soils are undrained. Both systems have their advocates, those of the hilling system preponderating; but the other is making its way slowly, but surely, and we have no doubt it will at no distant day meet with a hearty approval throughout the country. The advocates for "hilling" principally claim that it "retains moisture," " decreases the evaporation," and " strengthens" the plant, but how they do not explain; bat we question the truth of these points.

It is manifest to us, and it accords with observation, that a plot of ground with a level surface kept well pulverized, will retain a more uniform degree of moisture than one broken into hills. It is precisely in a time of drought, when we are dependent upon the small amount of moisture contained in the atmosphere, that the advantages of " flat culture" make themselves manifest. The leaves of plants condense the moisture of the atmosphere, and in different modes shed it on the ground, but principally by means of the stalk. Now if we take corn, for example, which has been hilled, this moisture, so much needed, is thrown off from the plant, and very little is absorbed; in fact, these hills and ridges make good water-sheds, and, becoming baked during dry weather, lose the power of absorption. Where "flat culture" prevails the soil can always be kept open and porous, and its absorbent powers more fully retained. In regard to "decreasing the evaporation" by hilling, it is so transparent that evaporation is increased by the operation, that we leave that point without further comment for the present. It is well understood that hilling and ridging were introduced to get rid of surplus moisture.

Hilling, also, it is said, "strengthens" the plant, the word being generally used in a mechanical sense; for example, it is contended that corn, when hilled, is less liable to be blown down. We know, however, that such is not the fact; and, so far as maintaining an erect position is concerned, facts are all in favor of flat culture. Paradoxical as it may seem to some, corn that has been hilled will blow down sooner than that which has not; and when both are down, that which has been grown by flat culture will soonest and more fully recover itself, because it has less resistance to overcome.

But we must now be content with stating what we conceive to be the advantages of "flat culture" as compared with "hilling," leaving details for another occasion; these advantages are principally the following: It demands less labor for a given amount of results; it admits of a more thorough cultivation of the soil; it lessens the evils of drought; it admits of the continued use of the best improved implements of culture; and, not among the least of its claims, it presupposes a thorough preparation of the soil, such as drainage where needed, deep plowing, thorough stirring of the soil, etc. Hilling, undoubtedly, has its place and its advantages, and these are chiefly found in a moist climate and a wet, heavy, undrained soil. Flat culture, we think, will prove the system for our climate, and improved modes of culture. Let it be more commonly tried, and adopted as its advantages may seem to warrant. Wo should be glad, too, to see it more frequently in our gardens, for those ever-recurring hills and ridges are nothing but an offence to good taste and neatness. If any shall find it not to possess the advantages claimed for it, they can fall back on the old system again.

If, however, it has advantages, it is due to the progress of the age that they should be generally known.