This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
THE subject of composts and manures having been left un-finished in our last, we propose adding a few additional hints here. We have already given muck a very prominent place in the compost heap; its value can not be over-estimated. There are some soils, especially at the west, already sufficiently rich in this material; where this is the case, the muck may be omitted from the compost heap, though at a loss. We have been asked from the west, since our last, whether we would use muck in the compost heap when it is to be applied to a muck soil. We an-swer "yes " without the least hesitation. There seems to be a misapprehension here. Muck has a value as an improver of all soils not already rich in vegetable matter; it has another value as an absorbent of manures in the liquid and gaseous forms. It is in view of the latter value that we recommend its use in stalls and in the compost heap even when it is to be applied to a muck soil. We advise, therefore, that a heap of dry muck be always kept on hand, to be used in stalls, in the barn-yard, in the privy, in cess-pools, and other similar places.
In muck soils, lime and ashes become important as occasional top dressings.
In our list of manures, it will be preceived that we have omitted to mention Guano. This has been done purposely. Our experience has led us to place a low value on it as a manure for the vine; the only case where its. use is admissible is in a soil abounding largely in vegetable matter. The most that we can say of it is, that its use, under any circumstances, will only give us a present gain at a great ultimate loss. Our conviction is, that the use of guano should be entirely banished from the vineyard. Our objection to it, briefly stated, is, that it is too stimulating for our native vines, and produces disastrous results; it also rapidly dissolves the vegetable matter in the soil, and thus impairs that permanence which is essential to the continued health and fruitfulness of the vine. We may state, in this connection, that we have little faith in many of the artificial fertilizers as manures for the vine; some of them, when honestly made, produce good results; hut too much caution can not be used in their purchase, to avoid paying twice their value. There is nothing, after all, like good old-fashioned barn-yard manure, prop erly protected and composted, not only for the vine, but for all cultivated plants.
Liquid manures may often be applied with advantage to the vineyard, but they are generally troublesome, unless special conveniences are provided for their application. Under this head may be included blood, urine, the contents of cess-pools, barn-yard drainage, etc., all of which should be considerably diluted before being used. Blood, however, we should prefer to put in the compost heap. Great caution is necessary in the application of liquid manures; he who should attempt to use them in the vineyard as he does in the grapery, would find, too late, that he had committed a grave error. The best time to apply them is in the spring when the vine has made a growth of about three inches, or as soon as the young clusters can be seen, and in the early fall when the fruit is beginning to swell for the last time. Liquid manures must not only be diluted, but they must be applied sparingly, so as not to over-stimulate the vine. If the vine is growing well and carrying its fruit kindly, they should be withheld altogether: to apply them under such circumstances would not only be dangerous, but a needless waste of means. If, again, the vineyard has been top-dressed efficiently, no liquid manures will be needed during the same season.
They will be most needed, and may be most frequently used, in light sandy soils; in very sandy or gravelly soils, it may even be desirable to use them two or three times during the season. It will always be best to use liquid manures, if possible, just before a rain; they should never be used during a drought, unless the vineyard is at the same time thoroughly irrigated.
After a vineyard becomes established, manures can only be applied in the form of top-dressings. Composts may be applied in the fall, when the vineyard is dressed, or early in the spring, as soon as the frost is out of the ground. Lime, ashes, bone dust, potash, and similar top-dressings, should only be applied in the early spring. We shall explain more fully the use of the top-dressings, etc., when we come to the annual treatment of the vine. When we state, in our last, that we banish the plow from the vineyard after the third or fourth year, we are not to be understood as banishing the important operation performed by that implement, but simply as intending to recommend another which we think performs the operation more perfectly, and without the same danger of destroying the primary roots, which often happens with the plow in careless hands. This will be fully understood when we come to the operation itself.