Experiments illustrating the beneficial Effect of frequently stirring the Soil.
MR. Curwen's discoveries and improvements, in the culture of vegetables, are curious and interesting ; and are deserving the attention of all who are engaged in this species of husbandry. They seem to me peculiarly applicable to the circumstances of this island ; they point out modes of rendering lands, more productive, without any risk of being exhausted, even by continual cropping for a series of years. I conceive, therefore, that the whole of Mr. Curwen's valuable communication, on those important subjects, must be highly gratifying and acceptable to many of your readers.
It is my intention to follow Mr. Curwen in some of his experiments. I feel a confidence of success, even from the present state of a small comparative experiment, which I have now in process. It was begun about four months ago, with a view of ascertaining the effect of frequently stirring the soil, and exposing it to the influence of the rains and atmosphere. I selected, for this purpose, a very unpromising spot of land, the soil a pale brown friable clay, which, in some parts, was bare, and in others producing nothing but the coarsest sort of tufted grass. The space for the experiments (measuring two rods in length and one in breadth) was divided into two equal parts. Number 1, was broken up on the 11th of December last, by trenching with the spade to the depth of 10 or 12 inches. From that day until the time of dibbling in the seed, on the 23d of February, it had been, at equal intervals, five times stirred or turned. One half of Number 1 was then dibbled with potatoes, and the other with barley ; and, at the same time, the adjoining square rod, Number 2, was broken up, and dibbled, in every respect, in the same manner.
It is deserving remark, that the soil of Number 1, by frequent stirring, had become, and still continues, of a much darker hue than Number 2 ; and the potatoes and barley upon the former are infinitely superior to those on the latter ; in so much, that the tufts of young barley are now, at least, five or six times more bulky than those upon Number 2.
For the information of those engaged in cultivation, I communicate these facts ; because they are clearly decisive of the advantages from repeatedly stirring the soil. At a future period, I may give the result of the above experiments ; in the mean time, I can assert with confidence, from the experience I have already had, that the cheapest and best mode of bringing old grass land into cultivation, is to pare off the turf to the depth of about two inches, and, when dry, to burn it ; and immediately after to spread the ashes over the surface. The first ploughing should then be given, but not too deep ; by this the labour of the cattle will be lessened, and the slags, or clods, will be smaller. The two or three after ploughings should go gradually deeper. Care should be taken, by harrowing, to clear the land entirely of roots, and of every sort of vegetable substance. If these operations are performed at proper seasons, so as to be completed just before the setting in of the rains either in January or July, that destructive insect the grub may be starved, and the land brought into the very highest state of preparation for receiving the seed. I will venture to say, if any one will but try the above process of cultivation, even upon a small scale, with the spade, and common garden rake, be will not be disappointed ; and will find just reason to infer, that it is very possible to obtain abundant crops of vegetables, or corn, from many parts of this island, that are, in their present state, totally desolate and barren.
22d April, 1811.