It may be remarked at the outset that the novice is well advised to rely on the many good general fertilizers, ready mixed for easy application, and sold in small quantities with full instructions as to use. It is not easy to mix chemicals by hand with the accuracy of a machine, and some of the chemicals used in the proprietary compounds are not readily available to the amateur gardener. In the, therefore, I should always advise the use of ready-mixed fertilizers, which are cleaner to handle than the home-mixed supplies. Some gardeners are, however, able to obtain especially cheap supplies of different materials, for which a use can be found in the home garden, and it is worthwhile to run over the commonest of these and give an estimate of their value.
Ashes from the bonfire contain a proportion of potash, and for this reason are useful. They are, however, not half so valuable as unburnt vegetables, and dead plant tops,, leaves and so on. Wherever possible, such matter should be stacked in a heap until it can be dug into the , rather than consigned to the bonfire, except in the case of hard woody stems which would not rot quickly, and also any leaves or plant tops which might possibly be diseased, and which would cause trouble later by the spread of disease spores.
Basic Slag is a phosphatic fertilizer, slow in action. Its value depends on the fineness of its texture. It is particularly valuable for fruits, roses and flowering shrubs, and can be applied in winter at the rate of 2-4 oz. per square yard. It contains a proportion of lime.
Bone-meal is a slow-acting fertilizer. It is available in several degrees of fineness, the coarser kinds being even slower in action than that which is ground to a fine powder. It is especially useful in preparing the soil for roses, shrubs, and other plants which will not be lifted periodically, and also for soil in ornamental vases, tubs, window-boxes and so on. In the beds of the greenhouses, where vines are to be grown, and in the shady parts of the garden, bone-meal is a better manure to be used than decayed vegetation or stable manure. It is phosphatic, and encourages fruitfulness rather than leaf development, and reduces the tendency of the shady garden to produce fine foliage but few flowers.
This is the blood from the slaughter-house, dried and sold in crystalline form. It is too expensive for general use in the garden, but is frequently used by exhibition growers on Sweet Peas and other flowers, because it intensifies the colour of the blooms.
Waste fish is dried and ground and sold as fertilizer for the garden. It is a useful complete fertilizer and particularly good on light soil. It has been found specialty useful as a fertilizer for raspberries.
Kainit contains sulphate of potash, mixed with a good deal of common salt, Epsom salts, and chloride of magnesia. It is the cheapest potash manure to use, and is best applied during the winter so that the impurities are washed from the soil before the growing season. It is especially useful for Asparagus and Beet.
Nitrate of Soda
Nitrate of Soda is a quick-acting fertilizer, extremely soluble, and therefore only to be applied during the growing season. It is entirely nitrogenous in character and is used chiefly on green vegetable crops, and on plants where it is desirous to increase the size of the leaves. About an ounce dissolved in a gallon of water makes a useful liquid fertilizer for application when the soil is moist.
Nitro chalk is the most up-to-date fertilizer for use amongst growing crops. It takes the place of nitrate of soda for this purpose, but it contains a proportion of lime which makes it especially valuable. It is said to be especially effective where such a disease as “finger-and-toe” is common.
Phosphate of Potash
Phosphate of Potash is a soluble form of fertilizer, excellent for use as a liquid manure in the greenhouse.
In some districts seaweed is available in large quantities at cheap rates. This is quite useful in the soil and can be dug in, in liberal quantities, without harm. It is particularly valuable on potato crops.
The food value of soot is very little. It contains just a minute quantity of nitrogen, but its chief value in the garden is as an insecticide. It is also useful because it darkens the colour of the soil and so induces solar heat. Soot from the house fires should be stored dry for a short time before use. It is particularly valuable as a lawn dressing, in fact it is remarkable how quickly a vivid green spreads over the lawn after a light dressing of soot.
Sulphate of Ammonia
Sulphate of Ammonia contains about per cent, of nitrogen. This is a more desirable nitrogenous fertilizer for general use in the garden than nitrate of soda, as it can be given in a single application in spring. It is retained by the soil for use during the summer instead of being quickly washed away, as in the case of nitrate of soda. Sulphate of ammonia damages foliage and is, therefore, best applied before the growing season begins, except on, where its effect, in small doses, is to discourage the broad-leaved weeds and to encourage the liner grasses on which the dusting of ammonia does not adhere.
Sulphate of Potash
Sulphate of Potash is a purer form of kainit, and better for some garden purposes, such as for use in potting soil and on the strawberry beds.
Superphosphate of Lime
Superphosphate of Lime is a soluble form of phosphatic manure used in springtime, as it quickly becomes available for plant food. It is used at the rate of about 3 oz. per square yard.
The Compost Pit
It is undoubtedly true that from any ordinary small household where the garden is just an average one of say ten to twenty rods, sufficient humus can be obtained from apit to keep the soil texture in good condition. The usual advice given—which is very sound—is to dig a deep pit in an out-of-the way corner of the garden, and put into it from time to time all the household refuse such as tea leaves, vegetable parings, bones, etc., and occasionally to scatter a few handfuls of soil and a little lime among the refuse.
Each winter the contents of the pit will be taken out and dug into the garden. If such a pit is arranged, it is better to brick the sides and bottom to prevent loss of valuable ammonia through seepage.
It must be admitted, however, that the average small garden owner does not want a rubbish dump in his garden. He fears that it may become a breeding-place for(though the lime would prevent this), and he is also unwilling to give up a portion of his garden, even a very small part, to an unsightly feature.
The popular incinerators sold by horticultural nurseryies, form a ready solution to his problem, and although he is definitely losing some of the manurial value of the garden refuse, he may prefer this to the presence of the alternative compost pit. Fortunately, some of the modern artificial fertilizers which can be purchased in small quantities contain humus, as well as chemical foods, and if the slight extra expense is no object, there is no reason why these complete fertilizers should not take the place of the so-frequently-recommended compost pit.
Care should be taken in mixing artificial fertilizers. Certain chemicals must not be mixed with others before application. The amateur who wishes to mix a complete fertilizer for general use in the garden can do so by obtaining 7 lb. Sulphate of ammonia, 7 lb. Sulphate of potash and 21 lb. Superphosphate of lime. This mixture can be kept in storage for use in spring, or at any time during the growing season, and can be dusted on the soil at the rate of about two to four ounces per square yard.
For the convenience of amateur gardeners the following list has been prepared of useful fertilizers and quantities that can be used on some of the commonest of garden crops.