Tuesday, August 07, 2012

A Lesson From Five Acres and Independence

This is interesting advice from a book written in 1935, "Five Acres And Independence" by M.G. Kains, B.S.,M.S., on how to tell if your soil is poor or healthy just by looking at what trees and weeds grow on it.

"Beech, sugar maple, hickory, black walnut and white oak trees of large size and positive thriftiness indicate rich land; white pine, scrub oak and scrawny trees of most species are typical of poor land; extra thrifty willows, poplars and alder and elder bushes suggest too much water and probable need of drainage.
Weeds however, are more often telltales than are trees and bushes because they follow cultivation, whereas large trees precede it. It is not necessary to identify species, although this is desirable. What does count is the character of growth made by the weeds actually present. Lush, sturdy very dark green, leafy growths indicate that the plants are well-fed, especially with nitrogenous compounds, but if the growth is pale, sickly colored, scrawny and apparently eking out a miserable existence the land is certainly not rich."

He continues by saying,
"Ox-eye daisy, wild carrot and mullein in abundance and poorly developed indicate lack of humus as well as fertility and prove that the land has been badly mismanaged, for these plants cannot stand neither rich soil or rational tillage."

For me, this was both interesting and disappointing.
Guess what's in the backyard where I want to grow?
Mullein, scrubby trees, pale stringy weeds and moss.

I have a lot of work ahead of me.


Jacquelineand.... said...

You do but you're up to it Tanke; lets have a chat about how to amend all that soon, k?

basicliving@backtobasicliving.com said...
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Penny said...

Man, oh man, do I ever understand crummy soil! Well, not "soil" actually - we have clay and rocks. Slowly, but surely, we are building it up and amending it. But take heart! Some of our best tomato and cucumber harvests have been from plants that grew in mostly clay. My advice is to plant your veggie garden and pay attention to how it grows. Some things may surprise you at how well they grow in soil you think is substandard - and some things will let you know pretty quickly that they expect a little more out of you :) I love your blog!

Leigh said...

I'm finally back online and returning blog visits. :) We loved that book. In fact it was a source of inspiration long before we got our homestead. A true classic.

Edith said...

Carolyn, I'm also doing a blog on farming and self-sufficiency. I live on a farm in the Nevada desert and some friends who want to be more self-sufficient asked me to read "Five Acres and Independence". What region of the country are you in. The weeds Kain mentions require more water than my climate naturally produces so they aren't indicators of poor soil where I'm live. Also his indicators of good soil don't do well in Nevada either. Anyway check my blog out at www.garden-of-edith.com