One Thousand Questions in California Agriculture Answered
Part 4 out of 9
In what locality are the best early potatoes grown in California? Can
they be raised on wheat lands without irrigation as an early crop?
Early potatoes are grown in regions of light frosts in all parts of the
State - around the bay of San Francisco, on the mesas in southern
California, and to some extent at slight elevations in the central part
of the State. The potato endures some frost, but one has, for an early
crop, to guard against the locations subject to hard freezing. Most of
our potatoes are grown without irrigation because, on uplands, winter
temperatures favor their growing during the rainy season. The
middle-season and late potatoes are grown on moist lowlands where
irrigation is not necessary. In proper situations, much of the land
which is used for potatoes has at some time produced wheat or barley,
corn or sorghum, and other field crops.
Potatoes After Alfalfa.
I have been a successful potato grower in Ohio. I have the best alfalfa
soil and it is now in its fourth year of productiveness in that crop. I
would like to grow potatoes in a small way.
Proceed just as you would at the East in getting potatoes upon a red
clover sod. Turn under the alfalfa deeply now if the soil will work
well, and roll your sandy soil. You must use a sharp plow to cut and
cover well. If there is moisture enough the alfalfa, plowed under in the
fall, ought to be decayed by February, when you could plant potatoes
safely, probably, unless your situation is very frosty. If you plant
early you ought to get the crop through without irrigation if you
cultivate well and keep the land flat.
Flat or Hill Culture for Potatoes.
Is it better to hill potatoes or not?
During the dry time of the year potatoes should be grown with flat
cultivation, except as it may be necessary to furrow out between the
rows for the application of irrigation water. Potatoes grown during the
rainy season in places where there is liable to be too much water, can
often be hilled to advantage, but dry-season cultivation of practically
everything should be as flat as possible to retain moisture near the
surface for the development of shallow-rooting plants.
Bad Conditions for Potatoes.
Our potatoes were planted early and were frosted several times while
young. As we come to harvest them we find them with very large green
tops but the potatoes are about the size of a hen's egg and from that
they run down to the size of a pea. The larger ones are beginning to
send out roots, four or five to a potato. The potatoes have not been
irrigated lately and the ground they are in is dry.
The ugly behavior of your potatoes is doubtless due to irregularities in
temperature and moisture which have forced the plants into abnormal or
undesirable activity. Potatoes should have regular conditions of
moisture so that they shall proceed from start to finish and not stop
and start again, for this will usually make the crop unsatisfactory and
worthless. Excessive moisture is not desirable, but the requisite amount
in continuous supply is indispensable.
Potatoes on Heavy Land.
Will potatoes grow well in adobe land, or partly adobe, that has not
been used for seven years except for pasturing?
Although potatoes enjoy best of all a light loam in which they can
readily expand, it is possible to get very good results on heavy land
which has been used for pasturage for some years, providing the land is
broken up early and deeply and harrowed well in advance of planting and
thorough cultivation maintained while the crop is growing. The content
of grass roots and manure which the land has received during its period
of grazing tends to make the soil lighter and will also feed the plant
well. For this reason better potatoes are had on heavy land after
pasturage than could be had on the same land if continually used for
grain or for some other crop which tended to reduce the amount of humus
and to make the land more rebellious in cultivation.
Storage of Seed Potatoes.
We need potatoes for late planting and have found a good lot which is
being held in cold storage at temperatures from 34 to 36 degrees F. They
have not been there long, however. Would that hurt them for seed, and
also how long could they be safely left there now before planting?
Seed potatoes would not be injured in storage, providing the temperature
is not allowed to go below the freezing point. They should not, however,
be allowed to remain longer in storage, but should be exposed to the sun
for the development of the eyes, even to the sprouting point being
desirable before planting. The greening of the potato by the sun is no
disadvantage. We would not think of planting potatoes directly from
storage, because, owing to the lack of development in the eyes, decay
might get the start of germination.
Potatoes and Frosts.
Can I keep frost off of potato tops by building smudge fires! I would
like to plant about February 1, but we usually have a few light frosts
here during March. If I were to turn water in the field when too cold,
would that keep the frost off, and if so, would I have to turn water
down each row, or would one furrow full of water to about every fourth
or sixth row be enough?
You can prevent frost by smudging for potatoes just as you can for other
vegetables. The potato, however, needs little protection of this kind
and will endure a light frost which would be destructive to tomatoes,
melons, and other more tender growths. Unless you have a very frosty
situation, you can certainly grow potatoes without frost protection, and
they should be planted earlier than February first if the ground is in
good condition. The great secret of success in growing potatoes in
southern California is to get a good early start before the heat and
drought come on. Water will protect from frost if the temperature only
goes to about 28 degrees and does not stay there too long. The more
water there is exposed the longer may be the protection, but probably
not against a lower temperature.
Growing Sweet Potato Plants.
How shall I make a hot-bed to raise sweet potato plants? I don't mean to
put glass over bed, but want full description of an up-to-date outfit
for raising them.
Manure hot-beds have been largely abandoned for growing sweet potato
slips, though, of course, you can grow them that way on a small scale or
for experiment. In the large sweet potato districts, elaborate
arrangements for bottom heat by circulation of hot water or steam are in
use. In a smaller way hot air works well. The Arizona Experiment Station
tells how a very good sweet potato hot-bed at little cost is constructed
as follows: A frame of rough boards seven feet wide, twenty feet long
and fourteen inches deep is laid down over two flues made by digging two
trenches one foot deep and about two feet wide, lengthwise of the bed.
These trenches are covered with plank or iron roofing, and are equipped
with a fire pit at one end and short smokestack at the other.
Four inches of soil is filled into this bed and sweet potatoes placed
upon it in a layer which is then covered with two or three inches more
of soil. Large potatoes may be split and laid flat side down. The whole
bed is then covered with muslin, operating on a roller by which to cover
and uncover the bed. Thus prepared, the bed may easily be kept at a
temperature of 60 to 70 degrees F. by smouldering wood fires in the fire
boxes. The potatoes, kept moist at this temperature, sprout promptly and
will be ready to transplant in about six weeks. A bed of the size
mentioned will receive five to seven bushels of seed roots, which will
make slips enough to plant an acre or more of potatoes.
Growing Sweet Potatoes.
Please inform me how to keep sweet potatoes for seed; also how many
pounds it takes for one acre, and what distance apart to plant, and the
time to plant.
Sweet potatoes may be kept from sprouting by storage in a cool, dry
place. Sweet potatoes are not grown by direct cutting of the tuber as
the ordinary potato is, but the tubers are put in January or later in a
hot bed and the sprouts are taken off for planting when the ground
becomes warm and all danger of frost is over in the locality. The number
of sprouts required for an acre is from five to ten thousand, and a
bushel of small sweet potatoes will produce about two thousand sprouts
if properly handled in the hot bed, which consists in removing the
sprouts when they have attained a height of five or six inches, and in
this way the potatoes will be yielding sprouts in succession for some
time. The sprouts are planted in rows far enough apart for horse
cultivation. They are usually hilled up pretty well after starting to
grow well. They cannot be planted until the danger of frost is over, for
they are much more tender than Irish potatoes.
Sweet Potato Growing.
In planting sweet potatoes, do we have to make hotbeds just like those
for tomatoes, or if just a plain seed-bed will do? Is it necessary to
irrigate them or not?
You can bed your sweet potatoes in a warm place on the sunny side of a
building or board fence, and get sprouts all right. You will, however,
get them sooner and in greater numbers by using a slow hotbed in which
the manure supply is not too large. The fact that sweet potato growers
do use some artificial heat, either from manure or by piping bottom-heat
in their propagating houses, is a demonstration that such recourse is
desirable to get best results. The necessity of irrigation depends upon
the soil and its natural moisture supply. On a fine retentive loam, the
crop is chiefly made without irrigation, if the plants are all ready to
put out in the field as soon as it is safe. If you are late in the
planting, or if the soil is dry or likely to dry before the tubers are
grown to good size, irrigation, some time ahead of the need of the
plant, is essential.
What kind of soil and climate does it take to grow sweet potatoes, and
can I grow them in any part of Contra Costa county, and about what time
is the best to plant them?
Sweet potatoes do best in a light warm loam which drains well and does
not bake or crust by rain or irrigation. Sprout the tubers in a hot-bed
or cold-frame in February and break off the shoots and plant as soon as
you are out of danger by frost. Sweet potatoes are more tender than
common potatoes. There are places in Contra Costa county where they do
well, though some parts of the county do not have enough summer heat.
Sweet Potatoes Between Fruit Trees.
I am expecting to grow a fall crop of about twenty acres of sweet
potatoes. The land is a heavy, sandy loam in the interior, which has
been set out this spring to almonds, apricots and prunes. I wish to grow
sweet potatoes between trees. Would an irrigation every forty days be
often enough? Also, if either sweet or Irish potatoes grown between rows
are harmful to either of the varieties of fruit mentioned?
We see no reason why you should not get your crop, providing you do not
have to run the plants into the frosty period, and sweet potatoes will
not, of course, stand frost as well as the common potato. The moisture
which you propose to give ought to be enough for a retentive soil in
connection with good cultivation until the vines cover the ground.
Growing any crop between orchard trees is apt to be an injury to the
trees, because of the spaces which are not and cannot be adequately
cultivated, so that the ground around the trees is apt to become
compacted either by the run of water or the lack of cultivation, or
both. Our observation has been that Irish potatoes are no more injurious
than other crops. Any crop will injure young trees if it takes moisture
they ought to have or interferes with good cultivation of the land.
Giant Japanese Radish.
In discussing sakurajima (giant Japanese radish) Eastern publications
advise planting late, about August 1, and not earlier than July 1. What
can you tell me about the plant here?
The Asiatic winter radishes can be successfully planted in California in
July or August if the soil is thoroughly saturated by irrigation before
digging and planting. It is, however, not so necessary to begin early in
California as at the East, because our winter temperatures favor the
growth of the plant, while at the East they have to make an early start
in order to get something well grown before the ground freezes. For the
growth of winter radishes, then, in California you can wait until the
ground is wet thoroughly by the rain, which may be expected during
September, and afterward you can make later plantings for succession at
any time you desire during the rainy season. This applies to all kinds
I have planted rhubarb roots in the San Joaquin valley and find the root
crowns rot below the surface.
The old-fashioned summer rhubarb usually goes off that way in very hot
localities. If there is too much alkali or hardpan, or if planted too
late, the same results will be had with any sort of rhubarb. Where it is
very hot, plants, irrigated in the morning near the plants, scald at the
crown and die in a few days. If irrigated in the afternoon and the
ground worked before it gets hot the next day fine results are obtained.
The winter rhubarb varieties do well in hot districts if the roots are
planted from September 15 to May 1, while in cooler sections, April,
May, June and July are the best months and will insure a crop the
Squashes Dislike Hardship.
What caused these squashes, of which I send you samples, to be so hard
and woody? They were grown without irrigation.
Your squashes were grown without irrigation under conditions which were
too dry for them and became inferior in quality. Possibly the variety
itself is not of good quality or the specimen from which the seed was
taken may have been inferior. A squash, in order to be tender and
acceptable, needs rich feeding and plenty of drink. Otherwise, it is apt
to resent ill treatment by very undesirable growth.
What is the method used in saving or threshing the seed from the Giant
Cut off the seed heads of your sunflowers when the seed seems to be well
matured but before any of it falls away from the head. Throw these heads
on a smooth piece of ground or a tight floor and when they become
thoroughly dry thresh out the seed with a flail, removing the coarse
stuff with a rake and afterwards cleaning the seed by shoveling it into
the wind so that the light stuff may be blown away. A more perfect
cleaning afterwards could be secured with a grain fanning mill or a
simple sieve of the right mesh.
How much water does it take (in gallons or cubic feet) to properly
irrigate an acre of land for tomatoes? The soil is adobe, and the
customary way of planting tomatoes is 6 feet apart each way, plowing a
trench of one furrow with the slope of the land for irrigating, that is,
a trench between every row and a cross trench as a feeder. The land is
low and in the driest part of the year the surface water is from 2 to 3
feet beneath the top of the ground.
It is not possible to state a specific quantity of water for any crop,
because the amount depends to such a large extent upon the retentiveness
of the soil, the rate of evaporation and the kind of cultivation. The
best source of information is the behavior of the plant itself, bearing
in mind that tomato plants require constant but not excessive moisture
supply, and that if moisture is applied in excess it will promote an
excessive growth of the plant, which will cause it to drop its blossoms
and therefore be unsatisfactory and unproductive. In such land as you
describe no irrigation whatever would be desirable except in years of
short rainfall, and such land, if properly cultivated, would always
furnish moisture enough by capillary action to support the growth of the
Less Water and More Heat.
What chemicals should I put into the soil to insure a good crop of
vegetables, such as tomatoes, string beans, or other over-ground
producers? Last year my tomatoes and string beans grew plentifully, but
never produced any tomatoes or beans, yet turnips and parsnips were all
Vegetables which behave like your tomatoes and string beans, making too
much growth and not enough fruit, do not need fertilization. The land is
perhaps too rich already, or you may have used too much water. Use less
water so that the plants will make a more moderate growth, and they will
be fruitful if the season is warm enough in the later part of summer.
This, of course, would be one of the drawbacks to growing tomatoes and
beans in San Francisco. Turnips and parsnips do well with less heat. You
may have to modify the San Francisco summer climate by wind screens or
Continuous Cropping With the Same Plant.
What would happen on the crops of cucumbers, tomatoes and eggplants,
etc., planted on the same place continuously?
There would be in time a decadence of crop from soil exhaustion, but
that you could prevent by fertilization. The greatest danger from
continuously growing these vegetables on the same land is the
multiplication of bacteria which injuriously affect them, in the soil.
The plants which you mention are all subject to "wilt" diseases from
this cause, therefore, they should have new ground. If you have to use
the same garden ground continuously, the plants which you mention should
be rotated with root crops or with other kinds of vegetables, so as to
frequently change plants and soil within the general area which has to
be used for them.
Big Worms on Tomatoes.
I have a nice patch of tomatoes in my garden, and only recently I notice
large green worms on them with one large brown horn on their head. They
strip the leaves off. They look to me like a tobacco worm.
They are tobacco worms; that is, they are the larvae of hawk moths, some
of which take tobacco, tomatoes, grapevines and many other plants,
including some of the native weeds of your valley. Pick them off and
crush them, or give them a little snip with the scissors if you do not
like to handle them. They are so large and easily found that such
treatment is easily applied, as in "worming tobacco."
Loss of Tomato Bloom.
I have tomato plants which are very strong and healthy and full of
blossoms, but there is something cutting the blossoms off and just about
to ruin my plants.
The trouble with your tomato plants is that life is too easy for them,
that they have so much moisture and plant food that they can grow
comfortably and rapidly without thought of the future. So, because they
do not have to think of making fruit, the blossoms drop off. This is a
very common occurrence with tomatoes, especially in home gardens where
the owners have not the experience or the information on the subject
that they might have, and give the tomatoes too much water. Many other
plants act the same way and will not set fruit while they can grow
easily, and only begin to produce when they have made a great growth or
when moisture begins to get a little short. If you irrigate the
tomatoes, stop, and put no more water on until the plant begins to set
fruit as if it meant business, or gives some sign that water would be
appreciated. If the ground is naturally moist you will have to wait
until the plants make more growth and the weather gets drier and hotter,
and the plants will then set fruit. Some growers have found that by
trimming up the vine and staking it, the fruit sets much more readily.
Part III. Grains and Forage Crops
Wants Us to Do the Whole Thing.
Can you help, me to determine a good product to plant somewhere in
California; also what particular section would be most suitable for the
raising of that which you would advise? I wish a crop of permanent
nature (as orchard trees). I also desire advice on some product which
would give a quick return while I am waiting on the more permanent one
to mature and bear. I have not procured land yet, and am thinking
seriously of trying to get government land, therefore, you are free to
give me the best location for the raising of that which you would,
suggest. I want a money-making product and one which is not already
The choice of crops depends quite as much upon the market demand and
opportunity as it does upon the suitability of the soil and local
climate. Choice of crops indeed involves almost the whole business of
farming, and although we can sometimes give a man useful suggestions as
to the growth of plants and the protection of plants from enemies, we
cannot undertake to plan his farming business for him. He must form his
own opinions as to what will be most marketable, and therefore
profitable, if he succeeds in getting a good article for sale. A wise
man at the East once said: "You can advise a man to do almost anything.
You can even select a wife for him, but never commit the indiscretion of
advising him what to grow to make money. That is a matter he has to
determine for himself."
Pasturing Young Grain.
Would it be advisable to herd milch cows for a few hours each day on a
field of black oats which is to be grown for hay? The oats are now about
four inches high and rank, as the land was pastured last year. The land
is sandy, rolling soil and will soon be dry enough so that the cows
would not injure the plants. The idea is that the leaves which are green
now will all dry up and are really not the growth which is cut for hay;
therefore, I should think it would do no harm to feed it down a bit.
Over-rank grain with abundant moisture will make a more stocky growth
and stand against lodging if pastured or mowed. The leaves which you
speak of as being lost in the later growth of the plant serve an
important purpose in making that growth, and removing them is a
repressive process which is not desirable when rain is short. We should
allow the plants to push along into as good a growth of hay as a dry
year's moisture will give.
Dry Plowing for Grain.
We have land that we could very easily plow now with our traction engine
and improved plows, but the people here claim that it does not pay to
dry-plow, that is, before the land has had a good rain on it and the
vegetation has started. I believe in dry plowing. Two of our oldest
farmers in Merced county dry-plowed, that is, they commenced plowing as
soon as harvesting was over.
If the rainfall is small and likely to come in light showers, dry
plowing, if it turns up the land in large clods, might yield poorer
results than land which is plowed after rain, because there would be so
much moisture lost by drying out from the coarse surface when it came in
amounts not adequate for deep penetration. Plowing after the rain for
the purpose of killing out the foul stuff which starts is, however,
quite another consideration. It is a fact that dry plowing and sowing is
not now desirable in some places where it was formerly accepted, because
the land has become so foul as to give a rank growth of weeds which
choke out the grain at its beginning. Such land can be cleaned by one or
two shallow plowings and cultivations after there is moisture enough to
start the weeds to growing. These are local questions which you will
have to settle by observation. In a general way, it is true that opening
the surface of the ground before the rains, reduces the run-off and loss
of moisture, but whether there would be any loss of moisture by run-off
or not depends upon the slope of the land and also upon the way in which
the rain comes, and the total amount of moisture which is available for
Sub-varieties of California Barley.
Can you tell where I can buy seed of varieties of California six-rowed
barley, described as "pallidum" and "coerulescens," and what the seed
No one knows where the six-rowed barley, known as "common" barley in
this State, came from, nor when it came. It has been here since the
early days and it has naturally shown a disposition to vary, so that it
is quite possible to select a number of types from any large field, of
it. These variations have been studied to some extent by Eastern
students who are endeavoring to develop American types of barley for
brewing purposes as likely to be better than the brewing varieties which
are famous in Europe. In Europe brewing barleys are chiefly two-rowed.
Under California conditions the plant is able to develop just as good
brewing grains on a six-rowed basis, and this seems to be a commendable
trait in the way of multiplying the product. The names "pallidum" and
"coerulescens" indicate two of these varieties recognized by Eastern
students. It is not possible at this time to get even a pound of
selected grain true to this type, and no one knows when it will be
worked out to available quantities.
Has Chevalier barley more value to feed hens for egg production than
common feed barley or wheat?
Chevalier barley is no better for chicken feed than any other barley
which is equally large and plump. Brewers like Chevalier because of its
fullness of starch to support the malting process; also, because it is
bright, that is, white, and not stained or tinged with bluish or reddish
colors. Color points do not count for chicken feed, but good plump
kernels do. Besides this, however, darker kernel (not chaff) usually
indicates more protein, and therefore a darker kernel of either wheat or
barley might be more valuable for feeding. A hard, horny kernel is
richer than a softer, more starchy one, either in wheat or barley.
Barley on Moist Land.
What would you do with land subject to overflow by the Sacramento when
that river rises 20 feet, and which you wanted to plant to barley this
season? Would you take a chance on the river rising that high this year,
or wait until after that danger was over, and take a chance on not
getting enough rain to make the grain come up; also, if the river did
come up for 48 hours after the grain was in, but did not wash, would the
grain be lost? Should the grain be planted deeper than on ordinary land,
and, if so, should a drill be used? How much seed should be sown per
acre on good river-bottom soil?
Get the barley in and watch for the overflow rather than to fear it. An
overflow for 48 hours would give you the greatest crop you ever saw,
unless it should be in a settling basin and the water forced to escape
by evaporation. From your description we judge that this is not so and
that the land clears itself quickly from an overflow. Depth of sowing
depends upon the character and condition of the soil - the lighter and
drier the deeper. By all means use a drill if the soil is dry on the
surface. Short rainfall makes the advantage of drill seeding most
conspicuous. On the University Farm 22 trials gave an average gain of
over 10 per cent in yield. The difference would be much greater in a dry
year; it might be 25 per cent greater, possibly, and save high-priced
seed at the same time, as about 90 pounds of seed per acre will do,
instead of 120 pounds broadcast, in accordance with the approved heavy
seeding practice on the river lands.
Barley and Alfalfa.
I have some alfalfa which is a poor stand. Can I disc it up heavily and
seed in some barley for winter pasture?
You can get barley into your alfalfa as you propose, but you should not
seed until fall. The more barley you get into your alfalfa, however, the
less alfalfa you will have afterward. If you want to improve your
afalfa, keep everything else out of the field and help the plants by
regular irrigations during the balance of the growing season.
Beets and Potatoes.
Which is the best for dairy cows, plain red mangels or a cross between
these and sugar beets? Can you suggest a more profitable variety of
potato than the Oregon Burbank?
If you can get a cross which gives you more tonnage than a mangel and a
higher nutritive content you would have something better to grow. The
first point you have to determine by growing the two side by side and
weighing the product; the nutritive value of each will have to be
determined by chemical analysis. Until these determinations are actually
made a comparison of desirability is nothing but conjecture. There are
several other potatoes which are sometimes more profitable here and
there for early crop when grown in an early locality. If you are not in
an early locality you are obliged to produce for the main crop, and
nothing, to our knowledge, sells as well as the Burbank, if you get a
Beets for Stock.
Will sugar beets grow on black alkali land? How many pounds of seed per
acre should be used and when is it time for sowing in the San Joaquin
valley? Which kind would be best for cows?
Beets will do more on alkali than some other plants, but too much alkali
will knock them out. You must try and see whether you have too much
alkali or not. You can sow at various times during the rainy season, for
the beets will stand some frost. Sow 8 pounds per acre in drills 2 1/2
to 3 feet apart, so as to use a horse cultivator. For stock you had
better grow large stock beets like marigolds or tankards - not sugar
beets. It costs too much to get sugar beets out of the ground, because
it is their habit to grow small and bury themselves for the sake of the
sugar maker, while stock beets grow largely above ground.
Summer Start of Stock Beets.
How can I make Mangel Wurzels grow in hot weather? The land is level and
can be irrigated by flooding or ditching between the rows. How often
should the water be applied, and which method used? The land is in fine
shape; a sandy loam bordering on to heavier land.
Wet the land thoroughly; plow and harrow and drill in the seed in rows
about 2 1/2 feet apart. This ought to give moisture enough to start the
seed. Cultivate as soon as you can see the rows well. Irrigate in a
furrow between the rows about once a month; cultivate after each
Corn Growing for Silage.
With fair cultivation, will an acre produce about 10 tons of ensilage
without fertilization - it being bottom land? How should it be planted?
- the rows closer together than 3 feet, or should it be planted the
usual width between rows, and thick in the rows? If fertilizers were to
be used, what kind would you recommend? Would you recommend deep plowing
followed by a packer and harrow so as to preserve the moisture?
You ought to be able to get 10 tons of silage per acre from corn grown
on good corn land. It can be best grown in rows sufficiently distant for
cultivation, closer in the row than would be desirable for corn, and yet
not too crowded, because corn for silage should develop good ears and
should be cut for silage about the time when the glazing begins to
appear. If your land needs fertilization, stable manure or a "complete
fertilizer" of the dealers would be the proper thing to use. It would be
very desirable to plow corn land deeply the preceding fall, followed by
a packer or harrow to settle down the land below, but do not work down
fine. Keep the surface stirred from time to time during the winter and
put in the crop with the usual cultivation in the spring as soon as the
frost danger is over.
Irrigation for Corn.
What amount of water is necessary per acre for the best possible yield
of corn under acreage conditions and proper cultivation in the San
Joaquin or Sacramento valleys?
No one can answer such a question with anything more than a guess. It
depends upon how much rain has fallen the previous winter, how retentive
the soil is naturally, and what has been done to help the soil to hold
it. Nearly all the corn that is grown is carried without any irrigation
at all on moist lowlands, which may be too wet for winter crops. If you
demand a guess, make it six acre-inches, with a good surface pulverizing
after each run of water in furrows between the rows. This water would be
best used in two or three applications.
Eastern Seed Corn for California.
The question has been raised as to Eastern-grown seed corn, comparing it
with California-grown seed. Some claim that the former does not yield
well the first season.
We cannot give a complete refutation of the impression that Eastern seed
corn does not yield well the first season in California. It is a
somewhat prevalent impression. All that we can announce now is that we
have grown collections of Eastern seed corn and have found the product
quite as good as could have been expected, and did not encounter,
apparently, the trouble of which you write.
Need of Corn Suckering.
To insure the best crop of corn possible, does it pay to sucker it or
The removal of suckers is a matter of local conditions largely in
California, and growers are getting out of the habit of suckering. In
some places suckering is needed, and in others it apparently does not
pay to do so, although with very rare exceptions a larger yield can be
secured by suckering than without.
Cow Peas Not Preparatory for Corn.
What time of the year can cow peas be planted, and can the entire crop
be plowed under in time for planting field corn?
Cowpeas are very subject to frost. They are really beans, and therefore
can be grown in the winter time only in a few practically frostless
places. Wherever frosts are likely to occur they must be planted, like
beans and corn, when the frost danger is over. Field peas, Canadian peas
and vetches are hardy against frost and therefore safer for winter
growth, and treated as you propose they may be preparatory for
corn-growing providing you plow them under soon enough to get a month or
more for decay before planting the corn.
Oats and Rust
Is there any variety of oats that is rust-proof, or any method of
treating oats that will render them rust resistant? We are situated on a
mountain, only about 12 miles from the coast, and have considerable
foggy weather, which most of the farmers here say is the cause of the
There is no way of treating oats which will prevent smut, if the variety
is liable to it. There is a great difference in the resistance of
different varieties. A few dark-colored oats are practically rust-proof,
and you can get seed of them from the seedsmen in San Francisco and Los
Angeles. Such varieties are chiefly grown on the southern coast. Foggy
weather has much to do with the rust, because it causes atmospheric
moisture which is favorable to the growth of the fungus, which is
usually checked by dry heat, and yet there are atmospheric conditions
occasionally which favor the rust even in the driest parts of the State.
The fog favors rust, but does not cause it. The cause is a fungus, long
ago thoroughly understood and named puccinia graminis.
Midsummer Hay Sowing.
Can I sow oats or barley in July upon irrigated mesa land, with the
object of making hay in the fall? Which of the two would do the better
in summer time? I have plenty of water.
We have never seen this done to advantage. If you desire to try it,
irrigate thoroughly and plow and sow afterward. Use barley rather than
oats and irrigate when the plant shades the land well, if you get growth
enough to warrant it. It will be easier to get the crop than to figure a
profit in it.
Loose Hay by Measure.
How many cubic feet should be allowed for a ton of alfalfa hay loaded on
a wagon from the shock? I must sell more or less in that way, as no
scales are near enough to be used.
It is a proposition, as to the weight of loose hay, which could of
course keep changing the higher you built the load on the wagon. It is
easier to give figures on weight from a stack in which there has been
something like uniform pressure for a time. In the case from a 30-day
stack it is common to allow an eight-foot cube to a ton, etc. Perhaps
you can guess from that.
When to Cut Oat Hay.
To make the best red oat hay should it be cut when in the "milk,"
"dough" or nearly ripe!
It should be cut in the "soft dough" or, as some express it, "between
the milk and the dough." This is probably as near an approach in words
as can be made to that condition which loses neither by immaturity or by
over-maturity from the point of view of hay which is to get as much as
can be in the head without losing nutritiveness in the straw. Of course
there are other conditions intruding sometimes, like the outbreak of
rust or the premature ripening through drought. In such cases care must
be taken not to let the plant stand too long for the sake of reaching an
ideal condition in the head - which for lack of favorable growing
conditions the plant may not be able to reach.
Rye for Hay.
When is the best time to cut rye for hay, and how should it best be
handled? Would it be well to cut it up and blow it into the barn, and
would it do all right for silage?
Rye makes poor hay on account of its woody stems and must be cut earlier
than other grains. After that it is handled as is other hay. Cutting it
up would probably be more of a help than to other grain hay. It could be
put into the silo, but would of course have to be cut pretty green and
would have to run through a cutter and blower. Putting it in whole would
be out of the question. In the silo, the fermentation would largely
overcome the woodiness of the stems. It would also as a silage balance
up nicely with alfalfa, and the best way to do would be to mix it with
alfalfa when putting it in.
Rye in California.
Which kind of rye is the hardiest, the best yielding, and the best hay
varieties in your State?
Rye is the least grown of all the cereals in California, and no
attention has been paid to selection of varieties. That which is
produced is "just rye," of some common variety which came to the State
years ago and still remains. No rye is grown for hay, as the toughness
of the stem renders it undesirable for that purpose. There is a certain
amount of rye grown for winter feeding. This is grown in the foothills
principally and it serves an excellent purpose, but it is fed off before
That Old Seven-Headed Wheat.
We are sending you some heads of grain which was grown in this county.
The land was planted with an imported Australian wheat, which we believe
the smaller heads to be, but the wheat is about evenly mired with grain
like the large heads, which we think to be a species of barley.
The grain is an old, coarse, bearded wheat which is continually
appearing in fields of ordinary grain and naturally excites interest
among all to whom the variety is a novelty. It is the old seven-headed
Egyptian wheat, which has never proved of any cultural value, because
its manifolding of the head is of no advantage. It is better to have a
straight well-filled head than to have a branching head of this kind.
This matter has been fully demonstrated by experience during the last
thirty or forty years, not only in this State, but in other States, for
the variety has a way of getting around the world, and seed has
sometimes been sold at exorbitant prices to people who have been
persuaded that it is of particular value.
I have heard of a Russian grain called "Speltz" or "Emmer." Can I raise
it successfully and, if so, what is the very best time of year to sow
some for the best crop obtainable? Can it be sown in the fall, say
November? Would springtime be a better time to sow it on soil that is
very soft in winter?
If your land yields good crops of wheat or barley or oats, you have
little to expect from speltz or emmer. This is a grain generally
considered inferior to those just mentioned and advocated for conditions
under which the better known grains do not do well. It is hardy against
drought and frost, particularly the latter, and is, therefore, chiefly
grown in the extreme north of Europe. It may be sown in the fall or in
the spring in places where rains are late and carry the plant to
Italian Rye Grass.
What kind of grass is enclosed? Also the best method to eradicate it?
The grass is the Italian rye grass, or as it is sometimes called, the
Italian variety of the perennial rye grass. It is proving a very
satisfactory grass in California for moderate drought resistance and for
winter growing, and a great deal of it is being sown for these purposes.
You can readily kill it out by cultivation, but most people are more
occupied with its propagation than with its destruction.
Can I irrigate and plant a forage crop n July to feed dairy cows this
fall and winter? Would you recommend cow peas or some kind of sugar
corn? If cow peas, how many pounds to the acre?
If you wet down the land thoroughly and then plow and harrow and plant
either cow peas or Indian corn, you ought to get a good green crop
before frost. Drill in or drop the seed in rows about three feet apart
and keep cultivating and irrigating as long as you can get through
without injuring the crop too much. Use about 40 pounds of cow peas to
What can I plant this fall which would produce pasturage for a small
amount of stock this winter, and until I can get the land under
irrigation and seeded to alfalfa?
For quick fall and winter growth nothing is better probably than oats
and vetches sown together as soon as you get rain enough to plow, but it
would be a question whether it is worth while to work for that, because
you ought to get your land ready for February sowing of alfalfa and that
will keep the land busy after the rain gets it into working condition.
I am informed that Johnson grass makes fine hay. I have not sown the
seed yet, but would like to know if the hay is good and if it will grow
on dry land. I have the seed on hand, but do not want to sow it if it is
Johnson grass is poor, coarse stuff. The plant is most valuable for
grazing when young. Johnson grass will not grow on really dry land, but
it will take the best moist land it can find and hold on to it. It is
sensitive to frost and is not a winter grower except in the absence of
Improving Heavy Land for Alfalfa.
My land is very heavy, red loam, and crusts over very hard in dry
seasons. I would like to know if it would be best to use barnyard
compost over the surface as a mulch, or would it be best to use plain
straw for that purpose?
A very heavy soil can be brought into better surface condition for
alfalfa by plowing in stable manure as soon as possible after the fall
rains, in order that the manure may have opportunity to become
disintegrated and mixed with the soil by the time for alfalfa sowing,
which is from February to April - whenever the heavy frosts of the
locality are over. For a small piece, you might get a better stand by
using a light mulch of disintegrated coarse manure or even straw,
scattering it after the sowing, but for a large acreage this would
involve too much labor. It is not desirable to work in much manure or
other coarse stuff at the time of sowing the seed, but you can make a
light surface application after the plant has made a start.
When is the best time to cultivate alfalfa, and how often during the
season is it advantageous to do so? Which is the best implement to use?
Cultivated alfalfa is a term applied to alfalfa sown in rows and allowed
to grow in narrow bands with cultivated land between, and the irrigation
is then done in a furrow in the narrow cultivated strip. This will give
thriftier growth and perhaps more hay to the acre than flooded,
broad-casted alfalfa, but it will cost so much more that the acre profit
would probably be less. This is an intensive culture of alfalfa, which
is still to be tested out in California, if any one should be inclined
to do it. Some one-cow suburbanite would be in condition to try the
scheme first. Probably you refer to disking, and for that an ordinary
disk is used with the disks set pretty straight to reduce the side
cutting, and this is done at different times of the year by different
growers. By doing it when the ground gets dry in the early spring much
of the foul stuff is cut out before the alfalfa starts strongly. But
disking seems to be good whenever in the year the soil is dry enough to
take it well.
Suburban Alfalfa Patch.
How can we rid the alfalfa of weeds? As we are obliged to hire help, and
do not succeed in getting the hay cared for until we have mostly stalks
without leaves, I have put the cow on it to pasture it off.
The cow knows how to handle it, but you will not get as much alfalfa as
if you cut and carried it to her. If you cut sooner you will get rid of
many plants which are propagated by the seeds which they produce, and
you will also get better hay, more leaves and fewer stalks. Cut it about
the time it begins to bloom, not waiting for the full bloom to appear.
Alfalfa and Bermuda.
I have land which was seeded to alfalfa some 15 years ago and has been
pastured continuously until it was almost all Bermuda. I had it
thoroughly plowed, disk harrowed and sowed to oats; disk harrowed in,
and drag harrowed. After cutting for hay this year I intend putting it
in Egyptian corn in rows, so it can be cultivated to get rid of Bermuda.
I have also been advised to plow the land immediately after harvesting
corn and let it lie until next January and then plow and sow to barley
and alfalfa as I wish to grow alfalfa. Kindly let me know if method is
right. The land is sandy loam and under irrigation.
Whether you will fully succeed against Bermuda grass or not is doubtful.
It is probable, however, that you can reduce the Bermuda so that other
cultivated crops can be continuously grown. Common experience is that
Bermuda will hold on unless you have hard freezing of the ground to a
considerable depth, as they have in the northern States. The best use
that you can make of land infested with Bermuda is to get as good a
stand as you can of alfalfa and let the alfalfa fight for itself. The
combination of alfalfa and Bermuda grass makes very good hay or
pasturage. We should, however, sow the alfalfa alone and not handicap it
by sowing with barley. The Bermuda will smile at that advice. Egyptian
corn can be planted in rows, 2 1/2 to 3 feet between the rows to admit
of easy cultivation
What is the value of Bermuda grass as a forage crop for cattle, more
particularly dairy cows?
Bermuda grass is generally condemned because of getting in places where
it is not desirable and of being almost impossible of eradication
therefrom. Still, Bermuda grass will make good pasturage on land which
is too alkaline to make other crops, and therefore is highly esteemed by
some owners of waste lands in the San Joaquin valley. It is good
pasturage and is most easily propagated by cutting the roots up into
short pieces by use of the hay-cutter, nearly all the pieces retaining
an eye which will make a new plant. It is easy to get in and hard to get
Salt Grass and Alfalfa.
I have some land in Sutter county and it has some of this salt grass in
spots. I am about to take a twenty-acre piece and put in alfalfa, but
some old-timers tell me that the salt grass on it is bad stuff to
Your trouble will probably be not so much the salt grass, but the alkali
in the soil which the salt grass can tolerate and which other plants
cannot stand. You cannot then substitute alfalfa for salt grass without
getting the alkali out of the soil, and you cannot do this without
having sufficient drainage so that the rainfall may wash the alkali out
from the soil and carry it away in the drainage water. You probably
cannot get a satisfactory growth of alfalfa on the spots where the salt
grass has established itself, although the land round about may be very
satisfactory to alfalfa.
I would like information about spurry. How much frost will it stand?
What is time for sowing? Its value as crop to plow under?
From a California point of view, spurry is a winter-growing weed which
has been approved by orchardists in Sonoma county because it yields a
considerable amount of vegetation for turning under with the spring
plowing of the orchard. For this purpose it should be sown at the
beginning of the rainy season. Its value as a crop to turn under depends
upon the amount of growth you can get. It is not a legume and,
therefore, does not have the value of the nitrogen-gathering plant.
Still, it yields humus and, therefore, is valuable for winter growing as
ordinary weeds, grasses, grains, etc., are.
Light Soil and Scant Moisture.
Advise me as to plowing under a crop of last year's weeds where I intend
to plant beans, corn, etc. The soil is "slickens," on the Yuba river,
and the weeds grew up last year in a crop of volunteer barley, which was
hogged off. I expect to plow five inches deep, and calculate that the
barley straw and weeds will contribute to the supply of humus, which is
always deficient in most of our soils. I expect to try to grow beans
without irrigation, and wonder if the trash would hold the soil too open
so as to dry them out.
Considering the character of the soil which you describe and the shallow
plowing you intend we should certainly burn off all the trash upon the
land. With deep plowing early in the season this coarse stuff could be
covered in to advantage, but it would be dangerous to do it in the
spring. Clean land and thorough cultivation to save moisture enough for
summer's growth is the only rational spring treatment.
Clovers and Drought.
I have sandy loam with some alkali. In wet years it is regarded as too
damp in some places. Can you give me any information on the following
points? I have practically no water for irrigation and I feel sure that
alfalfa would not grow without it. Do you think that clover would make
one or more cuttings without water?
Red and white clover are less tolerant of drought than alfalfa, which,
being a deep-rooting plant, is especially commended in dry-farming
undertakings. Red clover will grow better on low wet lands than will
alfalfa, but the land must not dry out or the red clover will die during
the dry season. None of the plants will stand much alkali.
Clover for Wet Lands.
What kind of alfalfa will do best on sub-irrigated land which is very
wet? I have sown it in alfalfa and it grows finely for two or three
years, but then the roots rot and die.
It is impossible to make any kind of alfalfa grow well on very wet land,
that is, where the water comes too near the surface. Alfalfa has a
deep-running tap root which is very subject to standing water. You can
get very good results from the Eastern red clover on such land, because
the red clover has a fibrous root which is content to live in a shallow
layer of soil above water. But red clover will not stand drought as well
as alfalfa, because it is shallower rooting. It is necessary, therefore,
that water should be permanently near the surface or surface irrigation
be frequently applied, in order to secure satisfactory growth of red
clover in the drier sections of California. It is also necessary that
neither land nor water carry alkali.
Frosted Grain for Hay.
The freeze struck us pretty severely. I had 125 acres of summer-fallowed
wheat which I had estimated to make 20 sacks to the acre of grain. It
was breast high in places already, and was just heading out. The frost
pinched the stalks of this grain in several places and the heads are now
turning white. It is ruined for grain. There is lots of fodder in it,
and it should be made into hay. If so, should it not be cut and cured at
once? What is the relative worth of such hay as compared with more
matured hay? Would the fact that it is frozen make it injurious to feed?
If the whole plant seems to be getting white, the sooner it is cut the
better. If the head is affected and the leaf growth continued, cutting
might be deferred for the purpose of getting more of it. Hay made from
such material will not be in any way dangerous, although it would be
inferior as containing less nutritive and more non-nutritive matter.
Such hay would seem to be most serviceable as roughage for cows or
steers in connection with alfalfa hay or some other feed which would
supply this deficiency.
Forage Plants in the Foothills.
We have 3,000 acres of foothill land and hope to be able to irrigate
some land this spring and wish to know the best forage crops, for sheep
and hogs, especially. Kafir corn, stock peas, rape, sugar-beets and
artichokes are the varieties about which we desire information.
Where you have irrigation water available in the foothills you can get a
very satisfactory growth of red clover. We have seen it doing very well
on sloping land in your county where water was allowed to spill over
from a ditch on the ridge to moisten the slope below. Winter rye and
other hardy stock feeds could also be grown in the winter time on the
protected slopes with the rainfall. Some such plants are not good summer
growers, owing to the drought. Rape is a good winter grower by rainfall,
but not so satisfactory as vetches and kale. Sugar beets are not so good
for stock purposes as stock beets, which give you much more growth for
the same labor and are more easily gathered because they grow a good
part out of the ground. They will stand considerable freezing and may be
sown at different times throughout the year, whenever the land is moist,
either by irrigation or rainfall. Artichokes are of doubtful value. We
have never found anyone who continued to grow them long. Of course, on
good, deep land, with irrigation, nothing can be better than alfalfa as
supplementary to hill range during the summer season.
At what time of the year should I plant kale, Swiss chard, etc., so as
to have them ready for use during the months from February to June?
You should plant Swiss chard, kale, etc., as soon as the ground is
sufficiently moist from the rain in the fall. In fact, it would be
desirable for you to plant the seed earlier in boxes and thus secure
plants for planting out when the ground is sufficiently moist. These
plants are quite hardy against frost, and in order to have them
available by February, a start in the autumn is essential.
A Summer Hay Crop.
What can I put on the land after the oat crop is taken off to furnish
hay for horses during the coming winter? I had thought millet would be
good. I have water for irrigation.
You could get most out of the land you mention during the hot season by
growing Kafir corn or milo, cutting for hay before the plant gets too
far advanced. If your land can be flooded and takes water well, so that
you can wet it deeply before plowing, the sorghum seed can be broadcast
and the crop cut with the mower while the stalks are not more than half
an inch in diameter. This makes a good coarse hay. If you have not water
enough or the land does not lie right for flooding, you can grow the
sorghum in drills and irrigate by the furrow method, being careful,
however, not to let the crop go too far if you desire to feed it as hay.
What about "Teosinte," its food value, method of culture, and
adaptability to our climate, character of soil required?
Teosinte is a corn-like plant of much lower growth than Indian corn. It
may be of value as a forage plant on low, moist, interior lands in the
summer season. It is very sensitive to frost and is, therefore, not a
winter grower. It abhors drought and, therefore, is not a plant for
plains or hillsides. It was grown to some extent in California 25 years
ago and abandoned as worthless so far as tried.
Bermuda grass as pasture for summer to supplement burr clover and
alfilaria in winter on the cheap hill pasture lands along the coast or
the foothill ranges of the Sierras. Stock like it and do well on it, and
I have noticed it growing in places where it had no water but the little
rains of winter in southern California. So the question occurred to me,
why should it not be a profitable pasture for the dry summers on the
coast or foothill ranges of the State?
Bermuda grass will not make summer growth enough on dry pasture land to
make it worth having. It will not make much growth in the rainy season
because of frost, and if it has possession of the ground it will not
allow either burr clover or alfilaria to make such winter growth as they
will on clean land. Besides, this grass is generally counted a nuisance,
because it will get into all the good cultivated land and it is almost
impossible of eradication. Bermuda grass is of some account on alkali
land where it finds moisture enough for free growth. We would not plant
it in any other situation.
Rye Grasses Better than Brome.
I see in an Eastern seed catalogue "Bromus Inermis" very highly spoken
of as pasturage. Do you know anything of it, and do you think it would
be suitable for reclaimed tule land in the bay section?
Both English and Italian rye grasses have proved better than Bromus
Inermis on such land as you mention. The latter is commonly known as
Hungarian brome grass or awniess brome grass and it was introduced to
this State from Europe about 25 years ago and the seed distributed by
the University Experiment Station. Hungarian brome may be better on
rather dry lands, although it will not live through the summer on very
dry lands in this State, but we would rather trust the rye grasses or
reclaimed lands, providing, of course, that they are sufficiently free
from salt to carry tame grass at all. On the upper coast Hungarian brome
has been favorably reported as an early-winter growing grass with
comparatively low nutritive value, but is especially valuable because it
will grow in poor soil. It is especially suited to sandy pasture and
meadow lands and is quite resistant to drought. It is a perennial grass,
reproducing by a stout rootstock, which makes it somewhat difficult to
eradicate when it is not desired. It is desirable to keep stock off the
fields during the first year to get a good stand.
Will you kindly name the enclosed; also explain its value as forage!
The plant is black medic. It has been very widely distributed over the
State during the last few years. It is sometimes called a new burr
clover, which it somewhat resembles. It is not very freely eaten by
stock and is apparently inferior to burr clover for forage purposes. It
is a good plant to plow under for green manure.
About crimson clover in California. Has it proved satisfactory? If so,
can you give me data how to plant, etc.!
Crimson clover must be sown after frost, for it is tender. It will give
a great show in June and July on low moist land. It is not good against
either frost or drought. It has been amply tried in California and
proved on the whole of little account.
California Winter Pastures.
We have a great deal of pasture land on which the native grasses yield
less feed each year. A great part of this land can be cleared of brush
and stone, ready for the plow, but what can we sow to take the place of
the native pasture? The ground in many places is not level enough for
alfalfa and in some places water is not available. Can we break up the
land and sow pasture grasses as the farmers are exhorted to do at the
East? The annual rainfall is from 12 to 15 inches.
The perennial grasses which they rely upon for pasturage in the East and
which will maintain themselves from year to year, will not live at all
on the dry lands of California, nor has investigation of the last
twenty-five or thirty years found anything better for these California
uplands than the winter growth of plants which are native to them. Such
lands should be better treated, first by not being overstocked; second,
by taking off cattle at the time the native plant needs to make seed,
because, as they are not perennial, they are dependent upon each year's
seed. After the plants have seeded, the land can be pastured for dry
feed without losing the seed.
Of course, if one has land capable of irrigation he can grow forage
plants, even the grasses which grow in moist climates, like the rye
grasses, the brome grasses and the oat grasses, etc., which will do well
if given a little moisture, but it will be a loss of money to break up
the dryer lands with the idea of establishing perennial grasses upon
them without irrigation. California pastures are naturally good. In
early days they were wonderful, but they are restricted to growth during
the rainy season, or for a little time after that, and are therefore
suited for winter and spring pasturage, while the summer feeding of
stock, aside from dry feed, should be provided from other lands where
water can be used. The improvement of these wild pastures consists in a
more intelligent policy for their production and preservation rather
than an effort to improve them by the introduction of new plants.
Pastures may, however, be often improved by clearing off the brush and
harrowing in seed of burr clover, alfilaria, etc., at the beginning of
the rainy season.
Alfilaria and Winter Pasturage.
Will alfilaria (Erodium cicutarium) grow well on the hills of Sonoma
county partially covered with shrubs? I want something that will be food
for stock another year. I have heard of alfilaria and that it grows well
without being irrigated.
Alfilaria is a good winter-growing forage plant in places where it
accepts the situation. It is an annual and therefore does not make
permanent pasturage except where it may re-seed itself. On the coming of
the dry season it will speedily form seed and disappear. It is therefore
of no summer use under the conditions which you describe, nor is it
possible to secure any perennial grass which will be satisfactory on dry
hillsides without irrigation. Improved winter pasturage can be secured
by scattering seed of common rye at the beginning of the rainy season,
or of burr clover, both of which are winter-growing plants. Pasturage is
also capable of improvement by being careful not to overstock the land,
so that the native annuals may be able to produce seed and provide for
their own succession. The secret of successful pasturage on dry uplands
is to improve the winter growth. It is too much to expect much of them
for summer growth without irrigation.
Grasses for Bank-Holding.
We desire a grass to be used on levees, to keep from washing. Bermuda or
Johnson gross are dangerous to farming lands. What we desire is a grass
that will grow in good dirt with no water to support it during most of
the year, except the annual rainfall of Fresno county. Of course, this
grass will also have to endure a great deal of water during the flooded
season of the year. We have heard that the Italian rye grass would be
The rye grasses do not have running roots; therefore are not calculated
to bind soil particles together as Bermuda grass does. If you want a
binding grass, you must take the chances of its spreading to adjacent
lands. Of course, if you could get a sod of rye grass it would prevent
surface washing from overflow, etc., to a certain extent. We are not
sure how far it would prevent bank cutting by the flowing water, for it
makes a bunchy and not a sod-like growth. It would not live through the
summer unless the levee soil keeps somewhat moist. The only way to
determine whether you can get a permanent growth of it, will be by
making a trial. Seed should be sown as soon as the ground becomes
moistened by rain. It is a very safe proposition, because if it is
willing to live through the summer, it is one of the best pasturage
grasses for places in California where it will consent to grow, and it
is not liable to become an annoyance by taking possession of adjacent
land, because it would be readily killed by cultivation.
Alfalfa and Alkali.
I sowed several acres of alfalfa seed with a disc this season and none
of it has come up. I think the reason for it not coming up is that the
disc put it into the ground too deep. We sowed some by hand and it came
up very well. Is there any probability that later in the season this
seed will germinate, or has it rotted in the ground? Water stands within
three feet of the surface and has considerable alkali. What can I plant
on this land and get a crop? It is our intention to sow it to alfalfa
next fall. The land adjoining, although higher, has a good stand of
You are right about covering the alfalfa seed too deeply. It is not
likely to appear. Your chance of getting a durable stand of alfalfa on
such shallow soil over alkali water is not good, but you can hardly
determine that without trying. Sometimes conditions are better than you
think; sometimes worse. The plant itself is the best judge. On your
lower land you could probably get a better stand of rye grass than
anything else - sowing at the beginning of the rainy season. Of course,
however, even that will depend upon how much alkali you have to deal
Alfalfa on Adobe.
Is adobe land good for alfalfa? Is it harder to start than in other
soils or not? How much seed is required to sow an acre? Also state what
time alfalfa should be sowed.
Alfalfa will thrive on an adobe soil if the moisture is kept right -
especially guarding against too much water at a time. It is necessary to
irrigate more frequently and apply only as much as can be absorbed by
the soil before the hot sun comes on the field, for that scalds the
plant badly. It is harder to get a good stand because of the cracking
and hardening of the surface. Sow about 20 pounds to the acre just as
soon as the soil comes into good condition - that is, moist and warm.
February and March are usually the best months, according to the season
in the interior valleys.
Alfalfa and Soil Depth.
Do you consider soil which is from 4 to 6 feet deep to hardpan of
sufficient depth for alfalfa? Is there hardpan in the region of Lathrop
in San Joaquin county, and can it be dissolved by irrigation, or can any
good be accomplished by blowing holes at different places to allow the
water to pass to lower levels? Are other crops affected by hardpan being
so close to the surface?
You can grow alfalfa successfully on land which is from four to six feet
deep if you irrigate rather more frequently and use less amounts of
water each time, so that the plant shall be adequately supplied and yet
not forced to carry its roots in standing water. The Eastern alfalfa
grower is fortunate when he gets half the depth you mention, although it
does seem rather shallow in California. Shallow lands are distributed
over the valley quite widely. A deepening of the available soil is
usually accomplished by dynamiting, especially so if the hardpan is
underlaid by permanent strata. Alfalfa will penetrate some kinds and
thicknesses of hardpan when it is kept moist, but not too wet, to
encourage root growth.
Winter-growing green crops are less affected by shallow soil because
they generally make their growth while the moisture is ample, if the
season is good.
Curing Alfalfa with Artificial Heat.
It is current rumor that "out in California they are hauling alfalfa
green and curing it by artificial heat," thus reducing loss through bad
weather and producing a superior hay for feeding or milling purposes.
It is true that alfalfa is being cut green and dried by artificial heat,
but this is only being done in preparation for grinding. No one thinks
of doing it for the making of hay for storage or for feeding. This
method is undertaken, not because the alfalfa hay does not dry quickly
enough in the field, but because after drying in the field so many
leaves are lost in hauling to the mill. We have no trouble sun-drying
alfalfa for ordinary hay purposes; in fact, we have to be very careful
that it does not get too dry.
Cheap Preparation of Land for Alfalfa.
I am about to put a piece of land into alfalfa, and want to use the most
economical system of preparing the land for irrigation. My neighbors
tell me that it will be necessary for me to have the land leveled; at a
cost of $6 to $10 per acre. Now I am informed that in Alberta, and some
places in California, they do not go to the expense of leveling land,
but use a system of preparing land for irrigation at a cost of about 60
cents per acre.
Nothing except a highly educated gale of wind, with discriminating
cutting and filling ability of a very high order, could do it for that
price. The cheapest way to prepare land for irrigation is the contour
check method, which is largely used, or the flooding in strips between
levees at right angles to the supply ditch; but neither of these could
be put in properly for that money, even if the land was naturally in
such shape that a minimum amount of soil-shifting is necessary.
Where Alfalfa is Grown.
In what counties is alfalfa most successfully grown? By this I mean
where three crops of hay may be had each growing season. Also, will corn
grow good paying crops in same sections?
Alfalfa is grown all through the valleys and foothills of interior
California; also to a certain extent in coast valleys. On suitable
lands, three crops can sometimes be secured without irrigation, while
twice or three times as many cuttings are secured on irrigated lands
where the frost-free season is particularly long. According to the last
census, we are growing alfalfa on 19,104 farms with a total acreage of
484,098. The total value of the product is over $13,000,000. Corn is
widely grown, but is small as compared with alfalfa. It is grown in
alfalfa districts and in coast valleys where there is not much done with
What is the proper time to sow alfalfa? Some advocate fall and others
spring sowing. What seasons are given for each sowing?
We shall undoubtedly soon get to sowing alfalfa all the year round
except in the short season of sharp frosts and cold wet ground in
November, December and January. If you can get a good start in September
and October, all right; if not, wait until February and March, according
to the season. Where it is never very cold or wet, sow whenever moisture
is right. There never can be any rule about it, for localities will
Foxtail and Alfalfa.
Will foxtail choke out and exterminate alfalfa? Some fields look as
though the foxtail had crowded the alfalfa out, but I hold that the
alfalfa died from some other cause and the foxtail merely took its
Foxtail will not choke out alfalfa, providing, soil and moisture
conditions are right for the latter, and a good stand of plant has been
secured. If anything is wrong with the alfalfa, the foxtail will be on
the alert to take advantage of it. You will always have foxtail with
you, and considerable quantities of it, perhaps, in the first cutting,
because foxtail will grow at a lower temperature than alfalfa, and,
therefore, will keep very busy during the rainy season, while the
alfalfa is more or less dormant, but as the heat increases, if the soil
is good and moisture ample, the alfalfa will put the foxtail out of
sight until the following winter invites it to make another aggressive
growth. Therefore, we answer that alfalfa does not die from foxtail, but
from some condition unfavorable to the alfalfa, which must be sought in
the soil, or in the moisture supply, or traced back to bad seed, and a
poor stand at the beginning.
Which Alfalfa is Best?
I have in Stanislaus county ten acres of Arabian alfalfa, which was sown
the first week in April this year. It was clipped in July and irrigated.
It is now about 14 inches high, but looks sickly, turns white at the
tips, and some dies down. There are several places here with the Arabian
alfalfa on them and with the same trouble, while the ordinary variety is
looking fine by the side of it.
Arabian alfalfa usually makes a good show at first and begins to run out
afterward. It does not seem to be so long-lived and satisfactory as the
common variety. With this prospect ahead of you, according to present
experience, it would seem to be desirable to plow the crop in and seed
again with the common variety, or with the Turkestan, which is proving
the most satisfactory of the recently introduced varieties.
Fall Sowing of Alfalfa.
We have summer-fallowed land which we know will grow good alfalfa, and
as we have just had four inches of rainfall upon it, we were wondering
if we could not plow the twenty acres and get a stand upon it in time to
stand the cold weather this winter. Do you think this is practicable?
If four inches of rain on summer fallow connects well with the lower
moisture which a good summer fallow ought to conserve in the soil, such
sowing is rational; but if the summer fallowing was not done well, that
is, if it was rough plowing without enough harrowing, as is too often
the case, the four inches of rain might not be safe because of the dry
ground beneath waiting to seize the moisture and so dry the surface that
sprouting alfalfa plants would perish between dry soil below and dry
wind above. Fall sowing will give enough growth to resist frost killing
in many places in the valley if the moisture in the soil is enough to
carry the plant as well as start it, or if showers come frequently -
otherwise it is dangerous, not from frost but from drouth.
Alfalfa Hay and Soil Fertility.
We are feeding all our hay to dairy cows, returning the manure to the
soil. At present prices of hay, my neighbors who sell theirs, seem to be
as well off, with considerable less work; but how about the future? Can
this soil be cropped indefinitely and the crops sold, without returning
anything to the land?
It is a mistake to think that you can sell alfalfa hay indefinitely
without reducing the soil. It may gain in nitrogen by the wastes of the
plant, but it will lose in other constituents unless reinforced by
fertilization. No single act can make for the maintenance of the soil as
the growing and feeding of crops and return of manure does.
I am in a country of strictly dry farming. I have a wash or gulch on my
place and would like to know if I could, with success, plant it to
alfalfa without irrigation; soil is sandy loam, no evidences of springy
moisture at all. What kind should I try?
Alfalfa will endure much drouth. What it will do in a particular place
can only be told by trying. Sow Turkestan alfalfa. If the rains come
early so as to wet the land down in September and October, sow the seed
then. The endurance of the plant will depend much upon its having a
chance to root deeply before the drouth comes on.
Is it profitable to inoculate alfalfa seed before planting to increase
its yield? Can it be done by leaching soil from old alfalfa ground,
providing it has been plowed up and allowed to stand for a year? Are
commercial inoculants a safe thing to inoculate with?
Apparently alfalfa does not need inoculation in this State. Probably not
one acre in ten thousand now profitably growing alfalfa has ever had
artificial introduction of germs. You can make germ-tea, if you wish, of
the soil you describe; one year's exposure would not destroy the germs.
It is safe enough to use commercial cultures. You will have to decide
for yourself whether it is worth while.
I am making parallel ridges for alfalfa, sending a full head of water
down to the end of the field between each ridge. Should I calculate the
lands to be mowed one at a time in even swaths? The mower being 5-foot
cut, would you count on cutting a 4 1/2 or 5-foot swath? This soil is
sandy, water percolating rapidly. The fall is 8 feet to the mile. How
wide, then, would you advise making the ridges to suit the mower, and to
flood economically, using from 2 to 4 cubic feet per second? The length
of the lands is across 40 acres.
Growing alfalfa in long parallel checks, to be flooded between the
levees, is the way in which much alfalfa is being put in at the present
time where the land has such a slope as you indicate. It is calculated,
however, to seed the levees as well as the check bottoms, and to run the
mowers across the levees, thus leaving no waste land and mowing across
the whole field and not between the levees as you propose. For that
purpose these levees are made low, not over a foot in height,
calculating that they will settle to about six or eight inches, which is
sufficient to hold the water and direct its flow gently down the slope.
There is, however, a limit to the distance over which water can be
evenly distributed in this way, the difference being dependent upon the
character of the soil, slope, etc. A length of nine hundred feet is
sometimes found too great for an even distribution, and, for this
reason, supply ditches at shorter intervals are introduced.
In what part of the State does alfalfa grow best without irrigation?
Obviously the parts which have the greatest rainfall in connection with
retentive soil and plenty of summer heat. Alfalfa grows best without
irrigation on "sub-irrigated" land where the ground water is
sufficiently deep to allow a deep rooting of the plant in free soil and
yet not too far down to be readily reached by the deep-running roots.
Good results can be obtained with anywhere from four to ten or twelve
feet of soil above water. On shallower soils the plant is apt to be
short-lived through root troubles. Unirrigated alfalfa is also reduced
by the incursions of gophers which flooding at least once a year will
Alfalfa and Overflow.
How long can alfalfa stand water without being drowned out? I have a
piece of alfalfa on which the water will stand for considerable time in
the winter time.
Alfalfa while dormant will endure submergence for several weeks. We do
not know exactly how long, but evidently for a considerable period,
providing temperatures are too low to invite growth. On the other hand,
growing alfalfa is quickly and seriously injured by overflow.
No Nurse-Crop for Alfalfa.
Is it advisable to use oats with alfalfa seeds in seeding for alfalfa?
Some growers of alfalfa here advise it strongly, others advise against
The general experience in California is decidedly against using oats,
barley, or any other nursecrop with alfalfa. Get the land in the best
possible condition and let the alfalfa have the full benefit of it. The
ripening of the grain crop will do the young alfalfa plants more harm by
robbing them of moisture than any protection which the taller plant can
This spring I planted alfalfa and only got about half a stand on some of
the land. I want to reseed this fall and I thought of putting more seed
on the ground and then disc it in. Or would you advise replanting the
land? What do you think of putting manure on young alfalfa? Do you think
there is any danger of burning it out?
Stir it up with a spring tooth harrow or disc it lightly to make a nice
seed bed and then sow your seed as if you were planting alfalfa for the
first time. This will give you a good seed bed and will not hurt the
alfalfa already growing. Prepare the surface first and then sow, rather
than disking in the seed. The manure in moderate application would not
burn out the young alfalfa if properly applied after the rains begin.
Taking the Bloat Out of Alfalfa.
Will Italian rye grass and red top clover be a success under irrigation
as cow pasture in this county, either separately or mixed with alfalfa?
To sow in bare spots in the alfalfa, would the rye grass prevent bloat?
Italian rye grass and red clover will make good pasturage under
irrigation and will make a fight with the alfalfa to the best of their
ability. The admixture of rye grass will reduce the danger from
bloating. Red clover will not have that effect, because red clover is a
pretty good bloater on its own account. This seems to be the function of
all the clovers according to the rankness of their growth at the time
that they are grazed.
The Time to Cut Alfalfa.
What is the best period to cut alfalfa hay for cow feed and the best
method for curing?
The best time to cut alfalfa is just when new shoots are starting out at
the crown. This will give the greatest yield of hay during a season, and
the hay will be much more palatable than if the alfalfa is permitted to
get well into the blossoming period. The leaves, which are the best part
of the hay, also remain on better than if the stems are older. If a
person does not care to take the trouble to find out whether the new
shoots are coming out or not, he can approximate the time to cut fairly
well by waiting until a blossom here and there appears, cutting
immediately. It would be difficult to tell on paper exactly when alfalfa
was properly cured, as that is a matter of individual judgment. It is
usual to cut in the morning and rake into windrows in the afternoon.
With the usual weather in interior California that stage of the curing
is completed by that time. The next day it can be gathered into cocks
and gotten ready to move. That is about all the curing that is done. The
size of the windrows depends upon the amount of hay, as thick hay should
be put up in small windrows to give plenty of circulation of air. It is
considered better also to build the cocks on raked land, otherwise the
hay lying flat at the bottom will not cure properly and cannot be
gathered up clean.
Which Crop of Alfalfa for Seed?
Which cutting of alfalfa should be left for seed bearing?
Which cutting is best for seed depends, of course, on the way the plant
grows in your locality. Where it starts early and gives many cuttings in
a season with irrigation a later growth should be chosen for seed than
with a short season where fewer cuttings can be had. The second cutting
is best in many places, but O. E. Lambert of Modesto after threshing
about 30 lots in one year tells us that some growers had left second,
some third and some fourth cuttings for seed. He found the second
cutting very poor both in yield and grade, much of it not being well
filled and the seed blighted, as the growth of hay was too heavy. The
seed on third cutting was good both in grade and yield. Much of the seed
on fourth cutting was not matured. For good results the stand should be
thin. Our drier, heavier lands give the best results, sub-irrigated
lands not seeding. All irrigation should stop with the previous cutting
Siloing First Crop Alfalfa.
How about putting first cutting of alfalfa and foxtail into the silo? Do
you think there is any danger of fire in a wooden silo, and do you add
salt and water when filling, and how long after it is cut would you
advise putting it into the silo?
Put it through the silo cutter as soon as you can get it from the field.
Do not let it cure at all, and be sure to cut and pack well. If at all
dry, use water at the time of filling, and some salt then also, if you
desire. There is no danger of firing if you put it in with good
moisture, and by short cutting and hard packing you exclude the air. If
you do not do this you will get a silo full of manure, and possibly have
a fire while it is rotting.
Soil for Alfalfa.
What kind of soil is best for alfalfa on a dairy ranch?
An ideal soil for alfalfa is a deep well drained soil into which the
roots can run deeply without danger of encountering standing water or
alkali. Still we are finding that alfalfa is very successful on soils
which are not strictly ideal, providing the moisture is supplied in such
a way that the soil shall not be waterlogged nor the water be allowed to
remain upon the surface during the hot weather, because this kills the
Handling Young Alfalfa.
I have alfalfa that is doing very well for the first year. My soil is
sandy loam with light traces of white alkali, although it does not seem
to be detrimental to the growth thus far. I am in the dairy business and
will have by winter enough manure to top-dress the field. Would it be
good policy to use the manure, or would it be more satisfactory to
top-dress with gypsum? Would it injure alfalfa to pasture lightly after
the last cutting?
Presumably your soil contains enough lime, and therefore the application
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