What Happens To Soil After Long Years Of Spading And Fertilizing?

In our sub-division, an old farmstead, our neighbor’s lot included the old farm garden. Its soil was like black velvet from a half century of spading and fertilizing. A paling fence kept out older chickens and dogs and a fine wire netting over the palings kept out little chickens, rabbits and skunks. It was the finest garden I ever knew. The rows were meticulously compass-wise, cultivation was as regular as sunrise, rotation of crops a marvel and production a gardener’s dream.

But our garden occupied what once was the drive in and turnaround of the old farm. Our garden stuff was amateurish. The soil was so stony and heavy we actually used a pick, sometimes. Our neighbor, leaning on his picket fence, would smile, shake his head and talk to us.

“Nein goot, nein goot!” he’d say with high commiseration. “Schmall kartofel, schmall peans, schmall dinks, all.”

Every chance he got, he’d talk like that. It was too often to be accidental. We paid no attention to that and even when he turned his baby chicks loose on our “schmall dinks,” we didn’t mind. We thought they’d do little harm.

But when he liberated his large flock of laying hens, we felt the next move should be ours. Our plans were completed by the third afternoon. When the hens arrived, we put them to test.

Down a route, sketchily drawn in scattered grain, our visitors ate and cackled and continued on into the tool shed where we had heaped more grain. Most of them were eating too greedily to realize what was up. We closed the tool shed door and caught them carefully and put them in the slatted crate we’d prepared beforehand. We supplied them with a pan of water, nailed the crate shut and then carted it by wheelbarrow to our neighbor’s garden gate.

On top of the crate we had tacked a conversationally informal little note – a direct, hen-to-master communication. First, in German in case mother tongue proved more impressive; then, in English in case it didn’t.

Dear Master :

We’re in here because we ate to the roots all of our neighbor’s very tough pea-vines and were starting in on his tougher lettuce bed. What we ate robbed him of about $100 worth of badly grown things. We would have preferred our own juicier stuff, but we couldn’t get in the only garden we have a right to be in.

Your affectionate HENS

Of course, dogs and cats don’t eat corn. What then is effective when you find the bull dog in the pool and the lilies on the bank? We know of people who electrified the edges of their pool. Dogs shun it in horror but so do birds, and it’s dangerous if small children are about. And, it is against the law.

Personally, I have faith in the message method with slight alterations to suit each case. Almost any neighborhood dog can be caught and cajoled into serving as a messenger. Speak softly to the little beast and tie a note around his neck. The little note might read something like this :

Dear Master:

I’ve just had a glorious bath. Because I couldn’t find enough water at home, I took it in the lily pool next door. It was so hot today, I stayed in the water a long time. The only thing that interfered was those water-lilies. I destroyed something like $20 worth of them. But I had a splendid bath.

Affectionately and faithfully yours, FIDO

The humane society invites telephone calls. They come, pick up and haul off the intruder. They make the terms upon which the owner may have his property back. Such societies try to educate pet owners and poultrymen by propaganda which says any animal that is well fed and watered will stay at home.

But, on the other hand, any gardener living next to even the most intelligent, well-trained, well-cared for dog knows that the dog just will bury bones. He will hunt up the close-to-shrubs, secluded spots for the job. Also, on a hot day, any dog high-bred or mongrel, well-fed or starving, thirsty or not – will look up the coolest, dampest nook for his nap. If it happens to be the pansy bed, why it’s the pansy bed.

How far have we come in solving the problem? Not far. A pet-to-master message is only one way of meeting it. And, of course, one neighbor or both can always put up a fence. As the poet says, “Good fences make good neighbors.

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