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SOMETHING OF PLANTS, AND HOW THEY LIVE. Plants feed themselves. They increase in , been said, of carbon and oxygen. It is remarkable stature because of nourishment. They receive as being the first gaseous substance recognized what is required, and discharge from their roots after atmospheric air. Dr. Black, in 1757, called what is not required, to assist their growth. What it fixed air, because he found it fixed in common are plants made of? If every farmer could an- limestone and magnesia. Plants, as we have beswer this question, and then provide the pet plant fore said, receive nourishment through their roots, with such matter as it requires in the manufacture and by their leaves. Carbon enters in the water by of itself, he would disperse a mist in which at the roots, and is absorbed from the air by the least nine-tenths of our farmers are bewildered. leaves, Since carbonic acid is the source of supBurn any dry vegetable matter. What becomes ply of carbon only, to the plant, the oxygen must of it?
You see nothing but ashes. This is not be separated from the carbon, and sent off into the all of it. The balance has become dissipated in atmosphere. The gum portions of the plant exthe atınosphere. That part which is nowhere- hales the oxygen under the influence of sunlight. which has escaped in the air, or burned away, is Sunlight is essential to the decomposition of carthe organic part-the ashes the inorganic portion. bonic acid, and to the rapid growth of plants. Where did this plant come from? “Dust thou When a plant decays, the carbon in the plant unites art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” The part with the oxygen in the air, and becomes carbonic become air must have originated in air; while the acid. The same is the result where bodies burn. ashes have become earth, and originated in the In the consumption of food and respiration, you soil. The organic part is air, the inorganic matter are manufacturing and throwing off carbonic acid, earth. Remember it. Nothing is lost. There has which goes to assist again the formations of food been no annihilation-only a change of form. for yourself or your dependants. Carbon then is The organic matter, which has burned away, con- certainly in a transition state, and though it consists of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen. stitutes so large a part of all vegetable and animal Carbon is a solid (charcoal), and the last three matter, yet it is all derived from the small amount named are gases.
Carbon exists in all plants, of carbonic acid in the atmosphere; and but for and in combination with these gases constitute this constant change and exhalation of both plants nearly the whole of nuost plants, ashes bearing but and animals, the supply would be exhausted. The a small proportion to the whole. Carbon con- fire in your kitchen is constantly supplying the stitutes about half the dry weight of plants. Oxy- trees and vegetables near your door with carbonic gen supports combustion. It unites with many acid, which if exposed to the sun decomposes substances. It is sometimes called vital air, bé. rapidly, and hence makes a rapid growth. The cause necessary to respiration. Oxygen and car. tree near your dwelling, though no better than the bon form carbonic acid, and united with hydrogen one planted at the same time, in the same manner, forms water. When united with iron, the iron and in equally as good soil, in the orchard fifty becomes rusty, This rust is called oxide of iron. yards distant, is far outstripping the orchard tree Oxygen united with nitrogen forms nitric acid. in growth-simply because it is fed with more The two also compose atmospheric air ; and here carbon. Trees are necessary near the house; and witness the wonderful adaptation of the works of in large cities, every man who understands the creation to each other! If the atmosphere was laws of nature and of health will provide these pure oxygen, every living thing would soon decay absorbents for the extra amount of acid generated. of combustion ; but adding to one part of oxygen We frequently find in cities the leaves of plants four parts of nitrogen, God has so diluted the rapidly forming, while in the country the twigs exhilarating gas, as that in its place we have a are as bare of foliage as at mid-winter. We should delicious life-giving and life-preserving nectar-so not be misunderstood. Carbon enters the plant pure and palatable that we never cease to thirst in the form of carbonic acid. The carbon is refor it, yet the supply is ample. But there are tained until the plant decays, but the oxygen is other elements in the atmosphere which the lungs thrown off to unite with carbon again. Carbon of plants receive, and yet they are called itapuri- is fixed in the plant until decay commences. The ties. We have seen farmers for the want of the blood of animals, which contains carbon, unites proper knowledge apply certain compositions to with the air, or the oxygen of the air, as it is in. a soil, when, instead of benefiting the plant, haled into the lungs, and forms carbonic acid, it drove away, and dissipated all that was giving without which process no animal could live. This life to it. We have seen ammonia, one of the impuri- carbonic acid is thrown off, and feeds plants, which ties above alluded to, allowed to escape from a in turn feed animals again. manure heap, because of the want of the proper We have said carbon is a solid, or, in other words, application to fix it there. Carbonic acid, water, charcoal is a solid. It is light and porous, hence and ammonia are all essential to the maturity of a good absorbent. This is the secret of its value most vegetables. Carbonic acid is the most impor- to the farmer. It absorbs gases that may escape tant in its relations to plants, for from this source from plants or decomposing substances. It alone is their carbon obtained. It consists, as has separates from water any impurities, decayed ani.
mal matter, and purifies it. Hence, too, its value of the air, one-third of the ocean, and one-half of as a filter. It is of great value to the field, whether the solid earth are oxygen. mixed with the soil or applied on the surface. It We extract the following passage from one of absorbs largely at common temperatures, and when Johnston's lectures : “But the quantity of this heated by the sun, yields up its atmospheric substance, which is stored up in the solid rocks, is treasures to assist the growth of plants and vege- still more remarkable. Nearly one-half of the tables. You remember the coal beds on the old weight of the solid rocks, which compose the crust farm“ down East,” where, no matter what the of our globe, of every solid substance we see around season, or its effect upon the balance of the crop, us—of the houses in which we live, and of the you were sure to find well-matured corn, a large stones on which we tread; of the soils which you growth of plump wheat, heavy oats, or enormous daily cultivate, and much more than one-half of melons, within the area of the coal bed. Can you the weight of the bodies of all living animals and recal a time, a season, when there was not a plants-consists of this elementary body, oryger, marked difference between the products of the known to us, as I have already said, only in the coal-bed and the rest of the field ? Had you ever state of a gas. It may not appear surprising that investigated the subject? You remember to have any one elementary substance should have been planted cucumbers and melons in your garden, formed by the Creator in such abundance as to and to have heard some one, noted for his success constitute nearly one-half, by weight, of the entire in growing these luxuries early and large, say that crust of the globe ; but it must strike you as recharcoal was a capital manure. You may have markable, that this should also be the element on tried it with success; but why were you content the presence of which all animal life depends, and with the result? Why not seek for the reason? as nothing less wonderful, that a substance, which How many lose the benefit of an extended appli- we know only in the state of thin air, should, by cation from the want of a spirit of inquiry! We some wonderful mechanism, be bound up and hope the Farmers' Clubs will provoke and develop imprisoned in such vast stores in the solid mounINVESTIGATION.
tains of the globe, be destined to pervade and reCharcoal absorbs offensive odours. Mix it with fresh all nature in the form of water, and to night soil, and it makes it dry and portable. Saved | beautify and adorn the earth in the solid parts of and applied, this is rendered a most valuable animals and plants. But all nature is full of manure. Charcoal has great preservative qualities. similar wonders; and every step you advance in the It will keep meat pure and sweet a long time; and study of the principles of the art by which you live, who has not tried its effects in the preservation of you will not fail to mark the united skill and bounty the potato? Who ever saw a watery potato of the same great Contriver." grow on a coal-bed ? Who ever saw small ones Oxygen supports combustion, and all substances grow there? We never did. Mix it with musty which burn in the open air burn in it (oryges) grain, if you have any, or impure meat, and tell with far greater brilliancy. We have said that us of its effects. Pack meats and vegetables in it, plants exhale oxygen under the influence of sudand they will not soon decay. It is a most un- light, and we suggest a simple experimet changeable substance; hence posts, charred at the by which this exhalation may be made perceptible. bottom, do not decay as soon as otherwise when Let a sprig of mint be placed in a white glass set in the ground. Liquids passed through it globe, which is then to be filled quite full of spring lose their colouring and bitter or astringent flavour. water, and the mouth inverted in a tumbler of Sugar refiners decolourize their brown syrups with water, it is then to be placed in the direct rays of its assistance.
the sun, and in a short time bubbles of gas wil Thus, while we have not strictly departed from be seen collecting in the upper part of the glass, the text, we have given you some facts which may which is nearly pure oxygen. be of great value to you. We have deviated from Hydrogen is fourteen times lighter than the our intended course, but our aim is to make these atmosphere and sixteen times lighter than oxygen, articles as plain, practical, and valuable as possi- being the lightest substance known. It is comble.
bustible, but does not support combustion. The Remember that we have said, the organic affinity of oxygen and hydrogen is very great, yet portion of plants consists of carbon, oxygen, hydro- they do not combine spontaneously. Hydrogen is gen, and nitrogen. Water is composed of hydrocolourless, and does not support life. Animals die gen and oxygen. Then water feeds the plant with and plants wither when introduced into it. It is these two gases, Burn the plant, and these gases not necessary to the growth of plants. United escape in the form of vapour, which, condensed, with oxygen, it becomes water or the protoxide of falls to the earth as rain. You may desire to hydrogen. Water is an essential to the plant, but know something of the character of these gases Nature has provided an ample supply. “It is our abstractly. Oxygen is heavier than the atmosphere; province to regulate and modify this supply. Irriit is a colourless gas, has neither taste nor smell; gation at the proper time is an immense stimulant, inhaled by animals, its effects are exhilarating and or, more properly, fertilizer. But our best soils
, exciting. We have seen it given to individuals for the most durable and reliable, require drainage, and the purpose of exhibiting its effects upon their provision for feeding the plant with only the amount action. In some cases the most extraordinary of water needed, and disposing of the surplus, movements are made. It is, of course, injurious, We need write no “apostrophe to water.". It may and were we to inhale only oxygen, we would soon be of use and abuse. It is both used and abused. be unable to inhale anything. About one-fifth | Let us learn to use it.
Next in order of the organic portions of plants possible in agriculture on a large scale, when the is nitrogen-one of the most important organic time occupied in the growth of plants is of importconstituents of vegetable matter. It constitutes ance, as it is most certainly in our latitudes. ' Inabout four-fifths of atmospheric air. Animals deed it is the most valuable fertilizer contained in cannot live in it alone, yet they cannot be matured farın-yard manure, and it exists to a greater extent without it. Plants die in it, yet it is necessary in the liquid part than in the solid excrement. to their growth. Reference has already been And yet farmers—the great majority of them made to its use to dilute the oxygen of the air, provide no means for conveying this important so as to render it palatable and life-giving. Its fertilizer to the plant. existence has been known since 1772, and it was The stable manure may be thrown out under recognized as a constituent of the atmosphere in the eaves of the stable, and into the street, with 1775. It does not support combustion, but extin- no absorbing mixture. The eaves of the stable guishes all burning bodies immersed in it. It is have no fixtures to convey the water into a cistern not inflammable. It is generally supposed that for the use of the stock, but the dripping flood plants get no nitrogen from the air." Johnston inundates the manure heap, and leaches away into says, “Spring and rain waters absorb it, as they the street ditch, to be turned perhaps by a shrewd do oxygen, from the atmospheric air, and bear it neighbour, if one happens to live lower down a dein solution to the roots, by which it is not unlikely clivity, into his own fields by a furrow or five that it may be conveyed directly into the circu- minutes' use of the spade, and irrigates his fields, lation of the plants." But plants are mainly fed furnishing his crops with a wealth of nutriment by nitrogen through some of its compounds. and stimulant,the gold of your manure. We Ammonia is one. It is composed of nitrogen and have seen it done. We are not imagining anyhydrogen. Seventeen pounds of ammonia contain thing. The same principle applied to commerce about fourteen pounds of nitrogen and three would ruin every man who indulged in it. Suppounds of hydrogen. It is important to the growth pose the merchant should throw gold into the of the plant-one of the most important com- street, and depend upon the silver or currency pounds. It is common-every farmer has to do received for profits, and to replace and replenish with it and daily witnesses its effects, is made his stock; what would be thought of him? Does aware of its presence by his senses, yet scarcely a farmer know these facts—know he is losing the heeds its value, and often regards it as a very best of his resources for the replenishment of his noxious vapour which ought not to exist. But it farm, and still neglect to take measures to retain does exist in the atmosphere everywhere where them? Cannot afford to provide against this animal or vegetable matter is decaying. It is waste? If God had not blessed us with a land about three-fifths as heavy as atmospheric air. unrivalled in fertility, and had not provided in Our readers will recognize it as spirits of harts- nature compensation for the consumption of horn, and it is sometimes called alkaline air, or plants, man, if left alone, would soon impoverish volatile alkali
. It is colourless, does not support himself, and the earth would become barren and combustion, and is inflammable. Here is another unfruitful. wonder for you, reader--a combination of two Ammonia does not enter the plant by inhalation colourless and tasteless gases and without smell
, (if we may use the term) through the leaves. It in the proportion of 14 and 3 produces another is a gas, but there are few plants that do not gas that has pungent smell and a very perceptible require it to knock for admittance at the roots, taste. And is it not more wonderful, that it should and in company (solution) with water; and here exist, and enter so largely into all the successes again we must urge your attention to the saving and reverses of the farmer's operations, become the liquid manure of your stock, so full of nitrogen part of his stock-in-trade, and yet create no in- for the plant. It has been suggested to leave the quiry into its properties, no curiosity as to its use stable floor open, with a muck-bed under it, to or value? It is escaping yonder from that manure receive the leakage. Another plan is, to have heap, from the liquid steaming excrements of your a close floor, and litter the stable behind the stock cattle. Here again you witness the value of ab- with muck, sawdust, or tanbark-charcoal. And sorbents to mix with animal manures. Charcoal here we wish to say one word upon the use or muck absorbs largely and should be largely of muck as an absorbent. Ignorant once of the used.
Water absorbs ammonia over 700 and philosophy of composting, we helped a man, then nearly 800 times its bulk of it, and is made the considered more progressive than his neighbours, medium to transfer the ammonia of the atmos- to clean out a swamp of its muck deposit-a purely phere to the growing plants. Ammonia is power- | vegetable substance. It was thrown around an ful in its effect upon the plant. It promotes its orchard at once-at the roots of each tree. It had luxuriance and growth. It is mainly and perhaps its effect, it is true; the trees grew marvellously. wholly taken up by the roots of the plant from the But, if instead of depositing it thus to soil, not being inhaled by the breathing leaf as is handling,” it had been hauled to the large shed in carbonic acid.
the barn-yard, and then mixed with the stable Liebig says, "The effect of an artificial supply manure, which was evaporating, and leaching unof ammonia as a source of nitrogen is to accelerate der the eaves on the south side of the barn, we the growth and development of plants.” And he would have saved enough by the operation to have attaches great importance to this fact, and argues paid the expenses and produced more wonderful that it should be taken into account in gardening effects still. Why? Because tha
ack was pure -especially in kitchen gardening, and as much as and (almost) unadulterated carbon--the best of
absorbents, and that is why we urge composting straw yields. How long can you continue to crop with it; it saves for the use of the plant the am- your land without impoverishing it, by this nomunia in the manure mixed with it. * Attend then return process ? We want you to have time to to this matter, and save the liquid portion of the ponder upon the figures you may make, by calcu. manure in your yards and stables.
lating that five per cent. of every ton of wheatDeep ploughing has to do with the production straw you take from your farm is actually taken of ammonia. It enables the roots of plants to pe- from the soil, and must be supplied in some mannetrate and fill the subsoil with vegetable matter, ner, and if you are not supplying it, you re grow which, by its decay in the confined atmosphere, ing poorer. Let the figures tell you how fast you where the access of the oxygen of the air is not are growing poorer. When you have aroused easy, gives rise to the production of ammonia. yourself from the stupor of insensibility, you will When thus formed, it is chemically prepared, and be in fit mood to search into the character of these enters the roots of the bearing plant to assist its several inorganic parts of plants; for it is not regrowth. We said, the ammonia of the atmosphere garded by moderns as “stealing trash” to steal is absorbed by rain, dews, &c., and returned to the our purse. roots; hence, the necessity of rain and dews - the Having sufficiently pondered on the amount of latter particularly, where vegetation is rankest and inorganic matter taken from the soil in every ton growing most rapidly, requiring continual supplies of straw, and which must be replaced or the soil is of nitrogen. Who can estimate the value of a constantly impoverished, let us inquire what are heavy body of snow during four months of the these inorganic parts? Potash is an alkali-one of year succeeding a fruitful season ? Here is matter the four alkalies found in the ashes of plants. It for inquiry and reflection, fellow farmer. How is found in most plants. Fill a barrel with wood wonderfully accurate is the action of God's great ashes, and leach with water—the ley contains the laws of compensation of supply and demand! potash of the ashes. The pearlash of commerce is
We have hitherto been talking of the organic only potash and carbonic acid, a union of the two parts of plants—those parts that burn away, of produced by the exposure of the former to the air, which nothing visible remains after combustion. I and if the quantity of carbonic acid is increased, Those parts which remain in the form of ashes saleratus is the result. are called the inorganic-are derived by the plant Many of our readers, perhaps, have had expefrom the earth, and when the plant is decayed be- rience in the manufacture of pearlash. In early come earth again—were obtained from the soil, days, when the heavy forests of the North and and have become soil again by combustion. The East were being cleared, it was no unusual thing inorganic parts of plants are in small proportion to for the settler to turn a penny by the rustic mandthe organic, and yet they are numerically greater. facture of this alkali into an article of commerce.
Let the reader remember that carbon, oxygen, We have not unfrequently found it in the large hydrogen, and nitrogen are the four kinds of mat- open fire-places of the borderers, and secured it for ter comprising the greater and organic portions of the good dame's use, by using the “poker” among plants; and yet the inorganic portion, though the ashes. smaller, consists of nine or ten different parts. Plants, trees, and animals require potash in their We are now to consider these. We may learn construction. Hence it must be found in the soil, something new, and digressions will be in order if and supplied if cropping has diminished the we find it for the interest of the reacler to extend supply. our science to its practical application. It involves The importance of this supply in the soil will be the manure question at every point, and here we seen when the reader understands that every acre may discover, possibly, whether the rich and so- of wheat absorbs over thirty-two pounds of potash called exhaustless (!) virgin soil of the prairies, will from the soil, barley over sixty-eight pounds, red need to be prostituted by the application of the foul clover over one hundred and forty-four pounds, stuff called barn-yard manure.
and other common crops in different proportions. Burn a plant, a mass of weeds, a stack of wheat How is it to be supplied? Remember this is only or other straw, reader, and how little of it is left! one of the inorganic parts that you exhaust in this this you have noticed. How small in proportion quantity from each acre of soil grown in wheat, to the bulk consumed, and the bulk of ashes that barley, clover, &c., annually. Is it not a great ex. remain ! This is the inorganic part; very seldom hausting process ? Is there no necessity for supamounts to twelve or fifteen per cent. of the weight plying this food, of ploughing deeper, of manuring of the vegetable substance burned. If it be straw more? your soil is wanting lime, ashes may be you have burned, the weight of the ashes will sel- substituted. But this supply of inorganic matter dom exceed four or five per cent. of the weight of in some form must not be withheld from your the straw consumed. Yet this part of the plant is farm. It is a great study to learn how to econoas important as any other, comes from the soil mically supply it—of great importance you should and must exist in the soil, so that the plant may learn. Potash may be used on sandy soils with take up the proportions required in its structure- good effect, and is a valuable application as a in its growth.
top-dressing for young plants, for insects do not Burn a ton of straw, weigh the ashes, and you, like it. who return nothing to your fields in the shape of Soda is another alkali found in the ashes of manure, estimate the amount of inorganic matter plants, and is not unlike potash in its office in the you take from your farm annually, saying nothing construction of the plant. Common salt contains of the ashes, or inorganic part of the grain the it; hence the application of this thistle-killer-salt -to the soil furnishes soda for the plant, and is returned ! It is estimated that in every hundred often the best application that can be made; this, bushels of wheat sold, there are removed permanently however, is a disputed question. In passing, we from the soil on which it grew, sixty pounds of wish to say that brine is a great vermin antidote, phosphoric acid! and that for each cow kept on a and if carefully applied to the soil and to the com- pasture throughout the summer, there are carried off post heap will do quite as much good as harm. in veal
, butter, and cheese, not less than ffty pounds Caustic soda, produced by boiling the common of phosphate of lime, of which perhaps nearly or carbonate of soda with quicklime, is dangerous to quite one-fourth is phosphoric acid. the vegetable. Common salt and lime mixed Warring says well, “This would be one thousand together and used in composting is very valu- pounds for twenty cows; and it shows clearly why able as a supply of soda, for the plant is thus ob- old dairy pastures become so exhausted of this subtained.
stance, that they will no longer produce those nutriLime. The reader may perhaps consider him- tious gases which are favourable to butter and cheese self posed in reference to this alkali. But its im- making.” We may as well quote the next paragraph, portance to the plant is oftener under than over and endorse it, viz. : “ That this removal of the estimated, and it is often blindly applied, and often most valuable constituent of the soil has been the not applied at all when it should be. It sweetens cause of more exhaustion of farms, and more emigrathe soil, decomposes vegetable matter, and as a tion in search of fertile districts, than any other sulphate is a good absorbent of the different gases. single effect of injudicious farming, is a fact whic But the importance of this inorganic part of the multiplied instances most clearly prove." plant to the agriculturist must be the subject of He instances the once world-renowned wheatanother chapter.
producing Genesee Valley. It is well known that its Phosphoric acid, although combining with any of the fame as a wheat country does not belong to the alkalies, is most important when compounded with present. And yet how many of the Western farmers, lime. It is composed of phosphorus and oxygen. or Eastern either, can tell to-day what phosphoric The white smoke of a match when it is ignited is acid is, or that such matter exists? They have as phosphoric acid, created by the union of the phos- little idea of it, its importance to the soil, its characphorus on the end of the match with the ter, and how it is found, as they have of the size of oxygen of the atmosphere. Its importance will be brain of the inhabitants of the planet Saturn; and understood when we tell you it forms nearly one- how willing to let their children grow up in the same half of the ashes of wheat, rye, oats, buckwheat, sort of ignorance, and with the same indifference to barley, peas, beans, &c., and enters largely in the what grows, and what causes it to grow! They want perfection of vegetables and animals ; and yet it is them to read, write, and cipher-it was the schooling found in limited quantities in most soils, particularly they had, and they get along ! those where cultivation has not been remunerative- Ó fellow farmer, insist upon that boy and girl of where the whole system has been to get all possible, yours knowing something of this earth, beside its and pay nothing to the soil for its harvests. shape, diameter, and circumference, and who circum.
This acid does not exist in nature in a free state, navigated it. Require that the teacher should at and hence, isolated, does not affect vegetation ; but least know something of plants this summer ; be as we have said, it unites with the alkalies and forms capable of teaching your child the beauties, pecuphosphates, which are essential to the growth of the liarities, and office of plants and flowers – in short, plant, without which, perfection in the development insist he must know something of botany. But we of grains and roots cannot be obtained. It is solid have left the acid, though we may have exhibited and colourless, soluble in water, sour, corrodes and some acidity; if so, we cannot help it, for we feel destroys animal and vegetable substances. It is very much like scolding at the indifference manifest found in combination in all plants, hence its necessity to these important departments of education. to them as an article of food; and yet it must be Phosphoric acid is indispensable then; it must diluted or mixed, hence the double importance of exist in some form in the land. If you want intellithe different alkalies as fertilizers.
gent animals, they must be fed with plants containThe intelligent, thoughtful reader will not wonder ing phosphoric acid, for phosphorus is contained in at the constant diminution of fertility in cultivated and is necessary to the health of the brain. We aye, skinned soils. What debts would some farmers have said enough perhaps to set you thinking, to have to pay, if the earth were to make the demand prove the importance of this acid in agriculture. In to each one, “ Pay that thou owest," in the shape of combination with alkalies we shall have more to say inorganic matter taken from their farms, and never l of it hereafter. -Emery's Journal of Agriculture.
The farmers of this country have become so that they will be brought into such a position. much accustomed to the use of guano, superphos- These manures are offered in great abundance. phate of lime, and other light manures, that they The stores of Peruvian guano in this country are would find themselves in a difficult position for a double what they were last year; and great efforts time if they were called upon to do without them. have been made by importers and manufacturers There is nothing, however, at present to indicate to insure abundant supplies of phosphatic manures.