The New England Farmer, July 1855 (p 319)
CHARCOAL DUST
A. R.
Lowell, March 1.

Mr. Brown:—At one of the agricultural meetings at the State House, last winter, I was much interested by the remarks of the speakers; some new ideas, to me, were advanced, in regard to guano. But I was particularly pleased by the earnestness with which a more careful saving of "home manures" was urged, with which to form a fertilizing basis and furnish an absorbent for the gases. One of the most important agents for these purposes, in my experience, was but slightly alluded to, viz: charcoal dust. If you will permit, I will relate one of my experiments, and its results, with charcoal, and you, of course, will dispose of the statement as you deem proper.

In the winter of 1852 I carted off the top of a high knoll or ridge that extended through a piece of land I had recently purchased. My object was to bring the land into better shape and to put this heretofore barren spot into a state for cultivation. The cutting was from 2 to 6 feet deep, leaving a level plain of about half an acre, which was still elevated above the adjacent lands. The bed of this plat was coarse sand and full of "cobbles." Having on hand a lot of meadow muck, that had been decomposed with shell lime and salt brine, I took of this 40 cart loads, 10 loads sandy loam, 2 1/2 cords of charcoal dust, and threw into a heap. Into this I put 15 barrels of liquid from gas works, working over the mass and mixing thoroughly. After standing four weeks, I distributed the heap evenly as possible over my piece. Then plowed and cross-plowed, to the depth of ten inches, and harrowed until the whole was well mixed with the sand bed, and sowed to oats, with timothy and clover, first week in June. The oats came up finely, grew stout, but were injured by rust. The grass was a poor catch and I again sowed and raked in seed in the fall. The following season, where the seed took from the first sowing, I cut a heavy crop of grass.

Last spring the grass had got well catched, started early, and was marked by its dark green and fresh appearance all through the dry season. I took off two crops of grass, both averaging 4 tons to the acre. During all the dry weather this spot did not seem to suffer in the least by drought, notwithstanding its high altitude, and while on low grounds in the vicinity vegetation was completely dried up. This good result I attributed mainly to the coal dust, for wherever I turned up the earth, on this piece, and found the greatest mass of coal, there I found the most moisture, and the grass roots seemed to possess a particular fondness to twine among it.

My faith in the utility of coal dust, for dry lands, has been strengthened also, by using it in setting trees. I have an elevated and sandy place, where I am desirous to grow a "belt" of evergreens, and for two successive years, after my utmost skill in setting, the trees would die out wholly or in part, seemingly from the effects of the hot, dry seasons. Last spring I again set out 50 Norway spruce, fir balsam, white pine, &c., dug large holes, and in part mixed in with the loam two bushels charcoal, bringing a portion of the coal near the roots of the trees. I used equal care in setting, but in the fall almost every tree, where no coal was put, was dead or nearly so, dried up. While every tree to which I applied the dust was alive and vigorous. I have also used charcoal in setting fruit trees, hedges, &c., in dry places, and am satisfied with the result. I am sorry that a more free use of charcoal dust recently, in this vicinity, has advanced the price of the article. Our colliers now charge $5 per cord, but think it will pay even at that price. A. R. Lowell, March 1.