Horticultural Review and Botanical Magazine 1: 422-423 (1851)

CHARCOAL PEAT

All European Agricultural writers are loud in praise of charcoal peat; and if they could get the millions of loads of old charcoal hearths lying unused in the woods of New York and New Jersey, they would find them equally valuable. Or if they would decompose their salt marsh bogs, or what is still preferable, their fresh bogs with the salt and lime mixture, (chloride of lime and carbonate of soda) as we have done with the ditchings of our salt meadows in Essex county, N. J., they would find that this simple process would give to this organic matter all they claim for the pretended newly discovered properties of charred peat. If our foreign exchanges will read the early numbers of our paper, they will find that the virtues of charred peat are not, as stated by them, the discovery of the last year.— Working Farmer.

The following are among the advantages claimed by a writer in The Gardener's Chronicle, from the use of Irish Peat Charcoal:

Geraniums.— These luxuriate in a mixture of 3 oz. of pure charcoal to 1 lb. of mold. In this material they make good saleable plants in half the usual time. Cuttings strike freely, either in the pure charcoal, or in the mixture.

Cucumbers.—For these, I mixed the charred peat with mold during winter, and when the plants were put into it, they grew famously, and produced a heavy crop. The peat charcoal not only yields nutriment, but it affords good drainage. Cucumber tops strike root freely in pure charred peat.

Melons.—These succeeded in a mixture of charred peat and soil equally well with the cucumbers; and if a large proportion of the soil consists of peat, I am of opinion that the flavor of the fruit will be improved, more especially in cloudy sunless seasons.

Strawberries grow admirably in charred peat mixed with soil, and in the case of pot plants they like a good handful of pure peat placed in the bottoms of the pots. This latter has a tendency to prevent the ingress of worms, who do not appear to like its sharp edges.

Vines.—I have not tried the effect of charred peat on vines; but, judging from analogous cases, I am certain that it will prove of much advantage to them, not only as a fertilizer, but also as a means of keeping the borders porous, and thereby bringing better into action the materials of which they may be composed. Under such an arrangement, finer flavored fruit may be expected.

Potatoes.—I have found those manured with charred peat drier and more mealy than others to which farm-yard manure was applied. In the former the foliage and stalks are more compact and firm, and when taken up the tubers were found to be clean skinned. In my case no wire-worm came near them. Where potatoes are pitted in long ridges, in the open ground, a layer of peat between them and the soil helps to keep them dry, and if this heap could be covered with it below the straw, it would also be an advantage.

In flower gardens, peat charcoal will be found invaluable, including, as it does quick growth; but not over luxuriant, and consequently plenty of blossoms. Under its influence the colors of the latter are also well "brought out."

For sweetening cesspools, and other unavoidable nuisances, peat charcoal finely pounded will be found universally useful. I say finely pounded, because the more intimately it is mixed with the material to be disinfected, the greater will be its power.

One pound of charred peat takes one-eighth of a pound of water to saturate it, and hence, in addition to its sweetening qualities, it possesses great value in giving night-soil mixed with urine, such a consistency as to render it capable of being transferred from our large cities, where it is not wanted, to our rural districts, where it is wanted, and where it will assist our at present distressed agriculturists to farm more highly. In this way "a plague may be turned into a profit."

The experiments mentioned above were all tried last year. This season I have found that if, instead of horse-dung being turned and sweetened for a month before it is used for forcing, it is allowed about a week's laying, and then put into a four-light pit and covered over with an inch of peat charcoal, all will be well. Under this system, by the time my cucumber plants came up, all smell was removed. Again, gardeners are much annoyed in January and February by plants damping off. I dusted my cucumber plants in the pans every morning with peat, and I did not lose six out of six hundred. I have, unfortunately had to repeat the experiment, on account of my lad having overheated the flue, and burned the whole of the interior of my pit. I have again about six hundred plants dusted with peat, and they look as well as the first did. In filling the pots, I made holes in the mold with my finger, and dropped the cucumber plants in, in the manner in which leeks are planted out of doors. I then filled up the hole with peat. Those treated in this way throve better than the others, and produced a more healthy dark green leaf. In short, I consider charred peat in a melon ground to be as necessary as a telegraph to a railroad. The one is incomplete without the other. The sort of charred peat that I use is the granulated kind.