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It were good to try the laying of chalk upon arable grounds a little while before ploughing; and to plough it in as they do the dung; but then it must be friable first by rain or lying. As for earth, it composteth itself; for I knew a great garden that had a field, in a manner, poured upon it; and it did bear fruit excellently the first year of the planting: for the surface of the earth is ever the fruitfullest. And earth so prepared hath a double surface. But it is true, as I conceive, that such earth as hath salt-petre bred in it, if you can procure it without too much charge, doth excel. The way to hasten the breeding of salt-petre, is to forbid the sun, and the growth of vegetables. And therefore if you make a large hovel, thatched, over some quantity of ground; nay, if you do but plank the ground over, it will breed salt-petre. As for pond earth, or river earth, it is a very good compost; especially if the pond have been long uncleansed, and so the water be not too hungry: and I judge it will be yet better if there be some mixture of chalk.
597. THE third help of ground is, by some other substances that have a virtue to make ground fertile, though they be not merely earth; wherein ashes excel; insomuch as the countries about Ætna and Vesuvius have a kind of amends made them, for the mischief the irruptions many times do, by the exceeding fruitfulness of the soil, caused by the ashes scattered about. Soot also, though thin spread in a field or garden, is tried to be a very good compost. For salt, it is too costly; but it is tried, that mingled with seed-corn, and sown together, it doth good and I am of opinion, that chalk in powder, mingled with seed-corn, would do good; perhaps as much as chalking the ground all over. As for the steeping of the seeds in several mixtures with water to give them vigour, or watering grounds with compost-water, we have spoken of them before.
598. THE fourth help of ground is, the suffering of vegetables to die into the ground, and so to fatten it; as the stubble of corn, especially peas. Brakes cast upon the ground in the beginning of winter, will make
it very fruitful. It were good also to try whether leaves of trees swept together, with some chalk and dung mixed, to give them more heart, would not make a good compost; for there is nothing lost so much as leaves of trees; and as they lie scattered, and without mixture, they rather make the ground sour than otherwise.
599. THE fifth help of ground is, heat and warmth. It hath been anciently practised to burn heath, and ling, and sedge, with the vantage of the wind, upon the ground. We see that warmth of walls and inclosures mendeth ground: we see also, that lying open to the south mendeth ground: we see again, that the foldings of sheep help ground, as well by their warmth as by their compost: and it may be doubted, whether the covering of the ground with brakes in the beginning of the winter, whereof we spake in the last experiment, helpeth it not, by reason of the warmth. Nay, some very good husbands do suspect, that the gathering up of flints in flinty ground, and laying them on heaps, which is much used, is no good husbandry, for that they would keep the ground warm.
600. THE sixth help of ground is by watering and irrigation; which is in two manners; the one by letting in and shutting out waters at seasonable times: for water at some seasons, and with reasonable stay, doth good; but at some other seasons, and with too long stay, doth hurt: and this serveth only for meadows which are along some river. The other way is, to bring water from some hanging grounds, where there are springs, into the lower grounds, carrying it in some long furrows; and from those furrows, drawing it traverse to spread the water. And this maketh an excellent improvement, both for corn and grass. It is the richer, if those hanging grounds be fruitful, because it washeth off some of the fatness of the earth; but howsoever it profiteth much. Generally where there are great overflows in fens, or the like, the drowning of them in the winter maketh the summer following more fruitful: the cause may be, for that it
keepeth the ground warm, and nourisheth it. But the fen-men hold, that the sewers must be kept so as the water may not stay too long in the spring till the weeds and sedge be grown up; for then the ground will be like a wood, which keepeth out the sun, and so continueth the wet; whereby it will never graze to purpose that year. Thus much for irrigation. But for avoidances, and drainings of water, where there is too much, and the helps of ground in that kind, we shall speak of them in another place.
Experiments in consort touching the affinities and differences between plants and inanimate bodies.
601. THE differences between animate and inanimate bodies, we shall handle fully under the title of life, and living spirits, and powers. We shall therefore make but a brief mention of them in this place. The main differences are two. All bodies have spirits, and pneumatical parts within them; but the main differences between animate and inanimate, are two: the first is, that the spirits of things animate are all continued with themselves, and are branched in veins, and secret canals, as blood is and in living creatures, the spirits have not only branches, but certain cells or seats, where the principal spirits do reside, and whereunto the rest do resort: but the spirits in things inanimate are shut in, and cut off by the tangible parts, and are not pervious one to another, as air is in snow. The second main difference is, that the spirits of animate bodies are all in some degree, more or less, kindled and inflamed; and have a fine commixture of flame, and an aërial substance. But inanimate bodies have their spirits no whit inflamed or kindled. And this difference consisteth not in the heat or coolness of spirits; for cloves and other spices, naptha and petroleum, have exceeding hot spirits, hotter a great deal than oil, wax, or tallow, etc. but not inflamed. And when any of those weak and temperate bodies come to be inflamed, then they gather a much greater heat than others have uninflamed, besides their light and motion, etc.
602. THE differences, which are secondary, and proceed from these two radical differences, are, first,
plants are all figurate and determinate, which inanimate bodies are not; for look how far the spirit is able to spread and continue itself, so far goeth the shape or figure, and then is determined. Secondly, plants do nourish; inanimate bodies do not: they have an accretion, but no alimentation. Thirdly, plants have a period of life, which inanimate bodies have not. Fourthly, they have a succession and propagation of their kind, which is not in bodies inanimate.
603. THE differences between plants, and metals or fossils, besides those four before-mentioned, for metals I hold inanimate, are these: first, metals are more durable than plants: secondly, they are more solid and hard thirdly, they are wholly subterrany; whereas plants are part above earth, and part under earth.
604. THERE be very few creatures that participate of the nature of plants and metals both; coral is one of the nearest of both kinds: another is vitriol, for that is aptest to sprout with moisture.
605. ANOTHER special affinity is between plants and mould or putrefaction: for all putrefaction, if it dissolve not in arefaction, will in the end issue into plants or living creatures bred of putrefaction. I account moss, and mushrooms, and agaric, and other of those kinds, to be but moulds of the ground, walls, and trees, and the like. As for flesh, and fish, and plants themselves, and a number of other things, after a mouldiness, or rottenness, or corrupting, they will fall to breed worms. These putrefactions, which have affinity with plants, have this difference from them; that they have no succession or propagation, though they nourish, and have a period of life, and have likewise some figure.
606. I LEFT once by chance a citron cut, in a close room, for three summer months that I was absent; and at my return there were grown forth, out of the pith cut, tufts of hairs an inch long, with little black heads, as if they would have been some herb.