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Howard Payne


United States
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Reconditioning old rose gardens

Crops of any type of plant grown on virgin soil almost always do well for at least two or three years, for that soil contains the necessary foods - more info with tree and plant identification app . Continued cropping, even if varied in type, reduces the humus content of the soil and, with it, the plant foods.
Plants are very selective in their feeding. Each type of plant needs plant-food elements in slightly different proportions, and each soil contains those elements in a different ratio. The plants will take from the soil just that quantity of each element essential to their own particular requirements. If one element becomes deficient there will be stunted growth. This condi­tion is created fairly quickly if the one type of crop is grown in the same area for several years in succession and little or no organic manure is added. Organic manures, especially those rich in decayed vegetable matter, put back into the soil almost the same foods as the plants took from it. They are in some­what the same ratio to one another, too. Chemical fertilizers often hasten the deterioration by breaking down the humus and not replacing it.

When an area has grown a certain type of crop for several years, and is found to be able to produce good growth of that particular crop no longer, it is said to be "crop-sick". It will occur in any soil despite the regular use of even the best and most varied manures. It seems to be a complex problem, in­volving more than depletion of one or more elements. The good gardener who grows mostly annuals and herbaceous plants, which can be moved frequently without harm, recog-nizes this fact and rotates his crops from area to area, year by year.

Frequent crop-rotation is not possible in a rose garden, for it is always hoped that each rose plant will not need to be moved or discarded for many years. The soil round each rose will be fed from by the plant in its own selective manner all through those years. When eventually the plant is discarded, that small area of soil must inevitably be crop-sick for roses. It will produce lush growth in other plants, but a new rose plant will fail unless a few barrow-loads of the old soil are replaced by virgin topsoil.

After replacements of this kind have been made several times and the bed is fifteen or more years old, the problem becomes more serious, and something needs to be done to the bed as a whole. The ideal is to take out all the plants and the soil of such a bed to a depth of twelve inches, cart it away and replace it with good, heavy, loamy, virgin topsoil. A heavy dressing of bone-meal then should be dug in thoroughly by several turnings. This could all be done in late April after the main autumn blooming. All digging should be completed by late June, and fresh roses could be planted in late July. Such treatment is costly and laborious in large beds, neces­sitating the finding of other methods.

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