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A return from Durham — soil a loam, portions of it light, with some clay —gives as the mixture for permanent pasture per acre: — 8 p.ks. perennial rye-grass. 13 lbs. white clover. 10 “ trefoil. “ alsike. “ cow-grass. “ red clover. “ crested dog's-tail. “ cock's-foot (orchard-grass). “ sweet-scented vernal. * meadow foxtail. “ hard fescue. “smooth-stalked meadow-grass (June grass).
In Cheshire the following mixture is used per acre : —
The practice on the estates of the Earl of Powis, on stiff soils, is to sow — 4 lbs. crested dog's-tail. “ sweet vernal, “ cock's-foot. “ tall fescue. “ meadow-fescue. “rough-stalked meadow. “ meadow foxtail. “ Timothy. “ alsike clover. “ white clover, “ perennial rye-grass. “Italian rye-grass.
These mixtures are given as examples of what may be called the best practice among English farmers; and they show that much better selections are made than is common with us.
As to the time of sowing grass-seed, a very considerable change has taken place in the general practice in the last quarter of a century; and, upon the whole, there has, undoubtedly, been a very great improvement arising from it. Within the memory of many still living, the practice of spring sowing was almost universal. It resulted in far greater losses than we usually sustain now. For though there is, perhaps, no season when it can be absolutely safe from harm, we know enough of the seasons to know, that, in a series of years, we are more liable to injury from drought than from winter-killing. One year differs from another to such an extent, that we run some risk, at whatever season the sowing takes place. If any time can be called the best, we should say, as a general rule, it is from the middle of August to the middle of September; the exact time depending somewhat upon the moisture in the soil. If the month of August were excessively dry, we should wait till early in September; but if we could not sow, for any reason, till after the middle of September, we should prefer to wait till the middle of November, or just before the ground closes for the winter. In a large majority of cases, this late sowing will be successful, as the seed will not germinate so as to be injured by the winter, and will start earlier in spring than it would be possible to work the land properly to sow it in the spring.
Still there are many cases, where, from the natural moisture of the land, or for some other reason, it is more convenient to sow in the spring. In such cases, to insure success, the land must be liberally manured (unless it is naturally very rich) in order to give the seed a rapid start and a luxuriant growth, or the weeds will come in, and choke out the grass, and do great injury, if they do not absolutely destroy the crop. It is not safe, as a general rule, to sow in the spring without this manuring. Without it, the young plants will start, and grow too slowly to keep down the weeds, and to fill up so as to shade the ground, and withstand the dry and hot weather. A close, thick growth that results from liberal dressing will secure greater benefit from the dews, even in a dry time; and they will often bridge over the drought, and prevent entire destruction. It is of no use to deny that grass-seed will often do well, sometimes exceedingly well, when sown in the spring, under favorable circumstances as to soil and moisture. My point is, that, under equally favorable conditions, it will usually do better when sown in the fall, especially if sown early enough to allow the roots to form and gain a strong hold in the soil, and to send up shoots or stalks sufficient to furnish a covering and protection from the frosts of winter. With this covering or protection, either of its own growth, which acts like a mat, or a top-dressing, it will start earlier and more vigorously in spring, and yield a larger crop, than it could be expected to do without it. If the sowing takes place any time in August, it is generally safe to sow the clover at the same time, as there will be time enough for it to get firmly rooted so as to stand the winter, but, if later than that, it is better to delay sowing the clover-seed till late in March, or even till early in April, when, if the surface is dry enough to admit of it, rolling is a useful addition, as it presses the seed in, and gives it a little earlier start. Rolling also will press the earth firmly around the roots of the young grass-plants, and remedy any injury they may have received from the frosts. And here comes in the use of a simple home-made contrivance, called a “drag,” as described by Mr. Ware in my last Annual Report, to which I would call attention as an excellent substitute for the roller, that will far more than repay the cost. I do not believe it is good policy to sow grass-seed with any grain-crop. I know the practice, in some cases, is to sow grass-seed with oats, or with rye, or with barley. Barley is much better than oats or rye. If I were going to sow grasssecd with any grain-crop, I should much prefer barley. But I believe that is one of the ways in which we are robbing our grass-land, for the sake of getting a grain-crop. We want to save the fertility and strength of the soil for our grasses, and we want to turn our attention to the building-up and perfection of our grass-lands rather than our cultivated lands. If you take a crop of grain from your grass-land, you are injuring the grass to a certain extent. It may not kill it entirely; but it stands to reason that it must injure it much more seriously than is generally supposed. If you sow your grass-seed with oats in the spring, and cut your oats, say in July, or whenever they are fit to cut, and there happens to be a hot and exceptionally dry time, the chances are about even that your grass will be entirely destroyed. Here and there will be a moist piece of land that will stand that kind of treatment; but it is an exception. If grass-seed is sown in the spring, I would rather take my chance with the grass alone than with any grain sown with it. In nine cases out of ten I should get the advantage of it. Here and there may be exceptions (there are exceptions to almost all general rules, of course); but we must act on general rules. In a great many matters in reference to farming we are to take our chances, and consider how, on the whole, we shall be most likely to get the best results. The selection of seed should be made with greater care than is usually exercised, both with reference to the freshness or purity of seed and the species to cultivate. There is every reason to believe that large quantities of old seed are left over from year to year to be mixed in with new seed as it is received from first hands, and that farmers sustain great losses in consequence of this practice. It is not easy to detect this mixture. It is not necessarily fraudulent, though the result to the farmer is often as bad as if it were. The length of time which seeds retain their vitality differs considerably. The seeds of some plants retain their vitality longer than others. Seeds so small as those of the grasses are generally comparatively short-lived. But it does not necessarily follow, that, because seed is left over one year, it has lost its vitality. I think, if it were not more than two or three years old, it would be safe to use it. But, after all, you want to know what you are buying. I know of no way to determine the vitality of seed, except by selecting a certain number, and testing them, by putting them in conditions favorable to germination; which is a very simple thing to do. If you find, for example, that seventyfive or eighty out of a hundred seeds germinate, then you may infer that seventy-five or eighty per cent of that seed is good. If you select at random one hundred seeds out of a lot, no matter what the seed is, and test that hundred care.
fully, and find that fifty, sixty, eighty, or ninety of those seeds germinate, it is reasonable to infer that fifty, sixty, eighty, or ninety per cent of the seed is good, and that the balance is not. That is a very easy matter, but it requires some care; and farmers generally will not take the pains. I would, as a general rule, save a sample of the seed I had sown; and then, if there were any difficulty, I could investigate, and find out where the blame really was. It does not always follow, by any means, that, because seeds do not germinate, it is the seller's fault. The merchant may take infinite pains with his seed, be cautious when he buys, and of whom he buys; and yet the seed may not germinate well. because the farmer has not sown it properly. Seeds so small as those of the grasses must be covered very slightly. If buried too deep, they will fail to germinate; and if, as was the almost universal practice a few years ago, they are harrowed in with a tooth-harrow, a very considerable portion of the grass-seeds are buried too deeply, and will not germinate. In that case, it is the farmer's fault. To avoid that difficulty, in sowing grass-seeds, instead of using a common iron-toothed harrow, I believe it would be a great deal safer to use a common brush-harrow; but a simple wooden drag is one of the best things that I have ever used. It is cheap, and easily made. Here is a little model that Mr. Ware had last year at Worcester. The one I used six or seven years ago was like this, except that it had not that cleat on the bottom. I think that would be an improvement. This is very much like a common drag, or “stone-boat” as it is often called; only the front bevels up so as to avoid the little bunches that make uneven and bad work. It is eight feet long, made of common plank, and is three feet and a half wide, with this inclined portion about a foot wide. The one I made was, perhaps, a foot and a half longer, and bevelled up a little more than that. I always used that when sowing grass-seed. It was the next best thing to an expensive roller. A good many farmers cannot afford to buy a firstclass roller; and this was made to avoid that expense, and see if something could not be devised which should be equally good, and which any farmer could make himself. It is useful for many other purposes, and vastly better than a toothed harrow. It is sometimes advisable to go over the ground