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Agriculture For Beginners

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Farming On Dry Lands


Under usual conditions no farmer expects to grow live stock successfully
and economically without setting apart a large part of his land for the
growth of mowing and pasture crops. Therefore to the grower of stock the
management of grass crops is all-important.

In planting either for a meadow or for a pasture, the farmer should mix
different varieties of grass seeds. Nature mixes them when she plants,
and Nature is always a trustworthy teacher.

In planting for a pasture the aim should be to sow such seeds as will
give green grass from early spring to latest fall. In seeding for a
meadow such varieties should be sowed together as ripen about the same

Even in those sections of the country where it grows sparingly and where
it is easily crowded out, clover should be mixed with all grasses sowed,
for it leaves in the soil a wealth of plant food for the grasses coming
after it to feed on. Nearly every part of our country has some clover
that experience shows to be exactly suited to its soil and climate.
Study these clovers carefully and mix them with your grass seed.

The reason for mixing clover and grass is at once seen. The true
grasses, so far as science now shows, get all their nitrogen from the
soil; hence they more or less exhaust the soil. But, as several times
explained in this book, the clovers are legumes, and all legumes are
able by means of the bacteria that live on their roots to use the free
nitrogen of the air. Hence without cost to the farmer these clovers help
the soil to feed their neighbors, the true grasses. For this reason some
light perennial legume should always be added to grass seed.

It is not possible for grasses to do well in a soil that is full of
weeds. For this reason it is always best to sow grass in fields from
which cultivated crops have just been taken. Soil which is to have grass
sowed in it should have its particles pressed together. The small grass
seeds cannot take root and grow well in land that has just been plowed
and which, consequently, has its particles loose and comparatively far
apart. On the other hand, land from which a crop of corn or cotton has
just been harvested is in a compact condition. The soil particles are
pressed well together. Such land when mellowed by harrowing makes a
splendid bed for grass seeds. A firm soil draws moisture up to the
seeds, while a mellow soil acts as a blanket to keep moisture from
wasting into the air, and at the same time allows the heated air to
circulate in the soil.

In case land has to be plowed for grass-seeding, the plowing should be
done as far as possible in advance of the seeding. Then the plowed land
should be harrowed several times to get the land in a soft, mellow

If the seed-bed be carefully prepared, little work on the ground is
necessary after the seeds are sowed. One light harrowing is sufficient
to cover the broadcast seeds. This harrowing should always be done as
soon as the seeds are scattered, for if there be moisture in the soil
the tiny seeds will soon sprout, and if the harrowing be done after
germination is somewhat advanced, the tender grass plants will be

There are many kinds of pasture and meadow grasses. In New England,
timothy, red clover, and redtop are generally used for the mowing crop.
For permanent pasture, in addition to those mentioned, there should be
added white clover and either Kentucky or Canadian blue grass. In the
Southern states a good meadow or pasture can be made of orchard grass,
red clover, and redtop. For a permanent pasture in the South, Japan
clover, Bermuda, and such other local grasses as have been found to
adapt themselves readily to the climate should be added. In the Middle
States temporary meadows and pastures are generally made of timothy and
red clover, while for permanent pastures white clover and blue grass
thrive well. In the more western states the grasses previously suggested
are readily at home. Alfalfa is proving its adaptability to nearly all
sections and climates, and is in many respects the most promising grass
crop of America.

It hardly ever pays to pasture meadows, except slightly, the first
season, and then only when the soil is dry. It is also poor policy to
pasture any kind of grass land early in the spring when the soil is wet,
because the tramping of animals crushes and destroys the crowns of the
plants. After the first year the sward becomes thicker and tougher, and
the grass is not at all injured if it is grazed wisely.

The first crop of the season is being cut and stored for winter]

The state of maturity at which grass should be harvested to make hay of
the best quality varies somewhat with the different grasses and with the
use which is to be made of the hay. Generally speaking, it is a good
rule to cut grass for hay just as it is beginning to bloom or just after
the bloom has fallen. All grasses become less palatable to stock as they
mature and form seed. If grass be allowed to go to seed, most of the
nutrition in the stalk is used to form the seed.

Hence a good deal of food is lost by waiting to cut hay until the seeds
are formed.

Pasture lands and meadow lands are often greatly improved by replowing
and harrowing in order to break up the turf that forms and to admit air
more freely into the soil. The plant-roots that are destroyed by the
plowing or harrowing make quickly available plant food by their decay,
and the physical improvement of the soil leads to a thicker and better
stand. In the older sections of the country commercial fertilizer can be
used to advantage in producing hay and pasturage. If, however, clover
has just been grown on grass land or if it is growing well with the
grass, there is no need to add nitrogen. If the grass seems to lack
sufficient nourishment, add phosphoric acid and potash. However, grass
not grown in company with clover often needs dried blood, nitrate of
soda, or some other nitrogen-supplying agent. Of course it is understood
that no better fertilizer can be applied to grass than barnyard manure.

Next: Legumes

Previous: The Farm Garden

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