R. L. (Richard L.) Allen.

A brief compend of American agriculture online

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u inter, and is easily detected hy animals under the snow, by the little hummocks
which everywhere indent its surface. The wild rice which lines the still, shallow
waters of the streams and small inland lakes of many of the Western States, affords
nutritious forage when preen or if early cut and dried; and the grain which is pro-
duced iii'great profusion is an cxhaustlcss store to the Indians who push into the
thickest of it, and bending over the ripe heads, with two or three strokes of the
paddle on the dry stalks, rattle the grain into their light canoes. The wild ducks,
> ; eese and swans which yet frequent those waters, fatten on this grain throughout
the fall and winter.



86 AMERICAN AGRICULTURE.

15 to 25 bushels of clean seed, which is usually worth in
the market from $1.25 to $2.00 per bushel, and the stalks
and chaff that remain make a useful fodder for most kinds
of stock. It may be sown on wheat or rye in August or
September or in the spring. When sown alone or with
other grasses early in the season on a rich soil, it will pro-
duce a good crop the same year. From its late ripening it
is not advantageously mixed with clover unless upon heavy
clays which hold back the clover. We have tried it with
the northern or mammoth clover on clay, and found the
latter though mostly in full blossom, still pushing out new
branches and buds when the former was fit to cut. The
quantity of seed required per acre depends something on the
soil and its condition. Eight quarts on a fine mellow tilth
is sufficient, and is equal to 16 on a stiff clay.

THE TALL FESCUE (Festuca elatior) would appear by the
Woburn experiments to yield more nutritive matter per acre
when cut in flower than any other grass cut either in flower
or seed. This is a native of the United States, and is best
suited to a rich loam. It is not extensively cultivated in
this country.

MEADOW FESCUE (Festuca pratensis) likes a boggy soil,
bears well and produces an early grass much relished by
cattle, either green or cured as hay.

SPIKED FESCUE (F. loleacea) is adapted to a rich loam,
and produces the best of hay and pasture.

THE PURPLE FESCUE (F.rubra;) SHEEP'S FESCUE (F.
ovina ;) THE HARD FESCUE (F. duriitscula ;) THE FLOAT-
ING FESCUE (F. fluitans,) are all indigenous to this country,
and good pasture grasses.

ORCHARD OR COCK'S FOOT GRASS (Dactylis glomeratd)
is indigenous, and for good arable soils and especially for
such as are shaded, it is one of the most profitable grasses
grown. It should be cut for hay before it is ripe, as in seed-
ing it becomes coarse and hard and is less acceptable to
cattle. It is ready for the scythe with the clover, arid after
cutting, it immediately springs up and furnishes several
crops of hay or constant pasturage throughout the season.
It should be fed closely to secure a tender succulent herbage.
The seed is remarkably light, weighing only 12 or 15 Ibs.
ber bushel. Twenty to thirty Ibs. are usually sown upon
one acre ; yet ten Ibs. on finely prepared soils have been



THE GRASSES, JIEADOv 87

known to produce a good sod over the entire ground, it
flourishes from Maine to Georgia.

CALKED, MEADOW, GREEN, SIEAR OR JUNE
GRASS, the (erroneously called) BLUE GRASS op KENTI
(Poa pralensis) is highly esteemed for hay and pasture, it
is indigenous and abounds through the country, but does not
appear to roach perfection north of the valley of the Ohio.
It is seen in its glory in Kentucky and Tennessee. The
seed ripens in June and falls upon the ground, where the
succeeding rains give it vitality and it pushes out its long,
rich slender leaves, two feet in height which in autumn fall
over in thick windrows, matting the whole surface with
lucious herbage. Upon these fields which have been care-
fully protected till the other forage is exhausted, the cattle
are turned and fatten through the winter. It maintains its
freshness and nutritive properties in spite of frost and the
cattle easily reach it through the light snows which fall in
that climate. A warn), dry calcareous soil seems to be its
natural element, and it flourishes only in a rich upland.

THE ROUGHIBH MEADOW GRASS (Poa trivialis) has much
the ' ppearance of the poa pratemis, but its stalk feels rough
to the touch while the other is smooth. It has the further
difference of preferring moist or wet loams or clay. It yields
well and affords good hay and pasture.

TALL OAT GRASS (Avena elatior) is an early luxuriant
grass growing to the height sometimes of five feet. It
makes guod hay but is better suited to pasture. It flour-
ishes in a loam or clay soil.

MEADOW Fox TAIL (Alopecurus pratensis) is a highly
esteemed grass in England both for meadows and pasture.
It grows early and abundantly, and gives a large quantity of
aftermath, it is best suited to a moist soil, bog, clay or
loam. It is indigenous to the middle states.

PERENNIAL RYE GRASS (Lolium perenne) AND BIENNIAL
AND ITALIAN DITTO, are all grasses highly esteemed in
Europe, but repeated trials in this country have given no
satisfactory results. They yield indifferently with us, and
easily winter kill. Careful cultivation under favorable cir-
cumstances, may yet acclimate and render them useful
grasses.

FIORIN GRASS (Agrostis stolonifera) has been much lauded
in England of late, but has made little progress in the esti-
mation of American farmers, and probably with sufficient



88 AMERICAN AGRICULTURE.

reason. It is a diminutive grass, affording considerable
nutriment in a condensed form, and is adapted to a winter
pasture. It grows on a moist clay or boggy soil Several
of the florin family abound in this country, among which is
the squitch, couch or quick grass.

THE SWEET SCENTED VERNAL GRASS (AntJioxanthum odo-
I'atum,) is an early valuable pasture grass, which exhales that
delightful perfume, so characteristic of much of the eastern
meadow hay. It is a late as well as early grass and luxuri-
ates in a dry sandy loam. It affords two and sometimes three
crops in a single season.

RED TOP, HERDS GRASS, FOUL MEADOW, OR FINE BENT
(agrostis vulgaris,) is a hardy luxuriant grass, loving a very
moist soil, and somewhat indifferent as to its texture. The
scale of its nutritive properties is put down in the Woburn
experiments at a remarkably low rate, being less than one
fourteenth of the value per acre of timothy in the seed. We
think there must be an error in this estimate, as it grows lux-
riantly under favorable circumstances and is relished by cat-
tle ; but by observing farmers it is seldom cultivated where
the better grasses will grow.

UPRIGHT BENT GRASS, HERDS GRASS OR FOUL MEADOW
(Agroslis strictd) is similar to the foregoing, and by some is
deemed only a variety.

FLAT STALKED MEADOW OR BLUE GRASS (Poa compressa)
is an early dwarfish grass, which abounds in the middle and
northern states. It is tenacious of its foothold wherever it
intrudes. It possesses little merit as hay, but is valuable for
pasture affording as it does a close covering to the ground
and yielding much in a small compass.

AMERICAN OR SWAMP COCK'S FOOT (Dactylis cynosuroi-
des) is an indigenous swamp grass, yielding a large amount
of grass or hay of inferior quality.

RIBBON GRASS (Phalaris Americana) is the beautiful stri-
ped grass occasionally used for garden borders. It has been
highly recommended for swamps, where it o is alleged
that by transplanting, it supesrsedes all other grasses,
and affords a fine quality of hay of an appearance quite dif-
ferent from the upland growth. The writer tried several ex-
periments both with the seed and roots, on a clay marsh
without success. Its proper pabulum is probably a carbona-
ceous soil, such as is found in an alluvial swamp or peat bed.

GAMA GRASS, ( Tripsacum dactyloides,) is found growing
spontaneously on a naked sand beach in Stratford? Ct. and in



THE GRASSES, MEADOWS, ETC.

other places on our eastern coasts. It has occasionally been
much lauded, but is a coarse rough' grass at the north, and
seems not to be highly prized at the south. We have the
opinion of some intelligent men in the latter section, that it
is utterly worthless for any stock.

BERMUDA GRASS. This is considered by Mr. Spalding of
Georgia, who examined them both critically from specimens
which he raised together, as the Doub grass of India, so
much commended by Sir William Jones, and so highly
prized by the Brahmins. It is by the agriculturists of the
south deemed an invaluable grass, yielding 4 or 5 tons per
acre on good meadow. Mr. Affleck of Mississippi states the
yield of 3 cuttings at "5 to 8 tons per acre on common mead-
ow, that it loses just 50 per cent, of its weight in drying, and
is consequently the hardest grass to cut. It is the most nu-
tritive grass known, and to the river planter it is invaluable.
There is not a levee on the banks of the Mississippi which
could resist for an hour the pressure and attrition of its fear-
ful flood but for their being bound together by this grass."
It loves a warm and moist, but not wet soil.

GRAMA ("/a grama," or the "grass of grasses,") is held in^
the highest estimation by the Mexicans. It attains a medi-
um height, and is deemed the most nutritious of the natural
grasses in our south western frontier prairies, in California
and parts of Mexico. It grows on dry, hard, gravelly soils, on
side hills, the swells of the prairies, and the gentle elevations
in the rallies. The principal value is found in the numerous
seeds, which are retained in the pods with great tenacity
long after they are ripe, serving as a luxurious food for all
the granivcrous beasts and fowls of the western region.
(Dr. Lyman.)

THE BUFFALO GRASS is found intermixed with the Grama,
and seldom grows more than a few inches in height. It
forms a thick soft herbage, on which the traveller walks with
ease ; and reposes when weary, with delight. It yields a
rich sustenace to countless herds of wild cuttle, buffaloes,
deer, antelopes, &c.

TORXILLO OR SCREW GRASS. This grows in great profu-
sion in the region of the two last grasses, but is most con-
spicuous on the table lands, and between the rivers and
crooks, the tall grass of the lower levels giving place to it as
the surface ascends. It is taller than the buffalo, with broad-
er loaves. It bears a seed stock 8 or 10 inches, surrounded
by a spiral shaped pod an inch long and one fourth of an inch



90 AMERICAN AGRICULTURE.

diameter, which contains 10 or 12 round flattened seeds.-
The herbage is not relished by animals, but the ripened
seeds yield a food of great richness, on which innumerable
herds of wild cattle fatten for slaughter. Horses, mules and
most other animals and fowls subsist upon it. (Dr. Lyman.)

THE PRAIRIE GRASSES are found abundantly in the western
prairies and afford large supplies of nutritious food both as
pasturage and hay. As a general rule however, they are
coarse, and easily injured by the early frosts of autumn. *Some
of the leguminosse, or wild pea vines, which are frequently
found among them, yield the richest herbage. We are not
aware that any of these grasses have been cultivated with
success.

TUSSAC GRASS (Dactylis cespitosa) is a luxuriant salt
marsh grass, growing in large tufts, and is found in perfection
on its native soil, the Falkland islands, between 51 and 52
south, and about 8 east of the straits of Magellan. Capt.
Ross describes it as "the gold and glory of those islands.
Every animal feeds upon it with avidity, and fattens in a
short time. The blades are about 6 feet long and from 200
to 300 shoots spring from a single plant. About 4 inches of
the root eats like the mountain cabbage. It loves a rank wet
peat bog with the sea spray over it." Governor Hood of
those islands says, " to cultivate the tussac, I would recom-
mend that the seed be sown in patches, just below 7 the surface
of the ground, and at distances of about two feet apart, and
afterwards weeded out, as it grows very luxuriantly, and to
the height of six or seven feet. It should not be grazed, but
reaped or cut in bundles. If cut, it quickly shoots up ; but is
injured by grazing, particularly by pigs, who tear it up to get
at the sweet nutty root."

ARUNDO GRASS, (Arundo alopecurus.) Mr. Hooker from
the same islands says, " another grass, however, far more'abun-
dant and universally distributed over the whole country,
scarcely yields in its nutritious qualities to the tussac ; 1
mean the Arundo Alopecurus, which covers every peat bog
with a dense and rich clothing of green in summer, and a
pale yellow good hay in the winter season. This hay,
though formed by nature without being mown and dried,
keeps those cattle which have not access to the former grass
in excellent condition. No bog, however rank, seems too
bad for this plant to luxuriate in ; and as we remarked du-
ring our survey of Port William, although the soil on the
quartz districts was very unprolific in many good grasses



THE GRASSES, MEADOWS, 1 91

which flourish m the clay slate, and "-em-rally >pr;d<inn, of
the riptiou, still the Anmdo did not appear to ted

tin- change : nor did the cattle tiiil to cut down large tracts of
this pasturage."

\\ c ha\e purposely devoted some space to the description
of such new jv are indigenous to this continent, and

uhich by their superior value in their native localities would
u to commend themselves to a thorough trial in similar
Munitions elsewhere. There are doubtless others of groat
merit, which experiment hereafter, will demonstrate to be of
singular benefit to the American farmer. The subject of
grasses has been hut slightly investigated in this country in
comparison with its immense importance; and for this rea-
son, with few exceptions, we are at a loss for the true value
of the foreign and indigenous grasses to American husbandry.

As an instance of the want of a well established character
to some of our cultivated grasses, we quote the opinions of
Dr. Muhlenburgh of Pa., who has written ably on the subject,
and the late John Taylor, a distinguished agriculturist of
Virginia, both of whom place the tall oat grass (Avena elatior)
at the head of the grasses ; yet from the investigations made
at Woburn it appears among the poorest in the amount of nu-
tritive matter yielded per acre. Dr. Darlington, also of Penn-
sylvania, does not mention it but gives the following as com-
prehending " those species which are considered of chief value
in our meadows and pastures, naming them in what I consi-
der the order of their excellence. 1. Meadow or green grass,
(Poa pratensis.) 2. Timothy, (PMeum pratense.) 3. Orchard
grass, (Dactylis glomerata.) 4. Meadow fescue, (Festuca
prat crisis.) 5. Blue grass, (Poa compressa.) 6. Ray grass,
(Lolium perenne,) 7. Red top, (Agrostis mdgaris.) 8. Sweet
scented vernal grass, (Antlwxanthum odoratum.")

The sweet scented, soft grass, or holy grass, (Holcus odo-
ratus,) according to the Woburn table is next to the tall fiscue
and timothy in point of nutritive matter to the acre, when cut
in seed, and it is placed as far in advance of all others in the
value of its aftermath ; yet scarcely any other authority men-
tions it with commendation. Without relying on these ex-
periments as an unerring guide for the American farmer, we
append the table on the two following pages, as the fullest
and most correct we have on the subject, and as affording a
useful reference to some of the leading and most valuable of
the English grasses, most of which are more or less cultiva-
ted in this country.












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94 AMERICAN AGRICULTURE.

SOWING GRASS SEEDS. As a general rule grass seeds do
best when sown early in the spring, on a fine tilth or mellow
soil. If this is done while the frost is leaving the ground,
no harrowing will be necessary, as the spring rains wash
the seed into the honey-comb left by the frost, and secure to
it an early germination. They are also successfully sown
in August or September, when the fall rains will generally
give them sufficient growth to withstand the effects of the
succeeding winter, if the land be free from standing or sur-
face water. It has recently been the practice of many judi-
cious farmers, to renovate their old worn out meadows, by
giving them a coating of unfermented manure, and then turn
the sod completely over. On the surface thus plowed, a
dressing of well rotted manure or compost with ashes, is
spread and thoroughly harrowed lengthwise of the furrows.
The seed is then sown and slightly harrowed in, and the
decomposing manure and the stubble and roots of the sod
give an immediate and luxuriant growth. Grain may occupy
the land with the grass seed ; but if the latter be sown alone
and sufficiently thick, the young plants will exclude the weeds
and occupy the soil as profitably as can be done with the
grain. There is usually a great deficiency of grass seed
sown when permanent meadows or pastures are required.
The English method is to mix together and sow on a single
acre, without any grain, 4 or 5 bushels of various seeds
which are the best adapted to the purpose. A quick and
full growth rapidly covers the surface with a rich herbage,
surpassing in value that of the best natural pastures or
meadows.

LANDS THAT SHOULD BE KEPT IN PERPETUAL GRASS,
are such as are frequently under water, as salt and fresh
water meadows ; such as are liable to overflow, as the rich
bottom or interval lands upon a river bank ; heavy tena-
cious clays and mountain or steep hill side land, which is
peculiarly liable to wash from rains. The low bottom lands
generally receive one or more annual dressings from the over-
flowing waters. The fertilizing matters thus deposited are
converted into hay, and become a reliable source for increas-
ing the muck heap for other parts of the farm without deman-
ding any thing in return. The thick sward of nutricious
grasses which nature has so lavishly supplied to them, is an
effectual protection against abrasion and waste from the
overflowing water, while the crop if at any time submerged,
can receive comparatively little injury. If plowed and the



THE GRASSES, MEADOWS, ETC. 95

fine loose earth is exposed to a sweeping current, much of the
soil and all the crop may be lost.

Strong clay lands cannot be properly worked without much
labor, unless when under drained and well filled with manure;
and they seldom exist in the former condition in this country.
Yet these soils next to the fertile, self sustaining bottom
lands, are the most profitable for the various grasses. When
put into this crop, after first clearing off the native growth
of wood, the fine vegetable mold at the surface, aided by
the. magazine of supplies contained in the clay below, gives
to them the most certain and permanent growth. When
once plowed this mold is turned under and the intractable
clay takes its place on the surface; which, lacking those pecu-
liarities of color, texture and chemical composition, we have
before shown are essential to the most successful vegetation,
the grass is thin and comparatively unproductive for years.
When necessary to break up such lands, they should be
thoroughly manured, evenly laid down, and heavily seeded to
grass ; and if any deficiency of seed or growth is manifested
they should receive an addition of seed with a compost
dressing.

The injury to plowing steep side hills is sufficiently apparent,
as not only the soluble matters, but many of the finer particles
of f.he soil are washed out and carried far beyond reach.
Such lands should be kept in permanent pasture if not suita-
ble for mowing. If fed off by sheep, they drop most of
their manure on the higher points which is partially washed
down and sustains the fertility of every part. There is
still another class of lands that should not be broken up for
meadows. These are such as are filled with small stones
from the surface of which they have been cleared, but which
plowing and harrowing will again bring to it and there leave
a perpetual annoyance to the mower.

THE MEANS OF RENOVATING PERMANENT MEADOWS AND

PASTURES. The general theory adopted in regard to pas-
ture lands, is that they are manured sufficiently by the animals
feeding on them. This opinion is only partially correct.
Pastures wear out less than other lands, but when milch cows
and working animals are fed upon them* they carry off much
of the produce of the soil which is never again returned to it.
Even the wool and carcass of sheep with the ordinary escape
of the salts by the washing of the rains, \vill after a long
time, impoverish the land. How much more rapidly when
much of the manure and all the milk, which is rich in all



96 AMERICAN AGRICULTURE.

the elements of plants, is daily carried from the soil. To
such an extent have the permanent clay pastures of Cheshire,
(in England,) been impoverished, that it has been found
necessary to manure them with crushed bones, which at
once brought up their value more than 100 percent. There
is much phosphate of lime in milk, and bones which are
mostly of the same material, are the best manure that could
be used for dairy pastures. Wool contains a large proportion
of sulphur, and sulphate of lime (gypsum) becomes a proper
manure for sheep pastures ; but whatever has a tendency to
develop vegetation, will generally accomplish the object by
yielding all the needful properties. Ashes and salt are of
the highest value for pasture lands, and with the addition in
some instances, of Irme, bones and gypsum, are all that
would ever be necessary for permanent pastures. From the
peculiar action of these, instead of growing poorer, pastures
may become richer through every successive year.

Permanent meadow lands if constantly chopped without
manures, may be exhausted with much greater rapidity than
pastures though this depreciation is much more gradual than
with tillage lands. There is no greater mistake than to
suppose they will keep in condition by taking off one annual
crop only, and either pasturing the aftermath or leaving it to
decay on the ground. By recurring to the table of the ash
of plants, page 32, it will be seen that the analysis of hay
there given shows over 5 per cent., while dried clover yields
from 7 to 9 per cent, of earthy matter. Every particle of
this is essential to the success of the plant, and yet if the
land produces at the rate of 3 tons p^r acre, they are taken
off to the amount of upwards of 300 Ihs per annum. No
soils but such as are periodically flooded with enriching
waters, can long suffer such a drain with impunity. They
must be renewed with the proper manwes, or barrenness
will ensue. Ashes, lime, bones, and gypsum, (the latter
especially to to be applied to clovers, its good effects not
being so marked on the grasses,) are essential to maintain
fertility, and to insure the greatest product, animal or vege-
table manures must also be added. The proper manner of
applying manure, is by mixing in a compost and scattering it
over the surface when the grass is just, commencing a vigor-
ous growth in spring, or simultaneously with the first rains
after mowing. The growing vegetation soon buries the
manure under its thick foliage, and the refreshing showers
wash its soluble matters into the roots ; and even the gases



THE 0H I ETC, 97

that winild otherwise escape, are immediately absorbed by
leaves and stalks which every where surround it.
The loss of manure is trifling even in a state of active
decomposition, when scattered broadcast under such circum-
stances.

Pasturing Meadows. There is no objection to feeding oft"
meadows in early autumn, while the ground is dry and the
sod firm. The roots of the grass are rather benefited than
injured by the browsing and the land is improved by the drop,
pings from the cattle. But they should never be pastured in
spring. It is economy to purchase hay at any price rather



Online LibraryR. L. (Richard L.) AllenA brief compend of American agriculture → online text (page 9 of 44)