This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
Though it is a very well known fact to those brought up in the country that a meadow differs greatly from a pasture, yet the townsman treats both alike as fields, and save at haytime rarely distinguishes them. Even those who are conversant with the country, if not intimate with the methods and practice of farming, are liable to overlook this fact, which is of the greatest importance from the botanical standpoint, as has already been pointed out under other heads.
The essential differences between them should be properly grasped, and then the difference in the flora of each will soon be appreciated.
A meadow is subjected to several different changes during the year. About March the surface is covered with a dressing of soil or manure, and in many cases basic slag is employed. This has a beneficial effect upon grass for a certain time (after which it is deleterious if continually used), but it kills off such plants as orchids.
This dressing is evenly strewn over the surface by a brush- or chain-harrow. The grass is laid between April and June or July. The meadow is then cut after the flowers have all bloomed and seeded, and the Grasses in particular are ripe. It then assumes a sere aspect till it becomes green again, but all its former diversity vanishes until late in autumn. When the new grass has become strong, often yielding a second crop in good years, it may in October or earlier be turned into pasture for the time being.
The pasture may or may not be a meadow originally. And as a rule meadows are periodically turned into pasture, and pastures are allowed to be laid to grass. But as a matter of fact, apart from this rotation, there is usually another reason for the setting aside of certain fields for pasture, and others for grazing, in addition to the general convenience of position upon a particular farm. This is due to the character of the vegetation, some fields being better suited to the one than the other. The reasons for this vary in each area owing to the difference of soil.
Pupils may be set to examine each to discover the differences. As a rule, dry ground is given up to pasturage, and moist ground to meadows, so that one has a natural division into dry pastures, often hilly, and wet meadows, generally lowland.
One feature that must not be overlooked is the greater intensity of the struggle for existence in the pasture than in the meadow, and a good deal of interesting work awaits the pupil in estimating the reasons for this, and in collecting details to explain it.