This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
In my article in the May number of the Horticulturist, on "Cultivation of Grasses," I made a few closing remarks on Lawns, and their management Since writing the article in question, I have thought something more definite might be said on the subject, to advantage.
Lawns connected with country houses will vary in extent from half an acre to several acres, as the case may be, although, in this country of "land saving," there will be very little danger of getting the lawn too large, even if it should include twenty, thirty, or forty acres in extent Where the house and farm buildings can stand near the central point of the lawn, it will be better if it has a high and commanding aspect; however, that must depend on circumstances, as the highest point on the lawn will be the best for the buildings to stand upon, whether that be upon one side or central. It will be well, where the builder is designing a new place for a residence, to select a point near or in the midst of a belt or grove of forest trees. This he will find to be a great advantage over building on an open place where he has got to wait a short life time for small trees to grow up to make shade. In such cases, however, of barren points, some trees of a large growth should be immediately transplanted about the buildings.
As to the general management of lawns, it must vary according to the size, situation, circumstances of the owner, etc. Of course the general design of a lawn is to remain in permanent grass and growing trees. And in the first place, whatever the size of the lawn, whether it be one acre or twenty, we would have but one outside fence or enclosure. All cross sections of fences have a bad look and spoils the prospect. Wire or iron fences are the most substantial, look the best, and are the cheapest for a life time, that can be built.
The laying out and preparing a lawn for seeding down to grass, requires a great deal of labor and judgment to have it well done. The land should be plowed deep, subsoiled, and well pulverized; the surface should be made smooth with a fine tooth harrow and rakes. By this, we do not mean to pull down natural hills or conical knolls, to fill up a natural valley or ravine. We should much prefer to have the land remain in its natural state as to form of surface or position. The kinds of grass seed to be sown should be a mixture of Red Top, Kentucky Blue Grass, and White Clover, sown with a liberal hand, and this to be covered with a fine tooth harrow or hand rake, and the whole surface to be made smooth by the roller.
Where lawns are only an acre or so in extent, the after-cultivation can be done by shearing, or mowing with a "lawn scythe." This tool can be had at any of the "implement stores," and in the hands of a competent man good work can be done. But mowing a swath with the ordinary scythe is one thing, and cutting or shearing with a "lawn scythe" is another business altogether. The grass should be cut once or twice a month through the growing season, and it should be cut even and alike; for it is only is this way that a close; tight sward can be obtained, and that after two or three seasons of experiment and growth. They understand this business better in England than we do, because they have done more at it-; still we can by a little practice learn enough to answer all useful purposes.
Where the lawns are several acres in extent, the practice of cutting with a scythe would be slow, laborious, and expensive. In this case, we think that the grass might be fed down by sheep. This could be done by enclosing the sheep with a cheap wire hurdle fence, to be moved over the lawn as the grass is fed down, and so after the ground is all gone over the first plat will be ready for the sheep again. Then the sheep would scatter their droppings, or manure, over the surface, and it being of such a fine quality it would be the best top-dressing the lawn could have. •
In my former article on grasses, I forgot to mention Orchard grass as being a kind of grass which is worthy the attention of persons generally for cultivation. This is one of the earliest in the season of all cultivated grasses, and for this reason it is worthy the attention of the farmer to cultivate it for early feed. In ordinary seasons it will be from four to five inches high by the 20th of May, so that cattle can get a good bite and fill themselves; and by the 10th or 15th of June it will be fit to cut for hay, as it will be in full bloom. We consider it worth more for pasture, as like clover it will grow up as often as it is fed down. The greatest difficulty is in getting a good catch of the seed when sown, as it is very apt to come up in separate tufts or patches. But where it covers the ground well it grows more rapid, and furnishes more feed in a given time than clover. Cattle like it, we think, quite as well as they do clover, and it should be fed down as often as it grows up through the season.