Meadow, generally signifies pasture, or grass land, that is annually mown for hay ; but it more particularly denotes such traces of ground as are too low, and too moist for cattle to graze on them during the winter, without injuring the sward.
The best lands for meadow are those situated on a gentle declivity, so as to be irrigated at pleasure, and which at the same time possess a rich soil and moist bottom, especially if it be in the vicinity of a brook, or small running stream.— see Irrigation.
Great Britain and Ireland are reputed to possess the most verdant pastures, and the finest natural grasses, in the vegetable creation : these advantages, however, do not appear to meet with that attention which they deserve. Lately, indeed, the cultivation of grasses has been a favourite pursuit among experimental farmers and freeholders ; but, as the tenantry, in general, are bound to follow a certain rotation of crops, without having the power of breaking up old and unproductive meadows, extensive improvements cannot be expected, while such limitations prevail.—We have cursorily mentioned these obstacles to national prosperity; because they would require a more ample investigation than is compatible with our limits.
The first requisite towards obtaining a good meadow is, a perfect acquaintance with the best natural grasses, their peculiar soils, and the est mode of collecting their seeds: the most valuable are those of the northern and eastern parts of England. But, as comparatively few have an opportunity of procuring such seeds, the only method that can be pursued with hopes of success, appears to be that of selecting those grasses, which thrive luxuri-antly on a similar soil; and to gather the ripe seed from a productive old meadow.
On lands intended for pasture, and especially for sheep, it is advisable to sow three kinds of vegetables, with a view to gain the advantage of successive growth. Thus, Mr. Parkinson sows four bushels of the seed of ray-grass, or red darnel (Lolium perenne, L' 10 lbs. of trefoil seed (more properly common clover, Trlfollium pralense, L.); and a similar quantity of white clover (T. repens, L;) He is is of opinion that the ray-grass should be grazed early, while the white clover is still concealed in the ground, and the trefoil, or common clover, is just appearing ; that,when the darnel is eaten down, the common clover will spring up, and afford excellent food for sheep ; after which the white clover will appear; and, when the latter is consumed, the ray-grass again grows, and supplies pasturage during the winter months, if the weather prove tolerably mild. Hence this truly " experienced farmer" maintains, that one-third more in number of sheep, at least, may be thus supported than by any other method. In order to form a meadow, far superior to the generality of artificial pastures, Mr. Curtis recommends six kinds of grass, and two of clover, to be sown broad-east. The seeds are to be mixed together in the following proportions, viz.
Meadow Fescue-grass : Festuca pratensis, - 4parts
Meadow Fox-tail-grass:Alopecarus pratensis, 4
Smooth Stalked Meadow-grass : Poa pratensis, Rougbish M adow-grass : Poa trivialis, Crested Dog's-tail-grass : Cynnsurus Cristatus, Sweet-scented Spring-grass : Anthoxanthum odoratum, White or Dutch Clover : Trifolium repens, Common or Red Clover : Trifolium pratense,
These are to be mixed together, and about three bushels of them sown on an acre, in rows, so that they may be more conveniently hoed; in consequence of which they will vegetate with greater luxuriance. Towards the end of August, or early in September, it will be necessary to weed and thin the grasses occasionally, and also to roll them in the spring ; an operation by which such roots as may have been raised by the frost, will be pressed into the ground. Mr. Curtis is farther of opinion, that the meadow fox-tail, and roughish meadow-grasses, are best adapted to moist soils ; the smooth-stalked meadow and crested dog's-tail, to dry pastures ; and lastly, that the meadow-fescue and sweet-scented spring-grasses will suit land, which is either moist or moderately dry.
If the soil be previously cleared from all noxious weeds and plants, the above-specified combination of grasses will, in the course of two years, form a most excellent meadow. But, in case it be required to seed a piece of land immediately, and the valuable grasses before mentioned cannot be procured, it has been recommended (" New Former's Calendar," p. 440, 2d edit. 8vo. Symonds, etc. 1801) to sow the following seeds, which are easily attainable; viz. Broad clover (a variety of the common clover), or cow-grass; white clover, trefoil, ray-grass, and, if the soil be sufficiently dry, burnet. On clean tilth, they will, in. a few years, present a good meadow; as the clover and ray-grass, in the first or second year, produce an ample swathe for mowing : next, they will be succeeded by a luxuriant crop of the white clover and trefoil, united with the natural grasses of the soil.
Grass-seeds ought to be sown during moist weather, either in the summer or in autumn, after turnips, cabbages, or any other hoeing crop ; for it is absolutely necessary to prepare for them a fine and clean tilth. On the approach of winter, the young crop should be slightly covered with long stable-dung, old thatch, or even sand, earth, or any other manure. The land ought, likewise, to be occasionally cleared of the weeds, together with their roots, and the vacant spots fresh seeded.
In laying lands down for meadows, old turf must be uniformly broken up, by paring and burning, when it is to be sown with new grasses; but, such soils as have been completely exhausted by successive crops of corn, should first be laid dry and diligently cleaned ; then sown with proper herbage, top-dressed, and manured for the space of two or three years; in consequence of which they will recover their former fertility.
Lastly, the operation of rolling meadows in the spring, especially such as have been irrigated, ought never to be omitted. The most proper time for this purpose is the beginning or middle of February, after the land has been laid dry for a week. Rolling prepares the grass for being cut close to the surface, when mown ; which is a circumstance of considerable importance; because the ant-hills, and other little elevations, are thus pressed closely to the ground, and many jnconveniencies will be thereby effectually removed. '