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fourteen or eighteen days in advance. The land in such cases is harrowed down fine and left in this condition, Bo that the seeds of any weeds may make a growth, which will be destroyed when the surface is moved in the sowing of the turnipseed.
Respecting the cleanness of the land and its friable condition as a preparation for these crops, there will be scarcely any difference of opinion; but as regards the moisture of the land there will be considerable diversity observable: whilst some cultivators endeavor to get their soils as dry as possible, others regulate their proceedings so as best to preserve the moisture in the soil. Thus, in the practice just mentioned of working the land fine and leaving it undisturbed for a time, so that the seeds of weeds may sprout, some would plow the land up and let it dry for the reception of the seed, whilst others will be equally particular not to move it farther than by harrowing the surface, for fear of drying it.
It is not only in this particular instance that there is such contradictory practice, but it pervades all the preparation immediately preceding the sowing of the seed. I have had a fair share of experience in the growth of turnips and swedes, and have always found the dry seed-bed to be decidedly preferable. The cause is not difficult of explanation. When seed is deposited in a soil which has been properly cultivated, and there is a moderate degree of moisture, it speedily germinates. The hot weather which we are accustomed to have at this time causes a rapid growth, and the young plant quickly appears above the surface; but the warmth which has thus far been productive of apparently good results has probably by this time robbed the soil of so much of its moisture that the supplies to the plant decrease at the most critical time of its existence, and unless rain falls the crop is lost; or if the turnip-beetle should commence an attack there is but little hope of the plant gaining the mastery. The case is very different when the seed is deposited in a dry soil: there it lies uninjured, waiting for rain, and does not begin to germinate until it gets it. The rains in June generally afford a tolerably liberal allowance of water when they do come, quite sufficient to carry the seed well through its first stages of growth, until it has a rough leaf and a strong root. The delay is immaterial as regards time, but not so as regards the safety of the crop. If the seed does germinate during those intervals of dry weather, its existence is really dependent upon a timely supply of rain; but so long as growth has not commenced no fear need be entertained for the crop. Dryness at the time of sowing becomes of greater importance as the land gets lighter in its nature and more easily dried by the heat of the sun.
The quantity of seed sown to the acre varies from 2 to 6 lbs., according to circumstances. One very frequent cause of failure is mixed seed, of which only a portion will grow. This is easily detected by growing a given number of seeds in a pan. When the seed is of good quality, an allowance of 4 lbs. per acre is ample, but not excessive; indeed, I consider that the lisks which the plant runs in its early days render a decrease in the quantity of seed very poor economy, and this becomes evident when we consider how large an outlay is dependent upon the safety of the plant. A. liberal supply of good seed gives a far better cbance for some to escape the turnip-beetle, because, unless it is a very wet season, it is more than probable that the seed will not all germinate at one time, and for this reason patience often does as much good a3 a second sowing of seed.
The drill is the best implement for turnip-sowing, and if artificial manure is applied at the same time, as is very desirable, the arrangement of our best drills for getting a layer of earth between the see i and manure is very important.
The ravages of the turnip beetle render dibbling quite unsafe. The seed grows most satisfactorily when deposited about half or three quarters of an inch beneath the surface: this is shallow enough for a safe growth without causing any unnecessary delay. After the seed has been sown, harrowing once is sufficient to leave the land in proper order, but rolling should in general be avoided. There is a greater variety of opinion as to the time of sowing swedes than any other root crop. Early sowing, which is favorable—I might say, essential—for some districts, is altogether unsuited to others. Thus, from early in May to the middle of July, swedes are being sown according to local opinions. The principal cause of this is the mildew, which the swedes suffer from'if their growth experiences a sudden check; but, whilst local peculiarities do exist and exert their influence upon the time of sowing, yet I am bound to say that as the system of cultivation is improved and the land is more thoroughly worked, the sowings may be made at an earlier date with far greater safety.
Mangold- Wurztl.—Th;s root is better adapted for strong soils than the swede, and possesses greater powers of growth through a retentive soil than any of our root-crops. The looseness and friability of soil, which were necessary for the turnip and swede, are not necessary in this case except in a very reduced degree, and for this reason a course of preparation answers very well for the mangold which would not do for any other root. There are two modes of preparing for this crop. The one is a complete autumn preparation, so that the dung is plowed in and the land ridged-up for the seed before winter, whilst the other leaves the application of the manure and the tillage of the land to be finished in the spring. Each of these plans has its respective advantages.
The nutumn preparation influences the mechanical condition of the land by exposing the surface of the land to the winter frosts, whereby it is crumbled into a fine and loose seed-bed, whilst the manure beneath prevents the soil from becoming too consolidated, with the additional advantage that you are ready to sow in good lime, and can insure that the land shall be in good condition for the seed even when other ground cannot be touched. The surface-soil, which the winter has brought into such good order, generally retains its character, unless it is worked by some implement which smears and glazes the surface, but this must be carefully avoided. This autumn preparation is easily completed in unfavorable seasons by dibbling the seed by hand. If the spring weather is unpropitious, there is great difficulty in then completing the necessary preparations for sowing in good season, and especially in securing a nice fine covering for the seed, which is not the less essential, because at a later stage the roots luxuriate in a strong soil, such as cannot always be brought to a fine tilth by spring culture. On such soils this is often a great difficulty.
Early sowing is of great importance for this crop. The usual season is from the middle of April to the middle of May, and for the heavy crops we must not trust to late sowings. The growth of the seed may be promoted by steeping it in water for a few hours before it is planted. This will soften the skin and render germination more rapid. After this has been done, it should be kept moist until it be placed in the soil, and then be lightly covered by fine soil to the depth of from half to three-quarters of an inch. It is usual to run a light roller over the surface after the seed is sown, unlt ss the soil is too moist to allow it to be done. The best mode of sowing the seed is by means of the hand-dibble, especially in the case of strong land, upon which it often enables an early sowing to be secured, when waiting for the drill would have made it late.
Carrots and Parsnips.—A deeply-cultivated soil is necessary for each of these roots, but they differ in the soils for which they are best adapted. The carrot flourishes best in a very loose and friable soil: the parsnip prefers stronger land, and can be successfully grown on soils which are too stiff for carrots. 'J he best mode of cultivating them is after another root crop, as they require the land to be kept very free from weeds during their growth. When they follow a corn-crop particular care must be taken to have the land well cleaned in the autumn, and plowed (if possible subsoiled also) before the winter. Thus the labor in the spring will be brought within moderate limits for securing that condition of soil which these crops require, viz., a deep and thoroughly-cultivated soil, with a fine surface; when this has been obtained we may consider that we have completed the necessary preparation.
Carrots should be sown early in April, and the parsnips early in March; for producing heavy crops the seeds must be sown in good time. The progress of the parsnip and carrot may be much favored by mixing the seed with some damp sand a few days before it is to be sown, and laying it out shallow in a warm room. When this is not done, the carrot-seeds need other preparation, because they cling together so much; a good rubbing between the hands, followed by the admixture of as much as three bushels of ashes to the acre, is probably the best means for favoring its distribution on the land. When this precaution is taken, the seed can be very easily drilled, and this is by far the more frequent mode of sowing both these crops; but many prefer sowing both carrots and parsnips by hand, especially after germination has been encouraged. It is a very good plan to mix some corn with the seed, so as to indicate its position for the early guidance of the horse-hoe.
The seed is usually sown in drills, from 12 to 18 inches apart; and about 6 lbs. of seed per acre gives a sufficiently thick plant. It should not be buried more than three quarters of an inch from the surface. When the sowing is completed, the land should be lightly harrowed, if corn has been mixed with the seed, but otherwise it will be better to roll the grour d, so as not to destroy the drill-marks; but, if the land be at all adhesive, a light harrowing is preferable.
Rape or Cole.—The general requirements of this crop are similar to those of the turnip, and need not be repeated; but I may add to former remarks that the peculiar characteristics of some of our soils which are favorable for growth of rape, but not of turnips, arise from their composition rather than from their mechanical condition. The preparation necessary in each case is the same ; but the time of sowing extends from April to September, according to the succession of food which may be required. The rapidity of growth varies much with the climate, richness of the knd, and method of cultivation ; but the sowings in April and May will generally be ready for feeding in August and sometimes in July, whilst the August and September sowings come in for spring use. As the principal demand for rape is in S'ptember and October, the corresponding seed-time is June and July; still the influence of climate will often render the growth slower, and necessitate an earlier sowing. From 2 to 4 quarts of seed per acre will be necessary, ac:ording to the suitability of the soil and climate, care being always taken to increase the allowance of seed as circumstances become unfavorable.
Spring-feed.—The crops which are usually sown for this purpose (with one exception, which I shall subsequently notice) all require a similar preparation to be given to the land for the reception of the seed, however varied may be the soils for which they are in a special degree adapted, and however this character of the soil and the succession of food required may influence the choice of the crop. They are sown upon the corn-stubble, and the class of soils selected for their growth are generally dry and free in their nature. Their growth upon strong soils is exceptional, and never to be recommended except in dry climates. After the corn is cut the cleaning of the surface should immediately commence, and, as soon as this is done, the land should be deeply plowed (for we have to prepare for the succeeding root-crop as well as for the present one); after it has lain a few days the sowing of the earliest spring-feed may take place. Nothing further, besides rolling, will be required before the seed is sown, for these soils are not difficult of cultivation. Rye is one of the earliest crops for spring-food, and usually forms the first sowing. It is generally sown broadcast, at the rate of 4 bushels to the acre. The next sowing will be rye and vetches, or else winter-oats and vetches mixed. For these the same preparation will be necessary. The usual allowance is 1 bushel of rye or oats and 3 bushels of vetches per acre, either sown broadcast or by the drill: thick sowing is always advisable for spring-crops. For these crops rather stronger land may be selected than for the rye, and they are also more likely to receive manure, as they require more nourishment from the land, and, if so, the roller will be necessary.
The sowings will be commenced in September, and continued at intervals to the end of October. Vetches may be sown about the middle of October, without any mixture; but they will not be ready for use as quickly as the mixed seeds. In these cases rolling will be found advisable, especially when the soil is not covered with a fine mould, which is very necessary for the growth of these seeds. It is also desirable, after the use of the drag, to give some pressure to the soil, as they do not thrive well when the ground is too loose; with rye this is not so material 312
as with vetches. A dry time should be selected for sowing the seed, and after this the land should be left harrowed and not rolled.
French Clover or Trifoliutn.—This plant is somewhat peculiar from the excessive firmness of soil required for its successful growth. It is usually sown after a corn-crop, and, for its culture, a clean stubble should be selected upon land which is tolerably stiff. If this is twice harrowed it will produce soil enough to' cover the seed, and this seems to be all that is requisite except a light rolling. This may appear to be a slovenly mode of farming; but it is decidedly the best plan, for, when the stubble is pared and the land cleaned, and especially if it should be plowed, the trifolium will not thrive so well. As regards the appearance of the stubble, provided a clean stubble be chosen, no doubt need be entertained that successful practice will justify from every charge of neglect, when in the spring the stubble disappears amidst the luxuriant growth of the clover. About 20 lbs. sown broadcast will be found a sufficient quantity of seed to the acre. When the soil has been loosened more than by moderate harrowing, the roller must precede the sowing, otherwise much of it will run down into the soil too deeply for germination, and a thin plant will be the consequence.
I have thus noticed the special requirements of each of our principal agricultural crops, so far as regards the mechanical condition of the land, and other circumstances connected with the successful germination of seed. So far as my limits have allowed me, I have endeavored to show the chief variations in practice; but it must be remarked that local peculiarities of soil and climate will occasion exceptions from these general rules in minor points of management, which are still of the greatest importance for obtaining a successful growth. I do not, therefore, pretend to say that the conditions named will be invariably applicable; but, from a rather extended experience, I have reason to consider that they represent the most successful systems of management.
Queen's College, Birmingham.
[Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England.