Sowing





The time for sowing clover seed is influenced considerably by

the climatic conditions. Under some conditions it may be sown in the

early autumn. It may be thus sown in the Southern States and with much

likelihood that a stand will be secured, yet in some instances an

inauspicious winter proves disastrous to the plants: all things

considered, it is probably safer to sow clover in the South at that

season than the spring, when vegetation is beginning to start. It may

also succeed in some instances in areas well to the North when sown in

the early autumn, providing snow covers the ground all the winter, but

should the snow fail to come the subsequent winter, or fail to lie when

it does come, the clover plants would perish. The element of hazard,

therefore, is too great in northerly areas to justify sowing the seed

thus. But on the bench lands of the mountain valleys there may be

instances in which the seed may be sown so late in the autumn that it

will not sprout before winter sets in, but lies in the soil ready to

utilize the moisture, so all important in those areas, as soon as the

earliest growth begins in the spring.



The seed may be sown with no little assurance of success in the late

summer. But this can only be done where moisture is reasonably plentiful

from the time of sowing onward, and where the winters are not really

severe. In some of the Central States this method of sowing may succeed

reasonably well. Clover and timothy sown thus without any nurse crop

will produce a full crop the next season. When the seed is sown thus, it

may, of course, be made to follow a crop grown on the land the same

season. It may also insure a crop the following season, when the clover

seed sown the spring previously may for some reason have failed.



While medium red clover is frequently sown in the South and in some

areas of the far West in the months of January and February on the snow,

in the North it is usually sown in the early spring. This also is in a

great majority of instances the best time for sowing. In many locations

it may be sown with safety as soon as the winter snows have gone. On the

whole, the earlier that it is sown in the spring the better, that the

young plants may have all the benefit possible from the moisture, which

is more abundant than later. But there are certain areas, as, for

instance, in the northerly limits of the Mississippi basin, in which

young clover plants perish by frost after they have germinated. This,

however, does not happen very frequently. When the seed is sown on the

snow, or while the ground is yet in a honeycombed condition from early

frost, it must of necessity be sown early. But where the hazard is

present that the young plants will be killed by frost, it will be safer

to defer sowing the seed until it can be covered with the harrow when

sown.



Whether it will be more advisable to sow the seed on bare ground earlier

than the season when growth begins, or to sow later and cover with the

harrow, will depend to a considerable degree upon the soil and the

condition in which it happens to be. On timber soils newly cleaned the

early sowing would be quite safe where the young plants are not liable

to be killed after germination, because of the abundance of humus in

them. On the same soils, early sowing would probably be preferable, even

when much reduced in humus, providing they were in a honeycombed

condition at the time of sowing. This condition is far more

characteristic of clay and clay loam soils, than of those sandy in

texture. To sow the seed on clay soils that are worn would be to throw

it away, unless in a most favorable season for growth. The same would

prove true of the sandy soils low in humus, since these do not honeycomb

at any season. Seed sown on honeycombed ground falls into openings made

in the soil, and is covered by the action of the frost and the sun on

the same. The rule should be to defer sowing the seed where the ground

does not honeycomb until it can be covered with the harrow.



In some instances the seed is sown successfully just after a light fall

of snow in the spring. The seed is carried down into little crevices or

fissures in the soil when these are present, but the seed should not be

thus sown. Usually it is not quite safe to sow clover seed where the

winter snow still lingers to any considerable depth, lest much of it

should be carried down to the lower lands by the sudden melting of the

snows. The chief advantage of sowing before the ground can be harrowed

arises from the benefit which the young plants derive from the plentiful

supply of moisture in the soil at that season. They are more firmly

rooted than plants sown later, and, therefore, can better withstand the

dry weather that frequently characterizes the later months of the

summer. There is also the further advantage that the labor of harrowing

at a season that is usually a busy one is dispensed with.



Various modes of sowing clover seed have been adopted. Sometimes it is

sown by hand. In other instances a sower is used which is strapped to

the shoulder and turned with a crank. Sometimes the seed is sown by a

distributor, which is wheeled over the ground on a frame resembling that

of a wheelbarrow. Again, it is sown with a seeder attachment to the

ordinary grain drill or to the broadcast seeder, and yet again with the

grain in the ordinary drill tubes, or scattered with the same by the

broadcast seeder; which of these methods should be adopted will depend

on such conditions as relate to season, climate and soil.



The seed may be sown by hand at almost any time desired, whether it is

covered or not. The advantages of hand sowing are that it may be done

under some conditions when no other method will answer as well, as, for

instance, when it is sown upon snow or upon the ground honeycombed. The

disadvantages are that it takes more time than some of the other

methods, especially when the sower only scatters the seed with one hand,

that it cannot be thus sown when the wind blows stiffly or fitfully, and

most of all, only a limited number of persons who sow seed are thus able

to sow it with complete regularity. A still time should, if possible, be

chosen for hand sowing; such a time is usually found in the early

morning. When one hand is used, the seed may be sown from a light dish

or pail or sowing-bag, but when both hands are used a sowing-box or a

sowing-sack suspended in front of the breast is necessary. Clover seed

may be sown when a considerable breeze is blowing by having a due regard

to the wind. When facing it, the cast of seed should be low; when going

before the wind it should be high. But when the wind is blowing at

right angles, much care must be observed by the sower as to where he

walks, in relation to the cast that is being sown.



When the seed is sown on grain that has been drilled, the rows of grain

will suffice to serve as a guide to the sower, and when the grain is not

up, the drill marks may be made to serve the same end.



The advantages of the hand seeder held in place by straps are that the

sowing may be done by an individual who cannot sow by hand, that the

seed may be easily distributed and that it may be used with advantage in

sowing seed among brush. The disadvantages are that it cannot be used

when much wind is stirring, and when using it stakes are sometimes

necessary for the guidance of the sower.



The advantages from using the seeder wheeled over the ground are that

the work may be done by any one able to wheel the seeder, that the seed

is distributed evenly, that it may be sown when a fairly stiff wind is

blowing, and that stakes are not necessary for the guidance of the

sower, as the distance of the cast may be gauged at least fairly well by

the wheel marks made. One disadvantage is that it cannot be used with

much satisfaction on certain soils when the ground is cloddy or frozen,

or when it is wet. There is also the disadvantage to all three methods

of sowing by hand, that it is frequently necessary to provide a covering

for the seed by subsequently using the harrow.



The advantages from sowing with the seeder attachment to the grain drill

are that the seed may be made to fall before or behind the tubes as may

be desired, or it may be sown with the seed along with the grain, and

that when sown by any of these methods there is much saving of time as

compared with sowing by hand. In some sections of the prairie the seed

is sown with the grain drill by driving the same across the newly sown

grain rows. If necessary to insure sufficiently thin sowing, the seed

should be first mixed with some substance such as common salt.



In the moist areas of the upper Atlantic coast, Ontario and the Puget

Sound region, the seed is frequently made to fall behind the grain tubes

on clay and clay loam soils, and is covered by running the roller over

the ground subsequently; but in States more inland the seed is usually

made to fall before the drill tubes, when, in some instances, the sowing

of the grain will provide a sufficient covering; but in others the

harrow is used in addition, and sometimes both the harrow and the

roller. When clover seed is sown along with grain and by the same tubes,

it will in some soils be buried too deeply, but in others the objection

does not hold good. The young plants are also injured more by shade from

the grain, since they grow only in the line of the row along with the

grain, and yet this method of sowing clover seed in some localities

seems to answer reasonably well.



When the broadcast seeder is used in sowing clover seed, time is also

saved as compared with hand sowing, but the seed can only fall before

the seeder, and must, therefore, be given the same covering as the

grain, as, when the seed is sown with the grain drill, it will in some

instances be buried too deeply. In other instances it is not so.



The depth to which the seed of medium and other clovers ought to be

buried should vary with soil and climatic conditions, and with the

season of sowing. The more stiff the soil, the more moist the climate,

and the earlier that the seed is sown, the less the covering required,

and vice versa. As has been shown, under certain conditions (see page

22), early sown clover seed does not require any covering artificially

given, and sometimes when sown later, a reasonably copious rain will

provide sufficient covering, providing it falls quite soon after the

sowing of the seed. But in certain of the soft, open, spongy soils of

the prairie, it may sometimes be buried to the depth of at least 3

inches, with apparent benefit. Lower than 5 or 6 inches in any soil,

clover seed will not germinate till brought nearer the surface. On all

soils that lift with the wind, the seed should, as a rule, be buried

deeply. Ordinarily, from half an inch to an inch, or an approximation to

these distances, is considered a proper depth to bury clover seed.



Some authorities recommend sowing medium and other clovers without any

nurse crop. The advantages claimed are that more or less of a crop may

be obtained the same season, and that a stand of clover is more certain

when the seed is sown thus. The first claim is correct in the main. In

some localities favored with long seasons for growth, as in certain

areas of Missouri, for instance, good yields may be obtained from sowing

the seed thus. This has happened even in Minnesota. But in other areas

and under other conditions, the yield would be light. In some

localities, as, for instance, the Willamette Valley, Oregon,

satisfactory returns have been obtained by sowing clover seed and rape

seed in May and then pasturing both.



The chief objections to sowing clover seed thus are, first, that in a

great majority of instances a sufficient stand of the plants may be

obtained when the seed is sown with a nurse crop; and second, that when

it is not thus sown, the first cutting of the hay will contain more or

less of weeds. That a stand is more assured when clover seed is sown

alone in areas where adverse weather conditions prevail cannot be

disputed. Nevertheless, the fact remains that whenever in order to get a

stand of a short-lived crop, like clover, it is necessary to sow it

alone, and in many instances get but little return the same season, it

will be well to consider if there is not some more satisfactory way of

securing a crop that will prove an equivalent. In northerly areas the

stubbles of the nurse crop frequently render substantial service to the

clover by holding the snow on the crop, and also by protecting it more

or less from the effect of the cold winds. The old-time practice of

sowing clover with a nurse crop is likely to be continued,

notwithstanding that it has some disadvantages.



These disadvantages include the following: 1. The young plants are

liable to be weakened by the crowding and by overmuch shading from the

grain when it grows rankly and thickly, and to such an extent that they

perish; 2. When the grain lodges, as it frequently does, on rich



ground, the clover plants underneath the lodged portions succumb from

want of light; 3. Where the supply of moisture is low, in the struggle

for the same between the stronger plants of the nurse crop and the

weaker plants of the clover, the former secures the larger share. As a

result, when the nurse crop is harvested, should the weather prove hot

and dry beyond a certain degree, the clover plants will die. This is an

experience not at all uncommon on the loose prairie soils of the upper

Mississippi basin.



Injury from crowding and overshading may be prevented, or at least

lessened, by pasturing the nurse crop with sheep for a time, at an early

stage in its growth. The lodging of the grain may also be prevented by

the same means. Injury from drought may also be lessened by cutting the

crop at the proper stage of advancement, and making it into hay, as in

the ripening stage of growth it draws most heavily on the moisture in

the soil. The oat crop is the most suitable for being thus dealt with.



Clover seed may be sown with any of the small cereal grains as a nurse

crop, but not with equal advantage. Rye, barley, wheat and oats are

probably suitable in the order named. Rye shades less than wheat and

oats and is harvested early; hence, its suitability for a nurse crop.

Winter rye and winter wheat are more suitable than spring varieties of

the same, since, on these the crop may usually be sown earlier, and the

soil is likely to lose less moisture from surface evaporation. The

marked suitability of barley as a nurse crop arises chiefly from the

short period which it occupies the ground. Nor is the shade so dense as

from grains that grow taller. Oats are the least suitable of all the

crops named as a nurse crop, since they are characterized by a dense

growth of leaves, which shut out the sunlight too much when the growth

is rank. Notwithstanding, the oat crop may well serve such an end when

sown thinly and cut for hay. Mixed grains grown together, as, for

instance, wheat and oats, or a mixture of the three, answer quite as

well for a nurse crop as clover and oats. The objection to them for such

use arises from the fact that they are frequently sown more thickly than

grain sown alone.



Clover may also be sown with flax or millet or mixed grains grown to

provide soiling food. When the weather is moist, it is likely to succeed

well with flax, as the latter does not form so dense a shade when it is

growing as some other crops. But flax is usually sown so much later than

these crops, that in some climates the dry weather following injures and

in some instances destroys the young plants. The dense shade furnished

by millet is also detrimental to the clover plants; nevertheless, owing

to the short period which the former occupies the ground, under

favorable conditions a stand of clover may be secured. But since millet

is sown later than flax, it frequently happens that there is not

sufficient moisture in the soil to sustain both crops. Mixed grains sown

as soiling food are usually sown reasonably early, and as they are cut

before maturity, the danger is so far lessened that the young plants

will perish from want of moisture, but since these crops are usually

grown thickly and on rich land, owing to the dense character of the

growth, the plants are much more likely to be injured by the dense shade

thus provided.



Clover seed may also be sown with corn and certain other crops that are

usually grazed down, as rape and mixed grains. When sown with corn, the

seed is usually scattered over the ground just before the last

cultivation given to the corn. Attention is now being given to the

introduction of cultivators which scatter such seeds as clover and rape

in front of them, and so preclude the necessity for hand sowing. From

Central Ohio southward, this method of securing a stand of clover will

succeed in corn-growing areas, the other conditions being right. North

from the areas named, the young clover plants may be winter killed when

the seed is sown thus. The less dense the shade furnished by the corn,

and the less dry the weather subsequently to sowing the seed, the better

will be the stand of the plants secured.



When sown with rape that has been broadcast, clover usually makes a good

stand, providing the rape crop is not sown too late in the season. When

the rape is grazed down, the grazing does not appear to materially

injure the clover, and when the shade has been removed by such grazing,

the clover plants may be expected to make a vigorous growth on such

land. In northerly areas, clover seed may be sown along with rape seed

as late as the end of May. If sown later than that time, the season may

prove too short subsequently to the grazing of the rape to allow the

plants to gather sufficient strength to carry them safely through

northern winters. When clover seed is sown with rape, the seeds may be

mixed and sown together.



Clover seed in several of the varieties may be successfully sown on

certain grain crops grown to provide grazing, especially when these are

sown early. Such pastures may consist of any one of the small cereal

grains, or more than one, or of all of them.



The seed may be sown in these the same as with any crop sown to furnish

grain. A stand of clover may thus be secured under some conditions in

which the clover would perish if sown along with the grain to be

harvested; under other conditions it would not succeed so well. The

former include soils so open as to readily lose moisture by surface

evaporation. The tramping of the animals on these increases their power

to hold moisture, the grazing down of the grain lessens its demands upon

the same, thus leaving more for the clover plants, and they are further

strengthened by the freer access of sunlight. The latter include firm,

stiff clays in rainy climates. To pasture these when thus sown, if moist

beyond a certain degree, would result in so impacting them that the

yield of the pasture would be greatly decreased in consequence.



Medium red clover is quite frequently sown alone; that is, without

admixture with clovers or grasses. It is always sown thus when it is to

be plowed under, as green manure. It is also usually sown alone in

rotations where it is to be cropped or grazed for one year. But when

grown for meadow, which is to remain longer than one season, it is

commonly sown along with timothy. The first year after sowing, the crop

is chiefly clover, and subsequently it is chiefly timothy. Orchard grass

or tall oat grass, or both, may also be sown along with medium red

clover, since these are ready for being cut at the same time as the

clover.



When medium red clover is sown to provide pasture for periods of limited

duration, it is frequently sown along with alsike clover and timothy.

Sometimes a moderate amount of alfalfa seed is added. But in arable

soils in the semi-arid West, these will provide pastures for many years

in succession, if supplied with moisture. The same is true of much of

the land west of the Cascades, and without irrigation. East from the

Mississippi and for some distance west from it, much of the medium red

clover will disappear after being grazed for one season, but the alsike,

timothy and alfalfa will endure for a longer period.



In permanent pastures, whether few or many varieties of seed are sown,

medium red clover is usually included in the mixture. It is sown because

of the amount of the grazing which it furnishes the season after sowing,

and with the expectation that it will virtually entirely disappear in

the pastures in two or three seasons after it has been sown.



When medium red clover is sown for being plowed under as green manure,

it is always sown with a nurse crop. Some farmers, in localities well

adapted to the growth of clover, sow more or less of the medium red

variety on all, or nearly all, of the land devoted to the growth of such

cereals as rye, wheat, barley and oats, when the land is to be plowed

the autumn or spring following. Reduced quantities of seed are used.

They believe that the benefit from the young clover plants to the land

will more than pay for the cost of the seed and the sowing of the same.



The amount of seed to sow will depend on the degree of suitability in

the conditions for growing medium red clover. The more favorable these

are, the less the necessity for using maximum quantities of seed, and

vice versa. More seed is required when the clover is not grown with

other grasses or clovers than when it is grown with these. When grown

without admixture, 16 pounds of seed per acre may be named as the

maximum quantity to sow and 8 pounds as the minimum, with 12 pounds as

an average. With all the conditions quite favorable, 10 pounds should

suffice. In New England and some of the Atlantic States, many growers

sow much more seed than the quantities named, and it may be that the

necessities of the land call for more. In Great Britain also,

considerably larger quantities are sown.



When sown in grass or clover mixtures, the amount of the seed required

will vary with the other factors of the mixture, and the amount of each

that is sown; that is, with the character of the hay or pasture that is

sought. The seed is much more frequently sown with timothy than with any

other kind of grass, and the average amount of each of these to sow per

acre may be put at 8 pounds of clover and 6 pounds of timothy. When

other clovers are added, as the mammoth or the alsike, for every pound

of the seed of the former added, the seed of the medium red may be

reduced by one pound, and for every pound of the alsike added it may be

reduced by 1-1/2 pounds. In mixtures for permanent pastures, 6 pounds

may be fixed upon as the maximum quantity of medium red clover seed to

sow, and 3 pounds as the average quantity. When sown to provide green

manure, maximum quantities of seed are used when it is desired to

improve the soil quickly. Usually not less than 12 pounds per acre are

sown, and quite frequently more. But when the gradual improvement of the

land is sought, by sowing the seed on all land devoted to the small

cereal grains, not more than 6 pounds per acre are used, and frequently

even less than 4 pounds. The greater the hazard to the plants in sowing

the seed thus, the less the quantities of the seed that are usually

sown, with a view to reduce the loss in case of failure to secure a

stand of the clover.



A stand of medium red clover is sometimes secured by what may be termed

self-sowing. For instance, where clover has been cut for hay and then

allowed to mature even but a portion of the seed before being plowed

under the same autumn, the seed thus buried remains in the ground

without sprouting. When the land is again plowed to the same depth and

sown with some kind of grain, the clover seed thus brought to the

surface will germinate. If the plowing last referred to is done in the

autumn, it ought to be done late rather than early, lest the seed

should sprout in the autumn and perish in the winter, or be destroyed by

the cultivation given in sowing the grain crop that follows. The same

result may be obtained from clover pastured after the first cutting for

the season, when the pasturing is not close.



When medium red clover is much grown for seed, many of the ripe heads

are not cut by the mower, since they lie near the ground, and many break

off in the curing process. The seed thus becomes so distributed in the

ground, that many plants come up and grow amid the grain every season.

These may, of course, be grazed or plowed under for the enrichment of

the land, as desired. Seed thus buried is, therefore, not lost by any

means. The plants which grow will render much assistance in keeping the

land in a good condition of tilth, as well as in enhancing its

fertility.



When clover seed is much grown, therefore, on any piece of land, the

quantity of seed sown may be reduced materially. In fact, it may be so

much reduced that it has been found possible to grow clover in rotation

for many years without adding seed. The first growth of the clover was

taken as hay, and the second growth as seed. The ground was then plowed

and a crop of corn was taken. The corn land was then plowed and sown

with some cereal, such as wheat, oats or barley.





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