Fortunately, this most useful plant will grow in a
considerable variety of soils, though, of course, not equally well.
Highest in general suitability, probably, are clay loams underlaid with
a moderately porous clay subsoil. They should at the same time be moist
well stored with humus. On such a soil, in a climate with sufficient rainfall and properly distributed, a stand of clover should be looked upon as reasonably certain any season when properly sown. It would also be correct to say that on the volcanic soils of the mountain States in the West, clover will grow equally well when supplied with moisture, and in these it is also very tenacious of life. Next in adaptation are what may be termed loam soils, also underlaid with clay. The proportion of the clay in them will exercise an important influence on the growth of the clover. Loamy sands will grow clover better than sandy loams, although both are very suitable, the other conditions being right. It would seem to be correct to assign third place to stiff clays, whether of the white or red cast. The better that these are supplied with vegetable matter, and the more moist the season, the better is the stand of the clover likely to be. In seasons that are generally favorable, excellent crops of clover may be obtained from such soils, but in dry seasons it is easy to secure a good stand of the plants. They are also considerably liable to heave in these soils in the spring of the year from the action of the frost. The more perfectly they are drained, the less will be the injury from this source, but it is scarcely possible to drain such lands so perfectly that there will be no loss of clover plants in these from the source named in the winters, characterized by frequent rains, accompanied by frequent alternations of freezing and thawing. The loss from this source in such lands varies from nothing at all to 100 per cent. Nearly, if not equal to the former, are dark loam soils with a gravel or sand drainage underneath, providing, first, that the sand and gravel do not come too near the surface, and second, that the normal rainfall is sufficient. On such soils it seldom fails to grow, is not liable to heave in the winter or spring, and usually produces excellent crops when these soils are properly tilled. It has special adaptation for being grown on calcareous or limy soils. It also, usually, grows well on soils underlaid with yellow clay of more or less tenacity. The black humus soils of the prairie vary much in their suitability for growing medium red clover. Much depends on the clay content in such soils. The more of this element in them and the nearer an underlying clay subsoil is to the surface, the better will this clover grow on them. In large areas of the prairie, red clover will grow more successfully on the subsoil when laid bare than when on the surface soil. It has been the experience in many instances that when the humus soils of the prairie, porous and spongy in character, were first tilled, clover grew on them so shyly that it was difficult to get a good stand of the same until it had been sown for several seasons successively or at intervals. Eventually, good crops were grown on these lands, and are now being grown on them. This was the experience that faced a majority of the first settlers on the prairie where excellent crops are now being grown, and it is the experience which faces many to-day, who are located on sections of the prairie but newly broken. Two reasons may be given by way of explanation, but these may not furnish all the reasons for the experience just referred to. First, much of the land was so porous in its nature that in dry seasons the young plants perished for want of moisture. As such lands become worn through cropping, they lie more firmly and compactly; hence, there is less loss of moisture through the free penetration of the soil within a short distance of the surface of the dry atmosphere. And second, the requisite bacteria is not in these soils until it is brought to them by sowing seed repeatedly, more or less of which grows, and in growing increases the bacteria in the soil until that point is reached when good crops of clover can be grown with the usual regularity. The suitability of sandy and gravelly lands for growing clover depends much on the amount of plant food which they contain, on the character of the climate, and on the subsoil. Such soils when possessed of some loam when underlaid with clay, and in a climate with 20 inches and more per annum of rainfall, usually grow good crops of clover; but when conditions the opposite prevail, the growth of this plant is precarious. However, when sandy or gravelly soils low in fertility are underlaid with the same and the rainfall is sufficient, good crops of clover may be grown if these soils are first sufficiently supplied with vegetable matter and then sufficiently fertilized. Muck soils do not seem to have the proper elements for growing clover in the best form. But when these have in them some clay, and especially when they are underlaid with clay not distant from the surface, they will grow good crops of clover, especially of the alsike variety. Thus it is that lands which have grown black ash and tamarack generally make good clover lands also. But clover will not succeed well on unreduced peaty soils, since it is not able in these to gather food supplies. But when sufficiently reduced, some kinds of clover will succeed better on these than on some other soils. Deposit soils, such as are found in the bottom lands of rivers and streams, vary much in the suitability for growing clover, owing to the great differences in the compositions; but since they are usually possessed of sufficient friability, fertility and moisture, good crops of clover may generally be grown upon them where the climatic conditions are suitable. The injury from overflow on such soils will depend on the depth of the same and its duration, also the season of the year when it occurs. Overflow in the spring season before growth has begun, or when it is about starting, will be helpful rather than harmful, especially if some deposit is left on the land by the subsiding waters. But if the overflow should be deep and of any considerable duration, and, moreover, if it should occur when the clover was somewhat advanced in growth, and in hot weather, the submergence of the clover would probably be fatal to it. It may be proper to state here that the lands which grow hardwood timber will usually grow clover. By hardwood timber is meant such trees as maple, beech, birch, oak, elm, basswood, butternut and walnut. Where forests are found comprising one or more varieties of these trees anywhere on this continent, and especially comprising several of them, the conclusion is safe that medium red clover will grow, or, at least, can be grown, on such soils. If a considerable sprinkling of pine trees is found in the same, the indications are not changed in consequence. Where the forest is largely composed of maple and birch, excellent crops of clover may be looked for when the land has been cleared. But because of what has been said, the conclusion must not be reached that clover will not grow well under some conditions where soft woods abound, but rather that where the former abound the indications of suitability for clover production are more certain than where soft timbers abound.
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