SEEDING TO FODDER AND PASTURE PLANTS.
The preparation of the soil prior to seeding with grasses and clovers is usually intended primarily for the benefit of the nurse crop. To get a good catch, it is important that the surface soil be of fine tilth, friable, well-drained and contain a liberal supply of decaying vegetable matter. The tender seedling plants require plenty of moisture, though they are injured by an excess. If the soil lacks humus and a hard crust is formed over its surface, growth will be stunted and the young plants will suffer from even a few hot, dry days.
Seeding to grasses and clovers should follow a cleaning crop that has had deep and thorough cultivation. The suppression of perennial weeds should precede the making of a meadow. Such a location as a clayey hillside, where the soil is apt to become hard after heavy rains, may be greatly improved by a light top-dressing of rotted stable manure, which should be incorporated with the surface soil by harrowing. On low, wet lands the best possible surface drainage should be provided, even for grasses that like abundant moisture. On the dryer prairie soils the subsoil should be packed to keep the moisture near the surface until the seedlings have grown robust.
Nurse crops are designed, in part at least, for the protection of seedling plants of grasses and clovers. When all the soil moisture does not have to be saved for the meadow, a light nurse crop screens the seedlings from the burning heat of the sun; it helps to suppress weeds until the grasses have sufficient vigour to compete with them; and it may give a return from the land while the meadow is developing. Wheat or barley is generally considered most satisfactory as a nurse crop. Oats, even with thin seeding, are later to mature and apt to make too much shade. Standing in a nurse crop, one should be able at any time during the growing season to see the young grass ten or twelve feet away. The nurse crop should be ready to harvest as soon as the grasses commence to tiller or stool out and the clovers or other legumes to develop new shoots or branches from the crown.
In districts where the rainfall is less than thirty inches, or not well distributed throughout the growing season, the nurse crop may rob the young fodder plants of necessary moisture. In some seasons a good stand of Red Clover is difficult to obtain, partly because of the lack of humus in the soil, but also because the nurse crop, frequently oats, robs the young plants of the available moisture. If