ORCHARD GRASS. 59
Agricultural value: Orchard Grass is no doubt one of the best fodder grasses and is highly esteemed by farmers. It thrives remarkably well in almost any kind of soil, provided_it is not too wet; it is very resistant to drought.
It is rather slow in getting established. The first year the plants are small and poor-looking, consisting chiefly of leafy shoots from the short rootstock. The second year the shoots appear in greater number and flowering stems arise in their midst, but it is only from the third year that its high yielding power is manifest. If slow to reach full development, when once established it keeps on giving a heavy yield for many years. It is an early grass and ready to cut before Timothy. For this reason it is better sown with Red Clover.
Orchard Grass is scarcely surpassed in feeding value, provided that it is cut at the right time. Its nutritive quality is highest and its yield heaviest if cut when in bloom, or even a little earlier. It becomes woody after flowering is over and loses its feeding value. It recovers quickly after cutting, the numerous leafy shoots furnishing an excellent pasture for horses and cattle. The second growth, however, should not be allowed to develop too far as it loses its palatability with age. There is little danger from pasturing too close except in an extremely dry season; on the contrary, close pasturing prevents the plants from getting coarse and woody.
If given sufficient space and nourishment, its short rootstock causes Orchard Grass to develop into dense tufts. This is an undesirable quality that should be suppressed, either by comparatively heavy seeding or by sowing it with other forage plants. In either case the tuft formation will be less marked and a grass of finer texture and of superior quality will be obtained. When sown with other forage plants, only varieties which reach maturity at the same time, such as early Red Clover, Tall Oat Grass and Meadow Fescue, should be chosen. When seeded alone for hay or pasture, twenty-eight to thirty pounds of good seed should be used to the acre; a little less for seed production.
Seed growing: When grown for seed, the same field can be harvested for five or six years, the greatest yield being obtained the third and fourth seasons. The yielding power is considerably in-creased if the field is top-dressed with manure every year. Orchard Grass is ready to cut for seed three or four weeks after it has flowered. To determine the proper time, beat some heads in the palm of the hand. If a small quantity of seed shakes out, it is ready to harvest. Cutting too early means inferior quality. It can be harvested with