Statistical Survey of the County of Clare, 1808

By Hely Dutton

Chapter III - Section 8

Artificial Grasses

EXCEPT by a very few spirited individuals, artificial grasses are scarcely known in the county; red clover and ray-grass are the only kinds, that are propagated; even those in small quantities, and seldom used, as they ought, for soiling in the house. Indeed, until a more enlightened period arrives, they are the only kinds I would recommend to farmers; gentlemen may, and should try every variety, that usefulness or whim has introduced. In this number, vetches for soiling in the house will be found a most useful plant, because, though they are a valuable plant on the best soils, they will thrive on those, that have been impoverished by repeated corn crops, and, if sowed thick enough, (four bushels to the acre,) they will leave the ground in the cleanest state, and sufficiently ameliorated by their shade to produce a crop of clover and ray-grass; in worn-out ground they have been tried against a fallow, and the wheat has been always better than after the fallow. They should not be cut at random, as too often is the practice with all soiling crops, but a swath cut from end to end of the field in the direction the future ridges are to run, and this mode followed in each successive cutting, by which management the clover and grass-seeds may be sown in parallelograms, without waiting, as usually practised, until the whole field is cut: there will be an advantage in thus sowing daily; the seed will be deposited in earth fresh stirred, which is a matter of no small moment in all crops, especially those sowed in dry weather. In the use of clover for soiling great waste is usually made, by delaying the cutting, until it is in flower, sometimes much later, when the stalks get hard, (this season will answer for hay, but is quite too late for soiling,) and when many of the bottom leaves are rotten, and the sap is wasted in producing that, which cattle seldom eat, unless pinched by hunger, and the greater part is often thrown on the dunghill. In feeding pigs this waste is particularly remarkable; for, instead of eating all parts of the plant, as they would do, if given in a more succulent state, they only chew it, and often sucking the juices throw it out of their mouths in dry hard pellets; on the contrary, when it is given in a young state, every particle is greedily devoured. To use this most valuable crop to the greatest advantage, the field should be divided into about thirty-two divisions, (a mathematical exactness is by no means necessary;) this allows every second cutting to be about a month old, which in good ground will be sufficiently long for the scythe, and, if the length of each cutting is added together, it will be found much greater than that cut for hay; to enjoy the full advantage of the soiling system, the first cutting must be made, when the clover is about four inches long; to many this may appear a great waste of food, but they will find the full benefit of if at the end of a month; this should be practised, even if the clover was thrown on the dunghill; it is almost needless to remark, that the ground should be well cleared from stones, and well rolled. Unless hay is scarce, or some other strong circumstance makes it necessary, soiling in the house, with this or any other green food, will be found not only more economical in its consumption, but infinitely more beneficial in its effects on the land, by the great quantity of manure that will be made, if proper care is taken to supply litter or dry turf-mould abundantly. At Dromoland, in the middle of September, I saw the second cutting of coarse grass, from plantations and wood-lawns, given to eleven working oxen and thirteen horses in the house; they had been fed for upwards of two months in this manner with what in most places is generally permitted to rot on the ground, and becomes a nuisance to any well kept place; this feeding may be very moderately valued at 8s. per month for the oxen, and 16s. for the horses, in all 29l. 12s.; a considerable quantity also of vetches, clover, Swedish and Norfolk turnips, are cultivated in a masterly style at Dromoland. White English hay-seed, holcus lanatus, is the kind very generally sowed, frequently the sweepings of the hay-lofts of inns; for few gentlemen or farmers have an idea of saving their hay-seed in their stables, all is swept out in the dung, that is not eaten by the horse in the manger. This last kind of hay-seed, if produced from clean meadows, and well cleaned before sowing, is greatly superior to the former kind, (holcus lanatus,) which is of a very inferior quality, as it not only retains the dews very long in its woolly leaves, and retards the hay-making, but, when made into hay, is soft like tow; the quantity of seed it bears is the only recommendation; even this is very easily lost in the making, unless uncommon care is taken. This is usually the first grass produced naturally in reclaimed bog, and is of use, until it gives place to a better; another kind of grass, also naturally produced in reclaimed bog, is the sweet vernal grass, (anthoxanthum odoratum,) and is of still less value. White clover is sowed only by a few gentlemen to lay down their lawns, for which purpose it is peculiarly well adapted, as in the driest weather it retains its verdure, and, if any patches should fail, it will supply the deficiency by its creeping roots.

Red and white clover succeed admirably well, when sowed with flax; the superiority of the preparation ensures a good crop, and the upright growth of the flax not only shades it from the sun, whlist in its tender state, but the pulling of the flax destroys any young annual weeds, and does no injury to the long tup-rooted clover.

Mr. O’Brien of Cratilow mowed clover twice this year, 1807, for hay, the last cutting in September; I imagine it would have been more profitably applied in soiling, especially where meadow was plenty.

Sir Edward O’Brien, Mr. Boyle Vandeleur, Mr. Colpoys, Mr. Burton of Clifden, the Rev. Frederick Blood, and Captain Palliser are amongst the few, who sow clover or any other green crop.

There has been a kind of ray-grass lately brought from England, called Pacey’s, from the farmer in Northumberland, who first collected if from amongst the common kind. It possesses the following properties: first, it requires less seed to the acre, on account of its tillering or propagating at the root more than the common kind; secondly it ripens two or three weeks earlier, and should be cut at least that much sooner; thirdly, it will sustain more stock, which should be always put on earlier than on the common, before the stems get hard, and then the harder stocked, in reason, the better; fourthly, it is known by a darker hue than the common kind in the field; two bushels to the acre will be sufficient.

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