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for; and experience has shown, that the only sure preventive is to change the seed frequently
Independently of the curl, however, great failures have taken place in the potato crops within the last few years, in every part of the United Kingdom. The failure has been greater in certain districts and soils than in others, and in some places it has been confined to portions of a field only. The failure has been ascribed to the seasons, to late planting, to early lifting, to the heating of the seed, to the seed being hurt by cold, to the potato having degenerated in its vegetative powers, &c.; but all is mere conjecture, and it is satisfactory to know that the evil may, in almost all cases, be remedied by a frequent change of seed, as in the case of curl. In 1839, this disease almost entirely disappeared, and never have the potatoes been more healthy than at present, which in all probability is owing to the now almost universal practice of changing the seed annually.
There is perhaps no crop which succeeds so well, through a series of years, as the potato ; and in wet seasons, when the grain crop is poor, it is generally most abundant. The potato is deficient in the gluten which wheat possesses, and the ratio of their nutritive qualities may be considered as about four to one. The potato is nevertheless highly nutritive, and meal made from it does not differ essentially from arrowroot, tapioca, and sago. When mixed with wheat flour, it renders bread lighter, more palatable, and easier of digestion; and forms an excellent food for children, and people of weak stomachs. The finest confectionery is made from potato flour ; and in France, potato flouris manufactured in large quantities, and with the addition of wheaten flour, is made into biscuits, pastry, soup, gruel, &c., and is extensively used in the marine, the army, and the hospitals.
The manner of obtaining the flour is very simple, and the process may easily be performed in every house. The potatoes ought to be the most mealy which can be obtained, the skins should be taken off as thinly as possible, and the potatoes grated down with a
coarse grater. The pulp thus formed should then be washed through a hair sieve, as often as the water has the least colour in it. After the pulp has gone through the hair sieve, it may either be again put through a fine sieve, and then washed, or else be washed repeatedly until the flour is perfectly white. The flour must be carefully dried, either in the open air, or else in the house with a moderate degree of heat. The quantity of flour thus obtained, will depend upon the quality of the root, the mealy potatoes yielding most. Good potatoes are sometimes mixed with wheaten flour, first boiling and mashing them carefully; and in this way they form, when baked, a cheap and excellent article of food.
As potatoes, if left in the ground, are seldom found to decay, we may learn from this not to house them in barns, or gather them into large heaps; but to put them into long shallow pits, and cover them so as to protect them from frost.
The Red Clover, is a most valuable plant, and no farm, large or small, ought to be without a crop of it. By judicious management, it will give a daily supply of provender for the cattle, from the middle of May till the end of October. It will increase the quantity of milk of the cows, and add to the quantity and quality of the manure, if cut and used green; and if saved as hay, it will be found more nutritious than that which is made from the natural grass.
Clover succeeds best when sown with barley, but will answer also with wheat and oats; and it is little injured by the pasturing of sheep, or light cattle, during dry weather in winter, provided it is not eaten too close, so as to leave the roots of the plant bare, and open to the action of the frost. If it is intended for hay, it should be cut when it is in flower; you will then secure a good after-growth, which is scarcely less valuable than the hay itself, and will be ready for cutting in autumn.
The agricultural system of the Netherlands rests mainly upon the cultivation of the red clover, which is sown with every kind of grain, as well as with flax. The clover not unfrequently yields a fair crop in the first year; two, or even three abundant crops in the second year; and if allowed to stand a third year, it will yield one crop, and afterwards be excellent pasture for cattle, until ploughed in to receive wheat, which usually follows it.
It may perhaps be supposed by some persons, that the land of Flanders is naturally rich, and peculiarly adapted for the growth of clover; but this is not the case ; for the soil of that country is generally light and poor, producing in its natural state little more than heath and fern, and its present fertility has been brought about by judicious management. The top-dressings which are there applied to clover, consist chiefly of liquid manure and ashes, the effects of which are highly beneficial to the crop.
In this country, excellent crops of clover are grown on good limestone soils. It succeeds well in rich loams, which are well adapted to the growth of its long taproots. It is in fact suited to nearly all the varieties of soil; and although it loves a soil that is rather tenacious, it will yet do well on land that produces good crops of barley; such land being usually of a light sandy texture.
Clover is mostly grown with a corn crop, for which the ground will of course have received a suitable preparation. If sown at the same time with the corn, the clover seed may be put in just before the last turn of the harrow; but it is better, in sowing clover with any of the spring crops, to roll the ground after the last turn of the common harrow, then sow the clover, and cover it with the small seed-harrow : after which, pick off the stones and weeds, and give another stroke of the light harrow. Or if the clover cannot be sown at the same time as the corn, then the preparation should berolling the crop, and covering the clover seed by two scrapes of a light harrow; taking care, however, that the clover is sown before the corn begins to tiller.
If the clover is grown with autumn-sown wheat,
harrow the wheat first, then roll it, and afterwards sow, and cover the clover seed with the harrow; but it should be sown before the wheat plants get too strong. Barley is, however, better adapted than any other grain crop for growing clover, it being sown in the spring, at a time best calculated for destroying weeds, and having the additional advantage of a shorter period from sowing to reaping than wheat, or any other grain.
When sown with oats, on the stronger soils, the clover seed is usually put in during the month of March. When sown with wheat, it is lightly harrowed in before the young crop has got far ahead. If with barley, the month of April or beginning of May is the usual season. The sowing is sometimes delayed till a fortnight after the oats or barley has been put into the ground, or until the plants have taken root. If the weather be favourable, the earlier in spring that clover is sown the better, to enable it to overcome drought, and escape insects.
Although spring is, unquestionably, the best season for sowing clover, circumstances may sometimes render it expedient to sow in August, to stand the winter as a single crop; but this should not be done, unless it be rendered necessary by peculiar circumstances. Topdressing is most advantageously applied to clover, immediately after the first cutting; or if omitted then, it should be done after the second cutting.
Red clover is cultivated for house-feeding or soiling cattle, for hay, and sometimes for ploughing down as manure. It is of great utility as a smothering and fertilizing crop, as it sheds a great quantity of its own leaves; and these, with the weeds and grasses which it smothers and destroys, serve to enrich the land. For soiling, the crop may be cut just before it comes into flower; and as it is cut, the eddish should get a topdressing of suitable compost or manure. The clover should always be cut pretty close to the ground.
Red clover, if well managed, ought to yield three good cuttings the second year; but it should be ploughed in the third year, after it has been cut once. If sown in July, or early in August, alone, and not with a corn crop, on good soil, you may have a cutting the end of September, or early in October, the first year; but if sown with a corn crop in spring, which is the usual mode, you will not have a cutting until the following May.
For hay, clover ought to be mown immediately the plants are in blossom, in order that the juice and nourishment of the plant may be retained; otherwise the leaves will fall off, and the best portion will be wasted. All early-cut grasses contain more nourishing juices, than those which are allowed to ripen their seed, and are less impoverishing to the land. Hay from old grass will carry on stock, but it is only hay from young grass that will fatten them.
If the clover hay be injured by wet, it should be strewed with salt when stacked, at the rate of about a peck of salt per ton. Its quality will much depend upon the manner in which it is saved. It may be cut when wet, but ought never to be moved from the swathe excepting in dry weather, when it should be repeatedly turned, and made into small cocks; and these should again be formed into larger cocks, before making it up into stack. Exposure to the sun and air, more than is absolutely necessary for drying, extracts the substance, and injures the hay, and the greener in colour it is, the better the quality. In England, where the best clover hay is made, it is always heated in the stack, which gives it additional sweetness ; but the heating must arise from the natural juices of the clover not being dried up by exposure to the sun and wind, and not from rain or the damp of the weather, which is always prejudicial.
The main crop the second year, should always be mowed, and given to the cattle at home—not a blade should be pastured, that can be eaten in the stable or cow-house. Feeding at home is preferable with all crops; but to pasture red clover, would be shameful waste. The clover should be given in small quantities at a time, and some hours after cutting, that the fixed air may escape from the stalks before it is eaten: the cattle will else be in danger of bursting, from eating it over-greedily.