SowingThe following text is taken from the Household Cyclopedia of 1881:
Sowing in the broadcast way may be said to be the mode universally practiced. Upon well prepared lands, if the seed be distributed equally, it can scarcely be sown too thin; perhaps two bushels per acre are sufficient; for the heaviest crops at autumn are rarely those which show the most vigorous appearance through the winter months. Bean stubbles require more seed than summer fallows, because the roughness of their surface prevents such an equal distribution; and clover leas ought to be still thicker sown than bean stubbles. Thin sowing in spring ought not to be practiced, otherwise the crop will be late, and imperfectly ripened. No more harrowing should be given to fields that have been fallowed, than what is necessary to cover the seed, and level the surface sufficiently. Ground, which is to lie in a broken-down state through the winter, suffers severely when an excessive harrowing is given, especially if it is incumbent on a close bottom; though, as to the quantity necessary, none can give an opinion, except those who are personally present.
The ribbing of grain crops was introduced into Great Britain in the year 1810. The process is as follows: Suppose the land in fallow, or turnips eat off, let it be gathered into ridges of twelve feet each; then harrow it well, particularly the furrows of the ridges; after which take a narrow-bottomed swing plough, five inches and a half broad at the heel, with a narrow-winged sock, drawn by one horse; begin in the furrow, as if you intended to gather two ridges together, which will make a rib exactly in the middle of the furrow; then turn back up the same furrow you came down, keeping close to the rib made; pursue the same mode on the other side, and take a little of the soil which is thrown over by the mould-board from the back of each rib, and so on till you come near the furrow, when you must pursue the same mode as at first. In water furrowing you will then have a rib on each side of the furrow, distance between the rib, ten or twelve inches. The seed to be sown from the hand, and, from the narrowness or sharpness of the top of the ridges, the grain will fall regularly down, then put on a light harrow to cover the seed. In wet soils the ridges ought to be twice gathered, as ribbing reduces them.
It will answer all kinds of crops, but not all soils. Strong clayey soils cannot be pulverized sufficiently for that purpose; nor can it be effected in clover-lea, unless it be twice ploughed and well harrowed. Ribbing is here esteemed preferable to drilling, as you have the same opportunity of keeping the land clean, and the grain does not fall so close together as by drilling.
The farmer may hand or horse-hoe his crops, and also hoe in his clover-seed, which is considered very advantageous. It is more productive of grain, especially when it is apt to lodge, and, in all cases, of as much straw; and ribbing is often the means of preventing the corn lodging.
In a wet season ribbing is more favorable to harvesting, because the space between the ribs admits the air freely, and the corn dries much sooner. The reapers also, when accustomed to it cut more and take it up cleaner.
The drill contains three coulters, placed in a triangular form, and worked by brushes, with cast-iron nuts, sufficient for one horse to draw, and one man to attend to. It will drill three acres per day of wheat, barley or oats, at five inches asunder; and five acres per day of beans, peas, etc., at twelve inches asunder. The general practice is to drill crossways, and to set the rows five or six inches, and never exceeding seven inches, apart, it being found that if the distance is greater they are too long filling up in the spring, that they afford a greater breadth for the growth of weeds, are more expensive to hoe, and more liable to be laid in the summer. In drilling wheat never barrow after the drill if it can be avoided, the drill generally leaving the corn sufficiently covered; and by this plan the vegetation is quickened, and the ridges of soil between each two rows preserve the plants in winter, and render the oneration of harrowing in the spring much more efficacious. The spring harrowing is performed the contrary way to that of the drilling, as the harrow working upon the ridges does not pull up the plants, and leaves the ground mouldy for the hoe. This point should be particularly attended to. The harrowing after the drill evidently leaves the ground in a better state to the eye, but the advantages in the produce of the crop are decidedly in favor of the plan of leaving the land in the rough state already described, us the operation of the winter upon the clods causes them to pulverize, and furnishes an abundant nutrition to the plants in the spring; and followed by the hoe about the time the head or ear is forming, it makes the growth of the plant more vigorous, and greatly improves the size of the head or ear. The drilling for wheat should generally commence about the latter end of September, at which time the farmer may drill about two bushels per acre. As the season advances keep increasing the quantity to three bushels per acre, being guided by the quality of the soil and other circumstances. A great loss has frequently arisen through drilling too small a quantity of seed, as there can be none spared in that case for the rooks and grubs; and a thick, well-planted crop will always yield more abundantly than a thin stooling crop, and ripen sooner.
The drill system would have been in more general practice, if its friends had also recommended the use of a larger quantity of seed to the acre, and the rows to be planted nearer together. It is impossible to obtain so great a produce per acre by the broadcast system as by the drill system at the same expense, be the land ever so free from weeds. Fifty bushels per acre may be raised by the drill, but never more than forty bushels by sowing broadcast. The wheat crops should generally be top-dressed in winter with manure compost, or some other dressing in frost, or when you can cart upon the land, but if that operation is rendered impracticable, sooting in March, or any other dressing of that description, hoed in at the spring, is preferable to a dressing laid on in the autumn and ploughed in.
The advantages of the drill over the broadcast system are numerous and decisive, as it enables the farmer to grow corn without weeds, is sooner ready for stacking after the scythe or sickle, produces a cleaner and more regular sample for the market, and hence obtains a bettor price, leaves the land in a better state for a succeeding crop, and materially increases the quantity of food for human consumption.