[Table of Contents] Bluegrass/White Clover Pasture and History

Please notice that when referring to my pastures, I always try to say "bluegrass/white clover". In my opinion, the combination of the two is far great than the sum of the two. As far as I know, they always occur together naturally in Ohio.

Looking in a dozen + references, in every case the writer cautions that bluegrass is is not productive in July and August.

But, my experience here doesn't reflect that. I believe that the earlier writers on bluegrass observed it under continous grazing conditions and therefore with depleted root reserves. It seems like the same person wrote the bluegrass section in all of my books. They probably all quoted a common source.

If the root reserves are allowed to recover between grazing, bluegrass/white clover pastures at Owenlea are vigorous and productive through July and August. Our soil type is pure clay with no sand or silt. The level of organic matter is very high. Our soil has very good water holding capacity.

It seems to me that bluegrass/white clover is one of those rare fortunate circumstances that come along in life. It's just exists here in Ohio, in the same way that air and rain are here in abundance.

Fortunately any pasture in Ohio (or weed patch, corn stubble and old hay field) will quickly become dominated by bluegrass/white clover if:

  1. Grazed very short.

  2. Immediately protected from all grazing of regrowth

  3. Rested until it is six inches of height.

  4. [And repeat the cycle forever.]

In my opinion White clover/Bluegrass pastures make the most milk in Ohio and most of the land around the Great Lakes.

  • White clover/bluegrass can be very productive in mid summer.

  • Mow immediately after each grazing to provide a moisture retaining mulch It is essential to mulch bluegrass if you expect it to produce in hot weather.

  • Apply plenty of manure in the winter to provide a moisture retaining mulch.

  • Back fence immediately.

  • Don't allow any grazing of regrowth as root reserves are modest.

I have never planted bluegrass/white clover. I don't believe that you could buy seed that would duplicate the results we get from the native adapted varieties. I am guessing now, but I suspect that every soil type, every county and every valley have a adapted sub-variety that evolved there and fit the special conditions of each small area.

In my opinion, The best way to get good bluegrass/white clover pasture is to plant any grass or legume, graze it close for 2 to 5 years and let nature take it's course. There is probably enough viable bluegrass/white clover seed in any soil in Ohio to last until the next ice age.

Extending the logic, I would never plow as preparation to plant a pasture. I would just manage what was available(weeds etc.) until it became a top quality bluegrass/white clover pasture. I believe that the only reason to plow a pasture is to achieve a "mowable" surface.

I have seen bluegrass/white clover in Ontario, Canada (right across the lake from here), New York, PA, West Virginia, Kentucky, Michigan, Indiana, and Ilinois. I once spent spent a week trying to buy a farm in Wisconsin. I decided that brome filled the same slot in Wisconsin, that bluegrass/white clover does in Ohio.

Following is a brief history of bluegrass/white clover in Ohio from the book "History of Agriculture in Ohio to 1880" by Robert Leslie Jones. At the time referred to there were only a handful of permanent white residents in the Ohio interior.

When Christopher Gist was in the Miami Valley in 1752, he noted, as he had done earlier in what is now Kentucky, that the bottoms were "full of white Clover wild Rye and blue Grass. White clover and bluegrass were not indigenous to the Ohio Valley, though many popular writers have claimed so. Beings "aggressive" plants, they simply may have spread westward with the advance of settlement from the seaboard communities where they had long since been introduced from Europe. Most likely they were brought from Canada into the Midwest by French traders and missionaries and the colonists of Detroit, Kaslaskia, and Vincennes. In any case, the earliest American pioneers, accoding to William Renick, found bluegrass "growing most luxuriantly on the Lancaster prairie" and "in various other places . . . by the hundreds of acres in one body." On the Darby bottoms, opposite the site of Circleville, there were supposedly a thousand acres of it. In the 1790s the seasonal cattle pasturers from Kentucky gathered the seeds by the bagful on these bottoms to take home with them. There was then apparently very little bluegrass in the wooded parts of the state.

Another source claims that bluegrass and white clover preceeded the first settlers by about 100 years. The writer asserted that the seed was carried in on the wind and by birds.

Kindest regards,

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