MEADOW (AS. mæd, OFries. mede, meadow, OHG. mata-screch, grasshopper, Ger. Matte, meadow; probably connected with OHG. mæn, Ger. mähen, AS. m?wan. Eng. mow, Lat. metere, Gk. ?, aman, to reap. Olr. meithel, party of reapers). A tract of low, level land, especially upon the margin of a stream, in which the dominant plant forms are grasses. Prairies (q.v.) may be considered as extensive meadows. Some writers hold that meadows are the product of artificial conditions; others that they are natural formations. It seems scarcely to be doubted that alpine meadows are natural, either because trees fail to obtain a foothold on account of snow-slides or because the snow remains long in such situations, and grasses take possession during the short summer if there is sufficient soil moisture. Along streams, meadows are probably due to continued grazing or mowing, because tree vegetation may be kept down by such agencies. On the other hand, they are extremely unfavorable for the development of trees, which might fail to develop even in a region specially favorable to tree growth, since seeds would germinate with difficulty. Hence a meadow may perpetuate itself naturally, even though originally artificial. Besides the grasses, other plants are found in meadows, among which are many species of vernal herbs, which mature before mowing time arrives. Some botanists, as Wettstein, believe that plants have acquired certain habits which adapt them to life in meadows that are annually mowed.
From an agricultural standpoint a meadow is either a lowland or an upland field upon which hay or pasture grasses grow from self-sown or hand-sown seed. They are also permanent or temporary as well as natural and artificial. When the grasses are fed down by stock, meadows are called pastures. For artificial meadows the soil is plowed deeply and brought to the very best condition before the seed is sown. A rich, clean soil of fine tilth adds greatly to the weight of the crop. Frequently grass seed is sown with small grain as a nurse crop, but the practice is not always successful, since the faster growing cereal deprives the young grasses of light, and they consequently fail. The best method is to sow the grass seed broadcast without a nurse crop. Timothy, red-top, fescue-grass, orchard-grass, oat-grass, rye-grass, blue grass, bent-grass, and many other grasses are very commonly grown either as mixtures or alone, Timothy is often grown as a single crop. Clover is frequently added to a grass mixture. When a mixture is grown for hay, grasses which bloom about the same time are selected, but when used for pasture species that ripen at different times are preferred. Mowing machines and other implements have quite revolutionized haymaking within the last fifty years, and have enabled the farmer to make use of more extensive meadows than when all the work was done by hand. See also Hay and Pasture.