Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO JOHN BEALE BORDLEY. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. XI (1785-1790)
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TO JOHN BEALE BORDLEY. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. XI (1785-1790) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. XI (1785-1790).
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TO JOHN BEALE BORDLEY.
Mount Vernon, 17 August, 1788.
* * * * * *
No wheat that has ever yet fallen under my observation exceeds the wheat which some years ago I cultivated extensively but which, from inattention during my absence of almost nine years from home, has got so mixed or degenerated as scarcely to retain any of its original characteristics properly. But if the march of the Hessian fly, southerly, cannot be arrested, and Colo. Morgan’s experiments are corroborated by others of equal skill and attention, it must yield to the palm the yellow bearded wheat, which, alone, it is said, is able to resist the depredations of that destructive insect. This makes your present of it to me more valuable. I shall cultivate it with care.
The Cape wheat I have cultivated three years successively—The frost of the last year almost destroyed it.—In neither, did it produce a full grain, though a large one.—I have just harvested a little of two kinds of wheat sent me by Arthur Young, Esqr., of England, one of which he says is called the Harrison wheat, and is in high estimation in that country; the other is a large white wheat, to which I do not recollect he has given any name.—The seed being injured in its passage, came up badly and with difficulty any of it was preserved from weads, &c.—No conclusive opinion therefore can be formed of either from the trial of this year, but if there is any thing which indicates a superior quality in it next, I will reserve some of the seed for you.
That the system (if it deserves the appelation of one) of corn, wheat, hay, has been injurious, and if continued would prove ruinous, to our Lands, I believe no person who has attended to the ravages which have been produced by it in our fields is at a loss to decide; but with deference let me ask if the substitute you propose is the best that can be devised? Wheat follows Corn: here are not only two Corn Crops, but those of the most exhausting nature following each other without the intervention of a restorative, when by the approved courses now practiced in England Grain and (what are called) fallow Crops, succeed each other alternately. Though I am not strongly attached to a particular course (being open to conviction) yet that which has obtained most in my mind, and which I have been endeavoring (for it is not easy to go fully into any system which produces a material change at once), is the following, which for the more perfect understanding of it shall have dates to their respective growths of the Crops. By the usual mode it is scarcely necessary to observe we have three fields—viz—one in Corn, one in wheat, and one in hay.—By my plan, these three fields are divided into Six.—For instance one of them, say No. 1, is planted with Corn 8 feet by 2—single stalks; with Irish Potatoes, or Carrots, or partly both, between that Corn planted in this manner, will yield as much to the Acre as in any other; that the quantity of Potatoes is at least quadruple the quantity of Corn, and that Potatoes do not exhaust the Land, are facts well established in my mind.—In April 1789 it is sown with Buck wheat (for manure) which is plowed in before harvest, when the seed begins to ripen, and there is enough to seed the ground a second time. In July it is again plowed in which gives two dressings to the Land at the expence only of a bushel of B. W: and the plowings which would otherwise be essential for a summer fallow.—In August, after the putrefaction and fermentation is over, wheat is sown, and in 1790 harvested.—In 1791—The best—and earliest kind of Indian Pease are sown in broad cast, to be mown when generally Ripe. Since the adoption of this course, and the progress that has been made to carry it into effect, I have had too much cause to be convinced, that, Pease, harvested in this manner is a considerable exhaustion of the soil—I have some thoughts therefore of substituting a medley—of Pease, Buck wheat for seed, Turnips, Pom-kins, &c., in such parts of the field as will be useful on the farm, and all of them preparatives of the ensuing Crop. In 1792 Spring Barley or Oats; or equal quantities of each will follow with Clover—The latter to be fed with light Stock after harvest.—In 1793 the Field remains in Clover for Hay or grazing according to circumstances. In 1794 it comes again into Corn and goes on as before.
It may be remarked here as an objection to this System—that wheat, in the best farming Counties in England, follows the Clover hay—is sown on a single plowing—and has been found profitable from practice.—My reasons for departing from that mode are—1st our plowing is not equal to theirs, of course the Clover is not so well buried, nor the ensuing (wheat) Crop so free from grass as theirs; and 2dly, if we sow wheat, at an early and proper period, we loose a valuable part of the clover Crop—whereas the ground for Corn need not be broken till the season for grazing is over and the Stock in the farm yard. By the tillage too, which the Corn Crop ought to receive, followed by B. W. twice plowed in, Weeds and grass must be entirely eradicated.
To contrast the probable yield of this with the old course, of Corn, wheat and hay—suppose a farm of 300 acres of arable Land.
In the above statement, as much, I conceive, is allowed to the old, and taken from the new course, as can be done with Justice.—The Pastures of the latter will be fine, and improving; Those of the former are continually declining, and washing into gullies.—The hand-machine spoken of by you for sowing Clover Seed I have wished to see but have never yet seen one—but I cannot conceive that by this, or any other contrivance a bushel of seed can be made to subserve 20 acres of Land, and without a considerable mixture of other grass seeds, which would in a manner, be washed in so short a lay as is proposed by either of our Systems.
I have been informed that you have in possession one of Winlaw’s machines for threshing wheat: Pray how do you approve of it on trial? Many of these newly invented things meet the approbation of the moment but will not stand the test of constant use, or the usage of common laborers—I have requested Mr. Young if this machine has supported its reputation—either in his opinion, or the Judgment of those on whom he can rely, to send me one. I am, &c.