A couple of days ago, I spent the day doing one of the garden jobs I really enjoy. Managing my meadow!
Many years ago, when I was laying out the garden I put aside an area of about 750 square metres to keep “wild”. The land concerned had been farmed until we moved into the property, but since then there has been no attempt made to use the area. I know that in the seven years I have owned the property there has been no addition of fertiliser at all. A few years back, I also decided to check with the farmer who farmed the land before I arrived. I asked the simple question, “Did you use chemicals on that piece of land?” M.Gary, who back then was in his late 80’s looked me in the eye, with a wry smile and answered with another question… “Why would I buy chemicals when I have all the manure I need on the farm?” I have no need to doubt his word as in the seven years I have known him he has continuously farmed one of my fields and I have never seen anything going on the land except farmyard manure. He used to keep goats, chickens and the odd cow and, in fact, his “home made” compost was highly regarded by local gardeners, if you could ever get hold of some!! I said continuously and I meant it. M.Gary is now into his 90’s and still farms, managing my field quite happily as a small mixed crop market garden. Last year he grew tomatoes, melons, pumpkins, beans and a few other things. I can certainly vouch for the sweetness of both the melons and the tomatoes from the ones that regularly got left on my doorstep!
So, if my meadow has remained “au naturel” for very many years, how then do I manage it? After all, I have just explained that I don’t feed it, or seed it, so….??
Well, all I do is cut it. This was a tip I got from His Royal Highness, Charles, Prince of Wales who, as you may know, is a very active organic farmer. One of the great advantages of being first in line to the throne is that lots of people take a great deal of interest in what you do and how you do it, and because of this, very many television programmes have been made about how he manages his estates. It was during one of these programmes that I learned all about managing meadow and I have followed the advice ever since.
Actually, It’s very easy! Once a year, about this time, I set my mower to the highest setting (about 100mm in my case) and cut the meadow. All the cuttings are just dropped back on the ground. It’s easy, it’s quick and, apparently, it is very helpful. By cutting out the tall grasses all the delicate meadow flowers can flourish and it’s those wild flowers that attract all sorts of insects which in turn, drift next door into my kitchen garden. The very reason I put the area over to meadow in the first place!
Lets hope that we see all the lovely species of wild flowers again this year.