Friday, 24 August 2012

I can't wait for the industrial revolution to reach Cordwood...

In April 2011 we entered the area of Cordwood that was to become our orchard and vegetable garden. At that time it was so neglected that even our tree survey had not spotted that there were apple trees here and it was only Google earth images showing blossom that suggested there was anything of interest in this literally impenetrable place.

So, we began the back-breaking toil of digging out tall sapling oaks, suckered and spiny blackthorn and dying cherries all embedded within nettles and brambles. By November 2011 we had cleared the area.

And by August 2012 we have an orchard separated from a vegetable garden by thriving cordoned apples and pears.

Our orchard plan is a long term one. It will take at least two more years to prune the apples into shape.

And it will take as long to begin to establish the grassland beneath the trees as a flower rich grassland. We intend to allow the grass to grow without being cut until high summer. We hope that this will benefit invertebrates and provide food for other animals along the food chain. I disturbed several disgruntled toads and frogs while scything the long grass over the past week but must also report not hearing a single grasshopper. What an indictment of our countryside that even here 'in the middle of nowhere' (as Jaimee-Leigh described it yesterday) grasshoppers do not recolonise seeding grassland. This further reinforces Sheila Wright's point that we have only 10% of the invertebrate life of a hundred years ago.

Over the coming years we will reduce the fertility of the soil by taking an annual cut of hay. Reduced fertility should benefit more delicate flowers that cannot compete against coarse grasses. We also hope to sow grass parasites hay rattle and red bartsia. These will further reduce the vigour of the grasses.

Field scabious and meadow geranium seed we have gathered will be scattered shortly as will non-native white cammasias. Scores of baby cowslips growing on the allotment will be transplanted into the orchard grassland over the coming weeks.

We also hope to plant species crocus for early spring colour and as a vital food source for early flying insects. We hope that these will set seed and become a carpet of colour in the years ahead.

As I have said, I have spent the past week scything the grass and mighty tiring too.... I can't wait for the industrial revolution to reach Cordwood. Especially so since we expect to add significantly to the area of flower rich hay meadow at Cordwood over the coming years.

The cut hay has been turned and allowed to dry before being finished in the polytunnel. It is an indicator of how my life has changed over this past year: I never dreamed I would be looking to the heavens in the hope of averting rain from my precious drying hay!

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