Thursday, 2 August 2012

natures way of controlling grasses in the orchard

Such hard and sometimes dispiriting work. As we clear areas of weeds and move to another section, the weeds spring up behind us. We are chasing our tails...

This last week we have cleared the woodland garden of weeds and scythed the drive. We have scythed paths through the nettles of Picnic Wood and around the boundary and worked to clear the Vegetable Garden of the thousands of seedling weeds that have grown where we have manured the ground. New beds are beginning to appear in the Vegetable Garden while the piles of weeds wait for processing through the compost bins.

Today, while Jill worked in the Vegetable Garden, weeding and planting out Deschampsia cespitisa; Joe-Pye weed (Eupatoreum purpurea); Goldenrod (Solidargo canadensis); Aquilegia chrystanta; Millium effusum aureum; and Molina caeruleum....I concentrated on the orchard.

My Northern Fruit Group notes reminded me that the grass beneath the apple trees is best allowed to grow. This saves work and provides invaluable habitat for invertebrates. But it was little use to us as an impenetrable mass of seeding grasses, so I scythed a path through. Incredulous Steve suggested I charge entrance money for the public to see people working as they would have done one hundred and fifty years ago. In fairness, our petrol mower would have struggled to cut a swathe through the knee high grass and I hope to take the petrol mower through the newly-created path at the weekend.

I then cleared the boundary edges of the orchard where weeds had taken hold.

This work created huge piles of grass and weeds that had to be removed from the orchard. If the cut vegetation were left, it would add fertility to the soil and make the grass grow even more eagerly.

I would love to see meadow cranesbill (Geranium pratense) and field scabious (Knautia arvensis) flourishing here next year but the vigorous grasses need to be controlled before this can happen.


Natures way of controlling the growth of grasses and allowing more delicate flowers to thrive in a meadow is for parasitic plants like yellow (or hay) rattle (Rhinanthus minor)  and red bartsia (Odontites verna) to take hold. They draw the energy from surrounding grasses, allowing other plants to flourish.

So, I sowed hay rattle seed and marked the sown spots with a small post to monitor the success of this strategy next year.

Eighteen hours of gardening between the two of us today ... and still miles to go.


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