This year, aiming to foster wildlife by consciously bringing our gardening back into harmony with nature have reassessed the way we are managing and cutting the grass in both the field and the garden. The results were great.
We had some disappointing weather this summer, but the start of September yielded the string of warm, dry days that we needed to dry our first harvest of hay.
Now cut, turned, dired & bagged, it’s ready to top up the winter sheep feed. The sweet, grassy scent was a perfect perfume to the sign off summer. It had a pretty hypnotic effect on our youngest ‘helper’, too!
Reassessing our gardening approach:
1. Cutting the grass less
We responded to ‘No Mow May’ (“Plantlife”s initiative) by leaving sways of uncut grass & wild flowers across the garden; extending the theme of daffodil waves across the lawn that heralds each spring.
2. Increasing native wildflowers:
We have also done our best to remove all grass growth from a few larger patches, encouraging locally sourced wildflower seeds to take hold in place of the plain green carpet. A prime site for this action was the big old bonfire site near the barn. The huge, ash filled site is now home to lots of rabbits, with a central entrance to what must be an underground network of burrows. It’s deeply peppered with burnt waste from the original smallholding buildings; demolished to make way for the large outdoor barn before the house was erected. I have had to return to the area several times throughout the year, to keep on top of the less helpful, dominant ‘weeds’ & remove all manner of scorched waste: including teaspoons, door & window hinges, cup handles, toilet seats, light fittings… etc.
3. Developing biodiversity with ‘soft landscaping’
The new camping strip we have created, and lower orchard / vegetable garden areas now both have significantly less regularly mown grass than long meadow & flower ‘soft landscaping’. The result is so much more interesting than the previous ‘neat field’ look – and will improve each year, as the wild flowers and wildlife propagate.
“If you only do one thing this year to improve your garden’s value for nature, cut your grass less, or not at all. The UK’s climate is perfectly suited to allow grass and the many species of beneficial plants that share our lawns to thrive, but regular cutting deprives essential pollinators of an important food source. According to PlantLife, the British conservation charity behind the No Mow May initiative, allowing your lawn to grow naturally for just a single month can provide enough nectar for ten times the amount of bees and other pollinators than a regularly cut lawn.“
4. Cutting down on pesticide use
We stopped using bug spray to control black / white fly etc a couple of years ago, and it didn’t affect plant & flower quality or strength…
Planning planting so there are natural deterrents near vulnerable plants, the balance seems about right – eg nasturtiums to deter blackfly near broad beans, onions to repel carrot rust flies, lavender, rosemary, geranium and sage & a gritty mulch of ash to deter slugs…
“If you feel the wildlife has enough to eat elsewhere in the garden, and you’d like at least one hole-free crop, cover your brassicas, salads or other edibles with a fine horticultural mesh. Make sure it’s tight and hole free!”
… Allowing nature to find her own balance has to be a more sustainable approach than dousing our crops with pesticides; harmful to the gardener as well as the garden.
“We know organic has huge benefits for the environment,
particularly in safeguarding our soil and supporting pollinators and wildlife…
Working with, rather than against, nature in your garden is good for the planet
AND it helps your mental and physical health.”
Haymaking is pretty exhausting work!