Thursday, October 3, 2013
We plough the fields and scatter
The field behind our house: the tractors were there last week. We have plans. A wildflower meadow. A bit of lawn in the middle. A summer house. The photo with the sheep (of which more below) shows how lumpy the field used to be, most uncomfortable to walk on, with the risk of sprained ankles. So we paid for the field to be ploughed, harrowed, seeded and rolled, and now we’ve had plenty of rain and each morning look for first signs of the grass sprouting.
One could ask, indeed I do ask, why our field hasn’t become a wildflower meadow already. I neglected it for years, withstood insistent advice from farmers to spray the nettles, and had a donkey in it all summer. Too late, oh too late, I've read this advice from Plantlife on creating a wildflower meadow:
“Firstly, remove the top few inches of very fertile topsoil in late summer, perhaps making some raised beds for vegetables from it. This can be hard work but is essential, as wildflowers must have poor soil to thrive.”
That nettles grow prolifically, is a sign of fertility, I believe. So I guess my hopes will be frustrated. I do have one last throw of the dice though. Yellow rattle: a lovely annual “with a slightly sinister character”. Its roots tap into those of grasses, stealing their nutrients and suppressing their growth. This keeps them in check and many other meadow flowers benefit from the reduced grass growth. Must investigate where to get the seed.
A plug for Plantlife, an organisation I'm proud to belong to. It speaks up for and works to protect wild plants and fungi in Britain, campaigns on invasive plants, claims success in updating the law to include over 50 species that it is now an offence to plant or cause to grow in the wild, campaigns for a ban on sale of invasive plants, and owns a farm reserve in Kent with a 57 ha wildflower meadow.
Now a word about those sheep. The flock (I counted 23 of them) invaded our field in late July. For over a week they drifted in and out, visiting the fields of the surrounding farmers. Everyone knows whose land they came from, though I'm too polite to mention your name here! As it happens we didn't mind the sheep invading our little field; but still and all it was a bit of a liberty. And the adjoining farmers were NOT PLEASED. They resented the sheep eating their grass every bit as you would resent a neighbour walking into your house and plugging in an electric cable to power their tumbler drier from.