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Cutting the Wild Flower Areas

Written by John James, posted on Tuesday, August 14, 2018

A few weeks earlier than in recent years (because of the very dry weather) the first of our wild flower areas at the southern end of New Walk, was ready for cutting at the beginning of August.

The other main areas on the Dean’s Ham and on Boat House Island still have a lot of flowers so  will be left for a while longer.

The signals that the area was ready to cut were: most of the wild flowers had stopped flowering; the various seed pods and heads (including the Yellow Rattle, see previous blog post) had shed their seeds or were ready to drop them; and lastly some of the earlier flowering species had started to produce new growth.

First stage of the process was to cut the whole area with a two wheel tractor with a sickle bar mower attachment (like a modern day Allen Scythe, for those who remember such beasts!) which cuts everything off cleanly at a few centimetres above ground level. The resulting “hay” was then left to dry out for a week which allows all the remaining seed to drop out onto the ground.

The second stage was to pick up the dried foliage material with a tractor mounted flail collector which not only picks up the material but also knocks any remaining seed out of the seed heads. The collected material was then tipped near to the wild flower area to decay away over the winter and where any remaining seeds will grow or provide food for small animals and birds.

The area will be lightly topped over the autumn to discourage grasses from taking over and to remove the majority of fallen leaves that would both increase the soil fertility and smother new wild flower seedlings.

The only other job in this area this year will be the planting of thousands more wild species bulbs to add to those already there.