Friday, July 1, 2011

Donor meadow

What happens when farmers take a crop of hay from a field each year and yet aren’t able to spread manure and replenish the nutrients? Only those flowers and plants that are tolerant of poor soils can exist and it is these that have become synonymous with English country meadows; products of ancient farming practises.
In order for the soil to become poor it needs ridding of its enrichment and this is best achieved by falling back into ancient farming practises; summer hay, winter sheep, no muck. There are some shortcuts that come in the form of short, yellow flowered plants, whose seed heads dry to a crisp. Yellow rattle parasitises on the roots of vigorous grasses that would otherwise take the meadow over.

We are cutting for hay tomorrow and in order for other meadows to benefit from this useful ally the seed harvester is set to work. Brushes underneath the machine liberate the seed from the heads and with only a small amount of winnowing a large amount of seed can be taken. Along with the rattle seeds comes sorrel and plantain seeds as well which are greatly liked by short-tailed voles.

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Derby Uni LL.B.yr4 Birmingham Uni (field lecturer)