The meadow was sown in April 2014… It was sown with Emorsgate Seed’s St Catherines mixture with an annual nurse crop. It was slow to get growing and had only really one flowering that was predominately the cornfield annuals in late June and July…. We cut at the beginning of September using a strimmer.
The meadow was sown on the old railway line that runs through the back of the garden. When we came to the Farm this stretch of land was covered in dense bramble, patches of it were exquisite wasteland wildernesses of buddleia, grass, fennel and teasel. The railway was the Dorset and Somerset railway that ran from London through Bath to Wellow and onto Weymouth. It ran from the 1890s until the 1960s. The vast majority of it locally is now part of the sustrans cyclepath.
We flailed the lot and then were faced with large football-sized gnarled root balls of bramble and a ground covered in ballast sitting on top of limestone bedrock… No topsoil or subsoil.
So, we broke up the bramble and overgrowth with another machine that was like a piece of chain mail pulled by an enormous tractor and then left it like mulch on top of the ballast, and then we covered the area for 2 years under dense thick black plastic.
I felt awful about the plastic. There was no way to recycle it and, in the end, it went into a skip. But, it did work: the weed bed was killed off without the use of glyphosates and the bramble roots rotted away. The mulch mulched into a fine leaf mould on top of the ballast and rock. In April 2013 we removed the black plastic and raked over the whole area. (About 15 x 100m) and sowed, then trod in and waited.
This year (2015 ) the meadow has been flowering since May. About 50% of what is there wasn’t in the original seed mix.
In May we had:
Plantain; Red Campion; Yellow rattle; Black medick; Clover (white and red); Dead nettles; Bugle; Some cowslips
In June we have:
Night-flowering catchfly; Clover; Black medick; Moon daisy; Wild Mignonette or Weld (I haven’t been able to identify exactly – another blog?) ; Teasel; Geraniums; Verbascum.
I find the meadow intensely gratifying and life-enhancing. It is miraculously quick to grow and it seems amazing that a space that was once so wild and bereft of any growing medium can become so abundant and fertile-looking/ smelling/ feeling… it’s so alive!
From a distance the meadow is a sea of green with spots and spires of pink and yellow. But an amazing transformation happens when you immerse yourself within it: you see the detail and you delight in all the little things… The myriad of beautiful little flowers, the deafening hum of all the bees, and the sheer richness of life that is buzzing and chirruping and floating through it.
Today I saw:
Bumble bees: Buff-tailed, Red-tailed, White tailed, Early and also Tree.
Some strange aphid type things
Mullein Moth caterpillar on Verbascum
Small Blue butterfly
Large and Small White butterfly
Beetles: Violet and another stripey one.
The bees love the meadow at the moment…. Particularly the Mignonette and the Clover. From May to September there is always something to look at and discover and watch. It really is another world at the bottom of the garden.