Scything the Marlbrook Wildflower Patch
Old skills are being put to good use to encourage diversity and promote soil health, writes Andrea Brewer
Following a successful period of growth during the spring and summer, where we have seen a whole raft of new species appear (yellow rattle, wild carrot, common vetch, woodland speedwell, and pyramid orchids as well as seven different types of grass), it was time this week to cut back the patch on Marlbrook Meadow.
The best way to cut wildflower meadows to effectively spread the seeds and encourage more growth next year is the traditional practice of scything. This is an old skill that uses a very sharp, long blade at the end of a pole and with the right swinging movement and the blade kept close to the ground, it cuts the grass very closely and the cutting movement disperses the seeds.
Local scything (and hedge laying) expert, Nigel Adams, came to Marlbrook to demonstrate the art of scything and instruct local residents Josh Robinson-Ward and Andrea Brewer in the practice. The grass wasn’t the easiest to scythe due to the number of very large ant hills, and the fact that much of the long grass was flattened, however, the patch was successfully cut back.
The cuttings will be left to dry for a few days, and then turned over. Then they will be raked up and taken away. Leaving grass cuttings to rot down fertilises the soil, which is great for grass, but not the best way to encourage wildflowers which prefer nutrient-poor soil.
Once that has happened, the area will be gone over with a mower and catcher and finally, some locally sourced wildflower seeds (a lucky dip bag from the bottom of Nigel’s trailer!) will be sown into the bare soil of the exposed anthills.