Our Autumn Working Parties at the allotments are mostly to do with treating our various meadows to their annual haircut, brush up and manicures. Last year we were badly held up by the wet weather and struggled late in the year to get our meadows sorted. This year we had no such problems and managed to get the ball rolling in mid-September. We did however have an audience who sat and watched us, three of the Mallard ducklings who live on site, eating our slugs and snails with raspberries for dessert. Now that is what you call organic pest control!
The main wildflower meadows need a lot of work to get the thick grass cut down low and to ensure the thatched grass layer is removed.
When we cut the meadows in the orchards we tidy up by clearing grass back form around each tree and top dress with a good deep mulch of manure. This will keep the area weed free and slowly feed the trees next year. We had given the orchards a quick trim over a few weeks earlier and as can be seen in the photo below the warm moist weather had encouraged fresh growth.
They looked very neat when we had finished. We can now wait for the first bright green spikes of the bulbs that will give us colour early in the year.
When the meadows are cut very low and well raked, some patches are scarified to allow us to sow seeds of Yellow Rattle, a wild flower which parasitises on the roots of strong growing grass. This weakens the growth of the grass and allows the wild flowers to get better established. It is also good at attracting beneficial insects and bees. So on an allotment site this helps with pest control and pollinating of crops. We spend a lot of time keeping an eye on the meadows to see when the seeds of wild flowers ripen so that we can collect them for re-sowing in the spring.
One area will not be getting much attention yet though, the three beds that make up the “Perfect for Pollinators” garden. As the photo illustrates one of these is planted up with garden plants, one with a mix of native and garden plants and the third (at the bottom edge of the photo) is seeded each year with annual wildflowers. This annual bed will be cleared completely and then sown afresh in the spring.