MEADOW TURF

The objectives of having an area of meadow turf may include:-

1. A wild garden area to enrich the senses with the ideals of conservation. A diversity of wild flowers and insects supporting more wild bird species (like goldfinches feeding off the grass seed heads).

2. Demanding less labour to manage and control the land.

3. Requiring less fossil fuel for maintenance operations.

Some major types of meadow:-

Alpine Meadow Orchard Meadow Water Meadow Pony Paddock Downland.

An important characteristic of attractive meadows in general is that they may have a wide range of plant species present, many of which are not true grasses but do help to make up the turf.

To be attractive, the height of the sward should be contained but usually this happens after the flowering period. In general meadows grazed by geese or rabbits should be cut at least once a year – late cow parsley time1, around early June is helpful. The first flush of vigour is expended and removed as hay. The second flush is usually less important and may not need to be cut formally. The grass cutting height should be about 50 mm (2 inch). If the shedding of the seed heads is important then the cut could be made a little later.

ALPINE MEADOWS

These have to be seen in their natural habitat to perceive just how much we have lost from our normal wild flower bounty. The small meadows set around the crofts in the high alpine villages of Austria, France, Switzerland, Italy and even parts of Spain and Portugal are often a riot of flowering cranesbill, types of buttercup, trollius, campanula, hay rattle and attractive grasses!

Fertilisers should not be used because any whiff of nutrients seems to reduce the chances of keeping the choice material and at the same time the extra fertility encourages the coarse competing weed types.

Alpine meadows frequently receive rain, (almost every day it may seem if one is on holiday there!).

Because alpine meadows are fun it may be worthwhile trying hard to create the conditions of low fertility and good drainage characteristics of the genre. The use of a natural gravel, about 18 mm (¾ inch) down and 150 mm (6 inch) deep would provide a good habitat for the many interesting plants and bulbs which one may seek to grow in the turf. The plants that survive have to be able to win their space in the very competitive jostling for water, light and nutrients that exist at ground level. Grass seed mixtures containing a wide variety of plants like hearts-ease, ladies smock, speedwell, thyme, wild parsley, toadflax, trefoil, and bedstraw are obtainable from specialist seedsmen. Good grasses to have include the fine leaved fescues, chewings and sheeps fescue, the creeping red fescues, and the bent grasses A. tenuis and stolonifera. Grasses to avoid, unless there is a special reason like the need to accommodate much wear, include perennial rye grass, cocksfoot, the smooth and the rough stalked meadow grasses, and timothy; though the latter could be helpful for some sites with heavy soil.

Bulbs’ are a major part of the magic of an alpine meadow in the spring. The dwarf iris, cyclamen coum, aconite, crocus species, fritillaria, species daffodils, chionodoxa and scilla plus the wood anemone and A. blanda.

ORCHARD MEADOWS

Complementary to the apple blossom may be the hybrid crocus and the golden daffodils plus the waterlily type tulips. Plant with great generosity in drifts. A natural drift is very hard to assemble. Throwing the bulbs from a bucket is said to be a way but it is surprisingly difficult to achieve the effect desired which should not look too contrived. A natural drift of flowers seems to start with just a few, to have a major concentration and then to feather off to a scattering of flower as the conditions in nature may permit within the competition. In any event avoid planting in rows or with a degree of regularity.

It is thought to improve the colour of apples if the grass is allowed to grow longer from August. This increases the competition for water and nutrients (particularly nitrogen).

WATER MEADOWS

These may be difficult to manage from an amateur viewpoint because the wet land in the winter will preclude much maintenance then.

Mostly the objective is hay – two cuts at least. As with the other meadows, NO HERBICIDES.

PONY PADDOCK TURF

There may be a great deal of wear and tear to withstand, depending on the soil type, the area and the ‘stocking density’. Perennial rye grass is able to cope better than most but timothy would also be helpful on heavy soils.

The aim from a garden viewpoint is a relaxed green uniform appearance. This may be achieved by a minimum of a couple of cuts each year. The ‘droppings’ should be collected up; partly to reduce the localised greening up effect and also because it may reduce the incidence of intestinal worms.

Spot treat the patches of nettles and docks. Pull thistles and ragwort and remove brambles before they become established.

DOWNLAND TURF

It is hard to get this effect naturally on fertile soils and also the benefit of grazing sheep is hard to simulate. Sheep really do help to keep the sward springy and tight. A couple of Jacobs sheep per 0.4 ha (acre) may look very ‘smart’ and they may nearly remove the need to cut the grass formally.

The cut over is of value in evening up the overall appearance by the check to growth of the coarse grasses, unappetising patches and shrubby species like brambles and hawthorn.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.