Summer: Mowing in the Orchard

Earlier in the year we made a conscious decision to stop mowing the orchard on a fortnightly rotation. Dragging the mower uphill is always a difficult job fraught with watering hoses that wrap around your legs, pieces of stone that have mysteriously shifted under foot during the night and blackberry thorns that attack and rip clothing. By the time we actually get the mower into the orchard we look like the guy from the start of Monty Python who says, 'It's....'. In our case we would add the remaining words...'a bugger'. However, practicalities of moving a mower over uncertain ground and still not having laid permanent paths from the utility shed to the orchard, there has been a reason for not mowing, which we covered earlier in the year

Mowing the orchard, how long grass benefits the fruit.

Dumping the mower for a season doesn't mean that you can grow your hair long, drop out and giggle in the long grass whilst shouting, 'woah', 'dude', 'wow', 'groovy' and 'man'. The neighbours won't tolerate it and there simply is no reason to be work shy on a micro holding undergoing a repetition of the poor summer of 2013. Like then, as now, the jet stream decided to move south and get a tan whilst us poor sods up North built stone gods to an absent sun and beat our drums. The lack of sun, the high rain fall and fluctuating temperatures means in a poor season we have to work twice as hard to get the crops to fruit in a sulking soil and having to spend a couple of hours mowing the orchard is a waste of our time. Yet, even in a poor season there are benefits to not mowing. We have seen a rapid increase of bio-diversity in the orchard - though the apples suffered but this is down to poor weather during blossom time - we have daisies, buttercups, vetch, ragwort and thistle in our lawn, this saw a flurry of small butterflies and lone bees. The undergrowth brimmed with ground beetles and frogs, which actually had a knock on effect on our slug population; it's been a damp year, as we write this, it is chucking down St Bernards and Bengal Tigers outside. Rain leads to an explosion of slugs, and when it is warm, it is a positive orgy in the brassica patch. Yet, frogs have been delighting us and scaring us witless all summer. Bend down to harvest a French bean and a frog leaps in your face, screaming aside, this is a good sign. Even though we have had loads of rain - even the lane outside our house has flooded twice - we are on a hillside and any water normally likes to hang out in the valley with all the cool kids saying, 'woah, it's like Noah, man'. So, we need to keep it in the ground and grass does this, it creates buffer zones and soaks up the rain, holding it in the soil. This means we haven't had to water the orchard once this year unlike last year. However, all good things come to an end and if you have long grass it's time to mow it or end up with a thatch thicker than Donald Trump's comb over next year. We did it on a dry day - yes, we had one! - and made sure the grass, now bouncing with seed heads was dry and crisp. Then like a typical Brit on holiday, we just steamed in and knocked everything over, we mowed the living daylights out of that grass. Now it is shorn, green and lovely. Next we have to cut over a 1000 feet of hedges.


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