Sunday 21 August 2011

One man went to mow

The 'long' meadow this afternoon

Cowslip (Primula veris) capsules.

 One of the most important decisions to be made each year is when to cut the 'long' meadow ('long' as in long grass) It gives so much pleasure, from the first crocuses and snowdrops in February, through to now when there were still of flowers of Geranium pratense, Malva moschata, Centaurea nigra and Astrantia major. But they were comparatively sparse and had all set plenty of seed already, and the seed of other important species was ripe or had already been shed, including from the Iris latifolia that flowered so beautifully in June. As it was a bright and breezy day it wasn't difficult to decide to get it done this afternoon.

A few years ago, while visiting Levens Hall in Cumbria, we watched the gardening staff mowing long grass with scythes and were very impressed by the cleanliness and quietness of the process. Intending to copy their example I acquired a scythe a few weeks ago, and this was its first proper outing. I got the mowing done, at the cost of three blisters and a stiff back, but it was distinctly haggled - I need practice! It probably took a little longer than doing it with the mower, but without the noise or hassle of restarting every few minutes, or clearing the blades, and the mowings fell as hay rather than mush, so there are definite advantages.


The mown meadow.


  1. Great! And congratulations!
    My husband does it also with a scythe. I suppose it is a hard work, but for me a man working with a scythe suggests calmness and endless serenity. I love to look at him.

  2. John, you remind me of my childhood when each autumn my father cut the long grass in a local orchard with a scythe. It was always a pleasant few evenings to be with him while he did this work.

    An advantage of using the scythe is that the seeds of your meadow plants are not collected by the lawnmower and may germinate for next year.

    A question: how do you curb plants which are more vigorous than desired - creeping buttercup and plantains, for example?


  3. I remember using a scythe as I teenager. It does require practice to get it just right and then a certain rhythm develops when it does which is very hypnotic and satisfying. And yes, no harsh noise!


  4. @ Paddy: I find that the competition in long grass effectively reduces the vigour of such thugs and they're really not a problem. I use spot squirts of glyphosate to reduce vigorous grasses though.

  5. John, apologies for being so slow to acknowledge your response above. It sounds a perfectly simple and practical way to deal with the situation. My patch seems to be mainly creeping buttercup and clover with the grass of medium strength. I have in mind to spray the area shortly with a dilute selective broadleaf weedkiller to reduce the vigour of the buttercups and the plantains.


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