Tackling the hay meadow that was a lawn

Gardener Bob Wilson seen mowing the lawn.
Gardener Bob Wilson seen mowing the lawn.

The beginning of July marks a big change in lifestyle. After the adrenalin-fuelled high energy working of the main garden centre season of May and June, suddenly things go quiet as most gardeners have planted-up in anticipation of the summer season when (hopefully) they can enjoy the fruits of their labours. Apart from feeding and snipping, July is a much more relaxed month.

I started the month by having a couple of days at home. Various commitments meant my time was limited but, you may be surprised to hear, my own garden gets pushed down the list of priorities, and so what opportunity I had was largely spent making up for lost time and trying to catch up.

Until the end of May I had done rather well, but my working life in June was so intense, I did little more than make sure the baskets were watered and the fish fed before I left for work. The result has been, while I’m busy serving customers at the nursery, my own garden had slipped into a severe decline.

The grass over in the paddock/allotment seemed the obvious starting point. It was relatively dry and an hour with a lawnmower can make a big difference. Not cut for about 10 days, the “lawn” had taken on the characteristics of a hay meadow. This was not “mowing the lawn”, it was more like hay-making and my mower was overwhelmed. I had to cut it first without the grass box on, just to take control.

Not quite as dry as I thought, after going over the whole area twice there was still quite a bit of cut grass on the surface and so I decided to let it dry in the sun for 24 hours, and try again the following day.

Unfortunately, region-wide torrential rain was forecast for the Tuesday, and so despite dreaming of going off somewhere for the day, we decided to stay at home and continue catching up on jobs outside until the wet arrived. It was gloomy and overcast from the start, but the rain seemed to be holding off. First the potatoes.

Rosebay willow-herbs seemed to have decided to create a new weed plantation among my potatoes and onions and my once proud display looked … well, frankly, a complete shambles! Nothing for it but to get stuck in and hand weed the lot before they had chance to flower and produce seed, after all, one year’s seeds means 10 years’ weeds.

Thankfully, these weeds are upright growing and easy to pull out and, after about two hours of constant weeding, the place was starting to take shape. Just as the decline had been so rapid, so now was the recovery. As I pulled out the weeds, my enthusiasm grew as neat lines of pretty good onions were revealed and garlic plants to die for. My work earlier in the season had not been lost. Things were looking pretty good.

I had taken the decision a month ago to cover one raised bed with anti-weed matting until I got round to sowing some vegetables. I was rewarded with clean, weed-free soil as I pulled the matting back on this bed. Not a weed in sight. Not only that, I’d hoed the soil and it was already to go.

Rain was now threatening, and so I quickly sowed a few rows of dwarf beans and peas in the unused soil. If I could get them in before the rain came, a good soaking would give them the best start possible. The rain held off until the job was done but what rain we had was negligible, and so I thought I’d give the grass another mowing.

The previous day’s cuttings were now much drier and the mower hoovered them up more effectively than before. I gave the whole area, now almost looking like a lawn another good cut and the clippings developed into a small mountain on the compost heap. Job done, I put the mower away before the heavens opened and the forecast rains arrived at last.

But I didn’t mind. I had made massive progress during the day tidying all the vegetable beds, sowing those peas and beans but, above al taming the wilderness that had looked more like meadow than lawn. It was a case of, almost literally, making hay while the sun shines!