By Steve Griggs
From scrubby field to wild flower meadow in less than 18 months – the green hay method at work.
When we bought the School House, Norbury back in 2006, it came with a small paddock of less than half an acre. This was full of long grass, thistles, dock, brambles and ash seedlings. Although we were keen to encourage wild flowers, we had no idea how to go about it.
We moved in on a permanent basis in 2014 still without any idea how to set about transforming the field. Then, while on a hedge laying course in early 2015, we discovered that a meadows group was being set up to encourage people to create and manage new, and restore existing, flower rich grasslands. We got in touch, had a visit from JP (John Brayford) who suggested the quickest way forward was to spray off the entire field and have six inches of top soil removed to degrade the soil before spreading green hay .
After a site survey by Rob (Rowe) to make sure there was nothing growing of particular value, we put the plan into action. A local contractor came and took off the top soil (and, at the same time, dug out an area for a wildlife pond).
The summer of 2015 was very wet which meant our green hay arrived quite late and as the rain continued throughout August, it was difficult to keep turning it. We left it for several weeks before raking it up and taking it off site, and then we had to sit back and wait to see what, if anything, would happen.
What followed seemed almost magical as, over the course of the spring and summer of 2016 a procession of different plants appeared, starting with plantains and finishing in late August with clover and knapweed. This resulted in a continually shifting colour palette. Yellows from buttercups, yellow rattle, birdsfoot and lesser trefoil, and cats ear, whites from eyebright, ox eye daisies and clover, and purples from knapweed and clover.
In 2017 (year 2), we noticed a marked difference in the development of the meadow. Many of the perennial species that only put in an appearance late on in year 1, were now established and came into flower much earlier especially the purple clover, much to the delight of local bees.
We have been both amazed and delighted with the outcome. The green hay method clearly works!