Ready to Roll (and Rock) …
Finally … finally, by the 9th of May, conditions have improved to the extent that Nick Leaf has been able to drill the base layer of grassland seed for Three Hagges Jubilee Wood. Not without trauma, however.
We first created our stale seed last autumn, in the hope of grabbing the first opportunity to sow our two grassland mixtures into moist and summer-warmed soil. The main principle of the technique is to prepare a fine seedbed ready for drilling in the seed, then to await the germination of flocks of weed species that then are sprayed off before sowing. Then there must be absolutely minimal disturbance of the soil surface prior to sowing, in the expectation that any weed seeds in the top 4‑5cm of soil will not be brought into the light and air they need for germination. This we duly did.
We have never, ever looked forward so much to the germination of weeds. Germination was slower than the proverbial watched kettle, accompanied by breath holding, anxious dreams and constant inspection. We needed enormous patience while waiting for a level of green haze that would indicate that the majority of weeds in the upper layers of soil had germinated before we sprayed them off. Our patience was unrewarded. Drilling into the clean seed bed was thwarted by record levels of almost continual rainfall resulting in standing water that made it impossible to get on the land with any sort of machinery. This was followed by what felt like an unprecedentedly rapid drop in soil temperature. Then it was really winter, and seed remained unsown – by us and many cautious farmers in the district. Those who had managed to sow were faced with submerged fields and the prospect of cold, wet and expensive seed rotting before it had chance to grow. The consequences can be seen in crop fields all round as I write, partial or absent germination leaving huge swathes of bare soil which should by now be green and shooting forth.
But how did we deal with the unsown areas between our newly planted trees? There seems to be kit available for every size of landscape if only you know who to ask … you can do everything on a small scale, even if it does look rather like a slalom event.
Pragmatic but far from smug, we were glad to have held off till spring, and we did get some comfort from our terrific first tree planting day back in December 2012. Did I say spring? It has been a cold and late one, and by all accounts, everything is between three and four weeks behind. That includes the scheduled respraying of the winter’s weed crop, before we could drill. Then further delays as rain ceased altogether and prospect of more precipitation horribly unpredictable. The same breath-holding anxiety set in, all our nagging to get on met with heroic patience on the part of the nagged. Well, now it’s warm enough, the two seed mixes are in, and on May 10th we were blessed with rain aplenty. We’ve set up the flying hawks to scare off the pigeons. Now, we’re breathing deeply with all fingers crossed for good germination.