Saturday, June 08, 2019

The Liberate Lawn --Wilding at the Dene

Start of liberation June 2018
note solar powered dryer

Lawn 2017, complete with buckets
where I was trying and failing to capture moles
I have at long last found the term to describe the current state of what was the back lawn – a liberated lawn (i.e. it has been freed from the tyranny of mowing). Eventually it will become a wildflower orchard but for right now it is a liberated lawn.
The Victoria plum has been in for a very long time and has the reputation of producing the most plums in the neighbourhood. Because it is right by the road, I know it has been scrumped over the years. The fig tree which is also by the wall has been in for about 20 years and we do get ripe figs (much to my surprise).
Liberated lawn April 2019
no mole hills
The apple trees have been in for 10 years and were planted in honour of Penny and Tuppence, two of our cats who died. The pear tree has been in for 3 years. It takes time to grow trees. We do get a decent crop of apples.
Liberated lawn May 2019
note no mole hills
Prior to this, the lawn was used as a play space. Previous owners had used it as a vegetable patch (we created a smaller patch by the green house) and before this, it was used as farm land (presume to run sheep or cattle). We had to relay the turf in about 2000 and then had to completely reseed in about 2016 as between the moles and poultry, it was looking worse for the wear. Last year, I gave up and decided to begin this project of letting it grow and seeing what comes.
I have put packets of wildflower seeds on the lawn, but the hens and ducks are excellent at finding the seed or deciding the bare patch is good for a dust bath. As there is little point in excluding them, I have tried plugs with some success and just letting the plants come.  My husband remains dubious that we are creating anything but a mess. He is being allowed to cut both front lawns.
First foxgloves of 2019
Thus far, the ducks and hens appear to be enjoying it more – it is now their favourite spot for hauling out, particularly in the late afternoon. The birds in general like the lawn better and visit far more often. As I write this about 15 blackbirds are feeding. House sparrows are flitting about and I have just spotted a dunnock. This could be because the poultry food is on the ground and there is a supply of water. Plus there are perches available. Jackdaws visit but crows are more wary, partly because Hugo the Buff Orpington cockerel objects to them and chases them away. He is often seen on parade on the lawn at the moment.
The lawn is a gathering place for the various groupings of ducks and there are various rituals of bowing and head bobbing which go on when they enter. There are also the inevitable fights and skirmishes between the drakes but in general they seem to get along.
 The foxgloves have colonised parts by the fence where we used to strim. I thought we would get some mulleins but the ducks took a liking to the leaves…One plant remains. The verbena bonariensis which would never self-seed has set itself well in the lawn. The ducks do not seem interested in eating that or the foxgloves.
June 2019 ducks enjoying the rain
grass there, but no real wildflowers, foxgloves just flowering
Interestingly, we are not nearly as bothered by moles. I am sure the lawn is networked with mole tunnels but lately we are not seeing the hills or it appears it is just a little one.  As I am very bad at trapping them, it is a relief. I do realise the moles were in part a response to the fertility of the soil. I have no real idea how they discovered us (we went for years before the first one appeared – always on the back lawn as well) but they came and built their tunnels. Having conceded they won, they retreated. The irony is not lost on me.
So I shall be updating on the state of liberation but thus far, it is going all right. I do think given its previous use, ensuring that this becomes a wildflower strewn orchard is the right approach. It is very much a work in progress.

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