Sunday, 8 September 2013

Sore already?!

It was a busy first week. I'm still getting to know names and my way around the garden, but meanwhile there's work to be done! It's been quite warm and dry this week, which has been helpful for the projects at hand. We've spent a couple days gathering wood from one of Great Dixter's two Woods. We were mainly gathering Chestnut, Hornbeam, Ash and Birch. This was wood that had been cut down previously and is now ready for use. The Chestnut will be used for odds and ends around the garden, from tools, to hurdles, which help support plants, or act as barriers. The Hornbeam, Ash and Birch will be used for firewood in the house this winter. As part of a working Wood, the trees are harvested on about a 15 year cycle through the practice of coppicing. Coppicing involves cutting a woody plant (tree in this case) down to a set point, usually close to the ground. It will then send up new shoots, and the cycle is repeated. When done properly, you move from one spot to another harvesting where ready and allowing other spots to regenerate. Thankfully, we have a chainsaw and a tractor these days! 

Stacking was another story!

We are also currently cutting the meadows. This too, is a time-consuming project because meadows are such a large component at Dixter. In some ways it's sad to see the meadows get cut back because they are pretty right up to the end, even when dried out. However, it needs to be done so that the early spring bulbs, such as Crocus, have space and light to emerge. We wait as long as we can to allow wildlife activity to wrap up, while also allowing flower seeds to ripen and disperse, especially the Orchids. 

Topiary Meadow (Before)

Topiary Meadow (After)

One aspect of work that I particularly appreciate at Great Dixter is the clear purpose behind every project and how everything comes full circle. After the meadows are cut, we bag up the cuttings and put most of them on the compost pile, while other bits, which are highest in seed diversity, are strewn in areas that we want to develop or enhance for future meadow spaces. We have several compost piles at Dixter. In this case we add to the compost pile that will supplement the vegetable garden, since the meadow cuttings contain weed seed, which we don't want in the display beds. 

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