bY aLEX sYLVESTER, sADEH’S LAND MANAGER.
With the heady days of summer almost a distant memory and Rosh Hashanah fast approaching, it is time to reflect on the past season at Sadeh.
Fedge, dome and tunnel:
Back in January I helped a friend prune her living willow chair and was given the stems in return. What better way to spend a few wintry days than making living willow structures. The process goes as follows – hammer a metal spike a foot into the ground, fill with water and plunge stem as far as it will go, then repeat . . . 70 times! Willow roots easily in wet soil, so by keeping them well watered in the dry summer, weeding and mulching, they bedded in well and put on considerable growth. By late summer I was establishing the structure by tying the stems together in a criss-cross pattern. A half dome around the horseshoe-shaped fence is taking shape, and a mini-dome is already used by visiting children. The fedge (i.e. living fence/hedge) alongside one side of the vegetable garden is doing so well we will be able to prune it during the winter and make more fedge. I knew that the willow bug had really taken hold when I also decided to make a living tunnel as an entrance to the Havdalah garden. For this I used goat willow (from a tree coppiced near the woodland) and white willow (from a neighbour’s hedge). Despite my encouragement, the goat willow stems died off, but luckily the white willow has grown so thickly that it is even possible to hide behind them.
In March you could see native trees, many donated by the Woodland Trust, popping up in a belt halfway down the field. They were mulched with cardboard, branches and woodchip, weeded and some even watered in the hot weather. The majority are alive and well and doing what trees do best – making homes for wildlife, enriching the landscape and soaking up carbon.
And just beyond the trees, a colourful flower-rich meadow patch is the result of a heroic volunteer effort back in the spring. Many wheelbarrow loads of topsoil were removed from the area (and turned into new flower beds) to reduce its fertility before the seeds were finally sown at the end of May. And numerous early morning watering sessions saw the meadow through the very dry June. With a new crop of eager volunteers staying for the autumn season, we should be able to sow another patch, much to the excitement of the local bees and butterflies. Now at the end of summer, that childhood song springs to mind: “One man went to mow, went to mow a meadow”. Scything, compost making, getting ready for the leaf fall. And so the cycle continues . . .