Each year brings a different series of challenges to hay making. The main challenge is often when to time the hay cutting to get the best from wild flower meadows. After a mild winter and damp spring here our meadows are quite advanced and lush, urging us to get on and 'make hay whilst the sun shines'. Parts of our meadows are however still full of flowers and buzzing with insects. Our answer to this perennial dilemma is not to rush in and cut the whole meadow, but to start mowing in bite sized sections. We have now started mowing the most advanced areas a bit earlier than usual, and will cut in sections until we complete all hay making by the end of August.
This staggered mowing schedule helps to spread the workload and is better for wildlife.
Arguably, the most significant event in a meadow's seasonal calendar is the summer hay cut.
For a traditional meadow, mowing to provide fodder for livestock is the most important event and to secure the best nutritive quality mowing usually starts in June.
For grassland managed more for its flowering and wildlife interest then of course flowering and seeding are more important and mowing does not normally start until July and may continue into August.
Yellow rattle if present is a good guide as to when to start cutting. The seed pods of Yellow rattle have evolved to ripen and rattle out their seeds at haytime (hence its other popular name ‘hay rattle'): in traditionally managed old meadows, this usually occurs in July.
Posted on 08 July 2014,