As you may know from some of my recent posts (especially “Rows and rows of windrows” last year), I cut the grass in a large part of my garden using a scythe. Why, you might ask? There are many good reasons including effectiveness, exercise, no pollution, no noise and low expense. One extremely important thing that goes along with my scythe is a good hay rake. I didn’t know or expect this a few years ago but a good, traditional hay rake has become one of my best friends in the garden – it makes the work so much easier and is very effective even though the design is simple.
I like buying things that are handmade by local craftsman (part of “Use 10 Percent Less” and trying to keep things simple and local), and back in 2015 I found what I was looking for in a company called The Natural Gardener (I have affiliation with them at all – I just like their stuff). I’ve bought a few things from this company but my favourite is their “Handmade Wooden Hay Rake” (you’ll find a good story about how these rakes are made on the their web page). Read more
Since moving to the UK, I’ve become accustomed to stinging nettles. They grow very vigorously, as a weed, and have runner roots just under the surface which spread out everywhere and result in new nettles. They’re hard to get rid of and their leaves really do create an unpleasant sting.
One thing I’ve found is that they love ground that has been dug up. In general, if grass is well in control, stinging nettles don’t have a chance. Once the ground is disturbed, stinging nettles can grow quite tall very quickly and dominate the grass, but if the grass is already there, stinging nettles can’t compete.
My Stinging Nettle Problem
When we had our pottery studio built including new steps down to the studio, there was a lot of ground disturbed and then relocated. This was just perfect for the stinging nettles and they took over. Since I hadn’t experienced them before, I wasn’t sure what to do. I tried pulling them out by hand, using a garden fork and some good leather gloves, and I found they were easy to remove because the roots are generally shallow. They don’t like being pulled out and it takes them quite a while for them to start returning, but they do return and, in summer, they grow very vigorously. At one point I was confronted with stinging nettles between 4 and 5 feet tall. Read more
As you might already know, I do a bit of scything around my garden, and you may be wondering what happens to all the grass. Ok, that thought probably never entered your head, but I’d like to think it did. In my garden, I like to try to keep everything circular – everything that’s produced by the garden goes back into the garden – and I use all the grass that I cut to enrich the soil. This requires windrows.
What is a windrow?
The dictionary definition is something like “a long low ridge or line of hay or a similar crop, designed to achieve the best conditions for drying or curing”. When grass is cut with a scythe, the cut grass tends to line up on the ground to the left of the direction the scythe is swung, and that tends to create natural windrows. However, it works out that there’s cut grass all over the place in general. If the grass is cut in the morning, it’s best to just leave it spread out to dry in the sun for the day and, near the end of the day, to rake it up into windrows.
Why create windrows?
Last weekend, I was doing some early morning scything to cut some grass around my vegetable patches. It’s a very peaceful start to the day that I enjoy very much. The ideal time to cut grass with a scythe is around dawn when the grass is wet with dew. Sometimes when I’m doing this, there are pheasants in the adjacent field, sometimes a fox, and sometimes other birds. It’s like we’re all out and about to get the day started. The image below shows a strip that I’d just finished cutting with the scythe.
[Click image to see full size]
After putting the scythe away, I noticed there where a couple of pheasants (and a crow) on the lawn near the house looking for food (see image below). I didn’t want to scare them off so I stayed quiet and wondered how close I could get to them if I moved very slowly and quietly. Read more
Back at the end of October we got our first frost of the year and I had no idea what it would be like scything with frost.
I know, you’re probably thinking “scything!” Cutting grass with a scythe? Yes, it’s all true and it’s not as crazy as you think. Back in 2015, our back garden had hip-high grass and I was wondering how to get it under control. I went on a scything course and learnt how to go about it. It’s not as hard as you might think and it’s a nice activity. And it’s not expensive. I costs only £118 for a beginners kit that includes everything you need and only about £150 for an advanced kit. That’s cheap compared to buying a lawnmower and a strimmer plus the fuel, etc. And a single scything blade can last 10-20 years if looked after properly.