Wildflower meadow management
The grass in this orchard is maintained by Bridport Town Council (BTC) and volunteers. The majority of the grass is regularly cut by BTC with a tractor mower. However, a large swathe of grass is maintained as a wildflower meadow, and this needs specialist management to provide a diverse range of wild flowers and associated wildlife. So this meadow area is not normally cut by BTC.
Areas of grass surrounding the fruit trees (we call them “tree circles”) are cut by volunteers using scythes or a petrol mower. This is done to ensure the tractor mower doesn’t have to get too close to the trees and so avoids damaging them. We also use the mower to cut grass on the paths, edges (either side of the main central path) and central grass ‘circle’ that is used during performances.
Flowers that are found growing in the meadow include lady’s smock (cuckoo flower), corky-fruited water-dropwort (a member of carrot family that is nationally scarce, but locally common in Dorset), knapweed, hogweed, self heal, bird’s foot trefoil, betony, rough hawkbit and ox-eye daisy.
Yellow Rattle, which flowers in June, is a very useful wild flower, because it suppresses vigorous grass growth by being semi-parasitic on it. This in turn allows other wild flowers to become established and thrive. To this end, the plant is encouraged in the meadow area. It was introduced to the orchard during 2011 and 2012 and further sowings of this important annual plant are being made until the required distribution and density has been reached.
The fertility of the soil in the meadow area needs to be reduced, so it is important that the cut grass is removed and composted, which prevents nutrients seeping back into the soil.
In order for meadow wild flowers to flourish, the meadow grass needs to be cut three times a year: