Do kids still sing the 'One man went to mow' song these days? I do hope so. It was a staple song on school coach trips in my youth, and is a wonderful throw-back to days of yore when harvesting the hay would have been something that all the locals turned out to do.
Well, I'm one step closer to being a man who goes to mow, with the sowing this week of a haymeadow...in my garden.
A meadow needs to be as infertile as possible; unfortunately, my ground is very fertile so I first had to dig off the top six inches and get down to flint-rich subsoil.
Then it needed to be free of weeds, so I let the ground lie fallow for the last six weeks, hoeing off the weeds each time they germinated. Some people might use glyphosate weedkiller, but I garden organically so that wasn't an option for me.
And I was careful not to recultivate the ground, as that would have just brought more weed seed up to the surface.
Then I raked it to create a nice tilth to receive the seed. (Oh and I dug a rill along the near side of it, just to create a bit more diversity).
At last, I could buy a wildflower meadow seed mix, four grams for every square metre of meadow. We're not talking cornfield annuals here, but native perennials and meadow grasses, such as knapweeds and scabiouses, bedstraws and bird's-foot trefoils.
To the mix I added extra seed I collected from the countryside this summer, so that I had about 70 different plant species in total, all jumbled together.
And then I split the seed up into four equal amounts so that I could try and get an even coverage as I scattered the seed. (I got into a bit of trouble by using the best pudding dishes, but they made great seed bowls.)
A little trot all over the plot ensured the seed was in good contact with the ground, and that was my job done. It's now over to Mother Nature to work her magic...
This is what I hope will be the ultimate result - this is one of my favourite wild meadows at a Worcester Wildlife Trust reserve called Eades Meadow.
You can see how a haymeadow isn't a riot of colour like a bed of annual wildflowers, but it has a more sophisticated, subtle rustic charm, here dominated by Common Spotted Orchids. If all goes to plan, it will be the place in my garden where butterflies such as Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers, Small Coppers and Common Blues can breed.
In terms of management, it should then just be a bit of spot weeding, a main hay cut at the end of each summer, and removal of all the hay.
I'll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, all together now: "Ten men, nine men, eight men, seven men, six men, five men, four men, three men, two men, one man and his dog, Spot, a bottle of pop, Old Man Riley and his brown cows, went to mow a meadow."