To rake or not?

jackieandrade
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To rake or not?

Post by jackieandrade »

An area of communal meadow was cut in the autumn and there are patches of dead grass 'thatch'. Is it better to rake these up to allow wildflower seedlings to grow, or leave them in place for the millipedes that are sheltering underneath?
Pam W
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Re: To rake or not?

Post by Pam W »

I’d like to know this too. We’ve mowed our meadow but there’s lots of dead bits of grass left. I’ve raked quite a bit of it but would like to know if it makes a significant difference.
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Steve Pollard
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Re: To rake or not?

Post by Steve Pollard »

Jackie and Pam - I'm not sure you're talking about quite the same issue. Pam - are you saying that there is cut grass left laying on the ground after mowing? If so then, yes, unfortunately it's better to rake up as much as you can, especially if it is laying in mats and the sward is yellowing underneath. Picking up grass after it is cut is necessary as it reduces the soil fertility (which discourages competitive grass growth), and also creates light and space for germinating seeds to grow into, which is especially important in newly established meadows.

Jackie - so you cut your meadow in the Autumn, but now you're worried that there is a significant amount of standing dead grass (thatch)? Unless you're at high altitude, there is generally a degree of aftermath growth in Autumn and early-Winter, which is one of the annoying inconveniences of meadow management, especially if you don't have stock to graze it. So, unfortunately, as well as your main "hay" cut, you usually also need to cut and collect the aftermath sometime before early-Spring, particularly if you have Yellow rattle in your meadow. If you would like to keep thatchy areas for invertebrates to over-Winter you can certainly leave unmown strips as refuges, but generally for wildflowers the sward should be short and thatch-free at the start of Spring. It's slightly different with grazed meadows as animals will preferentially graze different areas, creating a natural mosaic of different sward heights.

I hope this answers your questions. Let me know if it doesn't.
Pam W
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Re: To rake or not?

Post by Pam W »

Thank you Steve - yes it is grass left after mowing - much of it does collected by the tractor but it doesn’t pick it all up. I have been raking up what’s left so it’s good to know that it hasn’t been a waste of effort. Thanks a lot for your reply and advice - think I might need a bigger rake though!
jackieandrade
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Re: To rake or not?

Post by jackieandrade »

Thanks Steve. This is an area around trees where we have left the grass long for wildlife but haven’t sown wildflowers as our efforts have been focused elsewhere. I was hoping the thatch would suppress some of the more vigorous grasses but it sounds like we should bite the bullet and mow it again before it rains
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