Maintenance during the growing season

The degree of maintenance intensity may vary from one place to the next. The main activities will consist of curtailing, pushing back or removing altogether the species that are too intrusive, thus helping to encourage the desired species. One can achieve this in a number of ways, on the understanding that maintenance as a whole may be (rather) extensive. The usual techniques, activities and work methods may be applied, sometimes adapted to the type of vegetation in question. Thus, one may sometimes have to pull out large weeds by hand and, on other occasions, cut them out with a hoe, onion hoe or spade. Particular spots may be mown with the traditional scythe or the brush cutter in order to prevent further spreading or to clean out high herbaceous plants after flowering.

A certain amount of creative ‘dragging around’, that is to say, sowing out, planting out and replanting, has an enriching effect: ‘a little at a time, but a lot over the years’. Some examples include:

– common nettle (which is definitely not a taboo everywhere) may be kept short by

cutting them once or more often per growing season—as such, they may be acceptable in certain places, even if they are the main aspect of the vegetation

– cow parsley, rose bay and hogweed may be mown out at certain spots immediately after


– individuals of a coarse grass species, broadleaved dock or common nettle appearing

occasionally may be cut out to prevent further proliferation

– a spot where Corydalis cava is emerging may be protected by mowing out and thus

weakening the surrounding ground elder that is threatening it

– ripening seed heads of wood ragwort, berries of lords and ladies, or seeds of rough

chervil harvested on the spot may be directly sown out elsewhere in the same area or in suitable places in other areas

– large clumps of Solomon’s seal, wood anemone and snowdrop may be divided and

planted out in different spots.

This illustrates how maintenance has many different aspects which may be performed as part of each work cycle on a spontaneous basis, responding to the conditions as found. It is characteristic of the maintenance of naturalistic woodland plantings that tasks that present themselves in a rather random fashion.

The materials produced after cutting, mowing or weeding may be left in the area, provided that the quantities are not too large and that it does not produce viable seed. Very small quantities may be left on the spot, in other cases one can leave it in spots not covered by herbaceous plants, for example under shrubs or in slightly bare spots. It should, however, always be spread out thinly in order to encourage its decomposition. If larger quantities or more refined vegetations are concerned, carrying the material off is preferable. Fallen leaves of trees and shrubs are left on the spot. Leaves from other spots may only be applied in thin layers, just as wood shreds may be used to improve the soil structure. If, for the lack of a leaf-mould layer, it is impossible to obtain an undergrowth of herbaceous plants, one can create this layer by applying larger quantities of tree leaves over a number of years (preferably as a mixture of leaves from different species, with the exception of oak and plane).

Patience is a crucial element in achieving success with this type of management. All of one’s efforts are part of a process that is characterised by its gradual course. One should not expect quick results. The gist of one’s work is to ‘graft’ the suitable species onto an existing situation. With the aid of proper, deliberate maintenance and management, and before all the help offered by Mother Nature itself, will the plantings as a whole evolve. This takes time. Ramsons, to give but one more example, may start flowering only after a three-year period of favourable development. For these plants to provide the next generation of flowering offspring takes at least six years. Nevertheless, one may achieve a lot within a period of 10 years.