Converting a Field to a Lawn

By | 6 Oct 2014

I’ve been making hay while the sun still shines.

I had no choice.  The mower kept breaking down on the dried cut long grass and weeds that were left behind after we’d asked the neighbour to use his large tractor to keep the excess down a few weeks back.  It all required removing.

Our près (field) had been used for making hay over the last few years (a long time before it had vines in it), but we want to transform it into a garden and orchard.

Without spending a huge amount on landscape gardeners, it’s going to take lots of time from me and lots of patience – the latter I’m not so good at.

I read that one needs to keep the grass short to reduce weeds.  Short grass is good anyway so that I can see where things are, remove any self seeding trees and brambles, collect fallen fruit and nuts and plan where we put our future plants.

Despite having a few thousand square metres to cover, we bought a lawnmower rather than a little tractor.  This was mainly due to cost but also after a neighbour with an orchard declared that they’d got rid of their mini tractor as every year it required work.  They now use a lawnmower, have less engineering problems and it only takes them an afternoon to cut their grass.

Not quite an afternoon for me.   I have spent 2 days so far on the field and it is nowhere near finished.

It is the raking that is taking most of the time.  It was nice to be outdoors but it’s also a slow, labour intensive job and I find I need to stop for a few minutes each hour.

The grasses on one side of the field are higher than the other, even though they were cut at the same time.  Not sure why that is, perhaps the mole hills that are worse on that side make the [insert correct term for cutter thing at the back of the tractor] bounce.  But all vegetation had regrown very quickly in the last 3 weeks.

To give an idea of how thick and high the grasses were on that side: I had put down the rake before lunch and when I got back I couldn’t find it.  I needed to conduct a police style sweep and search of the area to retrieve it.  It hadn’t helped that I’d had a middle-aged moment and it was nowhere near where I thought I’d left it.

At one moment of rest, the dog came trotting up for what I thought would be a hello, but no, it was to lie down against the piled hay in the shade.

During the raking it was evident that a lot of the weeds had merely been flattened, presumably by the large tractor wheels.  Even when I got to mow, the same part had to be traversed several times to catch any of the stalks – some will have to be left for a strimmer (une débroussailleuse), but we don’t have one of those as it’s more equipment to pay out for.

There was also the matter of the previous owners’ bonfire site.  It has formed a bit of a mound, presumably from detritus left after many previous burnings.  Amongst it is some singed bubble wrap, chair legs, pieces of metal and some unidentified black objects.  Despite bonfires not strictly being allowed here, the old lady evidently had them often and I was told that she even got the neighbour to burn a piano there for her.

At the end of the afternoon I was tired and needed to go to the farm before it closed, so I left many mini hay bales to collect today.

We’ve had such lovely weather the last few days, it felt like the sun would go on forever, even though it’s October.  I’m starting to realise I must have a very optimistic way of seeing events as today we’ve had constant rain.

mini hay stack

Rained on mini hay stack

Another search online for weed control taught me that you could use hay and leaves as a covering to stop weeds growing.  Although I’ve held back some hay to use around the delicate plants in the winter, I’m spreading all the rest under various trees to halt the proliferation of weeds there.  We’ll see how it works.

I also read that if you have a lot of weeds in your lawn it is because it’s missing various nutrients.  So the way to get rid of them is to fertilise, sew more grass seeds, water them and wait.

I’ll try that soon.  When it stops raining.



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