6 September 2023

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Autumn is officially here.  We are having a few cooler mornings now and the leaves are just thinking about starting to fall.  The late summer winds are bringing the first few leaves down and giving us a nod of things to come.  As I write this report, the weather has turned warm again and will resort back to summer for one more week.


In the last few weeks, the Garden Department has been involved with some inter-collegiate work at King’s College.  The now famous large wildflower meadows were due their annual cut-down.  This is an event that sees many of the other Cambridge college departments involved.  The meadows are cut by traditional methods using a horse-drawn scythe.  The meadow hay sits to allow some seed to drop before the horses use another vintage agricultural implement to place the hay into rows.  Traditionally, the hay would then be collected on the Haywain.  The modern method used now is that the hay is baled using a baling machine.


At King’s College, it is estimated that each hay bale contains 1.2kg of wildflower seed.  As a reward for being involved with the project at King’s College, Emmanuel has secured four of the hay bales.  We can use these hay bales as part of the meadow management in the Emmanuel wildflower meadows.

Recently, we trialled using traditional methods on our own meadows.  Two of our gardeners recently attended a scything course.  They brought back from the course plenty of enthusiasm and much newly gained knowledge.  The meadows at North Court were cut using a traditional Austrian scythe.

This week, we intend to spread out the King’s College hay bales to allow the seed to disperse naturally.  With the current cost of wildflower seed being at an all-time high, we calculate that, by using these bales, not only do we share the biodiverse plants that will grow but also save in the region of £1000.


The seeds will fall and mix with our own seeds and that means that the meadow will become sustainable going forward.

The Garden Department has been stretched this year as the growing season has been accelerated by the wet weather.  This has shown the plants to be lush and full of growth but has also kept us busy with general plant growth and lots of weeds.  The hedges have needed additional trims this year and the grass has needed additional cuts.  This is in total contrast to the last growing season.  This time last year, we were getting another completely drought-stricken season.  It has been nice to enjoy the cooler, damper weather this year.

We look forward now to all the beauty that September will bring.  During this month, our latest recruit to the Garden Department, Emily McMullen, will start her period of one year’s training as part of the WFGA training scheme.  As excited as we are about Emily’s introduction, it was sad to see Kate Cook finish her year with us.  I would like to thank her on behalf of the team for all her hard work and for being a brilliant team member.  We wish her well with the next stage of her horticultural journey.


Best wishes.

Brendon Sims (Head Gardener)

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