This lower meadow has been in place for over 5 years providing a rich habitat for numerous birds, insects, rabbits and deer as well as the predators, such as the red-tailed hawks, crows and fox that frequent the area. Its lies next to a wetlands area and consists largely of goldenrod, multiflora rose, grasses and some fern on the outer edges. It is a dynamic space, beautiful to observe and enjoy. To maintain it as a meadow and not to allow it to succeed to a forest, it needs to be mowed or bushwacked periodically, but when?
After a call to Laura at Bucks Country Gardens for some guidance, she sent to me a very helpful document but with very conflicting information. If done in the fall or early winter, the mowing could weaken the growth of goldenrod and asters, or reduce the chances of plants surviving the winter due to the soil freeze thaw cycles. During the winter many flower species grow actively and would reduce weeds from germinating. Mowing in the fall also eliminates winter shelters for wildlife but would help reduce the mice population.
On the other hand, mowing in early spring, the concern is damaging regrowth and reemerging plants and coinciding with red wing birds nesting. The weather may also be too wet or the meadow might be encased in ice as last year.
As you can see, we chose to do it in the fall due to our concerns with spring weather and the emerging of new plants and nesting birds.
The deer emerged just minutes after it was completed looking a bit dazed and confused. We left a portion around the bees to protect them from the northern winds and a section around the Sweetgums to provide some shelter for the birds and deer. It is so bare and we are already counting the days to spring.
It is an experiment and time will tell.