We had a thick fog and light dew early this morning, followed by sunshine, temperatures of 18C at noon and a cool breeze. That made it a perfect day for mowing grass and topping weeds—although the high humidity made it a little less comfortable than I’d prefer. This lot will be going for silage, not hay.
We’ve been plagued by a serious outbreak of common hemp nettle this year so while it’s a useful plant that’s very attractive to bees, most of it has to go. It grows about two feet in a fortnight to three weeks, which means topping open areas with the scythe fortnightly or pulling it up by hand when it’s in amongst the potatoes.
Despite what some guides say, hand hoeing hemp nettle is limited in effectiveness as the plants tend to uproot instead of being cut, then re-establish within a day or two. Hemp nettle is actually a member of the mint family and doesn’t sting, but the flower heads are very scratchy and can irritate the skin after 6-8 hours weeding them out. The most important thing is to cut the plants down or pull them out before they set to seed—if they do, we’ll have an even bigger infestation next year.
Using the field blade on the scythe, I can cut a 3m (10ft) swathe when topping weeds. Grasses are harder work due to the density and relative toughness of their stems so I restrict myself to a 2.5m (8ft) swathes. Grasses are cut lower as the field is now largely clear of stones, wire, horseshoes, iron spikes and the like. Cultivated ground, like this piece of land below the potatoes, is rather more hazardous and is cut higher.