As happy as pigs on fresh grass!

Yesterday, B and I moved Tia and Bailey onto some fresh ground, so that they can take care of the Himalayan Balsam that’s threatening to take over. It starts to flower from June onwards, and then goes to seed, popping violently to spread its seeds. Each seed can travel up to 7 metres, which makes Himalayan Balsam (aka Policeman’s Helmet) a real threat to anything else that tries to grow, like grass! What happens is that the balsam plants clump together and then spread out their leaves like umbrellas, creating dense forests and blocking the sunlight from reaching anything below its thick canopies. Come autumn, anything that couldn’t grow taller than the balsam (which, growing unchecked, reaches the dizzying heights of six or seven feet) has long since died so when the balsam itself dies, the ground is left bare and barren, leading to soil erosion over the winter. Come spring, the balsam can grow with no competition… and so the circle continues, devastating the countryside and forcing birds, insects and wildlife to look elsewhere for their requirements.

Tia - 12 June 2009

Tia - 12 June 2009

But there is good news!

If you can stop the balsam in its tracks before it flowers, it can’t reseed. If it can’t reseed, problem solved. Well, it’s not that easy, but that’s the theory and so I’m trying to halt this bloody weed in its tracks, no easy task as its been growing unchecked for several years and has really taken hold in the field. The pigs are rooting it (and occasionally eating it) and I’m cutting it and pulling it … and we seem to be getting somewhere.

So I have moved Tia and Bailey onto the biggest patch where the balsam has been thriving for several years, along with bracken which nobody wants growing in their fields as it’s toxic to livestock. Unfortunately, the pigs love it, especially the rhizomes (the roots), so I can’t cut back the amount of pig nuts they’re eating as I need to make sure they’ve got enough Vitamin B in their systems (bracken leads to Vit B deficiencies, which in turn can lead to death). Still, the cost will be worth it if I can stop the bracken growing as well.

Bailey - 12 June 2009

Bailey - 12 June 2009

In a few weeks, I’ll move them to the middle of the field, which gets very boggy in the wet but is consequently extremely fertile – the grass is currently higher than my waist and shows no signs on stopping! They’ll graze there for the summer and then I’ll move them back onto the (hopefully balsam and bracken-free) perimeter of the field come autumn.

4 responses to this post.

  1. I need to borrow your lot for my “garden” well it would be if l ever found the time to sort it but every time l make a start events force me in another direction 😦

  2. I hope they get a handle on the nasty stuff for you.

    Me, I want to have a break in our rain. My yard is rapidly becoming a swamp.

  3. Vetnurse, they’re great at gardens. The potatoes are thriving on the patch they cleared for me earlier this spring! Mind you, they’re not so good at telling the difference between can-eat and can’t-eat…!

    doggonedmysteries, you have my sympathies. That’s been us for the last two summers (my house was flooded in 07, the pig ark was sitting in six inches of water last summer) so I’m really hoping for some dry weather this year – and not just because I’d like a tan!

  4. Good news my garden is all can eat. Any can’t eat is easy to lift and the rest l don’t care about. Piggy heaven 😀

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