1st January - Mowing

"Turn Grass Into Lawn With a Victa". I remember this slogan of 1955. I was 17 at the time. It could have just as easily said "Turn indigenous Grassland Into Exotic Grassland With a Victa". It changed the whole way our environment was managed. Up until then it was quite difficult to mow our grasslands. Suddenly it was a dream.

We have just received a brochure from the Adelaide Hills Council titled "Guideline Brochure for Bushfire Mitigation on Private holdings in the Adelaide Hills Council". There is no doubt that we need to mitigate bushfires. It seems to me however that we are looking for immediate gain, instead of long-term success. I think we would get a better result if we learned how to look after our bush properly.

I have lived in this council area for forty years and I can guarantee you that the bushfire problem is worse than ever. I can also guarantee you that the bush is not the basic problem. There is a problem with bush management. However the present trend of replacing the bush with some sort of scrub/weed/grass mixture promoted by mowing is hardly the answer.

Which brings me to the question of mowing. The problem is that a mower can be used to assist in restoring our bushland but usually it is not. We use a mower to give us instant gratification. We refuse to look at the long term result.

A mower can be used to remove weeds. Without a catcher they can be mown before the seed has set. After the seed has set they can be used, with a catcher, to collect and dispose of the seed. A mower can be used to control indigenous woody weeds. To replace the wildlife which once roamed the country and grazed our bushland. There are many uses for a mower, used responsibly in a bush garden.

On the other hand, however, a mower spreads weeds. It creates an event which promotes germination of all plants and without follow-up care the more vigorous, introduced weeds, win.

However the most important negative with mowing concerns grasses. Grasses evolved with grazing animals. Grasses need grazing animals just as much as grazing animals need grasses. Grasses send up their new growth from the ground so that when they are grazed, no damage is done.

When a block of land is mowed, the grasses are the main beneficiaries. Of course the most vigorous grasses are the introduced grasses. The mower benefits the exotic grasses more than the indigenous grasses and so the result of this indiscriminate mowing is an increase in exotic grasses, the very reason for having to mow in the first place.

Finally, the mower spreads weed seeds as it moves from one area to another. When I came to the Adelaide Hills many of our roads were gravel and it was the council grader spreading weeds from one roadside to another. Then came the council slasher. Soon the only decent roadside vegetation left were up on banks where the slasher couldn't reach. Now our council has a slasher on an arm like an excavator. They can now slash the banks and up on the banks. Now they can spread weed seeds way into the bush. Once they are introduced to an area then they are promoted by mowing. Now there is an excse to move further into the bushland in the name of fire control.

But always remember that for every negative there is a positive. Keep your eye on roadsides after they have been slashed or graded. Just as machinery brings weeds, occasionally they brig some goodies. My fairy grass came from a roadside after it had been maintained. It is now gone from that roadside but in the meantime I collected some seeds and introduced it to Wirrapunga.