A reader has little or no cover at ground level and needs to fix it
Q: Several of the copses on our shoot have little or not cover at ground level and are almost completely bare. I realise that ground cover is essential but what can I do about this?
A) Before attempting to reintroduce groundcover, you must consider why you have none growing naturally. The most likely reason is lack of light reaching the woodland floor, caused by a dense overhead canopy. If this is the problem, then you need to cut down all the mid-storey trees. These will most likely be hazel and elder growing in any gaps left in the overhead canopy. Remove these and some light should reach the woodland floor. Consideration will then need to be given to removing some mature trees to create even more light. Little will grow in heavily shaded areas. You may also have too many deer, compounding the problem, and the resulting overgrazing and browsing will hamper any regrowth even if you let light into the canopy.
Don’t be too disappointed with a return of less than 40 per cent, as not many shoots achieve such a percentage unless they have generous neighbours. As you have discovered, it is impossible to control a flush of birds without cover, but making sure that all dogs are on leads and that the beating line is silent towards the end of the drive will help.
Sow a game crop
You should also consider introducing fast-growing cover crops on your nearby fields to encourage game.
One to consider is UK Mix, by cover crop specialist Bright Seeds. This can be sown in the spring or autumn and produce see for birds in the first and second years. It’s a blend of its well-known crop Utopia.
The Spring UK Mix for May/June drillings has a larger proportion of kale to ensure that the Utopia does not overwhelm. the Autumn UK Mix has a stronger weighting of Utopia to provide cover ready for the season, the kale will establish underneath and push on ready for the second year.
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A percentage of UK Mix sales is donated to the NGO. Contact Bright Seeds on 01722 744494 for more information.