This spring, I allowed a square area of lawn in my back garden to grow...and grow...and grow.
It is what the wonderful wildlife gardening writer Jenny Steel calls a 'pop-up meadow'. You just let the lawn do its thing for a few weeks or even for much of the summer.
It became a froth of grass seedheads, and the result was rather delightful visually. This all from just a bog standard area of turf that I laid two autumns ago.
Of course, one of my aims was to see what value it had for wildlife, and certainly there were plenty of insects that I saw perching in the mini-jungle of grass stems or crawling around at their base.
Then as summer drew on, Frogs started to hide in it, presumably keeping moist but maybe also hunting those insects.
And then the Foxes got excited by the meadow. Perhaps they were hunting the Frogs! But what with cavorting large mammals and with the grasses having grown so tall and unchecked, parts became flattened and there was no choice but to mow it (being very careful first to ensure no Frogs were in there).
By this point, not a single flower had come up from my bog-standard turf. No Daisy had sown itself in there, nor Self-heal or Clover. So my pop-up meadow had a very short period where it was doing any good for wildlife, and it is arguable that I then destroyed any value that it did have when I mowed it.
But it is all part of a grand plan. Oh yes! Step 2: the Pop-up Meadow Plus!
My aim now is to 'diversify the sward'; in other words introduce meadow wildflowers.
So here's the four stage process that took about an hour and could be done with any lawn.
1) Mow very tightly.(Here I am with my push mower - it's good for my carbon footprint, and even better for my cardio vascular).
2) This is the leap of faith part: scarify the ground. In other words, rough it up! I'm using a three-pronged cultivator, which is great for scratching the surface. It gets rid of all the thatch (which I raked off and composted), and opens up thousands of tiny pockets of open soil, essential for the wildflowers to have chance to germinate and get established.
3) Sow my wildflower seeds, at a rate of about 1 gram per square metre. I'm using a simple mix of Bird's-foot Trefoil, Lady's Bedstraw and Cowslip; I just bought individual packets to show what can be done for a tenner. Oh, plus the magic ingredient, Yellow Rattle, which will hopefully suppress the vigour of the grasses. Yellow Rattle must be sown in autumn as it needs a cold winter before it will germinate.
4) And then, because this is an area of the garden right near the bird feeders, I have chicken-wired the are. It should also stop the Grey Squirrels burying their nuts there, too.
And I'll report back next spring on how it fares. Will my dream of meadow butterflies just outside the back window be realised? Over to you, Mother Nature, to show us what you can now do...!
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