As a grounds maintenance team, we should probably be encouraging you to mow your lawn to within an inch of its life (quite literally), every week to achieve that immaculate green carpet that many people aspire to.
It is true that we love viewing our work and feeling proud of how lovely a well-kept lawn can look, but we also advocate garden maintenance that supports local wildlife, so here are some tips on how to do that at home.
Firstly, contrary to popular English garden tradition, you don’t have to cut your grass every week. Allowing the grass to grow a little longer, gives small plants like daisies, selfheal, white clover, and bird’s-foot-trefoil, a chance to flower. This boosts their nectar production which is exactly what you want for burrowing bees and other pollinating insects.
Cutting less often and with your mower set for a slightly higher cut than usual, will also boost flower growth and allow smaller plants to escape the blades. If you aren’t too bothered about having the perfect green carpet, then the best results in nectar sugar production, is seen if you leave your cut to every four weeks from April through to November.
Alternatively, you could go wild and let some areas of your lawn grow really long, encouraging a wider range of tall flowering plants such as oxeye daisy, field scabious, red clover, knapweed, and even orchids.
This again increases nectar availability for a wider range of pollinators, right into autumn. You should only need to cut longer grass once in September, and again before Christmas. Try to leave some areas completely uncut over the winter to provide shelter for beneficial invertebrates. A wide path cut through a wild meadow grass area can make for a most beautiful country garden with plenty of appeal.
Why not also try introducing some native wild meadow seed patches around the garden in the autumn, letting this grow tall until September the next year.
Use a strimmer for the first cut on the wild meadow and long grass patches, and then collect the seeds by placing top cuttings into an old pillowcase to shake and release. You can then spread these across all your wild lawn areas to ensure a good show of meadow flowers the next season.
So, what else can you do to ensure your lawn is as pollinator friendly as possible?
It’s seems obvious, that you shouldn’t use herbicides, but fertilizers can also have an impact on wildflowers as they prefer a soil that is less fertile. Moss killers can also kill wildflowers so bear this in mind too.
Add pot plants
As well as native meadow wildflower seed, you could also introduce some native perennial meadow pot plants such as cowslip, bird’s-foot-trefoil, betony, oxeye daisy, selfheal and knapweed. Always allow plants time to set seed before cutting so they increase naturally. Yellow rattle is also known as ‘natures lawnmower’ as it suppresses the growth of grasses making way for wildflowers.
As we are based at Elm Tree Farm (one of our sister enterprises), we have been using this method of leaving areas to grow wild for a number of years, and it is popular with insects, animals, and people alike! Not only that, just cutting your lawn once a month could save you hours of work that you could spend enjoying your wildlife-friendly garden instead.