A smart, mown, green lawn is undoubtably becoming more difficult to maintain in our increasingly unstable climate conditions, especially in exceptionally dry weather like the droughts we have had for the last two summers in Norfolk. The good news is that by less intensive lawn care you can save on some of that hard work and precious water – and help our precious pollinators too.
Research by gardeners across the UK (Plantlife’s “Every Flower Counts” campaign) has shown that lawns cut every 4 weeks offer up to 10 times more nectar for bees, hoverflies, butterflies, beetles, and other pollinating insects. This is because many of our lawns contain perennial wildflowers like white clover, selfheal and bird’s foot trefoil that just need the chance to grow taller and flower, producing even more nectar after a monthly trim, as long as you mow no lower than about 5 cms.
You can encourage even more wildlife value from your lawn if you leave another patch or two of lawn completely uncut throughout the summer – maybe in a corner further from the house, ideally closer to shrubs or trees. This will allow the grasses to grow tall and flower, together with a wider variety of other lovely wildflowers, including ox-eye daisy, knapweed and scabious, that don’t adapt to regular mowing. Moths, butterflies, grasshoppers and a host of other insects will make this their home, and it will also be a safe haven for frogs, toads and hedgehogs.
Managing your mini meadow in the right way is important. As well as only cutting roughly once a month, make sure that you always remove grass cuttings so that you encourage continuing wildflower diversity. If you have enough garden space you might add this to a “habitat pile” that can provide a home for a hibernating hedgehog and other garden wildlife.
Between 1980 and 2013, every square kilometre in the UK lost an average of 11 species of bee and hoverfly, so our gardens offer a vital patchwork of important habitat. Living in Ryburgh we are lucky to live surrounded by a beautiful rural scenery, but this landscape offers little by way of homes for our precious insect pollinators which themselves support the rich web of other wildlife species. In common with the rest of the UK, Norfolk has lost over 97% of its species-rich wildflower meadows, leaving some stretches of road verge as the last fragments of this precious habitat. Our role in creating and managing mini meadows in our gardens has never been more important – it doesn’t matter how small they are as even a square metre will count!
There is lots of further information online:
Plantlife, the charity supporting wildflowers, have many resources, plus fun surveys you can join in: www.plantlife.org.uk/everyflowercounts/
Other useful links are: