A garden meadow increases biodiversity and reduces CO2 emissions. This was confirmed by a recent study in King's College, Cambridge led by Dr Cicely Marshall.
The researchers found that the meadow supported three times the amount of plant, spider and insect species compared to a lawn. There were also 25 times more invertebrates and bat activity was three times greater. They estimated that there was a saving of 1.25 tonnes of CO2 emissions per hectare that were caused by cutting and fertilising the lawn and that the meadow reduced the effect of the droughts we all suffer thanks to climate change. And importantly, researchers found that only 14% of visitors to the garden preferred the old-style lawn.
The wild areas of my ground and those I've seen in Scotland and mainland Europe are at their peak just now and most of us can increase biodiversity in our own gardens, fight off the effects of drought and reduce our carbon footprint.
Be inspired by looking at public meadow pockets and banks and get started with your lawn or a patch you're not using or never get round to keeping tidy. You might have taken part in Plantlife's 'No Mow May' initiative and can't face the hassle of mowing in the baking sun. Just leave some of it alone and, with clearly defined edges, it really looks intentional, not a neglected mess.
An uncut established lawn will surprise you with the wealth of species that will emerge but a new build property offers much less potential and you may need to sow your lawn afresh in late summer or whenever the soil is moist. Scotia Seeds have a range of meadow mixes for different situations as well as packs of individual native species, so check out their website. Some species compete more effectively and will dominate the area so you may need to add plug plants of what you'd like to see to counterbalance this. Again, go for native plants to be authentic, Scotland offers a goodly choice.
It's time to cut back after flowers have faded and seed has dropped. The vegetation also collapses and becomes an eyesore.
Few of us have or know how to use a scythe, but an electric strimmer does the job perfectly well. Cut back to 5-7cm and let it wilt for a few days to let any seed disperse. It's also easier to collect with a tine rake. Removing and composing this vegetation prevents it from enriching the ground. Undesirable 'weeds' like docks and nettles thrive in rich soil and throttle the plants you want. Those with the most attractive flowers, like Maiden Pink and Meadow Saxifrage, are often poor competitors.
As an added bonus grass will still look green, not the scorched brown of a scalped lawn.
Plant of the week
Sweet William, Dianthus barbatus, is traditionally a cottage garden plant with strongly scented flowers in dense clusters. The petals of each flower are usually serrated though some cultivars appear more fringed than others. Colours are mostly pink, white and purple and some cultivars have bi-coloured flowers.
Sweet Williams are biennials or short-lived perennials and now is a good time to sow seed to ensure attractive plants next year; older plants can become leggy and fall around.