Bring nature right to your doorstep… and park the mower (at least for a while)
Spring is finally here and with it, warmer and longer days. The time seems right to grab our walking shoes, or the car keys, to journey into the countryside for time to stretch our legs as well as our minds. Meanwhile, at home, the familiar roar or buzz of lawnmowers on Saturday morning now fills our time spent outside once more.
Maybe with a new year, it is time to reconsider the rush to reach for your lawnmower, or to make a journey to be closer to nature. Ditch the mowing regime and enjoy the sunshine watching fine-leaved grass stems nod between busy bees and bumbling beetles scouting amongst the flowers you have made space for…. make a flowery lawn and bring nature right to your doorstep instead!
Spring Flower-rich Lawn
Many people find a Spring-flowering grassland an ideal way to make the change into creating a flower-rich grassy place at their back door. It means you can park the mower for a few months but also use the grassland as a lawn for summer months spent lazing on your lawn with your favourite tipple, snoozing with a book, or a BBQ with friends and family.
The author’s lawn at home, late June (Photo: Nic Harrison-White)
Looking after your spring meadow could not be simpler. This simply means marking out an area to leave uncut until roughly mid-June and then cutting at a height of no less than two inches throughout the summer.
Remember to be consistent in your mowing dates so that a habitat can express itself. If including Yellow Rattle in your spring meadow, this is an ideal ‘indicator’ plant of when to cut. Simply allow at least half of the plants to set their gloriously rattly seeds and then cut and collect. Otherwise, the setting of seed of native Bluebells (if you have them creeping into your grassland) are another perfect indicator for mowing.
You can ‘frame’ it with a series of mown edges if you wish, to allow appreciation of a work of art you and nature have created together. I also like to make a carefully chosen meandering pathway through the spring grassland, perhaps to a sunbathing patch in the centre as a small circle. This has the benefit of making it clear to your neighbours that this is not simply an area you have forgotten about, but also means that you can lay on your belly in the centre and look through an enticing jungle of mini-beasts and wispy flowers.
You will soon find stars in your grass too - you never know what might come up! Many local records that come in as new sites for orchids, such as Autumn Lady’s Tresses and Southern Marsh-orchid, are from garden lawns previously being cut weekly and now managed more sympathetically for wildlife. Many species-rich waxcap grasslands were formerly church-yards, with a tidiness giving way to let nature and life into the resting places of our lost loved-ones.
The very same ‘lawn’ in early June (Photo: Nic Harrison-White)
Making ourselves ‘a bit more wild’ has benefits to each and every one of us. Spring flowering meadows in our gardens and outdoor office offices are a great way to start. You can visit your very own grassland reserve any time you want, where there was once just a patch of ryegrass- and a pain in the grass to mow.
Nic Harrison-White: is an ecologist at Land & Heritage