Last week, I looked at how I'm making a garden 'hay meadow' from scratch.
But what if you haven't got the time or money or energy to go to all the trouble of creating a clean seedbed and sowing it from scratch? What can you do with an existing lawn?
Well, here's how my 'pop-up meadow', as the author Jenny Steel calls them, is shaping up in its first year.
It is an area that I laid with bog-standard turf two years ago, which overall (including the grass paths) is about 6 metres x 6 metres, so a pretty typical back lawn size.
And what I've done (or rather not done) is I just haven't mown a square in the middle of it. The paths around the outside get mown about once every 10 days, and the rest is doing as it wants. (And I get to do something else with the time I save!)
Here is is from another angle:
It is easy to walk past it and fail to spot the wildlife that is now using the new mini-jungle, but take the time to look close and you realise there are little spiders' webs throughout it, and it is a prime spot for the damselflies from my pond to come and hunt for flies or to rest, such as this Blue-tailed Damselfly.
The turf I laid has a very typical mix of lawn grass cultivars in it, with the Smooth Meadow Grass creating the fluffy haze. This is what it looks like close-up:
...and this is the effect it creates
But you'll notice a dark, strong grass sticking up through it all, and that's Perennial Rye-grass, which is what swathes of grass fields are dominated by these days, and looks like this close-up:
But my wildflower hay meadow, sown from seed, is full of what tend to get called 'wild grasses', such as this Crested Dog's-tail:
..and the next photo, which is Sweet Vernal Grass
They tend to be rather less vigorous than lawn grasses, leaving more space for wild flowers to survive.
So this summer I'll be watching closely - will meadow butterflies start to use my pop-up meadow? Will grasshoppers arrive?
What I then plan to do with the pop-up meadow is mow it very hard in late summer, so hard that bits of bare soil are exposed. I might even give it a bit of a scrape to open up even more little gaps. And then I'll oversow with a wildflower meadow mix including Yellow Rattle. It don't expect it to take as well as on bare soil, but it should begin to allow a few wild perennial meadow flowers to grow among the lawn grass.
And I'll let you know how I get on!
I was going to restart mowing in October, so I'll now have to think about a 'hard mow' in August, instead. Decisions, decisions!
BTW, my local park in Bournemouth is getting more & more pop-up meadow areas (eg around trees) which are being left longer and longer between mowings, and they are looking great. They have also replaced metal bars to stop parking, with verges sown with wildflowers! Maybe the council leaders have been reading Adrian's articles?
That's a great meadow, and so much more interesting!
You need to convince quite a lot of RSPB reserve managers though, as most I've seen are still in the routine of just cutting 'the grass' every week in summer, and pulling all the 'weeds' out of gravel areas regularly. I say, they wouldn't cut the heads off their birds in the name of tidiness, so why the non-stop chop? (Yes, that's you Mersehead and Insh Marshes, though I'm sure there are lots of other culprits.)