Letting your Grass Grow – Creating Meadows

Let your grass grow, aka creating meadows

Breach Hill Common, Chew Stoke

“The vast loss of flower-rich habitat is one of the main drivers in the decline of diverse creatures from yellow bumblebees to corncrakes, but there is now huge interest in restoring and recreating these meadows, and we can all help by creating mini-meadows in our gardens. 

“A single square metre is a good start if that is all you can spare. There are various ways you can create it, but the easiest is to simply stop cutting (apart from a single cut in late summer, removing the clippings) and see what happens. The vegetation will shoot up, and any herbaceous plants present will soon become obvious as they flower and then set seed through the summer. If you occasionally mow around your meadow area it can actually look remarkably neat; the contrast between short and long grass makes the area look managed rather than abandoned.” Dave Goulston ‘The Garden Jungle’

Front garden in Chew Magna, created from scratch

“Create a mini jungle through which beetles and other small creatures can wander and where sparrows and goldfinches may come to feed on the seeds. The grasses will set seed, wildflowers already in your lawn will grab their opportunity to bloom, and the longer stems will create a sheltered microclimate. 

“You can continue to give the mower a rest into autumn. But cutting it at the end of summer mimics the hay meadows of olden days.” RSBP

Breach Hill Common, Chew Stoke

If you are starting a meadow from scratch have a look at The Wildflower Garden from Plantlife, which has some excellent advice – from suggestions on sourcing your seed locally, thinking about your soil type, siting your meadow to mowing regimes.  

In the Chew Valley via our Facebook page “Rewild Chew” we are building a network of gardeners and gardens, some with meadows so that it should be possible to negotiate and collect seed local to your village.  By collecting and spreading hay from one of these meadows you can introduce a variety of natives to your patch, in the confidence that they should grow and hopefully mimic some of the wonderful meadows we have locally, e.g. Breach Hill Common and Hollow Marsh.

Above is the Meadow at Yeo Valley, created over 25 years ago; the topsoil was stripped but the subsoil was still too rich for a traditional meadow.  Yellow rattle was introduced to weaken the grasses. Today it is a mix of grasses and meadow buttercup with the addition of bulbs.  Single flower snowdrops, crocus, narcissi and camassia – all offer an early season source of food for bees.