Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Mowing my meadow has increased biodiversity

A hay meadow in Norfolk ready for cutting
most of the flowers have already set seed
It's never easy to attack a lovely wild flower meadow with a sharp instrument that will take away the flowers and the vegetation and leave what looks like a shaggy, weedy lawn, but sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.

I was late giving my Meadowmat its annual trim this year.  Two reasons, one I've injured my neck and needed to persuade my husband to do the deed (never easy, he hates gardening as much as I hate ironing); plus, I couldn't bring myself to chop the flowers off the yarrow, clover and vetch.  Nevertheless, the deed was done a couple of weeks ago.  The hay has been removed and used to fill the nest boxes in the chicken coop and I've had a pleasant surprise.

My Meadowmat was installed in spring 2011.  In the first summer, it was quite grassy but managed to supply the local bees with some yellow rattle, some clover flowers, a couple of oxeye daisies and a yarrow or two.   It was allowed to grow unchecked until July 2011 and then it was cut back and all the clippings made into hay.  From september last year until the end of march this year, I periodically zoomed over the Meadowmat with my rotary mower on its highest setting and took away all of the clippings for composting.

Meadowmat in it's second summer
This summer I was rewarded with a beautiful floral display.  Yellow rattle, clover, birdsfoot trefoil, vetch, yarrow, wild carrot, sorrell, plantain and knapweed were the main contenders AND there was a lot less grass than in the previous summer, especially in the two patches where the yellow rattle was doing well.  Sadly, there weren't enough bees to enjoy the meadow to the full.  But heyho, that's the British weather for you.

Oh dear, my newly cut Meadowmat looks awful
(happily it's recovered a bit since this photo was taken)
Leaving the mowing/strimming until mid august perhaps wasn't a good move though.  The grass had been battered by rainstorms, fallen over and looked as though it had smothered some of the plants beneath it.  But, once again, Nature triumphed over adversity as two weeks on, I can see that the floral plants are regenerating nicely...there are even a few different leaf shapes in the mix, so maybe some surprises next year...but the grasses are still thinking about re-growing.

I am convinced that mowing the meadow increases it's biodiversity.  On the Meadowmat production field,
Robert regularly mows the grass .... it's easier to roll up and despatch if the vegetation is short...and he tells me that after each cut, he sees less grass and more flowering species.

I've heard tell that it takes seven years to establish a species rich meadow from seed. I would like to think that by using Meadowmat I fast forwarded the process by at least one or two years, but that does still mean that things can only get better.  Whoohoo can't wait to see what next summer has in store.
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