How often should it be cut and when?
Ideally allow grasses and flowers in the meadow to grow, flower and set seed. A rule of thumb would be to cut and lift from August onwards. However this is weather dependent and if you get a good dry window of weather earlier, it may be advisable to “make hay while the sun shines” in case you don’t get another chance later in the season.
If it too wet at the end of summer, you can take a cut and lift the following spring (ideally after dandelions have flowered, but before they set seed). This provides food for pollinators, birds and allows flowering plants to complete their lifecycle.
The optimum wildlife-friendly management option is to cut three-quarters of your meadow and leave a quarter standing to provide homes and food for overwintering pollinators and wildlife.
Should I mow paths and include activity spaces?
We encourage mowing one-metre paths through meadows to encourage people into the meadow and if adjacent to a footpath, mow a one-metre strip along the footpath. This helps to show intention / active management. Providing signage may also help people understand the logic behind your management. Click here to download DMLIG Banners.
In addition to encouraging the use of the meadow by people, this also provides a diversity of habitat for visiting pollinators. We suggest mowing strips / paths every 4 to 6 weeks. The mowing strips / paths produce a short sward which encourage native flowers such as trefoils and clovers.
How do I cut and lift grass cuttings?
This all depends on the size of the meadow, site access, manpower and machinery available. If the area is a small meadow, it may be feasible to use a lawnmower on its highest setting for the first cut and repeat with a lower setting and collect cuttings for composting.
Strimmer V Scythe?
We recommend scythe as it creates neat rows of cut grass which is easy to rake and lift. Whereas, a strimmer shreds/hacks at the sward leaving it difficult to rake and collect. If cutting with a scythe, you can then employ traditional methods to create hay (for fodder, or even green hay for seeding elsewhere). Hand methods can be used to create small bales (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGzUL9tRelc&app=desktop or create a haystack (SOMM blog).
In the past few years the art of scything has seen a bit of revival across Ireland and the UK with trainers such as Neil Foulkes providing training and sharing his knowledge:
For larger areas, you may be able to coordinate with a local farmer, agricultural / landscape contractor who has the necessary equipment e.g. tractor flail, tractor with a “drum” mower, Allen scythe (finger bar) to cut, “hay bob” to rake grass, and round or square baler). Note you will need to think about what you do with the cut grass and who / where to send the arisings. A local farmer taking for fodder is the preferred option and generally the easiest option.
What will my meadow look like?
When people think about a wildflower meadow they tend to think about a non-native high colour amenity planting display. This does provide a certain level of benefit to our pollinators but is a high cost and high maintenance option.
If you are willing to make small changes to how you manage grassland and allow it grow you will see native grasses and wildflowers within a year. If you cut and lift after year one, you will see an improvement in the following growing season. There will be a reduction in dense, coarse grasses and an increase in finer native grasses and wildflowers which will improve year on year as the soil fertility reduces with every cut and lift.
One of our project volunteers has embraced Don’t Mow Let It Grow in their own garden, click here. to see a short video of their stunning meadow!
Don’t Mow, Let it Grow has demonstrated that these small changes can make a big difference to biodiversity, with no planting required.
Click here to view the image gallery.
Click here to view Before and After Photos from our sites.
How long does it take for a typical grassy area to become a flower-rich meadow?
The experiences from Don’t Mow, Let it Grow, have shown that it will take 2 to 3 years, however, this will depend on how nutrient-rich your site is to begin with. Other factors such as soil type, exposure, soil compaction and previous management will all play a part.
Will all sites become flower-rich on their own?
Yes, given time along with the correct management and a little (or a lot) of patience! We recommend you do some form of monitoring such as fixed-point photography to show the improvement of plant diversity of the site. If possible conduct a site survey each year and keep records. You could use the survey developed by the project to monitor your own site.
Should I introduce native plants to increase species diversity / attractiveness of meadows?
The experiences from The Don’t Mow, Let it Grow have shown that nature will bounce back after 2 to 3 years, however if you wish to give your site a kick start, especially if the site is very nutrient-rich (i.e. characterised by rye grass, docks and thistle) you may wish to sow some yellow / hay rattle or red bartsia.
See here for more information on yellow rattle and the need for local provenance.
When should you sow commercial wildflower seed?
When you want an instant meadow, however, note that correct ground preparation is crucial. See http://pollinators.ie/app/uploads/2018/04/How-to-guide-Wildflower-Meadows-2018-WEB.pdf
Do I need to spray or fertilise?
Our native wildflowers and grasses thrive in nutrient poor soils, therefore no fertilizer or compost should be applied. Both the AIPP and DMLIG do not advocate spraying. We advocate hand pulling of weedy species that are dominant such as docks. However if this is not practicable, targeted spot spraying may be required.
Is litter management required?
Regular litter picking of meadows may be required in public sites. Signage and education may help.
What if dog fouling is an issue?
Signage and education may help. If this is an issue, grass cuttings should not be used for fodder.
How do I handle public complaints?
DMLIG has found that signage, education and awareness-raising helps reduce the likelihood of the complaints and may lead to positive feedback! Have a point of contact for members of the public. See the DMLIG public perception results.
Can you create a meadow on wet soil?
Yes, given time along with the correct management (and a little or lot of patience!). There are likely to be many wet-loving native wildflowers in the seed bank, such as cuckooflower and ragged robin. The timings of the cutting may be dictated by prolonged dry period. We recommend you do some form of monitoring such as fixed-point photography to show the improvement of plant diversity of the site. If possible conduct a site survey each year and keep records. You could use the survey developed by the project to monitor your own site.
Will a meadow attract rodents?
An actively managed grassland is less likely to attract any additional rodents, than an abandoned derelict site.
How to deal with rushes?
Annual cutting and lifting as per normal grassland management should prevent rushes from dominating. Use of scythe or strimmer will allow selective cutting of rushes. The best time to cut rushes is mid-July to mid-August when growth rates are highest.
How to deal with ragwort and docks which are noxious weeds?
Ragwort can be a beneficial plant to our pollinators, but if becoming dominant they can be hand-pulled or spot sprayed. If the grass is being cut for fodder it is essential to remove all ragwort before cutting.
Docks can become dominant in the first few years, hand pulling or spot spraying before they set seed.
How to deal with thistles and nettles?
Both thistles and nettles are a beneficial plant for insects and birds. Annual cutting and lifting as per normal grassland management will prevent these species from becoming dominant.
How to deal with invasive species?
Do not cut and refer to reputable sites for advice:
Invasive Species Ireland:
What if the area is prone to dumping / fly-tipping?
Where possible create a barrier to prevent dumping. Following grassland management advice above and by showing active management for the site, this may deter dumping. Signage, education and awareness-raising may help.
What wildlife will typical meadow support?
Meadows and species-rich grasslands support a huge diversity and abundance of fine native grasses, wildflowers and fungi. This rich habitat supports a host of bees, flies, beetles, spiders, moths, butterflies, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, bats and birds. In the UK and Ireland, more priority species (for conservation attention) are associated with wildflower-rich grasslands than with any other habitat type. See Saving Our Magnificent Meadows for more information on the importance of meadows: http://magnificentmeadows.org.uk/
How do I maintain wooded and rank grassland areas?
If a meadow is the desired habitat, rank grassland should be managed. A mosaic of different habitats and woodland edge can provide important habitat for our pollinators.