Say no to the mow!

We have recently returned from a holiday in the wonderful region of Extremadura in Spain. The birdlife is the biggest pull for our visits there, but we also love to see all of the wildflowers that fill the agricultural land. The region is also known for its many orchid species. Sadly, they have had a very dry spring this year, so the show of wildflowers was not as good as in previous years however the amount of invertebrate life was still in evidence – mainly on our windscreen! That’s another thing that always stands out to us, just how frequently we have to wash the windscreen during our short week-long visits. I can’t remember the last time I had that problem in the UK, but I do remember it as a kid as I used to wash my Dad’s car for pocket money.

There’s not a lot we can do on a large-scale to get our old hay meadows back in the countryside, but we can do our bit in our own gardens and community green spaces. Plantlife have been promoting their “No Mow May” movement for a few years now and many people and organisations have really got behind it, including local authorities. The premise is simple – just resist the temptation to mow your lawn during May (and preferably all summer long) to allow the grasses to flower and to allow other plant species in your lawn to flower too. By doing this, you will be creating a rich resource for butterflies, hoverflies, bees and other pollinators, as well as longer grass for grasshoppers to hide in. If you feel you can’t give over your whole lawn to nature, then just select a discrete area or create a perimeter of longer grass. Gardens don’t have to be boring green regular shapes – embrace the chaos!!! Just cut as usual towards the end of the summer when the flowers have had the chance to produce seeds. If you continue to do this year on year, you will be surprised at how many wildflowers turn up. It may just be grasses for the first couple of years, but have you ever really taken the time to inspect these? Grasses come in all different shapes, sizes and colours and are just as interesting as other flowering plants when left to complete their natural cycles.

Maybe you don’t have a lawn. Maybe most of your outside space is taken up by decking or paving for easy maintenance. No problem, you can always add lots of plants and flowers in pots which benefit wildlife, and you could even put up some trellis to grow some creeping plants up your walls or fences such as honeysuckle. If you already have a well-established garden and some prized plants that you nurture throughout the year, how about not going mad at every weed that pops up? If there are weeds that are particularly invasive and threaten your garden plants, then feel free to tackle those, but how about leaving the odd dandelion or daisy to do its thing? Keeping on top of all weeds is hard work, so give yourself and them a break. Putting up hanging baskets is another good way of introducing more flowers to your garden if you are tight on space. If wildflowers or “weeds” really don’t float your boat, then try to choose flowers with a clear centre. If you can see the central parts of the flower, and they are not covered by petals, they will be easier to access for most pollinators and will therefore be more attractive. Also, select plants that will provide flowers throughout the year.

If you’re wondering what the best flowers are to plant, these are a few we would suggest:

  • Honeysuckle, Evening Primrose and Common Jasmine give off their scent at night thus attracting moths
  • English Bluebell, Grape Hyacinth, Foxglove, Primrose and Flowering Currant are great for pollinators during the spring-early summer
  • Verbena, Wallflower, Lavender and Heathers are good for the mid-season
  • Red Valerian, Coneflower, Sunflower, Goldenrod and Michaelmas Daisy are ideal for later in the summer

Another thing you can do in your own community is spread the word and help educate your neighbours. People with traditional views of how a garden should look can be difficult to get on board. They may think that gardens that are not kept neat and tidy are a reflection of the owners, so try to engage with people and explain what you’re doing and why. Plantlife have printable posters that you can put up in your garden or in your window to explain what you’re doing. If you can start to win people round, and more people start to let the wildflowers grow, it will soon start to be seen as the norm.

There are lots of places you can go to for advice, but visiting the Plantlife website is a good place to start

We hope you have a blooming good May!