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Wild flower mini meadows

- July Post from the forum by Chris Sutcliffe


On one of my last filming assignments before gently easing into retirement I took the opportunity to take a relaxing walk from our airbnb in the residential area of town to meet up with the rest of the crew in downtown Boulder. In most other US cities such a walk at that time of year would see me taking evasive action to avoid getting a dowsing from the army of sprinklers employed to water the usual neatly manicured and totally sterile lawns. But this was Boulder, a progressive University town 30 miles or so from Denver Colorado where the city council has created numerous “pollinator pathways” and is encouraging neighbourhoods to re-wild their yards (gardens) by planting wild meadow grasses and flowers. It has been an incredible success and although I dare say some outsiders might think it all looks a bit unkempt I think it made my walk into town that evening a real joy! A short time later I found myself reading an article about the British obsession with mowing and the damaging environmental consequences of this pastime. The article was highlighting the “No mow May” policy which has been adopted by numerous councils and institutions around the country whereby grass is left to grow at this crucial time of year to provide a rich environment for pollinators to prosper. The article also suggested that more long term dedicated wild areas could be established to encourage a greater biodiversity. Being responsible for the upkeep of the mowers and strimmers on the allotment brought into question my own role in the grass cutting routine and whilst I can see the importance of keeping communal pathways accessible to everyone, I also felt that we could put more effort onto creating more biodiverse habitats on the allotment. I therefore proposed to the Allotment Committee that the orchard area to the east of the school allotment could be turned into an experimental wild flower area, a proposal that received general approval and so, in the late spring of 2022, I decided to start work on the project. There is a general misconception that to achieve a wild flower meadow one simply lets nature take its course but I soon discovered that this is far from true - creating a wild flower meadow or any other sort of wild area is a very proactive process and requires considerable planning and preparation! It certainly isn’t just a matter of letting nature take it’s own course. With the help of a very efficient turf cutting machine I set to and prepared two areas on the orchard plot. The turf cutter is definitely designed with straight lines in mind rather than the gentle curves that I had planned for the two wild flower “patches” so it was a bit of a battle but I got my curves! It was quite important at this stage to leave the soil exposed for a few weeks so that any aggressive weeds would come to the surface ready for removal. Meryl and I prepared the soil and in late spring sowed a mix of wildflower and grass seeds from Emorsgate seeds in Norfolk. We opted for a mix that was particularly suitable for wetland areas as this part of the allotment (like many others) is prone to flooding after moderate rainfall. Typically it has hardly rained at all this year so in retrospect and in hindsight we could have opted for a more traditional meadow mix which would have saved us a lot of watering. The two wildflower patches are now in full bloom and we’re really pleased with the results and think it adds some interest to an otherwise fairly bland area. Unfortunately this particular mix is not a big bee attractor although it is very popular with butterflies so I will make some adjustments to next year’s mix. We will let this year’s crop go to seed and scythe the flowers and grasses in early autumn and allow any seeds to self seed ready for next year’s display. If you haven’t had a chance to see the two mini meadows please do have a peep (opposite the school allotment near the Highbury entrance) and tell us what you think.

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