In 2014 we begun experimenting with yellow rattle as an establisher for wildflower meadows, in that same year we later met Fred Lovell who had spent the last ten years experimenting and testing yellow rattle, we had also been lucky enough to film and preserve Fred’s knowledge in the below video. Sadly, Fred passed away in 2016 but his knowledge was used by countless people from all around the world in his how to guide we filmed.
Leverhulme Park’s meadow habitats consists of wet thatched grass, in high nutrient meadows that have either been regularly cut but never raked or never cut for decades. We have been able to establish yellow rattle in Tawny Owl Meadow and two former mini putt golf holes, one meadow has naturally had Red Bartsia seed in quite large numbers but there has been almost no natural variety in species of wildflowers. When wildflower seeds have been sown in the Autumn, there have been four factors that cause issues, lack of open bare soil, lack of trampling seeds, lack of low cut grass being raked away and finally the seeds rotting from the damp ground. This year, Bolton NEWT, through the Greater Manchester Environmental Fund was supported with a grant that allowed us to purchase a scythe mower that would enable us to cut back thatched grass, thereby keeping the grass low and finally have open bare soil patches without scarifying the ground. On Sunday the 2nd April we’ll be introducing Alpine Strawberries (with runners) around the Orchards, the regular cutting by Bolton Council on the outside of the orchard will stop it spreading outside these zones but our trials have shown a great success for its place in a meadow, wild strawberries are a food plant for 51 species of bugs and butterflies.
Cutting the grass back in April, while the grass is wet, is far from ideal, however we are hopeful as part of a trial for this time of the year, that in the mini put holes where there is no yellow rattle, we can open the ground without scarifying to study the impact of bare soil seed introduction at this time of the year. Without trial and error, we simply wouldn’t find what works or doesn’t. At the end of the year when we cut back the yellow rattle meadows, we’ll use the standard method but with an interesting introduction of the following variety; Red Clover, Meadow Vetchling, Ragged Robin, Autumn Hawkbit, Common Vetch, Black Knapweed, Yarrow Seeds, Self Heal and Oxeye Daisy, all of which are can handle damp wet grasslands and can be found commonly growing in the surrounding areas of Bolton.
As for Poppies and cornflowers, they are not meadow species but species of arable land that require a fair amount of ground disturbance, quite often, they’re found in your local supermarkets as the key seeds in wildflower boxes, 1000 gram’s usually contains just 10grams of wildflower seeds. This has often led to the public not appreciating our native species and only imagining beautiful poppy fields, which are not natural for places like Bolton. If you found this an interesting read, please consider joining the ‘No mow May’, letting our native species flourish on your garden lawn for the benefit of our local wildlife. We’re doing our part, we’d love for more people to join us on this journey..