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Yellow rattle, commonly known as the meadow maker, is one of the most important plants you need for a meadow. Without it, vigorous grasses can grow unchecked and smother flowers you want to encourage.

As Yellow Rattle Rhinanthus minor grows in a meadow the grass will become thinner, making room for plants like Oxeye Daisy, Knapweeds and Vetches to appear. And if you’re lucky, maybe even an orchid will pop up.

Yellow rattle close up

The life cycle (a year) of Yellow Rattle:

  • The seeds germinate in early spring and grow quickly
  • As the roots develop, it seeks out the roots of plants growing nearby, especially grasses
  • Once it makes contact, Yellow Rattle draws water and nutrients from the nearby plants
  • This leaves space for flowers to grow

Then large bees, especially bumblebees, move in and pollinate the flowers of yellow rattle and it’s large seed pods dry and ripen. This leaves the seeds rattling around inside. Farmers used to use the sound of the rattling seeds as their cue to cut the hay – hence the name.

How to grow Yellow Rattle?

Yellow Rattle is a very useful starting plant when making a wildflower meadow, but it can be a little tricky to establish. Here are some top tips to get you started:

1. Getting some seed

  • Yellow Rattle seeds are very short lived so they must be sown as fresh as possible and ideally will have been harvested in the most recent summer
  • You can pop over to the Plantlife shop to buy some
  • Or even better, if you know somewhere locally with Yellow Rattle, then ask if you can collect some seed
  • Seeds are collected by picking the stems (on a dry day) and shaking them into a paper bag
  • The seeds must be collected between June and August – once ripe they will begin to fall to the ground so there’s only a short window of opportunity! Ripeness is dependent on the summer weather and is likely to be soonest in the warmest parts of the country such as the south east.

     

2. Planting the seed

  • Firstly, you must prepare the area – cut the grass as short as you can between July and September and remove the clippings
  • There may be a layer of dead grass, which should be removed by raking through the area with a soil rake, to expose some bare soil throughout – this is crucial so the seed can reach the surface of the soil, and won’t be choked as a seedling
  • The seeds can then be sown by hand by scattering
  • This needs to be done by November at the latest, because the seeds need about 4 months below 5C to germinate in the spring

3. Watch it grow

  • Seedlings will start to appear in the spring, from as early as late February. But there is no need to worry if only a few plants germinate in the first year as they will shed seed and numbers should rapidly increase
  • The wildflower meadow should be cut once the Yellow Rattle has shed its seed – between July and August. Cutting times will vary depending on where you live and the seasons
  • In a garden, cutting the grass and removing the clippings once or twice before December ensures Yellow Rattle has the space to germinate and grow by February

If you have very fertile soil, it might be trickier to grow Yellow Rattle. Poor and infertile soils are best and following the steps above will help reduce the fertility of your soil over time.

FAQ

  • 1. When should I sow Yellow Rattle?

    Late summer (August-September) is the best time to sow Yellow Rattle. It will not grow successfully if sown in the spring. The seeds can be sown no later than November because they need about 4 months below 5C to germinate in the spring.

  • 2. How do I collect my own Yellow Rattle seed?

    Yellow Rattle is easy to collect by hand. Simply hold a paper bag under the ripe seed pod and shake it gently with your fingers. Collecting larger quantities can easily be done using a vacuum or leaf blower.

    WATCH: Plantlife’s Sarah Shuttleworth collects Yellow Rattle with a vacuum. 

  • 3. Why has Yellow Rattle disappeared from my meadow?

    There are a number of reasons why Yellow Rattle may disappear from a meadow, including:

    • Cutting before the rattle has set seed
    • Leaving the cuttings on the meadow
    • Grazing in early spring when the seedlings are out and vulnerable
    • The meadow is too fertile
    • Grass is out-competing the Yellow Rattle
  • 4. How much Yellow Rattle should I sow?

    For meadows, we recommend 0.5-2.5kg per hectare/10-20g per m2 if you are collecting your own seed.

  • 5. Why hasn’t my Yellow Rattle geminated?

    There are several possible reasons:

    • The seeds were more than a year old (we advise buying from a reputable supplier).
    • Not enough bare ground was created before sowing. It is best to create at least 50% bare ground.
    • The meadow was too fertile and the grasses out competed the rattle.
    • Rattle was sown at the wrong time of year (sowing in the late summer is best). If sown in the spring it should have been stored damp mixed with sand at 4C for 6 –12 weeks.
    • The grass was too long in the early spring, when the rattle germinates. Cutting the meadow in February and removing the clippings can help. This gives the rattle seedlings a better head-start when competing for light with the surrounding grasses.

     

More meadow making tips

Yellow rattle: The Meadow Maker

Yellow rattle: The Meadow Maker

Yellow Rattle, is the single most important plant you need when creating a wildflower meadow. Here’s everything you need to know.

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Want to start a community meadow, but not sure where to begin? Read our guide to creating a flower-filled haven for your local community.

How to Grow a Wildflower Meadow
Wildflower meadow landscape with a variety of species near Cardiff, Wales

How to Grow a Wildflower Meadow

Whether it’s your back garden, local park, community field or lawn, wildflower meadows are amazing spaces with so much to offer.

How to make a pollinator friendly garden

From the wildflowers in our meadows, to the shrubs in our hedgerows, and the blooms in our gardens – pollinators play a pivotal role.

Eager to get more bees and butterflies into your garden? Follow our pollinator-friendly tips!

A bee on a pretty Sea Holly bloom

Our plants and pollinators go hand in hand. You might have heard how important pollinators are to our food crops, but did you know they are just as vital for the rest of our plants? From the wildflowers in our meadows, to the shrubs in our hedgerows, and our garden blooms, to our ancient woodlands – pollinators play a pivotal role.

Unfortunately, some populations of pollinators in the UK are now in decline. While there is no one answer to the cause of this drop in numbers, habitat loss is certainly high on the list. Which is why it’s so important that there are moments like Bees Needs Week or National Meadows Day (on the first Saturday in July) that spotlight the incredible meadows and flower-rich grasslands that are home to pollinators.

Plantlife, and other environmental and farming organisations, are calling on the UK Government to prioritise action for these habitats by committing to developing a Grassland Action Plan.

Read more below to find out how you can get involved.

A butterfly on a blue Scabious Flower

What are pollinators?

Whilst some pollinators are more well known than other, a wide range of insects and other animals can also fall under the umbrella because they move pollen to fertilise plants.

Here is a list of common pollinators in the UK, some you might already be familiar with, while others are a little more unusual:

  • Bees
  • Butterflies
  • Moths
  • Beetles
  • Wasps
  • Flies including hoverflies
  • Hornets
  • In other parts of the world, some birds, bats, small rodents and lizards can also be added to this list
Two different lengths of grass, a short flowering lawn, and long grass with taller wildflower

Take part in No Mow Summer and let your lawn grow wild for nature

By making small changes to how you manage your lawn, you can make a huge difference to nature. As well encouraging a more species-rich green space for you to enjoy, wilder lawns can also be havens to other wildlife, including our pollinators.

Follow our expert guide to managing a nature friendly lawn here, or find more information here on how to encourage more wildflowers into your garden.

Pollinators love some of our common lawn species including White Clover Trifolium repens, Dandelion Taraxacum officinale  and Daisy Bellis perennisYellow Rattle Rhinanthus minor is also a firm favourite and can help to suppress the growth of grasses to allow room for other species and wildflowers to grow.

Pick the bees favourite blooms

It’s important to remember that butterflies and bees feed on pollen and nectar, so choosing plants that are rich in both will help to provide a full feast for our insect friends.

These plants are favourites among some of our common pollinators and could be good to include in your garden. Click through to our species pages to learn more.

  • Primrose Primula vulgaris These pretty pale-yellow native plants bloom early in the spring making them valuable to provide pollinators food before other sources are available.
  • Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta Bluebells are one of the most quintessential British spring plants, that can often be seen blanketing the countryside. But you don’t have to head to your nearest woodland to see them at their springtime best, you can grow them at home too.
  • Wild Strawberry Fragaria vesca These little red berries often found in meadows and verges can also be grown in the garden. The white flowers that form in spring are loved by many pollinators which in turn help the plants produce fruit which make a tasty treat for animals and insects alike. Keep in mind that while these plants have declined in their distribution across England, they also spread very quickly, so could be better grown in pots.
  • Field Forget-me-not Myosotis arvensis – These little blue flowers provide easy to access nectar for bees and grow easily in most gardens. With a long flowering term from April to September, these tiny flowers can have a big impact.
  • Sweet Violet Viola odorata Pretty violet to white flowers that smell as good as they look. These plants provide a great source of food for early pollinators as they begin to bloom in March. As well as being great for bees, they have been known to be candied as a delicious decoration for baked treats.
  • Cuckooflower Cardamine pratensis These pretty lilac flowers are another good source of early nectar and pollen for bees and butterflies, they are partial to a more damp habitat, so if your garden is close to a water source, this could be a great option.
Buff tailed bumblebee feeding on Knapweed

Bridging the ‘June Gap’

The ‘June Gap’, refers to the time in the year when the spring flowers are fading but the summer ones have not yet reached their peak, which means nectar and pollen can be harder to find.

Here are some plants that can help to bridge this gap and brighten your garden at the same time:

  • Common Knapweed Centaurea nigra A firm favourite of pollinators especially butterflies. Blooming between June and September this bright purple plant helps to provide a good source of nectar as the seasons switch over.
  • Common Poppy Papaver rhoeas – These bright blooms can provide a pop of colour to any garden or field and as they begin to bloom in June, they can also help to bridge the pollen gap.
  • Common Comfrey Symphytum officinale – This native wildflower is a bushy and bristly plant with cream coloured flowers that has a long flowering period from May until August. This helps make it a great choice to provide food for bees and butterflies throughout spring and summer.
  • Borage Borago officinnalis – This striking herb has bright blue flowers and bristly leaves that smell like cucumbers. It is great for pollinators as it refills its nectar quickly after it has been drained. It also blooms from June until September which makes it perfect for bridging the gap.
People gathered in a meadow learning how to ID wildflowers

How to help bees and other pollinators when you don’t have a garden?

You don’t have to have your own garden to lend a helping hand to pollinators. There’s several ways you can still get involved, including by making your own mini meadow.

Plant pots by the door, hanging baskets along your walls or window boxes all make great options to increase the biodiversity in your area, even without a garden. Have a look at the suggestions above for ideas of what to plant, harvest your own seeds, or even buy our Perfect for Pollinators seed mix here to get started.

Why not share the joy of creating a nature-friendly space and start a community meadow? This is not only a great way of bringing attention to plants and pollinators in your area, but it’s also a fun way to get to know your neighbours. Find out more in our guide to getting started here.

Every No Mow May lawn is different and perhaps that’s what makes them so beautiful. But we are all connected by a common goal…to leave space for nature.

Thank you to everyone who has taken part in No Mow May, we hope you’ve enjoyed watching your gardens and green spaces bloom. Whether you left your whole garden to grow, kept a section short, had a go at growing a wildflower meadow or just left a space to grow wild – it all makes a difference.

We’ve absolutely loved looking through all the pictures you’ve sent in and following your #NoMowMay journeys on social media. Please keep them coming!

Why do we do No Mow May?

Since the 1930s, we’ve lost approximately 97% of flower-rich meadows and with them gone are vital food needed by pollinators like bees and butterflies.

And with 1 in 5 British wildflowers under threat, it more important than ever to change the way we manage our gardens. A healthy lawn or green space with some long grass and wildflowers benefits wildlife, tackles pollution and can even lock away carbon below ground.

There are more than 20 million gardens in the UK, so even the smallest grassy patches can add up to a significant proportion of land which, if managed properly, can deliver enormous gains for nature, communities and the climate.

Here are some of our favourite No Mow May-ers from 2024!

Still time to join the No Mow May movement

Every year we call for people, communities and councils to get involved in #NoMowMay – and you still can this year.

Even though we’re approaching June, you can still join the movement and register your green space. This helps us to better understand how much green space across the UK is growing wild. So please sign up and help us give nature the boost it deserves in 2024 (you’ll even be added to our interactive No Mow May map!).

And the buzz doesn’t have to stop there. If you are able to, why not carry on and do Let it Bloom June.

Grassland wildlife comes in different flavours and incorporating different grass lengths into your garden can be wonderful for wildflowers and wildlife alike. Take a look at our top tips for building on the success of No Mow May.

The wildlife are loving #NoMowMay too

More on No Mow May

No lawn? No problem: 5 ways to join in with No Mow May

No lawn? No problem: 5 ways to join in with No Mow May

As well as bringing back the bloom to our lawns, there are many ways you can get involved with No Mow May, even if you don’t have a garden.

Go Wild in the Garden with these Gardening Jobs
A blossoming garden lawn full of wildflower

Go Wild in the Garden with these Gardening Jobs

If you want to create a home for wildlife in your garden, here’s a couple of nature-friendly gardening jobs to inspire you. If you create the right space, nature will come.

Wildlife to Spot in Your No Mow May Lawn 
A Cinnabar Moth rests on a long blade of lawn grass, image by Pip Gray

Wildlife to Spot in Your No Mow May Lawn 

It’s not just wildflowers which benefit from not mowing our lawns this May. Pollinators and other wildlife bring our gardens to life!

If you’re taking part in No Mow May this year, then your garden will be well on its way to becoming a beautiful, biodiverse haven for nature. But there is a bonus to helping the wildflowers grow – as you allow lawn to become meadow, your garden becomes your very own carbon store, helping to reduce your carbon footprint.

When carbon sequestration is mentioned, most minds turn to trees. As a society we are more aware than ever before of the role of woodlands in combatting climate change and creating a space for nature. Much less discussed is the remarkable and equally vital role our grasslands and meadows can play in increasing biodiversity and capturing and storing carbon from the atmosphere.  

How do grasslands store carbon?

Wildflowers growing in a meadow with cattle behind

When we create healthy grasslands and meadows by mowing or grazing livestock, we are simply replicating the activity of the herds of large wild herbivores that once moved across our hills and valleys. These habitats – if the grazing is gentle, infrequent and low intensity – recreate prehistoric landscapes and provide a home for our wild plants, insects, birds and fungi. Natural and semi-natural grasslands (meaning those that are farmed but in a traditional, less intensive manner) improve the quality of our water, prevent flooding and help increase the resilience of farming to summer droughts. 

This grassland – and the healthy soil beneath it – also has an incredible and little-known potential to lock away atmospheric carbon. Soil carbon is a particularly valuable store; it is far more stable and long lasting than the carbon in trees, which is vulnerable to forest fires, pests and disease.

As plants live and grow, carbon from the atmosphere is drawn down into the plants’ roots, where the myriad creatures in the soil make use of it, locking it away beneath the ground. As the diversity of plants on the surface increases, so does the diversity of microorganisms, fungi and invertebrates beneath it. The more diverse the soil life, the richer the entire ecosystem – and the more carbon the soil can store.

The role of Mycorrhizal fungi

The almost mystical role of mycorrhizal fungi is now well known. They connect roots to the nutrients in the soil, trading sugars that plants and trees create from sunlight with locked away minerals the fungi extract from the soil. We now know that plants and trees can communicate through these fungal networks, alerting them to pests and diseases and passing nutrients to others in need.

Meadow on Dartmoor

Mycorrhizal fungi have another important role – they are critical in the ability of plants to transfer carbon to the soil. In areas of farmland, meadow and garden where the soil is ploughed, fertilised or dominated by a small number of grass species, these mycorrhizal networks are much less effective – with fewer species and a lower carbon storage potential. When we look after our farmland and gardens with care, mowing and grazing infrequently and gently, avoiding ploughing and pesticides, we nurture our mycorrhizal fungi, helping the soil to become a more potent carbon store.

How does No Mow May help?

By taking part in No Mow May, you will not only begin to create a home for wildflowers and insects, you will also create healthier soils that nourish your garden plants – and reduce your carbon footprint in the process.

England alone has around 640,000 hectares of private garden. If just a quarter of this area was transformed into wildflower rich meadow – by mowing just once or twice a year and collecting the cuttings – then these garden soils could potentially capture and store an additional amount of carbon equivalent to more than 3 million average cars’ annual emissions within a spade’s depth, and well over 10 million cars in soils as deep as one meter*.

A blossoming garden lawn full of wildflower

Lawns and gardens are of course just one part of the puzzle – the UK’s farmed grassland landscape offers tremendous potential for us to sequester carbon, while also protecting agriculture and biodiversity.

Farmers and landowners have a fundamental role to play – combining food production with sustainable grasslands that lock away carbon in healthy, ecologically rich soils. Some 40% of the UK’s land area is grassland – but much of this is intensively farmed, limiting its potential for carbon storage.

Globally, studies have suggested that 2.3-7.3 billion tons of CO2 equivalents per year could be sequestered through grassland diversity restoration. Carbon sequestration doesn’t just mean more trees. Healthy grassland, with the more sensitive grazing and less intensive farming that nourishes it, also keeps carbon out of the atmosphere. 

No matter how large or small our garden, we all have a role to play, and we can all make a difference. It’s easy to get started – just put your lawnmower away this May!

More about #NoMowMay

Yellow rattle: The Meadow Maker

Yellow rattle: The Meadow Maker

Yellow Rattle, is the single most important plant you need when creating a wildflower meadow. Here’s everything you need to know.

What does a No Mow May lawn look like?
No Mow May lawn with Bulbous Buttercup and Meadow saxifrage

What does a No Mow May lawn look like?

Thousands of people across the country have been letting it grow for #NoMowMay this year – and this is what it looks like!

No Mow May: Can your garden be a carbon store?
Garden meadow by pond (c) Shuttleworth

No Mow May: Can your garden be a carbon store?

It’s not just trees that capture and store carbon – our meadows and grasslands can play an important role too.

Creating a meadow is a really simple way to bring the local community together, whilst doing something positive for nature.

You don’t need to be an expert to start one – we’ve shared our tips for how to begin, what to plant, how to manage your green space year-round and how to engage the community.

So, what are community meadows? They are areas, predominantly of grassland, that are owned and managed by the community, such as parks, road verges, school grounds, village greens, church land or fields.

A meadow with Oxeye daisies, lush green grass and woodlands in the background

Why should you start a community meadow?

  • For the benefit of nature
  • To create an ecosystem where wildlife can flourish
  • Bring the community together
  • To bring nature into towns and cities
  • Help tackle biodiversity loss and store carbon

Read more: How to grow a wildflower meadow

Getting started

Now you’ve decided to try and start a community meadow, it’s hard to know where to begin. We’ve got plenty of experience and advice to help you along the way.

Contact your local council – Whether it’s parish, town or district council, reaching out to your local decision makers to promote wildlife-friendly management can make a big difference. Local support can really help to bring about change, whether that’s through a volunteer group or social media page. Check out our Good Meadows Guide for some convincing arguments.

Positive perceptions – Some people might be concerned that not cutting a greenspace as regularly might make it look neglected and untidy. But, framing a greenspace by cutting narrow strips around the wildflower area can offset some negative perceptions. Other concerns about plant height for road safety can be tackled by growing shorter species, which can still support an array of pollinators such as clovers, trefoils, Selfheal and Yarrow.

Communicating at every step – Telling people what and why you are creating a meadow is crucial for understanding. By bringing the community with you and working together, it will be easier to explain the benefits of meadow making. You could write something in the local magazine, talk about your meadow-making journey on social media or put up a sign.

Community activities – Bringing the community together to help create a meadow can be very beneficial. You can run activities, join campaigns or hold events to gather momentum.

  • Plantlife’s No Mow May is a great starting point to encourage the community to take part in a community meadow and see the benefits. People without their own gardens can actively get involved in helping wildlife, tackling pollution and even locking carbon beneath the ground. And those with their own green spaces can take their enthusiasm home and do #NoMowMay in their own gardens. Sign up your green space or garden here.

 

How to fund a community meadow?

If you need some help funding your community meadow, these places might be able to offer support:

  • Charity Commission – A range of charities offer funding for community meadows. You need to complete an advanced search under ‘how the charity helps’.
  • Local Supermarket Community Grants – Most supermarkets support local causes through tax on carrier bags or instore tokens such as Tesco, Asda and Co-op. 
  • Postcode Local Trust – Grants of up to £2,000 for community interest groups and voluntary organisations are up for grabs.
  • Local Community Foundations – They channel funding to local projects and will be able to advise on where to access support.
  • Local Councils – Contacting your local authority and asking them about available funding is definitely worth a shot.
  • Area’s of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) and National Parks – If your meadow lies in either of these areas, it’s worth contacting your local organisation to see if there is any funding available.
  • Lottery – Small lottery grants, worth £300-£10,000 are available across the UK.

We hope that this helps you in creating a wonderful community meadow. Do let us know on social media when you have tried these methods and your progress in creating a meadow by tagging us.

Find a meadow group near you:

Are you feeling inspired, but not sure where to start? Aside from Plantlife’s guidance, a great source of  knowledge and personal support can be from meadow groups. A huge variety of groups exist across the country, who manage meadows for hay, livestock or community benefits. These groups could also be good places to start when searching for local seeds or advice.

If you would like to add your community meadow group to our list, please get in touch here.

More ways to learn about wild plants and fungi

Yellow rattle: The Meadow Maker

Yellow rattle: The Meadow Maker

Yellow Rattle, is the single most important plant you need when creating a wildflower meadow. Here’s everything you need to know.

What does a No Mow May lawn look like?
No Mow May lawn with Bulbous Buttercup and Meadow saxifrage

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How to Start a Community Meadow?

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Want to start a community meadow, but not sure where to begin? Read our guide to creating a flower-filled haven for your local community.

Meadows come to life in the spring and summer, bursting with vibrant wildflowers and buzzing with insects and animals. But species-rich grassland areas, which used to occur commonly throughout Britain, are now amongst the most threatened habitats in the UK.

Approximately 97% of wildflower meadows have been lost across the UK since the 1930s. That’s why wildflowers and meadows are not only beautiful staples of the British countryside, but also crucial habitats that need restoring.

Why are meadows so amazing?

  • They are important ecosystems
  • Species-rich grasses can significantly improve carbon storage in the soil
  • They provide a brilliant habitat for bees, butterflies, birds and small mammals
  • Old grasslands can have very diverse fungal networks
  • In fact, 140 plant species can be found in a single meadow

WATCH: Not just a pretty space, this is a living space

So, the more areas that can be turned into wildflower meadows, the better things get for nature.

No matter the size of your land, the process of making a wildflower meadow is pretty much the same. Follow these steps to start your meadow-making journey:

Cut the grass

Before sowing seed, in late summer or autumn, you must cut the grass as short as possible. The cuttings must then be removed because most meadow species thrive in nutrient-poor soil with low fertility levels. Leaving the cuttings on the grass to rot down, both stifles delicate seedlings, and adds nutrients.

This can easily be done using a strimmer or mower and the cuttings removed with a rake.

Tackle any problem plants

It is really important to control any problem plants that could prevent your meadow from thriving. For example, species such as Nettle, Creeping Thistle and Dock can rapidly spread and crowd wildflowers in poorly managed meadows.

To stop this, it is best to pull these plants out by hand, cut their heads before they set seed or spot spray them. Bramble and scrub will also need to be controlled before creating a meadow.

If you have lots of problem plants, it will be easier (if possible) to try and create a meadow on another piece of land.

Create bare ground

Bare ground is simply an area that has no plants living in it. It provides germination gaps and growing space for meadow flowers and grasses. Having about 50-70% of land as bare ground will increase your chances of creating a wildflower meadow.

This can be done by hand with vigorous raking, strimming or using a rented garden scarifier.

Sow seeds

Sprinkle and gently trample in your seeds, which can be mixed with sand for easier spreading. During drier spells, water the ground if possible, but do not wash away the seeds.

Then, over the next few months pull up any Creeping Thistle and Dock or cut the flower heads off and remove before they set seed (these can spread fast and smother wildflowers).

Knowing a bit about your soil can also really help you to choose which seeds to sow. There are many factors that can influence what will grow including the soil type, fertility, location, weather, availability of light and what’s already growing there.

Don’t worry if your meadow looks a bit plain in its first year, many perennials take at least a couple of years to establish.

We hope that these tips help you in creating a wonderful meadow. Do share your meadow-making journey with us on social media by tagging us.

More ways to learn about wild plants and fungi

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Sarah Shuttleworth at DNA barcoding course

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It’s not just animals that have DNA in their cells, plants and fungi do too – and understanding it can help us with hard to identify plants.

No Mow May: Can your garden be a carbon store?
Garden meadow by pond (c) Shuttleworth

No Mow May: Can your garden be a carbon store?

It’s not just trees that capture and store carbon – our meadows and grasslands can play an important role too.

The Wildlife in our Meadows
Duke of Burgundy butterfly on cowslip.

The Wildlife in our Meadows

From bumblebees to birds and moths to mammals – meadows are micro-cities of wildlife. Here's what to spot in your wildflower meadow.

What impact will my artificial lawn have?

Tragically, approximately 97% of Britain’s wildflower meadows have been destroyed since the 1930s.  

This makes the loss of remaining grasslands – whether the garden lawn or on the road verge – even more important for wildflowers, insects and other wildlife. Flower-rich lawns carpeted in daisies, buttercups and clover provide a bounty of pollen and nectar for pollinators who simply cannot survive in a plastic environment.  

With more than 20 million gardens in the UK, artificial grass in our gardens is an opportunity lost for nature’s recovery.  

While there is a time and place for artificial grass in, for example, high performance sports pitches in towns and cities, when it comes to gardens you simply can’t beat the real thing. Grassland habitats such as garden lawns are home to thousands of wild plants that, in turn, support a wonderful wealth of other wildlife.    

Artificial grass

Is it really that bad for nature?

Using the latest estimates, an artificial lawn of 60sqm for an average urban garden will create about 435kg CO2e of greenhouse gas emissions through the plastic manufacturing process.  

Simply by leaving your lawn as real grass and introducing less frequent mowing, you’re reducing the carbon emissions of your lawn. You’ll also be creating a habitat by allowing wildflowers to flourish, which have the potential to absorb even more carbon into our soil for the future.  

Artificial turf also adds to the heat island effect; this is when often urban areas become hotter than rural areas, which is amplified during heatwaves. As well as being too hot to enjoy in summer, micro-plastic shedding artificial lawns are difficult to recycle – a problem we don’t want to be leaving future generations to deal with. 

Blue Butterfly on a grass lawn

Disconnected from daisies

Artificial grass is not just to the detriment of wildlife but to us, too; children can’t make a daisy-chain on a plastic lawn.  

The increasing popularity of artificial grass underlines how disconnected we are becoming from the natural world around us. Polling undertaken by YouGov for Plantlife revealed that 80% of people couldn’t name Common Dog-violet which grows in 97% of the UK, and only 11% of 16-24 year-olds felt confident they could name wild flowers. Given this steep decline in knowledge and appreciation which is also reflected in further education, it is perhaps little wonder that many of us feel comfortable with artificial ‘low maintenance’ solutions, despite warnings about global plastic pollution.  

What is the best garden solution for nature?

The answer is simple – a real grass lawn is best for nature. 

For those lucky enough to have a garden or access to green space, with living grass and wildflowers, they can prove a wonderful place to reconnect with nature if managed for people and wildlife. While our gardens need to work well for all – more frequently mown areas provide functional zones for children to kick a ball or people to unwind on a deckchair – that doesn’t mean they cannot also play home to wildlife – from finches feeding on seed-heads to slow worms slithering in the grass. Areas of infrequently mown turf are win-win. They require little maintenance and offer opportunities for so many species of plants and other wildlife. 

No Mow May looks to highlight the positive steps that people can take to make space for nature. At a time when people may feel disconnected or disempowered in the face of the climate and biodiversity crisis, individual actions add up to a community network of wilder lawns. Connected habitats are exactly what our wild plants, fungi and wildlife need to thrive.

Yellow rattle: The Meadow Maker

Yellow rattle: The Meadow Maker

Yellow Rattle, is the single most important plant you need when creating a wildflower meadow. Here’s everything you need to know.

How to make a pollinator friendly garden
Ashy Mining Bee on a Dandelion.

How to make a pollinator friendly garden

Pollinators in the UK are in decline. But there are things you can do to be more pollinator friendly and help these important creatures.

How to ID plants through DNA barcoding
Sarah Shuttleworth at DNA barcoding course

How to ID plants through DNA barcoding

It’s not just animals that have DNA in their cells, plants and fungi do too – and understanding it can help us with hard to identify plants.