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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.

     

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

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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What happens when you don’t cut your lawn in May?

With 1 in 5 British wildflowers under threat it is more important than ever to change the way we mow our lawns.

These wildflower stuffed lawns show that in over just a month, your grassy spaces can be a lifeline for wildlife. This gallery shows that people, wild plants, and pollinators alike can live side by side in a thriving green space.

Shorter flowering lawns are a haven for daisies and dandelions, whereas longer patches allow taller plants like Oxeye Daisies and Musk Mallow to bloom.

The nation went blooming wild for plants

No Mow May doesn’t stop at your garden fence. Whole towns and cities bloomed with wildflower as councils and communities let their green spaces grow.

Schools embraced the magic of wild plants with beautiful signs and window displays, sewing the seed for future No Mow May’s that are bigger and wilder than ever before.

View more No Mow May lawn inspiration

Watch the latest No Mow May results sent to us on our YouTube channel, and stay tuned for the latest updates as we head into our wildest summer yet.

Yellow rattle: The Meadow Maker

Yellow rattle: The Meadow Maker

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  • Go to:

By not mowing in May you have rekindled your wildflowers and thrown a much-needed lifeline to your pollinators. Hopefully you can already see the difference you’ve made and are pleased with the results (we know we are!).

Now the growth season moves into June, things don’t have to get messy or overgrown and you can still maintain a space for your local wildlife. If you’re wondering what to do or concerned about your mower not being able to cope – we have some ideas about how you can build on your success while keeping things under control! But importantly, your lawn or open space is your canvas and you hold the paintbrush.

Different grass lengths

You now have an opportunity to design your wildflower landscape.  Grassland wildlife comes in different flavours and you could incorporate these different elements into your plan. 

You might need to keep your paths and recreation areas mown short but perhaps you could frame these functional areas with a flowering lawn mown once every 4 to 8 weeks. This allows common, low-growing wild flowers to regrow and reflower throughout the summer while you maintain a shorter, neater height. Picture a carpet of red and white clovers, golden trefoils, puddles of blue selfheal and the white froth of yarrow.  You will find that even in the fiercest droughts, the wildflowers will stay green and keep flowering while grasses fall dormant and turn brown. 

Buff tailed bumblebee feeding on Knapweed

Let it grow…

If you are feeling bolder you might want to trial leaving some of your open space unmown for longer. By mowing only twice a year outside of April to July you could try to recreate the effect of a traditional hay meadow. This allows taller growing flowers such as red campions, purple knapweeds and mauve scabious to grace your space with a more dynamic swirl of colours animated by a summer breeze. You can picture this flavour of grassland as a perennial, herbaceous border you never need to weed feed or water. It holds more value for wildlife because when left undisturbed for longer, wildflowers and grasses can support the lifecycles of those invertebrates that depend upon them.  

The more adventurous among you may want to take it to the next stage around the boundary of your plot. Grassland left unmown won’t support so many wildflowers but will provide vital sanctuary for wildlife during hot summers and cold winters. Tussocks of grass and tall herbs will develop, and this structure is a great way to provide another niche for wildlife that complements the more flower-rich areas. Such sanctuary strips need only be a few feet wide at the base of your hedgerow and they only require a minimum of management when you snip out woody saplings or the bramble gets too muchYou will be providing vital protection for toads and voles while seedheads will act as natural bird feeders for visiting finches.  

How to mow (if you need to)

A mown lawn with tools used for cutting grass, surrounded by a flowering tall grass border

If your grassy growth has gotten away from you, don’t panic. Not all mowers can cope with tall vegetation but most can if you mow in two stages.

Firstly, check your lawn for wildlife – and never mow around the edges towards the centre, this leaves no escape route for wildlife. Instead, as you mow, progress gradually towards sanctuary areas such as uncut grass strips at boundaries.

Next, set the blades as high as possible then mow strips only half as wide as the mower. This will reduce the load on the mower’s engine and make the job easier. You can then re-pass as normal with blades set lower to finish the job. Alternatively, if you have one, a strimmer can be a better way to tackle a taller sward.

Collect or rake your cuttings when you cut

This will prevent the build-up of cuttings which can stifle the regrowth of wildflowers.  With no cuttings to rot back down into the soil, it will also help to reduce the fertility of the soil. More fertility gives the advantage to your grass over your flowers. This produces a lush green lawn but it will be much less colourful and much less valuable for wildlife.  

Long cut grass in a wheelbarrow on a garden lawn

If collecting up or raking off your cuttings seems like more work, remember that you are actually saving effort by managing some zones less frequently.  This means that you don’t have to mow everywhere all at once every time.  In fact, by removing the cuttings each time you cut, fertility will reduce each year meaning that regrowth will be less and less each year. That means you won’t need to cut so often in the future so you can save yourself the effort, reduce your carbon footprint and enjoy the wildlife! Wilder lawns also capture and lock away more carbon in the soil, so you will be doing your bit for the climate too. 

You can use cuttings to mulch your vegetable beds to suppress weeds, retain soil moisture and add fertility where you want it.  Composting is also a great way to recycle your cuttings with other organics into soil you can use next season. 

Watch out for Wildlife

Some wildlife may have taken refuge in your liberated lawn. Here are some quick tips for keeping wildlife safe while you mow:

  • Hand search areas of longer grass for small mammals , like hedgehogs, before you begin the cutting process.
  • Work gradually parallel to the shelter the wildlife can move towards, so you are moving closer to the shelter one mower’s width at a time.
  • Work from paths and high footfall areas towards the boundaries to allow disturbed wildlife to move towards cover gradually.
  • Making a first pass with a high blade setting on your mower will help to flush wildlife before making a lower -repass for a neater finish.

Your choice…

Ultimately, it’s your lawn and your choice – to manage as you wish. You can rekindle wildflowers from those that are already present and the seeds that have remained naturally dormant in the soil.  You might also consider introducing some native perennial wildflower seed or native perennial wildflower plants this autumn.  We will have more advice on this later in the year.

However you choose to enjoy your new wildlife area, we wish you every success. Now that you have added a little more colour to the world, we hope you are rewarded with the fizz of grasshoppers, the delight of birdsong and a space that dances with butterflies and buzzes with pollinators. 

Share with us

If you are seeing different flowers grow, and new species appearing in your lawn please share the good news with us. Share your pictures, videos and stories by tagging us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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.

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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

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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.

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

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

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Different flowers provide different resources for different wildlife species. Clover on a short flowering lawn provides a lifeline for bumblebees,  long grasses provide an essential resource for butterflies and moths such as the Small Skipper, and Goldfinches are attracted to Knapweed when it sets seed.  

But how do you increase the diversity of plants in your garden? Here are some tips from Plantlife’s wildflower experts to help you create a blooming bonanza!  

 

In Spring and Summer 

Long cut grass in a wheelbarrow on a garden lawn
  • Avoid using herbicides, fertilizers and moss killers  as these are detrimental to wildflower species.
  • Allow plants time to go to seed before cutting your lawn so they increase naturally.    
  • Remove grass cuttings to prevent nutrient build-up in your lawn which might discourage wildflowers to grow. 

In Autumn

Yellow Rattle growing in an urban wildflower meadow
  • Introduce Yellow Rattle – known as ‘the Meadow Maker’ – to long-grass areas as it reduces growth of competitive grasses giving wildflowers more space to grow.  Here’s our comprehensive guide to growing yellow rattle. 
  • Introduce native, meadow plug plants, preferably in the autumn. Choose suitable perennials such as Cowslips, Bird’s-foot Trefoil, Betony, Oxeye Daisy, Selfheal and Knapweed. You may need to help them establish in the first couple of years, ensuring they don’t get crowded out by the grasses.  
  • Sow native flower seed in patches of prepared soil in the autumn. Remove the top few centimetres of turf from a small area, break up the soil a little with a fork and sprinkle the seed in the patch. Keep well-watered if the soil is dry until the plants are established. Read more in our guide here.

Don’t forget that humble dandelions and daisies are fantastic lawn flowers!

They are some of the first lawn flowers to appear each year and provide much needed food to early bees and other pollinators when there is little else out in flower. Sparrows also enjoy feasting on their seeds as a tasty snack. 

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.

At Plantlife, there is a buzz of activity brewing as the 1st of May approaches. No Mow May is our biggest campaign – calling on all parts of society to join in a national movement to create thriving green spaces. 

We focus the campaign on May because it’s in May that the flowering season really gets going. Leaving areas of grass unmown in May lets the flowers multiply, better supporting wildlife over the summer. We might be the ones driving No Mow May today, but the seasonal relevance of May 1st has roots much deeper than any modern campaign can claim. 

White bell like flowers - Lily of the Valley

Celebrating the Summer 

Calan Mai or Calan Haf (meaning First day of May or First day of Summer) was a special day of celebration for Welsh people. In certain places it still is. This festival has ancient origins, sharing cultural roots with May Day, Beltane and the European Walpurgis Night. Regardless of their differences, these festivals are united in a shared celebration of the returning sunshine. The arrival of the sun encourages plant growth, and therefore carries the promise of plentiful food. 

During Calan Mai, people would traditionally dance, sing, and feast to celebrate the summer after a cold and barren winter. The village green (‘Twmpath chwarae’) would be officially opened, where people would gather to dance, perform and play sports. ‘Twmpath’ refers to a mound that would be prepared on the green. This would be decorated with branches of oak trees, and a fiddler or harpist would sit upon it, playing music in the evening sun. 

The Significance of the Seasons 

Our ancestors were deeply connected to nature’s phases. So much so that important dates in the seasonal calendar were considered sacred and even magic. Many of the festivities and traditions of Calan Mai are based in spirituality and botanical folklore. 

On Ysprydnos (May eve, one of the Welsh ‘spirit nights’, when the veil between this world and the next is said to be thinner) locals would collect branches and flowers to decorate their homes, celebrating and welcoming growth and fertility. Fires would be burned to ward off harmful spirits, and young men would place bunches of rosemary tied with white ribbon on the windowsills of those they admired. 

The festival also marks a special point in the agricultural calendar. This is the time that Welsh farmers would turn their herds out to pasture. These kinds of customs remind us that, until fairly recently, a knowledge of how plants, animals, and landscapes change with the seasons was deeply engrained in cultural norms.  

Hawthorn flowers

Reconnecting with the Seasons 

Nowadays, with central heating, electricity and food readily available all year-round, we’ve become detached from the turn of the planet. We observe and experience the seasons passing, but for many, harsh winters are nothing more than an inconvenience (although this is far from true for everyone). It’s hard for us to imagine the enormous significance the start of summer had, and continues to have, on people who rely directly on the land for their survival.  

Remembering Calan Mai and engaging with movements like No Mow May allow us to reconnect with the seasons. They remind us to tune into the habits of the Earth and become familiar again with the blooms and busts of nature. It also nurtures our own physical and mental wellbeing. Although we might forget it sometimes, we are creatures who have evolved in a world that changes with the seasons. When we appreciate how reliant we are on our planet and everything it provides us it becomes clear that the start of summer really is something worth singing and dancing for. 

Wales Farming News
Black cow and white cow in Welsh Upland background trees and hills.

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Rare Fungus spotted at Kenfig National Nature Reserve
Brown topped fungus with yellow gills in a green grassy area.

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Crop spraying.

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