Editor: Last week, Uta described the early steps in creating a wildflower meadow on Welford Rd allotments – her story continues here…
The main area of the meadow was dominated by different grasses that seem to have out-competed the wildflowers on the deeper soil. Docks and Nettles also thrived in the area where the compost heaps used to be.
We cut these areas more often to weaken the grasses and undesired plants and allow the meadow plants to spread further. We had made hay before and let it rot on site which itself can be a good habitat for wildlife. But these cuttings also make great mulch or compost, especially when cut before the plants set seed. By removing the cuttings from the site we also remove nutrients and over time impoverish the soil and reduce the vigour of the unwanted plants and dense grasses.
We used to cut with a power scythe which is complicated as it needs fuel and protective gear and is noisy. I bought a traditional scythe last year which makes cutting much more pleasant and practical. Scything is perfect for cutting small areas so that there is always longer and undisturbed vegetation left. This might look untidy but is much better for wildlife than cutting all in one go.
We are now in the eighth year and the site is beginning to look more like what we envisaged at the beginning of the project. The wildflowers, particularly Knapweed, have spread into the middle of the field and the small populations of other species are growing. There are still grass and plantain dominated areas but with patience and an adapted cutting regime, we have created a valuable habitat for wildlife on a previously hostile piece of land which will be here for many years to come. It has also become a special piece of countryside in the city.
The meadow is a real communal project. It wouldn’t be here without Sharon’s initiative when she was a new plotholder and saw the potential for the ‘communal area’. Patrick has always had an eye on it so that we didn’t miss the right time for cutting and raking and other maintenance. John has also helped with cutting. Sue, Faith and Joseph helped with the hay making as well as Chrissy who also taught us how to make a rope out of hay to keep the haystack in place like her father did when she was a child in Northern Ireland.
Editor: when we planned this blog Uta gave me a story in two parts. But next week there is a bonus episode – renowned local naturalist Alan Cann visits and finds something very rare.