I want to take you on a pictorial gallop through a Summer of wildflower meadow experiment.
It is just a small area at home where I wanted to trial the potential benefits of sowing wildflower in comparison to grass lawned area. The experiment started Autumn 2019 with the careful selection and sowing of suitable wildflower seed to a previously grassed area.
Whilst it did look ‘untended’ for the period from sowing to germination - and I did receive some adverse comments about how it looked barren - patience (and confidence) prevailed and the result (from Spring this year) is evident in the pictures below.
The logic supporting this experiment is so simple and obvious that I remain completely disillusioned with the apparent ignorance, apathy and idleness of (predominantly) local authority (county and parish councils) grounds maintenance managers in their apparent lack of imagination and ambition.
Of course formal or recreational grassed areas have an important function in the provision of sporting and amenity recreation but they are expensive to maintain and they represent a pretty barren ecological desert of mono-culture grass with very limited opportunity for species diversification and enhancement.
Putting aside (temporarily) the ecological advantages of wildflower over grass, let’s focus for a moment on the simple, obvious and indisputable financial consequences of maintaining excessive and unnecessary mono-culture cut grass areas.
Firstly, let’s consider the mechanical, manpower and transport assets required for routine grass cutting. Suitable equipment must be procured and maintained, regular servicing, fuels, oils and man hours (including transport to and from site) all form part of an enduring cost - in the case of county and parish councils of course, this is frivolously passed on to the taxpayer. In the case of private gardens and estates it manifests in time and money that might be better invested elsewhere either within the business or spending valuable time on more productive / enjoyable tasks.
The scale of the enduring costs associated with large area grass cutting will, of course, vary according to the site specific circumstances. The irrational reluctance (or inability) to change illogical behaviour, regardless of the size or complexity of the estate, remains a frustrating mystery….
Let’s imagine there WAS a change from habitual grass cutting to the establishment of wildflower meadow (not 100% - that probably wouldn’t be appropriate, maybe not even 50%, maybe 30%?)
That would be 30% less fuel used, 30% less emissions, 30% less cut grass waste to dispose of and 30% MORE spare time to use more productively.
Can ANYBODY suggest a down side yet?
That pretty much covers the quantifiable business sense which supports the potential for a move to a better way of delivering grounds care.
Now for the ecological sense. You would pretty much need to have been living in a bubble not to have noticed the desperate need to change our behaviour in favour of a more sustainable and environmentally aware state.
You don’t have to glue yourself to a 5G tower or march on the Palace of Westminster in order to make a difference. The collective effect of small, positive actions taken by individuals can combine to make a big difference to our local, national and international impact upon our planet.
The main problem affecting most pollinators is thought to be the loss of suitable habitat including forage and nesting or breeding sites with the use of pesticides also having a significant detrimental impact. There is evidence that populations of bees and other pollinators are less healthy and abundant than they have ever been. If action is not taken, pollinator declines will have serious implications for biodiversity, for food production and the ornamental garden. Pretty serious stuff when pollinators are responsible for 30% of all the food we eat.
So what can YOU do?
You could change (at least some areas) from lawn to wildflower meadow.
Because you’d be saving considerable amounts of time and money by wasting less of each cutting mono-culture grass.
Amenity grass areas require a cut at least every 2 weeks in the growing season (pretty much early Spring to late Autumn) whereas wildflower requires just 1 cut in the late Summer / early Autumn - depending upon the area, you could even gain a financial return from small bale hay.
You would reduce fuel use and machinery emissions and you’d have less grass waste to dispose of.
You could spend that saved time sitting in the garden enjoying the buzz of pollinator activity that surrounds (even a small) area of wildflower.
You could give yourself a sense of satisfaction that you will doing YOUR part to support environmental diversification and enhancement.
Or you could just spend the spare time counting the pennies you’ve saved by NOT cutting the grass!
There REALLY isn’t a downside to this…. Just a lack of willingness to embrace change.
Whether it be a small area in a garden or large areas ETGS has the experience, the commitment, the equipment and the enthusiasm to help bring about a positive change for our pollinators.