Caroline’s Mini-Meadow

Caroline's meadow
A Sea of Rattle
Another post on meadows – sorry, but it’s that time of year and you can’t say too much about meadows. “Meadow” would be a bit of a stretch to describe the area which we’ve been experimenting with over the last 9 months. It’s about 30m by 13m (mini-meadows can be a lot smaller), and started off as being part of the pasture in front of the house. It would have been an eyesore had we started off by stripping off the top soil or spraying the existing sward, and the grasses were too varied and interesting to lose in any case. Steve Alton recommended grazing and chain harrowing in the autumn, which we did. You can see how it started here. We then sowed LOADS of Rattle, and kept the sheep on the area over the winter to push the seed into contact with the earth as they marched about. I should say that this was all very high risk as I knew we had people coming to two one day courses in meadow creation and management in June the following year – i.e. last weekend. Anyway, thank goodness it has worked.
Rare British Plants
A Very Superior Sort of Plant
We now have a sea of Yellow Rattle and, very obligingly, a single plant of a relatively rare native species, the catchily named Corky-fruited Water Dropwort. Andrew George tells me it can last some time in a sward without flowering and is indigenous to these parts, so there may be other plants out there in the rest of the field.
Meadow Brown in Rattle
Home Sweet Home
Along with the Bumblebees – who love Rattle – I also spotted our first Meadow Brown today – I hope we have as many this year as we had last. It gives me the greatest pleasure seeing these colonial species, knowing that we have created the right habitat for them to live and multiply in. Andrew made the same point during our meadow course last weekend, where among other butterflies we saw Large Skippers on a site he has designed at Carymoor.
Large Skipper at Carymoor
Female Large Skipper at Carymoor
I’m hoping we’ll have some here this year; on our existing meadow area we’ve got Cocksfoot as one of our grasses for the larvae and loads of some of their favourite nectar plants, including Bird’s foot Trefoil, Yarrow and Knapweed. Anyway, back to Caroline’s mini-meadow. Once the Rattle has set seed we’ll cut it and let the sheep back in until autumn (I’ll put a little fence around the Corky-fruited Water Dropwort so it can seed later on, doubtless to general hilarity). Come autumn and we will sow a pure widlflower mix into the areas where the Rattle has been most effective in reducing the grass, or use seeds collected from another area. It has been a simple and effective way to start a meadow area without losing our existing grass or stripping the topsoil off. Just the sort of thing our tutor-in-chief Sue Everett would approve of. Phew. Thanks Steve.
Related Posts: Yellow Rattle

Habitat Aid Newsletter No.5: 13th May 2010

This cold dry weather is a nightmare, but I suppose at least it’s given me time to sit down and write a newsletter. I’ve been a very busy boy over the last month, so much to catch up on.

We ran our first course in April, which seems to have been a great success. Tutored by Hugh Roberts of Environments for People we all learnt how to build a wildlife pond, now sitting in front of me. Thanks to Hugh and to our wetland plant supplier Gower Wildflowers. The pond’s already populated by a selection of interesting looking invertebrae, and the swallows are collecting mud from it as I write. All very rewarding. Next off are our meadow days, run by Sue Everett, on the 11th and 12th June.

I flogged up to Sheffield last week to go to an intriguing workshop on Green Roofs and Living Walls, which is an area we’re keen to get more involved with. We already have a relationship with a consultant, and supply generic native seed and plug mixes for green roofs, but hope to do a lot more in future to encourage folk to plant native plants rather than just use the sedum mats they have done in the past. Green Roofs in particular seem to me to be a fantastic and practical way to encourage biodiversity in urban areas – among other advantages!Green roof in Sheffield

I also hope we can do more work with seeds, where we are starting to supply end business customers directly. After a successful trial we are supplying the British Beekeepers’ Association (BBKA Enterprises Ltd.) with two native seed mixes particularly helpful for bees, which I have high hopes for. We’re also supplying Flowerworld with the seed for a 50,000 sachet promotion at Morrisons to promote the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

Our other bee related news is that we’re expanding our range of plants and exotic trees for bees as a result of some suggestions from Andy Willis at the BBKA Spring Convention and Norman Carreck at the Laboratory for Apiculture and Social Insects at the University of Sussex. They’ll be supplied by R.V.Roger and available from this autumn.

We are seeing the first fruits of our work with designers, sourcing native plants for some very exciting schemes. We’re both promoting those currently working with habitat creation in mind, and encouraging others to think about it more.

As to life here, Kingsley the new ram has been a success and the mad Runner Ducks are laying again, albeit mostly not in their Duck house. My bees are happy too, and I’ve set up a couple of bait hives for them. Mike the gardener’s grand veg plot looks great and our various mini-meadows look promising too – if only it would rain!

Poll Dorset in the orchard
Post Kingsley moment in the orchard