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Rewild Your Lawn: Simple Steps for a Greener Garden

rewild your lawn

Want to create a wildlife haven? But not quite ready to ditch the grass?

Rewild your lawn.

Create a polyculture lawn.

That’s what I did.

Let me show you how and why.

Yes, You Can Keep Your Lawn

When I moved into my house, I inherited a sizeable patch of lawn.

Lawns get a bad rap these days. Many say they’re bad for the environment.

But guess what?

When done right, they can fit into a wildlife-friendly garden.

rewild your lawn
Before and after letting the lawn go wild

The Problems with Typical Lawns

Let’s get real for a moment. There are some issues with how most people treat their lawns:

  1. Mowed Too Short: Many chop their grass down super low. This can stress out the grass and make it weaker.
  2. Lawn Clippings: Instead of leaving those clippings to naturally feed the soil, people toss them out. It’s like throwing away free fertilizer!
  3. Chemical Fertilizers: These are like junk food for lawns. Sure, they might make your lawn look green for a bit, but they can harm the soil and waterways in the long run.
  4. Herbicides: Spraying chemicals to kill weeds? That can harm more than just the unwanted plants. It’s bad news for the environment and can even affect our health.

So, while lawns can be cool, the way many of us handle them? Not so much. It’s time to rethink and do better.

Creating a Sustainable, or Polyculture Lawn

Still want an open green space to sit on and play? Here’s how:

  1. Don’t Mow Too Short: Keep your lawn a little shaggy. It’s healthier for the grass and helps it weather tough times, like droughts.
  2. Let Some Areas Grow Longer: Think of these as mini meadows. They can be a haven for local wildlife and add a touch of wild beauty to your garden. You can expect to see clover, daisies, buttercups and cowslips. Maybe even orchids.
  3. Leave the Clippings: After mowing, let those clippings stay put. They’ll break down and feed the soil naturally. It’s recycling at its best.
  4. Skip the Fertilizer: Trust me, a healthy lawn can fend for itself. Give nature a chance, and you might be surprised at how resilient your grass can be without artificial boosters.
  5. Say No to Pesticides and Herbicides: These chemicals can do more harm than good. Embrace a more organic approach. If weeds pop up, consider them nature’s way of adding diversity.

In short, let’s work with nature, not against it. A sustainable lawn is not just possible, it’s the way forward.

Learning to Love Your Weeds

We’ve been trained to see weeds as the uninvited guests of our gardens, but let’s flip that mindset. Here’s the lowdown:

  • Weeds are resilient. They grow in tough spots, improve soil health, and often pave the way for other plants. They’re the underdogs, pushing through cracks and thriving against the odds.
  • Biodiversity Boost: Many so-called “weeds” are actually native plants. They can provide essential food and shelter for local wildlife, from bees to birds.
  • Edible Bounty: Surprise! Many weeds are edible. Plants like purslane, nettles, and even clover? They can be delicious additions to salads, soups, and more.
dandelion
The humble dandelion is much more than a pretty yellow flower.

  • Natural Medicine: You’d be surprised how many common weeds have medicinal properties. Dandelions, for instance? They’re not just pretty yellow flowers. They’ve been used for centuries to help with digestion and skin ailments.
  • It’s Cheaper: Embracing weeds means less work and money spent on herbicides and fancy treatments. Let nature do its thing, and your wallet will thank you.

So next time you spot a daisy or clover in your lawn, give it a nod of respect. These aren’t pesky invaders; they’re Mother Nature’s little helpers, reminding us of the beauty in wildness. It’s time to appreciate, not eradicate.

Adding Wildflowers to Rewild Your Lawn

Ready for more? It’s time to add wildflowers to your lawn.

wildflower meadow
A beautiful wildflower meadow at Cambridge Botanical Garden

There are two main methods for establishing wildflowers: plug plants and wildflower seeds.

I’ll explore both of these options to help you decide which is best for your garden.

Plug Plants

Plug plants are young wildflower plants cultivated in small, compact soil blocks. They’re an excellent choice for quickly establishing well-developed wildflowers in your lawn or creating a wildflower patch.

To plant them, simply dig a small hole, insert the plug, and fill the soil back, ensuring the plant is firmly in place.

There are several benefits to using plug plants for your wildflower area:

  • Faster establishment times
  • Easier to control the placement and spacing of your flowers
  • Lower risk of weed competition

The main drawback of plug plants is that they can be more expensive than wildflower seeds. However, I think they can still be a cost-effective way of creating a stunning wildflower meadow if you choose the right species and plant in small, manageable areas.

Wildflower Seeds

Sowing wildflower seeds is another way to create a wildflower lawn. This approach involves spreading a mix of native wildflower seeds across your desired area and allowing them to grow naturally over time.

Using wildflower seeds is more cost-effective, especially for larger areas.

Can you simply scatter wildflower seeds on your lawn?

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple! Due to competition from the grass already growing there, wildflower seeds have little chance of growing properly.

The usual advice is to remove an existing patch of lawn and sow wildflower seeds on bare soil. According to The Grass People, it is also possible to vigorously scarify a patch of grass to create spaces amongst of existing grass where the seeds have a better chance of growing.

In my garden, I have decided to try a slightly different option: a no-dig wildflower patch!

Here’s how I’ve done it:

  1. Choosing the Seed Mix: I am using a mix of native wildflower seeds purchased from Cambridge Botanical Garden. These are suited for my local climate and will be beneficial to native wildlife. Look for a mix that includes a variety of species to ensure prolonged blooming and a diverse habitat.
  2. Preparing the No-Dig Bed: To prepare my wildflower patch, I have covered the area with cardboard, without removing any grass and without disturbing the soil. I then covered the cardboard with a layer of compost.
  3. Sowing the Seeds: I have sprinkled the seeds evenly over the compost. A useful tip I have learned is to mix the seeds with sand to ensure an even spread. Don’t bury them too deep; a light raking is enough to cover them with a thin layer of soil. This helps in protecting the seeds from birds and aids in germination.
  4. Watering: After sowing, I watered the area gently but thoroughly. The usual advice is to keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged during the germination period, which usually takes a few weeks.
  5. Enjoying and Caring for my Wildflowers: Seedlings have appeared in a few weeks. I did water weekly when the weather was dry. After flowering, I have simply let the plants seed naturally for the next season

Add Grass Variety to Your Polyculture Lawn

For even more diversity, consider introducing different grasses to your garden.

Firstly, explore the types of native grasses that are suitable for your region. Some examples of UK-native grasses include Yorkshire Fog, Red Fescue, and Bent Grass. These grass species are adapted to the local climate and soil conditions, making them easier to grow and maintain.

Here’s how to add these grass species without digging up or replacing your current grass:

  • First, grab a rake or a scarifier, and gently disturb your existing grass.
  • Then comes the fun part – overseeding! Spread those native grass seeds all over your lawn.
  • After overseeding, it’s important to water the lawn regularly to help these new grasses take root and grow alongside your existing lawn.

Gaps in your lawn can also be a great opportunity to introduce new grass species. If you notice any bare patches, take the chance to sow the seeds of your chosen native grasses. Over time, these new grasses will naturally blend in and contribute to a more diverse and eco-friendly lawn.

When to Cut Your Polyculture Lawn

Firstly, it’s important to adjust your mowing frequency based on the time of year.

lawn with lawnmower

During the spring and early summer, you should allow your wild lawn to grow and flourish undisturbed. This is the time when many plants are flowering, providing pollen and nectar for bees, butterflies, and other insects. You can gently mow the edges of the lawn to keep it looking tidy, but try to let the majority of your lawn grow undisturbed.

As the summer progresses, you may want to consider a more regular mowing schedule. Aim to mow your wild lawn every three to four weeks during this period. This will help maintain a diverse mix of grasses and wildflowers, supporting a wide range of wildlife. Remember to set your mower to a higher cut, so you don’t accidentally mow down valuable plants and flowers.

Towards the end of summer and into early autumn, it’s a good idea to reduce your mowing frequency once more. This allows your wild lawn to develop seed heads, providing food for birds and other wildlife. At this stage, you should mow your lawn every six to eight weeks.

Finally, during the winter months, you can give your wild lawn a break and avoid mowing altogether. This allows the grass to act as a natural shelter for insects, small mammals, and other wildlife during the colder months.

Conclusion

As we circle back to where we started, remember this: rewilding your lawn isn’t just about letting things grow. It’s about creating a thriving mini ecosystem.

By embracing a wilder lawn, you’re inviting a world of biodiversity: it enriches your garden in every way.

So, take the leap. Let nature take the lead. Watch as your lawn becomes a buzzing haven for wildlife, enhancing the overall health and beauty of your garden.

It’s a simple step, but its impact is profound.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I turn my lawn into a wildlife habitat?

To turn your lawn into a wildlife habitat, start by letting a section of your lawn grow wild. Allow the grass to grow longer and incorporate native plants to attract insects and other small creatures. You can also add features such as log piles, bird boxes, and insect hotels. Incorporate wildlife corridors like hedges and trees to help animals and plants disperse easily throughout your garden.

What are the benefits of rewilding a garden?

Rewilding a garden can help create a diverse and thriving ecosystem in your own outdoor space. This can support pollinators and other wildlife populations, such as insects, birds, and small mammals. Additionally, rewilded gardens can be more resilient, require less maintenance, and can benefit the environment by promoting biodiversity, reducing run-off, and storing carbon.

Which native plants should I add to my lawn?

When choosing native plants for your rewilded lawn, focus on those that provide food and shelter for local wildlife. Examples include wildflowers, grasses, and flowering shrubs. Research plants native to your region and select ones that are well-suited for your soil type and sunlight availability. This will ensure they thrive and support the local ecosystem.

How can I create a natural pond?

Creating a natural pond can be a great way to support aquatic and terrestrial wildlife in your garden. It’s important to choose a suitable spot that receives sunlight but also has some shade. Start by digging a shallow hole with gently sloping sides and varying depths. Line the pond with a pond liner, and fill it with water. Add native plants and water features to improve water quality and create habitats for various species. Here are more details on making a small pond.

What are the best rewilding practices for small gardens?

For small gardens, consider planting native species in containers or creating a mini-meadow by leaving a section of your lawn untouched. Adding bird feeders, bat boxes, and bee hotels can also attract local wildlife. Incorporate vertical planting with trellises, walls, and fences to maximise your available space.