Why you should turn your lawn into a meadow
My garden sings its own song. It starts after the dawn chorus with the honeybees, followed by the heavier buzz of the bumbles, punctuated by the hoverflies’ higher pitch. You can even sometimes hear the rustle and creak of beetles as evening comes. To lie among it, eyes closed, is to hear something exquisite.
My garden sings this song because it is allowed to. I have long been a proponent of neglecting lawns to nurture nature, as Margaret Renkl recently made the case for in the New York Times – and there isn’t a manicured strip of green that doesn’t ache to do the same.
Most lawns have been silenced by the regime of a lawnmower, leaving just a few species of grass. They are biodiversity deserts, barren of beetle and bee, contributing to a vanishing insect population – and worse still, we pursue this. There are aisles in garden centres promising ever-greener sward, with no moss and weeds. Let there be no misunderstanding: these are chemicals that silence the soil.
There is another way. Your lawn is already a wildflower meadow – every inch of soil is waiting for its moment to burst forth. Those weeds are some of the best insect food, growing despite the weather, endlessly repeat blooming, rich in nectar and pollen. A seed bank is already there – it might even contain orchids. Oh, and perhaps plenty of moss, essential stuff for nests and nature of all sorts.
The simplest route to this is not to abandon your lawn and mower but to learn how to move the mower’s blades up, so the cut is higher than 10cm. Hold out for your first cut until the end of June, then leave a month between each cut until autumn. If you need a route to the washing line or shed, mow just a path. The wildflowers will adapt and bloom under your blades, the bees will dance and the birds will sing in praise of it all.