Reimagining our lawn

One of the biggest question marks for Connie and I was wondering what to do with the lawn. Obviously the most common approach is to just mow it extra short and be done with it, however I read this isn’t encouraged as it stimulates more growth and means you are just going in circles. I was also told not to bother watering your lawn as it quickly turns green again when it rains if it has dried up and turned yellow.

Obviously, that’s if you want a bog standard lawn, which, although is perfectly fine, not what we wanted to do ourselves. We wanted to think a little outside the box and decided to re imagine the potential of our outside lawn space. We wanted something that was environmentally friendly, encouraged wildlife and on top of that was still easy to preserve. But what to do? We researched a few different options and we decided to post them all here for you to enjoy and perhaps take hints for from your own garden!

The way forward could be to keep an area of manicured, mown grass near the terrace and house and to let the rest grow long. It will give a more relaxed, natural look to the garden, which is what many people want. Some may worry that it will look unkempt, but the way round this is to mow paths through and edges around the long grass to frame it neatly and visually organise it — a designer wild lawn if you like. I’ve seen meandering paths mown in long grass, which looks great, and some gardens where the cleanly cut paths form a neat square grid.

In the longer areas you might plant fruit trees, giving the place an orchard look. Play around with shapes and views, and perhaps place a bench or large pot as an eye-catcher at the end of the long view. If you stop mowing now, by autumn the grass should be long enough to have flowered and seeded. It will turn an autumnal hue, and when it gets frosted will look wonderful lit by a low sun.

By letting areas of a lawn grow long it will immediately look more natural, although it won’t instantly turn it into a wildflower meadow. Lawn grass mixes have been bred to be tough. If you get into it and want an increased diversity of flora, which in turn will increase the diversity of fauna, it will take a few years and perhaps a little research, but you’ll have time for that when you’re not spending every weekend pushing a mower.

How to create a wild lawn

Most garden soils have been worked and had organic matter and nutrients added over many years, so are pretty fertile, which in turn encourages lawn grasses to thrive and discourages wildflowers.

To reduce fertility, don’t feed the grass, and when mowing wild areas (once or twice annually should do it) remove the grass clippings rather than letting them compost down into the soil. Over time this will encourage fewer aggressive grasses, and wildflowers can colonise, which in turn will increase all-round diversity.

Yellow rattle (Rhinanthus minor) is a semi-parasitic grassland plant that considerably weakens grasses (especially lawn grasses) and can be the key to growing a successful mixed wildflower and grass meadow. It lives off tough grasses, killing them and leaving gaps where wildflowers can seed. Oh, and it’s also a pretty yellow flower. Create bare patches in the grass in autumn and sow. Over two or three years it will establish itself and naturally speed up the process of grass reduction.

Wildflowers will turn up on the wind, or seed may already be present in the soil. Wildflower seed can be bought and sown in autumn or spring or plug plants planted. To enable the plants to establish themselves you will have to create pockets in between the grass and not let the grass choke the plants. This is tricky to do, but if the grass is previously weakened (using yellow rattle and an ongoing reduction of fertility process), the chances are far greater.

Well, that’s about the crucial information we found. I hope it helps you all in some way, it certainly helped us! Are you redoing your lawn and found some of these tips helpful, or perhaps you even have some helping hints for the both of us! I’d really appreciate you getting in touch, thanks!

– Carl