Now I’m not knocking this method of allowing nature to find its place. Indeed, I’ve had some success with it and remember the brief pleasure of seeing tall erect, waving blades of green grass with various seed heads giving an authentically wild feel to my chosen patch of garden. There was also great excitement in discovering grasshoppers, that seemed to have come from nowhere, finding a home in my humble lawn-gone-mad. However, I also discovered some downsides: long, erect blades of grass have a habit of catching the rain and collapsing under their newly-acquired weight; cats (hardly the nature that I was hoping to attract) love prowling in the long grass (fine) and lolling about, mashing and rolling it flat (decidedly unfine) and, after what seems to be a very short, if glorious, period of full-on home-grown re-naturalisation, even the least discerning of grasshoppers will turn their noses (or mandibles?) up at the matted mess that remains.
Recent success in growing a bed of wildflowers and inspiration in the form of a lawn in a garden developed by my mum and her partner in Norfolk that had been turned into a small wildflower meadow have spurred me on to developing a method that I hope will lead to a wild but attractive and sustainable conversion of a corner of our lawn.
Planning this project began in autumn when last season’s grass had stopped growing and was based around a few guiding principles:
- Grass would take up only a small part of the space allowed to grow wild;
- Poppies, cornflowers, marigolds and others would provide colour and structure;
- Spring-flowering bulbs would be introduced to take advantage of the low growing grass, early in the season.
A strategy was needed that would reduce the amount of grass and this involved cutting back the long grass that we had allowed to grow — using the lowest setting on the mower — and then scarifying to rip out dead grass and moss and make space for other plants. Scarifying is basically hard raking with a grass rake or with a motorised scarifier — we opted for the latter, giving the added advantage that it will cut shallow grooves in the soil, ideal for sowing flower seeds.