17th March 2021 – shortly after initiating our community nature reserve, we contacted Helen of the Friends of Evington to let them know about it. She was very positive about our idea and offered us the opportunity to help develop the sloped verge by the village green, just down from the war memorial, on the side of Main Street. After a bit of discussion about what might work well with the current grassy bank and the perennial flowers within it, we agreed to try to establish a wildflower embankment. We started work today and will keep a record of progress below.
Before describing our work today, we’d like to say a quick thank you to Helen and Paul of Friends of Evington. They have given us a great deal of encouragement as well as the opportunity to extend Evington Community Nature Reserve. As members of the Friends, we were able to volunteer under their umbrella and benefit from the insurance and risk assessments they have put in place. They also have a good working relationship with Leicester City Council, which enables this kind of work to take place. As you can see, they also kitted us out in some eye-catching hi-vis.
The sloping verge is mostly laid to grass, with a few patches of perennial plants, including hardy geraniums (cranesbills), sedum and some very rampant cyclamen. So, our first task was to clear the many weeds and debri around the perennials and mow the grass to within an inch of its life. Luckily the weather was on our side and the grass was dry, whilst the soil around the plants was damp and friable – making our task much easier. As we worked, we appreciated the greetings and positive comments from passers-by and the kind people from the NISA supermarket who offered us coffee.
Having mowed the grass on a high setting, we repeated the cut as low as the mower would allow and then set about the task of raking out stray clippings and thatch (dead grass) to that they would not add to the nutrients in the soil. Too many nutrients would help the grass grow back strongly and not allow our wildflower seeds to take hold. We tidied up the pavement and cleared up for the day having not quite reached the point where we could sow our seeds. Tomorrow should see us breaking up the soil around the grass and then clearing the vegetation on the surface of the ungrassed part of the embankment before raking in the seeds. Let’s hope for another good weather day!
18th March 2021 – Today proved to be hard work but very rewarding. Clearing the dead vegetation on the grassless part of the verge involved lots of raking and this revealed many runners from the ivy in the hedgerow at the back.
Now, we like a bit of ivy. It provides good cover for birds roosting in the hedgerow and will produce flowers for bees and berries for birds in autumn and winter but… we don’t really want it dominating the embankment and restricting the wildflowers. So, we left the ivy to grow near the top of the slope and ripped out most of the runners below.
There was also an area that was completely choked with what we thought was cyclamen but is in fact lesser Celandine. Our experience of this is that when lesser celandine takes over, it produces a lot of leaves but few flowers. We felt it best to thin out the plants and give our wildflower seeds the chance to germinate in the spaces.
Next up was the hardest job – roughing up the turf a little bit, to give space for the flower seeds to germinate. This involved sticking in a garden fork and twisting it – not much fun when the bank is about 15 metre long but, hopefully, beneficial to the project. That done, we finally got to sow our seeds, only to discover we’d underestimated the coverage a little and couldn’t quite finish off the whole embankment – we’ll be back next week to finish that job.
7th April – a little later than planned we’ve now finished seeding the whole embankment and planted about a hundred bulbs ‘in the green’, including wild tulip, nodding star of Bethlehem, wild garlic, wood anemone. This main job today was weeding out the area that had been cleared for perennials – hopefully the wild flowers will take a hold and we won’t get so many weeds in future. Also, if all goes to plan, we should just be able to mow any weeds down in September and they’ll just form part of the green background…