In spite of all the mowing and the weeding, the grass soon grows and the weeds spring up again fast! But weeds are only plants we have decided are in the wrong place. What if weeds were really very beautiful wild plants which could truly enhance our bit of landscape and also provide shelter and food for many useful insects! This area was once a home to many wildflowers and other wildlife. Let us keep a niche for them.
Many seeds are still in the soil, waiting to spring to life. These photographs are of some wildflowers in my own front garden during the summer of 2012. I was noticing flowers of damp meadows like Ragged Robin, Lady’s Smock and Selfheal coming up in places, especially wherever the grass was left unmown for a while. Also Kidney Vetch, Hawkbits, Red and White Clovers, Field Daisies, and others. So I have encouraged them by deliberately leaving selected areas unmown during the flowering season – between May and September.
Ideally the soil is kept as low in fertility as possible (remove all grass clippings, maybe even strip off the topsoil, and no lawn fertilisers!) and of course no pesticides of any sort should be used. This promotes beautiful meadow flowers over the ubiquitous (and unpopular) perennial weeds like dandelions, docks and creeping buttercup which otherwise tend to invade lawns. And it also encourages bees, butterflies and other pollinator insects. Some flowers, like selfheal, actually appreciate regular mowing (or grazing by animals). It is very abundant out in the estate, little purple flowers among the short grasses, and the daisies too, which always bounce back after mowing.
Damp meadows also favour frogs, predators on the slugs which were a particular problem for gardeners during 2012. Slugs are also food for many birds.
Wildlife diversity is good for gardeners and adds interest and beauty for the whole community.
Eileen O’Toole and I were fortunate to attend a course during July 2012 called Connecting Communities with Wildlife in Co. Leitrim, run in Leitrim Village by environmental consultant Will Woodrow. Community groups learned how to enhance their local environment by encouraging wildlife diversity and effective landscape and habitat management – from wildflower meadows and road verges, to hedgerows, tree planting, nature trails, wetland areas, educational wildlife projects and surveys, and much more. Naomh Padraig Estate offers many possibilties, and we look forward to exploring some of these with you, and finding out more about our own wildlife, in the future.