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The idea of looking after our wildlife has become increasingly important, and you may have come across phrases like “low-mow lawn maintenance”, “pollinator-friendly plant species” or “managed for biodiversity”, all of which fall under the idea of gardening and landscaping in a way that both facilitates and encourages local wildlife of all shapes and sizes. This is crucial as Irish biodiversity is under threat due to pressures like habitat loss, pollution and ecosystem changes, but there are things that we can do to begin to remedy this. Roundabouts and roadside verges can be planted with flowers that provide an important source of pollen and nectar for our pollinating insects (mostly bees and hoverflies as well as a few other insects like butterflies and moths), hedgerows can be managed in a way that provides maximum fruit and shelter for birds, and gardens like this one can be converted into miniature meadow spaces.
Creating a meadow in your own garden can be as easy as simply cutting the grass a bit less. You can create a “short” meadow by leaving your lawn to grow for three to six weeks between cuts from mid April to September. This will allow the aforementioned pollinator-friendly species, like clovers, dandelions and bird’s foot trefoil, to flower. If you don’t mind a bit of wildness in some patches (or even the whole lawn!), you could opt for a “long” meadow, cutting the grass only once per year in September. This creates a much denser meadow which provides even more pollen/nectar-rich plant species but also provides shelter for insects, small mammals and even some birds. It is amazing to watch as a few square metres of green grass slowly turns into a species-rich meadow, covered in multicoloured flowers and buzzing with insects each summer.
Fun fact: Contrary to what you might think, native wildflowers actually prefer nutrient-poor soil, and so it is important to remove the grass after each cut, rather than mulching it and thereby adding nutrients to the soil as it breaks down.
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