There’s a brilliant plant that can really help you to manage your wildflower meadows; it’s called Yellow Rattle and September is a good time to sow it. Yellow Rattle, or Hay Rattle is a British wildflower, also known as the Meadow Maker due to its ability to supress grass, encouraging wildflowers to thrive.
Yellow Rattle is partially parasitic on grass, tapping into the roots of grass plants and extracting extra nutrition (as well as photosynthesising like most plants). This weakens the grass to such an extent that an area of grassland containing Yellow Rattle has a visibly shorter sward than the neighbouring patch without. So, less chance of flowers being overtopped and squeezed out, less grass to cut and fewer heavy grass cuttings to rake up and remove. It is an annual plant so doesn’t over-winter but it sets seed in June or early July so seed will have scattered by the time you cut your meadow, once established it spreads itself. Listen for the ‘rattle’ of the ripe seeds in their pods.
Yellow Rattle can be tricky though, it needs a little care to get it established but is well worth it:
- Cut the area where you will be sowing really short, giving it a firm raking to pull out any dead grass that may be lodged there. Get down to the soil!
- Sow Yellow Rattle seed from now until the end of November, making sure the seed reaches bare soil by scraping away the turf in small patches. Sprinkle a few seeds onto the soil and press down with your foot.
- Give the area another short mow in the spring so the germinating plants have some sunlight. March or April are good times to cut.
All the best
Diocesan Churchyard Environmental Advisor, firstname.lastname@example.org,
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