Meadow areas

For 2019, we will convert one more annual bed to plants and two more to perennial sown beds. We aim to do this without using weedkiller spray. Hopefully, this will be the last time we need to buy seed.

In 2018:

  • We prepared three beds for annual Pictorial Meadow. We sprayed and rotavated them before sowing in Spring. They had a tough time in the Summer heat and drought and germinated late and patchily.

  • We prepared two beds for new perennial meadows: Tuscan Hills, We sprayed, rotavated and added a sterile mulch layer of soil improver before sowing in Spring. They had a tough time in the Summer heat and drought and germinated late and patchily.

  • The Golden Summer perennial meadow from 2016/2017 bed did well.

  • Over the winter 2017/2018, we converted one more meadow bed to perennial plants. In March, we have made a first planting of small cuttings (including from willow) and seed-grown plants - plus a pretty willow - and a few transplants from other parts of the garden. We will add to this bed too, including with some annuals and bulbs.

In 2017:

  • We had six beds for Pictorial Meadows - five annuals and one perennial. They were narrower than in previous years. We found we could manage them much better - for thistle pulling. They afforded us a new almost-circular, more wheelchair- (and child-) friendly path and also a new social picnic area between two of the beds. We also made five new beds with perennial plants. The perennial beds gave a longer season of interest because they aren't just close cropped over the winter. We added stepping stone within the beds, which children like a lot and they make it easier for volunteers to plant, weed and nip across too.

  • In March 2017, Council staff rotavated the annual beds - there was a lot of grass and regrowth. Volunteers then cleaned by digging two of them at least twice (lots of re-growth), hoed and raked them on the day of sowing. Two, which had (Classic or Contrasting mix for two years) were allowed to re-grow after the rotavating (without extra digging) and we have spot weeded a bit but didn't sow any bare patches.

  • Two (nearest the gate) were (broadcast) sown with Patriotic mix and two with Velvet, both mixed with sand. In August 2017, we prefer the Patriotic mix.

In 2016:

  • In Summer/Autumn 2016 the existing meadows were scythed, as late as possible. The haystacks were left on the meadows for wildlife.

  • On 19 April 2016, we re-sowed seven meadow beds with Pictorial Meadows seed (Contrasting, Grandstand, Pastel and Sundance). We also:

    • Attempted some mini-meadows in other parts of the green area in narrow beds. We used several other seed mixes and also some single species to grow like cut flowers. Some of the seed mixes struggled with the re-growth from 2015's meadow mixes - but the latter looked nice anyway.

    • Sowed some Grow Wild seeds, which are British native annuals and perennials - but they didn't germinate for some reason.

    • Allowed some of last year's native wildflowers to flower in the long-grass areas, which was really good.

    The Pictorial Meadows flowered from early July but some of them finished earlier than in 2015 because of the hot dry summer. Some continued until the first frosts, in early November. Spring was very wet and cold in 2016.

Perennial meadow beds

In early Spring 2017, we sowed one bed with a perennial seed mix (Golden Summer from Pictorial Meadows). This is an experiment and, if it goes well, we might try further perennial mixes in other areas - they are more sustainable than using annuals every year. We cropped down the whole area once before flowering and half the area later in the year (it seemed a pity to lose the flowers), which (as advised) did improve the sward. We had very few weeds. We didn't find any yellow yarrow - it was 'just' the native white. Lots of annual flowers, which we weeded out not realising they were in the mix; quite a few flowers in the mix that haven't grown or flowered (yet) and some not listed. But it looks nice.

  • Species in the Golden Summer seedmix: Achillea fillipendulina (yarrow) Cloth of Gold; Coreopsis lanceolata (tickseed); Echinacea purpurea (2017 list); Escholzia californica (Calfornian poppy; 2017 list); Gallium verum (Lady's bedstraw); Hesperis matronalis (sweet rocket) (2017 list; Leucanthemum vulgare (ox-eye daisy) and Ranunculus acris (meadow buttercup); Rudbeckia fulgida var. deamii (Deam's coneflower; Verbascum olympicum (2017 list).

In 2015:

We sowed seven beds of annual meadow flowers:

  • Emorsgate British Cornfield - very pretty but for a short season. It persists across the area, which is nice.

  • Pictorial Meadows: Alternative (annual seeds)

  • Pictorial Meadows: Classic

  • Pictorial Meadows: Golden Girl

  • Pictorial Meadows: Grandstand (which had the tall cosmos flowers)

Other meadows in Cambridge

  • In 2016, the City Council sowed other Pictorial Meadows across Cambridge at: Ditton Fields Rec, Fison Road Rec, Jesus Green (near the tennis courts), Kings Hedges Rec, Trumpington Rec. I hear they flowered well and gave a lot of people and insects pleasure (and food).

  • In 2017, even more were sown (map). They were incredibly popular!

  • In 2018, there are plans for even more meadows, including at Cherry Hinton Hall. Some will be perennials and in the longer-term, more 'bedding' will be converted into 'sown-plus bulbs' areas. Great news.

Managing meadows:

Advice from County Council management guide:

  • Cornfield: soil needs to have medium to high fertility. Mix arable weeds with cereals: wheat, rye, oats. Need annual disturbance for germination of seeds.

  • Long grass: cut twice a year, once in the Spring before the growing season and again in the Autumn. Place signs to explain why.

  • Spring meadow: cut in late summer (early August) and in mid-September. Allow cuttings to dry and remove to reduce nutrients and smothering of the sward. Compost the cuttings. If growth is excessive, cut again in early March.

  • Summer meadow: Start cutting in late March/early April until May. Allow the grass to grow and cut once in mid-September/early October. Allow cuttings to dry and remove to reduce nutrients and smothering of the sward. Compose the cuttings.

  • Woodland glade or clearing: cut once in March/April and then again in Sept/October.

Useful links

See the new CambridgeWild webpage for useful links.

Last updated: 5 March 2019