Green hay day – how to make a meadow

Developing our meadows and enriching our greenspaces in St Andrews is the aim of the Meadows in the Making project – and that is exactly what our volunteers have been doing. 

This time of year at the beginning of autumn, our native flora if left to grow is abundant with seeds ready to scatter. This process, in a typical mowed grassland, sadly never comes to light.  We miss the very important final cycles of life in this habitat before the winter dormant season. 

Since we have let our wildflowers and grasses flourish as nature intended with only one cut early in the growing season, we get the opportunity to harvest the gifts given to us in packages of seeds from a number of species such as yarrow, yellow rattle, bush vetch, red campion and speedwell. 

 

These seeds can then be used to enhance other grasslands in need of wildflower diversity. Aside from gathering by hand, there’s a clever method of transporting all this seed. The hay from a species-rich meadow is cut and collected, and then spread over the site you’re looking to enrich. In our case, the wildflower meadow at Whitehorn Hall was cut with a scythe, and this ‘green hay’ full of flowerheads and seeds transported to one of our Meadows in the Making locations at North Haugh.

 

This location was prepared for the arrival of the green hay through some vigorous scarification to expose some soil and create better conditions for the seeds to germinate. 

Thanks to the hard graft of volunteers, the green hay was laid on the site, turned over a few times and left for a week or so. The seeds do their job; fall to the ground and cosy up for winter.  

 

The team, hard at work have provided their time, physical labour and constructive energy to transport, turn and rake off the green hay –  minus the seeds –  before sending on to one of the university’s composting sites. This was during the Meadows in the Making regular practical sessions (on a Wednesday from 2-4!) with University of St Andrews Estates team members – Practical Conservation Worker Stephen Paul and Ecological Projects Manager Johanna Willi.  For more information on sessions, check out the Transition website

Looking back at the end of the session, we are overjoyed with the achievement, teamwork and hope that we can individually and together make a difference to our environment by supporting wildlife, pollinators and each other. 

Andrea Roach, Communications & Outreach Officer for Meadows in the Making with St Andrews Botanic Garden