Winter cutting

Cutting wildflower meadows and managed grass areas is essential to the maintenance of structure, balance and diversity in these areas. Without management grassland becomes coarse and loses both diversity and interest. Cutting will also control encroaching scrub. 

Winter cutting won't take out over-wintering insect eggs and grubs. It's too late to impact on ground nesting birds. The right annual cutting plan will increase the flower species in grass areas, extending its flowering period.

As part of our Green City Plan, we are increasing the numbers of urban wildflower meadows in the city. Southampton already has over 70 wildflower meadows and managed grass areas, we want to increase this by at least 25 by 2025.

We need to ensure that these areas are managed effectively so that they thrive year after year. This starts from preparing the area for initial seeding through to annual cutting.

Meadow mixtures are composed mainly of perennial grass and wildflower species which take at least a full year to establish from sowing. We sow a variety of native species that will provide the ideal habitat to support wildlife across the city. We usually cut a strip around managed grass areas to indicate that this is a dedicated section set aside for wildlife. Mowing to remove top growth will give smaller slower growing plants more light and space to grow into.

Management of established grassland

Mowing during late autumn and winter helps to support growth and encouraging flowers aiming to leave the grass short through winter. We cut and collect the cuttings, this reduces the layer of dead grass or thatch and opens up the soil surface to allow seed germination. Repeated over a number of years, it has demonstrable impact on soil fertility, encouraging slower growing and more diverse species that require less management.