Weed control within wild flower meadows

With good preparation you should not have many weeds to deal with in a new wild flower area, however should you be the owner of an old wild flower grassland which has had a ‘mixed past’ as regards management…perhaps it has not been cut at all or has been annually cut with the cuttings being left to rot in the field, then weed issues can arise. Unfortunately not all weed issues can be dealt with by hand pulling, especially if the area is large and weeds many. Weed situations within wild flower grasslands can often be a result of inappropriate management and a change in management can sometimes resolve the weed problem.

I saw the need to study chemical weed control within wild flower situations after witnessing time and time again the damaging effects of landowners or contractors carrying out well intentioned but inappropriate spraying within meadows which previously contained wild flower interest but subsequent to which, contained a lot less. It was usually docks or thistles that were the intended target. After obtaining my chemical weed control qualifications (PA1 & PA6) I set about trialling different chemical products within wild flower situations (I created wild flower areas especially for these trials) to test just how specific many of the chemicals on the market were in dealing with the weeds they were being sold to treat and just as importantly what effects they had on so called non target species, in this case our native wild flowers. I quickly learnt that there are virtually no herbicides (well ok I did find one!) which you can blanket spray over a wild flower meadow without destroying a large proportion of the wild flower species. Even though a herbicide product label may say that it is a specific Thistle or Dock killer it does not mean that it will not kill a whole load of other plant species as well, which sadly is not understood by many people when they use the product.

Broadly speaking all chemical herbicides were developed for the agricultural, horticultural and to a lesser extent forestry industries, absolutely none have been developed with consideration to wild flower conservation! However don’t let this scare you…it is merely the lack of information to guide people on appropriate and judicious use in wild flower situations which puts such grasslands at risk. There is a place for chemical weed control as I alluded to at the beginning of this page and indeed I have seen almost as many wild flower grasslands lost from neglect and lack of weed control as I have from ill advised spraying activities. In fact I could not have produced some of my largest and finest wild flower meadows (including the one set as the background for this webpage) without the use of a carefully chosen and applied herbicide. Many of my meadows are now recognised by conservation organisations as very important sites for wildlife with some supporting nationally endangered species (‘Red Data Book’ species)….not bad when six years previous they were just agricultural grassland with no wildlife interest at all. Which just goes to show sometimes you need to take certain steps to produce a greater good and although I would not advocate chemical weed control in all situations there is certainly a place for it if carried out knowledgeably and responsibly and usually via a knapsack using ‘spot treatment’ rather than a blanket spray.

 

To assist you with your wild flower grassland:

If you need advice on weed control or the management of wild flower grassland I provide an advisory service – a visit to your site to assess the situation and guide you on the actions you need to take. Fee £45-00 per hour plus vat, to include travelling to site. Please contact me if you wish to discuss this service.