St Nicks

Centre for nature and green living

Time to reap: why we use scythes and collect seeds

Scything at Millennium Fields

The scything season is now in full swing and we’ve been cutting grassland areas at St Nicks, Millennium Fields and Heworth Holme (you can read our volunteer Tessa’s beautiful love letter to find out more about this special site). We use Austrian scythes to cut grass because it is more sympathetic to the wildlife than powered machines, quiet and doesn’t use any fossil fuels. When you only mow once or twice a year to give wildflowers a chance to grow amongst grasses, a scythe may even be the most practical tool to tackle the tall growth in small areas. Managing grassland in this way helps us develop and sustain healthy grassland ecosystems with lots and beautiful flowers which in turn helps the plight of our pollinating friends. Turning at least some lawns around York into wildflower meadows by mowing less would be a great way to increase their numbers and have a more colourful city.

It is incredibly rewarding to see flowers flourish and hear the buzzing of appreciative bees but it must be said that scything isn’t a quick and easy task; as our volunteers will attest to! You get a full body workout: not only is the grass mown by hand but all of the cuttings have to be raked and removed too. This will ensure the grassland doesn’t become too nutrient rich which leads to competition from aggressive grasses and “weed” species like nettles. We’ll plant and sow these areas in the autumn to increase the number of wildflowers growing there, so next year there’ll be even more exciting species to find.

Foxglove seeds are tiny and numerous to aid their spread far and wide.

Before scything a site, we’ve been busy collecting wildflower seeds. This will save us some money but, even more importantly, it will also give us plants adapted to local conditions, which should increase their chances of growing well. Our friends at Grow Wild have written a great guide to seed collecting and produced a nice video, which you can watch below to get started yourself. If you are trying to wild your garden, window box, allotment or community space, and start collecting seeds, do let us know. If there’s enough interest, we may be able to put on a wildflower seed swap in the autumn (subject to Covid-19 restrictions).

In the meantime there’s already plenty of wonderful wildlife to be found in those grassland areas  – why not go and see what you can find for yourself? If you’d like to help us keep York buzzing, please consider supporting our efforts with charity gift cards. And if you’d like to give scything a go, watch out for our scything workshops, when we can safely resume them. We can even help you get your own equipment as an official distributor of the Scythe Shop. We carry a selection of their products and are able to order items in at their prices minus the shipment charge. Please contact us for more details.

Video: How to save your wildflower seeds

Post written by Volunteer Co-ordinator Maria Gill and Outreach Officer Ivana Jakubkova

20 August 2020 | Categories: Back to Basics | Tags: grassland, pollinators, scythe shop, Scything, seed, wildflowers