In the natural world our best grasslands for wildflowers are those that form on soils of lowest fertility.
By designing our man-made landscapes in a similar way, finishing them with soils low in nutrients, or with bare mineral such as crushed chalk, we can mimic these conditions. When we do, the results can be a spectacular, enhancing our quality of life, and providing habitats full of wildflowers and insects.
How do low-fertility soils work for wildlife?
Soils with few nutrients allow a wide range of wildflowers to thrive. Many of these wildflowers are adapted to live in such conditions. It also means that vigorous-growing species, such as common coarse grasses and agricultural weeds, cannot grow fast and smother the more delicate herbs on which so many of our native insects depend for food and nectar.
Bird’s-foot-trefoil is a good alternative instead of grass. It flowers profusely all summer and can cope with being mown regularly. It provides a good nectar source for pollinators and is the foodplant for butterflies like Common Blue and Dingy Skipper.