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How to restore meadows

Species rich meadow

There are several routes to both increasing species-richness in a poor sward (restoration), and creating a meadow from a previously arable field (creation). Changes to the way the meadow is managed may be enough to encourage more plants back into the sward, especially if there is a good seed source nearby, and if there have been damaging changes to the meadow in the past that can be reversed. Some examples include altering water management or altering the cutting and grazing regime to encourage a species-rich plant community.

Spreading green hay (hay cut from a more diverse site just before it is ready for hay, and collected and spread without drying or wilting) onto a species-poor area is an effective method especially if you have a species-rich meadow nearby and the soil structure and water regime on the receptor site has not been significantly altered.

Alternatively spreading seed collected from a suitable donor site or purchased from a supplier has also proved successful.

Further information on practical methods of meadow restoration can be found by following the various lnks below:

Flora Locale 

Lowland Grassland Management Handbook

Technical Information Notes - Natural England

TIN035 Soil sampling for habitat recreation and restoration 

TIN036 Soil and agri-environment schemes: interpretation of soil analysis

TIN037 Soil texture 

TIN03  Seed sources for grassland restoration and re-creation in Environmental Stewardship 

TIN060 The use of yellow-rattle to facilitate grassland diversification 

TIN061 Sward enhancement: selection of suitable sites 

TIN062 Sward enhancement: choice of methods  

TIN063 Sward enhancement: diversifying grassland by spreading species rich green hay 

TIN064 Sward enhancement: diversifying grassland by oversowing and slot seeding 

TIN065 Sward enhancement: diversifying grassland using pot-grown wildflowers or seedling plugs 

TIN067 Arable reversion to species-rich grassland: establishing a sown sward  

TIN068 Arable reversion to species-rich grassland: early management of the new sward