​Snakes in the meadow

At RHS Garden Rosemoor the team are busy with late summer jobs, including cutting the grass in the meadows

Turning the hayThe last two weeks have been very busy in the meadows as it is hay making time. Now that most of the flowers have set seed, the grass is cut, turned and gathered in.

The meadows were cut with a reciprocating knife mower and the hay left to dry for a couple of days; any remaining seed falls to the ground when it is raked up.

Baling the hayCutting continues until growth stops in winter and then they aren't cut again until the next August. It is important to collect the clippings so that they do not rot down and feed the soil. A fertile soil will encourage coarse grasses, which overwhelm the wild flowers we are trying to encourage. Yellow rattle (Rhinanthus minor) is an invaluable aid as it parasitises the grass and weakens it. 

As you can imagine our lovely meadows attract a lot of wildlife, some of it is easy to see such as the charms of goldfinches feasting on seed, butterflies feeding on nectar and bees collecting pollen. However, there are other creatures that hide in the long grass that we need to be careful of when cutting. This year a number of grass snakes were disturbed. These harmless snakes vary in colour, but are normally olive green with darker markings on their flanks. They have a distinctive yellow and black collar behind their heads. This distinguishes them from the venomous adder, which is smaller with a distinct zig-zag down their backs.

Grass snakes are protected by law as they are becoming rarer, so if you see one in your garden, consider yourself privileged and allow it to carry on with its business. 

More information

Find out how to grow your own wildflower meadow
Get inspiration on how to make your garden wildlife friendly

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