Wanstead Grow Zones
Big thanks to Stow Brothers and The Duke for helping us buy wildflower seeds
Meadows can support eight times more biodiversity than regularly mown grass. That’s why Wild Wanstead, Redbridge Council and Vision RCL have been working together to create a network of Grow Zones across Wanstead, where the grass will be left to grow long over summer to naturalise with wildflowers.
Last year there were a number of sites in the project, which highlighted the fantastic array of plants that will grow when grassy areas are left to get a bit wilder. You might have noticed the back part of George Green looking shaggier and more beautiful than usual. A floral survey by local botanists revealed more than 80 plant species at the site, as well as insects that thrive in long grass habitats like the Essex Skipper Butterfly.
In 2020, the Grow Zones initiative has been expanded with the addition of a number of new areas in parks and on road verges. We’ll also be experimenting with wildflower planting to find the most effective ways of making these areas even more floral and beneficial to wildlife. Other local organisations are getting involved too by creating their own Grow Zones, including schools and churches.
Christ Church Green
Three Grow Zones on the Wanstead Place side of the park
Back quarter of the park plus a number of areas under the trees
Nutter Lane Field
Two strips along the back edges
Elmcroft Avenue Recreational Ground
Large Grow Zones on either side of the footpath
Wanstead Place verge
Nelson Road / Rodney Road verge
Hermon Hill verge (by junction with Cranbourne Ave)
Overton Drive verge
2020 Grow Zones
Wildflower planting on Christ Church Green
In March, volunteers helped the Vision Nature Conservation Rangers and Wild Wanstead plant wildflowers along the Wanstead Place side of Christ Church Green. It is hoped that if we can help wildflowers to grow in the long grass it will add a splash of extra floral colour and diversity - making these areas even better for wildlife and people.
We've tried a few different approaches and will evaluate what works and what doesn't. These learnings will be used to expand the project next year. Volunteers planted 500 baby wildflower plants in amongst the turf in one area, including tufted vetch, wild primroses and birdsfoot trefoil. A couple of strips of turf were lifted to plant cornfield annuals direct in the soil, and a special seed mix for shady areas was used in muddy areas under the trees. Watch this space to see how the different areas develop.
Make your own Grow Zone
Let an area of lawn grow long over summer. Mow it once in autumn then remove and compost the grass cuttings – over a few years this will deplete the nutrients in the area and help wildflowers to naturalise
Turn an area of lawn into a mini meadow. There are a few ways you could do this. Cut once a year as above.
1) Lift an area of grass and replace it with a ready made wildflower turf – immediate results, but more expensive than other options
2) Buy a tray of wildflower plug plants (little seedlings) and plant them in your lawn in spring or autumn – great way to get flowers established, moderately expensive
3) Lift areas of turf, loosen the earth and sprinkle wildflower seed mix onto the soil. Seed is cheap to buy and if you pick an annuals mix it should flower well this summer.
Plant a wildflower bed – just loosen the soil and plant the seeds. Annual mixes usually take a couple of months to grow. At the end of summer cut the vegetation back and re-seed ready for the following year.
Plant wildflower containers – perfect for greening up driveways, patios, balconies or window boxes. Just plant with an annuals mix as above. Most wildflowers are tough but you’ll need to water them regularly in a pot.
The Grow Zones initiative is a developing project, and additional wildflower planting in Wanstead is planned in Autumn 2020. Funding is also being sought to extend the Grow Zones project across the borough of Redbridge in 2021.