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LU Conservation volunteers: Sowing for the future

18 January 2024

3 mins

Guest blog by Rich-Fenn-Griffin, Loughborough University’s Assistant Gardens Manager. November, 2023.

Many thanks to all of you who came out to plant bulbs and sow wildflower seeds in the Carbon Offset Woodland -especially given the weather in the morning.  The Carbon Offset Woodland was planted about 20 years ago as both a carbon and biodiversity offset for development work done elsewhere on campus.  Despite being small, the trees are mostly native (or long naturalised) and come from a wide variety of species.  The area retains a little acidic character with European gorse bounding the paths in the middle of the wood.  Before the woodland was planted the area was used for growing crops.  As such, there was little to no diversity in the plants and as the trees grew up the ground became dominated by grasses.  Woodland ground flora take hundreds of years to develop, and although some shade tolerant species have moved in from the old hedgerow, overall, the wood is quite plant species poor.  To kickstart a more woodland ground flora, the volunteers were tasked with planting native bluebell bulbs and sowing wildflower seeds.

Planting bluebell bulbs might sound straight forward but the soil here is very thin and rocky.  Bluebells prefer to be planted 10 cm underground.  First, a hole was dug with a trowel and a few bulbs put in (facing the right way up) and then filled back in.  The bulbs were distributed along the central path near the top of the wood, so hopefully next year they’ll be be a lovely bluebell display which will add colour and provide vital nectar and pollen for early foraging bumblebees.

Abi demonstrating how much effort it was to get the trowel in the ground to plant the bluebells.

The work of the sowing team was not any easier.  They had to scarify the soil surface by raking away the grass.  The seed could then be broadcast onto the soil and lightly tamped in.  As most of these wildflowers are biennial, these sowings will not flower until spring/summer 2025.  However, we should be able to judge some success next year by noting the number of new plants growing in the area.  With careful management, we will encourage the spread of the wildflowers throughout the woodland, making this place into an excellent resource and breeding ground for insects.

Here Saleh is scarifying the soil surface to reduce grass competition before sowing wildflower seeds.

This article is in support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 15: Life on Land. To read more click here.

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