Sward enhancement: choice of methods
Natural England Technical Information Note TIN062
Practical tips on ways of increasing the diversity of wild flowers in your swards, with guidance on selecting the right method.
This Natural England Technical Information Note (one of a series), focuses on management techniques to increase the botanical diversity of species-poor grassland. It provides guidance on choosing the best method of sward enhancement according to the site on your land.
It outlines some useful general points to consider and ways in which you can ascertain whether or not your grassland site will be suitable for sward enhancement. This is followed by a section on choosing the right method to use; firstly asking the question of whether or not it is always necessary to introduce wild flowers.
The most influential management practices are outlined, along with various practical tips.
Techniques for introducing wild flowers are detailed along with various environmental factors you will need to consider. The techniques described are accompanied by some useful quick reference tables, which are broadly divided into different requirements and criteria for assessing suitability.
Findings & recommendations
- Sward enhancement can be funded under what is now the Countryside Stewardship scheme.
- It is possible to create diversification in your sward naturally, without adding seed, through changing your management techniques.
- There are established techniques for enhancing swards by adding seed, but the best method will vary with each site.
- Two key requirements when assessing the suitability of enhancing your sward are low soil fertility and low weed population.
- There is no overall best method of introducing wild flowers; it comes down to you assessing your seed source, livestock and machinery available, and existing environmental aspects of your site such as archaeology, nesting birds, soil characteristics and soil drainage. It is important, however, to remember that the success of the technique is dependent on both the establishment phase and long term management.
- There are other Natural England technical notes on facilitating grassland diversification to which you can refer. Topics include selecting a suitable site, using yellow rattle, species-rich green hay, over sowing and slot seeding and using pot-grown wildflowers or seedling plugs.