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Thursday, 4 July 2013

Mini Garden Survey: Perfect lawns are for prats!

The sun was shining and a faint breeze in the air. I put my feet up onto the garden bench, leaned back in my chair and watched as the swifts screamed, twisted and turned like boomerangs, emerging from the bright blue of the sky, altering their course as they catch insects mid-flight.

As I looked down, I noticed that  there were plenty of things going on in the grass. Which gave me an idea... I wondered how many plants and insects were in a simple lawn that had not been mowed for a week. I chose a small area, right in the middle of the lawn, and had a little rummage in a patch about a metre by a metre. It was quite a casual survey, only taking ten minutes or so, but I guess one that could easily be repeated in future, and maybe in more detail!

The Results! 

First, I set about identifying the plants in the patch. Forgive me for any errors in identification, my botanical skills have lots of room for improvement! Some photos have been taken with my camera phone through a field hand lens, which worked quite well despite the odd bit of vignetting on the right hand side of the photos.

Daisy Bellis perennis
Dandelion Species Taraxacum sp.
White Clover Trifolium repens

Lesser Trefoil? Trifolium dubicum
Selfheal? Prunella vulgaris

And that is not forgetting the grass species in the lawn, of which I could distinguish at least two, but did not ID to species level.

There were a few insects that paid the patch a visit or two. Including two species of ant, bumblebees, honey bee and an insect that came so briefly I could not get a good look and photo to ID properly.

Yellow Ant Lasius flavus
Red-tailed Bumblebee Bombus lapidarius
Honey Bee Apis mellifera
Bumblebee species?
I have no idea! 

 So what have I learnt from my micro-study? Even small patches of lawn can be species rich and be host to a fairly diverse amount of wildlife. Also, my plant and insect ID could do with some practice! A more in depth study of the patch and a longer observation could give better results. What about species in the soil? What about a transect across the lawn?

I was shocked to find that a lot of the plant species identified are quite often referred to as weeds (of course, there is no such thing!). Which I find is a bit of a tragedy. Anyone that does not want a splash of daisies and clover across their lawn, with frequent visits from the wonderful bees and insects that choose to feed from these, is insane. I curse those with immaculate, carpet-esque lawns, devoid of life.

Also, check out Notes on Natures recent fascinating post about the plants that grow in his lawn when left for a few weeks Its a great blog, with some very interesting reads!

On a slightly different note, meet Casper. The over-groomed, semi-bald African Grey. Unfortunately she needed a new home, and we were lucky enough to be able to provide her with one. :)


I hope you enjoyed reading about my mini survey, the next blog will include a walk to Warren Villas (amazing!) and a blackbird chick... Thank ya'll!


  1. What a great idea! I remember doing metre square transect things for A level biology! Definitely going to do one of these in my garden at some point. Although Bracken may have to stay indoors because he is so inquisitive he would trample over my experiment!

    Poor Casper! At least she has a lovely home now :)

    1. haha, yesss definitely do one! Post up your results - will be very interesting to see! Luckily Sky is well behaved when it comes to photographing and studying stuff :)

  2. A great idea Tom. Thanks for the mention, I really appreciate it. I think that your plant identifications are spot on too.
    Hello Casper, bet she's glad to have a good new home :)

    1. Thanks Tim! :) Is a really interesting subject, that is so often and so easily over looked, its nice to read about others who share the same passion!

  3. What a great idea! I'm with you on the perfect lawn thing, soulless and not my idea of a garden AT ALL :-(
    Great bee shots and welcome to Casper- will her feather grow back? CT :-)

    1. Thanks CT :) I am hoping I can keep her busy and interested enough in lots of other things and eventually (fingers crossed!) she will grow her feathers back :)

  4. Great idea! I agree with you about lawns - mine is absolutely crammed with 'weeds' - I love it!. I started surveying as part of the Garden Bioblitz and have continued to do so.

    1. Thanks Pete - have just been rummaging through your blog - some great photos and interesting reads! Think I may start regularly surveying the garden - do you send the data to anyone or is it a personal study?

  5. Hi Tom,
    That is a very good idea to start yourself on a track that might bring about a passion... obviously there already!! ;-)
    You've taken great pics of of the bumblebees, unfortunately I don't have time right now to help you with ID.
    Enjoy your WE!

    1. Thanks Noushka!
      Haha - you never know! I am hoping to start surveying more regularly, and improve those botanical skills! Hope your weekend has been a good one too! Tom

  6. Hello Tom, sorry I'm so late to this post. You might be interested in one or two of my recent posts on the wild plants at Berry Head and also my garden creatures This year I've left a patch of grass go wild and the Red Tailed Bees love the hawkweed in it. I also have clover and selfheal all over the rest of the grass and I love it-no perfect lawns for me! Great pictures, have a had a quick look at your posts, they are lovely.

    1. Thank you :) you also have some lovely photos - it is great to see that there are plenty of people out there who share the same views! If only there were plenty more...