Keep off the grass – long is the new short!

The fashion in parks is changing.  Long is the new short!  Closely mowed and manicured grass is giving way to more wavy bee and other insect friendly meadows in less formal areas.  This year Bradford Parks and Greenspaces service will be doing its bit to halt the rapid decline of UK insects and other wild species by reducing herbicide use and areas of cut grass.

Parkland Trees

The main focus in 2018 will be on changing how we manage grass under parkland trees.  Fashion and outdated horticultural practice has dictated that grass under trees must be cut short (10 times a year in the growing season) and right up to the trunk of the tree.  If the mower or strimmer can’t get to the grass the tree receives an annual dose of weedkiller – you may have wondered why many park trees have a strip of brown dead grass around the trunk!  This management regime can cause harm to the tree and is expensive.


Many herbicides splash or drift on to the trunk and buttress roots where they can enter the tree through bark lenticels and  begin to cause harm.



Grass cutting with mowers and strimmers can cause direct damage to the trunk and surface roots.  Creating another entry route for herbicides and other decay fungi, not to mention any damage to the mower!



This year Parks will be carrying out trials of this new grass management regime in some areas.  Herbicide will not be sprayed under selected trees and the number of cuts under the canopy will be reduce from 10 to 1 or 2.  The benefits for wildlife will be:

  • Create more vertical habitats and refuges for insects and other wildlife
  • Space for more wildflowers supporting bees and other pollinators to flourish
  • Grass and flower seeds provide a natural food source
  • Allow greater tolerance of deadwood in tree canopies for habitat.

And good news for budgets too!  At a time when the Council is struggling to manage with less money, reducing the number of herbicide applications and grass cutting in parks will save costs and free up staff time to focus on critical areas (highway grass cutting) and other horticultural tasks.  Long grass may also discourage from people walking under tree canopies, in turn this could result in greater tolerance of deadwood in the crown.  Deadwood in trees is a key habitat for woodland insects, as well as the bats, treecreepers, and woodpeckers etc. who feed on them.

Flower Power

Parks service will also begin to test the feasibility of establishing native woodland wildflowers under tree canopies in some parks.  Wildflower planting should improve both the visual appearance and the range of plants for bees and other insects the park can support.

This year reducing grass cutting under trees will reveal if there are any dormant wildflowers and create some spaces for natural colonisation.  Additionally, in some parks we will be experimenting with growing woodland wildflower mixes under tree canopies,  and we may go further as in the picture below in more of our parks?  We would like to hear your views on how this is working and any other ideas you have for making our parks havens for people and wildlife.  The involvement of Friends and community groups in taking this experiment forward is to be strongly encouraged.  Please get in touch. [email protected]