Grass cutting initiative aims to increase the Oxford’s biodiversity

Published: Tuesday, 2nd March 2021

Oxford City Council is dedicated to tackling climate change and increasing biodiversity

The Council’s 2020 Biodiversity Action Plan highlighted the need to change the way roadside verges are maintained to better support wildlife and reduce carbon emissions. Now, a new scheme has been given the green light to put this into action from this month, March 2021.

The City Council has purchased new machinery that can deal with longer grass and collect it at the same time, instead of needing to do regular mowing. The grass on many of the city’s major roads, and a selection of smaller verges and greens in residential streets, will be cut and collected once a year, in August. Removing the cutting reduces the fertility of the soil and suppresses grass growth, thereby creating the conditions preferred by wild flowers. The number of wild flowers may be few initially, but should increase through time as the grass becomes less dominant.

The City Council will not artificially introduce seeds, but will instead allow natural regeneration of species attracted to the soil types and geology in the different areas of the city. This will create greater overall diversity of flora, and subsequently also a greater range of insects that favour particular plants for pollination, food source and egg laying. The area set to benefit from the initiative will be equivalent to around 40 football pitches.

“Oxford City Council is dedicated to tackling climate change and increasing biodiversity. There is a common misconception that you should just leave the grass on verges to grow, but unless carefully managed, grass will always dominate, and wild flowers and other plants will never be able to compete.

“We have invested in new machinery capable of cutting longer grass and collecting it at the same time to create the right conditions for wild flowers to flourish. This will create a greater overall diversity of plant species, which in turn will provide a wider range of habitat and food source for bees, butterflies and other insects.

“This initiative is just one of a range of projects planned to maximise the potential of our urban habitats to better support wildlife.” 

Cllr Linda Smith, Cabinet Member for Leisure and Parks