Yellow rattle seed must be sown in the autumn as it needs prolonged chilling through the Winter to trigger its germination the following Spring. It is a very helpful addition to the urban meadow in St George's Park which has had a positive impact on the local ecology demonstrated by the abundance of invertebrates and our burgeoning bird population (as described on our Wildlife Page above).
Yellow Rattle hasn't always been so popular because it can reduce hay yields by up to fifty per cent and in that sense was traditionally seen as a pest by farmers.
However, to urban green space gardeners like us ,it is valued for the very qualities it was once condemned for. By gaining nutrients from the roots of grasses holding back growth, yellow rattle allows wild flowers to thrive in greater abundance and diversity.
Yellow rattle gets its name in part from the seeds rattling in dry pods (as pictured above) and in part from its vibrant yellow blue tipped flowers in June and July. The FoSGP volunteers will be preparing the meadow and sowing the second lot of yellow rattle at this work party.
Previous sowing had not been successful which is one of the characteristics of yellow rattle, it often disappoints in the first year but we are hopeful that by resowing this autumn it will establish itself more readily. Yellow rattle has many colloquial and traditional names – these include Gowk’s shilling in Scotland or gowk’s sixpence and hen pennies in Northumberland (a “Gowk” is a cuckoo).
In English folklore it is also known as pepper-box, cocks comb and various other local names.
If you are interested in meadow maintenance, community gardening and local voluntary action that is resident-led and organic, come along and meet up with us. You can spot us in the park in our high viz vests (we'll be mostly on the top field this week) so please do come and say hello and if you would like to make the park more edible for the entire food chain check out Let's Eat the Park - community action money can't buy!
Gloves, tools and free refreshments are as ever available - hope to see you there.