Thanks to No Mow May, I did just that. Sadly, I was unable to find its equivalent for June, so on the hottest day of the year thus far, I tackled my large lawn’s unruly growth. I complained a lot as the sweat dripped down my back, and the blisters formed on my hands. Why am I telling you about No Mow May now? Firstly, I thought that everyone should know about it, and that not obsessing about your lawn is actually a noble thing. Secondly, I, not so secretly, hope that someone can recommend another no mow month I am unaware of, or can suggest a usable ‘lawn’ solution, like clover, to reduce my future need to mow.
What’s No Mow May? According to the beecityusa.org website, it “is a conservation initiative first popularized by Plantlife.org.uk, … gaining traction across North America. The goal of No Mow May is to allow grass to grow unmown for the month of May, creating habitat and forage for early season pollinators.”
BeeCityusa.org quotes a study from 2020, where over 420 residents participated in an experiment, and the results were that those with no-mow yards for May “had three-times higher bee species richness and five-times higher bee abundance than nearby parks that had been mowed.” Similarly, in Springfield, Mass., Susannah Lerman with the USDA Forest Service’s Northern Research Station, researched the effect on pollinators from reducing mowing frequency and found mowing every other week was best for bee abundance.
One other option to help out pollinators is to leave some areas completely uncut.
Not that I needed further encouragement, but the beecityusa.org website also lists a number of benefits of reduced mowing: saving water, helping your lawn become more resilient to drought, and of course reducing emissions from gas-powered lawn equipment. Plantlife.org.uk stated that simple changes in mowing can result in enough nectar for ten times more bees and other pollinators.
So, there you have it, it is nobler not to cut, or at least not to cut obsessively. If you’re going to try this, like me, your neighbours may also need to be educated, so as to not to shame those who don’t mow for May, or who wait to mow every other week. If your area has a weed ordinance, that’s a whole other battle to get local officials on board, but a crafty lawn sign can be downloaded to help people understand that you are creating a pollinator habitat and not neglecting your property.
In terms of no-mow lawns, I know there are plenty of rock gardens and wildflower fields that are possible, but I’m looking for a solution for a somewhat sandy, high sun lawn, where we like to kick a soccer ball around or play bocce. I’ve been told that clover, or thyme are good options, but that you have to get the right varietal and use the seed at the right time. I wish someone could do this for me.
Full disclosure, I’ve never been a lawn person, and I love dandelions in bloom. Previously I have put in rock gardens to limit the amount of lawn I have to mow. I don’t want to spend a significant amount of my free time mowing, raking, weeding, watering, aerating, nor fertilizing. I also don’t want to spend a lot of money on my lawn. I am willing to invest in a no mow solution, but so far people just want to sell me sod. I definitely don’t want more grass, as it just doesn’t serve a purpose other than to check a box on a 1950’s aesthetic. I really feel like we need to update our ideas of lawns for an environmentally-friendly 21st century.
No Mow May is like Movember, but for lawns, and in May. If we can get behind looking at unkempt faces for a month to raise awareness of prostate cancer, surely, we can get behind longer lawns to save bees and other pollinators. Some might joke that No Mow May is even more important than Movember, because honeybees, we can’t live without.