In 2019, a UK conservation charity called Plantlife started a “No Mow May” campaign. The campaign’s purpose was to encourage homeowners not to mow their lawns for the entire month of May. Over 97% of flower-rich meadows have disappeared since the 1970s, and as a result, the food sources necessary for pollinators like bees and butterflies have disappeared. Research has shown that consistently mowed lawns can diminish biodiversity by removing vital food for pollinators like bees and butterflies. Allowing grass to grow for a month can create habitats and food sources for early-season pollinators when other flowers are scarce.
Participate in No Mow May
Plantlife asked participants to leave their lawnmowers in their shed for the entire month of No Mow May and count how many flower species subsequently popped up in a one-square-metre patch of their lawn. People saw an increase in the growth of daisies, germander, speedwell and creeping buttercup, and these species changed throughout the summer. Moreover, the average square-metre patch of lawn surveyed after the experiment produced enough nectar to support almost four honey bees daily.
The No Mow May campaign has spread to communities all around the world. In 2020, Appleton, Wisconsin, passed legislation encouraging people not to mow their lawns. Many communities across the Midwest and Northeast have followed suit. Local governments and businesses are also doing their part by rethinking their landscaping practices in urban green spaces to promote biodiversity. Cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York in the US, and Bristol, Edinburgh, and London in the UK all participate in the program.
Plantlife encourages people to create perennial flower meadows instead of frequently mown lawns as it is one of the most important measures to promote insects. No Mow May is a good time for homeowners and even city officials to rethink how we think about lawns. Consider clover, meadows, and prairies as a replacement for grass. Replacing grass with native or edible plants is an excellent alternative to grass and can help feed yourself and the community.
Participating in No Mow May can reduce pollution, as gasoline-powered lawnmowers can emit the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as driving a new car. Mowing your grass less often can strengthen your lawn and make it more drought-tolerant, which will help conserve water.
It is also important to reduce or eliminate the use of herbicides and pesticides in lawns and gardens. This, too, can provide benefits for pollinators. These chemicals can be harmful to bees, butterflies, and other insects that visit plants for food and habitat. By reducing their use, more pollinator-friendly plants can thrive, providing a source of food and shelter for these important species. Additionally, reducing chemical use can help protect water quality and other aspects of the environment that are important to pollinators and other wildlife.
Realistically, we will still see lawns in front or back of many houses across the world. But you can do your part to encourage wildlife even after No Mow May is over. If you cut your lawn once a month, you can encourage the maximum number of flowers to grow in your lawn. You can also leave some sections of grass completely unmown. This will result in a greater diversity of flowers in these areas.
No Mow May aims to get people to start thinking about their lawns and the environment. Gardens can make a difference in the number of wildflowers and, in turn, will affect our pollinators and food sources. If we can change how we think about green space, lawns and gardens, we can have a greater impact on our planet.