NO MOW MAY - Don’t mow, let it grow!
Tackling your spring/summer garden - what if you could actually do more, by doing less?
“Wild plants and fungi are the foundation of life
and shape the world we live in.”
Nicola Hutchinson, Plantlife
#NoMowMay is an annual campaign started by Plantlife in the UK in 2019, asking everyone to put away the lawnmower during the month of May to help our native wildlife. It has grown to become a global movement with people and communities across the world taking part and contributing to a greener future for all.
Our hungry pollinators thrive off native wildflowers such as clover, dandelions, and bird’s foot trefoil, all of which provide a nutritious source of pollen and nectar, and by mowing less, we allow them to bloom and grow, naturally attracting pollinators and wildlife.
Wild Bees (not honey bees) under threat:
One-third of wild bees in Ireland are threatened with extinction. There isn’t enough food to support them in our landscape and they are going hungry! By deciding to put your lawnmowers away for one month, collectively we start to create a network of places where pollinators can survive and thrive.
In 2022, daisies, creeping buttercup, yellow rattle, common bird’s-foot trefoil, field forget-me-not, meadow buttercup, white clover, common mouse-ear, oxeye daisy, and dandelions were the 10 most common plants recorded during #nomowmay, all of which are excellent sources of food for pollinating insects, as well as bees, butterflies, and birds, all attracted by the feast on your lawn!
The trend for neat gardens is becoming less popular.
When we redefine our perception of beauty, a whole new biodiverse world is right in front of our eyes.
Ian Dunn, the chief executive of Plantlife, said: “The immaculate bright green bowling green lawn with its neat stripes may have historically been the desired garden aesthetic, but increasingly we’re seeing a cultural shift which sees wilder lawns buzzing with bees and butterflies becoming highly valued. A radical shift in attitudes towards lawn management is underway and it is to the benefit of plants, pollinators, people, and planet.”
Lock away the lawnmower for the month of May and wait and see what grows. You might just be pleasantly surprised!
Some Top Tips To Help Our Pollinators:
If you don’t have a lawn, you can still help pollinators by planting a pollinator-friendly pot or window box with peat-free compost. Plants like Thyme, Chives, Oregano, and Lavender are all excellent sources of pollen and nectar and can help feed the bees.
Pesticides and weedkillers can harm pollinators and insects that are important for biodiversity. Check out organic gardening resources online and apply some new techniques and ideas to your gardening approach.
Leaf blowers are typically powered by loud, polluting, two-stroke engines. The noise impairs bird communication. Air pollutants harm the respiratory health of nearby living things. Even electric leaf blowers cause habitat destruction, including removing natural debris and eroding and drying out the soil. Use them sparingly.
Reduce nighttime outdoor lighting. Many insects and birds are highly sensitive to artificial light, which can impede their navigation, reproduction, and ability to find food. Enjoy your lights when you’re outdoors, then turn them off to allow insects, birds, and more to go about their lives with one less hazard
Manage native hedgerows for biodiversity. The more blossom your hedgerow has in spring, the better it is for biodiversity. Allow hedges to grow into a natural A-shape profile rather than a neat box shape. Flowers grow on older wood, so avoid cutting annually – cut hawthorn hedges on a three-year rotation instead to allow them to flower in spring.
Plant pollinator-friendly trees. Native trees and shrubs such as alder, hazel, willow, oak, hawthorn, rowan, crab apple, and holly support huge numbers of insects including pollinators. Plant a young tree in the autumn or winter, or grow them from seed.
Be careful with wildflower seed mixes. You might be surprised to hear that sowing wildflower seed mixes can be detrimental to local biodiversity. Many wildflower seed mixes contain non-native species, and can inadvertently introduce invasive species. Please avoid using them where possible. If you do decide to sow wildflower seed mixes, keep to garden settings, ensure they are native and of Irish origin, and never use them in situations where natural habitat restoration is possible (Don’t mow, let it grow). Alternatively, you could collect and sow seeds from local wildflowers.
Don’t install a large bee or insect hotel. Large bee hotels are attractive to humans, but not great for pollinators. They can encourage the spread of disease and attract predators. Avoid anything bigger than an average-sized bird box. If you want to make a bee hotel, make sure it is small, and position it away from bird feeders so the insects aren’t easy targets.
Create some areas of bare soil for mining solitary bees to nest; or drill some holes in wooden fence posts for cavity-nesting solitary bees
Spread the word. Many people want to help pollinators and biodiversity, but it can be hard to know where to start. Tell your friends and family about ways to help pollinators; join a community group or Tidy Towns; talk to your council, school, college, workplace, or faith community. Change happens when word spreads. Even talking to just one person could lead to a change in how a crucial habitat is managed. If that person tells one person, and so on, eventually we will have a network of habitats where pollinators can survive and thrive.
“Flowering plants across wild, farmed, and even urban landscapes actually feed the terrestrial world, and pollinators are the great connectors who enable this giant food system to work for all who eat… including us.”
Roger Lang, Chairman, Pollinator Partnership
The All-Ireland Pollinator Plan is a framework bringing together different sectors across the island of Ireland to create a landscape where pollinators can survive and thrive. It is implemented by the National Biodiversity Data Centre.
This year, the National Biodiversity Data Centre partnered with An Post to invite everyone to join the buzz to save the bees. They sent a recyclable No Mow May postcard, to 2.3 million Irish homes to drum up support and engagement in No Mow May for 2023!
They have provided some FAQs for No Mow May below:
How do I identify any bees or other pollinators that visit?
On the island of Ireland, most insect pollination is carried out by bees, followed by other insects like hoverflies and moths. You can find a full list of the 100+ wild bees we have in Ireland on these free posters.
What can I do after May?
Mowing less from April until September is one of the best ways you can help pollinators. If you remove the grass clippings when you do mow, this slowly reduces the fertility of the soil, allowing native wildflowers to grow naturally.
There are a couple of pollinator-friendly mowing regimes you could adopt. Even managing a section or strip of your lawn in this way can make a difference or a mixture of different regimes:
Short-flowering meadow: Cut once a month rather than every couple of weeks. Dandelions will flower in April and Clovers in May and June. Other plants like Bird’s-foot-trefoil and Self-heal will naturally pop up later in the summer if given a chance.
Long-flowering meadow: In some areas, consider cutting just once a year in September after the seeds have dropped. You must remove the grass cut. This allows wildflowers to bloom throughout the summer such as Ox-eye daisy, Field scabious, and Knapweed. It can take a couple of years for long-flowering meadows to fully establish, but after a few years of managing your meadow in this way, you will be rewarded with a true, native, flower-rich meadow.
Leave some areas entirely undisturbed: Leaving some areas of undisturbed long grass provides safe nesting sites for insects over winter.
Should I plant wildflower seeds to speed things up?
Native meadows are disappearing across the island of Ireland. These important habitats are full of flowers that have evolved alongside our pollinators, offering the best source of pollen and nectar. No Mow May is a way of beginning to restore this habitat, creating small pockets of native meadows in our gardens and communities.
Mowing less allows local, native wildflowers to emerge naturally over time. Wildflower seed mixes and ‘seed ball’ type products usually result in colourful displays of non-native flowers. Sowing them on your lawn will not result in a native meadow.
I’ve only just heard about No Mow May – is it too late to start?
It’s never too late! Reducing mowing is one of the best ways to help pollinators at any time of year, regardless of when you start. Reducing mowing helps reduce the fertility of the soil over time, allowing local, native wildflowers to pop up naturally.
My partner/neighbors are wary – what should I do?
If you want to try No Mow May, but others aren’t so keen, try leaving a strip or patch of grass unmown and see what happens. Don’t be tempted to keep it to a dark or wet corner – flowers do need the sun to grow!
I’m not getting flowers, just long grass?
If your lawn is usually mown regularly and/or treated with herbicides, you won’t get wildflowers straight away. The soil needs time to recover, and this can take time. Keep going and you might be surprised at the variety of flowers that emerge, with more appearing year on year.
I’m worried I’ll have so much grass it’ll be difficult to cut it again. ?
It would be very unusual to get excessive amounts of grass after just four weeks unless your lawn is exceptionally fertile. If you are worried – cut it when you feel you need to rather than leave it for the entire month. Very fertile lawns may also see large plants like docks appearing – if that’s the case you should manually remove those. That’ll only be necessary in the initial years.
How much impact can one lawn have?
Every No Mow May area, no matter how small, can be a lifeline for your local pollinators. Bees don’t fly far from their nests to look for food (bumblebees tend to forage within 1km, and solitary bees only within a few hundred metres). If only a fraction of Ireland’s gardens took part in No Mow May, the collective impact would be huge.
We hope you have a beautiful, blooming May and we would love to hear about your No Mow May Journey. Feel free to tag us on social with your photos and videos.
You can follow us on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook @greenfridays4future
Have a great weekend,
The Green Fridays 4 Future Team