May 25, 2021
Reduce Your Lawn for the Pollinators
Once you’ve headed down the pollinator pathway it’s time to think about reducing the lawn — the simplest no-nonsense approach is often to simply stop mowing a section of lawn. And you can start now during “No Mow May.”
Consider it a project or an experiment. You’ll be learning about the plants which have always been there — hidden in plain sight. Choose a back section of the lawn, something out of sight but close enough to monitor. That way if things get a little messy or unsightly in the no-mow area, the landscape around the house remains tidy. Experiments get messy. That’s part of the learning process.
Check on the new growth regularly to see what plants emerge in which season. You’ll get weeds including beneficial weeds such as buttercups, clover, daisy, and self-heal, along with some invasive plants. Be alert for invasive species and try to prevent them from going to seed. In the case of mugwort or stilt grass, this can be accomplished by mowing at the end of summer as these plants are flowering, before they set seed. In the case of garlic mustard, pull the plants in spring while they’re flowering.
It’s a good idea to document your experiment with notes and photographs. The date stamp on photos will indicate when a species is likely to emerge so you’ll know what to expect in subsequent years. It also helps to post a sign which lets people know that this is intentional—not just neglect.
A sign can also mark the boundary of the no-mow zone if you use a mowing service.
After this year’s experiment with No Mow May, you may decide to take the plunge and remove or kill off a section of your lawn for a garden or meadow. This recent article entitled “Lawn Murder” provides some interesting food for thought: https://www.ecolandscaping.org/04/designing-ecological-landscapes/native-plants/lawn-murder/
You may also be interested in taking the No Mow May Challenge. The following was reprinted from the Northeast Pollinator Pathway:
Take the No Mow May Challenge!
The Pollinator Pathway wants you to take the challenge: let your lawn grow for the whole month of May. That’s right — Do Nothing! Leave your mower in the garage until June. Let your green lawn turn into a riot of color with buttercups, clover, dandelions and daisies that will offer much-needed food for our beleaguered bees and butterflies who are starving after a long winter. Every flower counts when it comes to providing a meal for our pollinators, so it makes sense that cutting your lawn in early spring is not the best thing to do.
Understandably, if this is your first time it may be hard to get comfortable with a bit of messiness. Here’s a suggestion: don’t go “all the way”. Start small if changing in one fell swoop is too much. Give your lawn a partial haircut instead of a full buzz cut by leaving islands or streams of lawn untouched by the mower where the wildflowers can bloom. Try mowing wide paths so you can walk around, watch the activity and enjoy the changing shapes and colors. Have these paths lead to a bench, a birdbath, a statue or a big pot of flowers. If you’re worried about what the neighbors will say, mow a buffer along the edges and along your driveway and walkways. Then ask your neighbors to stop working so hard and join the fun; after all, No Mow May saves time, saves money, provides for quiet relaxation, and eliminates noise and air pollution (the EPA attributes 5% of U.S. air pollution to mowers). Natural landscapes attract more bird species providing a chance for birdwatching, and they offer opportunities for photography, painting or simply observing our native wildflowers. May will come again in 11 months, so take your time, see what happens, and by all means have fun.
Join the club and register your property on the Wallkill Valley Pollinator Pathway: