No Mow May

Plantlife have set us all a challenge this May, but it’s an easy one: leave the mower in the shed and let your garden grow! A virtue shared with many ecologically and environmentally friendly approaches, this means doing less, not more. Less effort, less expense, more biodiversity and greater numbers of pollinators – what’s not to love?

The biggest challenge is our shared mindset; that the garden should be neat and tidy, that the lawn should be smartly clipped and striped in shades of green. But, as Plantlife points out, just as we have had to allow our hair to grow out, surely adapting a less rigorous regime in the garden is possible? As with our unruly hair, since we can’t have visitors, there’s nobody to judge!

The ‘no mow’ approach is grounded in scientific observation and evidence. While lower growing plants like daisies, white clover and birds foot trefoil can not only survive but sometimes thrive when mown, taller species such as oxeye daisy and field scabious take longer to reach flowering and can’t achieve this if they are cut. The advice from Plantlife is firstly to restrict mowing to once every four weeks, and when you do mow, to take the ‘Mohican’ approach – leaving some areas alone for those taller plants.

The benefits of mowing less are numerous. The most obvious is the advantage offered to pollinators (and subsequently to us). The highest production of flowers and nectar sugar has been found on lawns cut no more than every four weeks – and our lawns can support between 400 and 4000 bees per day, depending on how they are managed. Another important benefit of no-mow or low-mow, is that the increase in biodiversity brings resilience too. This means your garden will be more resistant to pests, certain weeds, and drought events. Again, what’s not to love?

So, if you can, resist the lure of the mower, and between the 23rd and 31st of this month throw a tennis ball out onto a random section of your lawn, mark out a metre square and use Plantlife’s identification tools to help you work out which flowering plants are thriving in your garden. Submit your results online, receive your Personal Nectar Score and become part of their citizen science initiative Every Flower Counts. They hope to produce the first ever National Nectar Score as a result.

97% of British wildflower meadows have been lost since the 1950s and pollinating insects are in serious rapid decline. Your garden can play a vital role in arresting this nature crisis, and assisting in its recovery. We need to change the way we mow, and consider our gardens anew . What better time than the month of May for a quiet but powerful nature revolution.

‘Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them’

A A Milne, ‘If I May’