Meadows and wild flowers support biodiversity, which has dropped drastically in the UK in recent years. Image: James King/Plantlife
Pesky neighbours waking you up early with the lawn mower? Tell them about No Mow May.
Firing up the trimmer too regularly wrecks garden biodiversity and robs bees and butterflies of the food they need to survive. So international conservation charity Plantlife is urging Brits to “liberate their lawns” by letting them grow for a month.
Doing so can deliver “big gains” for nature, explained Nicola Hutchinson, the director of conservation at Plantlife.
“Wild plants and fungi are the foundation of life and shape the world we live in,” she said.
“With an estimated 23 million gardens in the UK, how lawns are tended makes a huge difference to the prospects for wild plants and other wildlife.”
Here’s how you can take part.
Why should you take part in No Mow May?
All of the UK’s garden lawns add up to the size of Bedfordshire, covering around 125,000 hectares.
But much of this lawn space is cut very short, allowing just one or two species of grass to survive. With one in five British wildflowers currently under threat, this is a crisis for biodiversity.
On wild lawns, dozens of species can thrive. During last year’s No Mow May campaign, participants reported a wealth of different species poking their heads above the grass. As well as daisies and buttercups, the distinctive yellow rattle and vibrant devils-bit scabious also became common.
Flowers provide nectar and pollen for bees, butterflies, and pollinators. British insect numbers are down 64 per cent between 2004 and 2022 – so every wild patch of grass will help.
Silencing the mower could also reduce carbon emissions. Brits trim their lawns 30 million times a year, Plantlife estimates, resulting in 80,000 tonnes of annual carbon dioxide emissions. Slashing these emissions would be equivalent to taking 17,300 petrol cars off the road for a year.
Top tips for helping your lawn provide a habitat for wildlife
Once May is over, don’t fall back into old mowing habits. With a few simple tricks, you can create a biodiversity haven in your own backyard.
There are lots of ways you can manage your lawn to help local wildlife.
Leave areas of your lawn uncut
Lawns with the highest number of wildflowers are those which have patches of various grass lengths. Flowers like oxeye daisies – which are much larger than normal daisies – and the purple-headed field scabious only grow in longer grass.
Figure out the mowing regime that works for you
You should turn off the mower for a month to kickstart rewilding your garden. But you don’t have to let your garden grow completely wild. Mowing twice a year will maintain a meadow, while cutting your grass once every 4-6 weeks will maintain a shorter, re-flowering lawn. Shorter lawns allow flowers like bugle – spikey blue flowers that carpet damp grassland – to thrive.
Compost your cuttings
When you do trim the lawn, collect and compost the cuttings.
“When cuttings are left to rot down on lawns, this enriches the soil and creates an environment where more competitive grasses and species like nettles, hogweeds and thistles take over, smothering the rest of our wild flora,” explained Mark Schofield, Plantlife’s road verges advisor.
Don’t use weedkiller
Toxic chemicals nuke weeds – but they also attack plants beyond the ones you are trying to kill. This destroys flowers and maintains an unhealthy monoculture in your garden.
Use the time you would have spent mowing connecting with nature
By taking part in the challenge, you’ll find yourself with a little more time on your hands.
Spend this time connecting with the great outdoors, advised Sarah Shuttleworth, Plantlife’s senior ecological advisor.
“This reclaimed time can be used to enjoy and explore wildlife friendly activities – like building a bug hotel, installing a wildlife pond or simply admiring the beauty of garden wildlife,” she urged.
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