Environment

Why you should stop mowing your lawn to help the bees

One of the easiest ways to support biodiversity at home is to simply do nothing: for No Mow May, here's why you should stop cutting your lawn.

Wildflowers

Plants that we often think of as "weeds" are beneficial to wildlife. (Image: Pixabay)

If you asked someone to describe the smell of spring, they might jump first to freshly-cut grass, a scent which wafts through the air every year when the sun finally returns after winter. 

Getting out the lawnmower to prepare for warmer weather has become a seasonal norm for households across the country, and in parks up and down Britain, gardeners are employed to do the job on a larger scale.

Yet it might surprise some people to know that mowing lawns can have a negative effect on wildlife, and that letting grass grow wilder can boost biodiversity.

No Mow May, an initiative led by conservation charity Plantlife, is calling on people up and down the county to put down their lawnmowers in a bid to help pollinator populations thrive.

What is No Mow May?

No Mow May is pretty much what it sounds like – a month where people are encouraged to avoid cutting grass at home.

It launches on April 29, and gardeners around the UK will post their results on social media using the hashtag #NoMowMay.

At the end of the month, Plantlife is also running a nationwide “Every Flower Counts” survey. 

This involves people submitting images and descriptions of the plants and flowers that have sprung up on their uncut grass during a month of not mowing it.

The data collected will help conservationists assess the state of biodiversity in areas across the UK.

In 2019, more than 200 flower species were found on lawns, including rarities such as meadow saxifrage, knotted clover and eyebright.

How does No Mow May boost wildlife? 

If you avoid mowing your lawn, this will allow wildflowers to bloom, and in turn provide a vital source of nectar to pollinators like bees.

Bees and other pollinators are an essential part of our ecosystem, providing the services that allow us to produce food.

In recent years their numbers have been dropping, making any efforts to help pollinators thrive especially important. 

Previous No Mow Mays have shown the astonishing power of avoiding grass cutting for a month. 

In the last Every Flower Counts survey, Plantlife found that 80 per cent of the lawns submitted supported the equivalent of around 400 bees a day from the nectar sugar produced by flowers such as dandelion, white clover and selfheal.

Around 20 per cent of lawns, meanwhile, were found to be supporting up to 40,000 bees per day. 

The survey discovered that the optimum mowing schedule was once every four weeks, which gave ‘short-grass’ plants like daisies and white clover a chance to flower in profusion, boosting nectar production tenfold.

On grass that was left longer, however, the range of flowers was more diverse, increasing the range of nectar sources for pollinators as well as extending its availability into late summer.

What if I don’t have a garden? 

Of course, not everyone has access to a lawn to mow in the first place – but that doesn’t mean you can’t take part in No Mow May. 

If you have a window box or even some steps outside your home, you could consider planting wildflower seeds to support pollinators. These seeds are widely available at garden centres and some supermarkets.

Alternatively, you could encourage your local council to participate in Plantlife’s road verges campaign, which invites local authorities to avoid mowing verges and instead let wildflowers grow. 

Alternatively, some local authorities will allow community groups to create wildflower meadows on publicly-owned land.

You could see whether any gardening community groups already exist in your area, and if they don’t yet, consider starting one yourself.

If you’re looking for other ways to boost biodiversity at home or in your community, check out our guide on simple steps you can take at this link.

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