If you spend any time on pollinator-related social media pages, you’re likely to see posts promoting No Mow May, a movement to encourage homeowners to put aside their mowing routine for a month. The idea is that the flowering ‘weeds’ we all try to eliminate in the lawn will be allowed to bloom and thus support pollinators: particularly our native bees. Other sources reference the taller grass offers protection for native insects. Is this a good idea? Yes, and no.
As you know, we are enthusiastic supporters of planting for pollinators. Letting your lawn go for a month is not the best way to support our native insects and to encourage others to take up the challenge. An un-mown lawn may allow more dandelions to bloom, but the nutritional value of the dandelion is inferior to many plants. Clover would be a great plant to have for the bees, but as the lawn grows, those low to the ground blooms become more difficult for the bees to access. Also, an unkempt lawn is exactly the sight that turns off many to planting for pollinators. They equate native friendly yards to a mess.
Then there’s the practical side to the no mow month. If you let your lawn grow for a month between mowing, you risk damaging your lawn. It may recover, after a month or so, but why stress your lawn only to force it to recover? Also, the time, or number of cuts, needed to tend to a lawn that wasn’t mown for a month may be considerable. Finally, why set up your landscape to support nature, to invite it in for a month, only to take it away with a June 1st mowing? Our native insects, pollinators, and birds need year-round habitat, not habitat for just for a month. So, what can you do?
Consider transitioning some of the lawn to an actual pollinator garden. If you are not looking to plant a lot of flowers, you could opt for native grasses. Many native grasses support beneficial insects, have low water requirements, do not need supplemental nutrition (i.e. fertilization) and you only mow them once a year. The new lawn alternatives can be designed to enhance the overall aesthetic of the landscape while supporting nature. And as a bonus, the thoughtful design of the nature-friendly planting in your landscape may inspire your neighbors to turn some of their landscape into an attractive, native-friendly space.