If I’m sure you’ve heard of “No Mow May” by now, and I wanted to discuss both why this is a good thing, and also the potential pitfalls of taking part.
By allowing the grass to grow, you are paving the way for wildflowers and perennials to grow through the grass; often people discover orchids and many other unusual plants popping up where they have not been seen before.
Once you get more plant diversity, you will find different insects, butterflies, bees and more visiting your space. By including some water in your space, you will further increase the likelihood of ecosystem diversity – this could be something as little as a shallow tray with water or a washing up bowl – it doesn’t have to be grand or huge in size.
But what happens at the end of May? If you suddenly cut back all the long grass, you are destroying the habitat after only a month for the very creatures you were trying to attract.
A couple of compromises include cutting mown paths through your grass (removing some, keeping some) or keeping it long for the summer, only cutting in autumn. If you decide to keep all or some long grass year round, mowing once in April and once in September is sufficient for maintenance of plants and seed distribution.
If you have a dog(s), you might want to keep an area of grass short for easy picking up.
Finally, when you do cut the long grass, you may need to use hand shears or a scythe to reduce the height at first – most lawnmowers will struggle with anything taller than a foot or so – or you might be lucky with the mower on the highest setting and it will probably need more than one going over.
In the long term consider mowing on one or two settings higher than previous cuts, as the shorter the grass, the sooner it dries and dies, and watering lawns is unnecessary when a slightly longer cut will prevent the need.
Rachel Hammond from Newbury is a landscape architect, urban designer, gardener and master composter, specialising in edible landscapes, food production and biodiversity planting. She has worked in the sustainability sector for the last 20 years, always growing her own food. She now runs edge
, a non-profit which educates on and designs urban food production systems and ecological farming practices.