The Best Way to ‘No Mow May’ by Rachel Hammond

I’m sure you’ve heard of “No Mow May” by now, and I wanted to discuss why this is a good thing not only for improving our biodiversity but also climate change. With over 20 million lawns in the UK, individual homeowners can make a big difference and help compensate for the loss of 97% of our flower-rich meadows since the 1970s. 

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.

And it is now known that the more plant diversity you have, the more carbon is captured in the soil due to the work of fungi in the soil. This is explained by Ian Dunn, CEO of the Plantlife charity on the Sheepdrove Eco Show (listen from 20 min 30 sec). Ian also explains that a variety of lawn length creates a range of habitats so it is fine to mow paths through your lawn or have a long section at the back.

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 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

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.

 

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