As the weather gradually turns milder and your lawn starts to grow in earnest, it can be tempting to reach for the lawnmower and transform it into a neat patch of uniform green.

But wait! Before you head for the shed, why not consider taking a different approach to your lawn this month … or even the whole year round?!

‘No Mow May’ was conceived by the conservation charity Plantlife back in 2019, to encourage gardeners and greenspace managers to let their lawns grow throughout May to provide much needed additional nectar sources for our precious pollinating insects. Since it began in 2019, thousands of gardeners have taken the pledge to lock up their mowers during May, and many local authorities have got on board too.

The campaign was launched to help address some of the alarming challenges facing the natural world today. It may come as a surprise to some, but the UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. We’ve lost 97% of our wildflower meadows since the 1950s and the UK's flying insect populations have declined by 60% in 20 years.

Image: Bee in the meadows, Millennium Country Park, Martin Rogers

There are over 20 million gardens in the UK, which adds up to a lot of land collectively that can be used to support our struggling wild species. By taking part in No Mow May, you will be doing something really positive to help the bees, butterflies, moths and other insects in your neighbourhood.

And there’s no need to stop once May has passed either. Plantlife’s botanical experts recommend cutting less for longer – ideally having different lengths of lawn all round the garden to enable different flowers to thrive. They suggest leaving some areas of grass unmown all year, as these patches will provide shelter for creatures like hedgehogs, frogs and toads.

Other areas can be grown to a mid-length and cut 2 – 3 times a year outside of April to August to allow taller flowers to flourish such as meadow’s cranesbill. Finally, the charity suggests cutting the remaining areas once a month, at a height of 1 – 2 inches to allow low growing plants such as daisies and bird’s foot trefoil to grow. By following these guidelines, you’ll get a variety of flowers thriving on your patch, providing a feast throughout summer for hungry insects.

One crucially important job to remember is when you do eventually mow your grass, make sure you collect the grass cuttings and compost them. Leaving the cuttings on the lawn will enrich the nutrient levels which is not conducive to wildflower growth.

What flowers will I see in my garden?

According to Plantlife, the top five most common plants recorded growing in lawns during No Mow May are daisies, creeping buttercups, yellow rattle, common bird's foot trefoil and field forget-me-nots.

Bird’s foot trefoil is a welcome addition to any lawn. A member of the pea family, the plant has small bright yellow flowers tinged with red or orange, giving it one of its common names, ‘eggs and bacon’. The flowers are popular with many species of bumblebee and butterfly, and they are also an important foodplant for the caterpillars of the common blue butterfly.

Yellow-rattle is another pleasing addition to any wildlife lover’s lawn. It is semi-parasitic and feeds off nutrients in the roots of more vigorous species, which enables other slower-growing wildflowers and grasses to gain a foothold in your lawn. It is often used in seed mixes by conservationists when they are creating new wildflower meadows.

In addition to these common species, rarities have been known to pop up in people’s lawns when they take part in No Mow May – it is all part of the excitement! Some lucky participants have enjoyed exotic looking bee orchids and the blooms of snowy-white meadow saxifrage.

Image: Daisies and other wild flowers growing in grass

Get the community involved

Chat to your neighbours and let them know you’re letting your lawn grow to support wildlife – perhaps you can persuade them to get on board too! The more lawns that are ‘liberated’, the greater the benefit for our pollinating insects.

You could even talk to your local council to see if they’ll take part on any community greenspaces or road verges they manage.

Plantlife has produced signs that you can print out and put up in your garden or community greenspace to let passers-by know that you’re taking part in No Mow May.

For more information on No Mow May, and to register to take part, click here.

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