3 reasons why I’m taking part in No Mow May — and why you should too

 Long uncut grass with wildflowers.
Long uncut grass with wildflowers.

For the second year running, I’ll be abandoning my lawnmower and supporting No Mow May. The campaign, launched by international conservation charity Plantlife in 2019, sets out to provide a feast for pollinators and support biodiversity in our own backyards.

By putting a pause on mowing my lawn and leaving the grass to grow, I’ll be encouraging early pollinators to thrive among the ox-eye daisies, red clover and knapweed that will flourish amidst the long grass.

However, I’ll have to ignore the “neat freak” within me while the grass becomes unruly and instead embrace the wildlife that will be given the freedom to thrive. So, here are my reasons why I’ll be supporting No Mow May with a few ideas on how you can do the same and what might prevent you from taking part.

1. Give nature a chance to bloom

Bee sitting on top of a bright yellow flower
Bee sitting on top of a bright yellow flower

Over the last 100 years, flower-rich habitats that support pollinators have been lost. No Mow May intends to increase these natural habitats in our backyards to support the ecosystem.

By putting aside my lawnmower in May, I’ll surrender a neat lawn and give wildflowers, which would have otherwise been mown, a chance to bloom and grow to support butterflies and bees.

But why is May the chosen month for the campaign? “It’s when plant life and pollinators start to emerge,” says lawn care expert Ionel Giuran at Fantastic Services. “By not mowing your lawn in spring, you’ll give wildflowers a headstart for summer and pollinators will have enough food sources during the hot months to survive and thrive."

2. Spread the word to support conservation

Butterfly on Allium flower
Butterfly on Allium flower

Another benefit of the campaign is that it encourages people to consider the wider picture and the long-term benefits of conservation. Although, for whatever reason, you might not be able to stop mowing your lawn, No Mow May gets you thinking about the role we play in protecting the ecosystem and supporting pollinators.

I, for one, have been discussing No Mow May far and wide. So whether you are taking part in the campaign or not, spreading the word gets people thinking not only of joining the campaign but finding other ways to encourage pollinators into their yards.

What other ways can you take part?
If you can’t avoid mowing your lawn for a month, there are other alternatives. “You can simply reduce the frequency of mowing throughout the whole year, for example, once every 2 or 3 weeks, which will still benefit the pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, grasshoppers and other insects,” suggests Giuran.

Another beneficial action is to ensure you have plenty of native plants to attract butterflies and other pollinators to your yard during the height of the season. The National Wildlife Federation has a handy online database to help you find native plants for your region.

Why choose native plants
Pollinators have evolved with native plants, which are best adapted to the local growing season, climate, and soils. If you grow an abundance of non-native plants, they may not provide pollinators with sufficient nectar or pollen.

3. Making a difference, no matter how small

Bee hotel in a garden
Bee hotel in a garden

Insect Hotel: $25.99 @ Amazon
Encourage insects into your yard with this wooden insect, bee and butterfly hotel. The wooden shelter contains multiple materials to attract a variety of bugs and is covered with a metal roof to protect it from the weather. It measures 9 x 16 x 3 inches and has a hook on the reverse for hanging on a tree or fence. View Deal

It can be easy to become indifferent about conservation and believe that, as an individual, you can’t make a difference. However, by supporting No Mow May, I’m taking a long-term view of how even my small changes can make an impact on the environment, now and in the future.

When you put it into context, about 55% of U.S. households have a garden.  This accounts for around 71.5 million households, which can all play a part. Although current research is limited to the effects of No Mow May, there can be no doubt that each small action goes towards making a much wider impact.

So, in addition to joining No Mow May, I’ll also be thinking of other ways to reverse the declining bee population and boost our pollinators.

The downside of No Mow May

Lawn mower beside a lawn with long grass and wildflowers for No Mow Mayr
Lawn mower beside a lawn with long grass and wildflowers for No Mow Mayr

While many people are advocates for No Mow May, there is another argument. “When you skip mowing your lawn for an entire month, it isn’t just about letting it grow wild and free. You’re inviting a host of problems — rodents find a new place to call home, weeds start to take over, and your lawn becomes a jungle of a backyard,” says Brian Clayton, CEO at GreenPal.

“When you let your grass get that tall, cutting it later is a bigger job than if you’d just maintained it regularly. You’re practically hay-baling it, using more gas and effort to tame it back down.” Although Clayton’s view is from a lawn maintenance perspective, he does suggest, “If you’re thinking about joining the No Mow May movement, maybe don’t let your whole lawn go. Consider just a part of it if you want to help out the bees and butterflies.”

So, if you are concerned about surrendering your whole lawn to the campaign, you could follow what some of Clayton’s clients do by “setting aside specific sections of their lawn” and “treating it almost like a mini wildflower reserve”. The benefits of “supporting pollinators, conserving water and cutting down on pollution from not running the mower” can still be achieved.

What to know before you take part

Depending on where you live, you may not be able to take part in No Mow Mow, so the best advice is to check your local regulations before you start.

A common concern I’ve discovered when asking lawn and garden experts what puts people off supporting No Mow May is a problem with Home Owner Association (HOA) restrictions.

“Not everyone will be able to participate in No Mow May, says Giuran. “Some living areas have local regulations about grass height which will make taking part in the campaign legally impossible. This is because of the risk of wildfires.”

Another similar problem is neighborhood issues that may arise if your lawn looks ‘untidy’. “You really need neighborhood buy-in for this to be successful,” says Rafi Friedman, President of Coastal Luxury Outdoors. “If you’re having complaints from your neighbors or having issues with your HOA because of No Mow May, it may be more trouble than it’s worth.”

More from Tom's Guide