UNITED STATES NEWS

No Mow May? Our gardening columnist says no

May 4, 2023, 4:40 AM

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve heard about the #NoMowMay movement that’s been gaining steam on social media and in eco-conscious circles these past few years.

Started in 2019 by citizen scientists in the United Kingdom, the call for homeowners to abstain from mowing their lawns during the month has spread to other countries, including the U.S.

The intention is admirable: Let your grass and weeds grow and bloom to provide food and shelter for essential pollinators like bees and butterflies early in the season, when such necessities may be scarce.

Frankly, I think it’s a terrible idea.

Some of those pollinators you set out to protect will likely get shredded up with the first mow of the season. Grass will no doubt get shaded by tall weeds, which can lead to fungal diseases. And weeds and invasive plants that take hold during the month won’t simply disappear once the mowing commences. That might lead people to apply chemical pesticides they wouldn’t otherwise use.

And what about rodents, snakes and other undesirables that also will likely avail themselves of the shelter?

Perplexed by the seemingly runaway-train popularity of the now-annual event, I called Tamson Yeh, turf specialist with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County in New York. “Is it me?” I asked.

“I think it’s a terrible idea, too,” she said. “It’s such a nice slogan, but letting the grass grow high and allowing it to do its thing, and then suddenly mowing it back is really counterproductive.”

Yeh sees the movement as a “feel-good, stop-gap measure, because if you want to have an impact, you need to establish a permanent cover for insects,” not merely temporary housing.

“Bees tell each other where the food is, and pollinators (when they discover an unmown lawn) will remember to come back to it again and again,” Yeh said. “Then on June 1st, when the food disappears, it’s not good for them.”

Hibernating insects have memories that span not only from day to day but from year to year, Yeh said. So she recommends planting early blooming shrubs, trees and plants to establish a permanent food source they can remember and rely on as adults when they emerge from dormancy.

Other problems with the practice, Yeh noted, include “confusing insects when the grass is suddenly low again. That gives predators the opportunity to take advantage of them.”

There’s also the potential to disturb a nest of bunnies when mowing, she said, calling the discovery “the most horrible experience you can have.”

An all-or-nothing approach would be better. If you really want to make a difference, consider shrinking or eliminating the lawn, which frankly, has no redeeming value aside from subjective aesthetics, anyway.

When planting for beneficial insects, Yeh advises creating a corridor or path of pollen- and nectar-rich plants for migratory pollinators to travel along instead of spacing plants far apart.

Postponing fall cleanup until spring, which spawned another movement called #LeaveTheLeaves, will create safe havens for pollinators to lay their eggs and hibernate within. To allow time for them to emerge from dormancy, wait until after spring temperatures have remained above 50 degrees for an entire week before clearing away last season’s plant debris.

For those set on letting their lawns go wild this month, Yeh cautions that “allowing grass to go to seed will kill it,” so remove seedheads if they form.

It’s also important to reintroduce mowing gradually.

“The best height for grass is 3 inches tall, but if you’re mowing it down from 5 or 6 inches, do it over several sessions,” she advised, adding that cutting grass by more than one-third of its height at one time can cause it to go into shock.

The gradual approach “also will give insects a chance to realize it’s not a good place for them anymore,” she said. Hopefully, they’ll take the hint and move on to safer spaces.

—-

Jessica Damiano writes regular gardening columns for The Associated Press. She publishes the award-winning Weekly Dirt Newsletter. Sign up here for weekly gardening tips and advice.

___

For more AP gardening stories, go to https://apnews.com/hub/gardening.

United States News

Part of a stegosaurus skeleton is displayed at Sotheby's New York in New York, Wednesday, July 10, ...

Associated Press

Stegosaurus fossil fetches nearly $45M, setting record for dinosaur auctions

NEW YORK (AP) — The nearly complete fossilized remains of a stegosaurus fetched $44.6 million at auction Wednesday, Sotheby’s said. The buyer’s name was not disclosed. The fossil, dubbed “Apex,” is considered to be among the most complete ever found, according to the auction house. The price blew past a pre-sale estimate of $4 million […]

42 minutes ago

President Joe Biden and Maritza Rodriguez, Biden for President Latina adviser, greets patrons at Li...

Associated Press

President Joe Biden tests positive for COVID-19 while campaigning in Las Vegas

President Biden tested positive for COVID-19 while traveling Wednesday in Las Vegas and is experiencing “mild symptoms” from the infection.

1 hour ago

Ukraine's Minister of Defense Rustem Umerov arrives for a social dinner for defense ministers atten...

Associated Press

Ukraine defense chief says his nation will find battlefield solutions no matter who wins US election

ASPEN, Colorado (AP) — Ukraine will find a way to battle Russia’s invading forces even if former President Donald Trump wins a second term and imperils vital U.S. support for its defense, Ukraine’s defense minister said Wednesday. In carefully framed comments to an audience of U.S. policymakers and journalists, Defense Minister Rustem Umerov reflected the […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Thousands of Nebraskans with felony convictions could be denied voting rights under AG’s opinion

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Thousands of Nebraskans with felony convictions could be denied voting rights under an opinion from the state attorney general released Wednesday. Nebraska Attorney General Mike Hilgers issued an opinion that says a law passed earlier this year to immediately restore the voting rights of people who’ve finished serving their felony convictions […]

1 hour ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret Servic...

Associated Press

Multiple failures, multiple investigations: Unraveling the attempted assassination of Donald Trump

BUTLER, Pa. (AP) — The young man was pacing around the edges of the Donald Trump campaign rally, shouldering a big backpack and peering into the lens of a rangefinder toward the rooftops behind the stage where the former president would stand. His behavior was so odd, so unlike that of the other rallygoers, that […]

2 hours ago

Follow @ktar923...

Sponsored Content by Sanderson Ford

3 storylines to get you revved up for the 2024 Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals training camp is just a couple weeks away starting on July 25, and Sanderson Ford is revved up and ready to go.

Sponsored Articles

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinic visits boost student training & community health

Going to a Midwestern University Clinic can help make you feel good in more ways than one.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Beat the heat, ensure your AC unit is summer-ready

With temperatures starting to rise across the Valley, now is a great time to be sure your AC unit is ready to withstand the sweltering summer heat.

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

No Mow May? Our gardening columnist says no