Gardening for Wildlife - No Mow May

(c) Ross Hoddinott/2020VISION

The No Mow May campaign started last year, and the results show what a great bonus for wildlife lawns can be. Dr Cath Price explains more...

Plantlife, the British charity working to save threatened plants, are asking us all to be splendidly idle in May, and leave the lawnmower in the shed.

The No Mow May campaign started last year, and the results show what a great bonus for wildlife lawns can be – as long as we neglect them a little!

I’m a great believer in not mowing. Just think of how much time you waste every summer, walking to and fro behind a smelly little machine. Here’s a grand excuse to use the time sitting in a deckchair with a cup of tea instead. Plantlife conducts a citizen science survey, Every Flower Counts, in conjunction with NMM, and has made some amazing discoveries.

White clover

White clover (c) Philip Precey

Over 200 species of flowering plant were found in lawns, and all lawn flowers counted in the survey combined produced an incredible 23kg of nectar sugar per day – enough to support 2.1 million honeybees!

80% of lawns supported the equivalent of 400 bees a day, and the remaining 20% ten times that many. Considering the jeopardy our pollinators are in, that’s a huge benefit.

The best way to produce maximum nectar (and maximum bees!) is to cut some of your lawn every four weeks, allowing flowers such as daisies, selfheal, germander, bird’s foot trefoil and white clover to bloom. 

Selfheal

Selfheal (c) Katrina Martin / 2020VISION

These plants grow below the height of the mower blades, and will repeat flower through the summer. Leave other areas to grow longer for a more diverse range of flowers such as oxeye daisies, knapweed, cow parsley and scabious. These attract different pollinators, and extend the flowering season into late summer.

You’ll be amazed what pops up. My long grass patch has dog violets this year, among the primroses, cowslips and wild daffodils – the first I’ve seen there in the eight years it’s been kept like that! Long grass also provides cover for small mammals and amphibians, and a good foraging place for garden birds. Cut once, in late summer and remove the ‘hay’, and in just a few years you’ll have a garden meadow.

A ‘Mohican’ lawn doesn’t need to look unkempt. You can mow a path through it to make it look deliberate, and give you somewhere drier to walk while you check what’s growing. Let the neighbours know why you’re doing it and they’ll all want to join in.

At the end of May you can take part in the Every Flower Counts survey and get your personal nectar score to show how many pollinators you’ve helped just by doing nothing, as well as helping Plantlife to learn more about the welfare of our wildflowers. All that feel-good from doing nothing – count me in!

Dr Cath Price

Shropshire Wildlife Trust

Bee on cow parsley (c) Paul Hobson

Cherry plum blossom