Gardening

Nature Conservancy of Canada suggests leaving lawns alone in May

Bumblebee visiting lawn with white clover flowers.

Abandoning Springtime Chore Can Help Nature

Caring for and spending time in the green spaces around our homes has been a refuge for many during the pandemic. In support of biodiversity, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is suggesting that we take our time in tackling one of springtime’s chores and abandon lawn mowing for the month of May.

Started in the U.K. and now picking up steam in Canada and the United States, No Mow May is a call to help wild pollinators and other wildlife in the green spaces where we live. With habitat loss and degradation as the major cause of wildlife decline, the not-for-profit land conservation organization is suggesting that keeping your lawn mower in the shed for the month of May can benefit nature.

Bees, hoverflies and many more pollinators will visit dandelion flowers… if you don’t mow them down! Photo: Jensen Edwards, Nature Conservancy of Canada

“If you imagine dozens and dozens of backyards doing things to improve habitat for native pollinators and migratory birds, this can have a big impact on nature and the quality of our urban ecosystems,” said Dan Kraus, NCC’s senior conservation biologist. “By letting flowers bloom on your lawn, including dandelions, you can provide an important source of nectar and pollen for wild bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects.”

Rather than mow down the flowers, leave them to feed bees and other pollinators. Photo: http://www.forestwander.com, Wikimedia Commons

Bees and butterflies are the most familiar insect pollinators, while moths, flies, beetles and ants are lesser-known pollinators that still play an important role. In recent years, there has been a sharp decline in some pollinator populations due to climate change, habitat loss (including the loss of native plants) and pesticides. Many of the fruits we buy or that we grow in our own gardens, including strawberries, apples and melons, depend on pollination by wild insects.

If you are compelled to mow, NCC suggests delaying the first spring mow as long as possible, mowing less often and mowing slowly to allow insects, frogs and other wildlife to move out of the way. You can also practice “rotational mowing” to allow some patches of grass to support flowering plants. One study in the UK found that changing a mowing routine and allowing plants to flower can create enough nectar for 10 times more pollinators. It is suggested to mow your lawn every four weeks (depending on how fast it’s growing), which results in a higher number of flowers on your lawn 

Wait until the lawn has finishing blooming and the pollinators have gone elsewhere before you start mowing it. Photo: spring-green.com

Kraus says that trying to increase your lawn’s diversity is important for urban nature because lawns are one of the largest green spaces in our towns and cities. Canada has an estimated 6.2 million lawns. Supporting nature in our backyards is also a great way to learn about Canadian wildlife that lives around us.

Other tips on how to attract pollinators can be found here: https://www.natureconservancy.ca/en/blog/archive/saving-the-bees.html#.YFN85dt7nOQ

The article above was supplied as a press release by The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), Canada’s leading not-for-profit, private land conservation organization, working to protect the country’s most important natural areas and the species they sustain. Since 1962, NCC and its partners have helped to protect 14 million hectares (35 million acres), coast to coast to coast. To learn more, visit natureconservancy.ca.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

5 comments on “Nature Conservancy of Canada suggests leaving lawns alone in May

  1. Pingback: Nature Conservancy of Canada suggests leaving lawns alone in May — Laidback Gardener – Ninnys Nest

  2. That would be no mow March & April here in South.
    You could leave it uncut for May, too.
    Some HOA would lose their mind, if you live under their rule that is.

    • Thanks for sharing this! Good point of the article: if you need or want to mow, maybe there’s a middle ground – it doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing…

      Try mowing less frequently than normal, or leave a less-used area of your lawn that you don’t mow quite as often.

      Perhaps it doesn’t look quite as neat and crisp, but it’s less work and will benefit our local environment.

      It saves time, money and energy too!

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