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No Mow May - How Doing Nothing can do Everything

Isla Stubbs introduces No Mow May, and how a simple gardening switch can boost the plant and animal life in your garden!

No Mow May campaign logo. Image credit: Plantlife

The campaign for “No Mow May” first launched in 2019 by the conservation charity Plantlife, and it aims to encourage gardeners to put away their lawnmower and not mow for the entirety of May, allowing native plant species to flourish! They also ask for participants to count and identify flowers that grow, as well as insects that appear.

Since the 1930’s, the UK has lost 97% of its native wildflower meadows. These meadows are essential for providing shelter and food for so many important pollinators, including over 270 species of wild bee, about 60 species of butterfly, around 2500 species of moths, and over 7000 species of wasps! On a single summer day in the UK, just one acre of wildflower meadow can contain 3 million flowers and produce enough nectar to supply around 100,000 pollinators! When these wildflowers vanish, so does the nectar, leading to a decline of pollinators as their food source diminishes. This also results in a decline of insect-eating animals, such as birds, causing the food chain to collapse.

A decline in wildflower meadows not only disrupts our native wildlife populations, but also us humans. Pollinators are great providers of ecosystem services, with three quarters of crops worldwide being dependent on pollinators in some way. A decline in these insects would ultimately result in a reduction of foods including strawberries, apples, raspberries, broad beans, peas and courgettes! Insects are also capable of providing us with risk-free pest control! Ladybirds are loved for their unique colouring and non-aggressive behaviour, but they also feast on aphids. Aphids are small sap-sucking insects that cause plants problems such as reduced vigour, distorted growth and their sticky excretion (honeydew) can cause growth of moulds. Ladybirds are the perfect natural pest control against these, and can make your garden look great without adding any nasty chemicals.

Wildflowers (stop calling them weeds!) should be welcomed into our gardens. Dandelions are one of our most important plants, and despite being out-competed by daisies at a 85:1 ratio on an average lawn, they still manage to produce 9% of a garden’s pollen and 37% of its nectar!

Honey bee on a dandelion. Image credit: Backland_News

Not only does not mowing allow for increased food for pollinators, it also improves and provides new habitats. Of the 270 species of bee in the UK, around 67 of these are mining bees - the largest bee genus in Britain! They get their name from being ground-nesting, and May is their most active month. By leaving your grass to grow, you give their nests added cover, allowing them to avoid predation. An added bonus by leaving them alone is that they help your soil by improving aeration and drainage!

Short-fringed mining bee. Image Credit: Peter O’Connor

A citizen survey by Plantlife showed that taking part in No Mow May resulted in an increased pollen count, increases in daisies, germander, speedwell and creeping buttercup. In 2021, over 250 species of plant species were recorded, including wild strawberry and garlic, as well as some quite rare species: adders’-tongue fern, meadow saxifrage, snake’s-head fritillary, eyebright, and various orchids. Further research showed that No Mow May lawns had a five-fold higher bee abundance and a three-fold higher bee species richness than regularly mown lawns. With the clear success of this campaign, Plantlife hopes for it to only grow stronger in the coming years. With the UK having about 23 million private gardens, if everyone took part in this campaign then we could soon see an incredible increase of our pollinators! Joining this campaign is simple; refrain from mowing your garden this month and watch as the biodiversity thrives!

So it seems like one of the best things you can do for the environment this month is, simply, do nothing! Join the movement here!

About the Author: Isla Stubbs (she/her) is currently in her final year studying Environmental Science at York.


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