From the team at BBC Wildlife Magazine

No Mow May 2022: the best excuse for not mowing the lawn

Banish your lawnmower to the shed this May and take part in Plantlife's No Mow May. Watch beautiful flowers come into bloom and help pollinators such as bees, butterflies and beetles.

Published: April 29, 2022 at 7:00 am
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Since the 1930s, nearly 7.5 million acres of flower-rich meadows and pastures have been lost. This has a cascade effect on our wildlife, with fewer pollinators and fewer insect-eating birds.

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However, you can help – by doing nothing this May! Take a break from your regular lawn mowing schedule, and help your local wildlife at the same time.

Learn more about helping wildlife in your garden in our wildlife gardening hub which is packed with fantastic advice, including how to build and care for a wildlife pond, how to make a bee hotel, and the best five bird feeds for garden birds.

What is No Mow May?

First launched in 2019 by the botanical charity Plantlife, No Mow May is a campaign that encourages gardeners to not mow their lawn during the month of May, in order to let wild flowers bloom and provide a nectar feast for pollinators such as honeybees, bumblebees and solitary bees, butterflies and moths, and beetles.

In the last three years, the number of people not mowing their May has trebled.

“Each year the trend towards wilder lawns is growing from the grassroots up, and it is set to bloom as never before in 2022,” says Felicity Harris, head of participation at Plantlife.

“It is not only plants and pollinators that benefit – we do too. Less mowing gives garden lovers more time to relax and reconnect with nature. Those hours previously spent mowing can be used for spending time with others and building a wildlife pond, a bug hotel or a reptile refugium.”

A 7-spot ladybird on a dandelion flower.
A 7-spot ladybird on a dandelion flower. © Cuveland/ullstein bild/Getty

A Plantlife survey of 2,000 gardeners revealed that the majority mowed their lawns once a fortnight.

The charity's citizen science survey showed that mowing less than this resulted in an increase in the pollen count, with increases in daises, germander, speedwell and creeping buttercup. And by stopping mowing in July as well, there was an increase in white clover, selfheal and bird's foot trefoil.

In 2021, participants reported over 250 plant species including wild strawberry and wild garlic, as well as rarities such as adders’-tongue fern, meadow saxifrage, snake’s-head fritillary, eyebright, and various orchids including the declining ​man orchid, green-winged orchid, southern and northern marsh orchid, and bee orchid.

How to take part in No Mow May

You don't actually have to completely stop mowing in May, or avoid mowing all of your lawn, particularly if you do need to have shorter grass in places. The aim of No Mow May campaign is to encourage people to change up their mowing regime – mowing less, and leaving patches of long grass in places if possible.

“May is a crucial month for flowering plants that need to get a firm foothold but we are not advocating never mowing after May,” says Oli Wilson, National Plant Monitoring Scheme modeller.

“Plantlife guidance across the year recommends a layered approach to the garden cut, where shorter grass is complemented by areas of longer grass. This two-tone approach boosts floral diversity and nectar and pollen production through the year.

You can register to take part in Plantlife's Every Flower Counts (EFC) citizen science survey. This project involves counting the number of flowers within a square metre patch of lawn, and then Plantlife calculates the amount of nectar that's being produced by those flowers and how many bees are being fed. You'll then be provided with your own Personal Nectar Score.

The results from across the country will then be combined to calculate a National Nectar Index, and the top ten lawn flowers in people's gardens.

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In May 2021, EFC participants counted over 465,000 flowers and almost 100 species of pollinators, including almost a quarter of a million daisies, 25 moth species and 24 bee species.

“These results demonstrate that our call to No Mow May has set seed and laid down deep roots,” says Ian Dunn, CEO of Plantlife. “The results underline how embracing a little more wildness in our gardens can be a boon for plants, butterflies and bees. We are excited by the unfolding dawn of a new British lawn.”

What are the best nectar producing lawn plants?

White clover (Trifolium repens)

A honeybee on white clover flower.
A honeybee on white clover flower. © Daniel Prudek/Getty

Dandelion (Taraxacum sp)

Brimstone butterfly on a dandelion. © Erik Agar/Getty
Brimstone butterfly on a dandelion. © Erik Agar/Getty

Red clover (Trifolium pratense)

A common carder bumblebee collecting pollen on red clover.
A common carder bumblebee collecting pollen on red clover. © Ger Bosma/Getty

Common daisy (Bellis perennis)

An ashy mining bee on a common daisy.
An ashy mining bee on a common daisy. © Erhard Nerger/Getty

Selfheal (Prunella vulgaris)

Selfheal in bloom.
Selfheal in bloom. © Massimiliano Finzi/Getty

Oxeye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare)

A gatekeeper butterfly feeding from an ox-eye daisy flower.
A gatekeeper butterfly feeding from an ox-eye daisy flower. © Getty

Cat's-ear (Hypochaeris radicata)

Cat's-ear, also known as false dandelion, in bloom.
Cat's-ear, also known as false dandelion, flower heads. © Alan Tunnicliffe Photography/Getty

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Main image: Man taking a break from mowing the lawn. © ArtMarie/Getty

Authors

Megan ShersbyEditorial and digital co-ordinator at BBC Wildlife Magazine, and countryfile.com
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