Two charities are urging gardeners to control themselves and refrain from cutting grass in an attempt to support biodiversity.
Plant growing charity Plantlife has launched an annual No-Mow May campaign, encouraging people to let their lawn grow for a month. This allows wild plants to thrive, which in turn helps insects to thrive, especially if dandelions are present – according to Plantlife, eight dandelion flowers are enough to produce nectar that meets the basic energy needs of an adult bumblebee.
And Plantlife CEO Ian Dunn says the message really hits the mark.
“There is a radical shift in lawn care that is benefiting plants, pollinators, people and the planet,” he says.
In recent years, the question has arisen of what to do with the grass – is it worth it to mow the lawn? You should not? – attracted attention, among other things, the national treasure of Monty Don.
“Mowing the grass burns a lot of fossil fuels, makes a dirty noise and is the most damaging thing you can do for wildlife,” Monti explained in a Radio Times commentary.
“Letting the grass grow, which is pretty passive after all, is probably the most effective thing you can do in any garden of any size to stimulate insect life, as well as small mammals, invertebrates, reptiles.”
Our columnist Alan Titchmarsh partly shared Monty Don’s point of view, but another rural life regular writer Charles Quest-Ritson was, well, horrified. He wrote an impassioned op-ed in defense of lawn mowing, in which he called our manicured lawns “the envy of the world.”
[READ MORE: ‘Charles Quest-Ritson: ‘Our beautiful lawns are the envy of the world… and the idea of rewilding your garden is nonsense’]
Charles’ argument is that there is plenty of room away from gardens where weeds can grow just fine without welcoming them to the open spaces that are part of our homes – and these days more than ever.
But Plantlife is clear on the benefits, emphasizing the importance of garden lawns and green space amid the decline of wild pastures and wildflower meadows. Allowing wild plants to “take a foothold” in May is a boon in particular for pollinators such as bees and butterflies, who feed on plants throughout the summer.
And there is no doubt that insects need all the help they can get these days. Invertebrate conservation charity Buglife has backed Plantlife’s call, urging gardeners to be “less careful” after a Bugs Matter study with the Kent Wildlife Trust found that flying insects have fallen by 60% in the past. 17 years.
On top of that, it shouldn’t be an all-or-nothing approach to mowing. Plantlife suggests not only eliminating mowing entirely in May, but limiting mowing during the summer and using a “tiered approach” with patches of grass of varying lengths.
“Wild plants and fungi are the foundation of life and shape the world we live in,” says Plantlife Director of Conservation Nicola Hutchinson.
“With around 23 million gardens in the UK, the way lawns are cared for makes a huge difference to the prospects for wild plants and other wildlife. The simple act of taking your mower out of action for May can do a lot for nature, society and the climate, so we encourage everyone to free up their lawns like never before.”
Many other things can also help. Paul Hetherington of Buglife believes that people can help stem the decline by reducing their environmental footprint, using alternatives to peat, avoiding pesticides, and creating insect-friendly areas in their gardens. “We can all play our part by doing our bit, even if it’s just allowing the grass to grow longer rather than picking up dead leaves or pruning plants in the fall. This “untidiness” provides shelter and winter protection for so many of our important beetles.”
Recently, Monty Don ruffled some feathers, suggesting that our grass should grow until
Credit: Clive Nichols
The neat stripes of British gardens, such as Rockcliffe Garden in Gloucestershire, are an art form admired the world over.
Nothing says “Spring is here” like the wonderful scent of a freshly cut lawn. Martin Fone, author of Fifty Curious Questions.
Credit: Photograph of Jackie Parker via Getty.
We must stop beating ourselves up and take responsibility for wildlife and the environment, and enjoy life.