Have you joined Plantlife’s No Mow May Movement yet?
There are more than 20 million gardens in the UK. That’s 433,000 hectares, almost five times as much land as all our National Nature Reserves put together. If even a fraction of that land was properly managed for the benefit of wildlife, just imagine how quickly our beleaguered biodiversity might recover some of its losses.
Let’s begin simply: let’s not mow our lawns during May. A mindfully untended lawn with long grasses and wildflowers is good for wildlife. On a single day in summer, an acre of wildflower meadow can contain three million flowers that produce a kilo of nectar every day. A kilo of nectar will support around 100,000 nectar feeders . If your whole street joins No Mow May, all those little pieces of uncut lawn will make up more than an acre and you will have created habitat for 100,000 insects.
That single acre of meadow can be home to more than a hundred species of wildflowers, which in turn supports other wildlife. Bird’s-foot trefoil (in Wiltshire, your lawn is almost bound to produce bird’s-foot trefoil) is the food plant for160 species of insects But be careful though, the common blue butterfly that comes to lay its eggs on your bird’s foot trefoil might need part of June as well if her caterpillars are to pupate successfully.
All these pollinators and invertebrates will be arriving in your garden at a time when birds have nestlings to feed and, when the nestlings fledge, all those baby birds will need the cover provided by your long grass while they master the art of flying away to safety. With luck you might get shrews, tiny ferocious hunters in pursuit of beetles, earwigs and worms – and then there are the things that come in pursuit of the shrews.
Your wildlife lawn will also earn you brownie points (or should we call them greenie points?) by tackling air pollution and sequestering carbon underground in flourishing complex root systems that will improve the soil structure so that it absorbs rainwater, mitigating floods and resisting drought.
In the last fifty years we have lost almost 97% of our wildflower meadows. We should put our mowers away and create as many little wildflower meadows as we can.
Header image: Meadow grass with orchids (SCPLNR 11.06.22) by Ian Bushell
I only have a terrace so I can’t do No Mow May; I am doing a No Pressure Wash Spring instead. Between my pavers I have three kinds of moss, a liverwort, at least twenty species of wildflowers and a tiny fern called maidenhair spleenwort.
I wish. My partner and I are cross that the people running this flat are so obsessed with keeping the grass so short, it looks dead. We have no say because we’re only renting and the others own their flats, and their general agreement is to keep the lawn mowed to near-death.
The shrubs are also trimmed to horrible shapes and kept short. The birds have nowhere to take shelter as and when they need it.
Also, we are not allowed to feed the birds (“that would attract rodents” they say).
People here are anti-nature. It is terribly frustrating. Not surprised that bird and insect species have dwindled because of people like these ones. We are the only ones who want the lawn overgrown, and we have no say. 😑
I said to my partner, maybe we should just go out one day and sprinkle wild flower seeds on a field.
Do you live in a town? Go and find a piece of waste land and do some surreptitious guerrilla gardening. Dig a little hole when nobody is looking and plant something in it. Begin with annual native wildflowers that will spread their seed in the autumn so that next year there will be lots.
I like that idea!
Give it year or so and you will be able to walk past a drift of primroses, foxgloves or purple loosestrife and say, “I did that!”
The marauding seed spreader!