Reasons to Mow Your Lawn Less| Almanac.com

No-Mow May: 5 Surprising Benefits


–Painter Winslow Homer, “Snap the Whip,” 1872.

Photo Credit
The Met Museum

Why Less Can Be More!

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After reading about “No-Mow May,” I was inspired to investigate. Obviously, when you mow depends on where you live (it’s March in the South!), however, I discovered 5 practical benefits to mowing less frequently (or even reducing your lawn) to help early-season pollinators. Learn more.

I knew delaying mowing or mowing less frequently would help pollinators, especially when it comes to habitat and forage for early-season pollinators. However, there are many reasons why it’s actually beneficial from wildlife and the environment to plant health to your pocketbook. As with many things, it’s all interconnected!

Credit: Per-Boge/Shutterstock

5 Benefits of Less Frequent Mowing

This idea of “no-mow” is a good starting point to what we might call “less-mow” in the United States and Canada.

  1. Given a chance to grow naturally, small plants like ox-eye daisies, prunella, violets, clover, knapweed, buttercups, and even dandelions are not only pretty, but play host to a wide range of pollinators. In fact, the lawn with clover felt softer and some of the diminutive early blooms were delightful!
  2. Mowing every 2 weeks versus every 1 week, especially early in the season, gives a big boost to pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and birds but also to beneficial insects that get rid of pests! If you ever wonder why the bees and butterflies dying out, look at your lawn. The so-called “perfect” lawn which has no food, shelter, or biodiversity. Fortunately, this has been changing to return to the older days when folks had natural clover and grass lawns and were more regularly aerated 
  3. Raising the mower’s blade to 3 or 4 inches and leave clippings on the lawn results in a healthier, greener front yard. Longer grass allows the grass to grow stronger roots and not tap its food reserves. Mowing high and less also prevents sunlight from reaching crabgrass and weeds. Once you’re used to not seeing your yard shorn, you’ll probably find you like the longer lush grass, too!
  4. A lawn with slightly longer grass length is also more drought-tolerant, shading the soil and keep it cooler, preventing it from drying out quickly. Growing grass uses a lot of resources, especially water. The EPA estimates about 9 billion gallons a day goes to landscape irrigation! A healthier lawn needs less pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer which saves you time and money but also will benefit the environment.
  5. Of course, not mowing means you’re saving yourself gas money but also cutting back on air pollution. Something as small as mowing less frequently can help reduce carbon emissions. The EPA estimates that hour-for-hour gas-powered lawn mowers spew 11 times more pollution than a new car! And that does not include noise pollution.

Taking the weekend off from mowing may make you a conservationist! 

Credit: Suzanne Tucker/Shutterstock

Say Goodbye to Grass

Perhaps you’d like to take another step and simply reduce the area of lawn? The incredible volume of resources required to keep lawns alive is staggering. Saying goodbye to grass will dramatically downsize your mowing. 

Fun fact: Not long ago, the typical ground was covered in wildflowers and packed dirt. In the Homer painting below, the “barefoot boys are in and of nature.” But over the century, the dream of the perfect lawn was manufactured. The grasses planted today aren’t even native (Kentucky Bluegrass is from Asia and Africa).

Snap the Whip” by  Winslow Homer, 1872. Credit: MET Museum.

Start Small

Granted, the desire and aspiration of the perfect lawn is a hard habit to break. Start small! It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing situation.

  1. It makes sense to continue mowing close to the house to lessen fire danger and keep pests like ticks at bay.
  2. A big lawn is great if you need a spot for the kids to play but, otherwise, it’s rarely used. Many homeowners can easily downsize their mowing. Start small by leaving a strip—like a grass Mohawk—where you can encourage native plants to grow while cutting the rest.
  3. Hard to mow areas like that soggy spot in the lawn may be a perfect place for a rain garden.
  4. If there are edges where you rarely venture, replacing the grass with native plants will take some time off your lawn-mowing chore and add to bird habitat as well. By increasing the diversity of plants and number of flowers, beneficial insect populations will increase too.
  5. As your mini-meadow gets larger, try just mowing paths around it. Add a sign stating that your tall patch of wildflowers is a pollinator habitat so passersby don’t just think you are lazy!

See which wildflowers to grow.

Pollinator Collage. Credit: HaiGala/Shutterstock.

It is thought that up to 40 percent of pollinator species on Earth may be at risk of extinction in the coming years from habitat loss impacting global food supplies so if something as simple as mowing a little less lawn helps, why not give it a try? With gas at $5 plus a gallon, you’ll not only help the planet but save your time, energy, and some cash too!

About The Author

Robin Sweetser

Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. Read More from Robin Sweetser

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