This past May was “No-Mow May,” which inspired me to think more about the benefits of mowing less frequently—both for pollinators and the lawn’s health. In fact, maybe you’ll even want to say goodbye to grass and downsize your mowing. Here’s why—and how to get started.
I knew delaying mowing to late spring would help pollinators, especially when it comes to habitat and forage for early season pollinators. But it was interesting to learn that a lawn is not just grass but other interesting plants and flowers as well!
Given a chance to grow naturally, things 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.
Benefits of Less Frequent Mowing
This idea of “no-mow” is a good starting point to what we might call “less-mow.” Here are a few reasons why it’s actually better to mow less frequently.
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!
Mowing every 2 weeks versus every 1 week 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
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.
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 reduce the area of lawn? The incredible volume of resources required to keep lawns alive is staggering.
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.
It makes sense to continue mowing close to the house to lessen fire danger and keep pests like ticks at bay.
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.
Hard to mow areas like that soggy spot in the lawn may be a perfect place for a rain garden.
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.
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!
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!