OPINION: ‘No Mow May’ evolves

The main point is that No Mow May is a starting point for recognizing how lawns can aid the ecosystem in protecting our pollinators and wildlife.

There has been a growing movement in recent years to let the grass grow wild for the month of May to provide early-season nectar and pollen for pollinators through the dandelions, violets, and other wildflowers to grow.

When we encouraged our followers to stop mowing for the month of May last year, many happily kept their mowers in the garage or delayed their lawn service. Some were frustrated because they lived in neighborhoods that were very strict about lawn care. A few residents were issued warnings by the city. Yikes!

The early flowering plants did help feed pollinators. Still, perhaps the most important result of taking a break from the usual lawn care schedule was the opportunity to imagine something different. Just how much lawn does a house need? How necessary is a weed-free lawn? What are some attractive alternatives to turf grass in yard?

Considering a change in how you approach your land and lawn is a very good idea from an ecological perspective. Weed-free lawns are deserts for pollinators. Pesticides and herbicides kill insects and affect water quality, which is also a concern.

The main point is that No Mow May is a starting point for recognizing how lawns can aid the ecosystem in protecting our pollinators and wildlife. Here are some recommendations for transforming your lawn into a nature-friendly habitat:

  • Review city regulations and homeowners association guidelines regarding grass height.
  • Reduce the lawn size and establish a habitat for wildlife by planting Michigan’s indigenous plants to promote biodiversity.
  • Assess the variety of plants and shrubs you have— are they invasive or non-native? Determine what you want to keep or replace.
  • Numerous native plant options are available to substitute shrubs that are nearly identical.
  • Refrain from using chemicals as no chemical is entirely safe. If necessary, use targeted techniques.
  • Select garden-friendly plants for your home.
  • Consider using native grasses or clover in place of turf grass

We commend the cities that allow residents to opt out of lawn maintenance in May, which fosters an awareness of the necessity for a mass movement of people to aid in preserving the pollinators and their share of the land. Every native plant counts, whether planting fully native gardens or integrating native plants and shrubs into existing landscapes. For cities that don’t participate in No Mow May, we recommend Low Mow May as that will keep the dandelions and violet flowers and falls within most city grass ordinances.

Take a deep breath and enjoy May and beyond. By leaving the dandelions and violets to grow and planting native plants, you can attract butterflies, bees, and birds back to your yard, transforming it into a thriving ecosystem. Various resources are available to create attractive landscapes that are also hospitable to pollinators. If you want to learn about native plant resources and garden plans, check out Rochesterpollinators.org.

Our reporting 

runs deep.

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