Long meadow grass in the garden

“To mow, or not to mow:  that is the question.”

Should the month of May be the only time that we leave our garden spaces to grow long?

I may have embellished Hamlet’s infamous opening line in his soliloquy; however, I find some relevance to the current discussions and or pressures of undertaking: ‘No Mow May’.

There is truth and so many benefits to leaving areas of your lawns and grassy areas grow long for May.

By hitting the pause button, we are allowing our grassy spaces to mature to their full untapped potential. You’d be surprised how many hidden gems in the form of flowers may emerge. Additional flowers, a much-appreciated, food source for pollinators emerging from winter slumbers. These pollinators then provide a food source for larger species, like birds and so on.

There is a fear of the dandelion and similar ‘weeds’ appearing, but in fact, just eight of these will produce enough nectar sugar for an adult bumblebee’s basic requirements.

What other gems?

Hakwbit
An avid provider for lesser-known pollinators such as hoverflies, flies and even moths

A relative, Hawkbit, nimbler and smaller, with a sweet honey scent strong enough for our noses, is adored by bees, hoverflies, butterflies, and moths. Yes, moths, let’s not forget our night-time pollinators!

Clover, gorgeous little pops of white and purple, pollinator savvy – yes! Did you know they also are nitrogen-fixing? Essentially, they will repair poor soil quality. You are feeding your lawn and treating it well whilst doing nothing!

No Mowing as long as you can
Leaving areas of your lawn grown long is not just for May. See what emerges when you leave it grow on in to June or even July!

Cowslips and primulas might appear, also nitrogen-fixing, gorgeous miniature splashes of colour amongst the green.

Wheat and oat grasses grow tall and move with the breeze giving such character. These are ideal for spiders to make their webs. Do look out for them first thing in the morning, their gorgeous tapestries will be glistening with drops of dew. 

Sometimes some rare oddities such as wild strawberry, wild garlic, adder’s tongue fern and even meadow saxifrage will arise. This latter plant will attract solitary bees, hoverflies, and flies. All necessary elements of our bio-diversity life cycles. You won’t know until you give it a go!

We have been hearing more now in passing conversations, and even seen for ourselves evidence of orchids, native to Ireland making an appearance in urban lawns that have been allowed to grow long. Orchids are habitat-specific. It is wonderful to hear they are re-emerging. These have mostly included Early Purple’s and on occasion the albino variety of the Early Purple. Very dainty and pretty and usually lost to a neatly clipped lawn.

If you are ever in the botanical gardens of Kilmacurragh, look out for the large areas of traditional lawns left go and become wildflower and long grass meadows. There are many delights to behold within.

But why stop at just May?

Why not leave these areas long into the first few weeks of June?  

Sure, why not, the whole of June?

‘Ah go on”, says, Mrs Doyle, go on into July!

I can hear the slight resistance to doing this. The worry and concern that your garden will become an unruly mess:

‘It’s the weekend, the weather is finally improving, and I won’t be able to use my garden because I’m trying to do my part for the environment’.

‘The weather has been so rotten I haven’t been able even to cut the lawn for months. Can I still do my part?’

It does not have to be that way at all. A balance can be found. If your lawn needs mowing now, go for it, it’s ok. If you intend to leave it longer than the advertised ‘May’ then it is ok to mow it now and leave it grow.

Mown lawn with areas of long grasses are quite tasteful

It does not have to be the whole lawn either. A small, designated area or multiple areas within your space is also ok. Do not feel the pressure of having to leave everything go at once.  Mow some pathways through the long grasses or keep the area hugging your flower borders neatly. The balance between crisp and trim green against blowsier and fuller lawn is a lovely contrast and allows for interaction. Observe where the changes are occurring and where forgotten treasures will arise.

In summary, there are so many benefits to leaving the grass to grow longer in areas:

You are improving your soil quality, giving it a breather from all the lawn treatments throughout the years, contributing to pollinators in all shapes and sizes and keeping an eye out for any unusual and unique species emerging. Of course, an opportunity to get creative and have fun designing these spaces with your lawn mower!

So don’t just ‘No Mow May’.

In the words of Mrs Doyle, ‘Go on, go on, go on!’

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