Let it grow

Let it grow

Wildflowers on edge of lawn by Wendy Carter

Wendy encourages gardeners across Worcestershire to say no to the mow…

I’ve known it for a while but during this month, as Plantlife have been running their annual No Mow May, I’ve really realised just how tidy we are.

I live in what is probably an average sized Worcestershire village and as well as many gardeners who have stripes on their very green lawns, almost every single gardener has mown their lawn at least twice in the last three weeks – many of them popping out with the mower between showers.

Daisies and speedwell by Pat Pitt

Daisies and speedwell by Pat Pitt

In a way, I can understand this drive for tidiness. As children we’re told to tidy our rooms, as colleagues we’re asked to keep our desks and offices tidy, as partners we’re expected to do our share of the housekeeping – is it surprising that many of us strive for this in the garden too? Personally, a green lawn with no colour just can’t compete than one with a rainbow of daisies, dandelions, ground ivy and more.

You only have to read some of Plantlife’s statistics to know how important fields (and lawns) of flowers are. On a single day in summer, they estimate that one acre of a wildflower meadow can contain 3 million flowers, producing 1kg of nectar for bees, butterflies, hoverflies and myriad other pollinators. Most lawns can’t hope to compete with this but given that we’ve lost around 97% of our wildflower-rich meadows since the 1940s (that’s about 7.5 million acres), every flower can play their part in supporting our wildlife. With around 15 million gardens in Britain, your lawns have a really important role.

Blackbird with worm in beak, dandelion in foreground by Jon Hawkins/Surrey Hills Photography

Blackbird by Jon Hawkins - Surrey Hills Photography

Hopefully I’ve convinced you to leave the mower in the shed for the time being. The next question is when and where should you mow? If you’ve got enough space, have a think about doing a few different things. Leaving areas of your lawn uncut also supports insects like grasshoppers and crickets as well as other wildlife like slow-worms and hedgehogs. Keeping areas short will help birds like starlings and blackbirds access invertebrates, such as worms and crane-fly larvae (leather-jackets) that live just beneath the soil surface. Surveys by Plantlife have found that the highest production of flowers and nectar is in lawns that are cut every four weeks but longer, unmown grass had a wider range of flowers. This is because the mown areas allowed plants like daisies and clover to flower but longer areas allowed taller plants like ox-eye daisies and knapweed to grow.

This is all well and good but what if you’re keen to leave wild areas but you’re neighbours resemble Hyacinth Bucket from the sitcom Keeping Up Appearances in their desire for a place for everything and everything in its place? You’ll know your neighbours better than we do but why not have a chat to them about why it’s important to help our wildlife? You can download our no mow poster below to erect in your garden to let passers-by know that you’re doing your bit.

If you’re reading this as someone who likes to keep things tidy, why not consider letting down your hair and letting a couple of patches grow wild. It’s a great excuse to put your feet up for five minutes longer and, depending on your lawn mower, you’ll be saving electricity or fuel as well as saving a few bees.

No Mow May at St Bartholomew's churchyard, Tardebigge by Jasmine Walters

No Mow May at St Bartholomew's churchyard, Tardebigge by Jasmine Walters

If you’re a member of your parish council or local community group, perhaps you’d like to talk to them about leaving areas a little wild? There’s even funding available to help you do this through our Natural Networks project. You can download our 'Your Wild Space' poster below to help you plan what work needs doing at what time of year.

 

1 in 7 UK species is at risk of extinction. 41% of insect species in the UK face extinction. Insects not only pollinate our food but they’re a vital chain in the foodweb that supports life on earth – we need to do all we can to take action for insects. Can our flowers and insects count on your support?

Poster explaining why an area has been left unmown