No Mow May: 8 Reasons to Let Your Lawn Grow for a Month
When it comes to spring yard work, what if you could actually do more by doing less? By participating in No Mow May, you’ll spend less time, money, and energy on your lawn while helping to improve the planet.
First popularized in 2019 in the United Kingdom, No Mow May has since taken root here in the United States. In 2020, Appleton, Wisconsin, became the first state in the country to adopt the practice in which you allow your lawn to grow throughout the month of May without mowing, watering, or fertilizing. Now, several communities are taking part in the effort.
No Mow May began as a way to help bees and other pollinators, but there’s more to it than that. Keep reading to learn why you should take a break from lawn care for a month.
1. You’ll get some beneficial spring color.
Not mowing throughout the month of May means you’ll spy some flowers in your lawn that you would otherwise lose to the lawn mower. Dandelions, clover, and the common blue violet start to bloom in the spring and can add some diversity to your lawn. In fact, in a 2019 survey, Plantlife, which is a British conservation charity and promoter of No Mow May, found 203 different species of beneficial flowers in lawns.
Dandelions, for instance, have deep taproots that can help loosen hard-packed soil. These root systems not only help aerate the soil, but pull calcium and other nutrients from the ground and make these nutrients available to other nearby plants. Dandelions are a natural fertilizer!
2. Bees will get an early-season boost.
In recent years, studies have found a steep drop in the bee population worldwide. According to a study by the Bee Informed Partnership, beekeepers lost approximately 39 percent of their managed colonies between April 2021 to April 2022. The United Nations says the decline could impact the global food supply, since 75 percent of the world’s food crops and 35 percent of global agricultural land depend on pollinators.
Early spring flowers such as dandelions and clover help the local pollinator population at a time of year when nectar sources may be in short supply. That 2019 Plantlife survey found that 80 percent of lawns taking part in No Mow May supported about 400 bees each day!
3. You’ll create less pollution.
By not mowing your lawn during the month of May, you’ll give your lawn mower a break. Lawn mowers—unless they’re electric lawn mowers—use gasoline, which contributes to air pollution.
Another key tenet of No Mow May is forgoing the use of fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides for the month. Pesticides, for example, have been found by scientists to be a factor in the decline of honeybee colonies in both North America and in Europe.
4. You’ll save time and energy.
If you’re not spending your time mowing or spreading chemicals on your lawn in May, you’ll have more time to do other things. One thing you can do with your newfound spare time is to add some native plants to your yard. Native plants support bees and other pollinators such as butterflies and hummingbirds as they offer nectar and seeds. They can also offer shelter for some animals, such as birds and small woodland creatures.
5. Your lawn will be healthier.
No Mow May doesn’t just help pollinators, it will almost certainly improve the health of your grass. By reducing the frequency in which you mow, your lawn can become more resilient to drought. Plus, it won’t require as much watering.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that one-third of the water U.S. households use every year goes to landscape irrigation. That’s nearly 9 billion gallons each day! You can help reduce that number by taking part in the No Mow May campaign.
6. You don’t need to go all in—small steps can still make a difference for pollinators.
If you’re the type of homeowner who likes a freshly manicured lawn and No Mow May seems a bit too extreme for your taste, there’s plenty of room for compromise. In addition, if you live in a community that won’t allow for No Mow May due to certain lawn ordinances in place, there are some things you can do in your yard while still participating.
Try setting up bee hotels, which give bees shelter. You can mow just an edge of your lawn so the grass length seems less overwhelming and will look less neglectful and more intentional than just not mowing altogether.
If you live in a community that doesn’t support No Mow May, this fact sheet from the Penn State Extension can help you talk to community leaders about changing local ordinances.
7. Your lawn may teach you some things.
You may learn some things from your lawn throughout the month of No Mow May. For instance, you may discover you like taller grass, and mow every three weeks instead of every week. You may find that the clover that is allowed to grow when you don’t mow is softer than your grass, which makes you want to grow more clover. You may learn all those dandelions aren’t so bad. You may find you were watering too often or your lawn doesn’t need that spring dose of fertilizer. Think of No Mow May as a tutorial in how to better tend to your yard.
8. In the end, you may decide to go grass-free.
Sure, grass is nice when you’re playing ball in the yard or relaxing on the weekend, but you may decide that maintaining a traditional lawn isn’t worth it anymore. In place of your grass, consider alternatives such as native plants or prairie grasses, both of which help pollinators. Maybe a rain garden or a wildflower meadow is right for your yard. By ditching the traditional lawn and transitioning to a pollinator-friendly property, you can save when it comes to time maintaining, watering, and adding chemicals. Plus, you help the environment!