Eco Comment – No Mow May and the Sowing of Seeds

10 May 2024

‘Plantlife’s “No Mow May” campaign is again urging gardeners to allow wilder lawns with wildflowers to flourish, helping support bees, butterflies, and other wildlife.’ This small column in the i newspaper says that its message was cutting through, after a survey of Opinion Matters of more than 2,000 people with garden lawns found that 46% said they will not mow their lawn more than once in May.

Plantlife said more councils were backing the move to stop mowing in May, as part of efforts to create space for wild plants and wildlife, and to combat the climate crisis by lowering carbon emissions.

Ian Dunn, chief executive of Plantlife, said support for the campaign was “blossoming”. The small act of giving the mower a month off and then mowing less can make a big difference at a time when we face interlinked climate and biodiversity emergencies.’ (Emily Beament, i news 30.4.24)

I have seen lots of reports and photos of hedgerows and grass verges resplendent with wild flowers showing evidence of some local councils doing this. But of course, there are also those who don’t agree. I noted a letter in the following day’s i newspaper: ‘Weeds are not welcome here. If you think I am giving up my nicely manicured lawn to assorted weeds – sorry, wild flowers – you must be joking! The council already rarely mows the verges and green spaces anyway. And I, like most people on my road, mow my own verge.’ J. Lewis. Sompting, West Sussex.’

Needless to say this letter got a reply: ‘Gardens are born to be wild.’ The writer was ‘disappointed’ by this letter and goes on to say ‘A “nicely manicured lawn” is a fashion. It has no value to the natural world, often sprayed with weedkiller and supporting no plants and therefore no insects, which are pollinators and food for birds. Nature is struggling with habitat loss and climate change. My gardens are small but they are there for wild life and wild flowers. I stop mowing from April to early September, just mowing a path through the grass to make it look deliberate. I get many compliments from passers by who admire the wildflowers that appear – daisies, plantains, dandelions, pyramid orchid, cuckoo pint, self-heal and a few I can’t name. J. Wharmby, Burnham on Sea, Somerset.’

I wonder where you stand on this.

Whilst not exactly sitting on the fence, I do have to say that I removed my postage stamp of a lawn when the children had grown up and replaced it with gravel, thereby creating a sitting area with table and chairs and/or off-road parking, if I choose to use it as such. I chose not to have concrete or tarmac as I feel it’s better for rainwater to be able to seep into the ground as much as possible. This also gave me the opportunity to have raised flowerbeds round the edge and spaces for pots. I like it. I also think that I can now plant these spaces up with birds, butterflies and insects in mind. It’s created a very usable place where I like to sit and on days like today, listen to the bird song and small buzzy creatures going in and out of the flowers. This reordering of my garden is as much a ‘fashion’ as the previous ill-kempt patch of grass that never had that ‘manicured’ look, no matter how hard I tried. But times change. With these changes we are now more likely to want to eat out of doors and meet our friends out of doors. You only have to look at how fashions have changed. I remember a time when men would never be seen out of the garden or tennis courts wearing shorts! The opportunity to have coffee outside only happened on holiday if you were ‘abroad’. Have we become more ‘continental’ in our living styles, and if we have, might it be down to warmer temperatures? A discussion for another Eco Comment perhaps?

Late May is also the time for planting tender seeds such as pumpkins and squash, courgettes and cucumbers. I was thinking about putting some in to grow round my clematis and posts with some form of supports. I might even run to French and runner beans. I think it’s a nice idea to plant edibles in with the flowers, especially climbing varieties which don’t take up much ground space, which I don’t have much of. One of my brothers (Ian Redmond) is currently in the Cayman Islands (he assures us it’s for work) and is doing his bit to publicise the saving of another creature from extinction. This time it is the Blue Iguana. Apparently, the Blue Iguana is another gardener of the forest. Ian already works with elephants and gorillas, both of whom are well-known for their ability to spread and fertilise seeds in their forest locations. You, like me, were possibly unaware of the importance of trees and general vegetation to islands which are so low-lying in comparison to sea level. Having said that, I also read this week how a village in the Bilaspur district in Northern India had been saved from landslides due to floods by a new form of bioengineering. Here, potential landslide areas are covered with a wire mesh netting and then planted with trees and shrubs. The best part of this story is that it worked and within a season has already been put to the test.

It’s a long way from No Mow May, but it just goes to show how sometimes encouraging nature in whichever way is fashionable pays dividends. Happy gardening.

Susan Morgan
Eco Group

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