You’ve heard the catchy phrase about “No Mow May” and think, does that mean I can skip mowing my lawn all May?! Well, maybe…BUT…
DEP staffer Mary Travaglini has been getting questions about “Now Mow May” and has coined the term “Mow Better May” instead, because skipping lawn mowing for a month is not necessarily the best thing for your lawn, or for your environment.
The movement has been pushed by the idea that allowing flowering plants in our lawns to bloom, to provide nectar and pollen to early season insects, like bees, ants, moths, butterflies, and more.
While early season insects are important pollinators that need to eat, many of them get their nectar and pollen from our trees, which are blooming in April and May (allergies, anyone?) and only certain flowering plants in lawns are good for pollinators.
For example, people say dandelions are good sources of food in the spring, but in fact they are very low in protein (basically junk food for insects), while clover, violets, and creeping thyme are better sources of nutrients. So you want to learn what flowering plants are better in lawns than others, and encourage those, while weeding out or mowing down the others.
To Mow Better May, and year-round, we should leave our grass higher than 3.5″4″–but avoid cutting more than 1/3 of the blade at any time–meaning you shouldn’t let your grass get over 6″. Once it gets too long, you can damage the grass, plus it gets really hard to mow!
For front yards, consider keeping a mowed strip around the edges and against your neighbor’s yard–having a clean edge will reduce concerns or complaints.
Number 1–if you are going to keep a lawn, you want to focus on making it dense! A dense grass is better for the environment, providing more oxygen, preventing soil erosion, and cooling the ground. While fall is the best time to overseed a lawn (winter is actually the second best time), spring is also a good time to add more grass seed, aerate soils, and add natural amendments like compost or sea minerals.
Number 2–consider reducing your lawn! Add native trees, shrubs, and perennials that not only create beautiful gardens, but provide benefits to pollinators, wildlife, and the habitat around you.
Number 3–use May as a time to tune-up or update your lawn equipment. Sharpen mower blades, replace your gas mowers, blowers, or trimmers with electric equipment, and raise that mower deck above 3.5″-4″. And remove your lawn mower bag, to leave the clippings behind for nutrients!
Number 4–don’t forget to visit our extensive organic lawn care pages, for more great tips!
written by Mary Travaglini, Organic lawn and landscape manager for Montgomery County, MD DEP