Confessions of a Reformed Lawn Addict

Confessions of a reformed Lawn Addict.  Oh, the swelling ambition with which I greeted my first lawn! (it was tiny). How I would nurture it!  Feed it. Weed it, ruthlessly. Mow it close, until its stripes looked like the No 1 Court at Wimbledon.

Reality was very different. Inconvenient patches of muddy brown forever reappeared, worsening as my mower’s wheels tore into the damp sward. Which remained stubbornly uneven and tufty. Meanwhile, pesky “weeds” as I called them, just kept coming back. Not only had I committed myself to a futile task, I was looking in the wrong direction altogether. Was it all worth it?

Because if I hadn’t been addicted to the perfect lawn, I could have had a meadow. Instead of a sterile monoculture, a pastureland teeming with flowers and wildlife. But don’t listen to me, listen to the experts. Let’s start with Charlotte Owen of Sussex Wildlife Trust:

“UK gardens cover an area greater than all the National Nature Reserves put together, so the way they are cared for can make a huge difference to wildlife. Letting the grass grow longer means the hidden wildflowers our lawns can bloom freely. Wildflowers provide a vital food source for bees and butterflies, while patches of long grass are great for grasshoppers and caterpillars, which in turn feed hungry birds and hedgehogs.”

So, what to do?  To kick my monocultural habit, I’m taking part in the booming No Mow May  campaign run by wild plant conservation charity Plantlife, who told us:

“The No Mow May campaign, now in its sixth year, is the biodiversity boosting movement in Britain and across the globe. The rallying call encourages people to ‘Let It Grow’ by putting their lawnmowers away for the month of May and letting the wildflowers bloom.

Anyone can take part in the campaign. From leaving the mower in the shed for the whole month, to adopting a more relaxed mowing regime, Plantlife will provide a myriad of resources and guidance to enable participants to become No Mow May pros”.

And when May is over? Of course I’ll still be cutting once a month, but with the mower on its highest setting. The rest of the time I’ll take down the longer stalks with shears. (My wife says I need the exercise anyway!) 

Yes, there will be grass aplenty; but hopefully also a thriving ecology of many plants and animals, on their way to a healthier, sustainable future.

West Sussex are currently teaming up with Plantlife too, to explore variations in verge cutting, and to trial filling potholes with charcoalised  grass cuttings mixed with asphalt.

If you have more energy, a proven way to increase diversity of plants is to remove some turf and lightly scatter seeds directly on top of the soil.  The grass being overpowering, this stops the delicate wildflower seeds becoming smothered and over-fed by grass cuttings!

Plantlife’s No Mow May Movement

Welcome | Sussex Wildlife Trust


By Keir Hartley