No Mow May is a conservation initiative that encourages people to stop mowing or mow less often for the month of May to create habitat and provide resources for bees and other early-season pollinators.  This is particularly important in urban areas where floral resources are often limited. First popularized by Plantlife, an organization based in the United Kingdom, No Mow May is gaining traction across North America. 

During the month of May, the City of De Pere will relax the enforcement of long-grass rules, allowing De Pere residents to delay or reduce lawn cutting as a way to promote pollinator-friendly habitat early in the growing season. No Mow May is a voluntary program for City residents. Participants are asked to register online or in-person and display their City-issued "No Mow May" yard sign in their front yard for the duration of the program. In-person registration and signs are available at the City Municipal Service Center, 925 S. Sixth Street. No Mow May signs are anticipated to be available beginning April 17, 2023. All signs are to be returned by June 16, 2023 to the Municipal Service Center. The Municipal Service Center is open Monday through Thursday 6:30 AM to 4:00 PM and Friday 6:30 AM to 10:30 AM.

Register here to participate in No Mow May

No Mow May: 3 ways not mowing your lawn can benefit you, your local biodiversity, and your land:

It increases bee presence.

In one week of the No Mow May initiative in Appleton, a sampling of participating lawns indicated there was a fivefold increase in bee abundance and a threefold increase in bee diversity compared to nearby parkland that was mowed regularly. Plantlife’s “Every Flower Counts” project had similar results where 80% of participating lawns supported about 400 bees a day and 20% of lawns supported up to 4,000 bees a day! This increase in pollinator presence is one of the reasons why not mowing your lawn can also produce more flowers.

As long as your grass is growing, your number of flowers will too!

Plantlife’s study also concluded that about 200 species were found growing in un-mowed lawns and some of them were rare plants. Several tall grass species such as knapweed take a while to reach flowering size, and they can’t cope with being cut off regularly. Therefore, they only bloom in grass that has not been mown for a significant amount of time. Long grass allows for a greater variety of flowers that you wouldn’t usually see with short, cut grass. While knapweed is considered an invasive species in the prairies of the US, the red clover plant has a similar growth pattern.

You'll save time, gas, and fertilizer.

Instead of dedicating an hour or more out of your week to cutting your grass, not mowing will allow you to instead enjoy your green spaces as they diversify and grow around you. You also won’t have to purchase gas to power the lawnmower or fertilizer if you typically fertilize your lawn after you mow.

Tips for mowing long grass at the conclusion of No Mow May and promoting a healthy lawn:

  • Adjust your mower to the highest setting and make the first pass to reduce the grass height. After you have reduced the grass height to a more manageable length, change the mower setting by reducing the height of the blade, before making a second pass.
  • Do not cut more than 1/3 of the grass blade at a time in a single mowing. For example, if your grass is 6 inches tall, do not remove more than 2 inches of length. This helps prevent root stress and promotes turf vigor.
  • Reminder: Do not mow or blow grass clippings into the street. Grass and leaves in the street can travel with rainwater into the City stormwater sewers. Many stormwater facilities flow directly into our local rivers without pretreatment and the added nutrients can cause algal blooms and other detrimental effects. To learn more, check out this article. Debris in the street can also be dangerous for drivers, especially motorcycles and bicycles. 

What can we do outside of the Month of May to help our lawns, pollinators, and environment?

If you typically mow your lawn every week (or more frequently), consider mowing every other week. Research has shown this to increase the number of individuals and species variety of pollinators. An added bonus of a less-is-more approach to lawn care is that more mowing can be associated with increased pests and allergy-causing plants like ragweed. So instead of splitting your precious free time between mowing and trips to the pharmacy to deal with seasonal allergies, perhaps this spring you can relax and enjoy a cold beverage while enjoying the buzzing and flittering critters in your yard.

Consider practicing grasscycling

Skip watering your lawn. EPA estimates that 30% of residential water usage is devoted to outdoor uses including watering lawns and gardens. Experts estimate that as much as 50 percent of water used for irrigation is wasted due to evaporation, wind, or runoff caused by inefficient irrigation methods and systems. When watering is needed, use a sprinkler that shoots low to the ground. Sprinkle your lawn, not sidewalks, driveways, or streets. Shape soil so water will sink in, rather than run off. 

Reduce or eliminate the use of herbicides and pesticides. Besides being potentially harmful to our pollinators, chemicals and weed killers are not needed for a healthy lawn and they're one of the main reasons we have green algae in our lakes and streams. Get a soil test so you know if your lawn needs more nutrients. Mulch to keep the lawn healthy, so it can outcompete weeds for light, nutrients, and water. If you must fertilize, do it in the fall. Sweep up fertilizer that falls on the street and sidewalk and dispose of it properly - water and fertilizer that go into the street go directly to the river or lake.

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