Everyone with a lawn urged to make 'important' gardening change this May

Leaving grassy areas to grow wild has been shown to boost bee and butterfly numbers
Leaving grassy areas to grow wild has been shown to boost bee and butterfly numbers -Credit:Getty Images/iStockphoto

Gardeners have been urged to make a change to their outside spaces this May that will "matter massively" in helping wildlife to thrive.

The No Mow May campaign encourages people to leave the mower in the shed for the month to allow wilder lawns with wildflowers to flourish, helping to support bees, butterflies and other visitors to the garden. Plantlife, the wildlife charity behind the campaign, said it has invited local authorities to show their support for the first time this year, with more than 40 signing up to the No Mow May movement as part of efforts to manage verges and green spaces more for nature.

Providing a wilder grass habitat in your garden could have a significant impact, according to the charity - even if you only leave a small patch of your lawn to grow. Around 97% of wildflower meadows have been lost in less than a century, with once widespread plants such as ragged Robin and field scabious now on the near threatened list in England, the conservation organisation warned.

Sarah Shuttleworth, senior ecological advisor at Plantlife, said: "No Mow May matters massively because leaving lawns to just let it be in May allows a wonderful array of wild plants to flower and flourish. This floral diversity provided by more relaxed mowing regimes provides a rich food source for a wealth of wildlife through the summer."

When No Mow May has come to an end, Plantlife recommends less frequent mowing through the summer. It also encourages gardeners to avoid herbicides, fertilisers and moss killer as all can be detrimental to wild plants in the lawn, allow plants time to set seed before mowing, and remove grass cuttings following mowing to prevent nutrient build-up on the grass.

Providing a mix of habitats also helps wildlife, with shorter lawns with clover in providing food for bumblebees, while longer grasses are an essential resource for certain species of butterflies and moths, Plantlife said. A mixture of shorter grass and taller more structural areas will boost flower diversity and support other garden wildlife, the charity recommended.

Mowing twice a year will maintain a meadow and mowing every four to six weeks will create a shorter re-flowering lawn where plants such as bugle, selfheal, red clover and lady's bedstraw can thrive, Plantlife advised. No Mow May comes after research by another wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation found leaving a patch of grass in the garden to grow long boosted butterfly numbers, particularly in towns or areas of intensive agriculture.

Plantlife said the campaign is getting through to gardeners, after a recent survey suggested that almost half (46%) of people do not plan to mow their lawn more than once in May. A further 33% said they would mow once a fortnight or every three weeks, and less than a fifth (18%) were planning a weekly cut, while just 3% more frequently than that, the poll by Opinion Matters found.

Meanwhile, nearly three-quarters (73%) of the 2,000 people surveyed said they believe that leaving lawns unmown for a month or more helps butterflies, bees and other wildlife. Less than a fifth (17%) thought maintaining a neat appearance to their lawns through regular mowing was more important than supporting wildlife by letting the lawn grow more.

Ian Dunn, chief executive of Plantlife, said: "Support for Plantlife's campaign is blossoming beautifully as people recognise the benefits to plants, people, pollinators and planet of mowing less and later for nature. The small act of giving the mower a month off, and then mowing less through the summer, can make a big difference at a time when we face interlinked climate and biodiversity emergencies."