Neighbors might not thank you if you cut back on mowing the lawn, but your local pollinators will.
Becoming a “lazy lawn mower” and trimming the grass every two weeks, rather than weekly, can help foster vital bee habitat in suburban yards, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
More time between mowings means more lawn flowers (like clover and dandelions) have time to bloom in the yard, researchers said — and those blooming flowers can help improve struggling bee populations and increase biodiversity.
Another way you can save bees!
“Weeds” to you is food for native bees!
This is actually my parent’s yard. But you can hide your weedy bits for pollinators including native bees and butterflies by leaving a space behind your flower beds or behind your shed for the weeds.
True story, I had a lawn care person come up to my door and try to sell me lawn service and herbicide bc my yard is just naturally 50% weeds (
Florida pusley clover what not) and 50 % super sad grass (its Florida and it’s been several dry years and my family does not water the grass bc waste of water). And I just looked at her after she called my lawn unruly and was like I like my lawn that way and so do the butterflies.
I mow my front yard because my HOA will fine me if I don’t. But my backyard is another story–never mowed it once since I moved here two years ago. So far I’ve documented over 600 species of plants and animals (mostly bugs because… I mean come on), although I’ve learned that letting it “go wild” and fend for itself only works as long as the invasive grasses don’t choke everything else out. I’ve been putting out Saint Augustine and Rescue grass out by the roots almost every day and I swear it’s a never ending battle. Those grasses plus catchweed are the only things I really consider weeds.
I HATE SAINT AUGUSTINE GRASS SO MUCH. It’s terrible. Like when it rains so much it just creates hidden puddles that you sink into. And its so hard to pull out when it decides to invade the flower bed. Plus it sucks so much water to stay green and I am anti having to water grass.
I never got people needing to root daisies out of lawns because I personally think a lawn looks nicer with them, but different strokes.
In the UK at least you can actually buy “lawn mixes” that include lawn grasses and grassland plants that thrive under heavy grazing such as this one here from Emorsgate Seeds (I’ve been to their site actually, they’re involved with my project, and they really know their stuff). I’m sure there must be companies in the US and elsewhere that provide similar services. If you want to try and make your own, look for plants associated with things like grazed hillsides and pasture systems I guess?
An important point though: Disturbance maintains biodiversity.
Mowing isn’t terrible in of itself. It’s all about the balance between growth and cutting back, just as grazers maintain grasslands, mowing can maintain garden health. Some species prefer knee-high grasslands while others prefer a shorter sward height, this goes for both plants and animals. @nanonaturalist your back garden might benefit from being cut back once every year or two? Might be interesting to cut back a small area for comparison (plus habitat heterogeneity)?
Left without any cutting back, over time certain species will begin to dominate and others will naturally disappear. Some species are good at getting in early, flowering and dying back, while others take a slow and steady course, taking space and making it theirs. Without grazing or mowing, these slower species eventually just edge everything else out.
This is a particular issue with wildflower meadows. There’s been a bit of a thing for them in recent years in the UK, well, last decade really, trying to plant more and bring them back because they’re amazing for biodiversity and also super pretty. But a lot of people and organisations don’t seem to understand you don’t just plant seeds and go “boom, meadow”. Wildflower meadows need yearly mowing unless you want them to just become grass. Without a yearly maintenance scheme they quickly become degraded and ratty and the flowers disappear, smothered under last year’s grass.
Here’s a RHS page on wildflower meadow maintenance that probably explains this all better than I did.
I’ve been manually pulling out all the grass. Taking me a while but I’ll get there! In the back, it’s mostly rescue brome, which is a bunch grass with a very shallow root system. It’s easy to grab and yank out, I just need to watch out for fire ants.
My first year, huge bushes of yard aster popped up after I neglected to keep up the mowing (I had a master’s thesis to finish), so my second year (last year) I used the same approach of not doing anything. And it ended up becoming grass-heavy with only a few, tiny aster bushes. So this year, the grass is coming out.
I’ve been meaning to start a wildflower garden in the back, been collecting seeds and everything, but I have not had the free time and/or every time I go out there I get distracted by bugs 🤐
Tbh grass is good too, food and shelter for lots of insects, anchors the soil and protects the ground when the annuals die back for the year. I’d be tempted to cut it back before the start of the season instead of pulling it all out and see what happens this year, maybe chuck some wildflowers seeds on after mowing and see what happens? Guess it’s less mowing and more brushcutters but whatevs.
Lot of annuals will only germinate with sufficient light, so another reason to cut grass back yearly, so the seeds for the next gen sprout in spring instead of laying dormant in the soil, shaded out by last year’s grass.
Btw, sorry for the unsolicited advice, my garden at my current place is just concrete slabs, the most wildlife I’ve seen in it was a seagull eating a dead rat yesterday, I must live vicariously through the gardens of others for now. Your garden sounds cool and
The grass in Texas is horrible. A week after I’ve pulled out the bunch grass, Bermuda or Saint Augustine has taken its place, so my yard will never be a bed of dirt. I don’t remove the dead grass, I just leave it in piles so all the bugs and birds have some brush to dig around in. I do want to throw wildflower seeds in there and see how they do, but I’m worried the birds will eat them all. I’ve got some milkweed and milkvine seedlings starting, not sure where I’ll put them yet. I might just set up above-ground planters directly on the grass because I’m lazy.
Here’s the view from upstairs. Brown spots are the grass I’ve pulled up. The “bird bath” in the lower left is sitting in a spot I pulled grass out of a few weeks ago. All Bermuda now.
My condolences on the concrete slab. This is the first time I’ve had a yard since I was a kid. Lots of concrete slabs happened between moving out for college and buying this house. I was into nature before, but having a yard where I could do things (or not do things, as it were) really pushed me into the deep end of obsession.
This is what it looked like my first summer (from the back). Those bushes on the right were yard aster, taller than me. Butterflies, bees, hoverflies were nuts over them. I want them back!