Shelley Abbott, Fair to Nature Facilitator, is taking part in No Mow May….
It’s May! While many of us have had to put our normal lives on pause, the natural world is continuing to spring into life. Birds are nesting – some are even on their second brood, bees and butterflies are flitting around the blossom, fox cubs are playing in fields and gardens, and hedgehogs are keeping their babies hidden away.
I don’t know about you, but the natural world is really sustaining me at the moment. I’m extremely lucky to have a garden, only a small one, but it’s a little patch where I can do my best to provide food and shelter for the wildlife that visits.
I have a lawn and up until last year it would be cut fairly regularly throughout the growing season. There were small areas that were left to grow longer but much of the grass was quite short. Last year, though, I decided to give my mower a rest and take part in the wildflower charity, Plantlife’s, No Mow May. The mower didn’t see the light of day at all during May. It was very satisfying to see the flowers flourish. The lawn was covered in buttercups, daisies, dandelions, self-heal, and red and white clover. The bees, butterflies, and hoverflies loved it!
May came and went and the mower didn’t leave the shed. June passed by and still the mower sat idle. At the beginning of July, I cut a path through the now quite long grass so I could access the washing line without getting soaked shoes. The long patches of grass either side of that path linked to the flower beds and the apple tree, making little wildlife corridors.
My mower is going to stay in the shed again this May. The lawn has had a cut this year, but large patches of dandelions and daisies have been left. At the end of May, I will be taking part in Plantlife’s Every Flower Counts, a bit of citizen science, and counting the flowers in my lawn. Results from this study have shown that the most common flowers in lawns are daisies, clover and self-heal, although over 200 species were found to be flowering in unmown lawns. A nectar score from last years results showed that lawn flowers in the survey combined produced a colossal 23kg of nectar sugar per day, enough to support 2.1 million honeybees.
Daisies (Bellis perennis) are hardy flowers and will withstand mowing and trampling. It is a valuable food source for bumblebees, honeybees and hoverflies. The bright, cheerful flowers open up in the sun and stay closed on darker days.
Dandelion flowers (Taraxacum officinalis) are an important early source of pollen and nectar for pollinators and other invertebrates, when there is very little else flowering. Its name is derived from the French ‘dent de lion’ – tooth of lion – because the deeply serrated leaves were thought to resemble teeth in a lion’s jaw. Some species of moth, such as the Garden Tiger, use Dandelion as a caterpillar food plant.
Fair to Nature farmers help pollinators by sowing wildflower areas. Sometimes these are wide strips down the edges of fields. Sometimes they are large areas or whole fields. Different wildflower species are sown to appeal to as broad a range of wildlife as possible. Research has shown that encouraging certain invertebrates, like hoverflies and ladybirds, can be beneficial to the crops as they eat some crop pests. We can also benefit from this in our gardens!
Who will join me in #NoMowMay? We’d love to see photos of your lawn on our Fair to Nature Facebook page! #natureonmydoorstep