The Mow Less Approach

Ever heard of No Mow May? It’s a brand new initiative for lawns that can help early spring pollinators, BUT it may not be for everyone. At Sunday, we’ll help you navigate how to help pollinators while keeping your lawn in top shape.

Mowing Your Lawn: An Overview

First off, why do we mow the lawn? Beyond maintaining a uniform height for general aesthetics, personal recreational reasons, and perhaps potential HOA or city fines – here’s the science behind why we encourage mowing at Sunday: 

  1. Reduce vegetation (e.g. weeds) that are intolerant of mowing. 
  2. Mowing promotes lateral growth (grass spreading out) by cutting high and infrequently.
  3. Mowing helps promote deeper rooting when mowed appropriately.

When your lawn is mowed regularly and properly, it helps you maintain a thick, green, and weed-free lawn. Plus, when you follow a Sunday lawn care routine,

So, What Is No Mow May?

Essentially, No Mow May (NMM) is a pollinator-forward initiative started by Plantlife, a non-profit based out of the UK. The intention of NMM is to significantly increase the number of flowering plants (or foraging opportunities) for pollinators by not mowing. By not mowing in the month of May, it gives way for weeds like dandelions, clovers, and violets to flower. As a result, these more hardy plants are helping support early spring pollinators to find more foraging opportunities before other spring blooms emerge. 

 

The initiative has gained traction through Bee City USA: No Mow May and is now sponsored by Sunday’s 1% for the Planet Partner: Xerces Society (No Mow May) in an effort to support pollinators and connect more green corridors in urbanized areas for pollinators. Here are just a few cities and organizations participating in NMM 2021: 

  1. No Mow May: These Wisconsin communities in effort to help pollinators
  2. City of Wausau implements ‘No Mow May’ to protect native bee pollinators
  3. West St. Paul Supports No Mow May

Benefits of No Mow May

While not everyone is going to be able to participate in NMM – here’s a quick glance at the benefits of not mowing in early spring:  

  1. Increasing foraging opportunities for pollinators. 
  2. Creating more “wildlife corridors” in urban areas. 
  3. Conserving water due to not watering grass as much (e.g. grassroots can grow deeper) during this time period. 
  4. Fewer fuel emissions due to not using fuel for mowers during this time period. 
  5. Has the potential to assist lawns with drought resiliency due to deeper rooting.    

 

Sunday ProTip: Once normal mowing resumes, it’s important to note that some of the work done to conserve water and reduce fuels will be brought back up a bit. However, with Sunday’s recommended lawn care routine you’ll mow less and reduce water use over time.

What types of grass can tolerate NMM?

Essentially, the slowest growing grasses. These species can tolerate dramatic shifts in mowing height and recovery. 

  1. Best: fine fescue, buffalograss – low maintenance types of grass that can look aesthetically pleasing when grown long. 
  2. Marginal: tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass – can tolerate somewhat infrequent mowing and are able to bounce back from turf stress.
  3. Lawns that should not be grown long:  bermudagrass, kikuyugrass – will not be able to tolerate rapid, long growth followed by mowing short.

Sunday Program & No Mow May: Where We Stand

Weed control is good. In general, spot treatment for weed control is good during this time. Treat weeds with Sunday’s Weed Warrior and Dandelion Doom as directed. If you need to spot-treat flowering weeds, just make sure to remove flowers before treating to reduce impact on pollinators. 

Seeding is good. If the lawn is starting to thin or is already thinned out, this is a good time to spread seed. This is especially true if you choose to participate in NMM because while the grass is growing taller, it will help hold moisture.

Applying nutrients is not so good. At Sunday, we do not recommend applying your Sunday nutrients during NMM. Why? You do not want to apply to really tall grass (and preferably should wait until the grass is cut). So, if you do participate, mow first, then apply your Sunday nutrients after Memorial Day.

What to Consider When Deciding to Participate in NMM?

The Immense Increase of Biomass in May

The average lawn is growing rapidly in May and by not mowing, your grass will get really long and thick. This can cause a variety of issues for your lawn and overall, MAY harm seasonal growth. Common issues can also include: 

  1. Over-mowing in June (or whenever your next mow is), causing grass to become over-stressed
  2. Potential limitations in your equipment that will not allow for high heights of cut with longer grass
  3. Biomass (e.g. very long grass!) is also a potential source of smothering the lawn (from grasscycling) and a potential source of water pollution if left on the pavement.

 

Sunday ProTip: What to do with excess clippings? Composting and utilizing as “mulch” in a native plant or garden bed are some Sunday solutions to help you utilize those excess grass clippings effectively.

 

HOA Guidelines &  City Ordinances

If you live in a home under city ordinance or HOA restrictions, you might want to check how tall your grass can get to determine whether or not you can participate in NMM. Otherwise, not mowing can lead to fines from the city or HOA if the lawn is not maintained according to set standards.

 

Violating the ⅓ rule for mowing

The Sunday Lawn Program works best when this mowing guideline is following alongside nutrient applications and seeding of Sunday products. Follow our Do’s and Don’ts for Mowing to learn more. 

Sunday ProTip: If participating in No Mow May – make sure your blade is very sharp. When grass grows excessively long, it won’t be as rigid during mowing which can cause shredding if the blade isn’t sharp.

Other Ways to Mow Less (& Help Pollinators)

If completely stopping mowing is not an option, mowing less is a great option for most lawns. This way, your lawn stays on track, and you can make small changes to help your local pollinators too.  

 

  1. Raise the height of cut (HOC). Increase mowing height to the highest measurement (within its range) for your grass type:
  2. Increase time between mowing. Extend mowing by a couple of days or add a week between mowing (for example: every other week instead of weekly). 
  3. Introduce clover. Adding Lucky Lawn to your normal grass mixture increases flowering plants in the lawn (e.g. clover) that can withstand typical mowing heights, but still provides flowers for pollinators.
  4. Choose native plants. Plant your Sunday Wildflower seeds or grow native plants to increase foraging opportunities for pollinators in your yard.
  5. Maintain your mower. Practicing good lawn care and mower maintenance will prepare you for your first mow of the season and help keep your lawn in good shape for the duration of the growing season.