With the No Mow May campaign upon us I wanted to take this opportunity to really explore how important our gardens are, not just to us gardeners but for the health of our planet. Collectively our gardens are making a difference.
Mental health and wellbeing is very much the first thing that comes to peoples minds when we talk about how important gardens are and I obviously quite agree. Having that outdoor green space is vital not just for your mental health but for your immune system and physical health too. I've explored the benefits of forest bathing in a previous blog but the truth is that you don't need a forest and trees to feel the benefits...you just need a green outdoor space that you can retreat to.
No Mow May is an annual campaign led by PlantLife calling all garden owners and green space managers not to mow during May. The idea being that we are liberating our lawns and providing a space for nature. The amount of habitat and food lost to pollinators and insects just from mowing our lawns is quite astounding. PlantLife have estimated that "we’ve lost nearly 97% of flower rich meadows since the 1970’s and with them gone are vital food needed by pollinators, like bees and butterflies. A healthy lawn with some long grass and wildflowers benefits wildlife, tackles pollution and can even lock away carbon below ground – and best of all, to reap these benefits all you have to do is not mow your lawn in May! With over 20 million gardens in the UK, even the smallest grassy patches add up to a significant proportion of our land which, if managed properly, can deliver enormous gains for nature, communities and the climate. This is why Plantlife is calling for people to get involved with #NoMowMay and let wild plants get a head start on the summer."
Here at Good Roots Barn, we have been supporting this campaign since early 2020 and our lawn gets it's first cut in March/April (weather dependant) and then we let it grow throughout May untouched and then in June we mow paths and a picnic patch which we keep short throughout the summer and then the last cut of the season is usually around September/October. I encourage self seeding of 'weeds' and we've noticed a significant change and noticed some interesting flowers appearing in amongst the grass.
There are three main advantages to doing this;
1. We've seen some incredible wildlife enjoying the long grass, such as an increase in moths and butterflies to our garden, birds thoroughly enjoy the bird bath and the feeder in the long grass, whilst the slugs have found a nice little hiding place (they enjoy retreating to the long grass during the day) we've subsequently encouraged a hedgehog to come along and munch them all up in the evening. We are delighted and celebrate when we see hedgehog poo on the lawn and his little trails through the long grass. Hedgehogs are virtually absent from rural areas and their decline has increased in urban areas, our gardens are all they have left so lets make them welcome.
2. We produce a minimal amount of grass clippings so we are not constantly filling the compost bin every couple of months with green waste and we are saving energy by not having the mower constantly on the go.
3. The sensation of having a picnic on the lawn and listening to the sound of the breeze through the grass is the most relaxing experience.
Not to mention of course all the carbon that the long grass is locking in.
An interesting research study in 2021 by scientists at universities in Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Reading found that gardens in cities and towns were a key source of nectar for pollinators. The nectar supply was 'comparable in magnitude' to that from farmland and nature reserves but more diverse and mainly delivered by non-native flowers. Planting decisions made by gardeners are important for the conversation of bees, butterflies and other pollinators and due to the diverse range of flower shapes and sizes grown in our gardens they can produce more nectar sugar per unit area than other areas. And if you are reading this and you have a balcony space then you are most definitely included in this research and have just as much impact.
That's incredible, our gardens are such a key resource for conservation, climate change, plant diversity and of course our own wellbeing. It's not surprising that we want to be in them all the time, what an amazing gift they are. Could they be the very last chance we have to save our planet? Bold question I know but I truly believe that if you feel the same way about your garden that I feel for mine then it's not such an extravagant notion.
So I ask you, How Important Is Your Garden?