No Mow May is a terrific idea as a way to promote awareness and habitat for emerging spring pollinators. However, refraining from mowing for a month may risk long-term damages to the lawn, which could result in extra costs, labor, and higher environmental impacts to recover from later in the summer. Residents and those who take care of lawns should consider the following to help prevent possible long-term lawn damage.
For most grass varieties don’t do well if more than 1/3 of the grass blade is cut at a time. Especially for conventional turf types such as Kentucky Bluegrass, cutting more than 1/3 of the blade damages key growth tissues in the blade of grass. When this happens, the grass spends the season recovering instead of growing or storing nutrients for winter.
This makes the grass more vulnerable to disease and less prepared to bounce back after drought or dormancy. If your grass is struggling in this way, it may require human intervention with fertilizers, extra watering, re-seeding, or other treatments to get it back to its former state.
When No Mow May ends, there’s going to be a large amount of biomass to cut. At any time of year, it’s important to keep grass clippings on the lawn and off of paved surfaces. Despite seeming “natural”, grass clippings are an excessive nutrient that acts as a pollutant when it drains to a lake, creek, or wetland.
There is no treatment between the street and the receiving waterbody, and all that extra nutrient changes the aquatic community towards an unbalanced, turbid, pea-soup green state. When mowing for the first time after a long period of growth, it may be difficult to contain the grass clippings on the lawn, so be sure to plan for extra time to sweep up the clippings to keep those nutrients on the land and out of the water.
Retain pollinator enthusiasm and practice water-friendly lawncare all year with these helpful resources.