Awkward as they are (try cutting the grass with a push mower as I do and you’ll find yourself cursing these edible weeds), just eight of them could produce enough nectar to meet an adult bumblebee’s basic energy needs.
And without bees and other insects pollinating wild plants, they wouldn’t produce the fruits and seeds that animals and birds need to eat. Without these pollinators, the human race wouldn’t survive.
So ‘No Mow May’ should be a no-brainer. The campaign is asking people to put away the lawnmower this month to help our native wildlife.
For those of us who have gardening guilt, this should come as an absolute godsend, an excuse not to bother doing those pesky tasks such as cutting the grass, weeding and generally keeping an orderly vista to be admired from the kitchen window or the patio. We’re simply being asked to forego gardening for a while.
What’s not to like? Embrace a wilder lawn than usual while helping to create habitats that benefit wildflowers and insects.
My gardening guilt, manifested in general despair and feelings of uselessness in the face of the wilderness that was my back garden, comes to the fore as we approach summer.
I have notions of doing a bit of entertaining, with people milling around drinking chilled wine or elderberry cordial and eating olives and cheese, during the warm months. But the garden didn’t quite cut it last summer. I imagine myself apologising for the state of it.
As if I haven’t got enough to be feeling guilty about (excess weight and stuff to do around the house are the current and ongoing bugbears.)
Having hired a gardener, the wilderness out the back has been tamed somewhat. You might think that employing a gardener sounds like I have notions. But really, it was essential. I couldn’t see myself making any inroads on the overgrown shrubs and beds of nettles without having a bit of a breakdown.
I am in awe of people with green fingers who have ownership of their gardens, in the sense that they’re able to look after them without requiring reinforcements. How do they know so much about flora and fauna? How do they maintain enough interest in their personal green spaces that they always look orderly, neatly trimmed and tasteful?
Surely this job of constantly tending to the garden, apart from during a couple of winter months, palls every now and then. But no, they’re out there in all weathers, those fab gardeners, growing vegetables and exotica (to my non-green fingers) such as asparagus and strawberries. It keeps them fit.
The Brits are said to be good at gardening. A survey carried out by Plantlife in the UK in April, 2021, on ‘No Mow May’ showed that 78.8% of the participants (over 2,000 of them) chose not to mow their lawns in May compared to 33.6% of those who took part in 2019.
In 2021, those who let the grass grow in May reported more than 250 different plants growing in the grass including wild strawberry, wild garlic and rare species such as adder’s-tongue fern, meadow saxifrage, snake’s head fritillary and eyebright. There were even wild orchids and bee orchids in lawns which had been left alone
A typical lawn in the survey had 17 daisies on a one-metre square path and a smattering of buttercups and dandelions with germander speedwell and field forget-me-nots the next most likely plants to be seen.
“We are excited by the unfolding dawn of a new British lawn,” said a spokesperson for Plantlife. I’m not so sure we’re as compliant here. I have an admission to make.
My gardener, sensing my fear of chaos if the grass isn’t cut for four weeks, suggested I use the lawn mower a couple of times this month once I keep away from the patches of lovely bluebells (abundant around my ancient apple tree) and some weeds in various corners of the garden. I can live with that.
I don’t want the gardening police hissing at me when I take out the lawn mower. Seriously, if I didn’t cut the grass for a month, I’d need a state-of-the-art lawn mower and a therapist. But my wildish garden is still open for business as far as insects are concerned.