Join us for No Mow May!

Tuesday 16th March 2021

Ahead of the new series of BBC Gardeners’ World starting this Friday (19 March, BBC Two, 9pm), Monty Don has called on gardeners to take a more relaxed approach to mowing their lawns to allow nature to thrive. Our very own Sarah Mead, creator of the Yeo Valley Organic Garden wholeheartedly agrees.

Spring has nearly sprung

“If you only do one thing this year to improve your garden’s value for nature, be more like Monty and cut your grass less, or not at all,” says Sarah. “Monty is absolutely right to highlight our obsession with keeping our lawns neat and tidy and frankly I was shocked to read how much negativity he has faced as a result of his recent Radio Times interview. Come on gardeners, would a little less cutting really be such a bad thing?!”

The UK’s climate is perfectly suited to allow grass and the many species of beneficial plants that share our lawns to thrive, but regular cutting deprives essential pollinators of an important food source. According to PlantLife, the British conservation charity behind the No Mow May initiative, allowing your lawn to grow naturally for just a single month can provide enough nectar for ten times the amount of bees and other pollinators than a regularly cut lawn.

A damselfly in the Yeo Valley Organic Garden
Mowing less often is great for wildlife!

Sarah continues, “Global biodiversity is in decline and our climate is warming. It’s essential that we all recognise the small changes we can make that have a huge collective impact on our environment. Putting your feet up instead of getting the mower out is top of the list!”

The Yeo Valley Organic Garden is supporting PlantLife’s No Mow May challenge this year and taking part in the charity’s Every Flower Counts campaign. The garden team will be showing throughout the year how less cutting not only improves your lawn’s value for nature, but can also provide a fun and cheap way to add more interest to your garden’s design. Following a full assessment of the formal lawn areas at the Blagdon garden, 2/3 of the grass will not be mowed at all in 2021, leaving only the heavy footfall areas regularly trimmed. In addition, all garden tools, including mowers, at the Yeo Valley Organic Garden are now powered electronically, eliminating the need for fossil fuels and making garden maintenance quieter for both people and wildlife.

Wildflowers are great for pollinators!

You’re only FIVE steps away from a wildlife rich lawn:

  1. Give your lawn an early spring trim to tidy up winter growth and then decide which parts of your lawn you can comfortably allow to grow long in 2021.
  2. Add a mix of wildflower seeds to general-purpose lawn seed for a spring sowing of the areas you intend to leave uncut and mulch over with organic compost. We suggest equal amounts of ox eye daisy, red clover and field scabious.
  3. Allow your lawn to self-seed and your wildflower mix to bloom
  4. Commit to only cutting the areas you need to keep short, for example for ease of movement around the garden and children’s ball games
  5. Try cutting a trail or maze into your longer grass and listen to the buzz of pollinators as you wander through

Sarah’s inspirational, seasonal planting and sympathetic design offer great ideas for how to choose organic principles in your own garden while enjoying year-round colour and form. The garden has inspired the design of a show garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2021. Designed by award-winning garden designer Tom Massey, who recently starred in the new BBC series Your Garden Made Perfect, the Chelsea show garden will offer visitors more ideas for how to make small but significant steps for nature this year. You can find out more about our show garden here.

We’ll be opening our garden gates to visitors again on the 21st April, Covid-19 restrictions permitting. For information on how to book, click here to head to the Organic Garden page.

Comments on “Join us for No Mow May!”

  • My heart breaks as I see the fields and wild life that have been allowed to thrive for years being totally destroy. The building on waste land in the south east is phenomenal. The wild life is moving more and more into our gardens. For instance for the last two years I have had hundreds of ladybirds descend on the tiles on the back of my house and last year I happened to notice bumble bees making a home in my compost bin. I could quite easily if destroyed these natural habitats if I hadn’t been aware. How much more is being destroyed by building. I’m doing as much as I can to support the wild life in my area but I find it soul destroying to see the devastation caused by people’s ignorance. Thank goodness there are people like you. Long may you continue.

    Stella Reynolds on 19th March 2021 at 12:11 pm

  • We’ve kept Guinea pigs and rabbits. We used to place their run on the lawn, moving it every few days. They seemed to chew the grass to a respectable length and fertilise the ground with their pellets. My garden had the most lush grass around. Later when they died,I never used a mower, only hedge shears. I’m sure I looked quite comical to neighbours cutting the lawn with large scissors!
    I learnt that natural grazers cows, horses bite the grass not too low and slightly tug at the same time which I presume airates the soil.
    This article is great, from a frustrated wannabe bee keeper!

    Amanda Beer on 19th March 2021 at 9:03 am

  • Thankyou…

    You have planted a seed! Or at least given me the confidence to actually do what I was thinking off doing….ie let my front lawn grow and populate with wild flowers.. Rather than the pressure felt to conform and have the perfect lawn….Sod the neighbours etc, am thinking of the bee’s etc this year / now! 🙂

    Just gotta source / get some seeds now!

    Martin on 19th March 2021 at 5:28 am

  • I think this is a great idea if you have a suitable area. My only reservation is that if you are in a rural location there can be a problem with ticks and lyme disease.

    Jenny on 18th March 2021 at 7:15 pm

  • I’ve been leaving more and more grass uncut each for for several years now. Even if the grass grows tall and blocks out some of the wild flowers, the long grasses look lovely with their great variety of seed heads (which make good winter feed for birds) and the grasses look lovely wavering in the summer breezes. I wonder how much frequent mowing also contributes to global warming? (10m, 20million mowers – more?, every week, more often? – throughout the summer?

    Robert Robson on 18th March 2021 at 6:57 pm

  • As industrial farming has led to the loss of bio-diversity, gardens can become a refuge, avoid lawn treatments that contain weed killers and respect the creatures that share your space.

    Derek West on 18th March 2021 at 5:17 pm

  • QUOTING FROM YOUR ARTICLE “We suggest equal amounts of ox eye daisy, red clover and field scabious.”… it would be excellent if you had different quantitates packaged and available to buy from you, or suggest other sources, bearing in mind, I guess, that seeds need to be appropriate/ specific to the area and its soil etc.

    Valerie on 18th March 2021 at 3:43 pm

  • yes I will try this. My Husband passed away recently and he was always tending the lawn but I think sowing seeds will be less lawn for me to cut

    jeanne on 18th March 2021 at 1:05 pm

  • Dear Sarah,
    I have been experimenting with my ‘lawn’ for a number of years. Initially I wanted to create a traditional meadow with ‘rides’ for access. The first summer I didn’t cut the grass(es) at all and was surprised at the variety of grasses and sedges, as well as the plenitude of butterflies and moths (I was recording nightly with a light box). There weren’t very many wild flowers to be seen, but I did find a couple of bee orchids and some pyramidal orchids which probably hadn’t been able to flower for years on the ‘golf course’ lawn that had been.
    All seemed fine until the autumn, when I thought it best to cut the ‘hay’ to use as mulch under my fruit trees and on a path elsewhere. My mower couldn’t cope; a scythe had difficulty with the rain-matted grasses, and I didn’t have access to an Allen mower with cutter-bar. I ended up spending three or four days cutting it, on my knees, with a hook and sickle (I actually did this two years running!).
    What I found was numerous large ant hills, tussocks of the more dominant grasses/sedges, and a very rough surface once I had finished and run the mower over it. Not very pleasing!
    Thereafter I mowed it infrequently whenever it reached the mower’s limited capabilities.
    Last year I left about a quarter of it to grow from May until August, and then cut that area, once again, with my sickle. There must be better ways to achieve a manageable lawn. I can understand why people object to just letting a lawn go!

    Fred Woodworth on 18th March 2021 at 10:27 am

  • So what do you do later in the season when the grass and flowers die back? We tried this some years ago and it was really difficult almost impossible in fact to mow it needed strimming, or do you just leave it to remain rough? We found huge numbers of slugs living in there and popping out at night to eat our veg and flowers. We have a reasonable size lawn, but surely this is no being suggested for small lawns?

    Geoff on 18th March 2021 at 9:21 am

  • Quite right too, I have never understood lawn cutting until recently when I discovered that manicured lawns in country parks were the result of cutting for feed for horses.

    david on 18th March 2021 at 8:20 am

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