May 5, 2023 - News

No Mow May comes with caveats

A Variegated Fritillary butterfly in the Hill Country. Photo: Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

Your neighborhood may be quieter this month as some homeowners opt into No Mow May, a viral movement that encourages residents to ditch their lawn mowers and let their grass go wild till June.

Why it matters: With spring gardening season underway, homeowners are wrestling with personal decisions about how to tackle lawn care, Axios' Jennifer Kingson reports. To mow or not to mow? Irrigate? Fertilize?

  • The "No Mow" and "Low Mow" campaigns aim to make yards more conducive to bees and butterflies — but you might face blowback from your neighbors if you try it out.
  • Homeowner associations have been clamping down on residents who let their lawns go brown or wild, even taking people to court over the state of their yards.

Plus: Keeping your lawn long may not bring on the bees anyway, according to Andrea DeLong-Amaya, director of horticulture at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

What they're saying: Many patches of turf are maintained to be weed free and — when left unmowed — the flowers that bloom from these lawns are wind-pollinated, meaning they do not support animal pollinators with nectar or pollen, DeLong-Amaya tells Axios.

  • Even if there are blooming plants intermingling in the lawn grass, it's likely that they're non-native plants, making them less likely to attract native pollinators.
  • Instead, "homeowners interested in having a pollinator-friendly lawn can intersperse nectar-producing and pollen-producing low growing natives into the turf," DeLong-Amaya said.

Zoom in: Austin requires residents to keep grass and weeds below one foot, according to the city's code violation website, which adds that long grass can create "unsanitary conditions."

  • "Keeping grass and weeds short is an important way to prevent rodents, insects and stagnant water from developing as a result of overgrowth," the city site reads.

A better approach in Central Texas, DeLong-Amaya suggests, is shrinking the size of your lawn "to the smallest footprint possible" and planting pollinator-friendly native plants.

  • Plus, cultivate your landscape using organic methods to avoid harming pollinators.
  • "Be mindful that even organic products can also be poisonous, so research products before applying, and be sure to closely follow label instructions," DeLong-Amaya added.

The bottom line: Towns that adopt "No Mow May" agree not to issue citations to homeowners who let their grass grow long, but Austin does not have such a policy.

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