May 14, 2024 - News

Some Portland gardeners might say no to #NoMowMay

A black lawnmower that has mowed a stripe through clover in front of a brown fence and red shed

Should you stop mowing your lawn this month to allow more access to flowers for pollinators to feed on? Photo: Joseph Gallivan/Axios

Gardeners in Portland may want to rethink the #NoMowMay bandwagon, according to some experts who say a social media campaign urging people to stop cutting their grass this month doesn't help bees much.

Why it matters: No Mow and Low Mow lawns are new ways to reduce maintenance while also benefiting birds and bees, but how well they work depends on the plants that make up the lawn, according to Ramesh Sagili, an apiculturist and agriculture professor at Oregon State University.

State of play: If you just want to help honeybees, plant phacelia, borage and sunflowers next to your lawn, because they have the nutritious pollen (protein) and nectar (carbohydrates) that bees need to thrive, Sagili tells Axios.

Reality check: "If there's only one or two dandelions, not mowing for a month might not make a significant difference for bees," he said.

Catch up fast: No Mow May originated in England before spreading to the Midwest, specifically Appleton, Wisconsin, where it was embraced by environmental groups and some local and state governments, Axios' Ned Oliver reports.

Zoom in: Portland Parks and Recreation boasts almost two dozen nature patches that offer native wildflowers as food to pollinating insects all summer long.

Driving the trend: Portland Nursery spokesperson John Sorensen tells Axios local gardeners are seeking biodiverse lawn substitutes that encourage pollinators. The gardeners also want to cut back on expensive watering.

  • Sorensen points them to Envirolawn, a seed mix developed in Salem.
  • Envirolawn contains perennial ryegrass, purple tansy and crimson clover and only needs mowing every three weeks.

"There's also a big movement to plant native plants, which are already adapted to our climate," Sorensen told Axios.

  • He recommends customers get drought-resistant plants such as Pacific wax myrtle and native mock orange, which can survive long wet winters and hot, dry summers.
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