May 8, 2024 - News

Just say no to #NoMowMay in Virginia

Illustration of a lawnmower towering over a butterfly on a flower.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

If you're thinking about jumping on the #NoMowMay bandwagon this year, you may want to think again.

The big picture: The campaign has spread widely on social media in recent years, urging people to stop cutting their grass for the month in an effort to boost habitat and food for bees and other pollinators.

Why it matters: Now some experts say the mowing hiatus doesn't actually help bees all that much and could ruin your lawn.

State of play: An academic study supporting the theory that a month off from mowing helps bees was retracted in 2022.

Zoom in: In Virginia, timing is the main issue NoMowMay, Virginia Tech turf specialist and associate professor of agriculture Mike Goatley tells the Virginia Cooperative Extension.

  • Dandelions and clover, which would be the primary pollen source for bees if you let your lawn go, actually peak in April in Virginia.
  • And how often you ought to mow depends on what kind of grass you have. Some types found in Virginia, like Bermuda grass or zoysia grass, grow very quick and can be hard to cut through when your mowing reprieve ends.
  • Plus, letting your lawn go for a month and then mowing it back down to the nub is a recipe for a patchy mess of turf because it would expose what has become the tender crown of the grass, according to turf experts at OSU.

Instead of No Mow, grass pros now recommend a tempered version of the trend: Less Mow May (or April, or maybe March, depending on where you live).

  • Studies that show limiting mowing — like every two weeks — throughout the growing season increases the number and types of bees drawn to suburban yards without the drawbacks of a monthlong mowing moratorium.

The bottom line: If you're looking to support pollinators on your property, there are better ways than skipping mowing.

Karri's thought bubble: But if you're looking for a yardwork-free way to tackle your lawn, I recommend you do it old school: Get a dog. You'll never see a blade of grass again.

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