May 6, 2024 - News

Some Twin Cities suburbs move away from #NoMowMay

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

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Some Minnesota cities are easing off their #NoMowMay campaigns as turf experts warn about the drawbacks of taking a month off from lawn care.

The big picture: The campaign has spread widely on social media in recent years, with local and state governments — including Minnesota's — urging people to stop cutting their grass for the month to help the environment and boost habitat for bees and other pollinators.

The intrigue: Some experts say the one-month mowing hiatus doesn't help bees all that much and could ruin your lawn, Axios' Ned Oliver reported.

  • An academic study supporting the theory that a month off from mowing helps bees was retracted in 2022.

Reality check: Experts also stress the no-mow campaign raised important points about the negative environmental impacts of grass lawns — and the benefits of lawns that require less water and maintenance.

  • The goal, experts say, should be finding ways to mow less often. The University of Minnesota's Bee Lab and others champion a new slogan: "Slow Mow Summer."

Driving the news: The evolving research — plus complaints about unkempt lawns — have prompted some Twin Cities suburbs to pivot.

  • The Star Tribune recently reported that Rosemount, Roseville, New Brighton, and Columbia Heights now officially advocate for "Mow Less May."

Zoom in: Letting your lawn go for a month "at a time of year when your grass grows really, really fast" is risky, James Wolfin of Twin City Seed told the U's Bee Lab.

  • Cutting your grass to less than one-third of its height risks killing your lawn, Wolfin said.

Yes, but: There are studies that show limiting mowing throughout the growing season increases the number and types of bees drawn to suburban yards.

The bottom line: There are many ways to support bees — and the climate — on your property.

  • The Bee Lab recommends adding pollinator-friendly wildflowers and native plants that can offer season-long nourishment to bees.
  • Switching from traditional Kentucky Bluegrass to a "low-input turf" that requires less water and fewer mows can also help, Wolfin said.

Go deeper: No-mow lawns are having a moment in Minnesota

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