May I Not Mow in May?

a home lawn with yellow and white flowers; a yard sign with "Flowering Bee Lawn" written on it is at the front
Photo by Florence Sessoms

By Eric Watkins

You may have read about “No Mow May”, an effort to reduce Mowing in spring to benefit pollinators by saying No to Mowing in May. I’ve gotten a couple of questions about No Mow May, so here are some answers to questions you may have about Mowing (or not) in the month of May:

  • Does not Mowing in May really help pollinators?
    • Maybe, especially if you have plants in your lawn that can flower in May. Research in Massachusetts showed that reducing mowing frequency is good for bee populations.
  • Are there any benefits to your lawn if you let the grass grow taller during No Mow May?   
    • The taller leaves in your lawn will help shade the soil surface, which can reduce weed germination. Raising the height of a lawn also helps the grass plants deal with other possible stresses such as heat and drought.
  • Will not Mowing in May negatively affect my lawn?
    • During a warmer spring, when the turf is vigorously growing by May, then not Mowing in May could lead to a reduction in turf density due to reduced tillering of the plants. Grass species that grow more slowly--like the fine fescues--are at less risk of this problem.
  • What should I do when the clock strikes 12:00 am on June 1 and No Mow May is no more?
    • While you might feel the need to Mow immediately after May has passed, you can wait until the dawn breaks and the dew dries, at which point you can Mow your lawn, since it won’t be May, but be careful not to Mow off too much leaf material or you could reduce the health of your lawn (try to not to remove any more than one-third of the turf). If the first Mowing after May leads to lots of clippings, you should remove those clippings so they don’t cover up the lawn (returning clippings is almost always good to do, but not when they become excessive).
  • Will the pollinators still benefit from No Mow May if I don’t put up a yard sign letting everyone know I’m a supporter of No Mow May?
    • Pollinators can’t read signs, but so-and-so can, along with you-know-who, and that guy.

So, in summary--go ahead, take part in No Mow May if you want to--your lawn will be fine. At this point, I think we are all just hoping that there will be some growing grass to not Mow in May.