Let’s Talk About No-Mow May

For those who may not yet have heard about it, No-Mow May is an initiative begun a few years ago in Wisconsin, I believe to help pollinators. The idea is simple: people don’t mow their lawn in May so that pollinators have some early blooming wildflowers to get nectar from.

I think it’s been 3 years since the first “No-Mow” and predictably the pushback has started. So I am going to try to provide some common sense ideas so that we can all get along AND help pollinators because that’s the goal.

Now I think we can all agree that while this lawn might be the suburban ideal of the perfect lawn, it does nothing for pollinators.

But let’s take a look at the “no-mow” lawn photo, which interestingly enough, is across the street from this house. I am not sure that they are actually trying for “no-mow;” the house is empty and being renovated so it may just be the result. But it provides a nice discussion point.

What I see in the unmown lawn is really nothing much helping pollinators at this point. The dandelions have gone to seed and there’s really nothing else blooming for them.

This lawn, which is a little further along down the street, is much more diverse. In fact, there’s hardly any grass in the foreground of this photo. There’s a field of chickweed, and in the middle of that, some blue Veronica. Further out are dandelions gone by and I know there’s some henbit too. It’s a really diverse lawn, great for pollinators. And yes, this lawn IS mowed and it doesn’t affect these weeds (with the exception of the dandelion flowers) in any way because they are so low to the ground. So there’s no reason to avoid mowing here.

We have a similar situation with lots of low growing violets, clover and ground ivy. When they flower, the flowers are so low to the ground that mowing has no effect on them. So they are preserved for our pollinators.

I love the idea that we are always thinking about the pollinators and new and creative ways to garden for them. But if you are feeling bad about mowing your lawn, maybe it’s not the worst thing. If I had to choose between mowing the lawn or avoiding pesticides, there’s no choice: always choose to avoid the pesticides. That will help in a far greater way.

With Lawn Applications, It’s All About Timing

Unfortunately, this is a very common sight in my neighborhood. Some weeks, it so bad that until it rains or gets watered in by sprinklers I either need to walk my dog in the middle of the road or keep her on my own property.

Generally, I choose the option of keeping her on my property, but even that’s not perfect. The topography of my neighborhood is sloping gently, so any runoff from my neighbor’s yard will bring his pesticides right down onto mine. But it’s better than nothing.

What you can’t really see in the above photo (since I didn’t really want to trespass too much when taking it) is the dusting of snow on the lawn.

Here are the forsythia bushes on the edge of the same property (taken from the driveway, so again, I am not trespassing too much–and by the way, notice the body of water–the lake–in the background. This guy is lakefront!)

Proper timing in my frozen part of the world for pre-emergent application should be before the forsythia stops blooming. It’s not before the forsythia starts blooming!

Even if we–for the sake of argument–say that this IS proper application, let’s remember what a “pre-emergent” is supposed to do. It’s supposed to suppress weeds.

So what are we suppressing? Chickweed? No, I don’t think so, that’s already up and blooming. Violets? They’re perennials–pre-emergents don’t work very well on those. Dandelions? Forget about it. And crabgrass for us doesn’t get going until much warmer weather, when this “pre-emergent” will be gone–they’re usually only effective for a period of about 3 months at best.

I understand that it’s been a long winter and the lawn guys are anxious to work–but this is just wrong and a waste of the homeowner’s money. The application is too early.

Further, here on the lakefront, it’s just contributing to lake pollution. Needless to say, I am not amused!

Generational? Or Something Else?

I was checking one of my favorite sites (yes, it was the National Garden Bureau ([http://www.ngb.org] again, because they had articles on seed starting) when I came upon a new app there for something. And I can’t even tell you what’s it’s for because I clicked right off the the whole site so fast that I didn’t have time to look.

Clearly, I have no trouble with web sites. I have no trouble with computers. I consume all my media electronically, I am embarrassed to admit. The Spoiler reads actual newspapers and I sit in the same room with him and read the same papers on my tablet. I much prefer reading on my Kindle to reading a paper book.

But, when it comes to gardening, I do not want to use apps, phones, meters, tablets, or anything like that. I want to go outside–or during the 6 months of the year when it’s too cold for that, to actually touch my house plants and their soil–with my hands. I don’t want a moisture meter telling me when to water, some light meter giving me foot candle readings or anything of the sort. I have eyes (albeit compromised ones) and hands and gardening is my escape from all the technology that I use in the rest of my life.

A survey conducted by Axiom Marketing in November 2020 said that gardeners 56+ (their categories were 18-28, 29-39, 40-55, and 56+) do not use gardening apps. Only 8% of the 56+ category used any apps at all. I am definitely not in that 8%.

And it’s not that I don’t think that apps aren’t useful. It’s more that I want time away from technology. For a long time, I didn’t even take my phone when I went outside. I didn’t want to hear it ring (perish the thought!) and I surely didn’t want to ever check email.

And while there might be useful functions–planners, graphs, etc.–that the phone can do–I have kept a paper garden journal for literally decades. It’s no hardship to write things down at the end of the day for me. It cements them into my brain. And the physical book is useful for storing garden receipts and notes about what I might need to buy for next year too.

So am I an old gardening lady? Maybe–and that’s fine. But for me, my garden is a place to decompress and unwind. And I am keeping it that way.