How can you help our pollinators this Spring?
With longer days, warmer weather and spring busting into life all around us, many of us are starting to reach for the lawnmower after a long winter.
But - is mowing your lawn really the best thing to do for our pollinators this spring?
With many insects now starting to leave their winter slumber and begin foraging again, our garden lawns can be a vital food source for our pollinating pals. In this article, we learn how frequent is too frequent and how leaving your lawn a little longer can support one of the most vital organisms in our ecosystem.
When it comes to providing a meal for our pollinators, it makes sense that cutting your lawn in early spring is not always the best thing to do. Plantlife's “Every Flower Counts” campaign showed that that 80% of lawns supported the equivalent of around 400 bees a day from the nectar produced by flowers such as early spring flowering dandelion, daisies, and white clover. 20% of lawns (dubbed “superlawns”) were found to be supporting 10 times as many – up to 4,000 bees a day!
So, when and how is it best to mow? The famous "No Mow May" initiative, also started by Plantlife in 2020, found that the highest production of flowers and nectar sugar was on lawns cut once every four weeks. This gives ‘short-grass’ plants like daisies and white clover a chance to flower in profusion, boosting nectar production tenfold.
“The sheer quantity of flowers and nectar production on lawns mown once a month can be astonishing," Dr Trevor Dines, Plantlife’s Botanical Specialist, explains. "We’ve discovered that plants like daisy, white clover and bird’s-foot trefoil are superbly adapted to growing in shorter swards. These short-grass, ‘mower-ducking’ plants stay low down with stems well out of the way of the mower blades, but continually produce large numbers of flowers every few weeks. If these flowers are cut off by mowing, it just stimulates the plants to produce yet more flowers, boosting nectar production."
However, they also found that areas of longer unmown grass were more diverse in their range of flowers, with other nectar-rich plants like oxeye daisy, field scabious and knapweed increasing the range of nectar sources for different pollinators and extending nectar availability into late summer.
This means that it is best to keep 2 lengths of grass in your garden, some short, mown every 4 weeks, and some long - left to its own devices to grow and bloom! Dr Dines added: "For flowers, bees and butterflies there is one lawn ‘haircut’ that really suits: the mohican. Most should be given a monthly cut to boost short sward plants but there should also ideally be an area set aside for longer grass where floral diversity abounds.”
So, the best way to help our pollinators thrive in 2022 is to do nothing, that's right, lock the lawn mower up and let your grass grow for the whole of May!
When its time to give it a trim come June, leave some of that lovely blooming long grass and you'll notice an abundance of our tiny pollinating friends stopping by for some lunch.
Want to monitor pollinator activity across your site? Check out Polly - our in-field pollinator monitor to see how many pollinators your garden is supporting!