“A lawn is nature under totalitarian rule,” mused Michael Pollan, who writes about the intersection of the human and natural worlds in his 1991 book Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education. The precise dictates of lawn maintenance can yield visually alluring but environmentally damaging results. No Mow May, the counter-movement, allows nature and its pollinators to break free from the cultism of lawn care.
No Mow, or Low Mow May, encourages lawn owners to reduce cutting or leave the mower in the shed entirely during the first month of spring to aid pollinators (bees, birds, bats, butterflies, moths, beetles, wasps, and small mammals) as they emerge from their nests in search of food, in the form of early flowering plants and weeds left to grow unchecked.
Inaugurated in 2019 as an unofficial movement by UK-based Plantlife, which has restored nearly 16,000 acres of meadows in the UK since 1989, and carried forward in the US by the Xerces Society, No Mow May implores us to let go and let grow.
Our modern gardens and lawns are often filled with exotic plants that have no relation to their geographical location. The 40 million acres of decorative non-native turf grass that blanket the US are the single largest irrigated crop in the country. This equates to half the acreage of the entire National Park system.
The difference between the two is that National Parks are a functional and participating part of our collective ecosystems, while gardens and lawns are a sort of eco-sterilization under the control of an army of fertilizers and carbon emission-challenged lawnmowers, battling the earth rather than working with it, Sunday after Sunday.
Forgoing lawn maintenance is a kind of earth activism in itself. Voluntary nature reparations and an acknowledgment that our lawns are not really ours at all.
“Owning a garden, however small, is a privilege, pleasure, and a responsibility,” regenerative designer, craftsman, and environmentalist Sebastian Cox wrote in 2021. “Not a responsibility to grow prize veg, although growing your own food is immeasurably rewarding, but a responsibility to not lay that land useless to other species.”
To rewild our domestic landscapes by letting our lawns grow freely is not only a service to the planet but also embraces an aesthetic untethered by crisp corners and meticulously planned color palettes.