In the spring, gardens should not be green, perfectly cut lawns. They can thrive with wildlife, and Plantlife is challenging people to join No Mow May.
This spring, it’s particularly wet and dry, but whether we believe it or not, we are already in the middle of May. It’s the time of flowering, trees are getting greener and nature is getting back to life. Bugs included.
But precisely, insects are the key in the ecosystem chain. They pollinate and keep the soil healthy, although sometimes they annoyingly sting.
Conservation charity Plantlife is encouraging people to park the mower in the shed and let the garden rewild as part of its No Mow May campaign. Essentially, what it’s asking people to do is absolutely nothing: don’t manicure the grass in your back garden. You will see how many flowers pop up, which will attract pollinators. It might be the most straightforward action of environmental activism.
Dr Trevor Dines, a botanical specialist at Plantlife, says: “Our gardens have become increasingly important for wildlife, and there’s been a real groundswell of enthusiasm now to bring wildlife back into our gardens.”
To spice things up, Plantlife is also challenging garden-owners to share their beautiful, messy yards through social media and take part in the citizen science survey, Every Flower Counts. Kids love it.
This survey will run from May 22 to 31. It asks people to take a picture of a random square metre of your garden. You can measure the frame by just using four 1-metre sticks and making a square. Dines suggests throwing a ball over your shoulder to avoid cheating, and choosing the best part of your garden.
Just in a couple of weeks, you will have a number of wildflowers, like daisies, dandelions or white clovers. So, the scientific part of the challenge is to count them and submit it to Plantlife’s website. They will calculate how many pollinators they have attracted, and give you a Nectar Score.
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“For the first time, we can show how the frequency of mowing directly affects the number of pollinators you can attract. Put simply, the less you mow, the more bees and butterflies where will be in your garden,” explains Dines.
It’s estimated that there are around 23 million gardens in the UK, which account for more than 1 million acres. It is a lot of land with a huge potential for insects, literally in our backyards.
The key, of course, is not to use pesticides and herbicides in our lawn, as they are one of the main reasons for the wildlife habitat declines. Bear in mind that insects are predators and keep pests away.
Over 97% of species-rich meadows and grasslands have been lost since the 1930s. This land has been transformed into intensive pasture and monocultures, mainly to feed livestock. Human development has also transformed a major part of it. So it’s our way of paying back.
Although we may think of bees as the queen of pollinators, many other creatures have a role to play: butterflies, flies, beetles and birds. Tanya Latty from the University of Sydney says: “Flowers are an important source of food for insects such as bees, butterflies, wasps and hoverflies. Sugary nectar is an important source of carbohydrates, while pollen packs a protein punch.” She advises planting colourful flowers of different types and avoiding chemicals.
There is a broad acceptance in the scientific world that insects are dying; many academics warn that we are likely to be in the sixth mass extinction. And although it’s very hard to quantify, they agree insects are nearing extinction at a at high speed. So next time you see a bug, instead of killing it, give it a rich flower to pollinate.