Make your garden grow: the pros and cons of No Mow May

Alison Ward examines the impact of ditching the lawnmower for a month, and how students can continue biodiversity efforts all year round

Trinity’s aspirations to bring biodiversity to the college is in full bloom with the discovery of a rare ‘orchid meadow’ in Front Square. The native broad-leaved helleborine was finally given the opportunity it’d been looking for to flourish for all to see, motivating the college’s decision to extend No Mow May into the summer months. The excitement surrounding the finding wasn’t just for the flower, but for the irrefutable proof that not perfectly trimming our lawns can bring about the revitalization of the country’s native wildlife. 

There are many benefits to participating in No Mow May, both personal and environmental. The more recognizable effects are the immediate rewards reaped from allowing the grass to grow for just one month. As prices increase, not having to fuel the lawnmower will cut costs. Additionally, the free time can be spent elsewhere on more important or fulfilling activities. Blossoming plants and flowers deliver vibrancy and a sense of life to the garden. After the dark winter months, uncut lawns and hedges can attract nest-building birds, animals and early pollinators, who would otherwise struggle to locate food and other resources required to survive. 

However, as beneficial as No Mow May seems to be, the temporary support carries unintended consequences when the grass is cut once again, and the wildlife is then faced with diminished food resources and habitat loss. This begs the question, how effective is No Mow May? Should we be looking at more long-term solutions to help biodiversity? 

There is an emerging argument for maintaining areas of natural gardens past the month of May. This extension encourages biodiversity throughout the year, providing a longer lasting impact to the ecosystem. We can help biodiversity more by embracing the rewilding of gardens and urban land from spring until autumn, with one such example growing right on Trinity’s doorstep. This allows these spaces to act as important biodiversity reservoirs and stave off habitat loss for endangered native species. 

The growth of wildflowers provides both a food source and hunting ground, maintaining the balance of nature against the urban background”

Taking the leap from a perfectly trimmed garden to a more untamed look can be daunting, especially when facing societal pressures to keep up appearances. Fortunately, the journey to becoming biodiverse and eco-friendly can be tailored to suit everyone’s individual taste. You can customize your garden to suit your needs, leaving certain areas of the garden reserved for wildlife without sacrificing trimmed areas for personal use. Providing this network of semi-natural areas is important for the survival of our native flora and fauna. They help to increase the populations of pollinators, like bees and butterflies, by providing essential habitats. This allows them to safely breed, increasing their numbers and keeping our native wildlife away from the dangers of population decline and extinction. The growth of wildflowers provides both a food source and hunting ground, maintaining the balance of nature against the urban background. Planting native trees and plants protects the earth, provides essential ecosystem services, and encourages further native wildlife growth, while ensuring the continuity of important native species year after year. 

Depression and anxiety levels can also be reduced from exposure to plants and wildlife that help stimulate calmness and a sense of connection to nature”

Not only do natural gardens and meadows create huge benefits for the biodiversity of an area, but they also offer mental health benefits. Stress can be reduced throughby less pressure and maintenance involved with semi-natural gardens. Depression and anxiety levels can also be reduced from exposure to plants and wildlife that help stimulate calmness and a sense of connection to nature. Cultivating semi-natural gardens promotes a sense of accomplishment with less responsibility. You can improve biodiversity while simultaneously improving your personal well-being in the process. For students, this could provide a boost during high-pressure exam seasons. 

For those of us without lawns to care for, there are many ways and methods for students to promote biodiversity with low effort. And it doesn’t have to break the bank either – simple things make a big difference. Adapting small habits such as buying second hand, using reusable cups in coffee shops, and recycling/upcycling personal items all promote an eco-conscious lifestyle that helps the environment. Not only do they benefit the ecosystem, but they benefit your pocket, leaving you with that much-needed extra bit of cash. Even so, the most important thing students can do is stay informed and engaged with biodiversity efforts. Educating and encouraging others to get involved helps promote awareness. Participating in local events and joining societies (EnviroSoc & KnitSoc) helps students become more involved in the environment. Students can avail of resources such as the Trinity lunchtime lecture webinars delivered by a panel of professors on climate action and sustainability featured in Trinity Today Summer Edition 2023, published and sent out to all students via email in late July. By keeping informed and mindful of their habits, students can enjoy the natural gardens and benefits of biodiversity in good conscience, knowing they too are doing their part to protect our natural flora and fauna.

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