To Mow or not To Mow

After No Mow May comes Let It Bloom June! Now that we’re at the start of summer, the question on the minds of those of us participating is, when is the right time to cut the grass. But before you take the mower to the lovely habitat you’ve cultivated for the last eight weeks, here are some ideas to consider to continue helping wildlife while maintaining your green spaces, depending on your goals for wildlife.

Zone by Zone 

Diversity invites diversity, so by cutting grass sections to different lengths you’ll see a greater variety of butterflies, moths, bumblebees etc. Longer grass provides more shade and retains moisture which can also provide a haven for small mammals and ground nesting birds during heatwaves. Keeping the verges long, you can have the functionality of short cut grass while still helping wildlife.

Cut and Collect

If your goal is to increase wildflowers and colour in your green spaces, then timing is critical to make sure that you have as many species as possible next year. Many wildflower species are annual and only flower once per life cycle, so need to be allowed to set seed before being cut if you want to increase the chances of seeing those species the next year. Where wildflowers thrive, grasses suffer and vice versa. Wildflowers prefer low-fertility soils so to ensure that wildflowers are not out-competed by common grass species, it’s important to remove any cuttings from the site to prevent nutrients from entering the soil.

Eviction Notice

If the grass has grown particularly long, it will likely be home to several animal species who’ve made their home there. Several species who are active in the summer can be found hidden in the tall grasses such as grass snakes, voles and ground nesting birds whose nests are protected by law when in active use. It is vital when cutting long grass to give the residents a chance to find other accommodations to reduce the harm that cutting the grass could cause. Be sure to cut during the day when it is warm so that reptiles are alert enough to get out of the way. Try to cut towards hedges and edges to prevent creating herding animals to the centre of the planned cut and allow them an escape route. It’s worth completing a short investigation before cutting to assess how many animals can be found and if any nests are present. If the grass is particularly dense or long, then a two-stage cut is recommended to further give notice to the wildlife. This involves first cutting the grass to 30cm, waiting a few days, then cutting the grass to the desired length; while more labour intensive, this is the best method to ensure that wildlife can safely leave the area.