Last year I wrote about "No Mow May." It's an idea that originated in England and then was adopted by several cities in the U.S.
For example, in 2020, Appleton, Wis., became the first American city to encourage No Mow May. The Appleton City Council agreed to suspend its weed ordinance for the month of May and 435 homeowners registered to take part. The program continued in 2021 and in 2022. Appleton made No Mow May a permanent program.
In Illinois, the Westmont Village Board approved No Mow May until Mother's Day in 2021 and 170 homeowners participated. Registered residents were exempt from lawn mowing code enforcement until after Mother's Day and received a yard sign with a QR code for more information about the program.
The village of Glenview has a similar No Mow 'Til Mother's Day program. Residents can sign up online, and registered residents receive a yard sign and are exempt from lawn mowing code enforcement through Mother's Day. Lawns are expected to be mowed no later than a week after Mother's Day.
Of course, no mow months are dependent on latitude. So, there's No Mow March in Florida and No Mow April in northern Texas.
Here in southern Illinois, I think we could get away with not mowing until April and perhaps even through Mother's Day.
Why have a no mow month, at all? Well, not mowing as frequently in the spring, when there are relatively few flowers blooming, can provide vital food for bees, butterflies and other insects as they come out of their winter hibernation.
I've been practicing a version of this "lazy mower" approach to creating pollinator habitat for several years. I mow around patches of violets, dandelions, daisy fleabane and clover, until they are done flowering.
In Appleton, surveys of mowed versus unmowed lawns found that five times as many and three times the number of bee species visited unmowed lawns compared to mowed lawns. Interestingly, they found that bees were most abundant in lawns mowed approximately every two weeks.
Might some folks not like a no mow month? Sure. But in a world where insect populations are declining and it's estimated that nearly one in four native bee species is imperiled, pollinators need all the help they can get.
Appleton, Westmont and Glenville are examples that no mow months are doable with enlightened local government leadership, and remember, participants can choose to not mow their entire lawn or just a small section of it.
Needless to say, I've got my fingers crossed that Carbondale will soon add its name to the growing list of Bee Cities across America. And it seems like a no-brainer that Southern Illinois could adopt a similar approach to mowing, at least on parts of the campus.
In the end, friends, every yard used to be some kind of native habitat. So, returning some of that, even if it's just by not mowing for a few weeks in Spring, seems like the least we could do for the wildlife that is struggling to survive us.
• Michael Eric Baltz writes about the changing world from his home in Carbondale.