No Mow May

Monoculture lawns, and the traditional care necessary to maintain them, have significant negative environmental impacts. Lawn increases volume and speed of storm water runoff carrying eroded sediments, fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides into local waterways. Also, compared to perennial vegetation, lawns do not provide food or habitat for many insects, and contribute to a decrease in native insect populations, which in turn impacts bird and wildlife populations. Overall, lawns harm our waterways and local wildlife.

Monoculture Lawn
This is an example of a monoculture lawn. This is a prime example of monoculture (where one crop or species dominates a given area). We often see this type of lawn everywhere, so it seems natural, however what you may fail to see is the loss of biodiversity. Biodiversity represents the variety of life in a given ecosystem. From birds and bugs to flowers and field mice, a biodiverse landscape looks more like the photo below. A consequence of lacking biodiversity is eliminating food or habitat for many insects, which then impacts up the food web to birds and other fauna.
Biodiverse Lawn
And this is an example of a biodiverse lawn. As you can see, the variety of species promotes more resiliency within the ecosystem. Biodiversity also encourages new species to thrive where they otherwise would have migrated elsewhere. Another benefit to biodiverse lawns is they minimize some of the negative environmental impacts on a bioregion. For example, lawns make storm water runoff worse and erode sediments, fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides into local waterways. 

The “No-Mow May” initiative aims to offset the impact of lawns on biodiversity by asking residents to stop cutting their lawn in May, when native and non-native spring flowers bloom and provide vital nutrients to insects emerging from winter. The City of Montpelier has promoted “No-Mow May” since 2022, with the City Council adopting a resolution in support of the initiative. The change was noticeable: scattered unmown lawns could be observed in neighborhoods throughout the city. However, there was also negative feedback such neighbors’ perceptions of their “neglected” lawns and concern over deer tick populations.

The Montpelier Conservation Commission (MCC) along with our project partners (see below) are working to educate the Montpelier community about the benefits to biodiversity. Residents can go beyond “No-Mow May” and make their properties beneficial to local wildlife and improve our waterways. Residents can reduce lawn area by planting native perennials, shrubs, and trees. This action reduces the area of lawn that is unmown, while enhancing biodiversity by providing food and habitat for native insects, birds, and wildlife, and reduces storm water runoff.

This collaborative education and outreach project includes engagement from the City of Montpelier’s Conservation Commission, Parks Department, and Tree Board; the Vermont Nursery and Landscape Association; the Master Naturalists Program; and Brian Collier (Ecological Artist and professor at St. Michaels College) and Friends of the Winooski River.

External Resources