A climate action evanston program

No Mow May

Think outside the Lawn

More about what we're doing

Most recent version posted on:
May 2, 2024
No Mow May yard sign
No Mow May yard sign

What is no Mow May? 

Try a respite from lawn maintenance, and see how it feels. Do Less!  

If you have a turf lawn, pause your mowing in May. See if you get pollinator visitors and native sparrows in your grass. Reconsider your turf, and whether you can diversity your yard. Above all, our gardens should give us joy.

Want a Yard sign to explain your yard and spread the word?

Sign up here and donate for a sign.

Why care? 

In the long run, mowing less saves on energy, water, expense and chemicals.  The best solution, reducing lawn with native trees, shrubs and wildflowers, also benefits biodiversity. Songbird populations have dropped by about 1/3 since 1970, and various species of bees and butterflies have declined as much as 80-90%. Many communities have embraced the No Mow May idea. Studies are just getting going on its impact on insect and migratory birds.

I don't like the look of No Mow May lawns.

Love or Hate No Mow May, it encourages us to rethink the culture of lawns. What are we doing with lawns?  Why? Is there a better way? All good questions. If your neighbor's lawn bothers you, start a conversation. No Mow May may be as much a social human experiment as it is a biodiversity effort.

Is this something we should do every year?  

Absolutely! This is a pilot effort to try it out.

Are there ways to avoid mowing all year long?  

Definitely. 

  • Shrink your Lawn.  Plant a tree or shrub/s and surround them with mulch to reduce your lawn.  Or replace turf with a wildflower garden.  
  • Use short turf alternatives.  Seed your lawn with short native grass that doesn’t need mowing, like buffalo grass, or the non-native no mow mixes from greenedens.com, prairiemoon.com or prairienursery.com.
  • Mow less often.  Letting your grass grow a little bit taller can send its roots deeper and allow it to better withstand dry spells. Let low growing violets and clover bloom and feed pollinators. 

What if it stresses me out?  

No Mow is voluntary. Our yards should bring us joy. If No Mow May is adding stress, mow. Life is too short. You tried it out.  Good on you!

If you want to keep an area of your yard turfgrass, and not transition to native or no-mow options, you can mow less often and at a higher mower height. Embrace no-mow for the other parts of your yard that incorporate native plants.

What about my neighbors?  

An optional yard sign can help explain why your lawn is so lush :)  If you use Facebook, let us know any comments you receive good or bad at https://www.facebook.com/groups/naturalhabitatevanston/. 

What about City ordinances?  

In 2023, the City started enforcing its mowing ordinance May 15. We do not know if that rule will continue to apply. We also do not know if turf grass heights will reach 8” and trigger our weed ordinance if they are unmowed through May; that will also depend on rains. If you do get ticketed in late May, you can mow immediately or see if there is a grace period to mow before the end of May.

What about dandelions?  

Natural Habitat would recommend to anyone participating that they pull seedheads of non-native invasives, including dandelion, to reduce spread. (Even though dandelion are nonnative, they are a major source of early spring nectar in our degraded, lawn-dominant landscapes.)  

Resources

"No Mow May" Yard Sign

Sign up and donate for a No Mow May yard sign

Donate for a signDonate for a sign

No Mow May

No Mow May, NHE. Signs for a donation.

Donate for a signDonate for a sign

NWF WIldlife Certification

Certify your habitat with NWF

Certify with NWFCertify with NWF

Our Leafblower Door Hanger

NHE Leafblower Door Hanger

NHE Leafblower Door HangerNHE Leafblower Door Hanger

Who Lives in our Garden Debris? I want examples.

PPT showing some creatures we throw out with our debris.

See the PPTSee the PPT

Gardening that Matters PPT

NHE presentation to North Shore Senior Center tuesday club. Variations used for other groups. March 2023

Check out the PowerPointCheck out the PowerPoint

Our Natural Habitat Newsletter Signup

Sign up for the NHE Newsletter

NHE Newsletter SignupNHE Newsletter Signup

Transitioning from Turf PPT

Presentation on Transitioning from Turf (Powerpoint), January 2023. Touches on the issues with turf, why native plants, why leave leaves, concerns about neonicotinoids and outdoor lighting.

Transitioning From Turf PowerpointTransitioning From Turf Powerpoint

Transitioning from Turf presentation to FLOW

Transitioning from Turf presentation to FLOW (Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed, Columbus, Ohio) lead by Leslie Shad, NHE Lead. DIscusses the issues with turf, why native plants and why leave leaves, the concern about neonicotinoids, and how to navigate outdoor lighting.

Transitioning from Turf Video PresentationTransitioning from Turf Video Presentation

Cleanup with Pollinators in Mind

Garden Cleanup with Pollinators in Mind, Evanston Roundtable, 2019

Read hereRead here

Gardening that Matters video presentation

Gardening that Matters. Get Started or Enhance your Native Garden.  March 2023 presentation to North Shore Senior Center's Tuesday Club. A simple way to take action for climate, community healthand biodiversity: Swap out your lawn for native plants.  Reconsidering theculture of lawns. Why it matters, steps to prioritize, how to get started, andhow to amplify the change. Leslie Shad of Natural Habitat Evanston presents.

See videoSee video

NWF Native Plants Finder: Search your zip code for plants ranked by Tallamy

Website database: search your zip code for plants ranked by Tallamy

Check out your zip code Check out your zip code

Audubon Plants for Birds Database by zip code

Audubon Plants for Birds Database

Audubon Plants for Birds DatabaseAudubon Plants for Birds Database

Chicago Audubon Society Plants for Birds

Chicago Audubon Society Plants for Birds

Chicago Audubon Society Plants for BirdsChicago Audubon Society Plants for Birds

In Wisconsin: Stowing Mowers, Pleasing Bees article

In Wisconsin: Stowing Mowers, Pleasing Bees, NY Times, March 28, 2022

Go to articleGo to article

No Mow May factsheet from Midwest Grows Green

No Mow May factsheet from Midwest Grows Green

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No Mow: Bee City

Read what Bee City says about No Mow

Read hereRead here

A Smarter Fall Cleanup

We now know that an overly aggressive approach to cleaning up in autumn can damage the environment. So what’s a responsible gardener to do?
Margaret Roach, The New York Times, A Smarter Fall Cleanup, 2020

Read hereRead here

The issues with Lawns

Freakonomics, How Stupid is our Obsession with Lawns

Freakonomics lawn transcriptFreakonomics lawn transcript

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - search native plants by state

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - search native plants by state

Lady Bird Johnson WIldflower Search State DatabaseLady Bird Johnson WIldflower Search State Database

You're Needed! Here Are Some Involvement Opportunities

Donating to Climate Action Evanston and earmarking your donation for Natural Habitat Evanston. You can further earmark your donation to one of our initiatives.

Take the Pollinator and Bird Pledge

take the pledgetake the pledge

Join our Pollinator Pledge and let the city and landscapers know we care about sustainable yards. Take an optional yard sign to spread the word.

Join the Natural Habitat Evanston Newsletter

subscribesubscribe

Stay updated on green goings on in Evanston, workdays, advocacy issues and more.

Buffalo Grass Anyone?

Buffalo GrassBuffalo Grass

$25/bag to local residents (pickup; no shipping). We also have some $5 seed packets of bottlebrush and little bluestem grass. While supplies last. Emails should include your phone number and which species you are requesting. Pay by check payable to Citizens’ Greener Evanston at pickup.

Volunteer at plantings and invasive removals: parks and schools

Outdoor workdaysOutdoor workdays

Help at outdoor workdays

Join No Mow May

No Mow MayNo Mow May

Rethink how you Lawn

Sign on: Northwestern students Petition for Bird-Friendly Films at Mudd Library

Sign onSign on

Northwestern students Petition for Bird-Friendly Films at Mudd Library. Mudd Library accounts for over 14% of bird deaths and injuries on campus each year. Applying patterned window film to a portion of the building would dramatically reduce collisions that are fatal to birds.

More Ways to Volunteer: Spread the word

Email usEmail us

Share out brochures, doorhangers, or flyers. Collect a bunch of materials on the 5th Ward Tree Giveaway, Pollinator Pledge, Eco landscaping, Yard care, Light pollution, Leaf blowers are an eco-disaster, or Buffalo Grass.

Join our Facebook Group

NHE FB GroupNHE FB Group

Get updates and share your thoughts on our FB Group. You can also check out our FB page here https://www.facebook.com/NaturalHabitatEvanston

More yard signs: Mowing, Leaves, Leafblowers?

2-Sided Yard Sign2-Sided Yard Sign

Just want to spread the word on certain steps? Mow Less-Leave Leaves (2-sided yard sign) or Leafblowers sign

Join the Isabella Woods Newsletter

Isabella Woods NewsletterIsabella Woods Newsletter

Get news the next time there is a threat to Isabella Woods. (Only sent when there is news.)

Certify with National Wildlife Federation

Certify now with NWFCertify now with NWF

Provide Food, Water, Shelter, Places to Raise Young and Sustainable Steps for wildlife. It helps Evanston maintain its NWF Community-wide Wildlife Habitat certification.

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