When I was young, I hated mowing the lawn. Not because I didn’t like doing chores, I simply felt that it was a pointless exercise. I never liked lawns to begin with. I was aways a fan of woods, gardens, meadows – aesthetically pleasing settings that are contributing natural habitats. Ones that did not disrupt the natural balance of Mother Nature.
As I got older, I became more aware of why I disliked lawns. I learned about the environmental reasons that lawns were not good for cities, suburbs, or even the outskirts of town, where they now proliferate. Noise pollution, gas fumes, poor water retention, harmful spraying, and habitat eradication were all part of the problem.
On Saturday mornings in the summertime, just as the birds awaken and sound off, so do the lawnmowers. “Mow, mow, mow…,” I always chant to my wife, who is now accustomed to living with a pro- “Low Mow, No Mow” husband.
The other day I got a message from a friend who told me that I should talk to Karima Bondi, a fellow No Mow enthusiast. So I decided to call Karima – President, Willowlawn Street Block Club – who has been in talks with Councilmember Joel Feroleto about bringing a proposal before Common Council that would establish a month-long hiatus on mowing lawns each year in May. Actually, it would probably be more of an incentive than an ordinance, but it’s got to start somewhere.
The ‘growing’ initiative is being called No Mow May. If this was to come to pass, there would be a community-wide effort in place to call for No Mowing until June 1st.
“There’s a recent NY Times article about another municipality (Appleton, WI) that recently adopted this initiative, as have many others throughout the US,” wrote Bondi, in a recent email to me and Feroleto. “It has been highly successful, not only in promoting the lives of some of our most essential workers (pollinators!) but also as a means to bring together and celebrate community.”
Spring is the time when the insects forage for the first flowers, which initially sustains them. This is also the time that many insects are newly awakening in patches of leaves. But, year after year, before any of this can happen, the mowers are out in full force, razing the natural habitats, all in the name of Jack Nicklaus. After all, we have been conditioned through TV commercials to keep our lawns mowed, not to mention sprayed with harmful pesticides and insecticides, which I can’t even believe is still legal considering ever-escalating disease and cancer rates.
It’s important to remember that a No Mow lawn can be a beautiful lawn, if done right. Whether it’s transitioning to a ground cover, a garden populated by easy-to-maintain native plants, or going with a full-blown “bee lawn,” there are plenty of options available that can help the struggling pollinators.
As I chatted with Karima, I asked her how she came to be such an ardent No Mow May advocate.
“I’ve been an organic gardener all my life,” she answered. “I’m a retired BPS teacher. I retired 5 years ago. I applied to the City and got a Love Your Block grant for a little island in Parkside. Now the lot has been converted from grass and weeds to a natural flowering oasis that promotes biodiversity. We’ve also had support from the Buffalo Garden Walk, as well as the Parkside Community Association. When I heard about No Mow May, with cities around the US adopting the measure, I thought that it would be a great initiative for Buffalo. We would probably need signs for the No Mow May initiative, to let people know that this an important project, not just lazy homeowners that aren’t mowing their lawns. We must stop with the constant lawnmowers and leaf blowers (why leaves are so important), the loud motors and gas fumes, and the cheapening of our lands.”
It’s good to know that we have such a staunch No Mow advocate in our midst, helping to dispel the myth that maintaining lifeless lawns somehow makes us better neighbors. Instead of trying to keep up with the Joneses and their dated, over-manicured lawns, maybe we should just ask Mother Nature what’s best?
I will be keeping in contact with Councilmember Feroleto and Karima Bondi regarding the possibility of pushing the No Mow May initiative in 2023, as it is already too late to do so in 2022. In the meantime, be sure to read this article in Bee City USA, which will surely get you rethinking the value of your lawn, and the power of flowers.
Lead image: Anne, John, Lynn, and Karima