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Give that dandelion a break this May, says Highland ranger

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Making Space for Nature by Eilidh-Ann Philips

People are encourgaed not to moy their lawns in May to help encourage meadow flowers which attract pollinators.
People are encourgaed not to moy their lawns in May to help encourage meadow flowers which attract pollinators.

No Mow May is one of the easiest ways we can “make space for nature” in our gardens – and it really is as simple as leaving your mower locked up in the shed for month of May!

Now in its fifth year, No Mow May was originally launched by British conservation charity Plantlife in 2019 to encourage gardeners to leave at least a small area of lawn to bloom and provide much needed habitat for our pollinating insects.

According to Plantlife, we have lost over 7 million acres of wildflower meadow in the last 100 years, which has had a devastating effect on our butterflies, bees and other pollinating insects.

But what difference will a wee patch of wildflowers in my garden make? With over 15 million gardens in the UK, all these small patches could join up and create a vast network of plants for our pollinators – a huge impact on biodiversity and species loss. In the words of Helen Keller: “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much”.

Most gardeners like to keep their gardens neat and orderly – lawns kept flat and green, all weeds removed and dead plant matter destined immediately to the bonfire or compost heap. But many of these “weeds” are actually an incredible source of nectar and pollen for our insects, and as soon as the mower is locked away, they will start to grow and flower at an incredible rate. Dandelion, clover, daisy and bugle all pop up very quickly and can provide a sea of colour within the four short weeks of May.

The Dandelion – enemy of most gardeners. Most garden centres provide a multitude of ways to stop them from “spoiling” your lawn or driveway. And of course there was always the worry as children that they might make you wet the bed! Poor dandelion. But they are often the first flower of the year to provide nectar – hugely important for early insects such as queen bumblebees as they emerge from hibernation.

Eilidh-Ann Phillips, HLH countryside ranger in Lochaber.
Eilidh-Ann Phillips, HLH countryside ranger in Lochaber.

They also have huge health benefits to us humans, containing more vitamins and minerals than many of the fruit and veg we eat on a daily basis, and many medicinal properties too. And that colour!

“Every Flower Counts” is a very easy survey you can do to count the wildflowers growing in your lawn at the end of No Mow May and again in July. It takes only a few minutes to complete, and once you submit your results, Plantlife will send you your Personal Nectar Score to let you know how many bees your lawn can support.

This year, give a dandelion some space to grow as part of No Mow May. The thought of letting your whole lawn run wild might feel a little scary as a first step, so pick a corner of your garden, or a patch within your lawn, resist the urge to mow and see what might appear.

You never know, next year the patch might get a bit bigger or you might be tempted to leave it unmowed for a little longer, and who knows how high your Personal Nectar Score can go.

For more information, check out the Plantlife Website: www.nomowmay.plantlife.org.uk

• Making Space for Nature is a wildlife column with tips about how we can act to help wildlife in our communities. This month’s wildlife columnist is Eilidh-Ann Philips the High Life Highland senior countryside ranger for south Highland.

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