Cleveland Heights Embraces "No Mow May"

Advocates say the initiative will help wildlife and save resources.

Let it grow, let it grow
Can't trim it back anymore
Let it grow, let it grow

As warm weather finally makes its way to Northeast Ohio, one suburb is embracing a natural alternative to high-maintenance lawn care.

For the rest of the month, Cleveland Heights will not enforce grass length violations and will limit mowing on public properties and road medians to cases, “where a health and safety concern must be addressed, such as mowing a visibility strip around the perimeter of a median to ensure a safer driving environment,” according to an executive order from Mayor Khalil Seren.

The goal is to create better conditions for insects like bees and fireflies in early spring, which can have limited floral resources. The initiative also aims to save money and water while reducing air and noise pollution.

The No Mow May movement was started in the United Kingdom by citizen scientists in 2019 and has spread internationally since.

Lawns are the single largest irrigated crop grown in the United States, beating out corn and soy and spanning 40 million acres. But short grass doesn’t offer much environmental benefit and can actually harm local environments.

“Grass-only lawns lack floral resources and nesting sites for bees and are often treated with pesticides that harm bees and other invertebrates,” according to Bee City USA, a program dedicated to pollinator conservation. “When we think of habitat loss, we tend to imagine bulldozers and rutted dirt, but acres of manicured lawn are as much a loss of habitat as any development site.”

But the movement is not without its critics. New York based turf specialist Tamson Yeh told the Associated Press, “It’s such a nice slogan, but letting the grass grow high and allowing it to do its thing, and then suddenly mowing it back is really counterproductive.”

Some critics argue that, because bees return to and share with each other locations of food sources, creating temporary havens like longer lawns in No Mow May can confuse them and leave them vulnerable to predators when lawns are cut in June. Instead, some recommend planting native plants or growing a wildflower meadow.

Plus, there's the issue of dandelions, which are a non-native invasive species. Though those can be treated with herbicides.

For those planning on participating, lawn experts caution against cutting long grass all at once. To avoid damaging grass, it’s recommended never to cut more than a third of the lawn’s length at once. For example, if grass is six inches on June 1, gardeners will want to avoid taking off more than two inches on the first pass, then wait a couple of days before mowing again.

Subscribe to Cleveland Scene newsletters.

Follow us: Google News | NewsBreak | Reddit | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter
Scroll to read more Cleveland News articles


Join Cleveland Scene Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.