In Your Opinion: Save The Mow ‘Till Earth Day 2024

Submitted by the Franklin Township Environmental Commission.

In 2022 the Franklin Township Environmental Commission initiated an early Spring alternative lawn care project that would improve the population of pollinators in Franklin and engage the public to participate and have fun. Pollinator is a collective term for insects, such as bees, that are a critical component of our environment and agriculture, carrying pollen from flower to flower so that flowers turn into seeds and fruits.

When pollinators wake up from their winter hibernation, they need good foraging resources to grow, reproduce and pollinate. Our lawns – if they contain beneficial flowers – are an ideal source of nectar. The pollinator population is declining due to various human activities including loss of habitat and neonicotinoid pesticides.

The idea of not mowing for an extended period of time was born in 2020 in Appleton, WI., and coined as No Mow May, where residents skip on mowing their lawns in May to allow for the wildflowers in their lawns to bloom, effectively providing food for foraging bees and other pollinators.

Through our initial trials in Franklin Township in 2022, a member of our Township’s Environmental Commission, who is connected to Rutgers Environmental Stewardship program, learned that most of the beneficial flowers that serve as food for pollinators, such as dandelion and clover, bloom in March and April. In May, our lawns are mostly grass that just grows tall. It is then difficult to mow and produces more pollen that can cause allergic reactions. Also the tick season starts in May.

The Environmental Commission received more recommendations after consultation with Professor Michele Bakacs, Rutgers Cooperative Extension and Statewide Coordinator, Rutgers Environmental Stewards.

“Lawns are important where they are needed. As a rule of thumb, if the only time homeowners use a portion of their lawn is when they mow it, they should question whether they really need such a large lawn.” So, Professor Bakacs recommends encouraging people to reduce their lawn size, rather than avoid mowing it for part of the year. Alternatively, establish permanent no-mow zones, and seed with native pollinator friendly plants. Or put in a native garden bed.

In the Spring of 2023, a few township volunteers evaluated a modified “No-Mow” project by delaying the first mow until the Earth Day. The results were much better. By Earth Day, the grass had variable heights between four and 12 inches, mostly around eight inches. The Franklin Township ordinance limits our grass height to 10 inches, so we were not terribly off. Most importantly, we noticed a lot more life in our yards than previously.

The Franklin Township Environmental Commission invites ALL residents of Franklin Township to join us for Save-Mow-Till-Earth-Day (SMTED) beginning in 2024. Participation is very easy.

  1. Do not apply any weed killer from now on – this will save you time and money and allow beneficial plants to grow. No dandelion seeding is necessary, the fluffy parachutes will find their way into the lawn. Clover may need more time to develop and if homeowners can apply clover seeds, that would be even better.
  2. Designate a section of your lawn that is not used often for activities. Front lawn is your best bet.
  3. If you have an irrigation system, it is recommended to decrease the lawn watering as the native plants tend to do much better in low water conditions than cultivated grass. Saving water is always good and it saves money.
  4. When the season starts, do not mow until Earth Day, April 22. Depending on the condition of your lawn (max grass height 12”) and your personal schedule, you may choose to mow earlier or later. Not mowing during SMTED will save you time and if you are still using a gas mower, it will also save you money, potential headaches and long term health effects from inhaling toxic fumes.
  5. Optional: Before your first mow, take 1-3 photos of your lawn and send them to the Franklin Twp Environmental Commission, environmental.commission@franklinnj.gov with SMTED in the subject. The best pictures will be displayed on official Franklin Twp Social Media pages.

Rest assured that the ordinance regulating grass height will not be enforced until after April 29.

Full original No-Mow-May report is available upon request.

Your Thoughts


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