Kahnawake residents encouraged biodiversity by not cutting lawns for month of May

·3 min read
Megan Day, who lives in the Mohawk community of Kahnawake southwest of Montreal, says she has been impressed by the amount of life her uncut grass attracts.  (John Ngala/CBC - image credit)
Megan Day, who lives in the Mohawk community of Kahnawake southwest of Montreal, says she has been impressed by the amount of life her uncut grass attracts. (John Ngala/CBC - image credit)

The grass in front of Megan Day's home in the Mohawk community of Kahnawake southwest of Montreal is pretty high.

But it's not because she's too lazy to mow her lawn. She was among dozens of homes participating in the community's No Mow May challenge.

They left their lawns uncut so nature could do its thing, allowing pollinators to take advantage of the flowering plants and for other wildlife to frolic in the knee-high greenery. The aim was to encourage biodiversity in the community.

"It was cool because there were little odds and ends coming through — little butterflies swooping in," she said.

"It just seemed like there was more of everything. Because everything now had a place to land, and there's food here. So, the more food, the more creatures and bugs."

John Ngala/CBC
John Ngala/CBC

No Mow May is a campaign created by the U.K.-based group Plantlife and it was adopted by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), which seeks to convince Canadians it's OK to let their lawns grow wild.

"If you imagine dozens and dozens of backyards doing things to improve habitat for native pollinators and migratory birds, this can have a big impact on nature and the quality of our urban ecosystems," said Dan Kraus, NCC's senior conservation biologist, in a news release last year.

The Kahnawake Environment Protection Office (KEPO) invited its community members to participate, even offering participants the potential to win prizes.

Julie Delisle, the environmental education liaison at the Kahnawake Environment Protection Office, said about 60 people signed up officially, but plenty of others joined the challenge without registering.

She hopes even more take part in the initiative next year, she said.

"I think we can have the whole, entire community participate," said Delisle. "We could have all organizations. We can have all the parks participating and public spaces."

As for Day, she said she's going to make No Mow May an annual tradition at her house.

"We have big, big dragonflies now," she said. "I love it."

While the No Mow May movement is gaining in popularity, some conservationists say there's more people can do to help pollinators, such as bees, butterflies and moths, get access to food year-round.

John Ngala/CBC
John Ngala/CBC

Marian Whitcomb, a native habitat reconstructionist in Nova Scotia, said instead of a green monoculture lawn peppered with yellow dandelions, she is working to develop a wildflower meadow teeming with goldenrods, asters, wild strawberry bushes and other native plants.

She owns a little less than half a hectare (about an acre) and 70 per cent of it is devoted to keeping it in a natural state and letting native species go wild.

"My husband and I sit on our deck in the morning overlooking the brook, have coffee, and see phenomenally amazing birds," she said.

Melanie Priesnitz, a conservation horticulturist at Acadia University's Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens, said people should reconsider their lawns altogether.

"What we really need to do is support biodiversity," said Priesnitz.

"Having things blooming all through our gardens, our lawns and all of our wild spaces is really key to supporting pollinators and to help increase biodiversity."

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