No Mow May
What is No Mow May?
From now until June 1, the Village of Northbrook is suspending enforcement of the Municipal Code for excessive grass height and is encouraging all residents to participate in our "No Mow" initiative to voluntarily delay mowing. This may result in ground-cover exceeding the established ordinance height restrictions of eight inches which is why enforcement is suspended for May.
This practice will allow pollinators to safely emerge and early-flowering grasses and forbs to grow. The opportunity to establish beneficial insect populations (like our native bumblebees) is drastically reduced with early spring leaf litter removal and grass mowing.
Free Pollinator Sign and Seed Packet
No action is required to participate, but residents who wish to receive recognition for their sustainable landscaping efforts can receive a free pollinator garden sign from the Village by contacting the Sustainability Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or 847 664 4134. You can also receive a free packet of wildflower seeds for participating in the program!
Participants are encouraged to share observations (flowers, pollinators) via email during the program period.
Why Should I Participate?
No Mow May encourages biodiversity, sequesters carbon, reduces energy consumption, improves drought tolerance and robustness of lawns, and helps us consider how our actions are impacting the world.
What Grows When You Don't Mow?
When May mowing is delayed in Northbrook, you may find clover or common blue violets flowering in your yard. Our native bees rely on spring blooms for food and energy to start their colonies for the season. As scientists urge that the decline in insect populations is a concerning trend for biodiversity, your yard can make a difference to help the survival of vulnerable species like the Rusty-patch Bumblebee!
Refer to https://www.northbrook.il.us/1057/Pollinator-Habitat for more information on the Rusty-patch Bumblebee.
- What is No Mow May?
Northbrook’s Village President made a proclamation in late April to declare this month as “No Mow May”. Until June 1, the Village of Northbrook is suspending enforcement of the Municipal Code for excessive grass height and is encouraging all residents to participate in our "No Mow" initiative to voluntarily delay mowing.
- Who does this apply to?
Any resident who wishes to participate can choose not to mow all or a portion of their property. The Village is participating on all Village-owned properties and spaces in Northbrook maintained by the Village. The Library and some Park District properties are participating as well.
- Why is Northbrook doing this?
Northbrook committed to the initative because of community concern about declining populations of wildlife due to habitat loss. “No Mow May” is to allow pollinators to safely emerge and early-flowering grasses and forbs to grow. The opportunity to establish beneficial insect populations (like our native bumblebees) is drastically reduced with early spring grass mowing.
- Is Northbrook the only village doing this?
The concept started as a citizen science project in the UK and has been adopted by several US organizations including Xerces. Appleton WI was an early adopter, and Westmont in IL started in 2021. Now there are many other villages in the Chicagoland area that have adopted or are considering adopting No Mow May or versions of it (like No Mow until Mothers’ Day). There are several research studies that can affirm the benefits of the program including one by the United States Forest Service in suburban Springfield, MA. USFS NoMow
- Is there evidence that delayed mowing helps pollinators?
A 2018 study from the USDA Forest Service found an association between delayed mowing in suburban spaces and an increased abundance and diversity of bee species. A 2020 study published in the National Library of Medicine yielded similar results looking at the town of Appleton Wisconsin that adopted a No Mow May proclamation, confirming pollinators make use of key floral resources during early spring in the Midwest.
- How do I participate?
No action is required to participate, but community members who wish to pick up a free pollinator yard sign and seed packet may do so by stopping by the front desk of Development and Planning on the second floor of Village Hall (1225 Cedar Lane).
- Can I only do a portion of my yard?
Yes, every little bit helps!
- What if I think my grass is getting too long?
You can mow some of it or all of it! This initiative is about habitat, but also about bringing attention to how we, as stewards of the land, can do things better, not only for pollinators, but also for ourselves. Studies indicate that the optimal mowing cycle to specifically benefit pollinators, is every two weeks. Even though the program is designed to go through May, you are not required to not mow the entire time. Some years No Mow May might be fine before the first mow, and other years it may be too much but that is a decision is for you to make on your own property or parts of your property.
- Dandelions are non-native weeds, why should I let them grow?
Do what works for you! The following answer is in regard to how to best support pollinators:
If you have native landscaping but there are dandelions growing that may outcompete your native species, you should cut them!
If you and a lot of your neighbors have a classic turf grass, then wildlife will indeed use dandelions for food and nesting materials. Birds use dandelions for nests, and bees will gather dandelion pollen when other pollen is not available.
- What should I do about dandelion seed heads in my yard?
You can cut them. Dandelion seed heads have no further benefit to pollinators, so cut them down, but cut them high, as to not mow other flowers below them.
- My neighbor is participating, and I don't like it.
The natural aesthetic can take a bit of getting used to. Feedback on this trial, both positive and negative is welcomed. Email email@example.com.
- What about ticks?
Ticks that carry Lyme disease are more likely to be found along forest edges compared to our residential lawns, but they can be found wherever there are suitable hosts. Because a benefit of natural landscaping is that it provides habitat for wildlife, attracting insects will also attract insect-eaters. As Northbrook continues to restore healthy ecosystems with sustainable practices, more tick-eating animals like birds and amphibians will be present. The best prevention against Lyme disease is proper clothing and a careful check of body and clothes after being in an area likely to have ticks.
- I have allergies, should I be concerned?
Unmown grass does not typically begin to flower (which produces the pollen) until June or later in our area depending on the species. Your health is important – do what works best for you.
- What happens after No Mow May for enforcement?
Participating properties are expected to comply with ordnance when the enforcement pause ends on June 1. The maximum height with enforcement is 8 inches.
- Does the Village grass height ordinance refer to all grasses?
No! Grass height restrictions only apply to non-native grasses, such as Kentucky Bluegrass that originates from Europe. Native grasses like bluestem, sedges, and ryes may grow to any height unless they are planted in an area that could interfere with visibility of motorists.
- What else can a property owner that cares deeply about pollinators be doing?
- Leave your leaves in the fall – they provide habitat for overwintering species; or if there are too many in certain spots, gather some and mulch them with your lawn mower
- Leave perennials standings when perennials die back in the fall; the stems provide shelter for insects and the seed heads provide food for birds
- Avoid using pesticides and herbicides - lawns may support diverse plant communities and floral resources if we refrain from using herbicides to kill 'weeds' such as dandelions and clover
- Plant native plants whenever you can - either in a dedicated space or interplanted with ornamentals and non-natives
- Grow flowering plants in groups is more impactful than spacing them far apart
- Plant a wide variety of flowering plants that bloom at different time throughout the year so that there will be something for pollinators from spring through fall
- Plant trees, herbs, flowering fruits and vegetables, natives are best for wildlife, but as long as you avoid invasive species you will be providing habitat
- Leave some areas, even small areas, undisturbed- long grass, log piles, brush piles for winter shelter for insects that later provide high protein for birds
- Only fertilize your lawn when necessary rather than routinely, organic products preferred
- Create nesting shelter for birds