No Mow May – Albion

On Monday, May 2, Albion Mich City Council unanimously passed a Resolution to support the No Mow May Initiative for 2022.

Recaps from the resolution are as follows:

The Council encourages residents to allow their backyard grass to grow to the maximum height allowed (ten inches) until May 31st, 2022.

The Council directs the City Manager to communicate the benefits of reduced lawn mowing, particularly during the early spring growing season, through a variety of communication channels provided by community partners.

See the notes section below for the entire resolution and excerpts from the council meeting.

The No Mow May initiative started to gain traction in Albion and the Albion Clean Up for Earth Day effort on the website NextDoor.com.
People were interested in participating in the No Mow May program but wanted to know the opinion of Albion’s City Council and how this would affect their compliance with our city ordinances.

History of No Mow May


 

The No Mow May program began in the United Kingdom, gaining popularity in 2019, after it was determined that the wildflower fields, a primary feeding ground for bees, were 95% gone. Pollination is necessary for our food supply. Bees, wasps, butterflies, moths, and birds are our primary pollinators and they are in decline.

The No Mow May program started up in several Wisconsin communities in 2020, beginning with Appleton, Wisconsin. There, the residents and their city council agreed to suspend their weed ordinance for the month of May.

Bee City USA of Portland, Oregon provides a framework for communities to come together to conserve native pollinators by providing them with healthy habitat that is rich in a variety of native plants, provides nest sites, and is protected from pesticides. The logo above is used with their permission and they have received a copy of Albion, Michigan’s No Mow May resolution.


In 2022, Michigan is getting on board.  The City of Ann Arbor unanimously passed The No Mow Initiative 2022 on April 4, after it was introduced earlier in the week. The resolution, “Ann Arbor City Council declares No Mow May,” encouraging property owners to refrain from mowing their property, from now until May 31, 2022.


I personally support the concept of a voluntary No Mow May for the city of Albion.   This action would increase pollinators in the community which is good for the overall  health of the local ecosystem.  I hope that the action would also decrease chemical applications on lawns- these chemicals are harmful for the environment and potentially reach the Kalamazoo River through the city’s storm drain system.   I am impressed by the Appleton Wi story, and as an Albion resident, I would be willing to participate.

Thom Wilch,  Albion College Center for Sustainability and the Environment, Faculty Director


Jason Raddatz the director of the Whitehouse Nature Center at Albion College, with a focus on sustainability and environmental education, agrees. He states:

I think this is a pretty low impact / high reward proposal.  I echo Thom’s thoughts regarding water quality and sovereignty along the Kalamazoo River.  Pollinators have seen a significant decrease in population and diversity over the past decade, so anything that we are able to do to assist should be supported.


 

Apis mellifera Western honey bee

Martha O’Kennon, a retired professor from Albion College, now runs the backyard blog with entries about the different flora and fauna she’s observed in her yard.
She supports a balanced view to bugs, plants, etc. Here are some comments she shared about No Mow May and other things we can do to support our pollinators:

I fully support anything we can do to help out nature.  There are more interesting things to grow than grass.  I suggest goldenrod for the brave.  All the stuff you hear about GR and allergies are false.  If that’s too tall try other flowering plants.  Anyway, up the environment!

Goldenrod is one of our best supporters of pollinators of other plants.  I used to dig and tear it up each year, but now I make a space for it.  It attracts some of our most beautiful insects.  Wasps, as you noted, are not bad.  They are one of our best pollinators.  I get very close to them and never feel any dread.
Vespula germanica Richard Bartz


Albion Michigan is getting on board now, in part through a grass roots movement.   Since May has started, we decided to follow the outline of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, that limits the elimination of code enforcement on the weed to backyards only.

The Fort Atkinson City Council recently approved a temporary exception to city code, allowing homeowners to grow grass in their backyards taller than 8 inches during the month of May. By restricting the practice to backyards, city staff hoped to facilitate the program on a “trial basis,” while circumventing complaints from neighbors who might not support the concept.


United States Environmental Protection Agency recognizes the need to protect pollinators and established the first National Pollinator Week last year during the last full week of June.

The event was started in support of pollinator health.


Dandelions

Our goals for “No Mow May” include raising public awareness of the declining population of pollinators, primarily bees.  There are many things we can do, but the easiest thing is to mow less and to set our mowers to a higher level.

This year, we can choose not to mow at all in our back yards during the month of May, but we may want to keep a ruler handy and do some cutting if the grass in the back does get to be close to 10” high this year.  Some yard experts say a string trimmer can help to cut the grass when it is time to get it to the usual level, before June.

Butterfly drinking honey

We heard from some community members about their support No Mow May, on Nextdoor and the Earth Day Clean-ups.  Dozens of people came out on two different weekends to pick up litter in Albion, around exit 121 in April.  We still have a bit more to do, near the old Burger King where there is a carnival now.  If any group would like to help with that area, we still have some trash bags and gloves left, thanks to Albion Volunteer Service Organization for providing those.


Other questions we have been asked are:

  • Where to get signs for backyards?
  • What groups are there to help with pollinator education?
  • Can the City choose to mow or not mow what areas it chooses?
  • Is there a sign-up form so the City can track how many participants there are this first year?
  • How can we learn about wildflower plantings for the borders of our yards?
  • What about mosquitos?
  • What about ticks?
  • Will this hurt my lawnmower if my grass does get to be 10″ high?
  • Is there a local citizen committee looking at environmental issues?

See the new FAQ page with some answers to these questions!


Here is a copy of Albion’s No Mow May Resolution that was passed unanimously on May 2, 2022:

City of Albion Resolution 2022-20_B


Here is where the No Mow May presentation started at Albion’s May 2 meeting:
Here is where the council had a discussion and eventually the council’s unanimous approval of the No Mow May resolution

Backyard Blog with thousands of wildlife photos and essays by Martha O’Kennon
Hello everybody!  Welcome to your Backyard Blog for May 1, 2022!

Bee City USA – offers communities an opportunity to join a national network of communities committed to supporting pollinators at both the city level, and campus level.  https://beecityusa.org/


Whitehouse Nature Center –  Albion College
https://www.albion.edu/about/our-campus/whitehouse-nature-center/


Fact checker page to learn about common myths such as mosquitoes and ticks – from Penn State

https://extension.psu.edu/neighborly-natural-landscaping-in-residential-areas


Pollination relates to Food Access because pollination is necessary for our food supply.