Chicagoland suburbanites respond to No Mow May

At least a few residents in the Chicago suburbs have adhered to No Mow May:

Photo by Michau0142 Ludwiczak on

The effect can be dramatic, with neat suburban lots growing shaggy and wild, and the jokes flowing freely along with the #lazylawn social media posts.

But the goal is serious. Scientists are increasingly concerned about studies showing key insect populations are falling due to factors such as loss of habitat, pesticide use and climate change. And the plight of these unsung heroes of the food chain has proved difficult to publicize

The northern suburb of Northbrook suspended enforcement of its mowing ordinance and offered its first No Mow May this year, with free wildflower seed packs for participants. In Glenview, 292 residences signed up for a less ambitious No Mow ’Til Mother’s Day program offered by the village. In Westmont, 236 residences registered for No Mow ’Til Mother’s Day, up from 161 in 2021…

“We’re getting a lot of feedback that, ‘I’m seeing more rabbits, I’m seeing more bees than I’ve ever seen in my yard before’ — these exciting types of new discoveries made at the residential level. And of course, a lot of kids really love dandelions, so that’s a cool outcome.”

Not everyone is happy with No Mow May in general and those extra dandelions in particular. Northbrook received a public comment from a participant who said their neighbor mowed their lawn in the middle of the night. On Facebook, No Mowers said they were concerned about upsetting their neighbors and spreading dandelions. One woman said she had taken to deadheading dandelions to avoid seed spread, a time-consuming task.

This reaction against this new practice is about what I would expect. There is a strong cultural norm that suburban lawns, and lawns in general, should be green and free of dandelions and leaves. Growing anything in the lawn beyond well-manicured green grass is discouraged formally and informally.

This would also line up with a number discussed in the article. A biologist estimated 5,000 Americans participated in No Mow May this year. Given all of the online conversation about No Mow May, only 5,000 people are trying this out? The green lawn crew is even stronger that might be suspected. Perhaps this number grow as the idea spreads and institutional actors, such as municipalities, support it.

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