Cut down mowing your lawn

Lawn care tips for wildlife lawns

If you have an established lawn, there are many ways in which you can manage and shape it into a great home for nature.

Increase the height of your grass

Mowing your lawn less and having longer grass, saves you time and helps give nature a home.

Allowing annual meadow grass and plantain, to seed more readily and provide important food for birds. Longer grass also helps retain humidity and soil moisture, making it perfect for insect larvae and other soil invertebrates, particularly moth and butterfly caterpillars, craneflies, and sawflies. These provide protein for birds and are particularly important for parents on the look out for food for hungry chicks. 

  • Raise the blades on your lawn mower to increase the minimum height of your grass to approximately 3.5cm to 5cm (1.5 to 2 ins), and cut it less frequently to benefit birds and the grass. 
  • In moist, warm summer weather, you may need to cut your grass more often (weekly), but in dry weather, cut less frequently (fortnightly) to help reduce drought stress and keep it green for longer.
Uncut, dew covered grass and cobweb

Tips for different seasons

Leave an area of grass uncut throughout summer

Having a large garden allows you to grow areas of long grass. Growing it against a shrub border will buffer the wind. This increases humidity within the shrubbery and improves conditions for invertebrates - an important food for birds and mammals. It also provides habitat for insects eaten by birds and mammals, as well as an additional source of seed.

  • Manage your lawn at a height of 3.5 cm to 5 cm (1.5 to 2 ins) until late May. If it is a particularly wet season, you may want to continue cutting for a little longer.
  • Allow the grass to grow throughout the summer.
  • Commence cutting again from mid to late September. After the first cut, rake off and compost any cuttings. Maintain the height of the grass at 3.5cm to 5cm (1.5 to 2ins) for the remainder of the season.
  • It will be of great benefit to keep at least some long grass over winter.

Keep some long grass over winter

Allowing an area of long grass to remain over winter provides shelter for insects. Having access to emerging insects which have spent the winter as an egg or pupa in the long grass will help to bring birds into good condition for breeding in early spring.

  • Cut your grass to a minimum height of 3.5cm to 5cm (1.5 to 2ins) in late March.
  • Remove and compost cuttings to prevent smothering the grass beneath. This also controls the build up of nutrients, which is particularly important if you have sown fine grasses or meadow flowers.
Dew drops on grass leaf, King Edward Point, South Georgia, South Atlantic

Long grass in small gardens

You may feel long grass compromises your enjoyment of your lawn if you have a small garden. However, it is possible to provide long grass for at least part of the year.

Opportunities to use your lawn in late summer and early autumn become limited.

  • Consider easing up, or preferably stopping mowing from early August and allow the grass to grow over winter.
  • Start cutting again in April when you want to start using the lawn again.

If you do not have a paved path to out buildings, maintaining long grass through the winter will help protect the lawn from trampling in wet conditions. If you decide to keep a mown path, remember to alter its route slightly each season.

Tools for the job

  • Mower – size and type dependant on area to be cut (for small areas, consider using a manual push mower - its environmentally friendly and keep you fitter!)
  • Strimmer – for managing long grass (for small areas, a pair of hand shears or grass hook will do the job, help towards saving the environment and keep you fitter!)
  • Grass rake - for small areas of cut long grass
  • Hay rake – for large areas of cut long grass
Making a mini meadow, preparing soil for seeds, Potton lower school, Bedfordshire, England