EVERYBODY STAY CALM. Don’t panic. Let’s think this through rationally. Let’s work through this together.
Take a step back from the lawnmower. Keep your green-fingered hands where I can see them. And don’t even think about going for the strimmer.
That’s it. Nice and easy. Nice and easy.
I was going to advise you folks passing by to keep moving. ‘Nothing to see here!’ But there is. There’s plenty to see. In the long grass and wild bits. Plenty to see, if you take the time to look.
It’s the beginning of June. And the sun is shining. The Irish summer has popped by for a visit and just like that planet-traversing cousin that shows up on the doorstep unannounced, we don’t know whether this visit is for a few days or a few months.
Sorry TV, we love you and you’ve been there for us all winter but we’re going rogue. We’re going outside. We’re going where the sun keeps shinin’ through the pourin’ rain. Goin’ where the weather suits our clothes… we’ll be in the garden!
Last out, turn off the switch and close the door behind them.
Bags the hammock!
“What’s the story? Dad?” Louder…
“Dad? Where’s Dad?”
“Inside. In the loo. Where else?”
“Go get him.”
“We need you.”
Mutter. Flush. Mutter. Taps. Mutter. Unlock.
“Where’s it gone?”
“What do you mean?”
“Where’s the grass gone? The lawn is gone! Where’s the lawn gone? What happened?”
Bee on a wildflower
“Oh…” A grin spreads across Dad’s face…” The grass. That’s May’s fault.”
“Who’s May? Did May steal our lawn?”
“You know May. She’s friends with April and June. Last name May. First name NoMow.”
“What are you on Dad? April, June, May. No go?”
“Whatever. The lawn is gone and we’ve nowhere to sit and we can’t play football and it’s summer and it’s an absolute disaster.”
Dad grins again.
The Bee Sanctuary The Bee Sanctuary
“Calm down pet. Let’s go take a look.”
“Who’s May No go?”
Dad tips his nose twice with his index finger and heads for the garden.
Out the back door, the rest of the gang are huddled on the small patio, footballs, picnic blankets and Nintendos in hand, already looking a little pink.
Shutterstock / topseller The Bee Guy says give bees a chance... and ditch the lawnmower. Shutterstock / topseller / topseller
“Dad. The garden. It’s all messy. The lawn is gone. It’s like a jungle. It’s all buzzing and full of things that are moving. It’s never been like this? Is the mower broken? Are you broken? Dad, are you okay? You always do the grass. You’re the grass guy. You keep it so short and lovely. Like a putting green. You don’t even get to sit in it with us you spend so much time working on it. Are you okay Dad? Is there something you have to tell us? Dad? Dad?”
“Yes, there is.”
“NO MOW MAY.”
Musk Mallow wildflower
“Oh jeez… Dad’s lost it. I think he’s having a thing with someone called May”.
Mam appears through the side gate back from her morning jog.
Timing or what?
“Mam…Dad’s having an affair on you with someone called May.”
Mam snot laughs. “That’s nice. Go Dad.”
“Okay, guys. Chill. Let me explain.”
“I was watching a thing on the news with that guy George Lee.”
“Georgely? That’s hilarious. What sort of a name is..”
“No George Lee. George L…E…E. You know the guy who used to do the news then was the news and now does the news again. Well, sort of. Anyway, he was talking about the bees and the insect apocalypse and how we all need to help out. Sorry, kids I never really realised how important bees and insects are before. There always seemed to be loads of them. But turns out there aren’t loads of them anymore. So I decided to try and help and one of the easiest things that they reckoned we could do to help insects and nature in our garden was to not cut the grass until the end of May. They call it No Mow May.”
“Your new girlfriend!”
“The very one!”
Solitary bee on on a dandelion
“So May is over now.”
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“So now you’re going to cut that mess down and we can have our lovely lawn back?”
“That was my plan… but…. and this is a big but…”
“No buts Dad… ”
“But I then came across a guy who calls himself The Bee Guy and he reckons that No Mow May is not enough. He reckons we need Too Soon June and Leave It High July.”
“What? Just What? Too many questions here Dad. What’s a Bee Guy, why all the rhyming and are you cutting the grass or not?”
“The Bee Guy is the guy who set up the first native wild bee sanctuary on the planet to help save endangered bees. The rhyming is a smart marketing trick to try to create a catchphrase to encourage take-up of action and yes and no about the grass. Yes, I’m going to cut grass. But not all of it. We have a big garden and you guys don’t need all of it. If I leave the grass uncut until the end of May it gives the wildflowers a chance to bloom and this feeds a multitude of creatures. It also provides somewhere for all the little things to live. Protection. Cover. A home. Habitat they call it. So while I know it’s the end of May and that No Mow May is the mantra, think about it – all these creatures don’t magically disappear on the first of June. So if I cut all that long grass now I’m just taking away all that has happened here during May.”
“So you’re not cutting the grass then? Okay, I’m off back inside.”
“I am going to cut the grass but not all of it. I’ll cut some areas for you guys to hang out in but I’m going to leave all around the edges and as much as I reckon you guys don’t really need. I’ll eventually cut the rest back but at different times so that we always have wild areas and different heights of grass as different creatures thrive better in slightly different habitats. Come here look at that.”
“What? The wasp on the weed?”
“No that’s a little female bumblebee worker collecting pollen on a dandelion. A dandelion that wouldn’t be there if I had cut the grass. Look at her back legs. The two big bumps on them. That’s the pollen she’s collected to bring back to the nest. Cool or what?”
“Yeah… I suppose so.”
“And look here over beside the wall. We have nettles!”
“Great so we have stings.”
“Yes, but that might mean we’ll have caterpillars. Which means we’ll have butterflies! So won’t it be nice at the weekends when you’re sitting on your little lawn island with me, hanging out, to have butterflies dancing around us? And all because I didn’t do the whole Dad grass thing.”
Dandelion seed head
“Hang on…you’ll be hanging out with us?”
“Of course…no grass cutting. No tidying. Just chilling, with my buds and the bees.” “Cool, but Dad? What about the neighbour?”
“What about them?”
“They’ll think we’re just lazy. That we’ve lost it.”
“I think they’ve enough to worry about with my outdoor Elvis comeback ’69 impressions. Let’s go – Elvis has left the building and he’s in the garden…”
“Daaadd. Shut up you’re embarrassing us”
“My work here is done so…and not a blade of grass or an insect touched!”
While No Mow May is a great start and a conversation opener for sure it doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s important to have long grass and a bit of wild all year round.
So please cut your grass in strips and not all in one go. Grass of different lengths throughout your garden provides great habitat for more creatures than having grass the same length throughout and it all cut at the same time.
To encourage wildflowers grass should be cut and removed late Summer/early Autumn. We would always recommend leaving areas of long grass throughout the winter, especially around the edges. As always never use chemicals in your garden. Have a great summer.
Enjoy your garden. Be gentle with it.
Paul Handrick, known as The Bee Guy runs The Bee Sanctuary in County Wicklow. Save the bees with them by becoming an Official Friend of the Bees via the website - www.thebeesanctuaryofireland.com.
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