Does Frequent Lawn Trimming Reduce Species Richness?

Michael mowing

Mowing won’t harm your low-diversity cultivated lawn, but why not plant a small meadow in your garden? Image credit: Stephen Henderson / Flickr Creative Commons

Warm temperatures have finally advanced spring in a remarkable, long-awaited way: trees, bushes, and flowers are blooming; grass is growing. Alas, the annoying noise of lawn trimming has become an indispensable part of Estonian summers.

But does frequent mowing influence the richness of species in one’s garden or yard? What is the most sustainable and nature-friendly approach to lawn trimming?

According to Meelis Pärtel, UT Professor at the Department of Botany, a lawn is a very artificial ecosystem. “Few species are suitable to a cultivated lawn that is frequently trimmed – it is mostly breeded graminaceous plants, and biodiversity is very low there. At the same time, the world records for species richness on a small scale also come from a community that requires trimming – namely, from wooded meadows”, says Pärtel.

The Laelatu wooded meadow in western Estonia, near Virtsu, boasts two world records for diversity. Laelatu was found to contain 25 different plants in an area of 10×10 centimeters and 42 species in an area of 20×20 cm.

Professor Pärtel recommends planting a meadow-like lawn that only needs mowing two or three times per year in the less-trodden garden areas. These should be low-fertile sandy or pebbly areas, as plants also don’t grow very high on such soils naturally, and a low-density lawn allows for various flowering plants to thrive.

“You could plant seeds of natural meadow species: cowslips, bellflowers, buttercups, and others. Blossoms attract plant-pollinating insects, such as butterflies and bumblebees, which also help garden plants fructify. You can mow lower walking trails into your meadow grass”, advises the botany professor.

The Estonian version of this post was first published in ERR Novaator.

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