Letters to a Beekeeper

By Alys Fowler and Steve Benbow

A beautifully illustrated story of friendship, passion and useful insects

Thursday, 20 November 2014

The mower is dead; long live the flowers


Never mow around your beehives in shorts!

In fact never mow around your bee hives at all - they really don't like that noise and the disturbance.

I use an old sickle around the legs and entrances of hives in the summer months to keep the flight path clear. Then again on London rooftops, grass and lawns are not really a problem.

Steve B






'Gardeners should give up their lawnmowers and let their grass go rogue to protect daisies and lavender, which provide vital pollen for bees and other pollinators, Liz Truss will suggest'

That statement sort of sums up the National Pollinator Strategy, don't mow your lavender. It's a damp squib of a strategy, barely mentioning pesticide usage or alternatives and putting all the burden on volunatry organisation to deliver many of its goals. The pesticide industry received nothing more than a slap on the hand.

This parody sums it up well enough.

Anyhow, the book, the book, everyday I write the book.

Here's a little extract about how you should manage your lawns without mowing your lavender. . . 

And if you have space, a lawn to laze on. A lawn should never be all green, how dull. Lawns should flower, daisies should run wild, dandelions should sing, speedwell should creep, violas should flourish in the shay spot, buttercups for the damp spots, stitchwort, ground ivy, early marsh and early purple orchids, woodruff, salad burnet, vetches, wild strawberries, Herb Robert, birds foot trefoil, black medic, century, kidney vetch, wild thyme, cranesbills. I’ve seen so-called lawns have them all.

The mower is dead; long live the flowers.

Ok, so maybe you like your mower, here's the guide to a pollinator friendly cut.

There are three types of long cut lawns regimes. In all of them, it’s very important that you remove the grass cuttings. This impoverishes the ground allowing more of the pretty things to move in. It's suprising how much biodiversity is already in a lawn, slow down on the mowing and all sorts of wildflowers pop up. You can add more if you want, but I suggest waiting a year and seeing who appears of their own accord. If you want to add wild plug plants of perennials (its not really worth doing this for annuals) or bulbs, this is best done in early autumn or mid spring depending on your cutting regime. You can not scatter wildflowers seeds on an existing lawn and expect them to germinate or grow even if there are large bare patches. The grass roots are just too competitive. If you want to use seed rather than plugs. Sow the seed in trays and raise young plants. Plant these out in autumn, make sure you remove some of the turf around them so they have a head start.

Remember this doesn’t have to be your whole lawn, it can be just a patch, a rectangle under a tree, a swathe with a path mowed through, even a patch 2ft by 4ft will grow something interesting, but it may take time.

The lazy version

This method allows you to mow if and when. It won't make the prettiest lawn, it won't have the most biodiversity, but it's a very good start. This is great for lawns with lots dandelions in them. You let them flower but before they go to seed, you mow. You should aim to leave at least a month between mowing and keep your blade high, around 10cm, because they may be lots of insects living in the grass. A higher cut minimizes how many are chopped in half.

A spring meadow.

This is ideal for those who need a short lawn for the summer holidays, for cricket, football or just lazing on. A spring meadow can happily accommodate aconites, snowdrops, dandelions, lady’s smock, cowslips, knapweed naturalized daffodils, such as our native Tenby daffodil, meadow saxifrages, field buttercups, early wild orchids, bluebells and if there’s a little shade wind anemones.

Make your first cut around the end of June, beginning of July and then cut until late autumn. Make sure your first cut is very high, around 10cm and slowly work you way down to a neater lawn. Always collect the clippings.


A summer meadow

This is the opposite cut to the spring meadow. You mow from late September to early April (clearly you won’t have to mow in December, January or February). This method is particularly good for summer butterflies and moths.

A summer meadow will have clovers, campions, cranesbills, umbels, cornflowers, sorrel, bedstraws, wild peas and vetches, hawkbits and hawkweeds, sainfoins and scabious. 




Both Alys and Steve are still hard at work writing the book and as soon as we receive the finished manuscript we'll let supporters know. Many thanks for your patience while we make this into the best possible book it can be. 

The Unbounders



Back to project page
Share on social


Beth Tilston
 Beth Tilston says:

Or use a scythe ;-)

posted 20th November 2014

Top rewards

75 pledges


Ebook edition.

Buy now
£20  + shipping
595 pledges


1st edition illustrated hardback, and ebook edition.