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No Mow May? Good intentions, bad approach, critics say


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This May 3, 2023, image provided by Jessica Damiano shows overgrown grass and weeds in an unmowed lawn in Glen Head, NY. (Jessica Damiano via AP)

By Jessica Damiano

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve heard about the #NoMowMay movement that’s been gaining steam on social media and in eco-conscious circles these past few years.

Started in 2019 by citizen scientists in the United Kingdom, the call for homeowners to abstain from mowing their lawns during the month has spread to other countries, including the U.S.

The intention is admirable: Let your grass and weeds grow and bloom to provide food and shelter for essential pollinators like bees and butterflies early in the season, when such necessities may be scarce.

Frankly, I think it’s a terrible idea.

Some of those pollinators you set out to protect will likely get shredded up with the first mow of the season. Grass will no doubt get shaded by tall weeds, which can lead to fungal diseases. And weeds and invasive plants that take hold during the month won’t simply disappear once the mowing commences. That might lead people to apply chemical pesticides they wouldn’t otherwise use.

And what about rodents, snakes and other undesirables that also will likely avail themselves of the shelter?

Perplexed by the seemingly runaway-train popularity of the now-annual event, I called Tamson Yeh, turf specialist with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County in New York. “Is it me?” I asked.

“I think it’s a terrible idea, too,” she said. “It’s such a nice slogan, but letting the grass grow high and allowing it to do its thing, and then suddenly mowing it back is really counterproductive.”

Yeh sees the movement as a “feel-good, stop-gap measure, because if you want to have an impact, you need to establish a permanent cover for insects,” not merely temporary housing.

“Bees tell each other where the food is, and pollinators (when they discover an unmown lawn) will remember to come back to it again and again,” Yeh said. “Then on June 1st, when the food disappears, it’s not good for them.”

Hibernating insects have memories that span not only from day to day but from year to year, Yeh said. So she recommends planting early blooming shrubs, trees and plants to establish a permanent food source they can remember and rely on as adults when they emerge from dormancy.

Other problems with the practice, Yeh noted, include “confusing insects when the grass is suddenly low again. That gives predators the opportunity to take advantage of them.”

There’s also the potential to disturb a nest of bunnies when mowing, she said, calling the discovery “the most horrible experience you can have.”

An all-or-nothing approach would be better. If you really want to make a difference, consider replacing the entire lawn, or part of it, with native plants or planting a wildflower meadow. Both will provide permanency for birds and pollinators while shrinking or eliminating the lawn, which frankly, has no redeeming value aside from subjective aesthetics, anyway.

When planting for beneficial insects, Yeh advises creating a corridor or path of pollen- and nectar-rich plants for migratory pollinators to travel along instead of spacing plants far apart.

Postponing fall cleanup until spring, which spawned another movement called #LeaveTheLeaves, will create safe havens for pollinators to lay their eggs and hibernate within. To allow time for them to emerge from dormancy, wait until after spring temperatures have remained above 50 degrees for an entire week before clearing away last season’s plant debris.

For those set on letting their lawns go wild this month, Yeh cautions that “allowing grass to go to seed will kill it,” so remove seedheads if they form.

It’s also important to reintroduce mowing gradually.

“The best height for grass is 3 inches tall, but if you’re mowing it down from 5 or 6 inches, do it over several sessions,” she advised, adding that cutting grass by more than one-third of its height at one time can cause it to go into shock.

The gradual approach “also will give insects a chance to realize it’s not a good place for them anymore,” she said. Hopefully, they’ll take the hint and move on to safer spaces.


Jessica Damiano writes regular gardening columns for The Associated Press. She publishes the award-winning Weekly Dirt Newsletter. Sign up here for weekly gardening tips and advice.


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Paul McCartney’s rediscovered photos show Beatlemania from the inside

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Visitors look at pictures during a preview of Paul McCartney Photographs 1963-64: Eyes of the Storm exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London, Britain, Tuesday, June 27, 2023. The exhibition consists of unseen photographs taken by Paul McCartney from the Beatles at the height of Beatlemania. The gallery will open it’s doors from June 28, 2023 until October 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

By Jill Lawless in London

LONDON (AP) — Is there really a new way to look at The Beatles, one of the most filmed and photographed bands in history?

Yes, says Britain’s National Portrait Gallery, which is providing a fresh perspective with an exhibition of band’s-eye-view images that Paul McCartney captured as the group shot to global fame.

Gallery director Nicholas Cullinan said the exhibit, subtitled “Eyes of the Storm,” is a chance “to see, for the very first time, Beatlemania from the inside out.”

The seed for the exhibit was sown in 2020, that year of lockdown projects, when McCartney dug out 1,000 forgotten photos he’d taken in 1963 and 1964, as the Fab Four went from emerging British celebrities to world megastars. He and his team asked if the National Portrait Gallery was interested in displaying them.

“I think you can probably guess our response,” Cullinan said as he introduced the exhibition to journalists in London on Tuesday.

The show includes 250 photos taken in England, France and the United States that illustrate The Beatles’ journey from cramped dressing rooms in provincial British theaters to stadium shows and luxury hotels.

“It was a crazy whirlwind that we were living through,” McCartney writes in a note present at the start of the exhibit. “We were just wondering at the world, excited about all these little things that were making up our lives.”

Rosie Broadley, who curated the show, said the gallery soon realized the trove “wasn’t just interesting pictures by a famous person.”

“It’s actually telling an important story about cultural history — British cultural history and international cultural history,” she said. “This is a moment when British culture took over the world for a while.”

The display begins in late 1963, shortly after McCartney acquired a Pentax 35mm camera. The early black-and-white images include portraits of The Beatles, their parents, girlfriends, crew and colleagues, including manager Brian Epstein.

Broadley said these images depict “a parochial postwar British celebrity” — concerts in provincial cinemas alongside now-obscure bands like Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers, 16-night variety-style Christmas shows at London’s Finsbury Park Astoria.

Cullinan said the photos convey a “sense of intimacy” missing from professional photos of the band.

“This wasn’t The Beatles being photographed by press photographers of paparazzi but peer-to-peer,” he said. “So there’s a real tenderness and vulnerability to these images.”

In January 1964, McCartney took his camera with the band to Paris, capturing the city at the height of its French New Wave cool. While there, The Beatles learned that “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was a No. 1 hit in the United States.

Within days, they were on a plane to New York, where their Feb. 9 performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” was watched by 73 million people, and nothing was ever the same again.

The U.S. section of the exhibit shows the band’s increasingly frenetic life. Many of the shots were taken from planes, trains and chauffeur-driven automobiles and show crowds of screaming fans and rows of police. Sometimes, McCartney turned his lens back on the newspaper and magazine photographers looking at him.

One striking shot was taken through the back window of a car as a crowd chased the band down a Manhattan street, a scene echoed in the band’s first feature film, “A Hard Day’s Night,” made later that year.

McCartney also took pictures of strangers – a girl seen through a train window, ground crew at Miami airport goofing around.

A visitor looks at pictures during a preview of Paul McCartney Photographs 1963-64: Eyes of the Storm exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London, Britain, Tuesday, June 27, 2023. The exhibition consists of unseen photographs taken by Paul McCartney from the Beatles at the height of Beatlemania. The gallery will open it’s doors from June 28, 2023 until October 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

The band’s final stop was Miami, where McCartney switched to color film. The results, Broadley said, “look like a Technicolor movie, like an Elvis film.” The photos show John, Paul, George and Ringo swimming, sunbathing, water skiing, even fishing. From a hotel window, McCartney photographed fans writing “I love Paul” in giant letters in the sand.

McCartney, 81, spent hours talking to curators about the photos and his memories as they prepared the exhibit, one of the shows reopening the National Portrait Gallery after a three-year renovation.

The images were preserved for decades on undeveloped negatives or contact sheets, and McCartney had never seen them in large format until the gallery had them printed.

The project was not without risks. McCartney acknowledges he’s not a professional photographer – though his late wife, Linda McCartney, was, as is their daughter Mary McCartney. Some of the photos are blurry or hastily composed. But what they lack in technique they make up for in spontaneity.

Broadley said McCartney “was nervous about showing some of the less formally composed ones or the less in-focus ones.”

“But I think we persuaded him that we liked those because of the story that they tell,” she said. “It’s quite nice to have those ones where they’re sitting around with a cup of tea before the event.”


“Paul McCartney Photographs 1963-64: Eyes of the Storm” is on at the National Portrait Gallery in London from Wednesday until Oct. 1.

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Pride Toronto director feels connection with Jays is still strong after Bass saga

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