M’CHIGEENG—Students and staff at Manitoulin High School will be greeted by a new sign located on a small patch of lawn when they return to class this week. The sign proudly announces a new “no mow” zone at the school, courtesy of members of the Share/Go Green team. The approximately 200 square meter lot is visible as you walk towards the school and is one of the ongoing activities that helped earn the school platinum certification under the EcoSchools Canada certification program.
No-mow zones are part of a recent trend of allowing grassy areas or lawns to become more natural meadows and pollinator habitats by not mowing. “It’s just kind of a simple thing to do,” said Chris Theijsmeijer, a teacher at MSS and one of three staff involved in the No Mow project (the others being Yana Bauer and Paul Becks). “You set up the area and basically do less work. You save energy because you don’t mow it continuously, but it also has other advantages.
“The no-mow zone provides a small environment for insects like fireflies, dragonflies and many other insects,” said Ezra Diebolt, who along with fellow student and eco-heroine Anika Smith was instrumental in the development of this project. “Unmowed natural areas can also attract more than insects. Sometimes small animals cross said unmown areas to find food, and due to the mini environment, they can actually find said food. This is how something as small as leaving an area unmown can help the environment, at least a little.
To create the no-mow zone, the group first had to find a good space, one that would still allow the mowers to easily cut the rest of the grass. Once a space was chosen, they had to demarcate it. That was largely the magnitude of the effort required. Some of the green team students were also in technology class this year, Mr. Theijsmeijer said. “They made some nice signs announcing it so people realize it’s not just us who are lazy, but there’s real purpose to the no-mow zone.”
There were remnants of wildflower seeds from an Earth Day event that had been donated by Manitoulin Transport, so they were dumped in the area as well. “We thought it was a perfect use for them,” he added. “Not many of them are coming yet.”
Long-term plans include developing the area into a learning activity zone. They’re hoping to add native species so they can talk about some of the things you wouldn’t normally see in a lawn, Theijsmeijer said. “Sweetgrass, for example. Paul Becks helped design what we might put in there. We are going to consider introducing different species and also providing the opportunity for different insects to pass through the area. »
Mr Becks works with the school apiary and although it is unlikely that the bees will be located in the no-mow area, there will always be a point of learning and discussion to watch the flowers grow there and how they attract bees and other pollinators. A small stream borders the no-mow area, so the area should have good drainage, allowing for more creative plantings that aren’t just grass. “At the moment it is not very exciting, but we hope that over the years it will develop into a more diverse ecosystem,” Mr. Theijsmeijer said.
It was at the end of May that he was going with the tennis team to the provincial championships. “I think the whole city of Toronto had decided to do No Mow May, which is also a thing, to help promote biodiversity in early spring,” Mr. Theijsmeijer said. “When we were there, we saw that all the grass around the 401 on- and off-ramps, along the streets and even in the parks had not yet been mowed. They are a few weeks ahead of us in terms of growth, so it was like a foot long grass through a lot of spaces. The children were very surprised to see this. It is something that is gaining popularity in society now. Having a well-cut lawn is not always the greenest option.