Why some suburban communities are holding off on mowing until Mother’s Day

Lombard joins Westmont, other communities in “No Mow” program

Lombard Garden Club president Barb Madigan, left, and the club's conservation committee chair Janet Kenny show off signs that are part of a villagewide program permitting residents to delay lawn mowing until after Mother's Day. (Paul Valade | Staff Photographer)

More than 500 Lombard lawns won’t be mowed until Mother’s Day this year, adding to an environment-friendly practice that is on the rise throughout the suburbs.

In a move to help emerging insects and early season pollinators, Lombard is joining a handful of other suburban communities – including Westmont, Glenview and Northbrook – that host a “No Mow” program. The initiatives exempt residents from local mowing codes, allowing participants to let their yards grow wild without fear of getting hit with a violation.

Organizers said a spring lawn that grows longer and lets flowers bloom provides habitat, nectar and pollen for pollinators such as native butterflies and bees. That habitat also can offer shelter for other insects that might otherwise flee or fall to harm under a mower’s blades. These insects are a vital food source for migrating birds.

“There is a natural cycle in our world, and if we would quit interfering with it, we would probably all be a lot happier for what Mother Nature will just do for us naturally,” said Barbara Madigan, president of the Lombard Garden Club. “Winter’s over, spring is coming, everything’s coming out of hibernation. Now is the time when we want to give the pollinators the chance to really go and do their business.”

This is Lombard’s first year running a “No Mow ‘til Mother’s Day” program. As of early last week, 529 residents already signed up, said David Gorman, Lombard’s assistant director of public works.

The program was developed by Lombard Public Works in collaboration with the Lombard Garden Club, a community group started in 1926.

“In addition to benefiting pollinators, reducing mowing frequency will save water, help your lawn become more resilient to drought and reduce emissions from gas-powered lawn equipment that often lacks the emission reduction equipment found on larger engines,” according to the village website.

Other communities have seen similar turnouts. Glenview, for instance, recorded nearly 300 participants at the end of its program last year.

Robyn Flakne, Glenview’s natural resource manager, said the village has heard few complaints about the program since starting it in 2022. For both organizers and participants, Flakne said it’s a simple initiative that can have a big impact.

“It’s something that’s relatively quick to set up and it just has a fast impact. It’s something that people can see the difference in. It gets the public in general thinking about how they can improve life for pollinators all around,” she said. “It’s just got a real intuitive appeal that people respond to and understand.”

Glenview’s program was kick-started last year by a village employee who lives in Westmont and was inspired by his community’s initiative. Westmont was one of the first Illinois communities to host “No Mow ‘til Mother’s Day,” its first year being 2021.

For residents who want to help but feel hesitant about letting their entire lawn go to nature, Madigan said choosing even a small patch of grass to let grow will support pollinators.

“I just think as a whole, we need to be much more aware of what’s happening to our Earth and the animals that occupy it – while we still can,” she said.

To participate, Lombard residents are asked to fill out an online application. Once it is approved, the village will deliver and install a yard sign to let neighbors and passersby know why a lawn isn’t being mowed and to allow code enforcement to refrain from citing violations related to weeds and grasses over eight inches, which is the village mow code’s typical threshold.

Gorman said the signs also are meant to create awareness of the importance of pollinators in our ecology and encourage others to join in.

Each town has a slightly different setup. Glenview residents, for example, are asked to pick up the signs themselves from village hall.

Lombard estimates the signs will cost the village about $400 a year, which will be absorbed by its Community Recycling Fund.

While Mother’s Day lands on May 14 this year, both Lombard and Glenview will give residents a week leeway. Participating properties will be expected to be mowed no later than May 20, according to Lombard’s FAQ page.

“The program ends on Mother’s Day, but then we don’t want the moms to have to go out there,” Flakne said.

Lombard’s “No Mow ‘til Mother’s Day” applications are open through April 1. Glenview will accept applications on a rolling basis with no deadline.

• Jenny Whidden is a climate change and environment writer working with the Daily Herald through a partnership with Report For America supported by The Nature Conservancy. To help support her work with a tax-deductible donation, see dailyherald.com/rfa.