Planned Natural Landscaping

No Mow May

What You Need to Know

  • The decision not to mow your lawn is voluntary.
  • Residents who participate will not receive notices from code enforcement for the month of May only.
  • Code enforcement for grass greater than 7" will resume on June 1.
  • Registered participants can now proudly help promote the program by adding a weather-resistant yard sign to their lawns. Yard signs are optional and available for pickup at City Hall during regular business hours.
  • Click here to register for the program.

Mid-Month CHECK-IN and mowing instructions

May 18 Update: Don't forget—the City's grass and weed enforcement begins on June 1, which marks the time when lawn grass cannot be longer than 7". Make sure to think ahead, especially in consideration of weather or travel delays that may prevent you from mowing.

As a reminder, City code requires the following enforcements:

  • Lawn and easement grass must be mowed or trimmed to 7" or lower in height.
  • If you own a property—even if you don't live there—you are required by ordinance to keep it free of weeds/grass higher than 7".
  • Lawn/grass and weed ordinances are enforced from June 1 to October 31 for 2023.
  • Don't wait until you're issued a warning (or worse, a citation)!

The lawn mowing process is going to be a bit tricky given that lawns are probably very long. Just remember, patience is key, and take the process slow to navigate the process easily. The best way to cut long grass is to do it gradually and often. For the healthiest and most sustainable approach, Michigan State University Extension says 3.5 to 4 inches is the most desirable length. Mowing at a higher height provides valuable benefits, which can be read here.

Grass should not be cut all at once. Grass uses its leaves to trap sunlight (like a solar panel) to power the process of photosynthesis and the production of food. Grass leaves also store this food as water which is used in times of stress. Cutting it all off at once will rob the grass of its stored food supply and take away its ability to produce more food.

Ideally, lawn length should be removed in thirds; only one-third should be removed in a single mowing. Cutting the grass too short all at once will stress out and damage your grass. Lawnmowers should be set to the highest setting, and weed wackers are encouraged for the first use. This will reduce the height and thickness and allow your lawnmower to move with ease.

After you've cut your lawn, there will be a lot of grass clippings left over. Be sure to gather them and set them out with your yard waste collection in brown kraft bags or labeled yard waste containers. Leaving the clippings can smother your grass, which can cause additional issues.

Just remember: take it slow. A slower pace will cause less stress on your grass. While it may be a time-consuming process, it's the best way to keep your lawn healthy!

What is No Mow May?

No Mow May is a conservation initiative that encourages people to stop mowing or mowing less often for the month of May to create habitat and provide resources for bees and other early-season pollinators. Reducing mowing also saves water and helps your lawn resist drought. Learn more about the initiative here. This is particularly important in urban areas where floral resources are often limited.

The City of Ferndale is proud to join a number of other municipalities in the No Mow May initiative. During the month of May, Ferndale will suspend enforcement of long-grass rules, allowing property owners to delay or reduce lawn cutting to promote pollinator-friendly habitat early in the growing season. Participation is voluntary. However, participating residents should register their properties to help the City gauge interest in the program and also assist in defending participants from neighbor complaints. Lawn signs are available for pickup at Ferndale City Hall for registered participants on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Ferndale City Council unanimously approved the Resolution to Adopt May 2023 as No Mow May—a resolution to support the No Mow May Initiative. No Mow May is supported by the Environmental Sustainability Commission as one of the goals of the FESC is to communicate City Sustainability initiatives such as the Plan Ferndale Climate Action Plan.

*The No Mow May initiative does not apply to violations of the ordinance that affects public safety under Ferndale City Code ORD 992 SEC 20-39. Vegetation must be maintained to ensure an unaccompanied minor, a person in a wheelchair, and a person walking a bike can be adequately visible to a driver. Vegetation must not intrude on the right of way in such a manner as to create a hazard for pedestrians using the sidewalk.

What are the benefits of no mow may?

Delay mowing of lawns through the month of May to allow emergence and maturation of pollinators that overwinter in grassy open spaces and below trees.

  • Increase available early-season flowers that provide pollen and nectar for pollinators.
  • Reduce compaction of soil from lawnmowers and allow greater infiltration of stormwater.
  • Reduce emissions from fossil fuel-based lawnmowers.
  • Reduce noise pollution from lawnmowers.
  • Allow property owners some additional leisure time to consider planting a planned natural landscape and incorporate more native flowers onto their property.

No Mow May will be most effective in supporting pollinators when paired with incorporating native plants on your property. There are many benefits to planned natural landscaping. Once established, native plants require little watering and upkeep and tend to resist insects. Homeowners can expect to save on costs associated with traditional lawns—watering, fertilizing, mowing, etc.

It’s also important to note that native plants benefit and support local birds and wildlife. Natural landscaping creates ideal conditions for hummingbirds, honeybees, and butterflies—all of which are extremely beneficial to our ecosystem and are currently in decline nationwide. Learn more about how to incorporate native landscaping into your yard by scrolling down on this page.

What happens when the initiative is over?

As you're thinking about turning your yard back to normal, consider some environmentally friendly styles of landscaping that continue to support the pollinators after No Mow May. Rather than relying on the lawn to provide food sources for bees, install a Planned Natural Landscape (see below). This type of pollinator garden will utilize a wide variety of species that bloom from early spring to late fall and can help support bees, butterflies, and other beneficial pollinators all season. These managed spaces not only look beautiful but provide food sources all season without promoting weeds or risking citations. There is a great list of recommended pollinator-friendly plants through MSU Extension.

Additional Resources

Native Plantings

Our residents and business owners recognize that abundant natural plant life is crucial to maintaining a healthy, beautiful, and balanced environment. Because of this, the City of Ferndale has embraced native natural landscaping.  

Mayor Melanie Piana aided this initiative with the Ferndale Environmental Sustainability Commission, a volunteer-led City commission, in urging the City to amend the previous vegetation ordinance and introduce the idea of Planned Natural Landscaping.

What is Planned Natural Landscaping?  

This is a form of landscaping that is comprised of native vegetation found in Michigan.  

Ferndale House with Planned Natural Landscaping


Reduces Cost & Maintenance

Native plant landscapes are resilient and self-sufficient. Once established, native plant landscapes need little watering. As a result, these plantings can save up to 90% of the costs of conventional landscaping maintenance by requiring less labor, water, fertilizer, pesticides, and mowing. Traditional, non-native turf grasses to survive within Michigan climates.

Supports Wildlife

Native plant landscapes provide habitats for pollinators, including butterflies, bees, and birds.  

Manages Stormwater

Native landscapes provide better water infiltration by preventing stormwater from entering the City’s combined water system. During heavy rains, stormwater enters the water system and can combine with sanitary waste, which results in combined sewer water that can overflow downstream. This contaminates the water system, resulting in health risks to residents, infrastructure, and natural habitats.

Green stormwater infrastructure provides better water infiltration, helping to prevent water from entering our combined water system. In times of heavy rains, stormwater enters the system combined with the sanitary waste, which can result in combined sewer water that overflows downstream. This contaminates our waterways, making it harder to maintain a healthy water system. 

You can improve your stormwater management by integrating a planned natural landscape, such as a bioswale or rain garden, or installing a rain barrel.

In addition, consider what you use on your lawn. Herbicides and fertilizers, if used improperly, can enter our waterways and contaminate our drinking water. Make sure you follow the instructions on the label to ensure proper application. Interested in more eco-friendly herbicides and fertilizers? Consider organic herbicides and pesticides, or compost instead of chemical fertilizers.

Improves our City

Native landscapes benefit the City, particularly homeowners, by improving water quality, reducing pollution, and conserving water.

Are you interested in installing your own Planned Natural Landscape? Just register your property through this short online form or contact the City's Code Enforcement Department at 248-336-4117.  


What is native natural landscaping?

Natural landscaping is the planned planting of native prairie, woodland, and wetland plants as an alternative to turf grass. It incorporates plant life native to our area, plants and flowers that existed here before turf grass lawns were introduced, that thrive with less traditional upkeep than is required of traditional lawns.  

What are the benefits?

There are many benefits to planned natural landscaping. Once established, native plants require little watering and upkeep and tend to resist insects. Homeowners can expect to save on costs associated with traditional lawns—watering, fertilizing, mowing, etc.

Natural landscaping helps control soil erosion, which in turn reduces the cost of stormwater management. Lush native plant life also reduces air, noise, and water pollution, and provides a distinctive and beautiful appearance.

It’s also important to note that native plants benefit and support local birds and wildlife. Natural landscaping creates ideal conditions for hummingbirds, honeybees, and butterflies—all of which are extremely beneficial to our ecosystem and are currently in decline nationwide.  

Does this mean my neighbors can let their lawns fill up with weeds?

No. A weed is any type of plant in the wrong place, such as grass in a flower bed. Dandelions, crabgrass, and other common garden and lawn weeds are actually invasive plants. As has always been the case, the City will not permit random, untended yards or weed overgrowth. Residents who choose to incorporate planned natural landscaping to their yards are required to register with the City. There is no cost, and doing so will allow staff to educate people concerned about ordinance violations.

I'm interested in incorporating native landscaping into my yard—how do I get started?

If you decide that planned natural landscaping is right for you and your yard, start by registering your property with the City. There is no cost, and doing so helps staff to educate people concerned about ordinance violations.

It’s important to do your research and consult a nursery or native landscaping expert before planting. You’ll want to make sure you’re choosing the right plants for your yard and conditions. The Michigan Native Plant Producers organization has a database of area landscapers and nurseries who can help you locate native plants. 

What are some plants native to our area?

Won’t this type of landscaping attract rats?

No. Rats require a food and water source, neither of which native grasses or flowers offer. They tend to be drawn to man-made structures, like sheds, woodpiles, and open-air compost. Keep all pet feed, scraps, compost, and garbage in tightly closed containers.

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