This spring, Vilnius will introduce new lawn care rules, according to which the city will be dominated by natural meadows and self-flowering plants. While abandoning mowing where it is not required, natural oases will be created in many parts of the city to help citizens live more comfortably and sustainably.
Short, constantly mowed lawn will be maintained only where it is required, i. e., in the environment of apartment buildings, squares, and parks in the main and actively used public spaces.
Free-flowing meadows, spontaneous trees, and shrubs will be available on the slopes of bypasses, in the dividing lanes of most streets, and in traffic rings. These and similar areas will be mowed several times a year if necessary or not mowed at all. Only invasive plants that can obscure normal vegetation we are used to will be removed in the urban areas left to nature.
“We have been developing the concept of natural meadows in the city for several years. For this purpose, we have deliberately reduced the volume of mowing every year. Based on the experience gained, regarding the feedback from people, communities, and the findings of other urban planting colleagues and scientists, we have developed rules that can be called a non-mowing plan in favour of lush meadows“, – says Ramunė Baniulienė, head of the cityscape department of Vilnius City Municipality.
According to her, a similar policy of “not mowing where you can mow” is being introduced in many European cities, as it helps to maintain biodiversity, protect endangered plant and insect species, and cool the city in hot summers.
The new lawn care rules provide for mowing throughout the city along footpaths, street edges, and in places that may interfere with the visibility of drivers. 1.5-2 m wide swaths will be left next to the carriageway. They will be mowed so that taller grass does not turn into the street and does not disturb pedestrians or cyclists. The remaining areas will be left to nature.
On highways, in the green sections between lanes, pedestrian or bicycle paths, mowing will be done only from the edge. In actively used public spaces, such as the White Bridge, in the Missionary Gardens, mowing is planned when the grass is higher than 10 centimetres. After evaluating the positive experience of last year, Barbican Mountain will not be mowed again this year.
The new rules for the maintenance of meadows stipulate that part of the meadows, streets, and slopes of the Neris, depending on weather conditions and the rate of grass growth, can be mowed after June 24.
Observations from the past two years show that June is often extremely hot and dry, so, likely, meadows will only be mowed for the first time after August 15.
Undeveloped, urbanized areas will be mowed as needed, but at least twice a season: the first time after June 24 and the second time after September 1. Of course, the mowing time can be adjusted according to weather conditions.
Areas where invasive plants are spreading, such as the Canadian goldenrod, eastern daisy fleabane, and Russian dock, will be mowed in late July before the plants have matured and spread the seeds.
“When looking after the city’s greenery, we strive for a balance between order and naturalness. Only a few species of plants remain to be grown on permanently mowed lawns, and the ecosystem value of such lawns is almost disappearing. Intensive mowing is also abandoned in many cities because shaved lawns become particularly vulnerable to droughts and rainwater drains from over-dried lawns such as hard surfaces contributing to flooding in the city streets.“, – says R. Baniulienė.
Botanist, and nature conservation specialist Vilma Gudynienė says that last summer, the unheated slopes of the western bypass already showed flowering mallows, stonecrops, bedstraws, and campions, alkanets, Echiums, and other spontaneous plants.
“Those who are afraid of ticks in the city need to know that their density depends on their connection with natural habitats, not on mowing. If the urban meadow or park is separated from the natural habitats and has no connection with the forests, ticks may not be present in the grass at all, for example, in the road lane, and the transport ring“, – claims V. Gudynienė.
According to her, the analysis of various studies on the prevalence of ticks shows that ticks are mainly found in the woods, in areas with close contact with forests, and the transition from open habitat to the forest. To become vectors of parasites, ticks must also be associated with nearby blood-feeding animal populations.
Currently, the green areas of Vilnius City Municipality are supervised by the companies Ekonovus, Ecoservice, Šilėja, VSA Vilnius, and Stebulė.