Most things I think if worth doing, are worth doing well. But that's not always the same as being thorough.
When I mow meadows with the tractor I am reducing the height of last summer's grass and wildflower stems from three or four feet to 4 - 5 inches. I've already waited to the end of winter so that the vegetation has provided winter cover. But those stems are also full of insects that are a food source for birds and other animals. Even for the few weeks until grasses start growing again there is a temporary loss of habitat associated with the meadow's mowing. However, with no management the meadow itself will be lost, that is, it will become another kind of habitat, and not the one we are managing for at that location.
As much as I enjoy the aesthetic of a neatly-mown meadow (that's why we like turfgrass lawns, right?) I know that mowing a little less thoroughly offers a few benefits.
The circles of Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) left standing in this mowed meadow are my attempt at creating patchiness in this meadow. The standing patches serve as refugia for the species that depend on the cover or the species that reside therein. Next year, the unmowed circles will likely be left in different spots in the meadow so there is no impact in managing the meadow.
One of the advantages of using prescribed fire to manage a meadow is that it naturally creates patchiness: some parts burn well and others don't. We burn these meadows about every five years and mow each year when not burned. Below is part of the meadow that is scheduled to be burned this year, some time in the next couple weeks.
Practical Stewardship Notes (c) Daniel Barringer