Native meadow grass
Native meadow grass

There’s a movement afoot in Henrico County to make it easier to grow grass. Not marijuana. Meadow grass.

Lawns are one of the banes of suburbia. They are biologically sterile, supporting very little wildlife. They require constant maintenance, including applications of fertilizer that washes into the watershed and causes algae blooms in the Chesapeake Bay and its major tributaries. They hold little water during a downpour, contributing to the problem of storm water management. Last but not least, they require mowing, and small, inefficient lawnmower engines contribute disproportionately to air pollution. As a society, we’d be better off without lawns. Just one little problem: Homeowners love them.

If people want to keep their lawns, that’s fine with me. But people who want to convert their lawns to prairie grass should be free to do so. Trouble is, they can’t. Suburban county ordinances require homeowners to cut their grass.

In Henrico County, according to the Times-Dispatch, land within 250 feet of a residential property must be cut to a foot or less in height. But the Board of Supervisors is considering an ordinance that would loosen that restriction to 150 feet, and even 50 feet if a property owner is involved with a bona fide conservation program.

“This is a very positive step that the county is taking,” said Nicole Anderson Ellis, chairwoman of the Henricopolis Soil and Water Conservation District Board.

Added Mark Strickler, head of Henrico’s Office of Community Revitalization: “We had a case where somebody wanted to let their property go natural, and there really wasn’t a mechanism to allow that under the code.”


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3 responses to “Let the Grass Grow Free”

  1. Grass lawns are, if included in some measures, the largest crop by acreage in Virginia.

  2. so we’re gonna adopt Detroit standards? 😉

    Meadows and Prairies are beautiful to look at – but they are also habitat that attract insects and critters (that like to burrow) – and snakes that come to eat the critters.

    I’m more aligned with the rain garden idea of a depressed area with plants in the middle that not only take up the runoff but specific plants to take up the phosphorous and nitrogen in the runoff. I would favor that as a tax credit to offset the storm water fees.

    human settlement areas are not nature areas – never were, never will be – have possums in your attic and skunks wandering the back yard and deer eating your ornamental plants is not what most people want but if you turn your yard into habitat that draws those critters – that’s what you’ll get.

    I remember as a kid – walking a vacant lot next door that had not been cut recently – and the critters that lived there and one day coming up on a huge snake who let me know – that it was his turf – not mine and I readily agreed with him and retreated – and never again saw that lot as an inviting place to explore!

    that’s followed me my life even after becoming an avid hiker – I spent half my time looking down – at the trail – especially in the mountains… and out west but even here at home where I sometimes hike power-line corridors – Mr. Snake is usually present and I readily agree to respect his choice of place to be. My wife loves to handle “nice” snakes.. I get the willies no matter the brand…

  3. An alternative to prairie grass that’s very pleasing in large yards is the creation of a natural selection of wildflowers changing every few weeks. It takes some killing of the grass at the outset, and it incurs some expense in hiring the meadow expert, but then the succession becomes sustainable, and very attractive to pollinators and to homeowners, without mowing.

    As one who must bush hog to keep sheep pastures in order, I find even that requirement regrettable, because it removes flowers enjoyed by bees, but one must cut the thistles. The point is, that fields take management, and even prairie grass planting and maintenance is time-consuming, and yet rewarding and far less sterile and life-sustaining than regular grass mowing.

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