A “Meadow Movement”

There seems to be a worldwide movement to allow wild meadow to replace short-clipped turf lawns.

Here are links to just a few of many articles I’ve seen recently about what I’m calling the “Back-to-Meadow Movement.”

People are being encouraged to allow lawns to revert to meadow to save bees and other pollinators. To help its declining population of essential pollinators, the state of Minnesota is even looking at paying homeowners to replace lawns with bee-friendly wildflowers and native grasses.

Note, if I were to be allowed to try this on the empty lot next to me (I have just emailed my idea to the relevant departments of my city government), the grass would spontaneously revert to meadow just by easing up on mowing. There’s no need to go to the expense of ripping out the grass and planting flowers. The wildflowers and grasses emerge of their own accord over time. Think how much money we could save, as well as helping the environment and reducing the use of noisy mechanized equipment in neighborhoods!

Below the article links you can read the letter I sent. I hope it’ll help others who would want to do similar things in their own cities.

In London, UK, “The London borough of Brent is creating a ‘bee corridor’ of meadowland to boost the population of vital pollinators.” (from inews)

Gardeners urged to let lawns run wild and count flowers to help save bees: “While many gardeners prize a well-maintained lawn, conservationists are urging people to leave their mowers in the shed and count wildflowers instead,” reports the Independent.

In the U.S. state of Minnesota, MNN reports, “lawmakers have approved a new spending program … to pay homeowners who replace traditional lawns with bee-friendly wildflowers, clover and native grasses.”

Farmers are getting in on it too: Farmers using flowers instead of chemicals to beat back pests: “It’s been a common practice to grow flowers around the perimeter of farmland acres, because it encourages biodiversity. But agriculturalists are experimenting with strips of flowers within their crops, creating a highway for bugs to travel farther and cover more ground for pest control.” (from GreenMatters)

And finally, my letter to city officials (some details omitted for privacy and conciseness):

Hope you find these resources helpful in restoring quiet, beauty, and pollinators to your neighborhood.

Dear <City Officials of relevant departments>,

As you know, I live on xxx Avenue at the intersection of xxx and xxx. Immediately adjacent to me on xxx is an empty lot owned by the City. Currently is is being kept mowed extremely short by a contractor.

I would like permission to try an experiment on all or part of this lot. I would like to try managing it as a “managed meadow,” allowing the grass to grow a few inches high and selectively encouraging the emergence of native wildflowers and dune grasses. I would create mowed borders or other features to ensure a neat and deliberate appearance. 

The benefits to the City would be multi-fold:

— Reduced runoff, improved stormwater percolation, improved soil quality, improved erosion control (there is considerable erosion on the slope right now, as frequent mowing with large machinery has created many bare patches where there used to be grass and small shrubs)

— Improved microclimate (cooler; better hydration; reduced heat-island effect)

— Habitat for butterflies and other pollinators

— Neighborhood beautification: softer, greener vegetation; flowers

— Potential increase in property values; attract more fulltime residents through a unique natural amenity

— Potential for community garden feature, by introducing a small patch of edible greens and herbs (at one corner of the meadow next to the sidewalk, inviting residents to pick fresh greens)

— Reduction in noise and air pollution by reducing/eliminating need for large gas-powered equipment

— Test-bed for “Managed Meadow” concept that could potentially be implemented citywide, freeing up for other tasks the resources currently being used for mowing

— Since I’d be volunteering, there would be potential money savings for the City (though I am not setting out to deprive the contractors of income by reducing their hours, so might have to put some more thought into this aspect) <Comment thought of after sending letter: while not seeking to deprive anyone of a livelihood, I cannot condone practices that are unhealthy to the land, creatures, and people.>

I propose to try the Managed Meadow experiment for six months, subject to monitoring by the City. Assuming it goes well, I would continue (possibly enlisting neighbors’ help via community workdays).

It seems to me that the City could benefit greatly by not having to use so many resources for close-cropped mowing. Also, there is great potential for improved stormwater absorption, which obviously is a hot-button item for us as it is for many cities.

And the residents could benefit greatly from the beautification and noise reduction.

With this plan I would create attractive signage to inform the public of the intent and benefits of the Managed Meadow.

Before starting, I would approach the other homeowners whose lots are ajacent to this one, and get their approval by explaining the intent and answering questions to satisfy any possible concerns.

In the future, if someone wants to build a house on this lot, the meadowscape would be no barrier — and likely would even be seen as a desirable feature of the lot.

What are your thoughts on this? I’ve been thinking about this for a very long time and would love to make it happen.

All the best to you,