Scarred for life » « If only he’d shot himself a day earlier I endorse this message Which is prettier, the top or bottom photo? Second question: which do you think supports greater spider diversity? See also this story. Quebec has a law saying your lawn has to be shorter than 15cm? What if you don’t have a lawn? Share this:PrintEmailShare on TumblrTweet Scarred for life » « If only he’d shot himself a day earlier
Lawns are for the most part wrong. Unless you are playing soccer with your kid, why do you have a lawn at home? Everyone should be minimizing their lawn space and increasing biodiversity.
That of course is if you are lucky enough to have land to begin with. My wife and I just bought a ‘house in the burbs’ so Yeap, we are lucky. Now I need to convince her to shrink the lawn space (but keep something for my son to play soccer/cricket/baseball etc on once he is old enough) – a nice mix of wild flowers would go nicely in a spot or two I think.
Well, it appears to be one particular municipality that has this law, not the whole province of Quebec, although I’ll bet other municipalities have similar laws. I’ve read about comparable laws in the US. In any case, a good mix of wildflowers is definitely a lot better for insects, spiders, birds, small mammals, and other wildlife.
What if you don’t have a lawn?
No lawn — e.g., local flora, or (not recommended!) a slab of concrete — must be “shorter” than 15cm for any commonly-understood meaning of “lawn” (he says without checking the dictionary).
I can understand why laws against dirt, or standing water, as a regular feature (dust, mosquitoes, etc.), or perhaps certain plants (those which are toxic or irritating and in reach of young children), or similar, but if one does have grass what’s the problem if it’s more than c.6in? Six feet — excepting perhaps bamboo — would seem to an issue (fire risk if / when it dries (e.g.)). (To avoid confusion: I’m anti-imported lawn — locally-native grass is perhaps Ok…)
I live in the communist era built neighborhood with 10-15 storeys high buildings but quite lot space between them.
Due to covid and drought the lawn were not mowed and we got over half meter high grass and flowers between buildings it looked great.
It’s already cut down, but maybe they will stop cutting it extremely short all the time.
I remember, when I was a kid, hearing that if you don’t cut your lawn for a hundred years, it would become a deciduous forest. I remember bringing this fact up every time my dad asked me to mow.
Now I’m the one with a house in a suburb, and I am compromising. I keep the tiny front lawn mowed for my neighbors, but I’m letting my back lawn grow whatever it wants just to see what develops. As long as it isn’t poison ivy, it’s welcome.
My lawn is, by suburban standards, a mess. It does have some lovely clumps of daisies in it right now. I dream of moving to a cabin in the forest, where the squirrels would not silently judge me as they pass by on their evening walks.
I really need to take all those pics of my nice herbs and grasses and flowers. After all, the definition of “weed” is “something I don’t want to grow there”. Most things are welcome on the Giliell Estate
I could do without mosquitoes and ticks, though.
R. L. Foster says
I’ve been experimenting with replacing a section of my ‘lawn’ with various wildflowers to attract bees. They do love hyssop and coneflowers. But another plant that I stumbled upon while putting in some herbs is oregano. It’s hardy and very easy to grow, doesn’t require much water, and it loves the sun and heat. It’s also quite aggressive, so it doesn’t take many seasons for it to spread out and produce an insect friendly mini biome. Everything loves oregano — bees, butterflies, those nameless little fly-like things and, of course, my famous pasta sauce.
I believe in Toronto the rule is that you have to demonstrate that your yard is properly tended. In practice, this means that letting it grow all wild is fine as long as you keep the edges trimmed so that plant roots don’t grow into and crack the sidewalk.
(Why, yes, there actually have been lawsuits about this in the past.)
Checking the City website, it says:
The ‘natural garden’ part is the key part that the lawsuits were about; basically, as long as you let local wildflowers grow and you keep the edges trimmed so they won’t break up the sidewalks (and demonstrate that you’re not just abandoning it) you’re just fine on the bylaw.
Quebec has a law saying your lawn has to be shorter than 15cm
This is coming from a country that seems to have invented Home Owner Associations?
Good heavens even the mayor of La Pêche says it is a silly law. I wonder if a bored by-law enforcement officer wrote up the order?
From the mayor’s comments it does not sound like the municipality will go to court.
It might be difficult to enforce since, IIRC’ the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau has a garden a bit like that and it likely is a 5 minute walk from the courthouse—Would you like to see it, Judge?
Well, uhh, duh. if you don’t have a lawn then, obviously, it can be longer than 15cm.
@8, Ah yes, Oregano (Origan)! The stuff seems to grow all over the place here in S.France and is apparently — along with the related Marjoram (Marjolaine) — native to the Mediterranean area.
@6, I actually did used to live in a cabin in the Redwoods near Santa Cruz (California). Except for a nearby small-scale farm (don’t recall now what they were growing), it seemed to be mostly(? entirely?) native flora. There were certainly deer, mountain lions, and banana slugs in the area, along with other critters. Presumably fish in the stream, but the ravine was so steep I never dared go down to take a closer look. Quiet and dark at night, albeit due to the redwood trees, not so great for stargazing. And bloody scary during high winds or a big storm, when every now and then (rather rarely, actually) you could hear a THUMP!… a branch (usually, or at least once, an entire redwood tree) came crashing down.
When my uncle from Maryland was visiting a few decades ago and has seen the overgrown grass on our garden, he introduced us to the concept of HOA. And I have instantly considered it to be a pseudo-fascist system designed to force conformity and obedience.
We mow our garden since that is necessary for healthy growth and to keep my allergies in check. But we do not keep it trimmed short, except paths between the house, vegetable beds, and greenhouses. As a result, many beautiful flowers blossom in my garden, and I like it that way. Occasionally a tree sprouts up in the grass – an oak, or a hazel, from nuts planted by jays in the fall. Those are re-planted in the fall into the coppice, where they can grow and be useful later for fire wood.
Further, we are leaving some parts to overgrow and we mow them subsequently with a scythe and not with a lawnmower. A healthy exercise and, again, much better for the environment, since it does not shred everything in its path.
ESTEC, one of the European Space Agency’s research centres and satellite testing facility, located in the Netherlands, is pretty large. Apparently there is a rule for the location, probably in place ever since it was planned, that at least 30% of the site must be green. This is where I think they went wrong: Instead of giving ESTEC its own little forest, lush meadows, a botanical garden or whatever else it could have been, someone decided to put in a golf course. Naturally…
Re: Quebec’s lawncare law:
Do they specifiy a minimum height? That could give the lawnless trouble. Anyway, I’d refuse to pay any fines unless the law properly defines “lawn height” and suitable measurement procedures, perferably with references to pertinent international standards. There are so many open questions here. Are we talking about mean, mode or median height? What kind of sample size are we expected to measure and how? For example, where is the lower end of the plant? It can’t be “ground level” or something simplistic like that because modelling my lawn as a perfectly level plane wouldn’t do at all.
My spouse and I had a wild-flower garden in the area between the sidewalk and the street for a couple of years. Year 1 it won a “beautiful garden” award issued by the city. Year 2 we were issued notice of a fine for not keeping the area properly tended (i.e. there were too many weeds). Sent the city a photo of the award from the previous year and the fine was rescinded but we decided not to take chances and replaced the wild flowers with a mix of ornamental grasses.
I think that a lot of these rules about trimmed lawns, whether they come from local city/town ordinances or HOA rules, are justified by the idea that lawns that are not cut short will drive down property values in the neighborhood, and so hurt everyone else financially. I wonder how true that actually is, and if it is currently true, whether it will continue to be true if more and more people come to appreciate a more natural look.
HOAs are kind of a ‘dark side of democracy’ thing, where the rules are made by the people who are entitled busybodies who don’t have anything better to do (and enforced on those who do have better things to do). Set up something like that in what was already a ‘white flight’ suburb full of people rich enough to hire others to mow their lawns, and, understandably, things get ugly fast.
brucegee @ #5
We’re doing the same thing that you are. We bought our home last September, after moving from Texas, where most plants shrivel and die in the heat, to the beautiful central coast of California. Almost anything that I stick into the ground grows and thrives here.
Since we have some massive bushes lining the very steep hill along one side of our terraced back yard for privacy, I talked my husband into hiring a gardener to keep them neatly trimmed. Manuel loves the grass in our small front yard, and he’s made it his goal to keep it fertilized, green and mowed to perfection. We get lots of approving comments from the neighbors on evening walks.
That terraced patio and back yard is a different story, though. The previous owner left the three-level patio with lots of lovely plants and vines, which Manuel has trimmed, thinned and left the patio looking lovely. We have a plant called a New Zealand Flax, which has sent up the most striking stalks with red flowers that I’ve ever seen. The hummingbirds and bees love it. They also love the Lion’s paw, with it’s orange flowers, under my kitchen window, A couple of pink Mop head hydrangeas under the living room windows also seem to draw the bees and hummingbirds, to the great delight of my house cats, who hang out on the window sills.
Me, I love plants that I can cook with. My husband built me a couple of planter boxes and I bought an outdoor shelf for the herbs that prefer pots. I’m growing oregano, marjoram, thyme, parsley, sage, chives, dill and basil. My garden area is lined with some rather old rosemary bushes that drape over the retaining wall. We planted a bay laurel bush near the grill area so that I will always have bay leaves.
We have two huge old oak trees on the lowest level of the back yard. My current project is to install a fairy garden under one of them, with hobbit homes and a wizard. I’ll plant lots of succulents in that little garden. We plan to plant some rose bushes close to the wall behind the fairy garden. This will have two purposes – to provide some painful thorns for anyone attempting to climb our fence, and to provide an English garden backdrop for the fairy garden.
I have a garden bench on order for that area, too. My husband has promised to build a trellis to go over it, so I’ll probably grow a vine or something flowering over it. We actually have a garden gate, so he’s also thinking about a trellis over it.
I’m asking friends and family still living in Texas to send me lots of packet of bluebonnets and other Texas wildflowers to scatter on that lowest level of the yard.
Living in an area where gardening is easy has changed me from a person with two black thumbs to quite the gardener!
when considering plants to substitute for lawns besides edible plants and herbs and those that attract bees and humming birds, consider those that are attractive to butterflies both for the nectar and the larval stage nothing as fun as seeing a large yellow and black tiger swallowtail moving around in the air
When we bought our place the first thing we did was tear out all the ornamentals and plant a vegetable garden. We also grow herbs. These things don’t need to be mowed – ever. Ours is a raised bed garden so there are paths between the beds and I suppose you could call those plants growing there a lawn… but it’s actually native grasses, forbs and some of the pasture grasses people grow here.
When we lived in town, we had a neighbor with a perfectly huge fenced-in lawn in front of their house and to my mystification, they mowed it. I asked them why they didn’t just buy a few lambs at the auction and keep them on that beautiful grass. Then in the fall they’d have lamb chops and they wouldn’t have to mow the lawn – all for the price of keeping a filled water trough in there. They were horrified I would think such a thing.
Crudely Wrott says
Some years back when I lived in the Rockies at about 7,000 feet above sea level, I contacted the local Soil and Water Conservation District and discovered that they would sell me a sack of seed. For about nine bucks I got a bag that contained over four million seeds of wild flowers native to my location. Mostly perennials.
Boom! Borrow neighbors roto-tiller in late October. Tilled up an area of the “lawn” close to the street. About 50 by 25 feet. By November I had cleaned up all the shredded grass, knocked the dirt off the root balls and raked the area smooth. Hand broadcast about a third of the seeds and raked them shallowly into the soil. Then I waited for spring.
I’ll just say that for someone to stop just outside the fence and take pictures was not uncommon. By the second season it was even better, attracting pollinators of many kinds.
Another good resource is you local county’s extension service. They work with local colleges and growers to pass on to you tips and guidance tailored to your location, soil type and needs. Most valuable resource. Also, it’s free.
William George says
In the far flung year of “Never” when it comes time to rent my own suburban house from the bank, I shall build a Japanese style home. Not the fancy rich ones with the zen garden. The ones the average person lives in where there is a small walkway between the low stone wall around the property and the walls of the house. Because lawns are crap and so are suburbs.
On HOAs and covenants…how different is it to regulate how well tended your yard is and whether you are allowing unwelcome “weeds” in and what kinds of people are allowed to live in the neighborhood?
Actually some regulation (of foliage not people) is warranted in preventing someone from removing all their trees and preventing invasive noxious species, but that ship has done sailed. Ain’t getting rid of Brazilian pepper ever.
Still HOAs do seem to attract control freaks. Tedious a-holes:
Well, never underestimate the stupidity of a white American with a chip on their shoulder, but I call Bullshit. Even if the front yard of the house I was c looking at were completely overgrown, that would mean “a couple of days work” or “a few hundred bucks for a gardener” and may factor into the price for the house I was looking at. But I can’t remember that the neighbours ‘ front yards had any impact on our house price.
The Vicar (via Freethoughtblogs) says
If I had to make a bet, the 15 cm law is there in order to justify selective harassment of The Wrong Type Of Person if they are so audacious as to buy a house in the area. It will not be enforced except when the local Powers That Be want it to be. I would be willing to bet that a careful search of 100 randomly-selected lawns which passed official muster would find 16-centimeter blades of grass in at least 50 of them, and probably closer to 90.
The Wrong Type Of Person may of course be People With Dark Skin, but the beauty of this sort of law is that it can so easily be adapted when the local Powers That Be change their minds over time. Maybe last decade they didn’t like poor people. Maybe this decade they don’t like old people. Maybe next decade they won’t like Jewish people. Anybody can be selectively harassed by a code enforcement officer with a ruler!
I used to rent an apartment in a town which is relatively famous — certainly within the state, and arguably even a mild reputation outside it — as a bastion of liberal politics, which had an old ordinance saying you couldn’t leave your garage door open if you weren’t present. This ordinance was only enforced against people who were critical of the town government. You’d be amazed how carefully the local police force watched the garages of people who criticized the head of the local government in the press. There was a man who wrote a series of letters to the local press (this was some years ago) criticizing the handling of, IIRC, garbage pickup and commercial zoning in the downtown area, and one day his toddler got on their tricycle and rode down the sidewalk, and in the less-than-one-minute it took for the guy to chase after the kid and bring them back he got a citation for leaving his garage door open and unattended.
Re: the 15 cm rule
The wife and I bought a McMansion on 3 acres 18 years ago. We restored the back acre to meadow as wildlife habitat. It is a chemical-free oasis for bees and other pollinators, spiders, mantids, snakes, small mammals and even foxes and deer. Our neighbors complained to the county because it didn’t look like a fricking putting green, but because we have a bird bath as a constant source of water, the county told them that it was “wildlife habitat,” and therefore perfectly legal–even encouraged.
BTW, you should see the fireflies out there this year. You could damn near read by them.
To Unclefrogy @ #19
A butterfly garden is most certainly in my plans! A town near us, Pacific Grove, is famous for it’s Monarch butterfly sanctuary. Another butterfly sanctuary is currently being made in the canyon just behind our neighborhood.
My BFF in Texas has a butterfly garden in her backyard and was going to come to visit me and help me to choose plants for mine. The SIP changed our plans. I’m going to wait until she can come out to see me. It will give her great joy to help me.
We also live very close to the Ft. Ord Wildlife Conservatory, which was declared to be a national conservation site by President Obama. Just as we were moving from here in 2013, a pair of bald eagles nested at Ft. Ord, and I got to see them circling overhead once. Now that we’ve moved back, Ft. Ord has a thriving population of bald eagles. Every time we go to the commissary, we spot several. Nearly every time that I go out to sit on the patio in the afternoon, I spot a pair of them circling over our neighborhood. My cat has seen the eagles and other hawks from her window perch and runs terrified to another part of the house when she sees the “cat-eating birds”! LOL
We’re surrounded by wildlife here in Monterey – Big Sur just south of us, Ft. Ord to the north, and the beautiful Monterey Bay just one mile to the west (and visible from my living room window). We’ve come to paradise to retire, and we’re very happy here.
Fun fact: The custom of growing grass around your house originated with pre-revolutionary French nobility, where they would conspicuously waste fertile crop land on an essentially useless plant. Lawns are literally flexing on your neighbor.