Some N.H. residents are balking at an ordinance requiring them to chop their lawns

The Boston Globe

Receiving the discover made Jacqui Pierce much more decided to transform her garden into an oasis for pollinators.

Officers in Somersworth, N.H., advised Jacqui Pierce she needed to mow her garden. She refused as a result of she needs to assist the bees. She thinks the town ought to change the ordinance requiring residents to maintain lawns lower than 10 inches. Many others within the state agree that pollinators want the habitat. Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Employees

SOMERSWORTH, N.H. — When metropolis compliance officer Shane Conlin sees an overgrown garden or receives a criticism about one, he points a discover with a easy message telling residents it’s time to mow.

Jacqui Pierce obtained one however, not like different residents, she refused to heed the code compliance officer’s request.

Pierce mentioned the day earlier than receiving the discover, she was on the brink of lower the grass, however she stopped when she noticed bees buzzing across the tall grass and small yellow flowers. She mentioned she’s been “dumping” wildflower seeds on her garden, and took part in “No Mow Might” this 12 months, an unofficial occasion the place folks don’t lower their lawns in an effort to present extra meals and habitats for pollinators.

“As bee populations are declining, extra persons are changing into cognizant of what they plant of their yard,” mentioned Pierce.

She sees herself as a part of a rising motion, and believes Somersworth must catch up. However the motion’s success in Somersworth could rely on altering the town’s cultural and authorized norms round garden mowing.

Receiving the discover made Pierce much more decided to transform her garden into an oasis for pollinators and struggle the town ordinance.

“It’s a dumb ordinance and it’s outdated,” she mentioned. “I simply couldn’t even consider the ordinance existed.”

Owners in different components of the nation have fought this type of ordinance and received.

Conlin mentioned this can be a first for him — a resident has by no means pushed again after receiving a courtesy discover from the town earlier than. He mentioned he points lots of per 12 months, and has given out no less than 50 to date this summer season. “We get plenty of complaints from neighbors,” he mentioned.

Jacqui Pierce in her yard in Somersworth, N.H., with a wildflower within the foreground. SUZANNE KREITER/GLOBE STAFF

Past an aesthetic concern, Conlin mentioned overgrown lawns can blow weed seeds from one garden to a different and conceal rat or mice populations that may impression neighboring properties. The ordinance, which the town adopted in 2013 from the 2009 Worldwide Property Upkeep Code, requires properties to be freed from weeds or plant progress longer than 10 inches, nevertheless it does enable for “cultivated flowers and gardens.”

“We don’t have any particular delineations inside our ordinance of what’s allowed, between gardens or grass,” Conlin mentioned. So, in conditions like this, “It’s form of as much as interpretation of whoever is in my place.”

Conlin recommended that Pierce apply to change into an official pollinator backyard by the College of Maine, and Pierce is taking him up on the concept. “That manner I’m doing it proper and never simply on the fly, which is principally what I’ve been doing,” she mentioned.

Pierce believes this could possibly be a turning level for the town of Somersworth, which some native beekeepers are pushing to designate as a bee metropolis to encourage folks to plant extra wildflowers and use much less pesticides.

“I believe there’s an enormous motion beginning,” she mentioned. “We’re on the forefront of it and it’ll get greater because the years go on.”

Whereas pollinators like bees are crucial to the meals provide, they’ve been decimated by illness, local weather change, the lack of habitat, and the usage of pesticides. Final 12 months, round half of managed colonies within the US died, and beekeepers have been shedding round 30 % of their hives per 12 months since 2006, in response to a number of research.

Monarch butterfly populations have additionally declined precipitously, dropping by 85 % within the 20 years, in response to the Middle for Organic Range. Monarchs are additionally pollinators.

Usually, lawns are a part of the issue, in response to Theresa Ong, a professor of environmental research at Dartmouth School.

She mentioned that whereas lawns aren’t universally unhealthy, they are usually managed in “hyper insensitive methods” — utilizing plenty of water and herbicides to keep up a single monoculture crop on a panorama that usually wouldn’t look that manner with out human intervention.

Fastidiously manicured lawns will not be native to New Hampshire. Ong mentioned they originated with serfs and lords in Europe and have been imported into the USA, the place they’ve change into a logo of social standing.

“Lawns have been handed down as a logo of wealth and prosperity,” she mentioned. “The extra manicured, the extra rich you’re.”

That perspective continues at present, she mentioned, and it could actually form why folks assume “messy” lawns are unhealthy. However, she mentioned, attitudes can change, as extra folks go for options to grassy lawns and discover magnificence in a messy meadow.

Garden options like perennial flowers and meadows require less-intensive administration and may profit pollinators by restoring a number of the habitat they’ve misplaced. Native vegetation are notably useful as a result of pollinators have developed to rely on them: the monarch butterfly, for instance, is determined by milkweed to outlive.

Mowing much less typically supplies a few of these advantages, in response to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. Not mowing throughout summer season can enhance the variety of flowering vegetation and supply habitat for invertebrates that spend the winter in undisturbed areas.

David Hammond has labored on planting 13 pollinator gardens in New Hampshire’s Higher Valley over the previous 3 years, and he mentioned the distinction is palpable. The gardens appeal to all types of life.

A pollinator honey bee within the yard of Jacqui Pierce in Somersworth, N.H. SUZANNE KREITER/GLOBE STAFF

“They’re nearly buzzing, they’re nearly throbbing with exercise. Simply 1000’s and 1000’s of creepy crawlies, of bugs and moths and butterflies, all types of bugs, and birds,” he mentioned.

He mentioned he hasn’t encountered a lot resistance to those tasks, and he tries to move off disagreements earlier than they start by explaining the undertaking will “be a little bit wild wanting, nevertheless it’s going to be useful.” The town of Lebanon is supportive and has change into a accomplice: providing up house at its municipal airport and a historic cemetery the place Hammond has established gardens.

“Think about leaving areas of your garden uncut and letting the wildflowers bloom!” the town encourages residents in a handout on supporting pollinators within the panorama. One other bullet level: “Embrace weeds!”

“That previously undesirable weed might change into an appreciated wildflower providing nectar and pollen for bees and sweetness,” it continues.

The town additionally has a pesticide-free pollinator pathway, maintained by gardener Patricia McGovern.

She mentioned she began engaged on it in 2009 after studying concerning the “insect apocalypse” and the way pesticides have an effect on bee replica and make it tougher for them to search out their manner residence. Her work has largely been on public property. “I’m actually delighted with this new power right here in Lebanon to deal with this problem,” she mentioned, noting {that a} group known as Sustainable Lebanon is coaching householders to optimize their yards for pollinators, amongst different ecological advantages.

Hammond created a non-profit known as Creating Habitats for Pollinators that covers the price of planting and he highlights the promoting factors when speaking to cities. Sure, the gardens are lovely, however they will additionally decrease prices by eradicating the necessity to mow a couple of times every week, liberating up staff and cash for different issues.

“As soon as they get planted, I’ve actually been astounded concerning the response. I imply persons are going loopy. They’re simply going gaga about these gardens,” he mentioned.

David Hammond has labored on planting 13 pollinator gardens round New Hampshire’s Higher Valley. DAVID HAMMOND