The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia
Wednesday, 15 May 2024 17:04

Follow some protocols during No-Mow May or risk the sting of a city codes violation

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IMG 3876Gerry Moll is seen in the native garden of his home in the 4th and Gill neighborhood of Knoxville in this file photo. Moll tends to his natural habitat in keeping with city codes protocols.  Ben Pounds/Hellbender Press

City: Overgrown lots don’t automatically qualify as wildlife habitat

KNOXVILLE — City government wants people to know that though “No Mow May” is a worthy observation there are still some protocols residents have to follow to avoid codes violations and potential fines.

The month of May is hyped as a prime time to refrain from cutting your grass or portions of your lawn to allow pollinating plants and the pollinators they support to get six legs up late spring and early summer nectar season. It’s also an occasion to consider the fact that traditional lawns are largely ecological deserts.

“No Mow May” is a quick and catchy name for a movement that aims far beyond not mowing the yard for a month,” according to Bee City USA, a proponent of keeping your yard real and wild when and where it is practical.

“It’s more than long grass and dandelion blooms. It’s a gateway to understanding how we share our lawns with many small creatures.”

It goes beyond bees and butterflies and other pollinating insects. Many ground-nesting birds are on the decline due to loss of grassy habitat. Native grasses also serve as habitat for small mammals such as rabbits and mice, which in turn provide a buffet for raptors such as owls, hawks and eagles.

Hellbender Press has reported on cultivation of such natural landscapes and habitats within the city limits. Groups such as the Native Plant Rescue Squad can also provide plants and guidance.

This month’s almost perpetual rainy weather has precluded a lot of mowing, anyway, but there are steps that natural landscapers still must take to ensure they don’t run afoul of city ordinances intended to keep neighborhoods tidy and well-kempt in the eyes of some beholders.

“Only residents who [have registered] a Certified Wildlife Habitat with the National Wildlife Federation or a Tennessee Smart Yard with the UT Agriculture Extension agency can reduce the number of times they mow,” said city communications director Kristin Farley. “The city of Knoxville requires yards to be mowed regularly,” she said.

There’s not a lot of biological benefit to overgrown turf grasses such as Bermuda and fescue, anyway.

“Yards cannot be overgrown and called a wildlife habitat. In order for the city to not send you a codes violation, be sure that your certification plaque is visible, and for best practices, keep the pollinator beds ‘landscaped’ with borders,” Farley said. “There also needs to be space between your pollinator beds and your neighbors’ yards as well as any sidewalks.”

If grass or other plants exceed 12 inches in height and a complaint is filed, the city will send you a notice of a codes violation, and within a month, will cut your grass and bill you. The property owner may also be cited to municipal court, where “substantial fines and penalties may be imposed.”

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Last modified on Thursday, 16 May 2024 15:31