On the freedom to let your yard grow

Why don’t we have the freedom to do what we want with our lawns?

In most cities, if you don’t mow your lawn, you’ll get a notice from the city threatening to send in the mowers and leave you a big bill for the work. A lawn must be just so.

More people are pushing back — admittedly haphazardly — against the notion that grass must be green and well manicured, even though fewer people are arguing that any good — other than an aesthetic — comes out of it.

An Ohio woman, writing in the Washington Post, challenges this ongoing sensibility by refusing to cut her lawn, although she recently hacked it down to 8 inches to keep the township at bay.

People should be allowed to live out their values on their own property as long as they are not causing a true nuisance that hinders their neighbors’ use of their own properties. In May, the White House released a strategy to protect pollinators by increasing wildlife habitat.

But while the report encourages homeowners to set aside natural habitat for wildlife, it offers them no legal support to do so. We need local regulations of private lawns to reflect science, not the whims of town officials. They should be developed in consultation with ecologists and botanists, to set standards for natural yards that are safe and healthy for both humans and wildlife.

Society needs to adjust its cultural norms on lawn aesthetics. For the health of the planet, and for our own health, we need to start letting nature dictate how we design our outdoor spaces.

We need to reassess how much mowed space we really need. By the size of most people’s lawns in my area, you’d think they were hosting a weekly lacrosse match. But the only time I ever really see them on their lawns is when they are mowing them.

It’s a nice sentiment but it’s probably never going to happen.

A homeowner in Michigan made a federal case out of the situation. David Shoemaker of Howell, Mich., rebelled after the city cut a tree by the curb without consulting him. So he stopped mowing his lawn.

The city sent in the mowers and gave him a $600 bill.

He won in a lower court but last week a federal appeals court said the charge and the ordinance are legit.

“No fundamental right is impacted by the ordinance’s requirement that he mow and maintain that land,” a judge said.

The case could end up at the Supreme Court, says the Detroit Free Press.