Mow Less, Grow More and Help The Planet

When spring arrives, the lawn and garden call. But as we learn more about our world, we ask if we really need all that grass. Maintaining it requires substantial resources of time, money and water. Could you reduce yours by half over time?

Start by planting a native oak tree. Over time, fill in with native shrubs and perennials that attract birds, pollinating butterflies and bees. Space too small? Plant a smaller tree like a native cherry, and add goldenrods, asters and sunflowers, all considered keystone plants that support local food webs and recreate ecosystems. Even your balcony can make a difference if it includes native plants.

Oak leaf at Hidden Oaks. Photo credit: Don Sweeney

The National Wildlife Federation’s Native Plant Finder provides lists of the best choices of plants for any area.  Native plant information sheets are available on the Green Spring Gardens web site.

Next steps? Mow your remaining grass at three inches or higher, and water it weekly only when less than one inch of rain has fallen. Reduce or eliminate your use of herbicides and pesticides. Remember, we are welcoming beneficial insects now. Consider a small water feature with a bubbler to attract birds.

Moving water does not attract mosquitos. If mosquitos are a problem, eliminate standing water sources and create just one. Partially fill a bucket with water. Add straw or hay, and let it ferment. It will draw in female mosquitos to lay their eggs. Then add a mosquito control dunk specific to the mosquito larvae. It works without spray and without harming newly established food webs. Don’t forget to remove any invasive plants from your yard. These plants do not support local food webs, and they invade natural areas. Learn more about them on the Park Authority’s web site.

Author Kim Young is a naturalist at Hidden Oaks Nature Center in Annandale, VA.

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About Fairfax County Park Authority

About Fairfax County Park Authority HISTORY: On December 6, 1950, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Park Authority was authorized to make decisions concerning land acquisition, park development and operations in Fairfax County, Virginia. To date, 13 park bond referenda have been approved between 1959 and 2016. Today, the Park Authority has 427 parks on more than 23,000 acres of land. We offer 325 miles of trails, our most popular amenity. FACILITIES: The Park system is the primary public mechanism in Fairfax County for the preservation of environmentally sensitive land and resources, areas of historic significance and the provision of recreational facilities and services including: • Nine indoor RECenters with swimming pools, fitness rooms, gyms and class spaces. Cub Run features an indoor water park and on-site naturalist • Eight golf courses from par-3 to championship level, four driving ranges including the new state-of-the-art heated, covered range at Burke Lake Golf Center • Five nature and visitor centers. Also nine Off-Leash Dog Activity areas • Three lakefront parks including Lake Fairfax, Lake Accotink and Burke Lake, with campgrounds at Burke Lake and Lake Fairfax. The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole at Lake Fairfax, Our Special Harbor Sprayground at Lee as well as an indoor water park at Cub Run RECenter • Clemyjontri Park, a fully accessible playground in Great Falls featuring two acres of family friendly fun and a carousel, as well as Chessie’s Big Backyard and a carousel at the Family Recreation Area at Lee District Park • An ice skating rink at Mount Vernon RECenter and the Skate Park in Wakefield Park adjacent to Audrey Moore RECenter • Kidwell Farm, a working farm of the 1930s-era at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, now with historic carousel • Eight distinctive historic properties available for rent • A working grist mill at Colvin Run in Great Falls and a restored 18th century home at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly • A horticulture center at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale • Natural and cultural resources protected by the Natural Resource Management Plan and Cultural Resource Plans, plus an Invasive Management Area program that targets alien plants and utilizes volunteers in restoring native vegetation throughout our community • Picnic shelters, tennis courts, miniature golf courses, disc golf courses, off-leash dog parks, amphitheaters, a marina, kayaking/canoeing center • Provides 263 athletic fields, including 39 synthetic turf fields, and manages athletic field maintenance services at 417 school athletic fields. PARK AUTHORITY BOARD: A 12-member citizen board, appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, sets policies and priorities for the Fairfax County Park Authority. Visit for Fairfax County Government's Comment Policy.

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