Pooja Bansal, a resident of Saskatoon, chose to turn her front lawn into a pollinator garden—an environment-friendly alternative she thought would enrich the local ecosystem. However, her plans hit a roadblock when city officials informed her that her garden violated municipal bylaws concerning plant heights.
“[Previously] it wasn’t giving back to the community, not creating biodiversity, and also used a lot of pesticides to kill native plants and species. So we wanted to give back and increase that biodiversity,” Bansal said, defending her decision to revamp her garden. She had already planted around 120 new flora specifically to attract pollinators like bees and butterflies and aimed to double that count.
Though her garden had the added benefits of water conservation and increasing bee activity, city officials came to her doorstep requesting her to cut some of her plants. “I was really surprised because [the officer] came back two to three times to check whether we had cut it down. He was using his time to actually monitor the weeds and the growth,” Bansal recounted.
According to the city’s Property Maintenance and Nuisance Abatement bylaw, lawns should not be overgrown with grass and weeds beyond 20 centimeters. Although there are exceptions for intentionally planted shrubs and perennials, the officials insisted on Bansal cutting her plants back.
Candace Savage, chair of Pollinator Paradise YXE, a local initiative advocating for more biodiverse gardens, emphasized that starting slow and keeping neighbors in the loop is vital. “It’s important to make your intentions clear because your garden, especially if it’s in the front yard, is going to look a little different than what people are used to.”
Bansal argued that the plants were intentionally cultivated and helped support local ecosystems by drawing in various species like butterflies and dragonflies. “It’s very important to keep them for the winter, because the seeds from it are food for the birds. We reluctantly had to cut it down,” she said.
The unfortunate consequence of complying with the bylaw was the loss of native grass, leading to soil erosion onto the sidewalk.
While Bansal has conformed to the city’s regulations, she remains committed to her goal. “We will continue doing our part in creating a pollinator garden and hope everyone else or some people join the movement to create more biodiversity in the city.”
Met Grazier, Saskatoon’s director of community standards, stated that the city usually works with residents to resolve such complaints, although he did not comment specifically on Bansal’s situation.
Bansal sees room for improvement in the city’s bylaws and hopes for a more intentional approach to biodiversity. “I would definitely like to see a change in bylaws for the city to take an intentional approach to create biodiversity, and not encourage just mindless lawns that have become a symbol of status and prestige,” she concluded.