Grasses for the Masses

Volunteers in CBFs Virginia Grasses for the Masses program plant their grasses in the James River. Photo by CBF StaffVolunteers plant wild celery in the James River as part of CBF's Grasses for the Masses program. Photo by CBF Staff

You can help restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia's rivers by participating in CBF's Grasses for the Masses program.

Participants in the program grow wild celery (Vallisneria americana), a type of underwater grass, in a simple grow-out system in their homes for 10-12 weeks. After 10-12 weeks of grow-out, participants will gather to plant their grasses in select local rivers to bolster grass populations and help restore the Bay.

General Program Timeline:

  • Workshops: January to mid February
  • Grow-out period: February to May
  • Plantings: April to June

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) conducts workshops where participants are given instructions and the tools necessary to grow the underwater grasses themselves. Go to the workshop schedule.

During the workshops participants receive:

  • a simple aquaculture system
  • instructions and support
  • seeds and program materials
  • access to an on-line support network

Participants will need to provide:

  • $40 program fee
  • Sand and soil needed to plant the grass seeds
  • 2 light bulbs
  • Space (4'x4') to set-up the growth system; we suggest an area near an outlet with a steady temperature

Planting Sites

Attending a planting is a key and rewarding component of the program. Plantings are done at restoration sites during the months of April and May, after about 12 weeks of home grow-out. Participants attend one of the grass plantings with CBF staff and other growers.

CBF staff have carefully selected two locations in Virginia where we plant wild celery grown in the Grasses for the Masses program. Planting underwater grass is an activity that requires a state permit. CBF maintains a permit for each of the two planting sites and it is important that the grasses produced through the Grasses for the Masses program are planted only in these designated areas.

Our planting sites include:

Mason Neck State Park on the Potomac River, in Fairfax County, Virginia
Westover Plantation on the James River, in Charles City County, Virginia

Planting Guidelines

To ensure the safety of all volunteers, a quality experience, and the survival of the grasses, we ask that each Grasses for the Masses participant be aware of and abide by the following guidelines during each grass planting:

  • Only three children or students (under the age of 18) are allowed at the planting per grass grow-out kit.
  • When in the water every child under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. **This is particularly important for school groups.
  • All children under 18 must have a CBF health waiver signed by a parent or guardian before.
  • All children under 17 must wear a life vest (provided by CBF) while in the water.
  • Volunteers 18 years old and above will need to sign a CBF health waiver, which will be sent to each volunteer before the planting.

To bring your grasses to the planting:

  • Wait until just before you leave for the planting to drain your tubs and pans. Extended periods of time out of the water may dry out and kill your grasses.
  • Drain the water completely out of the black tub, and mostly out of the kitty pans. Be careful not to disturb the roots of your grasses.
  • Cover the grasses with strips of wet newspaper.
  • Returned all equipment cleaned. Equipment can be cleaned with household tools (sponges/brushes), BUT DO NOT use household cleaners, even purported "natural" cleaners. Instead, scrub and rinse the equipment with a diluted vinegar solution (1:4 solution).

If you have any questions, please contact Blair Blanchette, Virginia Grassroots Coordinator, at 804-780-1392 or at

General Program Timeline:

Workshops: January—February
Grow-out period: February—May
Plantings: April—June

Want to know more? Let us know today.

A small group of people wade in the water to plant underwater grasses

Grasses for the Masses
2016 Overview

Last year we officially maxed out the Grasses for the Masses workshops at 198 kits distributed and 279 attendees at all workshops—the highest we’ve ever had!

This success would not be possible without the help of our Regional Coordinators! Regional Coordinators are volunteers who have participated in the Grasses program for at least one year and are dedicated to helping expand and improve the program. Being a Regional Coordinator involves organizing and running a Grasses for the Masses workshop in your locality and recruiting others to take part in the program. Through their fantastic work, you will not only learn about the importance of underwater grasses for improved water quality, but you will become a local leader in Virginia's ongoing efforts to execute the Blueprint for a saved Bay. Thanks to our 2016 Regional Coordinators, who continue to Save the Bay through their outstanding efforts!

Next year, because of Virginia License Plate Grant, we will be able to expand the program to new regions of Virginia. Stay tuned for more information!

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