Grasses for the Masses

Grasses Westover Plantings_CBFstaff_1171x593

Volunteers plant wild celery in the James River as part of CBF's Grasses for the Masses program.

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.

Underwater grasses are a key component of the Bay's ecosystem. They provide habitat for crabs and fish, add oxygen to the water, prevent shoreline erosion, clarify the water, and serve as a food source for birds.

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 (Registration opens in December)
  • Grow-out period: February to May
  • Plantings: May 

At Grasses workshops, participants are given instructions and the tools necessary to grow underwater grasses at home.

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.

CBF has carefully selected restoration locations Planting underwater grass is an activity that requires a state permit. It is important that the grasses produced through the Grasses for the Masses program are planted only in these designated areas with CBF staff.

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
Chickahominy Riverfront Park on the Chickahominy River in James City County
Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge on the Rappahannock River on the Northern Neck in Richmond County
Virginia Commonwealth University’s Rice Rivers Center on the James River in Charles City County

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 in the water 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 18 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.

Learn More

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.
  • Return 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.

If you have any questions, please contact Gabby Troutman at or 804-258-1605..

The Bay Needs You

The 2020 State of the Bay Report makes it clear that the Bay needs our support now more than ever. Your donation helps the Chesapeake Bay Foundation maintain our momentum toward a restored Bay, rivers, and streams for today and generations to come.

Donate Today


Do you enjoy working with others to help clean the Chesapeake Bay? Do you have a few hours to spare? Whether growing oysters, planting trees, or helping in our offices, there are plenty of ways you can contribute.

This website uses cookies to tailor and enhance your online experience. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. For more information, including details on how to disable cookies, please visit our Privacy Policy. Close