Grass seed for low maintenance lawn?

studly(4 (MN))July 31, 2007

I'm not good about watering my lawn during the dry months here in Minnesota, so every July parts of my lawn die, I overseed again in the fall, and it does the same thing the next summer. This year it's really bad!

I've been reading up on the best grasses for northern climates that don't require much water, but are still hardy and look good. Seems the two best choices for an ultra low maintenance lawn would be:

* Eco-Lawn:

http://www.wildflowerfarm.com/Merchant2/merchant.mv?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=1&Category_Code=E

(also the owner of this company wrote as interesting article about fescue lawns at http://lesslawn.com/articles/article1058.html )

* No Mow seed mix:

http://prairienursery.com/store/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=11

Looks like they're both dwarf fine fescue mixes, which have roots over 9" tall allowing them to better withstand droughts, and it seems the key with these seed mixes is that they use "creeping" fescues to get rid of the usual patchy look of regular fescues that are used in traditional seed mixes.

Ordering the grass seed from the above two nurseries is pretty expensive, and I was hoping to buy a similar mix of seed from someplace locally. Anyone know where you can buy this kind of low maintenance lawn seed in the Twin Cities at a good price? I found a place in St. Paul that sells a No Mow fescue mix, at about $2.50 per pound, but you have to buy a 50 lb. bag and I probably only need 20 lbs. I've also found a local landscape supply place that will sell straight creeping red fescue (the main ingredient in the low maintenance lawn mixes) for $0.90 a pound, but again you have to buy a 50 lb bag. But I guess if it's only $0.90 per pound, I wouldn't mind buying more than I need. But I'm wondering with only one type of grass, rather than a mix, if it would be more susceptible to disease.

Any advice on where to buy low maintenance fine fescue lawn mixes in the Twin Cities would be appreciated. And if anyone has tried one of these mixes, how did it work for you?

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giantslug(4b/5 SW Minnesota)

You might want to consider Buffalograss as well, it does very well in hot dry conditions.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2007 at 1:58PM
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leftwood(z4a MN)

Fine fescues are great for dry and low maintenance, because they evolved under tree canopies with tree root competition. They do very well in sun, but they are not great ones to take the searing heat. May do well in your situation or not. My advice would be to get a mix of everything that would include these and plain bluegrass. Whatever does best will flourish and dominate. Isn't that what you want anyway?

Buffalo grass here will probably be overrun by other grasses or weeds. It doesn't green up until very late as it is a warm season grass. Cool season grasses, that is everything else we grow (and weeds) will have a month jump on buffalo grass every spring. But there wouldn't be anything wrong with putting it in the mix of seed. Our climate is too moist for Buffalo grass to compete well, although that may be changing with global warming.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2007 at 7:18PM
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zenpotter(z4 MN)

I was in the same place last year that you are now. I bought some seed from Prairie Moon to do a test patch. I am going to put more in this fall. I like it.

I chose it over buffalo grass since it greens up early. We have mowed it once just because it was falling down on itself and smothering it self. I don't think we will need to mow again this summer.

One thing I will do is not use a annual cover grass. They recommend doing that and we put in rye. Neither one of us liked the look of the rye sticking up higher than the other and ended up pulling it to keep it from re-seeding. That was a lot of weeding.

There were some bare spots in the spring and they have filled in nicely.

You are welcome to send me an e-mail and arrange to come look at it.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2007 at 9:41AM
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studly(4 (MN))

Thanks for the replies everyone. I considered buffalo grass but from what I've read, that needs full sun. This grass that I plant would be getting a bit of shade from surrounding spruce trees.

Zenpotter, that's encouraging that you've had good luck with the Prairie Moon seed. Have you had to water it at all during this hot, dry July? That would be amazing if it was that drought/heat tolerant.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2007 at 11:12AM
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zenpotter(z4 MN)

I haven't watered it directly, parts of it have gotten some water when I water the flower gardens. I try not to water it to see how it will do. It is green.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2007 at 4:47PM
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leftwood(z4a MN)

That's right: buffalo grass must have full sun.

and ended up pulling [the annual ryegrass] to keep it from re-seeding.

But if you mowed, wouldn't you keep it from reseeding? You could also use a more easily managed cover crop, like oats or buckwheat. Cover crops keep other weed seeds from germinating while the perennial grasses take hold, and they help the good perennial grasses along when young too. It would be interesting to see what a side by side experiment would reveal. Obviously this has been done before.

So are the recommendations including annual cover crops valid, or just a way to put cheap seed in the mix? Actually, a little of both when the annual seed is more than one-third of the mix, in my opinion.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2007 at 7:13PM
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studly(4 (MN))

I just wanted to post a follow up in case anyone else is considering planting a low maintenence, drought tolerant lawn.

In reading up on different grasses, it sounded like fine fescues require less water than regular KBG varieties.In looking up fine fescues, we were attracted to creeping red, since it spreads, which seemed to be a desirable trait, so bare spots would fill in.

So last fall, we overseeded our patchy KBG lawn with Wendy Jean creeping red fescue (out of the brands that did good on the NTEP studies at www.ntep.org, it was the only one I could find available to purchase at a reasonable price). That grew in good last fall and this spring, but now that the weather is drier here in MN this month, that CRF grass is now the first to go brown and dormant. So I don't think it's going to make it as a low maintenance grass -- seems to need regular watering like KBG.

Anyone else have any suggestions for a low maintenance, drought tolerant grass that grows well in Minnesota, that is reasonably priced. Would a sheep fescue or another of the bunchgrass fine fescues be a better choice for me? I saw some test plots at the Rosemount U of M station and they had low maintenance fine fescue mixtures that have grown in really thick with no fertilizer and no watering. Those seemed to be the bunchgrass fescues, when I looked closely, but nobody there knew exactly what kind.

For any of you who have a successful lawn that requires no watering, did you plant fescue, and does it look like the bunchgrass variety or the creeping red variety?

    Bookmark   July 18, 2008 at 3:41PM
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ginkgonut(4)

Isn't a dormant lawn very low maintenance?

    Bookmark   July 18, 2008 at 6:59PM
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mimi_stpaul(z4Mn)

Gertens carries the low mow, they also sell it in any size needed

    Bookmark   July 19, 2008 at 11:33PM
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MyBackContact_gmail_com

We tested both grasses from the links in the first post and have been growing them a few years now. After talking with both places, Eco Lawn is a blend of fescues, NoMowGrass.com is a bentgrass (no blend).

Though both places have pricey seed, I found that 1LB of NoMowGrass covers the same as 5 LBs of the Eco Lawn. The NoMowGrass seed is very fine.

Both came up according to their claims and both filled in nicely.

Unfortunately, we have a small farm and our animals occasionally get onto the lawn areas and that is where I had a problem with planting fescues -- the fescues killed a goat! Just be aware, native type fescues may carry endophytes and are toxic to many kinds of animals.

As for maintenance, the Eco Lawn fescues needed a cutting more often than the NoMowGrass.com (a short bentgrass) and is more likely to not need any mowing under certain conditions. The fescues go to seed more often and have taller seed heads of over 10" high. I also worry about rodents hiding in the taller fescues so they all have to be cut. Watering hasn't been an issue with either grasses and we haven't fertilized either.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2011 at 12:27PM
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studly(4 (MN))

Thought I'd resurrect an old thread here because once again my lawn has lots of dead spots due to the long drought this summer. I'd like to find the most drought tolerant lawn grass that'll work in Minnesota. I see that Gertens has a lot more eco and low maintenance blends of grass seed now. Anyone try those and have good luck? Anyone have a type of grass that has survived well without watering this summer?

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 3:44PM
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RpR_(3-4)

Tall fescue and Buffalo Grass

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 11:34PM
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kaptainkr(4a)

One thing I came across recently was "mini clover." I don't know much about it, but basically it grows lower than grass and has smaller leaves, so it blends in better. It's also not as aggressive as regular clover, so it won't out compete your grass. There are some YouTube videos on it as well. I'd like to see one of the lawns up close.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mini Clover

    Bookmark   September 21, 2012 at 1:41AM
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a.girl.named.max(4a)

Does anyone have experience with the Mini Clover? It looks interesting.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 11:16AM
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littlesprouts

We used NoMowGrass from http://www.nomowgrass.com

See the article here: http://www.farmshow.com/a_article.php?aid=20094

Its not a fescue (fescues grow tall and fold over at 10")., This grass is barely 4" on our lawn so we don't mow more than 2xs a year.
Its a really dense grass so weeds don't get a chance to grow.

After researching the prices and height of each kind - NoMowGrass.com has the naturally shortest grass and the best price.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ultra Low Maintenance Lawn

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 11:31AM
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