Does anyone have a 'No Mow' lawn?

docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)May 25, 2006

I have a cottage with a very small yard. There was already a concrete thing built along the shore, so I'm limited in my ability to plant native water plants. I want to have a pleasant walking surface for the kids when they get out of the water, so I was wondering about replacing the current lawn with a "no mow" lawn such as the one offered by Prairie Nursery. It is described as a mixture of cool season fescues. Has anyone ever seen and walked on one of these? Are they a decent texture for little feet? They seem almost too good to be true. Anyone's experience or ideas are welcome.


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beckylc(zone 4)

Well, I kind of had one last year. It wasn't Prairie Nursery's, but a very similar mix. We planted this as our first lawn at our new house in September of 2004. It was always my intent to mow it, but I was hoping that we'd have to mow less often. What I didn't figure out beforehand was that although the fescues are slow-growing, the WEEDS are not! It is definitely a nice texture, soft and pretty, but very slow to get started. By the end of last season it had filled in fairly well, but if we didn't want 1 ft. tall weeds all over the place, we had to mow it as often as any other grass. Maybe if I was patient enough to wait for years I could have eliminated the weeds, or if I wasn't averse to multiple applications of herbicides, but when part of the lawn got torn up to put in a patio last summer we decided to start over. New lawn was seeded last September, and right now I have a much thicker lawn with less weeds than I had after a year of growth last year. Is your lawn now in bad shape? And are you in a location where it won't bother you if your lawn is messy-looking? I have another friend who lives out in the country that has the no-mow mix and doesn't mow it--it looks okay but pretty wild-looking, and it's full of dandelions.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2006 at 11:01AM
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My understanding is that part of this whole idea is appealing to a different aesthetic. If you are trying to "keep up with the jones" then this will probably never be the solution for you. On the other side, if you don't mind having a yard with a more natural look, then this could be the solution for you.

Of course, people who choose this option because they think it'll be no maintenance are probably not going to be satisfied. You will have to spend some time controling invading species, and it would probably be a good idea to mow (or burn) it a few times per year. Once you take into account all the watering, fertilizer and everything else people do for conventional lawns, then it is less work but still a far cry from no work at all.

Regarding children, it depends on the child. I imagine that there is a greater chance of ticks or encountering various wildlife. Personally, I think that todays parents try to raise their kids in a sterile bubble. When I was a child (and I'm not that old) I spent most of my time playing in nearby meadows and forests. To me they were not only adequate but superior to the mown yard. My parents took care to teach us about wildlife, and help us check for ticks. Keep in mind that lawns are a historically recent phenomenon. Parents raised children for thousands of years without them and they turned out just fine.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2006 at 1:34PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

My sister has the no mow lawn from prairie nursery.

Site prep and weed control are critical in the first couple growing seasons because it is so slow growing.

I think the lawn is nice, its not real dense and I would probably double the seeding rate from what prairie nursery reccomends. (And I would consider overseeding it every couple years too..)

The long blades will tends to to look beat up after volley ball game (or heavy traffic)... but its nothing a mowing won't fix.

Here are a couple pictures of my sisters no-mow lawn:

    Bookmark   May 25, 2006 at 6:37PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

Thanks, Joepyeweed, those pictures are very helpful. I think the suggestion of heavily seeding is a good one.

Yarthkin, I completely agree about allowing children to grow up in nature. I'm only looking for a small area of soft turf for kids to walk on in bare feet when they get out of the lake after swimming. It would also be nice if it didn't need freshly mowed with all the clippings clinging to their wet feet. Please try to be careful of the tone of your messages. Your response above came off as quite snippy and judgemental. If we are hoping to encourage others to embrace the ideas of native, environmentally responsible landscaping, we need to tread gently. Anyone visiting this site is at least showing interest or trying. A friendly, welcoming attitude will go much farther in support of our cause.

Hopefully I don't sound too preachy. My apologies.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2006 at 8:04AM
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No offense taken. Unfortunately, in email there's no way for us to hear each other's tone of voice. It is easy to make assumptions about what people mean.

I'm sorry if I came off as "preachy", I was merely trying to address legitimate concerns I've often heard expressed by many people about lawns like this before. I suppose I probably should have waited to address those questions until they were actually asked! ; )

    Bookmark   May 26, 2006 at 9:24AM
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My brother has a "no mow" lawn. It requires no extra maintenance, no establishment, no weeding -- he just stopped mowing the old lawn. :-) He's got Kentucky bluegrass a couple feet high, but there are worse things.

Patrick Alexander

    Bookmark   May 26, 2006 at 4:00PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

Thanks for responding again. I appreciate your calm understanding.

I'd love to be able to simply stop mowing, but I'm surrounded by some of the most meticulous gardeners on the planet. I'm sure I'd get complaints from them--not to mention my husband. Property values are a big issue these days.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2006 at 7:10AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA


I put in a wild lawn from Nichols Nursery about 7 years ago and it was fun the first year, but it did have some rather high weeds that would look odd which died out pretty soon anyway. I have not been happy with it at all. It just doesn't look very good and it needs mowing about the same amount as our old lawn in the backyard.

I actually am liking my backyard lawn, which I have no idea which strain of grass it is. We aren't very careful about getting all the dandelions out, there are violets and clover in the lawn, but it looks pretty good most of the year. This year enough rain for it to be looking particularly good. I am going to keep it going and just try paying a little more attention to it in the spring and fall. We cut high and don't start mowing until almost the end of May. We have only cut it once so far and it is ready again but not unkempt.


    Bookmark   May 28, 2006 at 5:40PM
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Docmon, this probably isnt' for you, but what about clover? Has anyone tried this? We have a patch of clover in our lawn and I would like to see it take over the whole lawn. It's soft on the feet, and green! I guess it would still need mowing, but maybe not as much as regular lawn? Anyway, just wondering if anyone has tried this?

    Bookmark   June 6, 2006 at 10:46PM
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prairiepaintbrush(RedOak, TX z7/8)

I've been "working" on establishing a buffalo grass yard, by which I mean throwing out seeds in the spring and summer and pulling out competitors when I feel like it.

My opinion is that a "no-mow" lawn is by definition a "pull weeds a lot" lawn. :) But if your space is small, that should be okay. It's kind of fun to sit in the grass and pull out weeds. You see all sorts of critters and plants at that level that you would normally miss.

I USED TO live in the country, and NOW I live in the city limits (same property) and all my neighbors mow every weekend. sheesh. Knee high grass never hurt anybody. hehheh.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2006 at 11:02PM
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There is a small demonstration plot of buffalo grass at the local arboretum that looks great.
I planted a cultivar "cody> In an area over my septic field last year after killing the existing vegatation twice with glyphosate. This season, the buffalo is filling in pretty well.
I have mowed once to knock back the annuals.
There is a lot of both red and white clover also showing up.
It is too early to know if I can consider this planting good or not.
I should have overseeded with buffalo again this rear but never got to it..

    Bookmark   June 7, 2006 at 11:40AM
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I mow, but due to my shady location and zone, the grasses that do best in my yard are the cool season fescues. They do spread quite slowly in a clumpy fashion, and I have had my best success in seeding bare spots by applying far more seed than the package recommends.

My mower is broken and the grass is taller than I like, but no way will it get two feet tall, more like six inches, max. It's setting seed now at about that height and it hasn't been mowed in two weeks.

One lovely thing about these fescues is their fine texture; perfect for little feet.

I do use herbicides for weeds, which I apply to individual broadleaf weeds with a spray bottle. Otherwise I'd be overrun with dandelions.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 9:35PM
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Flowerkitty(Z6 or Z5 SE MI)

prairieclover, I have an acre of no care lawn. It was a weed and feed lawn created by grass fanatics. Then the property was rented and the renters let it go to seed, creeping charlie and dandelions.

My neighbor cuts it for me. He has cut it low for several years now which favors the grass over the charlie I have a lot of clover and violets. The violets were unbelieveable this year. A field of electric purple. They dont mind cutting. The clover smells so sweet when it blooms. If you can let it go to seed, it will spread. Both are soft underfoot.

We have to cut it when nature lets us. The ground is low and wet, so opportunity is narrow. This year the whole lawn had a lovely wildflower which I would like to identify. 6 inches high, a 1 inch single white blossom with 6 petals like a daisy and a yellow center. This flower does not have leaves, just a stem. We had to cut before the rain so it couldnt go to seed. I hope it returns next year.

It looks like a regular lawn from the street, very park-like.

You get more honeybees the more clover you have. I remember bee stings on my foot running barefoot in clover as a kid.

To reduce creeping charlie mow often before it flowers. That stuff smells like geranium. Each year there is a bit less.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 10:30PM
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I'm so glad people are sharing their experiences here. I am planning on putting part of my yard in "no-mow". I am going to try a mix of blue grama(?) and buffalo grass. I just recently realized though that someone's yard that stays dormant a long type - just sort of low and brown, is probably buffalo grass so that may be a bit of an issue for some people. Straight blue grama looks pretty in the catalog picture but I don't think it will grow in Michigan nor will buffalo grass (I'm in eastern Nebraska).
Here's some thoughts I've been having for whatever they are worth.

- the amount of traffic that will be on the lawn partially determines the mix of fescues and anything else you want to mix in with them, which will in turn determine how much mowing will be necessary.
- -fescue's dont fill in which is why sod companies that sell a fescue sod still have kentucky blue grass in it to help fill it. So it does require more determinition to get started and keep up despite the (theoretical) less mowing
- the region, ticks can be one issue and chiggers could also be another
and finally
Mowed weeds can look a lot like turf.
I might consider doing more research to figure out what, if anything, you might want to include in with the fescues.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2006 at 11:36AM
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windchime(z6a NJ)

Well, it's not what I think you're referring to as a "no-mow" lawn, but I *do* have a lawn that does not require mowing. I have two types of grass in the back yard.

At the bottom of the hill, I have the typical grass that grows fast during the growing season, and doesn't seem to spread too much. It's green all winter, but during the dog days of summer, it will go dormant and turn brown unless watered (which I do *not* do.) Not exactly sure what it is, but probably some kind of typical mix of fescue, etc.

At the top of the hill, I have what I believe is zoysia grass (although it might be buffalo.) It spreads by runners, and is green all summer without watering. But it does go dormant and turns brown in winter. The zoysia grass requires very little mowing, and no watering to keep it green all summer. When my husband used to cut the grass himself, he would frequently only cut the bottom of the hill, because the zoysia just didn't need it. Last year we started hiring a service, and they comment that the top of the hill doesn't grow! They cut it occasionally just to keep the weeds down. But to be honest, it grows so tight that the weeds are fewer and farther between than at the bottom of the hill. Only major downside of the zoysia is that it goes dormant in the winter. One other word of caution: Because the zoysia spreads by runners, it will spread into garden beds!

P.S. Refraining from watering and fertilizing also cuts down on mowing.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2006 at 10:14PM
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when I was a kid my father put in a no mow lawn. it was very soft and thick. really nice. what he did was put down a very heavy layer of lime and killed off everything. let it sit for a year or so. no weeds no grass nothing. then he put in some plugs of grass. I think he called it creeping bent grass. eventually the entire lawn became this beautiful soft creeping bent with no weeds. then we had a circle in the center with rocks around the edges for the rock garden. and we had other flowers etc around the sides. but the grass was the most beautiful and everyone loved it. he was the envy of all who saw the grass. but it tood a couple of years to do the project and it did not look so super during the project. a lot of the land look white from the lime.

once it filled in there was no weeds because the grass tightly covered the land. I loved walking on it in my bare feet. it was so soft and great.

I think he started with some grass free from a friend. he did not start with that much. it grows pretty well each year. but does not fill in super fast. he had a big space between the little plugs of grass.;ct=result&cd=1&q=creeping+bent+grass&spell=1

we never mowed the grass. it was several inches thick but looked like a thick rug. it stayed low to the ground. maybe 4 inches thick. no taller. no need to mow this lawn.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2006 at 5:43PM
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Can anyone recommend the site prep? We have little time to care for our yard and it shows. Broad leaf, clover etc. My question is how should I proceed with no mow seed? And when?


    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 12:30PM
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I am looking to do something with my lawn as well. It is currently a mixture of weeds, fescue and clover. Th only thing that is really a problem is the clover because it blooms, the bees come and the kids walk barefoot over it and then no one is happy. I can't tell you how many stingers I pulled out of feet last summer.

I am thinking of planting zoysia or buffalo grass. We are full sun, anyone have any comments? What is creeping bent grass?

    Bookmark   May 8, 2011 at 9:03PM
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We have a small section of zoysia, and it is thick and wonderful in the summer but brown in the winter. If that bothers you, it is not "your" grass. Also, it is mostly started from plugs, which can get expensive. We got ours from a neighbor who had plenty to share. It is cushy under your feet and pretty much kills most weeds. Dogs love to sleep on it!

I would use it in larger areas if I could afford it. Neighbor doesn't have enough to share to cover a field.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2011 at 8:04AM
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I live at 6400 ft in the foothills of NM (garden zone 6) outside of Albuquerque and planted "no mow" grass seed from Prairie Nursery even though this wasn't a recommended area for the seed. It's been great in my small area outside a window. I simply threw down the seed with minimal preparation in fall and it was great the 1st year. I still love it 5 years later. I did over-seed initially (as previously suggested) and I do also throw down a little seed every fall in bare spots (again, no preparation). In this land of sunshine I do find it looks better if mowed ~ 3 x a season (spring, summer, fall) but this is only due to it being so close to my window. We do walk on it and let our dogs play on it. My lawn looks similar to the pictures of Joepyeweed. It is not manicured, but it still is fine. It's a great product. Also, left over seed has germinated well for fall over-seeding even 5 years later.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2013 at 1:17PM
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Lots of good responses, and a few misconceptions cropping up: The fescues simply do not have the regenerative capacity of Kentucky bluegrass. That's why these no-mow and low-mow lawns are never the answer for heavy-use areas. Yes, weeds! You will have to do something about fast-growing annual weeds. This almost surely means broadleaf herbicides, albeit, one well-timed fall application is about all you should ever need. On the other hand, if the bothersome weeds are annuals, one well-timed high mowing could eliminate their flowers, before they produce seeds.

Burning? No, not on fescue-based no-mow turf. If you try to use fire the way we do in prairie plantings, you will actually be killing off the early-to-green-up turf you're trying to grow.

Natural? Unnatural? OP lists a Michigan location. None of these things are "natural" if by that you mean native. It's just down to what you want. For the purposes described, I do think this type of lawn would be a reasonable choice.

Concrete sea didn't ask, but too bad. Any chance there's sufficiently shallow water below this wall, to get some plugs of emergent, native species going? Sorry, OT!


    Bookmark   November 11, 2013 at 9:34AM
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I bought a condo with no mow grass in the patio. It was planted a couple of months before I moved in. It has never been very thick and has been full of crabgrass. The normal treatments for weeds, including crabgrass, did not work so I had to resort to something stronger. Unfortunately the crab grass killer is also killing the good grass. I am going to rake it up and thickly reseed.

Do I need to spread a layer of top soil before reseeding?

Thank you.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2014 at 5:34PM
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Yes, I just put one in and am very happy with it. It does what it says and I plan on mowing 1-2 times a year.

I went with what is a naturally short lawn. Yes, weeds were a problem the first year but after that the lawn got thicker and much less weeds.

I did plant clover (white Dutch) and please be aware that it grows 1' high. Even the Micro-Clover gets 8" high.

Here is a link that might be useful: No Mowing Grass

    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 11:35AM
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WoodsTea 6a MO

I've been considering a fescue-based no-mow blend for my front lawn in Kansas City for the last several years, but have been gradually moving away from that idea. Partly it's that I'd rather have natives, but I'm also concerned that I'm too far south for this type of blend to work well. I'm also in an urban area with a lot of pavement around and the yard is mostly full sun.

Currently I'm working on establishing a buffalograss-blue grama blend. I have doubts about how well the blue grama will perform if we have a wet late winter-early spring, since there's a lot of clay in the soil, but I figure it's worth a try. Eventually I want to add drifts of taller grasses, and these would be better suited to the soil for the most part.

I do expect to do quite a bit of weeding for the next several years. Fortunately the space is fairly small.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 2:25PM
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I planted a no mow! fescue lawn last fall with some repeat seeding this spring. Clay soil was roughly rototilled after killing former tall fescue lawn. No fertilizer or compost added. Just tilled. Very small front yard ( 50 x 20 ft) and would like to not mow more than 2-3X per season. Germination was slow and early growth was slow in this first spring. Due to heavy broadleaf weed pressure attributed to lots of open soil last fall and winter, I did apply broadleaf herbicide once. Mowed once to knock back foxtail and volunteer wheat from straw applied after seeding. Grass is laying over with dark green fine leaves about 4-6 inches. Regular turf fescue gets 24-30 inches. This no mow grass is much better. I think the grass will shade out most weed seedlings in the future. Crabgrass won't germinate in shade. Neighbors made a comment about thinking I should mow to look like everyone else so I'm making a small sign to put in yard to let folks know it is supposed to look like this. I also have kept the sidewalk edged. It does not need as much water yet is still green after 5 weeks without rain. I think it would work great for your kids along the lake. I plan to mow high when the leaves fall with mulching mower.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2014 at 9:51PM
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