letting a lawn go partially wild

dav8February 9, 2010

Creating a true meadow is far too much trouble for me.I'm just letting the grass grow in a large section of the yard.And simply pulling up the goldenrod,(to keep it low),and pulling any saplings.Can anyone like-minded tell me if it'll look like hell,or might I end up with a rather pleasing wild look?In one small section I've let go for 2 years it looks pretty good,and the symphony of crickets tell me I've done something right.

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bill_ri_z6b(Zone 6B)

I don't know if you have a lot of seed trees nearby, but if you have maples or ailanthus, yank them out as soon as you see them! I have hundreds of maple seedlings every year to deal with! Another thing to keep an eye on is bittersweet, since those vines will take over large areas. You could buy some wildflower seeds in bulk and toss them around and hope for the best if you don't want to invest a lot of work. I'd bet a lot of things would surprise you.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2010 at 2:03PM
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May I heartily recommend a book that will inspire you to do more of the same:
"Noah's Garden" by Sara Stein. . .if I had more lawn than I do, I would definitely
be trying your experiment - if I could possibly resist adding more perennials and shrubs !

    Bookmark   February 9, 2010 at 4:19PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

dav8, I love what you are doing with your lawn. Having grown up in a time when not only crickets but bugs of all kinds, and fireflies were everywhere, I miss that. I'm sure you are taking a step in that direction.

We did install a very small ecolawn about 12 years ago. We did it ourselves and sent away for a special seed blend that had short grasses and some wildflowers, in it. We did try to leave it without mowing it but it never quite worked out. A lot of the flowering aspects of the lawn just seemed to peter out except for some achillea that seems to take over too much and the grasses were just too tall to let go. It looked awful. It was in the front yard. In our backyard, we have the original lawn that was here when we moved in. I think that looks better than the front. It has clover in it and we have your average amount of dandelions and violets which we ignore for the most part. Mosses grow in from the shady edges and it must have been a short variety because it doesn't get that tall and we don't have to mow it that often.

We do have a small property but I wish I had a larger one, that I could leave some areas further away from the house to grow into a meadow, which I love. I think it would be fun to experiment, but I'm afraid it would be a lot more work than I would have time to invest, to get it to where I would be happy with it. My compromise is that just this year I started planting small bulbs in the lawn and I hope to leave the grass longer as long as I can in the spring, to 'cure' the foliage after bloom to keep them coming back. I also plan to add more clover to the lawn by overseeding it in places and continue to let the mosses grow into it. The local bunnies visit and eat the clover.

I wish I had more positive personal experience to share. I wonder if you have checked out the natives forum? Maybe someone over there might have tried that. I would love to know what has started to grow in to your lawn area where you have let it go for two years? I don't suppose you have any photos?

    Bookmark   February 9, 2010 at 4:53PM
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carol6ma_7ari(zones 6 & 7a)

If I hadn't hired a local man to mow once a week, our rural grass would look horrible: full of bittersweet, Joe-Pye weed, Russian olive seedlings, and ticks. The shorter mowed length includes lots of fast-blooming pretty weed flowers, and that's enough. We don't need more work to do, and more ticks.


    Bookmark   February 9, 2010 at 4:56PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Around here, any place that isn't mowed regularly starts the secession process back to forest. The first pioneer species are red cedar, multiflora rose and other brambles, honeysuckle, and other woody plants. To keep them out, or just under control, the area has to be either weeded or mowed. If it gets out of control, it can't be mowed with anything typically residentially, but needs a tractor and a brush hog.

If it's really a small enough area that you can keep it weeded, great. But it isn't that much different from weeding any garden area, and I'm not sure you would get a much different result from mowing.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2010 at 9:52AM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

I'm with mad gallica, the forest will return. I've let a few areas go wild that had historically been lawn. I didn't need to walk there, didn't want to mow, and they were just out of reasonable watering range so I didn't want to plant a garden.

The forest is happily taking the land back and I've enjoyed watching the process. The only objection I've made (aside from pulling out poison ivy and bittersweet) is removing saplings that try to grow too close to the septic leach field.

I happen to love forest; if you don't, you have a battle ahead of you.


    Bookmark   February 10, 2010 at 12:54PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

mad gallica, you've reminded me of why I haven't actually left the grass to grow without mowing. Those two reasons exactly, ticks and going past the point of no return and not being able to mow it with our regular lawn mower. So in the grand scheme of things, I think carving up these tiny 1/4 acre lots to build homes on, actually is part of the reason people don't have the room to have any wild spaces.

That sounds like fun, Claire.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2010 at 4:01PM
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terrene(5b MA)

I did this at my previous house - let part of the lawn in back grow long. This area was the farthest back part of the lawn - abutting the edge of some wetlands, so it enhanced the habitat for wildlife. The critters loved it, and I absolutely love the sound of buzzers and chirpers at night, along with the peepers and other wetland sounds. I would see impressions in the grass where the deer would sleep at night. I needed to mow the grass down once in awhile though.

Perhaps if you mow once or twice a year (Spring and Fall?) you can prevent succession of woody plants, and still have a wild area with relatively long grass that provides habitat for critters.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2010 at 4:57PM
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In 2007 we moved to an old farm. One field was leased by a farmer to grow feed corn but we were unhappy with the erosion and herbicides used. He planted winter rye in fall of 2006. It was a feast for the deer in the spring but by summer of 2009, goldenrod is taking over. Another farmer will use it as a hay field. I think we had to wait 3 years because of the herbicides used. The new farmer has the equipment and energy to do a proper job and has already put in a lot of time to renovate another field that had been kept mowed but needed trees along the edge removed.

We have two areas that are kept mowed but only are only mowed once a year to keep the bushes down. I think my husband waits until late summer because one field is very marshy. There are wet areas that are producing small bushes but this winter he has cut those with a brush hog since we have very little snow right now. This marshy field is alive with dragon flies and fire flies but back in the 70s I remember far more wild iris. There are some, but not as dense as they used to be. Before us, my FIL used to mow these areas to keep the bushes down.

I've seen one large yard that had brown eyed susans growing. It looked lovely when they were in bloom. The owner said he picked seed heads every year to sprinkle in areas that didn't have many flowers. Perhaps a wildflower mix would work for you.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2010 at 1:22PM
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