No-Mow Mix

No-Mow Mix

Part of Ep. 403 Lawn Care Special

Learn about alternatives to a traditional manicured lawn from Neil Diboll of Prairie Nursery.  Slow growing, draught resistant fine fescues are environmentally friendly and require little maintenance.

Premiere date: Jul 31, 1996

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
Not everybody wants to spend a great deal of time and effort for that perfectly manicured lawn. There are alternatives. I'm with Neil Diboll of Prairie Nursery near Westfield, Wisconsin. Neil, one of the first lawn alternatives I think of is a prairie. But, that's real wild and it's not for everybody. You have kind of a compromise, here.

Neil:
Yeah, I've got a wild lawn which is composed of six fine fescues. They're slow growing and very drought resistant. They grow in full sun or moderate shade. And, they grow in regular soils or very dry soils.

Shelley:
There are some advantages to this type of thing besides the no-mow. It's supposed to be better for the environment.

Neil:
Yes, because I don't have to put on a lot of fertilizers. And I don't use any herbicides for preventing weeds. Therefore, I don't have a lot of infiltration or run-off of chemicals.

Shelley:
This is pretty wild. This is not for everyone. I don't think I'd want it, even in my front yard.

Neil:
This is not for everyone. This is a wild lawn, let's make sure of that. But, it's typical cool season grasses. In this case, I haven't mowed this for three years. Because these are slow growing, I can get away with that.

Shelley:
Because they're slow growing, they might be great for a cottage up north, someplace I can't get to everyday.

Neil:
Exactly, where you don't want to put in a lot of maintenance or maybe some farther reaches of your property.

Shelley:
My woodland area or something.

Neil:
Exactly, on the edge of property.

Shelley:
How do we establish this?

Neil:
You establish it the same as any other cool season turf mix. You plant it in the fall, usually between august 15th and september 20th. And make sure you have an absolutely weed-free environment in the soil before you put the first seed down.

Shelley:
Now, if I decide to mow, would I mow this the first year? You said it's pretty slow growing?

Neil:
In the first year, in the fall, when you seed it you shouldn't have to mow it in the fall. But if you are going to mow it and a lot of people do, they'll mow it every three to four weeks. They'll start that usually in may or early june of the first full growing season.

Shelley:
What about weed control? You've got some different weeds than what I see in a normal lawn.

Neil:
Actually, those aren't weeds, at all. Those are the seed heads of the fescue. Because I don't mow this, they will go to seed the seed heads are ten or 12 inches tall. After they go to seed, they'll flop over and join the rest of the leaves.

Shelley:
So, it's basically telling me that the plants are happy.

Neil:
The plants are happy, right.

Shelley:
Now, here though, I see a very recognizable weed we get them in all lawns.

Neil:
Yes, absolutely. We get dandelions and all kinds of different kinds of weeds. Potentially, all kinds of weeds come into this. And because I don't mow it-- instead of mowing it or using chemicals, I actually hand weed this. It takes me about five or six hours per year for about a third of an acre of turf.

Shelley:
I spend more time mowing.

Neil:
I used to spend that much time mowing it once.

Shelley:
So, hand weeding is an option. Can I use herbicides if I've got a big patch and I really want the weeds out of there? Will they work the same as they do on other lawns?

Neil:
This is a cool season turf mix. You can use the same broadleaf weed killers, as well as pre-emergent herbicides to prevent annuals.

Shelley:
Always check the label, though.

Neil:
Always.

Shelley:
The other option, obviously, is to mow. That helps keep weeds down in my lawn, now.

Neil:
A lot of people will mow this. But only every three to four weeks, rather than every seven to ten days. So, you have about half the frequency of mowing, which is a big time saver.

Shelley:
Now, you said that you haven't mowed in three years. There are problems with that.

Neil:
Yes, there are. One problem, because I don't mow it when the leaves fall off the trees in the fall, they accumulate and it's very hard to rake them out of these clumps and longer grass. So, wherever the leaves accumulate over the winter, they kill out the grass.

Shelley:
Same as any lawn.

Neil:
Same as any lawn, right. An alternative to that is to mow every three to four weeks and then rake the leaves in the fall. Or, come in the fall, with a non-mowed turf situation, and chop everything up with a mulching mower. Or, mow it, and put everything in a compost pile in the fall.

Shelley:
But probably, most of us are going to end up mowing once a year.

Neil:
At least.

Shelley:
I can live with that, thanks. So, consider this alternative. It really cuts down on your mowing time.

EPISODE SEGMENTS+

Funding for The Wisconsin Gardener is provided, in part, by The Wisconsin Master Gardener Association.