By Guest Author Laurence Bennet
If you’re fed up with pushing the mower around every weekend or just want to save water and maximize the ecological capacity of your lawn, a no-mow lawn is a great choice.
Fed with lawn fertilizer, sprayed with hundreds or thousands of gallons of water, and trimmed with lawnmowers that often release dangerous pollutants, most traditional lawns are not particularly ecological. And to maintain what is effectively a large monoculture of one or two species of grass, which are often non-native, traditional lawns usually rely on fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and at the very least, frequent maintenance.
What is a No-Mow Lawn?
Unlike the closely cropped lawns of suburban America, no mow lawns are slightly more unruly. Instead of the usual varieties of grass, no-mow lawns are grown with drought-tolerant perennial grasses, which are often mixed with bulbs and wildflowers to create a meadow-like appearance. This makes your no-mow lawn grow longer than the average neighborhood lawn (exactly how long depends on the species) but also requires minimal amounts of water, little if any fertilizer, and much less maintenance than the traditional lawn.
You can still carry out most of the usual activities you would on a lawn — picnicking, playing, and relaxing in the sun — but don’t expect to be able to host a croquet tournament or a putting championship! This functionality is swapped for low maintenance and enormous ecological benefit — for the insects, birds, mammals — and ultimately the planet.
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Ecological Benefits of a No-Mow Lawn
While traditional lawns are ecological deserts, no mow lawns can be ecological havens—providing a natural home for a wide variety of species of flora and fauna. The nectar and pollen provided by wildflowers and grasses, so often lost during the mowing process, is once again available to the bees and butterflies that have become so rare in many suburban areas.
The native grasses in a no-mow lawn also provide breeding locations for these insects and nesting materials for predators higher up the food chain. With insects to feed on and long grass for nesting, birds are likely to enjoy making a presence close by, along with potentially even small and large mammals (depending on your area).
Even if you aren’t interested in wildlife, a no-mow lawn can have additional benefits, with birds quickly snapping up the slugs and other pests that can make a nuisance of themselves in your vegetable patch.
Planting a No-Mow Lawn
No-mow lawns are fairly easy to install, and over the long run, cost less than the traditional lawn. But, you will need to invest in seeds which shouldn’t cost more than 7 dollars per pound and will need to be distributed in accordance with the instructions on the bag of seed.
You could also use more expensive plugs if these are available from your local nursery. Bear in mind that the most ecological benefit will be reached with a mix of mostly native plants (around 40 to 60 percent is advised) to support local fauna in your area.
Species to Use in a No-Mow Lawn
There is a wide range of potential species to choose from for your no-mow lawn. Depending on your preferences, you might select native meadow grasses for maximum ecological benefit or more ornamental grasses that are more visually appealing.
- For smaller areas, like borders and the oddly shaped sections between pavers, Dwarf Mondo Grass is a popular choice and requires no mowing at all.
- For larger lawn areas, Fescues are often used. And some no mow lawn mixes like this one rely on a range of different fescues to form a robust, disease-resistant, low-maintenance lawn.
If you are worried that the lawn will look too unruly, you can try creating a xeriscaping border around the lawn.
Maintenance for a No-Mow Lawn
Though no-mow lawns are significantly less work, you will still have to do some maintenance. You’ll have to spend a little time controlling invading species, and it is a good idea to actually — despite the name — mow it occasionally (or burn depending on the species involved). Exactly how often you will need to mow depends on the species, but you may wish to maintain the grasses at a certain level to prevent them from going to seed. Despite this, no mow lawns do not require nearly as much mowing as a traditional lawn, and some species require little to no maintenance.
Depending on your local climate, no mow lawns may also have to be watered occasionally, but fertilizer is not generally required. If you want to learn more, I recommend picking up a copy of Beautiful No-Mow Yards: 50 Amazing Lawn Alternatives
by Evelyn Hadden. The book is full of inspirational no-mow lawn designs, along with practical tips to help you get started on the path to no mowing.
Author’s bio: Landscape architect and lawnmower enthusiast Laurence Bennet believes that sustainable gardening could play a key role in tackling environmental challenges. Visit his site at http://lawnmowerlarry.co.uk/ for everything on mowing and lawns.