Last summer, we went to Jackson Hole with family, and I fell in love with a grass. I also fell in love with this mint chip green smoothie. It was long and whispy, the grass, with that wind-blown, sideways Justin Bieber hair, so dense and lush, holding on to water like a dew-soaked spider web on a fall morning. It was unlike any grass I’d ever seen in real life. Though, I had a vague memory of reading about eco-friendly grasses in an old copy of Martha Stewart Living, bookmarked on an iPad we no longer had. It had to exist. [Article found by Haley!] I had the perfect spot for it. After an internet search, I found a miracle no mow grass, promised to be drought-tolerant and eco-friendly. Was it too good to be true?
A whole year in the ground, this miracle no mow grass holds up to its promise, even at the hands of an extra junior gardener, who is not the most consistent at watering. (That’s me.) Basically, if I can grow this grass, you definitely can.
Backstory: A couple years ago, we finished out our backyard. Well, most of it. There were two decently large unfinished areas. We were fresh out of money (and ideas) to finish. So we awkwardly covered those two plots in mulch until the problem could be solved in a cost-effective, low maintenance way. Enter the miracle no mow grass. The rest is history.
What is No Mow Grass?
No mow grass is a mix of fine fescue grasses that can be left to grow handsomely long, which means you can skip mowing this grass but once or twice a year. (It’s basically no mow.) See below for mowing information. Once the grass takes root, it forms a dense coverage, so dense, weeds don’t stand a chance to grow. No weeding or chemicals are necessary, making this low maintenance and eco-friendly. The root system also runs deep, requiring very little water to sustain life once established, which makes this grass drought-tolerant. It grows best in cooler temperatures. So, if you’re in the south, this grass isn’t for you. But if you’re in the middle to upper parts of the US continent, this may be the miracle grass for you. It grows best it full sun to partial shade. To see if it will grow near you, head this way. Note: this grass handles moderate foot traffic. It’s not the best lawn for playing in.
How to Plant No Mow Grass
First, prepare your plot
Dig up or kill off all previous growth until you’re down to the dirt, removing all plants and weeds. To kill off former growth in a safe, chemical-free manner, cover the area with a tarp or even leftover paper bags, weighing down to keep from blowing away, for several weeks to months. (Note: chemicals can strip the dirt of its natural nutrients, inhibiting the new growth of your grass. You may quickly solve one problem while creating another. Good things always take time.)
To prep our area, I removed our mulch, which unknowingly was priming this plot for fresh grass growth. Even still, we had root systems of weeds lingering beneath the top layer that took some back-breaking work and a whole day to remove. (Note: Leftover weeds will pop up with the grass if not removed prior. So put in the hard work now to remove them.)
Order No Mow Seeds
Meanwhile, order your no mow grass seed for fall planting. We used this mix from Prairie Nursery. Seeding can also be done in the spring.
Seed in the Fall
Once the daytime highs drop below 80°F, it’s safe to begin seeding. Generously and evenly sprinkle the grass seed over the prepared plot. Lightly cover with fresh, nutrient-rich soil to keep the seeds in place. Heavy rain or wind can cause the seeds to move or clump. I seeded by hand.
Water for a month
Water daily for a month, and keep any foot traffic off the new growth. Grass will begin growing almost immediately. Expect to see light yet even coverage in 2 weeks time. At this point, reseed any bald areas. Reseeding can also be done in the spring after the new growth pops up.
After the first year, mow once a year, in the fall before the first snow or early spring after the melt, maintaining a 4-inch height. Cutting too close to the root can kill off the grass. Let it be long. Water occasionally and thank mother nature that something this simple and beautiful exists. Amen.