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.
This no mow grass is awesome. I leave in Montréal, Canada. We have cold long winters…the hardiness zone is 4-5 max. Is that grass can survive this?
I live in Minneapolis in zone 4 and it tolerates the winters!
I live in a transition zone in California but I do see neighboring homes with the no mow grass. My front yard is dirt now and I’m wondering whether I need to add irrigation before planting. Does this need a sprinkler system or can it be done with some sort of a drip system or does it need no irrigation once it takes root? I love your article btw and wonderful writing style.
Hi Aaron! We have super sticky, clay-like dirt and the grass somehow survives. When I first added the seed, I spread a thin layer of high-quality topsoil to help things along, sprinkled the seeds on top of that, and then did another very thin layer of topsoil to hold the seeds down so they wouldn’t slide or puddle in the rain. Once your grass takes, it’s drought resistant and can withstand little water. I’m a horrible gardener, we had a baby last summer and I didn’t attend to it, and it is still living! It’s truly incredible. I’d love to know if you end up doing it and how it goes!
Your grass is beautiful!
Can you please tell if you used the No Mow mix with rye?
Hi Kim! We did use the rye mix, but live in Minnesota where it gets cold enough to kill off the annual rye.
Hi! I am very interested in planting this grass, but I do have a dog. Do you think it will be able to withstand her running around?
Hi Elena! It handles moderate foot traffic. If you have a huge area, I think it would be barely noticeable, but I imagine it would be more noticeable in a smaller area, more matted down.
I admire your home, inside and out, and everything you’re trying to do with it. Do you know what the evergreens are in your landscaping at the base of your home? I love that they are small – will they stay that way? Do you have to prune them? Whenever I see evergreens at our local (WI) garden center they look small and cute, but when I look at the cards I realize that they will get to be huge.
Thank you, Elizabeth! Those evergreens are Dwarf Alberta Spruce’s and are slow-growing. We’ve had them for a couple years. They’ll eventually grow to the windows, we’ll just trim the tops, but I imagine we’re a long time away from having to do that.
Oh man. I was in love this grass both the look in your photos and the no mow description. I was all set to order but then I checked the growing zones map and I think I fall in the yellow area. I LOVE this though and I am glad to know it exists in case I move north at all!
Hi Scarlet! Check out creeping red fescue. I think it grows well a little further south than the mix we bought and looks just as pretty!
Melissa is this the Martha article you are referencing? Have it saved on my Pinterest!
Yes! This is the one. Adding this link to the post. Thank you!
Psst – The link you added to the post goes to an outdoor fireplace.
Ack, thank you for letting me know! Updated.
Too bad this grass won’t grow all year long anywhere but places like Jackson Hole or North Dakota. Pretty much anywhere where summers are mild and short. Fine fescues are awesome but anything over 75 and it starts to die. But maybe a reason to move to Jackson Hole??
Ha, definitely a reason to move to Jackson Hole! However, this particular variety of fescue can grow further south than Jackson Hole, as far south as the middle of Kansas. We get pretty hot here in Minneapolis during the summer, and this grass tolerates the 90s. Not sure where you are located, but Creeping Red Fescue grows a little further south than the variety we use, up to Zone 7.
This looks like a great option for us. Does it bother you at all that it has to be kept a little longer than traditional lawns?
Not at all. I think this is way more visually pleasing than our more manicured front lawn. I love the wildness of this!
I’ll add that we have this lawn (plus micro clover) and our neighbors keep their traditional lawn meticulously mowed. They really don’t look too bad next to each other and we’ve never had a complaint from anybody. We do, however, mow a couple times a season, when we can see chipmunk burrows under the grass.
So glad to hear this! I think it’s such a visually beautiful grass. Hard to imagine someone seeing it otherwise. We have the burrowing going on right now. Waiting till the end of September to cut it ?. How does your lawn handle foot traffic? My 5 year old runs back and forth on ours from time to time but not daily, and it handles fine.
If you mow any true grass to the dirt, all you will have is dirt. Crabgrass is not a true grass but makes it on water is why you can cut it to the dirt and live. All fescue minimums is 4 inches to survive and environment
I remember the Martha Stewart feature, and those torn-out magazine pages have followed us through a few moves, neatly packed away…somewhere…
Thank you for compiling this much needed info!
Ah, I wish I could find that article! It must be at least 6 years old.
Also for more traditional lawns dont be afraid to let them go dormant in summer.
Oh, tell me more about dormant lawns! Does this just mean not cutting the traditional lawn? I’m interested for our front lawn.
I love this grass! It makes me want to remove all the bluegrass around my home. Thank you for sharing.
I feel the same about our front yard. I’d love to replace it with this one day!
This post comes at a nearly perfect time for me! Thank you for sharing this find, I need more info about how to keep a yard suburban neighbor-friendly without killing my souls and destroying the planet!
This is the one! It’s such and smart and beautiful and earth friendly grass. Let me know if you end up using it! I’d love to hear how you like it.