No-Mow Grass – Is It Real?

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I know it sounds too good to be true, but no-mow grass is real. In fact, it’s been around since the 1930s, came to market in the ‘60s, but with improved cultivars it’s only been the last few years that no-mow has become popular. This has come about due to the demand for low-maintenance, low-input, environmentally friendly ground covers. I can attest that it’s for real, an excellent alternative for the usual residential grasses, as I am currently planting it in several of my residential landscaping design projects.

The Fineleaf Fescue Species

The “fineleaf fescue” species is the grass of choice among “grassy” ground covers for slopes, median strips, golf course roughs, cemeteries, and for industrial, commercial and residential landscapes. There are four distinct species, and any number of commercial varieties have been developed for specific growing areas of California and for different amounts of sun and water.

Is It Really Grass?

When I suggest no-mow, the usual question I get from clients is, “Is it real grass?” Yes, it’s real grass, reaches 2 to 6 inches and grows sideways for a clean and uniform look. Once the seeds have taken hold and the turf is established, it will provide a beautiful looking lawn that requires very little maintenance!

But as there are a number of seed varieties, tailored for specific climates, irrigation, sun and use, I suggest you contact a knowledgeable professional before you proceed to rip out your existing lawn and replace it with no-mow.

Irrigation

Although no-mow fineleaf fescues require less water than typical mowed lawns, to survive in California they must be irrigated during the summer months. Irrigation may be stopped after the first significant rain of the fall-winter season and should be restarted only after the chance of further rain disappears in spring.

Mowing

The recommended mowing height for fineleaf fescue lawns is 2 ½ inches. Mowing every 2 to 3 weeks is usually sufficient. Left unmowed, the grass will grow to a height of 6 to 12 inches, with most leaves drooping to one side or the other. It’s important to keep the grass from growing near or around landscape trees and shrubs. Tall, dense grass abutting trees and shrubs may provide a thick layer of continuously moist mulch that can promote fungus and crown rot. To prevent disease, keep grass at least 2 feet from tree trunks or shrubs.

Fertilization

One advantage of a no-mow fineleaf fescue lawn is that it needs less nutrition than usual grasses. If the soil is highly fertile, a no-mow lawn may never need to be fertilized. On average soils, the lawn may need no more than 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per year. The best time to fertilize is October, before the rain arrives.

Sod vs. Seed

Because no-mow fineleaf fescue has extremely slow seed germination and seedling growth, this creates a challenge for weed control at early stages of turf establishment. There are many options to deal with the weed control and eradication, which your nursery or landscape consultant can advise you on.

However, now that producers are offering fineleaf fescue sod, in the long run, sod may be a better economic choice over seeding, considering weed infestation, seedling disease and seed wash out, all of which can affect seedling establishment.

References: No-Mow Fineleaf Fescue Grasses for California Urban Landscapes, Alternatives To Lawns

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