Lo-mow, No-mow grass

Posted: May 20, 2008 by admin in All, Solutions to Piqua's Problems

Note: These new genetically altered grasses were only perfected in late 2006. That fact is not mentioned below. The following article is quoted verbatim from the original source: blog.cleveland.com

Low-mow (even no-mow) lawns tested by city (Cleveland, OH)

Posted by Michael Scott December 31, 2007 21:00PM

Categories: Environment

Don’t toss out your Toro or fire the landscapers just yet, but get ready for the next thing in green living by next summer: Low-mow (even no-mow) lawns.

Yep, the green revolution is sowing seeds of environmental change even among the lush, green grasses of suburbia.

Low-mow — and its even more ecologically minded brother, no-mow — refer to limited-growth grass seed mixes. The seeds grow into lawns that need less water, need no fertilizers or weed killer and stay reasonably short, 6 to 8 inches, even if mowed only once a month or less.

They’re already taking root in Cleveland.

The Cleveland Botanical Garden and several city departments are testing a handful of low-growth grass mixes — some already available, while others are new mixes developed at the garden. The grasses would be planted initially only in city-owned vacant lots.

Five mixes sprouted with mixed results when planted in pilot strips last summer in front of the Botanical Garden’s East Boulevard building. The most promising blend topped off between 6 and 8 inches high when being cut only once a month.

Other Northeast Ohio lawns probably grew that much in a single week this past summer when the rains came.

Supporters say that’s what will make these low-mow grasses an increasingly popular option, even though some disdain their small flowers, and most varieties look shaggier than well-manicured yards.

“The perfect American lawn is going through a volatile period in its history,” said Case Western Reserve University environmental history professor Ted Steinberg of Shaker Heights. “Of course, I’m the guy who thinks any lawn maintenance is a waste of time.”

Steinberg, author of “American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn,” said there is “an anti-perfect lawn revolution under way in Canada. ” He said more than 120 cities there have enacted limits on the use of pesticides on yards, for example.

He said low-mow lawns are part of that larger movement away from chemically supported and perfect-looking lawns.

The test lawn outside the garden certainly drew plenty of attention around University Circle this past summer, said Christin DeJong, the Garden’s urban botanist, who is running the experiment.

“The Cleveland Botanical Garden’s mission is — in every sense of the word — conservation,” said Garden Executive Director Natalie Ronayne. “This project can play a role in urban greening, which improves sustainability and helps in economic development. It’s more aesthetically pleasing and easier to market a green city.”

The low-mow lawn test will continue through next spring on four parcels in the city’s Fairfax neighborhood. Contractors for the city planted the new seed mix on half of each of the bare-dirt lots. The other half got a traditional, faster-growing lawn mix.

City workers will mow it monthly next summer and measure the height difference each time between the two sides.

Ultimately, the grass could be used to reseed many of the city’s 8,000 parcels of available land.

“That’s the bottom line with us — if it saves money on maintenance,” said Nate Hoelzel, the city’s brownfields program manager. “Green lots help a neighborhood more than plain dirt.”

Ronayne and Hoelzel said they could envision the low-grow also being marketed to park systems and maybe the Ohio Department of Transportation for median strips. Because none of the mixes include taller — and hardier — grasses like rye, they won’t hold up under heavy traffic, DeJong said.

Landscapers who make part of their living mowing others’ lawns aren’t too worried — yet.

“Quite honestly, it’s really not on our radar at this time,” said Sandy Munley, executive director of the Ohio Landscape Association in Broadview Heights. “It sounds pretty cool for some uses, but I think it would depend on what it looks like and feels underfoot.”

Brad Copley, vice president of marketing for MTD Products, Ohio’s largest lawn care equipment manufacturer, said his company would welcome the idea.

“I don’t think this is the end of lawnmowers as we know it,” he said, laughing. “Anything that would contribute to the greening of the landscape and the generation of more oxygen — as opposed to concrete or asphalt — is a good thing.”

  1. Marla says:

    I’m not interested in genetically modified grasses in my lawn!

    All the No Mow companies I called said they do not have ANY genetically modified grasses – nor do they want any.

    The places I called:
    NoMowGrass.com (888-Low-Grow) said their grass is a hybrid and the blade only gets 3″ – 6″ once mature –>Naturally!

    No-Mow-Lawns at Prairienursery.com ((608) 296-2741) said their fescue only grows 12″ and folds over.

    And EcoLawn at WildFlowerFarms.com is also a 12″ fine fescue.

    All are natural, native or hybrid –> Not genetically modified.

    Marla – New York

  2. admin says:


    Thanks your for feedback and all of the supplier information that you provided in your response. I was told that the particular grass being tested in locations by the City of Cleveland are species created through genetic modification and felt it was important to note that.

    According to the article at:


    your concern about planting genetically modified grass in your yard is quite valid. If you do end up buying some low-mow grass, we’d appreciate it very much if you would provide us with an update on what type of grass you selected and how it is working out for you.

    Thanks again.

  3. paul says:

    Two words: Carex pennsylvanica

    This is technically a sedge not a grass. I believe it is native to North America and grows about 8-10 inches in height but flops over and lays down. It is drought resistant with deep roots that go way farther down in the soil than ordinary grass.
    I planted a 36 inch square test plot in my yard 3 years ago.

    So far I haven’t mowed it once. It is NOT like regular grass and takes getting used to but that’s just because we’re all used to our ordinary grass.

    This is what I’ve observed with it.

    In the early spring (I’m in SE Pennsylvania) it looks dead and has the color of light beige strands with the beginnings of green starting in the middle of the tufts. At this early spring stage it does look a bit messy but you just need patience to let it grow in for the season. As the season progresses it gets greener and greener replacing the old dead stuff from last year. In the spring it sends up short stalks with little fluffy tufts at the tips which I assume is how it propogates itself (I am no expert whatsoever). At this stage it still looks a bit un-kempt but have patience it gets better. These tufted stalks eventually fall away and the sedge gets thicker and greener and taller and eventually they flop over. My inital planting was about 6 small bunches of it spaced about 12 inches apart in my little test plot. Now this test plot is very very thick with this sedge and no weeds have been able to grow much amongst this thick plot of it. Occasionally I do have to pick a few weeds from among the thick mass but they are very very few and far between.

    The look of it is very tossled when full grown. It is very tough and you can walk on it.

    With a little patience I could see replacing an entire lawn with this sedge and never have to mow again.

    Just think no more mowers, no more exhaust fumes, and the no more un-restricted pollution that the lawn mower makers are allowed to put out. No more pesticides. The mower industry could be significantly curtailed with this sedge.

    Just think of all of the extra time you’d have not having to mow ever again let alone the money you’d save!

    Pass the word on about Carex Pennsylvanica!

  4. admin says:

    @Paul: Thanks for the excellent and detailed info on “Carex pensylvanica”. (Not to split hairs but it’s “pensylvanica” — one “n” in the first syllabyle).

    Also, the city of Piqua (Ohio) is so short-sighted that they actually have an ordinance that would likely prevent Carex pensylvanica from being used here. Even it were to only grow to “8-10 inches in height” and were to “flop over and lay down”, it might still subject the property owner to a city code violation. The code states:


    (A) NOXIOUS WEEDS shall mean and include any and all grass, weeds, and wild
    plants exceeding 8 inches in height.

    There is no further clarification provided in the code of ordinances as to how the “height” is determined, but given the track record of the city’s code enforcement it is likely that they would deem anything that is 8 or more inches in length a code violation, even if the actual maximum height of the sedge when laying over was only 4 or 5 inches.

    Assuming that would be the case in this area and therefore even this solution would still occasionally requiring some mowing, do you have any knowledge as to what happens to Carex pensylvanica when it’s mowed? Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.