Is doing nothing but mowing for 20 years organic? Hard fescue no-mow?

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rebar
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Is doing nothing but mowing for 20 years organic? Hard fescue no-mow?

Post by rebar »

Hello folks, new here..

I live in a burb of Iowa City which once had many proud owners.. But over the past few years, many homes are now rentals and yards are starting to get very weedy.. Not that my 1/4 acre was ever a golf course, but Ive been pulling weeds and digging thistles by hand ever since I moved in, as I don't like chemicals or mowing every weekend. But after my divorce, my time is very limited and I'm about ready to throw in the towel and say uncle..

But the last thing I want to do is fertilize or water. I like the fact I don't have to mow more than once a month! My main dislike is tall weeds and thistles.. Because without tall weeds or farm grasses, my yard doesn't look to bad from a distance.. Im ok with broad leaf I guess.

So what would you suggest I do that's not to radical? Should I use a pre-emergent? And should I seed with hard fescue no-mow seed, and when?

Thanks!

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garydasc
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Re: Is doing nothing but mowing for 20 years organic? Hard fescue no-mow?

Post by garydasc »

I would say your are the very definition of organic. When you do mow, do you leave the clippings? I would maybe start mowing a little more often and leaving (mulching) the clippings. That will put more organic matter into your soil. You could overseed with Ecolawn which is grass seed mix of several low growing fescues that are very drought tolerant and don't need fertilizers but I think I would just double your mowing and leaving the clippings and see what that does.

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rebar
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Re: Is doing nothing but mowing for 20 years organic? Hard fescue no-mow?

Post by rebar »

garydasc wrote:
Mon Sep 20, 2021 4:15 am
I would say your are the very definition of organic. When you do mow, do you leave the clippings? I would maybe start mowing a little more often and leaving (mulching) the clippings. That will put more organic matter into your soil. You could overseed with Ecolawn which is grass seed mix of several low growing fescues that are very drought tolerant and don't need fertilizers but I think I would just double your mowing and leaving the clippings and see what that does.
Thanks garydasc..

Yes I mulch and leave clippings..

Ive seen the Ecolawn seed mix.. But its twice the price of just ordering Hard Fescue from prairieseedfarms here in Iowa and doesn't even mention what species of grass is in it.

I learned about Hard Fescue from the university of maryland and minnesota.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DY4Ip5rERRY
https://turf.umn.edu/news/which-fine-fe ... ld-you-use

Do you think I should use pre-emergent? Or would half my lawn die since half is weeds?

garydasc
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Re: Is doing nothing but mowing for 20 years organic? Hard fescue no-mow?

Post by garydasc »

rebar wrote:
Wed Sep 22, 2021 6:59 pm
garydasc wrote:
Mon Sep 20, 2021 4:15 am
I would say your are the very definition of organic. When you do mow, do you leave the clippings? I would maybe start mowing a little more often and leaving (mulching) the clippings. That will put more organic matter into your soil. You could overseed with Ecolawn which is grass seed mix of several low growing fescues that are very drought tolerant and don't need fertilizers but I think I would just double your mowing and leaving the clippings and see what that does.
Thanks garydasc..

Yes I mulch and leave clippings..

Ive seen the Ecolawn seed mix.. But its twice the price of just ordering Hard Fescue from prairieseedfarms here in Iowa and doesn't even mention what species of grass is in it.

I learned about Hard Fescue from the university of maryland and minnesota.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DY4Ip5rERRY
https://turf.umn.edu/news/which-fine-fe ... ld-you-use

Do you think I should use pre-emergent? Or would half my lawn die since half is weeds?
I don't know if I would use a pre-emergent. I really like the idea of a natural ground cover made up of native plants as opposed to a mono-culture lawn. I used to live in the mountains and we just had native grasses and wild flowers as our "lawn".

Somewhere it used to list all the different fescues in Ecolawn grass seed but if you can find a cheaper alternative, I would go for that. Some other options are clover. There is Dutch White clover and I've heard that red clover looks really good and there is also micro clover. I like the idea of a mowable meadow. There's a grass seed called "Fleur de Lawn" (https://ptlawnseed.com/products/fleur-de-lawn) that looks interesting.

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Re: Is doing nothing but mowing for 20 years organic? Hard fescue no-mow?

Post by Grass Clippins »

Hancock Seed has a microlawn seed mix that I looked at a while back. I never knew clover could be so expensive.

https://hancockseed.com/collections/clo ... rolawn-mix

I feel like if you went non organic for a couple years to establish a thick microlawn then you could easily switch back to organic. That's just my thought. Seems like it would be difficult to target unwanted weeds without taking out your clover during the thickening up stage unless you eliminated everything up front. Then you just have to stay on top of your pre emergent apps. There's a clover that doesn't get the white caps, can't remember what it's called though. What would be really neat is perennial peanut but that's a warm season option.
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garydasc
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Re: Is doing nothing but mowing for 20 years organic? Hard fescue no-mow?

Post by garydasc »

Grass Clippins wrote:
Thu Sep 23, 2021 4:04 pm
Hancock Seed has a microlawn seed mix that I looked at a while back. I never knew clover could be so expensive.

https://hancockseed.com/collections/clo ... rolawn-mix

I feel like if you went non organic for a couple years to establish a thick microlawn then you could easily switch back to organic. That's just my thought. Seems like it would be difficult to target unwanted weeds without taking out your clover during the thickening up stage unless you eliminated everything up front. Then you just have to stay on top of your pre emergent apps. There's a clover that doesn't get the white caps, can't remember what it's called though. What would be really neat is perennial peanut but that's a warm season option.
I don't think there should be any reason to go non organic to establish a new lawn. For what purpose?

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Re: Is doing nothing but mowing for 20 years organic? Hard fescue no-mow?

Post by Deadlawn »

garydasc wrote:
Thu Sep 23, 2021 7:29 pm
I don't think there should be any reason to go non organic to establish a new lawn. For what purpose?
There isn't. Synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are like a hard drug that is hard to quit without relapse and withdrawal. Not to mention that they kill the beneficial microbes in the ground.

Keep in mind that two of the most overlooked problems are 1) compacted soil and 2) lack of organic matter. Also, you should consider weeds as a symptom of a problem, not the problem itself. Paul Tukey in his book "The Organic Lawn Care Manual" describes weeds and the conditions you can change to make it less desirable for those weeds. For example, plantain loves compacted soil. Many weeds thrive on low nutrients. That is not to say these weeds won't grow at all if you correct the underlying problem, but weed pressure will be a lot less as grass thickens in. A good thing to do is take soil samples to your local cooperative extension and have them test for nutrients and organic matter. This will give you an idea on what you need to correct.

The takeaway is that the better you make conditions for the grass, the thicker the grass will grow and therefore weeds won't have a fighting change among the grass. One big problem where I live is crabgrass. Crabgrass is a prolific seeder and seeds can remain viable in the soil for up to 7 years! But crabgrass seed must have ample light and heat in order to germinate. If your grass is thick and you mow high enough during the hot months, crabgrass simply cannot germinate. Tukey's book is a good read:

https://www.amazon.com/Organic-Lawn-Car ... 1580176496

So called "low-mow" grasses are really nothing more than fine fescues which you can find at places like Outsidepride.com for a lot less $$. Hard fescue is indeed low growing and drought tolerant. The caveat here is it is a bunch grass. You are best off mixing it in with some creeping red fescue which is rhizomatous and will spread and fill in gaps. Remember the old saying that Mother Nature hates a vaccuum. If nothing is growing there, she will grow something there and it may not be something you like. As far as clover, white Dutch clover is your best bet as it is low growing. And it is rhizomatous, so it will fill in gaps! It also supplies nitrogen to the grass. Between the clover and mulched grass clippings, your lawn could have as much nitrogen as it needs. I would avoid red clover as it grows fast and tall.

But remember, ground prep is more important than what you plant. If you throw seed down without prepping the ground, you are simply throwing good money after bad. Depending on how much work you want to do, you could rent a tiller and till down about a foot and then get a bulk supply of compost and spread it 2-3 inches over the areas. Seeding should be done in late August to early Sept. for best results.

If you don't want to do that kind of work or spend money on bulk compost, then the best thing you could do is to spread some organic fertilizers based on the above soil tests I mentioned. But don't put down any fertilizers until you find out what you are deficient in. Your pH may be off too. Many weeds love acidic conditions. Lawn grass grows best at a pH of between 6-7.5. If you are outside that range, you may need to put down either lime to make it more alkaline or sulfur to make it more acidic.

I use the Espoma line of organic fertilizers. However, I don't spread anything without knowing what I am deficient in. I don't think blanket applications on a schedule do much except waste product.

You mention pre-emergents. Keep in mind that these only prevent seeds from germinating and will do nothing to prevent perennial weeds from sprouting back every year. As far as organic pre-emergents, corn gluten is organic. However, it is also a source of nitrogen and if you spread it at levels that will prevent seeds from sprouting, you will make your grass grow faster and you will need to mow more often.
Tier 1 - I just want something green. Perennial "weeds" that stay green year round are welcome.

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Re: Is doing nothing but mowing for 20 years organic? Hard fescue no-mow?

Post by Grass Clippins »

@Deadlawn strikes again. Paul Tukey came up on today's Burn and Return Podcast at the 45:38 mark.

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Re: Is doing nothing but mowing for 20 years organic? Hard fescue no-mow?

Post by Deadlawn »

Grass Clippins wrote:
Wed Oct 06, 2021 4:51 pm
@Deadlawn strikes again. Paul Tukey came up on today's Burn and Return Podcast at the 45:38 mark.

Who the heck are these clowns?
Tier 1 - I just want something green. Perennial "weeds" that stay green year round are welcome.

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Re: Is doing nothing but mowing for 20 years organic? Hard fescue no-mow?

Post by Green »

@Deadlawn

Quick correction/addition to what you said above about pre-emergents. They actually don't even keep germination from occurring. They kill the plant as it germinates or shortly after. That's why application timing and duration of effectiveness are fairly important, but are also not the end-all, be-all.

--------------------------------------

Another thing worth noting...many people assume incorrectly that a conventional pre-M like Pendi, Dimension, Prodiamine, etc., will keep most grasses and broadleaf weeds from establishing. But not only do the chemistries vary with which broadleaf weeds they prevent, but even the "best" of these are really more to keep grassy weeds from germinating. There is a whole different category of pre-emergents dedicated to broadleaf plant prevention.

Fine fescues are also known to be allelopathic to certain plants. And Chewings Fescue can form a dense carpet that crowds out anything else in some cases (but likely would need some Nitrogen yearly to do so).

Finally, I think the bad rap Nitrogen fertilizer gets is from improper use/pollution, and also because a lot of conventional lawncare is based around applying Nitrogen but never doing a soil test...so the nutrient ratios are all out of whack as a result (e.g. Potassium shortage).

A soil test, and some yearly Potassium if needed, as well as a small amount of organic Nitrogen (even as low as 0.25 lb of N per year), can do wonders for even the lowest-input lawn, if you've maxed out everything else already.
Front: Northern mix - mostly TTTF, KBG, TTPR. Back: Firecracker and Bullseye TTTF with America, Rugby 2, Bewitched KBG. Upper Side: Mostly TTPR, KBG. Lower Side: similar to front. Low-input: TF/FF, KBG, PR. Always seeding somewhere or fighting Triv.

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Re: Is doing nothing but mowing for 20 years organic? Hard fescue no-mow?

Post by Green »

Deadlawn wrote:
Wed Oct 06, 2021 8:14 pm
Who the heck are these clowns?
They're all members here...and are all intelligent people who push the envelope in highly managed turf. But when they get together...man, watch out! There is some comedy, and some fooling around that occurs interspersed with the discussions...they do like to have a little fun and joke around.
Front: Northern mix - mostly TTTF, KBG, TTPR. Back: Firecracker and Bullseye TTTF with America, Rugby 2, Bewitched KBG. Upper Side: Mostly TTPR, KBG. Lower Side: similar to front. Low-input: TF/FF, KBG, PR. Always seeding somewhere or fighting Triv.

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Re: Is doing nothing but mowing for 20 years organic? Hard fescue no-mow?

Post by Deadlawn »

Green wrote:
Wed Oct 06, 2021 10:07 pm
@Deadlawn

Quick correction/addition to what you said above about pre-emergents. They actually don't even keep germination from occurring. They kill the plant as it germinates or shortly after. That's why application timing and duration of effectiveness are fairly important, but are also not the end-all, be-all.

--------------------------------------

Another thing worth noting...many people assume incorrectly that a conventional pre-M like Pendi, Dimension, Prodiamine, etc., will keep most grasses and broadleaf weeds from establishing. But not only do the chemistries vary with which broadleaf weeds they prevent, but even the "best" of these are really more to keep grassy weeds from germinating. There is a whole different category of pre-emergents dedicated to broadleaf plant prevention.

Fine fescues are also known to be allelopathic to certain plants. And Chewings Fescue can form a dense carpet that crowds out anything else in some cases (but likely would need some Nitrogen yearly to do so).

Finally, I think the bad rap Nitrogen fertilizer gets is from improper use/pollution, and also because a lot of conventional lawncare is based around applying Nitrogen but never doing a soil test...so the nutrient ratios are all out of whack as a result (e.g. Potassium shortage).

A soil test, and some yearly Potassium if needed, as well as a small amount of organic Nitrogen (even as low as 0.25 lb of N per year), can do wonders for even the lowest-input lawn, if you've maxed out everything else already.
Thanks for the clarification on pre-emergents. Yes, technically what you said is true, but in the grand scheme of things, my explanation is easiest for the lay person to understand.

I did not know that fine fescues were allelopathic. I've never seen that anywhere. Do you have a source for this?

And yes, I agree that it's the improper use of fertilizers in general (over application) that is a bigger problem than anything. Many DIYers think if a little is good, more is better and too much is just enough. The irony here is that people spend a lot of money on fertilizers, but balk at the cost of getting their soil tested. The other irony here is that over application of nitrogen is what often causes more disease and fungus problems.

Most organic sources of nitrogen are slow release and less likely to leach into the ground water before they are used by plants. The caveat here is that they also need microbial action to become available to plants. So that late fall app of organic nitrogen likely won't be available until the following spring after some of it has leached below the soil area where plants can use it.
Tier 1 - I just want something green. Perennial "weeds" that stay green year round are welcome.

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Re: Is doing nothing but mowing for 20 years organic? Hard fescue no-mow?

Post by Deadlawn »

Green wrote:
Wed Oct 06, 2021 10:12 pm
Deadlawn wrote:
Wed Oct 06, 2021 8:14 pm
Who the heck are these clowns?
They're all members here...and are all intelligent people who push the envelope in highly managed turf. But when they get together...man, watch out! There is some comedy, and some fooling around that occurs interspersed with the discussions...they do like to have a little fun and joke around.
Oh, OK, I get it. Yes, highly managed turf is a big business just like big oil. Comedy is one thing, but I did not find these guys funny. I used the word "clowns" sarcastically. They seem intent on coming over into the Organic forum and bashing low-maintenance lawn care and the fine work Paul Tukey has done to try and change the way people look at lawn care. They even went as far as to make out and out lies about systemic pesticides like neonicotinoids which have been proven to be a cause of colony collapse syndrome. I found this particularly repulsive.
Tier 1 - I just want something green. Perennial "weeds" that stay green year round are welcome.

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Re: Is doing nothing but mowing for 20 years organic? Hard fescue no-mow?

Post by Grass Clippins »

@Deadlawn :lol: Don't be causing trouble.... :lol: As you noticed they were referring to fine lawns. But I do agree that gardening is a lot different that lawn care. I lay somewhere in the middle. I'm not eating my lawn so I personally don't see the need to be all organic but I do respect the people who do practice organic lawn care. If I can do organic things that help me accomplish my goals on time and within budget then I'll do it. I try to only give it what it needs to look better than normal but I'm not going to put my lawn on life support with chemicals and fertilizer just to get lawn of the month. I'm trying to raise these little babies up to fend for themselves but I'm also a realist and understand the I'm going to need to step in sometimes with a little pre/post herbicide or fungicide apps when needed.
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Re: Is doing nothing but mowing for 20 years organic? Hard fescue no-mow?

Post by Deadlawn »

Causing trouble? Well, to be honest, I'm surprised I haven't been banned yet, LOL!

As far as "not eating your lawn", keep in mind that everyting works its way up the food chain in greater concentration. Birds, reptiles and amphibians eat insects that have been poisoned. The US has about 30% less birds than it did in 1970. That is largely due to pesticides as well as habitat loss. Remember when we thought DDT was safe.....until we knew it wasn't. We almost lost our national symbol, the bald eagle. And we know now that systemic pesticides are linked to colony collapse syndrome which means fewer crops for farmers who rely on pollination.

I commend you for being organic when you can.
Tier 1 - I just want something green. Perennial "weeds" that stay green year round are welcome.

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Re: Is doing nothing but mowing for 20 years organic? Hard fescue no-mow?

Post by Green »

@Deadlawn My lawn mower kills a frog every now and then, too. Unfortunately, some don't move, and you don't know they're there until it's too late. And I go slow and carefully. Anything to reduce frog mortality I'm all for...need them to eat ticks and mosquitoes, etc. Imidicloprid has not been used on this property since 2014 and is not allowed to be used (by me) or for sale (by our laws), and even then, it was only used several times over the years. I've since moved on to Chlorantraniliprole, and more recently, GrubGone (a bacteria). I will rotate between the two to prevent resistance, and sometimes even skip a grub prevention application all together (which I did last year). I wish more people would be concerned about pesticide use. I also rarely use chemical fungicides, preferring instead biofungicides such as Serenade, Companion, and Sonata. I do wish more people would jump on the semi-organic train at the very least. I'll probably post about the GrubGone at some point again, but there really isn't much to say...if it works, it works...great. I do want people to know it exists and and is an option, though (there are actually 3-4 brands of it now). I've also only ever done 2 full lawn renovations (one was 1K and the other was 2K) and 2-3 mini renos, preferring in general to overseed instead if possible. The exceptions are new construction or a lawn that is so infested with Poa that there's no hope.
Front: Northern mix - mostly TTTF, KBG, TTPR. Back: Firecracker and Bullseye TTTF with America, Rugby 2, Bewitched KBG. Upper Side: Mostly TTPR, KBG. Lower Side: similar to front. Low-input: TF/FF, KBG, PR. Always seeding somewhere or fighting Triv.

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