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Is fall mowing necessary?

 
Posts: 31
Location: Pacific Northwest, West of the Cascades. United States
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I am just about to close on my first (and last) home. I am so excited to have acreage and put to use all the information I've been observing while lurking in The Forums! The Seller just loves to mow,so we've been told. It's like a hobby. They love a tidy property. Enter Me (bawahahah). The property is 6 acres, much of which is hay field with some more maintained grass for lawn in the immediate front and backyards as well as over the drain field. The nephew has been keeping things mowed over the last couple months as we have worked to close on the property and have offered to mow one last time for us this week before taking their riding lawn mower with them and leaving us to our own devices. Probably needless to say, but here it is anyway, we have a drastically different vision for the property than it's previous use and owners. While it's been nice that they kept things mowed through the end of summer (we thought we'd move-in in September and be possibly overwhelmed with grass), it seems strange to me to cut it so short going into winter here in Coastal Washington State.
Can you help me learn what the pros/cons of this practice would be from a permaculture/soil health standpoint? I really don't mind if it topples over and looks sad. Wouldn't it die and become mulch for the spring regrowth?  I have never owned a home before. I'm coming from an apartment and am well aware I will be over my head in just a few short days. That said, I have a reel mower that mows high as well as a haying scythe that I thought I would use for the lawn areas until I get a plan in place, and use the scythe to harvest mulch and cut pathways to where ever we want to access - perhaps having the field professionally hayed as well.

Would it be wise to have them mow it, since they offered, and have one less thing on our plate? It will definitely take some time to figure out what we want to do. I'm looking forward to all the observation and dreaming I get to do this winter!

Pictured shows the manicured lawns around the house outlined in pink. I thought the front circular lawn would be fun to do with the scythe, the other two with the reel mower.  Outlined in blue is the drain field. I thought I might be able to scythe that too but that might take some extra practice (which I should have plenty of by the the beginning of next summer hahaha)

*Edited to fix typos because I do my best proof reading after I hit submit.
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Grass is King (?)
Grass is King (?)
 
pollinator
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Here we have to mow the grass as late as possible because it will grow slowly all winter if we have a warm one. It will also start growing in the spring long before the weather dries out enough to mow it, not mowing it in Autumn will leave us with foot long grass that the mower cannot handle in May.
If one doesn't mow for a year say the dead grass becomes a tough mat and not much can grow through it, it basically smothers itself.

Remember the above points are only true to my climate and my grasses, yours may be different. We get winters where the average temperature from December through til March is just below freezing but with little to no snow and lots of rain and wind.
 
gardener
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First, big congrats on the new home/property!
A lot will depend on the type of grass and the climate.
Personally, I would probably have it mowed... Just because it's not going to do a ton of damage to the grass/soil lifesince it's already been mowed consistently by the previous owner (so damage has already been done).
Having it short will allow you to observe the actual ground so you can more easily see the high/low points of the land and plan around that, for future projects, as you observe. You'll also be able to explore without worrying about suddenly stepping in a lower spot and falling or spraining an ankle.
You will be getting a source of organic matter to start a compost with, use as mulch, etc. It will come in handy to already have it when you are running around doing other things and don't have time to go out and find stuff on the property.
It won't take long for the grass to grow back so, even if you regret having it mowed, it's not permanent.

These are just some things I thought of. Looking forward to hearing more about your new adventure!
 
steward
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If I were going to try to use a reel mower, I would definitely ask them to mow before they leave. In my experience, reel mowers have a romantically cool ambiance about them, but they are useless as an actual tool in real-life.

 
master pollinator
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I have a significant amount of clumpy grass. My acre is very bumpy. These factors would not go well with safely traversing the additional bumpiness of winter-killed top growth just waiting for me to try to carry something across the yard.

Perhaps you are more graceful than I.
 
Jennifer Paulson
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Skandi Rogers wrote:Here we have to mow the grass as late as possible because it will grow slowly all winter if we have a warm one. It will also start growing in the spring long before the weather dries out enough to mow it, not mowing it in Autumn will leave us with foot long grass that the mower cannot handle in May.
If one doesn't mow for a year say the dead grass becomes a tough mat and not much can grow through it, it basically smothers itself.

Remember the above points are only true to my climate and my grasses, yours may be different. We get winters where the average temperature from December through til March is just below freezing but with little to no snow and lots of rain and wind.



Hi Skandi, It sounds like our winters are similar, although ours may tend to be a few degrees warmer on average with occasional snow fall. It's supposed to be an extra wet winter this year. My fingers are crossed it will fill the pond a bit.

You made some good points and I appreciate your quick response.  We've been in a hurry up and wait cycle and now it's RUSH RUSH RUSH! Since they offered, and after reading your comment, I went ahead and accepted a mow this week. In our climate, the last possible time to mow would probably be the end of October. We likely won't be able to do that this year, however. I bet the scythe will come in handy for an early season mow of tall grass and if that fails, maybe we can get it hayed with the rest of the property!

I see an opportunity perhaps in the future of using year old neglected grass to smother out places I no longer want grass (in combination with adding even more cut hay as mulch), like the former garden spot (and circular lawn in the front). I might be able to leave that area alone for the next year and plan to plant in it again in two years.  The property got away from the older gentleman who is selling it. His family tried, but not living there the garden got over grown. They tilled it and again let it go, so now it's just a hay patch with a water spigot. I can relate. For the past few years I've been driving 35-40 minutes each way to my garden spot twice a week. It's just not enough time to keep up with everything. I can't wait to walk out the door and be in my own yard/garden!

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So much excitement for the oppertunity for scythe-arobics!
So much excitement for the oppertunity for scythe-arobics!
 
Jennifer Paulson
Posts: 31
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Kc Simmons wrote:First, big congrats on the new home/property!
A lot will depend on the type of grass and the climate.
Personally, I would probably have it mowed... Just because it's not going to do a ton of damage to the grass/soil lifesince it's already been mowed consistently by the previous owner (so damage has already been done).
Having it short will allow you to observe the actual ground so you can more easily see the high/low points of the land and plan around that, for future projects, as you observe. You'll also be able to explore without worrying about suddenly stepping in a lower spot and falling or spraining an ankle.
You will be getting a source of organic matter to start a compost with, use as mulch, etc. It will come in handy to already have it when you are running around doing other things and don't have time to go out and find stuff on the property.
It won't take long for the grass to grow back so, even if you regret having it mowed, it's not permanent.

These are just some things I thought of. Looking forward to hearing more about your new adventure!



Thank you KC, we're so excited. I really don't know my northern lawn grasses so I guess I'll just need to wait and see, which I have a feeling will be a pretty big theme for the next 12 months! The hay (wild grasses and things) field is hilly and uneven but I haven't had too much trouble traversing it. My mother, who is in her late 60s, has had a much more difficult time, so you raised a good point there. It was hayed this past summer but not cut since. It's a bit rough. The Seller let us go out there at the end of August to harvest fruit and berries and then had us over once again for a personalized tour. The actually lawn areas were all even/flat as far as I noticed.

All the short lawn clippings from the summer are in piles around the shop area. Likely ash at the center of the piles from getting too hot.  I figured while it was still dry, I could sprinkle it around to feed the soil but I don't know much about mulching or composting with it. I remember it being too hot, clumping and going anaerobic. I'd love to know how you use it. I would have much preferred the grass clippings remain on the lawn rather than being bagged up but I've been reserved in not showing my true permaculture colors in fear that they'd change their mind and not want to sell to us! We've been on the property search for too long to screw it all up in the final days hahah.
 
Jennifer Paulson
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
If I were going to try to use a reel mower, I would definitely ask them to mow before they leave. In my experience, reel mowers have a romantically cool ambiance about them, but they are useless as an actual tool in real-life.



Thanks Joseph, that's another good point. They are pretty useless on wildly over grown grass. I've pushed though it before at a hilly rental I lived at.  The three room mates and I all had to take turns (clearly there was too much lawn). The lawn I plan to use the reel mower on are flat and can be tamed first with a scythe if needed. We'll see if my plan works in actuality!
 
master pollinator
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The mowing is probably a wise choice. At least you can see what you're dealing with, and have easy mobility in those areas.

It seems you're in a location without fire risk. Fall mowing is essential in some places to prevent seasonal wildfires, or at least provide halt lines you can hope to defend.

In the bigger picture, it takes a year or two to really know the moods, the ebbs and flows of the seasons on your property. It may be that mowing around your garden provides a "moat" that discourages munchie creatures from wiping out your hard work. Give it time, and simply observe; all will reveal itself.
 
gardener
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I am north of you on the "wet coast" and I agree with Skandi. I've adapted my mower to mow ~4" high, which is better than the "brush-cut" most people do, but I may need to mow in Feb or March if we get a break in the rain, or by the time April comes, my pour mower chokes on the grass. Part of the issue is that the longer grass does exactly what permaculture says it does - it shades the soil and it takes longer to dry out. We do that intentionally in parts of the field where our ducks and chickens live - leaving areas tall until we need that area - but it means that when the time comes to mow it, it's a big job. A scythe may well be the best cost/effective tool at that point, but I've not learned that skill.

We get a summer drought and I only irrigate areas of the field if we need fresh grass for the geese and Muscovy to eat. This summer it got dry enough that the Municipality asked people *not* to mow as they were worried about grass fires from sparks, so timing is everything and the weather patterns shift based on El Niño and La Niña, and due to longer cycles affecting the Pacific Ocean. I suggest you do lots of "observing" and talking to neighbors and looking up historical weather records before making big plans, so you will be confident that the plans will be helpful in the weather extremes you may experience.

You're just starting a fantastic experience. There will be lots to learn, and if you're anxious to get started, start with some easy small stuff, like herbs and veg, while you figure out the best plan for the longer term.
 
Posts: 94
Location: Chipley, FL
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I mow for biomass I can trust.  I have a bagger on my mower, but I have also used a scythe (broke it!) and raked up the grass. I dump the grass into compost piles, also sheet mulch/compost with some.

I aim to build a bigger chicken tractor and let them do some grass control, but I have 4 acres or so in fields, so unless I get some cattle soon, I'll be mowing.

I may be doing may last mowing for this year now, but hard to say. If it gets to 8" or so, I'll mow it again so it isn't too tall come spring.  It's warmer her than in Skandi's climate, and some of the grass/weeds do grow some in the winter.

I don't take off all the clippings.  About every third or fourth mowing I just let them drop in place so add a bit of mulch and return some nitrogen.

 
pollinator
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I would probably mow now.  I would try to identify any small trees that might be growing there first. With all the trees in the neighborhood, you might have a lot of tiny trees. If they used a lot of chemicals, you probably don’t have little trees. Just in my yard on the edge of town, I’ve had redbuds, mulberries, and a persimmon come up. I’m letting a couple of each grow. I had a lot of silver maples come up. They are one of the worst type of trees in the area. I pulled and tilled them.

I once saw our highway department spray and brush hog brush(young native trees),  so they could plant pine trees. The pine trees all died. They don’t grow well here anyway, especially in compacted clay on the sides of the road.  It was a long time ago. Hopefully, they are smarter now.
 
Dan Scheltema
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Ken W Wilson wrote:I would probably mow now.  I would try to identify any small trees that might be growing there first. With all the trees in the neighborhood, you might have a lot of tiny trees.



This is something I have been doing, at least in some areas of my fields.  I got some of those little flag markers and shove one in beside ant sapling I find that is of a species I want to keep.  At first it was just anything that looked like a fruit or nut tree, and oaks, but I've started letting cottonwoods grow too for fast tree biomass.  I am shooting for something more like savannah instead of just open fields.  Summers are brutal and scattered shade really helps.
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