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Why are we mowing?

 
Posts: 37
Location: Just off the Delaware Bay in NJ. Zone 7b
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tiny house food preservation bee
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Slowly transitioning our corner lot into “garden beds” with paths between. No one seems to realize that sow thistle is not a cultivated flower, same with dock and ground ivy.  They blend in just fine with the herbs and veggies. Tee hee.
 
pollinator
Posts: 426
Location: Upstate SC
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The lawn mower (as opposed to a mechanical grass cutter for hay) was invented in England in the 1830's as a means to create a close cut grassed area for playing outdoor games such as croquet, rugby, cricket, etc without the risk of slipping and falling in animal manure. The earliest lawn mowers were human powered, but soon steam powered, and, in the late 1800's, gasoline powered mowers were invented.
 
Posts: 8
Location: Sandy, Utah
1
forest garden urban food preservation
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Suburbanites are the wackiest.  I truly don't understand their war against nature.  I can understand all the reasons people above have given and they make sense!  But the suburbanites we live around are just unfathomable.  Living in Utah there is just constant watering plus the more they water, the more they have to mow and then all the fertilizer they use so that the grass gets a preternatural AstroTurf look and of course that causes more mowing.  But it's not just mowing that's involved in this war but all their weapons of destruction - the blowers and edgers.  Oh god, Saturdays here are just hell as they all do their war maneuvers.  We have one lady who lives in back of us and because I'm in my yard gardening a lot I see what she's up to.  She doesn't work so has tons of time and she is out there edging and blowing and mowing about every other day, just spending hours making that horrible noise.  I'm sure no wild plant has ever gotten more than an inch high in her yard.  And craziest of all is that I even see some of these people go into the street and start blowing - why, I have no idea.  And of course every scrap of material must go into the garbage can.  We have no yard waste pickup here.  It's all landfill for any clippings and woody debris, sigh.  Of course no one would think of composting.

So my yard definitely stands out from the rest.  I chop and drop.  I have a pile of composted stable manure in my driveway that I'm gradually using up on my gardens. I manually dig out any wild plants I don't want.  I never hire a service. I've taken out the parking strip grass and planted pollinator herbs.  In the back I've got all my rain barrels and a couple of compost bins.  I collect people's bags of leaves every fall to accumulate and last through the season for my compost bins.  I've begun pulling out my beds in the front and planted semi-dwarf fruit trees around which I also grow out my beds wider and wider each year planted to all manner of things from herbs to onions to flowers to wild plants like violets and salsify.  Eventually the day will come and the neighbors won't have noticed but the lawn will have disappeared...  My husband should thank me that I no longer ask him to mow the back as any grass I can just pull out by handfuls to use as mulch and in the front he only has to mow a couple times spring and fall because I don't water enough to cause the grass to grow in the summer.   My only weeds are grass.  Everything else has a purpose whether for food for us or the critters, or to delight.

I love the comments people had about seeing more wildlife as that's exactly true with our yard!  I've seen so many more birds and insects plus my interests in identifying all of them has created new areas of study for me.  One thing leads to another.  One day I'm just a newbie gardener, the next I'm reading about genetics, seed saving, canning, trying to identify bumble bees, and learning bird photography so I can do citizen science.

When will suburbanites wake up from their comas and come back to life?
 
pollinator
Posts: 288
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I live in suburbia in a Mediterranean climate (southern Australia). My Chinese neighbours have better lawns because they think it's a chore and a waste of money so only bother doing it once a year- when it's very tall from the winter rains.

So when summer comes around their tall unmown grass stays lush and green whilst everyone else's short manicured lawns turn to dead-looking yellow roots because of our scorching sun (it even burns actual chillies to a crisp). The only way to combat this is by heavily watering the lawn every 1-2 days- that's stamina! And it's why the only green lawns in my neighbourhood belong to either the laziest Gardeners or the most fastidious Gardeners.
 
Posts: 487
Location: Northern Maine, USA (zone 3b-4a)
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i moved in with my wife 6 yrs ago . her property has a trailer, 2 car garage a back shed and 3/4 of a acre of grass surrounded by mature red pines and norway spruces. now the 3/ 4 acre of grass is down to a quarter acre of grass which is going to be even less than that in 5 years after all my berry bushes and fruit trees i planted , mature. i have strips going down the length of the lawn that are spaced about 15ft. apart that will turn into solid hedgerows of berries, nuts and fruit. i couldnt see wasting good land just growing grass . i left most of the back yard alone as thats where the fire pit is and its shaded in the afternoon. the grass there grows slowly there anyway. i also got a less than ideal hill top surrounded by a farmers field where im growing a bunch of hardy drought tolerant berries. they're doing surprisingly well considering the soil is very thin up there. i keep it well mulched so i think that makes a big difference. i have 18 different types of berries, nuts and fruit trees on both properties.
 
pollinator
Posts: 2039
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
185
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Mowing is an interesting tool. My husband and I have experimented with mowing on the farm. We get sweet clover so tall you can't even see deer hanging out in it until they jump out of your way. It's seriously ridic.

So we mow certain areas because we have a massive wild rabbit problem The sort that would shock most people. It's like we have a preserve. Our dogs keep all the predators at bay but are too stupid and slow to catch the rabbits themselves. BOOM population explosion. So we mow areas high with clover so the hawks and owls can see the rabbit jerks and kill them.

We have done different mowing methods to see if we could harvest more snow.

So we've mowed lines on contour. Now, not the whole property but just like lines as wide as our tractor mower. We did find an interesting amount of snow collection. We did contour, off contour, with the wind, against the wind. Just a variety of mowed lines one year to track what was possible. The snow collection results were mildly inconclusive but it was still fun.
 
Posts: 96
Location: Mediterranean-Temperate transition zone
18
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elle sagenev wrote:we mow areas high with clover so the hawks and owls can see the rabbit jerks and kill them.


I've used the same strategy to expose voles to aerial predation.  Works well.
 
Posts: 501
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When I was a kid in Germany, most of the houses had stone paved 'courtyards'  (some were small enough so that a better description might have been 'court walk in closets').  I don't think anyone there even knew what a lawn mower was.  The only unpaved areas I saw in the little town we lived in were gardens or orchards.  (While we were living there they were starting to cover the cobblestones with asphalt on the main roads in the small town, which I thought was foolish because only an idiot would speed on the cobblestones (rattle your teeth out) and patching the road seemed way easier, also the water could drain into the road bed.)

When we lived in California, living in base housing, I had to mow the yard every saturday, even our share of the common area out in the back where we couldn't water and so it was just dead and dried most of the summer.

When I lived on the Navajo reservation, it seemed most folks carefully dug up or killed everything growing around the house.  I was told this was for fire protection.  Most homes didn't have water spigots on the outside of the house.  Some didn't have running water inside the house.  Bare ground made lots of sense in that part of the country and with the resources they had.  My uncle was building houses on some Apache reservations.  He told me that there, rather than digging it up, they did periodic controlled burns to keep vegetation away from the houses.  He thought it made a lot of sense, was less work, but did impart a singed look to fences, etc.  

When I lived in Alaska, our "yard" was the area cleared around the house when they built the house.  Our soil was a thin layer of dirt over terminal moraine (meaning mostly gravel, I dug a hole once to check my drainage and it drained as fast as I could pour water in).  I generally mowed it once or maybe twice a year.  I noticed that my lawn actually got better over time as we lived there due, I believe, to a build up of organic matter caused by my 'benign neglect'.

When I moved to Southern Indiana, I am now in rich clayey soil with 36 inches of rain a year and plenty of sun and heat.  You can almost see the grass growing in the spring.  Ticks and chiggers can get really bad.  Here, when I had chickens and ducks running around my yard, I never had to worry about ticks or chiggers.  The birds ate just about everything that was small enough and slow enough for them to catch (I only fed them in the evening to encourage foraging).  Now that I don't have chickens, I need to keep the lawn mowed to keep the ticks at bay, (and to keep my wife happy).  I have about an acre of lawn.  Way more work and money than makes sense.  If I were planning on staying here, I would put it all in permaculture forest/ orchard and used chicken tractors full of my small raptors to keep the lanes open.  Doing that, I could keep the whole area manageable.

I seems to me that modern lawns are a temporary abberation.  They are too wasteful to pass the test of time.  



 
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As many have pointed out, the current ecology is so disrupted (from soil changes, nutrient pollution, invasives, etc) that simply stopping mowing does not result in things going back to the "wilderness" state of 1000 years ago.    For example, if mowing/clearing pressure is relieved, foreign under-story plants such as multi-flora rose and honeysuckle rush into that space where they did not exist formerly.  Many North American woodlands were relatively open in the past.   And there is no fire pressure presently to clear out the brush.   Like it or not, we are now managers of the land.   Even prairie restorations use high mowing as a tool to control invasives during the first few years.

And most humans are followers.   Many keep their property as "lawn" simply because that is the norm.   Most people don't think too carefully about it, even if they are may be thought leaders in other areas.   There is simply so much going on in the modern world, and people can only worry about so much. and with our society's current detachment from nature, I don't think it even occurs to many people to question their lawn.  People just keep doing what they are doing in accordance with the herd.

See how everyone is wearing a hat in this old image!


So when the next paradigm arrives, most will similarly follow that paradigm.   It is up to thought leaders such as people on this forum to find the way forward....


 
Posts: 28
Location: West-central Pennsylvania
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Fleas are in tall grass: Flea larvae live in the sod. Whether the grass is 1" tall or 5" tall, the flea larvae live in the sod. Get rid of the flea larvae? Let the grass grow so there's cover for predators like Lightening Bug larvae and Ladybug larvae and others which hunt down and eat bugs and other larvae, including Fleas, Grubs and others! Tall grass actually gives you less fleas! I mow at the highest setting on my mower and never more than once a week, even when it's hot and wet and the grass is growing fast. We've got two dogs and two cats. Fleas? Occasionally. Who doesn't? We have rabbits around, where do the fleas come from?? We also have more Lightening Bugs now than when we moved in.
Taller grass equals deeper roots. Deeper roots equal better reach for moisture and food which equals healthier grass and more drought resistant grasses and plants. We don't water, no matter how dry it gets, and we still have summer-long green.
But weeds will grow! Yes! Yay! I've got White (Dutch) Clover, Heal-All, Plantain, Dandelions, Strawberries, Periwinkles, Creeping Charlie, Creeping Jenny, Violets, Straw Flowers, Day Lilies, Peppermint (yes, 'invasive' Peppermint in my lawn! Smells wonderful when I mow!), several types of Sorrel, Daisies, Lambsquarters, Canadian Lettuce, several types of Chives, dozens of types of grass, not just one or two so if disease hits my lawn, it'll stay green even then, but with healthier grass, its more disease resistant to begin with!
My wife and I could easily eat our lawn all summer long if we had to, and in the fall we could dry, can or whatever and eat for quite a bit of the winter - out of our in-town lawn. That's even with the town rabbits eating their share! They love our lawn ... and our garden too, but hey, plant enough for everyone! Our neighbors would be eating their lawn treatments, which of course is where they let their children and pets romp ... I'm not even going there.
Yes, after a few years I started gardening again. When we first moved in, I tilled a 10' x 10' patch for the start of a garden and turned up three worms - three worms! I let it lay fallow with no 'lawn' treatment other than a couple light doses of lime. Today, anywhere I dig, I usually turn up no less than three worms per shovel full!! I grow Sunchokes, three varieties, and we can them and eat them all year around. We don't worry about poison in the lawn any more. For the first couple of years we had brown patches from grubs as the poisons leached out, but as the longer grass roots and so-called 'weeds' took over, the brown patches disappeared. Oh the grubs are still there, but with healthier greens, they don't seem to kill a single plant! Plus, there aren't many grubs, as I said, our Lightening Bug population has exploded!
 
Posts: 16
Location: Southeastern Minnesota; Zone 4b / 5a cusp
forest garden chicken medical herbs
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Great thread. I've just taken over a 5-acre parcel with about 3 acres in pasture. Mind you, this is definitely in the country. In the heart of the Roundup Ready "corn and bean" country. Even so, I notice the neighboring farms are diligent about mowing. A neighbor stopped over tonight to make sure I'm not making meth introduce himself. He mentioned that the previous owner kept everything mowed. I had just been out on the mower and was feeling pretty good about the amount of mowing I did. (NOTE: like many others on this thread, I am planting in phases to reduce the need for mowing.) The power of "lawn shame" was palpable. Tall grass is like an untucked shirt, apparently.


So, added to the list of 'why people mow', I would suggest that, in certain cultures, conformity is community. If you don't do it like the former occupant used to do it, the entire social structure may unravel. Dogs will turn feral. Deer will steal your truck keys and try to run you down. Giant rats will clog your septic system. All because you didn't mow your land.

The one consolation I have is mowing on my Husqvarna zero-turn mower is kind of fun, but I don't want to have that kind of fun two or three days a week in the summer. I don't have a tractor, and I don't want one as I'm not particularly mechanical, so mowing the pastures seems like a huge waste...however, I don't want it turn into a thicket - not without it being at least a planned permaculture thicket!  I'm thinking a herd of brush-clearing goats who keep everything trimmed in the summer and then take a nice vacation to Phoenix in the winter would do the trick. Or maybe an apocalypse of wood mulch.
 
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It feels good to be not the only alien on this planet....
I had to argue so much about mowing... even with my family
Same thing with this f...... chainsaw, people don't think when the motor is running and they ruin trees which needed 50+years to be tall like that

The only thing I accept to mow is when you want a low nutrient law with flowers instead of grass, but then it´s still enough to mow in autumn when all seeds fell out of everything..

In our area they mow the lawns because they feed the cattle with silage of it.... but there are no flowers left on that laws ... to much slurry all the time

Greetings
Philipp
 
Posts: 42
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We mow.....

so we can see rattlesnakes
to reduce fire danger
to maybe reduce ticks
to reduce rat habitat around house
to reduce the amount of crap the dogs fur collects
just in general, so we can walk around without fighting tall grass weeds and bramble

Cant come up with any others right now...but for a country home, it makes sense to me.
 
Posts: 2
Location: Mountain View, United States
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Jane Southall wrote:  

I have wild trap crops, everywhere.

Hello Jane. May I ask what 'wild trap crops' are? I attempted to look it up online and the only results I got back were about trapping wild hogs. Since you made no mention of hogs, I would assume it means something else, however, I could be mistaken.

I am fairly new on here, so this may be a subject I haven't come across yet while I've been browsing through posts.

Thank you
JoJo

 
gardener
Posts: 1215
Location: Pacific Wet Coast
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I totally agree with keeping mowing to a minimum and I increased the height my mower mows at by first putting larger wheels on it, and later by drilling new holes to lower the axle. I wish I could raise it further, but I've done what I can. I wish I had a property that was easier to fence so I could get the geese and muscovy to mow the front lawn for me.

The one concern I have that hasn't been mentioned: if people want to replace lawn that provides sight lines to a road or sidewalk, please choose low-growing plants. I almost lost my second child at age 6 because he + bike were too low for a driver who was backing out to see. I yelled for him to stop, but he didn't hear me, but thankfully the driver's daughter did and repeated what I was saying to her mom. The shrubs were cut down within 2 days and replaced by naturally lower growing plants which they kept pruned.

 
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grass around homes started as a follow the jones thing I believe.  it was once rich people were the only ones who would have a lawn, and slowly with the advent of technology (lawnmower) - a lawn was not that hard to make and maintain, and the suburbs with nice grass lawns where born.

https://emeraldlawnsaustin.com/brief-history-lawns/

I like our small lawn area - we use it to play badminton and wiffle ball … if I had to mow many acres I think I would also try to find a reason to stop that practice.
 
Posts: 331
Location: West Midlands UK (zone 8b) Rainfall 26"
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One of the main reasons I keep a lawn is so I can pitch a tent on when the boys want to camp out, or to dry it after we've been camping.

This year, after many years of chuntering, I and a small group of colleagues have mounted a concerted campaign to stop the mowing of the lawns around our office.  As part of this, seeing as plant ID is part of our jobs, we went out with some of the other office tenants and did a plant list.   They were fascinated!  Amongst the many species of wildflowers, grasses and sedges, we found two sorts of orchid growing (bee and common spotted).   Maybe these people will be converts to growing a little wildflower meadow at home. Hopefully as of Monday when I report back to the head of estates and he stops the mowing, the lawns will start to grow and more people will be inspired.

The trouble I see coming is that the landscaping company will want to keep mowing the lawns because that's their livelihood, and it's a task they can do with machines (and another machine to blow the cuttings off the paths, heaven forbid they shoudl have to use a broom).  Same as they plant large vigorous shrubs and then justify their existence by coming and spending days hacking them all back with hedgecutters.  And they will probably not be happy at being told that in July they will need to cut and remove the long grass to simulate a hay meadow.  We've already been told that some areas will have to kept "neat" so that visitors to the office don't just think it's government cutbacks and the lawns are "neglected"!
 
Posts: 120
Location: Zone 7a, 42", Fairfax VA Piedmont (clay, acidic, shady)
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I mow on contour to keep my acre of partially-cleared forest from reverting back to a woodland.  Certain areas by the creek are left wild to produce huge fields of ferns, while my grasslands get paths mowed into them (allowing some grasses and flowers to mature and seed). I bag and put the mulch/seed material on bare areas.  Most of my area is somewhat sun-limited, so I only really need to mow a few times a year.  Over time with more seeding I might get a denser groundcover and have to mow more often.  Nothing gets irrigated or fertilized; I've just aerated once and put down some lime/gypsum.  This fall I'l probably do that again and seed Korean Lespedeza, Perennial Ryegrass, and Hairy Vetch.  So far those seem like they do the best.
 
pollinator
Posts: 324
Location: Utah
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Linda Lee wrote:Suburbanites are the wackiest.  I truly don't understand their war against nature.  I can understand all the reasons people above have given and they make sense!  But the suburbanites we live around are just unfathomable.  Living in Utah there is just constant watering plus the more they water, the more they have to mow and then all the fertilizer they use so that the grass gets a preternatural AstroTurf look and of course that causes more mowing.



Hey! We're neighbors! Also Sandy, Utah. My neighbor across the street just added on an addition and the yard was torn up. I talked to him about my plans for the yard (trying to give him some options) but what does he do when he has his yard back? Sod! Bleh.

Per Sandy City codes 70% of the area visible from the street must be "lawn or equivalent," unless you're going xeric (which they don't bother to define). Most people don't read the codes, they just do what they're told and it becomes habit. The yard came with grass, they'll leave it grass because it's familiar.

I got tired of the subtle bit and buried 2/3 of the yard in wood chips last fall. I'm in the process of landscaping that now. The areas that are still grass I'm slowly transitioning to yarrow, which won't need so much water in the summer.
 
Posts: 65
Location: Olympia, Wa
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Excellent thread. It is interesting to see how some people are getting very emotional about this topic. Who would have thought that cutting grass would get so many people worked up.

First off I despise lawns, I think they are boring, ugly and a waste of space. I don't despise people that grow lawns. I drive around and see people that have a half acre of lawn and i just can understand why they would do that. A lot of these places don't even have a dog to run in that field. Property is expensive, why buy so much if you aren't going to use it? But this is obviously just from my viewpoint, some people like the see of useless green.

I live in the PNW in a area where wild fires are not a concern and ticks are not all that bad, same goes for fleas. We do have a lot of slugs in our area though. The native banana slugs are awesome because they eat mostly (maybe only?) dead material. The European Brown slug on the other hand is a real pain in the a**. This year they destroyed a lot of our seedlings. Though this is my first year at this home (I cant compare to previous years) I bet having long grass has contributed to having more slugs. This does not worry me though. I see this as part of the journey.  Soon enough I will have helped created/encourage a ecosysyem that keeps the slugs in check. More birds, spiders and garter snakes equals less slugs!

This is our first year on the property, it was about 1/4 acre of grass when we bought it and we are working on converting it over to a permaculture food forest.  Step one was to plant garlic to overwinter (i can't live without it) and to throw a cover-crop on the grass. We needed to break up the compacted sod with deep roots and add organic matter. As you can see in the picture the cover is doing great (around the edges). Step 2 was to lay out a garden bed, the first of many more.

I cut the lawn occasionally to make paths, the rest I let grow wild. One of the first thing i noticed was the "weeds" have beautiful flowers that the bees love. Second is we seem to have a lot more birds, more than most of our neighbors at least. Third, I have limited time because I have a one year old running around the house, since I don't waste time with mowing I can spend more time with the kiddo or weeding the garden.
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