With severe to moderate drought conditions in California and many other parts of the country – including New England – traditional lawns are moving out of fashion. And it’s no wonder. Established lawns need upwards of an inch of water per week, not to mention daily watering to get them started and consistent fertilization to keep them lush. The amount of water lawns require has led many people to seek out alternatives. These include front-yard edible gardens and a relative newcomer to New England homeowners and landscape designers – low-maintenance seed mixes. Though around for twenty years or so, low-mow seed mixes are becoming more popular – not only because they are less taxing on the environment, but also because they are quite lovely. After all, who wouldn’t want a lawn that looks as lush and green in August when temperatures reach 90 degrees as it does when they dip to 15?
Spring Lake Garden Design has been using low-maintenance lawn seed mixes for well over a dozen years, beginning with Prairie Nursery’s No Mow Lawn Seed Mix. According to the folks at Prairie Nursery, No Mow Lawn Seed Mix was developed in 1994 as “an ecological alternative to the traditional high resource-input lawn.” It comprises a blend of fescue grasses, and grows in both sun and shade. These and other seed blends, including an Eco-Lawn seven-fescue blend from Wildflower Farm in Canada, perform well in paths with a moderate amount of foot traffic and form a lush carpet once the mix is established.
We especially like to use these low-maintenance seed mixes near lakes and other bodies of water to avoid fertilizer run-off and as a design element to denote transitions between spaces. Mixes also work well in shade, on slopes, in areas where it is difficult to establish lawns, and even as an alternative to the ubiquitous traditional front lawn. Not only do these lawns reduce water and fertilizer use (in fact, fertilizers are discouraged), the mixes also choke out most weeds and – perhaps best of all – need mowing only once or twice per year. As the pictures depict, who knew that reducing our carbon footprint could look so good?
Give us a call if you’d like to make the switch from a high to a low-maintenance lawn as part of your next design project.
Ian and Catharine
No mow seed mixes can be used in sun or shade, and in formal or informal spaces. From left to right above, a mix is used freely for a prairie-like look, in a somewhat formal allee, and to create a traditional small-space garden. Photos 1 and 2 of Eco-Lawn mix courtesy of WildflowerFarm.com, and photo 3 of No Mow Seed Mix by PriairieNursery.com.