I just dropped the price of
the permaculture playing cards
for a wee bit.

 

 

uses include:
- infecting brains with permaculture
- convincing folks that you are not crazy
- gift giving obligations
- stocking stuffer
- gambling distraction
- an hour or two of reading
- find the needle
- find the 26 hidden names

clickity-click-click

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help me break up with my lawnmower  RSS feed

 
John Master
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Location: Wisconsin
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Some people consider mowin' the lawn as some sort of therapeutic act, I consider it a form of slavery to a cultural norm I wish would go away.  Time spent mowing the lawn is time I'll never get back...  I have kids and they need outdoor open green space, our neighborhood is vacation-lake home-paid landscaper, chem-mono.  Right now I have an otherwise maintenance free lawn (besides mowing). It's a mix of whatever grass was here when we moved here, as well as a wide variety of volunteers including dandelions which I appreciate and try to leave grow as long as possible, clover that we planted, plantain, and probably 10 other types.  I don't water, I don't fertilize, I don't spray, other than having to mow it, its great.  Southern Wisconsin so we have a real winter here.

Looking to do some sort of a low growing lawn, edible would be a bonus but looking for no water, no fertilize, no spray, no mow.  Sheep or goats or grazing critters would work but its not one of those kinds of neighborhoods and I cant really fence the whole yard.

what are my options for a non-grass polyculture lawn.  Thinking some sort of herb variety.  seed cant be thousands of dollars either, I don't expect it to be free.

anyone else doing something similar?
 
John Master
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I can water it to establish it, but not going to install irrigation. 
 
Craig Dobbson
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Strwaberries

clover

dandelions

mint

thyme

oregano

sage

hyssop

lowbush bluberry

Lowbush cranberry

orphine

garlic mustard

chives

comfrey

marigolds

pineapple weed

plantain

jewel weed

evening primrose

Camomile

That's just some of the stuff that grows in my lawn and driveway.  most of it just shows up here and there.  most of them seem to be tolerant of being stomped on and run over.

I find that herbs and wild "weeds" are the best for heavy traffic areas.


Good luck
 
Rick English
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Mowing a lawn is one of my least favorite things.

I know this isn't exactly what you were looking for, but I have eradicated half of two different lawns with wildflower meadow, and in both cases my entire family thoroughly enjoyed the results. It is amazing how many beneficial bugs and birds you bring to your space when there is a wildflower meadow in the mix.

It takes some work to get established, but not too much if you solarize the area for planting. They do grow tall, and they are a little untidy looking, but I planted one in an old neighborhood, and the neighbors went from thinking I was crazy to loving the final results. Even the type of neighbors that aren't particularly open minded about that kind of thing...

It is recommended to mow it down roughly once a year at the end of the season, but a lawnmower is not the right tool for that project. Neither is a string trimmer. My suspicion is a cordless hedge trimmer would be the perfect tool, because some of the stuff gets pretty thick and tough in a season. You are supposed to take it down to roughly a foot tall to prevent woody stuff from taking over.

It is also pretty cool because you end up with stuff you didn't plant too. Some of the existing weed seed will sprout, and birds will plant their favorite things as well, so the meadow turns into a way to "hide" critter-friendly natives among the flowers you planted.

If you go this route, I would recommend you get a mix with as many different species as possible, with roughly  an even mix of annuals and perennials. I have even planted multiple mixes to get more variety. Most perennials won't bloom until the second or even third year, so the meadow is dominated by annuals the first year. If your mix is diverse, the flowers generally bloom at different times, so the meadow changes from week to week. It is also drastically different each of the first three years as you lose some of the annuals that don't reseed the second year, but new perennials bloom the second and third years.

It also seems that you get different plants dominating as the weather is different from year to year. Most of my meadow is planted on the steepest slope of my property. The slope stays dry, but the meadow doesn't care. My driveway is downhill from the meadow, and new soil from the meadow is filling in the gaps between my rocks, so my previously gravel driveway is transforming into something more green.
 
Troy Rhodes
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Another tool in the tool box is clover.  Dutch white and Durana are a nice mix.  Bees go crazy over it.  Rabbits go crazy over it.  Grazers love it.  Not too tall.  Durana will outcompete grass and most "weeds", so that can be a plus or a minus.  They look nice.  Never gets too tall.  Requires very little mowing, and mowing doesn't kill it either so you have some flexibility.  Nitrogen fixers, so they will actually improve the soil.  Much deeper roots than grass, so far more resistant to dry conditions once it is established.  Makes attractive flowers...



 
Mike Jay
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This may not be what you're after either...  But if the time spent mowing is your biggest issue and you're willing to spend some money to make your dreams a reality, how about a robotic mower?  WORX mower  Or hire some kid to do it for you? 

I leave my grass/clover/dandelions/plantain/weeds alone and just mow when it gets too shaggy.  My plan is to get a bagger so I can harvest that material and use it to build more organic matter in my garden.
 
kay Smith
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We have decided to give up most of our lawn as well. The kids have their play area; we don't require a stereotypical lawn.

Husband has a bad back and I enjoy permie-like outdoor activities so adiós lawnmower!

We are in the breaking ground and planning phase. We live in a quasi neighborhood. The drainage ditch area close to road will be converted to a rain garden. We have a big huge tree in front yard that serves as shade canopy for our long hot summers. Under the tree area will be expanded with different levels of seating nestled between the huge tree roots protruding from the earth. Past the perimeter of tree's large root system we are going to lay brick and rocks in decorative fashion all the way up to rain garden. edible flowers and herbs interspersed for a potager garden.

I'm looking at lining driveway & some paths with lavender, creeping Jenny... haven't got this part nailed down just yet

I don't know if my reply necessarily answered your question. Sounds like we are in a similar situation and maybe something in our plans will help in yours! We have barely started ..as in that's it I finally got the go ahead from hubby to convert the yard into fabulousness :p

 
John Weiland
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Re: Help me break up with my lawnmower....

Well, John, the fact that you've come to this forum in search of assistance with this deeply personal and difficult matter tells me you are serious about your decision.

I think it's important to do the right thing here and break the news to your lawnmower in person.  A text, an Email, even a letter is not really befitting the importance of what you have to relay to her.  Drive her out to the shade of the tall red oak, or gently push her wheels to the gazebo as the spot for making your speech.  She will need a place that offers her support and solace when she hears your words.

It's not that you haven't thought about this for some time.  To be honest, when you got together, you were a Scott's Turfbuilder man, and your lawnmower seemed like the perfect companion for the task.  In the early days, with the sun glinting off her bonnet or handle bars, hope filled the air.....there was no lawn to big, no estate too vast.  And she did it all, ....without wind-rowing, without a hint of blue smoke, not even throwing a shaft when you locked her up over that stump near the driveway.  But you've changed, ...... "It's not you, its me..." you will say.  You've come to see the ....the "rightness"....of a permie lawn and landscape.  And this means the difficult decision of parting ways.

It's further important as this decision unfolds that communication is open and supportive with the other tools in the garage.  Don't make the leaf blower and the string trimmer take sides in this matter.....they will understandably be feeling insecure over this shake-up, wondering just where they fit into this new sustainable vision of yours.  They need to know it was not their fault that a pile of leaves went from irksome mess to valued mulch or that untidy fence-line weeds were repurposed to garden windbreak. 

Because you've been distracted by your new endeavors, you haven't observed how the chipper-shredded has been less able lately to contain his affection for the 'little clipper'.  When it comes time for the big break, it is probably the right thing to do (notice I didn't say 'should') to let him be supportive of her and not let pride and possessiveness get the better of you.  Your lawnmower deserves at least this much and deep down a shredder and mower share a sort of common lineage, most notable by the fins in the cylinder head and size of the spark plug.

In fact, while you've been making big plans for 'hugelkulture this' and 'polyculture that', your lawnmower has been feeling the sting of neglect.  It's always "next season" that you promise to upgrade her wheels, or "that fuel filter's good for another year....".  You think she hasn't noticed Gordon next door lovingly sponging off his pristine, blue-blooded John Deere after every outing?  Or Trudy across the back alley faithfully changing the blades every spring on her working-class but loyal Murray self-propelled?  Your mower's felt the pull of a more attuned owner, but she's stayed because the dream from the early days is not entirely gone....still hoping that when that oil change comes, you may even wax playful and go for synthetic.

In the end, she will understand that she has little place in your new world,......strange plants with names she can't pronounce, much less trim, and terrain more fitting for a goat or mule.  So find her a good home, but we are all here offering support and understanding at this distressing time.  Faith and fortitude in the coming days with the difficult task ahead....

In the meantime, perhaps the UW-Extension has some information or ground cover offerings that may provide the substitute you are looking for.  If they can develop Warfarin, the least they could do is follow that with a good creeping bentgrass....

....
 
eric koperek
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TO:  John Master
FROM:  Eric Koperek = erickoperek@gmail.com
SUBJECT:  No-Mow Lawns
DATE:  PM 4:19 Sunday 11 September 2016
TEXT:

(1)  The easiest, least expensive option for your climate is to broadcast Common Lawn Clover = Dutch White Clover = Trifolium repens at 12 to 14 pounds per acre.

(2)  Inoculate seed with nitrogen fixing rhizobia bacteria before planting.

(3)  Dutch White Clover needs both calcium and sulfur.  Get your soil tested before planting.  You may need to apply 2 to 3 tons of agricultural gypsum per acre.

(4)  Dutch White Clover only grows 6 inches high (normally).  Under ideal conditions it may sometimes reach 8 inches tall.  Translation:  You will not have to mow a well-established clover sward.

(5)  Dutch White Clover is aggressive = intensely competitive = it smothers most weeds.  You might have to hand pull a few weeds that escape the clover.

(6)  Dutch White Clover is highly tolerant of field traffic = it recovers quickly from being stomped on = it is just about as durable as perennial rye grass.  (Both of these species are used to seed airport runways).

(7)  Dutch White Clover is an ideal living mulch for "no-work" vegetable gardens.  Just TRANSPLANT your vegetables and IRRIGATE regularly.  You can run large commercial farms by transplanting vegetables into Dutch White Clover.  No tillage or herbicides required.  Just remember that you are growing 2 crops on the same land at the same time:  Clover and your vegetable crop.  You have to fertilize and water BOTH crops in order to make this work.

(  My family have been growing crops in Dutch White Clover since the Middle Ages.  This biological technology has proven itself over the past 8 centuries.  Translation:  It's easy and it works = practically idiot proof.  I don't know an easier way to grow crops (or a care-free lawn).

(9)  For best results, irrigate clover if weather is dry.

ERIC KOPEREK = erickoperek@gmail.com

end comment
 
 
Marco Banks
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I took out my front yard about 10 years ago with a couple of layers of cardboard and then two big loads of wood chip mulch on top.  I laid the chips down about 18" deep.  What few strands of crab grass that eventually made it's way up through all that biomass was easily yanked out.  6 (or so) months later, most of that mulch had broken down and the soil was absolutely beautiful. 

I planted four Crepe Myrtle, and a beautiful Japanese Maple (Emperor 2).  Below the trees, we planted all sorts of Russian Comfrey, Society Garlic, clumps of Mondo Grass, kangaroo paw, and other drought tolerant, no fuss plants.

I don't mind the look of sun-bleached wood chips.  I don't need every square inch of it covered, but the comfrey and other plants have aggressively done so.  We renew the chips once a year, but not so much is needed.  Every spring, I'll plant a few vining veggies in and among the ornamentals.  That gives us a few more cucumbers or watermelon in addition to all the stuff we've got growing in the back, and my fussy neighbors are none the wiser about it.
 
Craig Dobbson
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John Weiland wrote:Re: Help me break up with my lawnmower....




Lol  Well put!
 
John Master
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John Weiland wrote:Re: Help me break up with my lawnmower....

Well, John, the fact that you've come to this forum in search of assistance with this deeply personal and difficult matter tells me you are serious about your decision.
Holy crap I almost wet myself reading this!  You made my day!
 
John Weiland
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@John M: "You made my day!...."

Glad I could be of help.  It's hard to part with good, loyal yard equipment.  'Jo Edna', the little push mower shown below, was a $99.99 special at Kmart in 1995.  With the 20 year-old body still good, she's on her second engine and has cut a lot of mulch in the garden as well as weeds and grass.  If we ever go whole-hog forest replacement of the pastureland, maybe I'll be parting with these mowers as well!....

More to your original question that would add a nice bouquet in the spring is some kind of bulb planted randomly throughout the yard.  Crocuses that emerge before much else but give color splashes against the grass and other plant background give you a reason not to mow early, but these can be mowed after the blooms drop.  Hope some of the other recommendations here have given you additional ideas....
Mowerz.jpg
[Thumbnail for Mowerz.jpg]
Pasture.jpg
[Thumbnail for Pasture.jpg]
 
Kate Muller
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Creeping Thyme, Roman Chamomile, low growing mint are all good additions for a lawn area with full sun.

We are currently adding garden beds to our yard to reduce the mowing.  I like to garden and hate to mow.  We can get free wood chips from our town dump and are working on mulching all the path ways in the garden and all the perennial trees and shrubs we are planting. 

In the front yard we are slowly adding flowering bulbs and other perennial plants to areas we don't want to mow. Crocus, iris, day lilies, daffodils, cone flowers, bee balm, sage, mint, thyme, rhubarb, strawberries, and other herbs and flowers.  They are all very "normal" landscape plants that need very little care once they are established.  Add some pretty shrubs like blueberries, bush apricots, sour pie cherries, and a trellis and bench combo with a grape vine on it and you will have a beautifully landscaped yard that needs watering in drought years, and lots of wood chip mulch in the spring to keep that weeds at bay.

 
John Bass
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John Master wrote:Some people consider mowin' the lawn as some sort of therapeutic act, I consider it a form of slavery to a cultural norm I wish would go away.  Time spent mowing the lawn is time I'll never get back...  I have kids and they need outdoor open green space, our neighborhood is vacation-lake home-paid landscaper, chem-mono.  Right now I have an otherwise maintenance free lawn (besides mowing). It's a mix of whatever grass was here when we moved here, as well as a wide variety of volunteers including dandelions which I appreciate and try to leave grow as long as possible, clover that we planted, plantain, and probably 10 other types.  I don't water, I don't fertilize, I don't spray, other than having to mow it, its great.  Southern Wisconsin so we have a real winter here.

Looking to do some sort of a low growing lawn, edible would be a bonus but looking for no water, no fertilize, no spray, no mow.  Sheep or goats or grazing critters would work but its not one of those kinds of neighborhoods and I cant really fence the whole yard.

what are my options for a non-grass polyculture lawn.  Thinking some sort of herb variety.  seed cant be thousands of dollars either, I don't expect it to be free.

anyone else doing something similar?


John, loved your write-up.  Fact is, this past Spring I was where you are: sick of the time, money and other resources invested (poorly, I might add) in the mowing of a lawn.  Since moving on to my at-the-end-of-a-long-road-with-zero-neighbors-and-nothing-but-woods-around-me property, I've had many such epiphanies.  More to your point, my research led me to purchase #25 of White Dutch Clover Seed from Hancock Farm & Seed Co (somewhere in Florida as I recall, and yeah...I don't work for them, don't know them and don't get anything but a warm-fuzzy for dropping their name).  It's still in the bag as I had plans of taking a steel rake of sorts to try and pull up as much of the existing foliage (grass and weeds, mostly) as I could prior to planting.  My plan is to get at least some of the area seeded yet this year.

I'm very excited about not having to invest in mowing equipment and all the requisite gas, oil, maintenance, expense and time that goes along with it.

Carpe diem!
 
John Weiland
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More reinforcement for the "No-Mow Movement":  https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/carringtonrec/center-points/another-reason-to-quit-mowing
 
Fred Morgan
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For a while, I was cutting my grass with a scythe, which worked very well, but I discovered an easier way, sort of by accident. I ran out of pasture for our horses, so I put them in our lawn (which is more an orchard truthfully). Amazing results. Granted, I have to go around with a wheelbarrow and collect their "presents" but they tend to deposit those under the large trees - and this really works out well for my garden. They produce about a half a wheel barrow a day...

A bit of history, or so I am told, lawns originally started as a place for the knights horse to graze. Chargers were very valuable, so they sure didn't want them to go far, and it was a sign of wealth to have a lawn. Horses eat about twice as much as cows of roughly the same size, and their presents are a lot easier to handle.

Anyway, probably not what you are looking for - but just thought people might find it interesting.
 
John Weiland
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@Fred M.: "I have to go around with a wheelbarrow and collect their "presents" but they tend to deposit those under the large trees - and this really works out well for my garden. They produce about a half a wheel barrow a day... "

Mowing is kind of a boom and bust affair at our place.  Some years with lighter rainfall, there is really quite little to do, even if the pastures still get mowed in the fall season.  Interestingly our "nicest" grass is in an enclosed yard-space near the house, but the fencing hasn't kept out the geese and smaller pigs.  This year that space was mowed only once and between the geese and pigs was kept cropped to about 2" in length.  If the ground is too dry, pigs will graze instead of root and do a pretty good job consuming grass.  In addition to your history of horses grazing near wealthy estates and being part of the landscaping crew, it's fun to see the old photos of the White House in the US when Woodrow Wilson ran sheep on the property (below).
BeltwaySheep.JPG
[Thumbnail for BeltwaySheep.JPG]
 
John Duffy
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It is recommended to mow it down roughly once a year at the end of the season, but a lawnmower is not the right tool for that project. Neither is a string trimmer. My suspicion is a cordless hedge trimmer would be the perfect tool, because some of the stuff gets pretty thick and tough in a season. You are supposed to take it down to roughly a foot tall to prevent woody stuff from taking over

    Rick, I would suggest a good sharp scythe with a ditch blade or a brush blade. This would make short work of mowing...A grass blade would probably be too flimsy for the job. If you've never used a good sharp scythe before, you don't know what you're missing... Once you get the right technique down, it is pure pleasure to use one and unbelievably fast!
 
Hans Quistorff
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Both my gas and electric push mowers gave out and currently my combo unit that powers my blade, string, hedge trimmer and rototiller has a broken bolt that holds the carburetor to the head again so I am glad I have my scythe collection.
 
Fred Morgan
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One thing for sure, raking up the scythed grass and putting it around your fruit trees really is great. I prefer to think of my lawn as a producer of mulch...
 
Susan Wakeman
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I have virtually stopped mowing our small backyard lawn since we put our rabbit in a "tractor". She lives in it day and night, I move it daily or when she starts to dig
 
Victor Johanson
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Haven't mowed in decades, just let it go to meadow. Grass needs sex too! It can be scythed down if need be, but a scalped lawn is a most sterile ecosystem for sure, and a ridiculous national obsession. Unless it's needed for some kind of recreation it's better to let the plants convert sunshine to biomass, which is a form of wealth.
 
John Master
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along the lines of grazing it instead of re-landscaping it I like the Rabbit tractor idea.  We had a chicken tractor, I don't mind moving it but the chickens don't do much for the grasses that are growing here.  I learned they were more into seeds, bugs and worms and not as much into grass and greens (or the millipedes they were brought in to eliminate).  rabbits have a reputation for eating their greens, providing a source of meat and multiplying rapidly.  Definitely something to consider.
 
Joe DiMeglio
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  Hey John,  I like a Creeping Thyme and White Clover mix as groundcovers and there are lots of wildflower mixes out there that are great for a more meadow-like area.  Just search for "wildflower meadow mix" an you'll get plenty of results.

You may especially want to take a look at this site  called Stepables.com -    https://www.stepables.com/      ; They have a nice site layout and selection with lots of information and pictures of each plant. They're based in Salem, Oregon, so the climate is probably fairly analogous to yours, except for the coldness of your winters.
I wish I could grow a tenth of these groundcovers down here in the desert. It's an ongoing quest with me to find ones that will take the heat and foot traffic, especially in full sun.  Any suggestions would be more than welcome! Wink, wink, Nudge, nudge...

Cheers, Joe  
 
John Master
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My wish is coming true, sort of.  After becoming sort of a used lawnmower salesman (don't ask I am parting ways with my mower.  Replacing it with the exact same thing only electric powered.  Took a blown up mower and without an engine, bought an electric motor and put 3 golf cart batteries in there and now I have a quiet low maintenance yet familiar machine my wife can still use that just needs recharging and I don't have to keep buying gas for it.  Also has a snowblower attachment that gets used often in our Wisconsin winter.  Still need to mow regularly but no longer have all the hassles with the old clunker, noise smoke maintenance, constantly junp starting it when the kids leave the key on.

whats left of our old one will be leaving this weekend!

Converting a gas riding mower was surprisingly straightforward.  The motor is an ME1004 you could find on ebay.  it's enough to move the machine and spin a 3 blade 50 inch deck.  one large switch, fuse and 3 batteries in series for 36v, pull the switch and it spins.

bit by bit trying reduce mowing.  we have a rather large comfrey patch taking over now and letting that spread as much as it wants to.
 
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