It's the Plants, Darling

Is Eco-Lawn for Real?
Inquiring Bloggers Want to Know

ECO-LAWN vs TRADITIONAL
TURF

What’s the difference?

  Eco-Lawn vs. Traditional Lawn
Root System Grows to a 9" to 14" depth thus able to source water & nutrients
naturally
  Grows only to a 2" to 3" depth thus has a shallow root
system
Fertilization Requirements Zero   Mandatory
Grows well in Sandy Soil Yes   No
Grows well in Clay Soil Yes   No
Grows well in Rich Loam Soil Yes   Yes
Grows in Full Sun Yes   Yes
Grows in Part Shade Yes   Depends on degree of shade
Grows in Deep Shade Yes   No
Grows under Pine trees (acidic soils) Yes   No
Watering Requirements Minimal   1
inch per week
Blade Characteristics Very fine, requires less water. Soft, easy to walk upon. Bends over under
its own weight
  Thick, rough blades
require frequent watering, fertilizing &
mowing
Weeds Dense root system crowds out most weeds once mature   Requires chemical weed control
Mowing Requirements usually only 3 – 5 times per year   weekly


In other words . . . Eco-Lawn
, developed by
Wildflower Farm thrives in sun or shade, sandy soil or concrete clay and even
under pine trees. Unlike regular, shallow–rooted sod, this fine bladed lawn
develops dramatically deep 9 to 14 – inch roots to successfully source water.
Once established, a new or converted Eco-Lawn grows so slowly you can leave it
to form a fine bladed, flowing carpet or mow it once a month for a traditional
lawn look.

Posted by on September 22, 2007 at 10:46 am, in the category It's the Plants, Darling.
Comments are off for this post

27 Responses to “Is Eco-Lawn for Real?
Inquiring Bloggers Want to Know”

  1. Trey says:

    Damn, the secret is out! Yea, our garden center only carries lawn varieties that require lots of high profit fertilizers and pesticides. We do it on purpose so you’ll have to keep coming back again and again.

    Turf type tall-fescue, which is by far the most popular lawn variety in Northern California, can send roots down many feet into the soil. It’s only the fine fescues, bluegrasses, and ryegrass that have shallow roots.

    Drought resistant they say? Let’s try some here, where there is no rain for five months in summer. I do see however that they don’t recommend it for the southwest or most of California.

    Finally, no grass variety requires chemical weed control! It’s up to the owner of said grass as to how they control weeds.

    We have been selling fine fescues for years. People will plant them on hillsides or other places they don’t want to mow. It looks just like the pictures of the un-mowed eco-lawn.

    This is marketing at work. Call it “Eco-Lawn” and it gets peoples attention.

  2. Reading Dirt says:

    For those who would prefer a mix of lawn plants instead of a fescue monoculture, Nichols Garden Nursery carries a variety of Ecology Lawn Mixes in their catalog:

    http://www.nicholsgardennursery.com/

  3. susan harris says:

    Interesting. Here’s the mix that Nichols recommends for my area:http://www.nicholsgardennursery.com/store/product.asp?dept%5Fid=80&pf%5Fid=1193&mscssid=UF0TK9PS05078LHS49JFJT9MUN1F8TRE
    But it includes tall plants like yarrow and california poppy, and the shade annual Baby Blue Eyes mixed in with fescue and creeping thyme (which, btw, does thyme grow well from seed?) And they don’t give Latin names or percentages. So I’m skeptical of this mix, too – isn’t it a supposed “meadow in a bag”?

  4. Out here in the great Northwest, Seattle University, which is completely organic in its landscape maintenance program, uses the Eco-turf varieties provided by Nichols to great success. From a distance, you can’t tell the difference and up close it is a riot of diversity. One caveat/drawback, the product does take a bit more care and time to establish than a traditional lawn, but once established, all of those exclamation points actually hold up.

  5. Pattty King says:

    I tried Eco Lawn a couple of years ago on a couple of small areas with full sun and sandy soil. It grew, it prospered, it has a much finer blade than the original grass. It did not need mowing as often as the rest of the lawn either. Oh yes, it was even greener during the driest part of the summer! I would recommend it.

  6. Now this IS interesting. I’m glad I surfed over. I have a 50lb bag of Kentucky Blue in the truck. Maybe I’ll just take that on back.

    Thanks Susan.

    Honestly, I’m not sure why I come to the Garden Rant (it may to do with the entertainment value of incindiary and provakative positions) but learning about stuff like this is CERTAINLY part of it.

    I’m not sure if I’ll do it. But maybe.

  7. Provocative (not provakative)

    My spelling is terrible. Clearly, I’ve lost the ability to write without spell-check.

  8. Terry says:

    Fine leaf fescue “no mow” lawn mixes have been offered by Prairie Nursery, Westfield, Wisconsin for at leaqst fifteen years. You can also find a similar mix offered by SeedSuperStore.com, http://seedsuperstore.com

    These mixes have been studied at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Chanhassen, MN, since the late 1990′s, http://www.extension.umn.edu/yardandgarden/YGLNews/YGLN-Dec0100.html

    And, there’s an ongoing display of “no mow lawn mixes at the Master Gardener Education & Research Display Garden at the University of Minnesota Outreach, Research and Education (UMore) Park in Rosemount, MN (a southern suburb of the Twin Cities), http://www.mggarden.umn.edu/components/gardens/nomowturf.htm

    Fine leaf fescue mixes have been used for many, many years as meadow roughs on “links”-type golf courses around the world where the climate is moderate – e.g., the northern part of the U.S. and southern Canada. Fine leaf fescues do not do well in the southern U.S.

    Oh, one more thing, almost all of the cool season grass seed sold in the U.S. is grown in the rain shadow deserts of Oregon and Washington State where there’s hardly a tree for miles. In other words, fine leaf fescues prefer full sun all day, every day, are moderately tolerant of shade, but will struggle mightily in dry shade under large shade and evergreen trees.

  9. Local turf companies have a mix for our area called Sun Valley mix. It is a combo of the sheep, red and Idaho fescues……looks lovely once established (needs some water to get there). It needs full sun. Some folks mow a swath through it and leave the rest of it tall….like in some of the London parks. Naturalized bulbs look great in the taller part.

    I have had this Sun Valley blend on a very steep hillside of mine AND on a typical mown lawn area for eight years. The part that is mown, watered every third day and used for light foot traffic has failed miserably. The steep hillside, which gets watered about once a week and really needs no additional water, is great.

    I had my hillside hydroseeded (blown on in a sludge like mix) and added california poppy and gaillardia seed to the wet mess.

    We never fertilize the hillside and weedwhack it every couple of years. My OCD-type husband will then rake it hard, to remove the old dead thatch. We have allowed sage, bitterbrush and rabbit brush to take hold

    As I said, the hillside looks great, the turf type area is getting ripped out.

    And for folks in the Western US, there are companies such as Granite Seed that can make custom mixes based on your geography. Just google them.

  10. susan harris says:

    To correct what I quote Mitch Baker as saying, I see from his website that fine fescues are shade-tolerant, not that they prefer shade. (Bad note-taking!)

  11. Paul Tukey says:

    The principles behind ecolawn seed mix have been out there for years. Neil Dibold in Wisconsin has been selling a “no-mow” mix forever. These seeds do offer many of the attributes that the ecolawn folks are selling, but . . .

    1) These grasses are extremely slow growing

    2) These grasses don’t tolerate much foot traffic

    3) They won’t do their best in full, hot sun

    Having said all that, I think the ecolawn and no-mow mixes ought to planted as widely as possible in the climates where they’re applicable (primarily northern climates). These grasses are better for the environment, use less fertililzer and water and require less mowing. They’re the kinds of grasses that were growing here when the first settlers arrived; since they don’t rejuvenate fast enough to sustain cattle, the settlers when back to Europe and collected the seeds of what we now call Kentucky bluegrass. If you like mowing every five days in the spring, plant Kentucky blue and knock yourself out. But if you only want to mow a few times a year, ecolawn might be a good choice for you.

    Paul Tukey, Founder, SafeLawns.org

  12. firefly says:

    Based on the experience I had with Wildflower Farm this spring, which is that I placed a $120 order for seedlings and wound up with a total of one survivor, I strongly caution against ordering plants from those people.

    Most of the plants arrived dead, or they died a few days later. Roots were soggy and brown or invisible. They blamed UPS. I can’t see how 2-day shipping can zap a dozen root systems that far.

    Worst of all the nursery does not offer to replace plants. After they ship on May 15 they don’t ship again until the next year.

    Thanks to that experience, I wouldn’t trust any claim Wildflower Farm made without checking it elsewhere. And I would think twice even about ordering seed from them.

    Eco-lawn by all means, but try to find a *reputable* local nursery for the purchase.

  13. Jeff Ball says:

    Yo Susan,
    The issue is not that such a grass type is available, which it has been of course. The issue is that it is very hard for an amateur to be successful planing any kind of grass seed, especially on bare soil. We screw it up a number of ways, but watering is our weak link. We don’t water frequently enough. You want turf as thick as new sod, and lawns planted with seed usually have only half that density.

    In most cases, anyone, like your brave self, will probably have to plant Eco Grass twice, once this fall and then overseed again in the spring. Otherwise, in the space left in the thin eco turf, weed seeds will germinate and there goes your organic dream.

    The no mow grass I’ve worked with grew to an average height of four inches. It took no foot traffic.

    You ranters are perfectly willing to spend inordinate hours and hours messing around in your flower beds and call that fun. If you want a really good looking lawn that is truly organic, you have to spend the same amount of relative time.

    There really is no free lunch.

    Jeff

  14. Not only should home owners be aware of this but how to start your own lawn care business courses should cover topics like this too. Thanks for the info and keep em’ coming. ;)

    Chris J.

  15. I haven’t tried “Eco-Lawn” but I’ve had Pacific Sod’s “No-Mow” mix in my backyard for a year now and it looks great. Of course it needed water to get established and in the beginning the raccoons kept rolling the sod up to get grubs, but it DID get established. And it could hardly be more gorgeous. I get compliments on it all the time. The foot traffic was light in the winter, but once it got to be the season to garden again, I was walking back and forth on it at least a couple times a day. I recently had a birthday party in back and though I have a deck and deckchairs, many people went to sit in the grass because they thought it was so beautiful. And the lawn still looks good. Not picture perfect, but very good. I never mow it. Pacific Sod recommended one fertilizer treatment so I sprinkled organic lawn fertilizer on things. After a year, weeds are only now making occasional inroads, but it’s still pretty densely lawn.

  16. rock man says:

    I put in ecolawn five years ago and lost the front yard this year, probably due to the unusual heat we had here in the Northeast. I brought in 15 cubic yards of topsoil and planted evergreen shrubs and various perrenial bushes and am now considering what I should fill it in with. Whatever I plant has to be as low-growing as possible, since I have all species of rodents. They can’t be able to hide from the hawks!
    Any suggestions?

  17. Xenamom says:

    I planted ecolawn seed about 4 weeks ago. It is coming up (although sparsely) and is about 3 inches long. I was surprised at how fragile it appears. I have a female golden retriever who will (when the chicken wire fence comes down) be using it as her “area”. How well does this type of lawn hold up to pet waste?

  18. Bruce Richardson says:

    I planted a rather large eco-lawn 50′ wide by 200′ long about three years ago in the high California desert mountain area of Lake Isabella. It looks good now, but there are a few problems. It does chock out a lot of weeds, but not all of course. It is not drought resistant to my climate, I water the shit out of it. Almost two hours every morning this time of year seems to keep it looking good, but that’s only if it doesn’t get really hot, say 105 degrees for a week straight. But that’s not what’s really bugging me. The big problem is rabbits. They love this grass. The fine blades make for very good eating. I know what you are thinking, a bunch of cute bunnies all over my lawn, how lucky can I get. Well, it turns out that eco-lawn is highly susceptible to cottontail rabbit urine. Everywhere they sit themselves down to eat, the grass dies. Brown spots everywhere, and they stay brown for a long time. The grass dies right down to its roots, then the weeds grow in. However, there was one bright spot last year when a bobcat move in because of all the easy pickin’s. He or she was very good at eating dumb bunnies with their heads down eating my lawn. It was like divine intervention, you know like what happen in Salt Lake with grass hoppers and sea gulls. Anyway, things were looking up, the bobcat stuffed itself, my lawn was on the mend. And then of course it happened, one of my dumb neighbors, even dumber then the bunnies, shot and killed the bobcat. The bunnies are back wracking my beautiful lawn again. Can anybody suggest anything. No I can not shoot the rabbits there are to many of them, and you know they multiply very fast. No, I can not fence them out, it’s a longer story then the one I just told. Nope, can’t poison them either. Someone please save me from the bunnies before I go insane.

  19. Tom Broadbent says:

    I have found EcoLawn to be fragile and tricky to grow in the Northeast, but I think it’s my fault.

    I have a nearly 3 acre lawn and thought not mowing it (much) would be G-d’s gift!

    I planted EcoLawn in September last year, and the landscaper claimed it didn’t need to be hayed– cold snap came, seeds never germinated.

    Fired landscaper.

    Re-seeded and hayed this past April/May, seeds germinated nicely, but our fertilizer guy, who claimed to know all about Eco Lawn and its fescue mix, put some “mild” broad-leaf weed killer on the Eco Lawn way before it reached the 3″ they reco on web site– lawn died and crabgrass sprouted everywhere within days while I was away.

    I have hand-weeded areas close to the house to remove crabgrass, and am planting a mix of 80% EcoLawn with an annual grass mix to help crowd out the crabgrass while the EcoLawn tries to get established, and it is growing, though very slowly.

    In the fall, I will need to figure out what to do with the rest of the lawn covered with crabgrass– the EcoLawn is so darn fragile I am worried about pre-emergent spray next spring, and am unsure I have enough time this fall between the die-off of the crab grass and winter to get a new batch of EcoLawn to grow (web site says it’s fine).

    I have called and left a message with Wildflower Farms hoping to get their thoughts on what to do this fall and if they say anything helpful I will post.

  20. Paul Griffin says:

    We live in northwest Washington state near the Canadian border and planted an Eco-lawn late in Sept. 08. Being this is the Pacific NW, it is a pretty wet climate so nature provides abundant rain. (In fact right now we are keeping an eye on the rising creeks and rivers pretty closely). The lawn is growing but is fairly sparse yet, and as mentioned, is very slow-growing. Our soil here is mostly sand and rock and still the lawn seems to be progressing in a growing medium that is fairly free of natural nutrients — that alone is impressive. I anticipate needing to do a second overplanting in the spring. The lawn is an interesting blue-green, almost the colour of blue spruce. All the local neighbourhood lawns are mottled with green and brown dormant grass right now. I put in an Eco-lawn out of curiosity and because I’d prefer not to follow the pattern of cutting the lawn EVERY weekend and watering it every day for hours in the summer which seems to common with the Kentucky Blue Grass lawns in this part of the world.

    I have read elsewhere that establishing an Eco-lawn of uniform density takes about two years, so in a world of instant gratification, it may take considerably more patience to get it to where it resembles something we all picture as a beautiful lush lawn.

    Time will tell.

  21. David Davidson says:

    Looking for grass that would need less fertilizer and especially watering (I hate “wasting” good drinking water by just pouring it on the ground) I took up all of my “regular” grass and entirely seeded my lawn (1/4 acre) with Eco-Lawn in Labour Day of 2007. I heard about Eco-Lawn from a “TV” garden designer when he gave a presentation in our town in Southern Ontario. The designer was all for it and it sure sounded good to me.

    It came up patchy and not particularly well so I did a dormant over seeding at the end of November 2007 and again in very late April 2008. It wasn’t too bad but not what I had been lead to believe. I again over seeded Labour Day 2008 and in some patchy areas once again in later April 2009. Going through 50 lbs of seed every year I have been able to get it to the level of not bad but that’s as far as I can get so far. It grows somewhat slower than my previous lawn but I cut it at 3 inches and to keep it neat it needs to be cut every week just like “regular” grass.

    I had a new patio put in last year and on a bit of hill built up to level the patio (just a foot or so) the installer laid some sod to keep the hill in place and the sod seems to grow at about the same rate as the Eco-Lawn. About the only thing is that the Eco-Lawn doesn’t come up as thick so doesn’t need any bagging of the clippings during the fast growing months in the spring. I do have a mulching mower but my previous regular (and thicker) lawn grew so much in a week it would just overwhelm the mulching capability of my mower. So Eco-Lawn does cut well but maybe that’s just because it’s thin.

    I don’t know about the needing less watering as last year was very wet and no one had to do any watering around here last year. I haven’t fertilized either but have to see if it holds up over a longer period of time. In the shady sections Eco-Lawn doesn’t seem to grow well at all – most grasses don’t do all that well in these areas but I would say Eco-Lawn does not do as well as a regular shade lawn seed mixture. I am going to do some heavy raking and get some regular shade mixture into these areas, hopefully by May 20 (hope that is still early enough).

    I have put a lot of time and work into trying to make my Eco-Lawn a success but it is disappointing to see how much work it is for results that are not particularly great. One poster mentioned that it takes 2 years for it to become established and this is my second full growing season so have to see how I make out. I can also report that it doesn’t take heavy traffic and the workmen walking across it with loads of patio bricks did create a trail of what looked to be dead/dying grass. It came back though and for us that isn’t a problem but if you had children practicing their soccer penalty kicks every day on your Eco-Lawn I’m not so sure it would hold up.

    I have grown new lawns from “regular” seed before and was always very successful , I always wondered why people spent so much time and money using sod, but this Eco-Lawn is a challenge for sure. I would like to hear if anyone has had any different luck than me.

  22. Ann McGoey says:

    Hello, BEWARE imitation eco-lawn products. I have an Ecolawn that I love, looks just like the photo grew well in Northen Ontario, Canada. I purchased the seed from Wildflower farm.
    I needed to do some touch ups when we put in a new path – used a product by “Green Earth, called Eco Turf” the ingredients listed were the same as the Wildflower farm lawn, but in different percentages. The seed from Green Earth was contaminated with weed seeds DO NOT USE GREEN EARTH SEED PRODUCTS.

  23. Sally says:

    So how did the ecolawns do in the Pacific NW and who should I buy my grass seed from. Another question, do I have to rototill my old lawn?

    Any help I can get is much appreciated.

  24. Eric says:

    We live in Kamloops, British Colombia, Canada. Kamloops has a very arid climate, and therefore we thought the eco-lawn would be perfect for us as we don’t want to be water hogs! We planted the eco-lawn in may of 2008. We applied water all season long, to substantiate the the growth of the grass. So this year in 2009 we have had to water every other day on our allowed water days, we cut the grass at 3 inches and no lower. By the end of the summer, actually more like july we had many dry, yellow patches of grass! In the spring this year we planted scots lawn seed and that grass is doing far better than the eco-lawn. To say the least we are very disappointed in the eco-lawn, and i would recommend that no one waste there money on a product that promises so much and delivers so little! Don’t get me wrong the lawn looks great in the spring and in the fall, but it is not really any different than any other lawn i am familiar with! The only difference is that it cost me about 3 times as much to plant eco-lawn seed than any other!

  25. Chris says:

    Has anybody tried planting an eco-lawn in Southern California (I’m in Orange County)? I’m replacing the old lawn and would like to be more water friendly and still have a lawn.

  26. Maya Jack says:

    I always appreciate the people for their efforts towards the eco-friendliness & would like to refer another i.e. SUPERIOR LIGHTING; playing an important role by launching their energy efficient LEDs & soothing light bulbs.

  27. Bob says:

    Is this Eco-Lawn seed compatible to the west central Florida. I’m sick and tired of this St. Augustine crap. Very thick blades, requires alot of watering, and is not hospitalble to humans.

    Thanks in advance

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