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  • Writer's pictureAmy Johnson

No Mow. Rewilding Your Backyard.

Happy Earth Day. It’s bittersweet for me, as it seems our planet is going through some tough times. What it needs to be healthy seems insurmountable - my individual efforts are a mere drop in a leaky bucket. But I do them anyway. If I value biodiversity, sustainability, and restored habitats, I need to practice that on as big a scale I can muster.  

Our property is just under two acres. When we moved here, the lawn looked like a well-kept golf course. I envisioned prairie in the front yard, a splash of color on the hill, and lush ground cover creeping in the shady spots. My husband wanted to keep it mowed. I didn’t blame him. It was spring, the lawn was bright green and fresh – very inviting. We also bought our first riding lawn mower, a John Deere we called “baby’s first tractor.” It made sense to put it to work.  

Consider native grasses and sedges as lawn alternatives.
Mowed lawn! Lush and green, but devoid of life.

I cannot recall the year we decided to stop mowing. It may have been after a vacation and the lawn was particularly thick – hard to mow but beautiful to see. Or the years of drought when cutting it turned our yard into a brown, barren wasteland. Or the endless shuffling of lawn clipping clumps. Regardless of when, the rewilding of our backyard had begun. 

So, we don’t mow; haven’t for years. We don’t rake our leaves. We do keep frequently used paths cut for easy navigation and tick reduction. As a result, a large patch of milkweed has moved into our hill – preventing erosion, adding color, and attracting pollinators. Vivid orange butterfly weed is starting to spread. The long grasses turn a beautiful red-purple in the fall. We save energy, water, money for gas or “tractor” maintenance. And our grass has never looked healthier.  

Common milkweed is a great groundcover for tough soils.
Milkweed has now called our backyard home! The monarchs appreciate it.

We don’t always find ourselves in the right place or time to practice sustainable land management. Your HOA may make that call for you. But if and when you can, consider lawn alternatives:  

  • Reduce the amount mowed; cut out paths around large patches – let these ‘rewild’ or plant perennials, shrubs, and trees appropriate for that area.  

  • Rake only where necessary; use leaves for compost and garden mulch 

  • Plant native graminioids like Blue Grama, Buffalo Grass or Pennsylvania Sedge on well-drained, sandy soils or Prairie Dropseed on more organic-rich ones. Use Fox Sedge in low-lying, wetter areas or Eastern Star Sedge in the shade. There are endless options to bluegrass turf!  

My corner of the world is small, but one acre of prairie can store a ton of carbon in its roots and soil; reducing C02 emissions in the atmosphere. I have that acre. I will do what is within my ability to practice what I preach on Earth Day.  

Consider native grasses and sedges instead of bluegrass as lawn alternatives.
Prairie Dropseed frames an outdoor potting shed under a majestic White Oak.

1 Comment

Jennifer Baker
Jennifer Baker
Apr 22

Love it! 😍Keep that rewilding work going!!


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