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The benefits of not mowing

Most farms and acreages have expansive areas of mowed turfgrass such as behind a barn or livestock building. When you consider fuel purchases, fertilizer and other maintenance, upkeep can cost you several hundred dollars per-year, plus a lot of your time. Convert these areas to native perennial plants and you can cut way back on mowing while improving water quality, soil health and wildlife habitat.

Adam Janke is an extension wildlife specialist at Iowa State University. He says a financial analysis of this type of transformation shows it will also benefit the checkbook.

"Because prairie, when accounting for expenses and spreading them out over 10 years, the average annual cost to establish and maintain a prairie from a turfgrass stand over a 10-year period is $111 per-acre, per-year."

Janke isn’t telling folks to park the mower for good. These prairies still require work, but it’s a different type of work.

"So before, we would maybe mow the barn lot 26 times a year. Now, we need to be back out scouting the pollinator habitat, learning maybe what the problematic species could be," he says. "We need to mow early in the establishment phase of the site to try to help the native perennial plants build a root system before they take off and grow tall above the ground and out-compete the annual plants. So, through time, you reap the rewards."

He recommends buying seed from local native plant seed dealers, and technical help from experts in natural resources and county conservation boards.