Not Mowing Bluegrass

Asked August 6, 2019, 3:29 PM EDT

Our HOA is trying to convert several acres of open space from the existing bluegrass to a more sustainable landscape. We realize that it will be a costly endeavor to remove the bluegrass, prepare the soil, purchase and plant the native grass seed and then water the seeds until germination.

In lieu of this process, it has been recommended to us that we leave the bluegrass alone in the spring and let the grass grow without cutting or watering it. The bluegrass will grow between 6-8 inches tall and will stay green as long as we don't cut it. We understand the grass will still need to be fertilized and treated with pesticides to control the weeds, but the water savings would be substantial.

Do you have any information on not cutting or watering bluegrass during the summer months? Do you know it this method has been successful in the past? Do you know of any locations where this is being done? Any information you can provide would be appreciated. Thanks, Jenny

Jefferson County Colorado

1 Response

Hi Jenny,
Yes, in short, this can work well. Many golf courses have done this - for many years now. It is something that I have recommended for golf courses and HOAs as a "trial run" before they do the bluegrass to native (buffalograss or blue grama) conversion - which you have correctly pointed out as being expensive. The trial run with keeping the bluegrass but not mowing it allows people to see what a native conversion MIGHT look like. If it's not desirable for many or most of the interested parties, you can always go back to mowing the bluegrass as before.

The bluegrass may not "stay green" through the summer without mowing and water. Under dry conditions, the bluegrass will go dormant - and turn brown. But, in some summers, it just might retain a good level of green without supplemental irrigation.

If you do decide to try this, I would NOT fertilize the area. In fact, these greenbelt areas - even when mowed - often require little or no fertilization (maybe once, in early fall). In my experience, these green belt areas - besides being overwatered - are often overmanaged (too much fertilizer, unnecessary herbicide use).

I would encourage you to try this on a small area - perhaps one irrigation station - before stopping maintenance and irrigation on all of your bluegrass green belt areas. Further, if you have trees growing in the areas where you propose the irrigation reduction, a plan will have to be made for watering the trees. The biggest problem I see when HOAs convert to native (or stop watering their bluegrass) is that they don't realize that the trees growing in these areas were also being watered by the "turf irrigation". Trees can rapidly decline when they don't receive regular irrigation, depending on the species of tree. This is a common misconception about trees in Colorado - that they can exist and grow well without supplemental water. The trees we have growing in our cities, parks, HOAs, yards, etc. weren't here before the Front Range was settled. They are here because we created irrigated landscapes.

Let me know if you have other questions or if I have forgotten to answer anything.

Thanks,
Tony