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To mow or not to mow?

Autumn is a great time for gardening- especially sowing wildflowers. It’s also a great time to do some end of the year maintenance on your existing meadow as well.

So it’s the middle of October and most of your flowers have faded and gone to seed. You’ve got lots of dried brown stalks and you’re not quite sure what to do.

To mow or not to mow?
It’s a common dilemma that arises this time of year. The truth is there’s really no right or wrong time to mow. I do recommend waiting as long as possible to mow, as we want to make sure all the fall wildflower species have gone to seed. This will increase the chances of reseeding and increase the volume of plants in coming seasons. It’s also beneficial for wildlife, as they look to eat and store the flower seed for food to get through the coming winter.

Certainly if the area becomes an eye sore, or you live in a neighborhood that you need to keep the area maintained, mowing earlier in the season is not the end of the world. We certainly don’t want to get you in trouble with your neighbors or home association!

How low do you mow?
No need to scalp the plants. A brush mower or lawnmower on the highest setting will work just fine. In smaller areas, a weed whacker will also do the trick.

Once you’ve mowed I usually recommend leaving the cuttings on the area, at least through the winter months. You can then rake off in the spring. Again, leaving the cuttings increases the chances of reseeding the following spring. If you have to rake the cuttings, not a problem. If you do end up raking, it does present a great opportunity to add more seed at the same time. If you’ve got some exposed areas that could use a little “jump start” next spring, throw some seed down.

If you just get too busy in the fall and you don’t get to mowing, don’t sweat it! You can always leave things and mow or cut down in the spring.

Now the leaves are changing and autumn is here. Our “second season” of planting is upon us.

What are you waiting for? Get out in the garden and enjoy!

5 thoughts on “To mow or not to mow?”

  • sandra willis

    I am a new gardener who has just limited space in my front and back yard. During the summer, I bought wildflower seeds and perennial plants. The perennial plants are blooming beautifully in pots. I saved the wildflower seeds for next spring. I emailed you about a week ago to get some information on sowing these seeds. However, I am confused about spring planting and fall planting. If I were to leave the cuttings on the ground in order for the ripened seeds to get into the ground,how do I do fall planting? If I were to clear the cuttings, do I plant the fall seeds in the same area that I am going to plant the wildflower seeds in mid-November. I would appreciate your advice.

    • Mike Lizotte

      Hello Sandra,

      That's a great question and one I get often. Ideally after you've mowed the area I would let the cuttings sit for a week or two. I would then remove to expose the area for seeding. Hopefully in those couple of weeks, the seed has dropped and you will get the benefit of that seed along with the seed you're going to add.

      I hope this information helps and certainly let me know if I can be of further assistance!

      Happy Gardening...! The Seed Man

  • Jeanette Akhter

    There are a lot of short grass weeds in my meadow. I'm not sure if they are annual or perennial. What's the best way to manage and make room instead for more wildflower seeds?
    Thank you!

  • jacquie farbman

    I have LOTS of grass throughout my wildflower meadow that I have not weeded. Should I try to pull out as much as possible of the tall and short grasses before mowing so the wildflower seeds from old blooms can better contact the soil? Please reply soon!

    • Jenny

      Hi Jacquie, I did a bit of research for you to see if I could offer you any other advice, but the truth is that best plan of action here is the one you've already identified. You should do your best to remove any grasses and weeds that you don't want! This will make it easier for your wildflowers to continue establishing themselves, and tougher for the unwanted plants to continue reappearing. Hope this helps and Happy Gardening! - Jenny

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