Long before No Mow May became a movement, the grass at Wheatland grew tall and wild.

Lawns were less manicure and more meadow when James Buchanan lived there in the 19th century.

In 2018, LancasterHistory and Friends of the Tanger Arboretum planted a low-mow mix of fescue grasses for history and to cut back maintenance.

The fescue grass doesn’t need to be fertilized, says Jeff Hazlett, former president of the Friends group. Once the grass was established, it choked out weeds. However, small trees still need to be removed.

The site’s taller grass is mowed just twice a year, Hazlett says. The shorter turf grass border and the paths cut through the tall fescue are mowed weekly.

At the end of the fifth growing season for the new grass, Hazlett still hears visitors ask, “Why does that look like it does?”

Wheatland Fescue 8.jpg

A special blend of fescue was planted at Wheatland, the home of former President James Buchanan.

A sign explains why the grass is so tall.

It’s still uncommon to see a lawn like Wheatland’s. In the U.S., the largest irrigated crop is turf grass.

There’s a growing movement where people shrink their lawns or plant alternatives for the environment, for wildlife and to save time. The short-term version is No Mow May, which asks people to lay off the mowing to give early season pollinators shelter and food.

In Pennsylvania, the best time to plant grass seed is late summer and early fall. Wheatland’s new yet old lawn is a mix of chewings fescue, hard fescue and creeping red fescue. (The west meadow, on the west side of a driveway off Marietta Avenue, is a mix of fescue grasses and a flowering meadow mix.)

Have you made changes to your turf grass lawn? Below, share what you tried, what worked and what didn’t.

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