A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

A new lawn: No watering, less mowing

Written June 22nd, 2018 by Hasso Hering

Don Wirth overlooks the lawn at the family farm near Shedd on Friday.

This is the kind of lawn you’ve been wishing for: It needs no irrigation, grows very slowly, and stays green in the summer heat.

Don Wirth, whose family and ancestors have been farming in the valley since before statehood, invited me to take a look at this crop that looks like a coarse kind of grass but takes less effort to keep green.

The patch of lawn in the yard at Saddle Butte Ag, the family’s farm and seed business on Wirth Road, is not actually grass, Don told me. Its a bradleaf plant, a variety of plantain (Boston Plantain or plantago lanceolata, to be exact), which I learned is a forb. It was developed in New Zealand as a cover crop. It’s one of the seed crops that the Wirth operation grows and sells in this country and around the world.

Close up, the blades of this plant look wider and fleshier than your ordinary grass. But from even a short distance it’s just a lawn.

The beauty of this stuff is that it grows without irrigation. The last time the patch of green at Saddle Butte Ag got water was the last time it rained. The other upside is that it requires less mowing — one-third to half as much as most grasses, according to Don.

Something to think about the next time you sweat for an hour behind the mower. Or when the water bill arrives. (hh)

I got down on the ground to get a close look this patch of Boston plantain.


This crop, mowed three or four days ago, has never been irrigated.





11 responses to “A new lawn: No watering, less mowing”

  1. Bob Woods says:

    Hasso, this may be one of the most important stories you have ever posted.

    If the claims hold up, it makes everyone’s life better. Please follow-up as you can to verify the claims. OSU Ag would be a great place to start.

  2. Peter says:

    Where can one contact him if they would like to purchase this lawn or get an estimate? thank you

  3. Bill Kapaun says:

    Is it resistant to weed killers?

  4. Don says:

    It is resistant to some of the broadleaf herbicides and most all of the grass herbicides.

  5. George Pugh says:

    Mr. Hering, I’ve always appreciated your photographs. That one of Don is a pure Don Wirth smile and exemplifies his attitude towards life. He got the smile from his dad and I hope he has passed it along to his grandchildren.

    • Doug Klinkebiel says:

      You got that right, George! That’s the smile I remember growing up in Shedd and when I worked for International Seeds.

  6. Aubrey Cloud says:

    This is very cool and could represent a huge benefit to water resources, but I also worry about its potential as a new invasive species. Lord knows we already struggle with enough of those. Has there been any investigation into whether or not this stuff escapes the confines of the yards it’s installed in?


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