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Grasscycling


Grasscycling is recycling grass clippings. The cheapest, easiest way to recycle lawn clippings is to leave them on the lawn after mowing. This saves time, money and landfill space. Clippings quickly decompose, returning nutrients to the soil. Many golf courses and parks have practiced grasscycling for years. 98% of residential participants in a grasscycling study conducted by Texas A& M reported they will never bag clippings again!

Tips for Success

  • Mow lawn when dry to prevent clippings from clumping.
  • Make sure mower blades are sharp.
  • Mow lawn often so no more than 1/3 length of grass blade is removed in any one mowing.
  • Prevent excessive grass growth by watering (and fertilizing) in moderation.

Mowers

You can grasscycle with most any mower. The mower collection bag can be removed to allow clippings to drop on the lawn. However, if your mower does not have a safety flap covering the opening where the bag fits into the chute, or a plug for the chute, contact your local retailer to purchase a retrofit kit. A bit of experimentation might be needed to keep clippings from clumping when using a conventional mower. Do not compromise your mower's safety systems.

Most manufacturers have developed mulching or recycling mowers which cut grass blades into small pieces and force them into the turf. Mulching or recycling mowers make grasscycling easy.

Mower Height Settings

Common South Dakota Lawn Grasses Mower Setting (inches) Mow When Grass Is (inches)
Kentucky Bluegrass . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                   1 1/2 - 2 1/2                   2 1/4 - 3 3/4
Red Fescue . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                   1 1/2 - 3                   2 1/4 - 4 1/2
Perennial Ryegrass . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                   1 1/2 - 2 1/2                   2 1/4 - 3 3/4

Savings

  Reduction in Fertilization Costs: Grass clippings are a free, high-nitrogen fertilizer. When clippings decompose, they release nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, and lesser amounts of other essential plant nutrients back to the lawn.
  Time: A recent study in the U.S. found homeowners who quit bagging clippings saved an average of 35 minutes per mowing (7 hours per season or a day at the beach).
  Environmental Health: Clippings are rapidly broken down into nutrients returned to the lawn. There's no polluting run-off, no use of non-renewable resources and no damage to soil organisms or wildlife.
  Tax Dollars: Tax dollars could be spent on services and programs other than on the labor, trucks, fuel and precious landfill space used in grass disposal.
  Your Physical Health: By not handling heavy bags of clippings, back injuries and other physical maladies can be avoided - a real savings on health care costs.
  Bag Costs: No money is spent on plastic bags, which also saves on environmental recycling of another substance - plastic.

Grasscycling Myths

Myth #1 Leaving grass clippings on the lawn causes thatch.

Fact: Research shows grass roots are the primary cause of thatch, not grass clippings. Thatch is composed mainly of roots, stems, rhizomes, crowns, and stolons. These materials contain large amounts of lignin (wood) and decompose slowly. Grass clippings are approx. 80-85% water with only small amounts of lignin, and decompose rapidly. A small amount of thatch (approx. 1/2 inch) is actually beneficial to a lawn, providing insulation to roots and serving as mulch to prevent excessive water evaporation and soil compaction.

Myth #2 Grasscycling is messy.

Fact: Grass clippings decay quickly and disappear within a day or two. If a lawn is properly mowed, watered, and fertilized, grasscycling can actually produce a healthier-looking lawn. It is important to cut the lawn frequently to produce small clippings that will fall between the standing blades and decompose quickly. If you're worried about people tracking grass into your home or pool, try mowing late in the day so that clippings have time to dry and settle overnight.

Myth #3 Grass clippings damage lawns.

Fact: Mowing regularly and at the proper height improves your lawn. If you allow the grass to grow too long between cuttings, the thick patches of mowed clippings will suffocate your lawn in those areas. This problem can be minimized by gradually reducing your lawn to its proper height over a period of two or three mowings, rather than scalping it back to that height in one mowing. A good rule of thumb is: Never remove more than one third of the leaf surface at any one time.

Myth #4 Grasscycling spreads disease.

Fact: The spores that cause grass diseases are pre-sent whether clippings are collected or not. Watering properly, only when needed (one inch of water every five to six days, in early morning) and keeping your mower blade very sharp for clean cutting will help your lawn resist disease.

Myth #5 Grasscycling is my only option.

Fact: Grasscycling is not feasible in every situation. Prolonged wet weather, mechanical breakdown of mowers, or infrequent mowing are situations where grass clippings should be bagged. But do not throw the clippings away! Grass clippings are an excellent addition to a backyard compost pile. Clippings can also be used as mulch to provide weed control and prevent moisture loss around flower beds, trees, and shrubs. Mulching with clippings should be avoided, however, if they are of an invasive variety, such as bermudagrass, or if herbicides have been applied recently to the lawn.