Grasscycling is when grass clippings are left on the lawn rather than bagging and disposing of them. It is a natural “recycling” of the clippings.
Grasscycling is highly touted by various city waste management sytems. Their main focus is to reduce the amount of clippings that end up in landfills. Indeed, most municipalities are reducing or eliminating the pick up of grass clippings.
- For the municipality, grasscyling reduces waste management costs and can therefore reduce taxes. Grass clippings make up a large percentage of the household waste produced each year. A lawn of 1,000 square feet of lawn in can produce 200 to 500 pounds of clippings during the growing season.
- For the homeowner there are advantages as well. The clippings break down in 7 to 14 days. As clippings break down, they release moisture and nutrients from the clippings back into the soil. The clippings act as top dressing fertilizer and can help keep your lawn green and healthy.
- The release of nutrients and moisture from the decomposing clippings may enhance soil microbial activity and promote beneficial soil life. This will enhance soil structure and encourage healthy root growth. This in turn allows the lawn to stay green longer during dry summers and bounce back better in the fall. The clippings add water-saving mulch and encourage natural soil aeration by earthworms. Less watering is required
- Grasscycling maximizes fertilizer use. As the clippings decompose, they release nitrogen potassium, phosphorus and other nutrients to the soil. The need for nitrogen fertilizer may be reduced.
- You can save as much as a third of your lawn mowing time by removing your grass catcher and letting grass clippings stay on the lawn. This not only saves time and but also energy. No need to remove, bag or haul clippings
Proper mowing is required for successful grasscycling. It is best to cut grass when the surface is dry, and keep mower blades sharp (dull blades can shred grass and create a potential entryway for disease). Follow the "1/3 rule:" mow the lawn often enough so that no more than 1/3 of the length of the grass blade is removed in any one mowing. Proper mowing will produce short clippings that will not cover up the grass surface. You may have to cut the lawn more frequently, or double cut, when the lawn is growing fast, such as in the spring, but much less when the turf is growing slowly. Additionally, raising the mowing height in the summer encourages deeper roots and protects grass from drought and heat damage.
You can grasscycle with most any mower. Refer to your owner's manual or contact a local lawnmower dealer to learn if you can safely grasscycle with your existing mower. Mulching or recycling mowers make grasscycling easy by cutting grass blades in to small pieces and forcing them into the spaces available. The smaller pieces also decompose quicker.
Done properly, grasscycling does not contribute to a thatch buildup. This is a common misconception. Thatch is an accumulation of dead roots and stems that is most often caused by over-watering or over fertilizing. Grasscycling does not spread diseases
If there are times when the grass is growing to fast to grasscycle all the clippings, rake or bag the excess grass clippings. They can be used as a surface mulch around vegetables or flowers to inhibit weed growth and retain soil moisture. Remember to keep clippings at least two inches away from young plants to avoid "burning" the new growth. You can also put grass clippings in your compost pile to add extra nutrients. To avoid odors, no more than one third of your composting pile should be made up of grass clippings.
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