Grasscycling - Recycling for the Health and Beauty of Your Lawn
Grasscycling is simply the term used when mown grass clippings are left on your lawn rather than raked or bagged. When clippings are removed they can become a wasted resource, with valuable nutrients being carted away. When clippings are left in place they break down and return to the soil, adding organic matter and fertility for a healthier lawn.
Grasscycling is an easy method of lawn care that promotes the health of your soil and prevents waste at the same time. This makes it good for you, your landscape and the local environment! Grasscycling also eliminates the time and work of bagging and, by adding natural nitrogen to your soil, can save money too. All this and it and creates less waste. It’s the all-natural way to a truly "green" lawn!
Myths About Lawn Care
Leaving clippings on a lawn will create thatch. Not True!
Thatch is an issue related to roots, soil, and improper maintenance practices not clippings. According to the Scotts-Miracle Grow Company, grass clippings are good for your lawn and help replenish nitrogen back into the soil - without causing thatch build-up. Did you know that grasscycling can provide about 25% of the nitrogen your lawn needs for the growing season? It's nature's fertilizer!
You can tell a lawn is healthy just by looking at it. Not always!
A healthy lawn is more than just a pretty patch of green; good turf needs good roots, and good roots need good soil. A lot of what contributes to a lush lawn happens below the surface of what we see and walk on. Grasscycling is an excellent way to add organic matter, gradually building the health of your soil. Top dressing with compost is another great way to encourage strong roots. And lawns with good root systems are more than just pretty- they’re tough too, resisting pests, diseases and drought better than lawns planted in poor soils.
Always rake fallen leaves off your grass. You don’t have to!
Imagine spending glorious fall weekends without having to rake your lawn. Even the experts at Scotts-Miracle Grow state that, while it's true that thick, heavy amounts of dead leaves can smother grass, raking them isn't the best solution. Dead leaves are made up of mainly carbon; when you chop them up with your lawnmower, worms and microbes will turn the fine leaf litter left behind into naturally composted soil. Soils rich in composted material are better at coping with both
dry periods and
excessive rainfall. Leaving grass and leaves behind makes more resilient lawns and decreases issues with runoff, drainage and drought.
Clip your lawn short and mow every week- only if you live on a golf course!
Don't mow your grass too short; this promotes shallow root systems. According to the University of Maryland Master Gardeners, most home lawn turf species will grow well when mower blades are set to a mowing height of 2.5 to 3 inches. Aim to only remove about an inch of grass at a time (so you only need to mow when grass is about 4” tall.) This creates less stress for the turf grass and creates smaller clippings that will break down into the soil quickly. When grass is in its peak growth, most lawns need to only be mowed every 7 days, and every 10-14 days as growth slows.
Lawns need a lot of water to look good. Not necessarily!
Healthy turf with a good root system grows best when it has about an inch of water each week during spring and summer. This is best done all at once, watering slowly so that moisture penetrates deeply into the soil. And remember, a good soil with lots of organic matter will hold moisture longer, have better aeration and create healthier, tougher turf. The best way to build better soil? Grasscycling and top dressing with compost!
Tips for Grasscycling Success
- To create smaller clippings, mow before your grass gets too tall (higher than 4”) Since grasscycling takes approximately half the time of bagging clippings, you will save time even if you end up mowing more frequently.
- Only mow when the grass is dry. Dry grass scatters more easily than wet grass and does not clump. If the lawn is too wet or too long, try bagging the clippings for use as mulch, compost, or to spread/dig into soil.
- Keep your mower’s blades sharp. Sharp blades cut the clippings smaller. Dull blades rip and tear the grass causing turf disease and browning of the lawn.
- Retrofit your existing mower with a mulching blade. Many types of mowers can be fit with mulching blade kits that re-circulate clippings through the blades and chop them into smaller pieces. Check with local lawn mower dealers or hardware stores to find out if there is a mulching blade kit that works on your mower.
- The next time you purchase a new lawn mower, buy a mulching mower. Better yet, get an electric model!