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Grasscycling--Easy way to a healthier, greener lawn

Updated on August 21, 2014
ecogranny profile image

An environmental enthusiast and activist her entire adult life, Kathryn shares her secrets to reducing waste and living greener.

Grasscycling can save up to one-third your mowing time

Grasscycling means recycling your grass clippings right into your lawn. It is an increasingly popular method of lawn care that will keep your lawn looking its best at a fraction of the cost and time you usually spend during the mowing season.

How much time do you spend each week cutting your grass, stopping every few turns to remove the grass catcher, shake the clippings into a garbage sack, and reattach the bag?

Remove the grass catcher and cut mowing time by up to 1/3
A morgueFile Free Photo

You can save as much as one-third of your total mowing time by removing that grass catcher and recycling your clippings directly into your lawn.

Plus, you'll reap benefits in a healthier, more luxurious lawn, while lowering your fertilizer and water bills.

Learn just how easy it is to grasscycle your lawn clippings right here. You'll also find links to some of the best chemical-free lawn care wisdom currently available, and a host of other resources, including in-depth reading if you're interested in the science behind the process.

While I've included links to some of the best books on the subject, you don't have to buy a single one. Check them out at your local library instead.

Every time you mow your lawn - Save the easy Grasscyling way

Yard waste in trash bag - a morgueFile Free Photo
Yard waste in trash bag - a morgueFile Free Photo

Yard waste in trash bag
a morgueFile Free Photo

If your lawn is typical, by the time you've finished your weekly mowing, you've hauled 70-140 pounds of filled garbage sacks to the curb.

Trucked away week after week, those bags, along with your neighbors', contribute about half the waste going to the landfill between May and September. Collection and landfill costs rise, passed back to you in higher fees.

By letting your clippings lie, you save your back and your wallet. Not only do you help yourself, but you are a good citizen, helping your community as well.

See yourself in these chairs? - When you Grasscycle, you have more time to relax

Two Adirondack chairs at edge of the lawn, looking out into the woods - A morgueFile Free Photo
Two Adirondack chairs at edge of the lawn, looking out into the woods - A morgueFile Free Photo

Two Adirondack chairs on the edge of the lawn, facing the woods
a morgueFile Free Photo

You can save as much as one-third of your lawn mowing time over an entire season by letting grass clippings lie.

While you relax, those grass clippings are settling between the living leaves, locking in moisture, shading the roots from the hot sun, and beginning to break down and feed nitrogen and other nutrients to your lawn.

You won't need to fertilize as often, saving you even more time and money. You won't need to water as often, or as long, either, saving even more time and $$$.

Make yours a chemical-free lawn - Safe for your wee ones

When I became homeowner, this book quickly became a dog-eared, lawn-care companion that helped me and my family develop good stewardship practices and enjoy a beautiful yard. Much of what you see here, I first learned in this handy, easy-to-read guide.

The Chemical-Free Lawn: The Newest Varieties and Techniques to Grow Lush, Hardy Grass
The Chemical-Free Lawn: The Newest Varieties and Techniques to Grow Lush, Hardy Grass

Want to save even more time and money? Not only does this book give excellent grasscycling info, it shows you how to mow your lawn in a third less time by mowing in a spiral. Try it. It works! (No, you won't get dizzy, but you will have some fun.)

 

Grasscycling saves!

When you grasscycle, you save both time and money because you water and fertilize less.

Grasscycling is easy - Cut the sweat

4 ways to save on your water bill and get a greener lawn

Lawn sprinkler running in hot sun - a morgueFile Free Photo
Lawn sprinkler running in hot sun - a morgueFile Free Photo

Avoid watering in the heat of the day
a morgueFile Free Photo

  1. Water only when the grass is dry--most lawns need no more than one inch water per week, even in arid areas of the country.
  2. Irrigate in the morning, between six and ten, before the sun is high to avoid losing up to 60 percent of the water to evaporation. Use a low sprinkler head that saturates the ground, rather than a high shower. On a hot day, most of the water from a high sprinkler evaporates before it can sink into the soil.
  3. Water deeply and less frequently. Deep, healthy roots don't require as much water. Plus, they deliver more lush, green-enhancing nutrients to the grass blades (leaves) above the soil. Light, frequent watering encourages shallow roots and may lead to disease and stress injury to the grass plants.
  4. Water in the evening or at night. If you live in a dry climate, such as the Rocky Mountain states or the southwest, save even more by watering at night. This won't work if you live in a moist climate, where a damp lawn after dark is more prone to disease.

One 40-pound bag of synthetic fertilizer contains the fossil-fuel equivalent of approximately 2.5 gallons of gasoline

— National Resources Defense Council at http://www.nrdc.org/living/yardgarden/organic-lawn-care.asp

With Grasscycling, you'll use one-third less fertilizer

Fewer Saturdays pushing the fertilizer hopper

As grass clippings break down, they release moisture and nutrients into the soil, including the nitrogen that keeps your lawn green and lush. You'll need to fertilize less, about one-third less, according to studies.

Less is more! Most grasses require modest levels of nitrogen for good color and controlled growth. Excess fertilizer makes grass grow faster, requiring more mowing, and does not necessarily improve the health of the plant.

For optimum lawn health, follow this schedule.

  • Fertilize only in the fall. A fall application boosts spring growth.
  • Fertilize again in spring, but only if the lawn needs it.
  • For slower, more uniform growth, choose fertilizers with the label "water insoluble nitrogen" or "slow release nitrogen." These increase the amount of time the grass can use the nutrient.
  • Let clippings do the job through the summer.

For a safe, healthy lawn, go organic

This organic-lawn-user's guide will pay for itself quickly. Check it out! Follow the link and electronically "thumb through" just as you would in the book store.

The Organic Lawn Care Manual: A Natural, Low-Maintenance System for a Beautiful, Safe Lawn
The Organic Lawn Care Manual: A Natural, Low-Maintenance System for a Beautiful, Safe Lawn

Everything you need to know to build a lush, green lawn your kids can romp on safely is right here. Go ahead. Lie down. Feel the earth supporting you. Pluck a blade of grass and indulge in its sweetness while you watch the clouds skuttle overhead. This is the book to help you get that lawn.

 

Mowing for one hour with a gasoline-powered mower generates the same amount of pollution as driving a car for 20 miles, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

— National Resources Defense Council - See http://www.nrdc.org/living/yardgarden/organic-lawn-care.asp

Grasscycling cuts your mowing time by about one-third

Even though mowing high requires mowing a little more often during the peak growing cycle--about every five days--studies conducted by the University of Idaho and elsewhere show that most grasscycling homeowners reduce overall mowing time by about one-third over the course of a season. The following tips are key to saving time, money and maintaining a healthy lawn.

Mow when the grass is dry - Wet clippings may lie on top of the grass. Dry clippings settle between grass plants more readily, giving a clean, neat appearance to your lawn and minimizing the tracking of that sticky stuff into your house.

Keep your mower blade sharp to keep your lawn healthy - A dull blade tears the grass blade, injures the plant, and causes ragged, brown edges on the top of the turf, inviting disease. Check your blade after each use. Get it sharpened when it dulls or has significant nicks.

For a healthier lawn, mow high and a little more frequently

You'll still save mowing time over the course of your lawn's growing season

Set your mower height to 3"-4" and trim no more than 1/2-3/4" each time. Mowing high reduces shock to the grass plant because less of the blade is removed. Grass looks healthier because it is, from the roots up. Short, dry clippings fall between the grass blades, where they shade the roots and soil, retaining moisture, while breaking down unseen.

Grasscycling is even easier with a mulching mower - Take a look at the Earthwise Mulching Mower

You can grasscyle with any mower, but if you're planning to buy a new mower, consider a mulching mower. Mulching or recycling mowers, as well as non-polluting reel mowers, make quick work of shredding and scattering clippings so they fall between the grass plants.

Will grasscycling cause thatch?

GRASSCYCLING DOES NOT CAUSE THATCH

Thatch is an accumulation of dead rhizomes, roots and stems, which do not decay quickly. Cut grass decomposes quickly and does not cause thatch build-up.

Tip

Wear golf shoes while mowing. The spikes help to aerate your lawn, which improves soil health.

 

 

Aerate your lawn - But don't bother with a big noisy machine

Wear golf shoes when you mow to aerate the lawn and keep the soil fauna well oxygenated.

ECCO Men's Casual Cool Hydromax Golf Shoe
ECCO Men's Casual Cool Hydromax Golf Shoe

These handsome shoes can go from the early morning lawn mow directly to a round on the links.

 

Grasscycling is good for your community and the environment

Good citizens grasscycle!

Grass recycling saves municipal costs, which we all pay for one way or another. It also reduces the amount of toxic runoff into our streams and rivers caused by excessive fertilizing.

  • Curbside clippings collection increases trash hauling and handling costs, which you'll see in your trash bill.
  • Grass clippings can represent from 20 to 50 percent of the solid waste going to landfills in the spring and summer, and cities across the country are fast running out of new land to fill.
  • Clippings contribute to landfill gas and leaching, putting our groundwater and air at risk and raising environmental management costs.
  • Grass clippings increase odors during storage, collection, and disposal of trash.
  • Runoff from a heavily fertilized lawn carries fertilizers to our rivers and streams, putting fish and wildlife at risk.

Grasscycling is for the birds! - and the soil and the water and the air and all of us

Will you switch to grasscycling this year?

No way, Grasshopper. My lawn is hooked on drugs.

No way, Grasshopper. My lawn is hooked on drugs.

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    No comments yet.

    Ah yes, Ladybug. I've got better things to do than feed and mow and water all summer.

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      • lesliesinclair 3 years ago

        Yes, definitely, when I find my spot on the land again.

      • Renaissance Woman 5 years ago from Colorado

        Fortunately, I xeriscape. That means no mowing at all. I leave everything natural. I can get away with that because I live on a rural property. However, if I had a traditional lawn, I would definitely grasscycle.

      • TransplantedSoul 5 years ago

        I guess I've been doing this for years - I thought I was just lazy!

      • Kathryn Grace 5 years ago from San Francisco

        EditionH, I get it now. Thanks for updating. Too bad about the weather leaving your lawn/meadow always wet. That's got to be a challenge, but I love hearing how your lawn is naturalizing to something that, apparently, likes the weather more.

      • editionh 5 years ago

        Hi Grace,

        my observation is based on about 15 years of "grass cycling" in one garden in comparison to 30+ years mowing in the standard way with removal of the grass. (my own garden, my mothers garden).

        I cut the grass only every 10-14 days. I.e. in some places the grass is much longer than recommended for grass cycling.

        The climate in Germany is relatively moist even in summer. As a result one cannot avoid that clippings get wet after cut and start to rot.

        I admit that I cut the grass when it it much longer and not very regular. As a result I have wild flowers in my "lawn". That habit might contribute to the fact that my lawn has changed to a state between meadow and lawn (uneven soil). But as said I do not mind as I am not a fan of sterile looking lwans anyway.

      • Gale 5 years ago from Texas

        Wow...I was grasscycling already and didn't even know it! See, I grew up on a boat (no lawn there) and then moved to the mountains (no lawn either, unless you count newly dropped pineneedles) so when we got a house and my husband's aunt got us a mower with no bag...I just figured that was what all mowers were like and never even considered doing anything with the grass but leaving it lie. :-) Ah, I love easy good deeds!

      • Kathryn Grace 5 years ago from San Francisco

        Ah, EditionH, thanks for sharing your experience. I welcome your thoughts. I'll respond in kind. 1. Even though you have to mow a little more frequently, the overall time saving has proven to be about 1/3 over conventional lawn care methods in the course of a season. 2. To prevent clippings lying on top of the mown grass and turning brown between trimmings, first, mow when the grass is dry. This is essential. Second, set the blade high, so the grass is always 2-3" long, and you cut no more than 1/2-3/4". This assures the clippings fall between the blades, where they serve as mulch, rather than lying on top, turning brown and ugly. 3. I've never seen an uneven lawn as the result of grasscycling, nor has it been demonstrated on long-term projects of which I am aware. There are a number of factors that could cause the soil to buckle and become uneven. Can you provide more information about your experience with that, please?

        4. Moss grows in damp, moist environments. Grass prefers dryer conditions and may not be an appropriate installation in perennially damp soil.

      • editionh 5 years ago

        Hi, I work that way for many years now. I learned that treating the lawn that way has disadvantages too:

        1. You need to mow more often in order to keep clippings short

        2. Nevertheless clippings take time to compost on site,that process will affect the lawn too, the grass tends to get brown i.e. rot too.

        3. After some years the lawn will get pretty much uneven too

        4. The chance that you will get moss in your lawn increases a lot.

        I do not mind these things, but other people do. I never would treat my lawn with chemicals, but I can understand those who prefer to remove the clippings from the lawn.

      • anonymous 6 years ago

        That's great information. Everyone should try to do their part in keeping the lawn clean. Anytime I have leftover grass from a lawn it is always used for additional purposes.

        http://mowhawklawncare.com

      • poutine 8 years ago

        I'll try this summer

      • Ken McVay 8 years ago from Nanaimo, British Columbia

        My lawn hates drugs... probably has something to so with the concrete-hard dirt it's trying to grow in :-)

      • Fox Music 9 years ago

        always Natural

      • Cheryl Kohan 9 years ago from Minnesota

        Absolutely. No chemicals are allowed anywhere near our lawn, especially because we live on a lake. Gotta save our water any way we can.

      • Laraine Sims 9 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

        My Grasshopper is drug free! I'm going to switch to grasscyling this year. In fact I've been doing this for years.

      Teaming with microbes: A gardener's guide to the soil food web - Like the play on words?

      Here's what one reviewer had to say about this intriguing look beneath the crust:

      "Sure, it's a gardening book, but it has all the drama and suspense of an extraterrestrial thriller. A cast of characters without eyeballs or backbones. Battle scenes with bizarre creatures devouring one another. Only this book is about as terrestrial as it gets."

      Debra McKinney, Anchorage Daily News, September 14, 2006

      Teaming with Microbes: A Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web
      Teaming with Microbes: A Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web

      I'm always curious about the science behind, well, just about everything. This little guide gives me just enough without overwhelming.

       

      Summary

      How recycling your grass clippings saves lawn care costs

      Grass clippings shade roots, cool the soil, return moisture and nutrients to the soil when they break down, add moisture-holding organic matter, and reduce lawn watering needs.

      • Grass clippings supply up to one-third of a lawn's nitrogen fertilizer needs
      • Clippings decompose rapidly, feeding soil organisms that keep soil healthy and help to prevent turf diseases
      • Grasscycling saves one-third of the mowing time during the growing season
      • Grass clippings do not cause thatch
      • Grasscycling is good for the community: Saves garbage collection and landfill costs

      For more tips on ditching your lawn's chemical dependency, check out the NRDC's article, Easy Organic Lawn Care.

      Did you know?

      According to Word Spy, the term grasscycling was first used in 1990 in this article.

      "Grasscycling" simply requires a person to mow a little more frequently, Boyd said. "Grass clippings are 90 percent water so in a few days they're gone," he explained. " If you mow frequently, the clippings are very small. I don't ever pick them up. It's too much work."

      -"How to 'grasscycle'," Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 11, 1990

      Do you have a lawn? How do you care for it?

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        • Diana Wenzel profile image

          Renaissance Woman 5 years ago from Colorado

          I let nature do its thing. All five of my acres are natural. The grasses and flowers are wild and beautiful. Excellent habitat for wildlife. No fuss, no waste. A "yard" that exists as it has always lived in its natural state. I wouldn't have it any other way. Thank you for promoting grasscycling and other intelligent applications of green sense. Love the idea of mowing while wearing golf shoes to aerate the soil. Fore!

        • TransplantedSoul profile image

          TransplantedSoul 5 years ago

          The biggest problem with my lawn is shade. The backyard has so much shade and ceder hedges block sun totally on some parts. I guess the other problem is the dogs! - but they are more important.

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          anonymous 6 years ago

          We try to recycle every blade of grass we have left over in each yard. It's important to dolawn care in an environmentally responsible way.

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          tandemonimom lm 7 years ago

          I love the idea of wearing spiked shoes while you mow to aerate! Brilliant! Kudos on a great lens. Lensrolled to Recycle and Precycle.

        • profile image

          poutine 8 years ago

          Will try some of your ideas this summer.

        • greenerme profile image

          greenerme 8 years ago

          Great idea for going green. I'm not much of a mower, but I'm passing this info along to a few people who I know should see this. Thanks! Lensrolling to a couple of my recycling lenses.

        • gbenton789 profile image

          gbenton789 8 years ago

          This is great. Thanks!

        • profile image

          julieannbrady 8 years ago

          Ah, you'd be talking to the gal that does the cuts the grass and edges usually when hubby is out golfing -- I don't mind because I want and need the exercise. At least we have a self-propelled lawn mower. I don't catch the grass cuttings, but rather will sweep up the excess and take it to our backyard to do a little composting. So, I guess we are kind of green. Happy new year my dear.

        • profile image

          StLouisLawnCare 8 years ago

          These are great tips. I do landscaping in St. Louis and am always tell my customers these tips. Mulching the grass clippings is one of the best things that you can do for a lawn.

        • Sniff It Out profile image

          Sniff It Out 9 years ago

          Hi, just dropped by from lensmaster soup... What a great lens, 5 stars from me! I usually compost some of my clippings but I can't compost all of them... I shall certainly try out some of your ideas.

        • ecogranny profile image
          Author

          Kathryn Grace 9 years ago from San Francisco

          FoxMusic, you are absolutely correct. If you don't mind the extra work of collecting clippings in the bag, dumping them on the compost pile is good. Careful, though, they are nitrogen-rich, which can become a problem if your compost pile is primarily grass clippings. Also, they tend to clump in the pile. Be sure to aerate and turn them with a pitchfork every day.

        • Fox Music profile image

          Fox Music 9 years ago

          Fresh lawn clippings are great for the compost pile, which is always looking for something green.

        • CherylK profile image

          Cheryl Kohan 9 years ago from Minnesota

          Good job, as usual. Am lensrolling you (of course).

        • rwoman profile image

          rwoman 9 years ago

          Wonderful lens! If you need some inspiration check out my lens.

        • LaraineRoses profile image

          Laraine Sims 9 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

          Whoot! I'm first! Another 5 star lens! How you do roll them out!! I'm already your fan but I'll definitely favorite and lensroll it to my Stain Removal lens. (It sort of goes I guess - "grass stains?? LOL) GOOD JOB!!!

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