We have a lawn tug-of-war that goes on at our house every year. I really do not care what the lawn looks like as long as we are not watering or pouring toxic chemicals on it — a few brown patches and clover do not inhibit my enjoyment of the summer. My husband, however, thinks each blade of grass should stand at attention and is often lamenting the condition of our lawn. One thing we do agree on is grasscycling. It is an easy way to a healthier lawn. Grasscycling is simply “recycling” your grass by leaving the clippings on the lawn when mowing. This works because grass clippings decompose quickly and return precious nutrients back into the soil. A common misconception is that leaving your clippings on your lawn causes thatch, which is simply not true. In fact, according to North Carolina State University, “Thatch is caused by excessive growth from overfertilizing, by allowing grass to get too high before mowing, or by incorrect watering.”
The author’s healthy lawn, courtesy of grasscycling.
There are numerous benefits of grasscycling. For example, mowing time is reduced because you are not dealing with bagging and disposing of grass clippings. A demonstration of grasscycling was done at the State Capitol Fountain Circle on the west side of California’s State Capitol. The area normally took more than two hours to mow with a conventional bagging mower, but now it only takes 45 minutes, according to CalRecycle. Grass clippings add important nutrients to soil and lawns. According to the National Coalition for Pesticide-Free Lawns, grasscycling adds “roughly 5 pounds nitrogen, 2 pounds phosphorus and pounds potassium per 1,000 square feet to your soil making it healthy and more pest-resistant.” And, since the clippings are 80% to 85% water, they act as a water-saving mulch. Grasscycling also conserves land?ll space and energy while reducing fertilizer use, which minimizes chemical runoff from entering storm drains and polluting creeks, rivers and lakes. Any mower that is in good working condition and has a sharp blade can be used to grasscycle. Mulching mowers may be better than traditional mowers for those who cannot mow on a regular basis. We have a reel mower, and it is perfect for grasscycling because it sends the clippings off the reel in a fine spray of short clippings that are virtually invisible on the lawn. Here are some great tips for proper grasscycling from Steven M. Zien, Executive Director of Biological Urban Gardening Services.
  • Mow when the turf is dry. Wet clippings clump and break down slowly — choking off the turf, and creating thin spots.
  • Mow often so you never cut off more than one-third of the grass blades at one time.
  • Move the mower slowly across the lawn.
  • Keep blades sharp. This reduces stress and makes a clean cut, which deters pest invasion.
  • Mow at the highest proper setting for your type of turfgrass.
  • Clean under the mower deck to avoid clumping.
The end result is grass that is naturally beautiful by utilizing its own clippings. For more information on keeping a pesticide-free lawn, visit the National Coalition for Pesticide-aFree Lawns at beyondpesticides.org.