Grasscycling: Lawn Care's Biggest Bargain

Grasscycling is a popular trend in home lawn care that refers to leaving grass clippings to sit on top of grass as a natural fertilizer after mowing your lawn. It doesn't require special equipment. You can use a regular mower – gas, electric or reel – or you can purchase a specialized mulching or recycling mower.

4 Reasons To Grasscycle

A Texas university did a study that encouraged homeowners to grasscycle. Of the total participants, 98% said they would never bag clippings again. What's the big appeal?

  • It saves time. Grasscycling reduces mowing time by 40% – eliminating time handling and bagging clippings.
  • It saves money. When you let clippings lie, you no longer spend money on disposal – for bags or curbside yard waste programs.
  • It saves fertilizer. Clippings can cover up to 25% of your lawn's fertilizer needs. One hundred pounds of clippings can produce 3-4 pounds of nitrogen, ½-1 pound of phosphorus, and 2-3 pounds of potassium (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are the main components of lawn fertilizer). If 100 pounds sounds like a lot, consider that a half-acre lawn in a temperate region like Pennsylvania produces more than 3 tons of grass clippings annually.
  • It saves space in landfills. Those 3 tons of clippings, mentioned above, wind up in landfills in some communities. Grasscyling returns clippings to lawns.

How To Grasscycle

  • Use any mower. When using a non-mulching mower, remove the grass catcher and insert a safety plug. Many mowers have an adapter or retrofit kit that converts the mower into a mulching mower. Consider purchasing a mulching blade, which chops grass into smaller pieces.
  • Remove only one-third of grass blade length at each mowing. This is healthier for the turf and creates small grass pieces that readily decompose. If grass gets too high due to weather or vacation, cut once and then mow over clippings to chop and scatter them.
  • Keep your mower blade sharp. Dull blades tear grass, creating jagged edges that turn brown. Keep an extra, sharpened blade on hand so you can switch blades as needed and not miss a mowing.
  • Always mow when grass is dry.
  • When it's time for a new mower, consider purchasing a mulching or recycling mower. Electric, battery-powered mowers are powerful enough for most traditional yards. To simplify battery-charging, choose a model that allows you to remove the battery. This is especially helpful in wintry climes if you store the mower in an unheated building and the battery requires winter storage above freezing.

Grasscycling Myths

Two common misconceptions surround grasscycling: that it causes thatch and spreads lawn diseases. These ideas are false.

  • Thatch is caused by the parts of grass plants that are decay-resistant: things like roots, stems and rhizomes. Grass clippings are roughly 75-80% water and decompose quickly.
  • The spread of lawn disease occurs when conditions are conducive for the disease organism, and the lawn is susceptible due to poor health. Most diseases develop when lawns are improperly watered and fertilized.

When Not To Grasscycle

When something prevents mowing and grass grows excessively long, don't grasscycle. Instead gather and recycle clippings by:

  • Composting grass cuttings.
  • Using as mulch around perennials or vegetables.
  • Sprinkling over dirt garden paths.
  • Mixing into soil in new planting areas.
  • Don't recycle clippings when the lawn has been treated with pre-emergent herbicides.