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Wheeler: Grasscycling cuts yardwork in half, helps environment
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Recycling is all the rage, from aluminum cans and newspapers to plastic bottles and bags. But did you know you can recycle in your lawn?

Rather than throwing away bagged grass clippings, put your yard waste to use. This environmentally friendly method of organic gardening is called

Grasscycling is not a new concept — our grandparents did this before bagging became popular. Leaving the clippings on the lawn allows them to act as mulch for the grass plants and helps conserve water. Also, as the grass clippings decompose, they add valuable nutrients back to the soil.

Grass clippings are a natural fertilizer. A Rodale Institute Research Center study shows an acre of clippings provides 235 pounds of nitrogen, 210 pounds of potassium and 77 pounds of phosphorus. Do these chemical names look familiar? They should; they are the same ones listed on fertilizer bags.

Grass clippings are fast-acting, too. An additional study showed nitrogen from grass clippings was incorporated into new grass growth within one week.

In addition to helping turfgrass, grasscycling cuts down on lawn care time and saves landfill space. During spring and summer months, bagged lawn clippings increase solid waste 20 percent to 30 percent. Raking and bagging also takes time. It is estimated after six months of grasscycling, homeowners save seven hours of time doing lawn maintenance.

You don’t need a special mower to grasscycle. However, mulching mowers and mulching blades, which cut grass clippings into smaller pieces, are available. This helps clippings decompose more quickly.

To get the most benefits from grasscycling, mow your grass at the right height. Different grass species perform best at specific heights. Mowing too short can scalp the grass, putting it into a state of shock, possibly making it more susceptible to pests. Leaving the grass too high can cause it to take longer to dry out after rain or watering, which also creates a potential environment for pests.

The perfect scenario is to remove one-third of the grass height. For example, to achieve tall fescue grass 2 inches high, mow grass when it reaches 3 inches tall.

Recommended mowing heights for popular turfgrass species are as follows: Hybrid bermudagrass: 1 to 1.5 inches; centipedegrass: 1 to 2 inches; Zoysiagrass: 1 to 2 inches; and tall fescue: 2 to 3 inches.

Keep the mowing blade sharp. Dull blades tear grass instead of cutting it. This creates a wound that may need extra nutrients and water to heal because the plant is stressed.

Also, find out your area’s outdoor water use regulations. Within those guidelines, water between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. Evaporation is lower during this time so more water gets into the soil.

It is important to water deeply. Turfgrass needs about 1 inch of water per week, generally in one or as many as two applications. Don’t water a small amount daily. This creates a shallow root system and puts the grass at risk during high heat and drought stress.

Source: Georgia FACES,
Author, Becky Griffin, UGA Extension turfgrass associate, Cobb County

Michael Wheeler is the county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. You can contact him at 770-535-8293, His column appears weekly and on


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