Grasscycling - A Common-Sense Solution
Some good ideas are so deceptively simple, they get ignored. Currently, throughout North
America, there is a new appreciation for an easy, established technique for managing grass
clippings. The formal name for this approach is 'grasscycling'. Mower manufacturers refer to it as
'mulching'. Most ordinary folks call it 'leaving the clippings on the lawn'. Whatever you call it, it
has been given the 'good gardening' seal of approval and represents a low effort way to keep grass clippings out of the landfill. These clippings can be 20% or more of the waste stream in the
Lawn care changes involved with grasscycling include:
Appearance: There are minor changes in appearance. The grass is cut to leave a somewhat
longer blade: 21/2 to 3 inches (60 75 mm) long. Clippings may stay on the surface for two or
three days; this is most likely if the grass is thick and has been cut with a non mulching mower.
Equipment: For many people, the only changes required to start grasscycling are adjusting the
cutting height of the mower blade, removing the grass collection bag, and closing the clippings
exit if it faces the rear of a pushed mower. Most manufacturers sell kits to convert their mowers
to a mulching format. People buying new mowers can choose from many mulching models that
finely chop the clippings and blow them to ground level.
Management: Grasscycling usually requires more frequent mowing, especially during the spring,
when the grass usually grows more vigorously. It is recommended that no more than a third of the
blade be removed in one cutting. People are urged to keep the mower blades sharp and avoid
cutting the grass when it is wet. Despite the increase in mowing frequency, an Edmonton study
found that by grasscycling, people decreased their mowing time by 25 minutes per week as well as
reducing their garbage by two bags per week. With many mowers, one can switch between
collecting clippings and grasscycling depending on the situation. Collected clippings can be used
in the compost or as mulch (if no herbicides have been used).
Horticultural benefits: Grasscycled clippings add fertility. One season of grasscycling equals one
application of fertilizer. The longer grass tends to stifle weeds, which reduces or eliminates the
need to use herbicides. The clippings create a mulch layer that reduces the amount of water
required by the lawn. Experience has shown that grasscycling does not promote thatch or disease.
It is recommended that normal spring procedures like a vigorous raking and aeration be
Programs: Description of numerous programs promoting grasscycling can be found on the City Farmer website.
(Source: WasteWatch, June 2002)
For more information, see our Fact Sheet for Tips on Mulching Mowers and Grasscycling
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