CLCA Endorses Grasscycling Concept
The California Landscape Contractors Association has endorsed the concept of grasscycling, which is the natural recycling of grass by leaving clippings on the lawn while mowing.
"CLCA recommends grasscycling to clients and the public to help conserve landfill capacity and promote a greener, healthier lawn," said Francisco Peccorini, a past chair of the associations's Environmental Committee.
"Environmentally and economically, grasscycling is a sound practice we feel the public needs to be made more aware of. One thing we want to clear up immediately is how grasscycling affects the lawn's appearance. Shavings are neglible. Golf courses, for example, have been grasscycling for years."
As a concept, the application of grasscycling only requires some explanation on mowing, watering, fertilizing, thatching and diseases.
It is the height of the grass above that determines the depth of the root system below the ground. For every grass type, there is a recommended mowing height. However, when you cut your grass, follow the one-third rule. Mow your lawn often enough so that no more than one-third of the blade length is cut in any one mowing.
Attaching mulching plates to your mower discharge or using an appropriate mulcher helps to hold the clippings in the mowing chamber longer, chopping them into smaller pieces that will more easily disappear into the lawn.
Deep, infrequent watering — preferably in the morning — produces a deeper, extensive root system that allows turf to resist stress and disease. When you grasscycle, the clippings are 85 percent water and begin to break down in about 2 weeks. Plus, grass clippings increase the soil's ability to retain moisture.
Grasscycling can reduce the amount of fertilizer needed by 15 to 20 percent because clippings return nutrients to the soil. Clippings contain about four percent nitrogen, two percent potassium, and 0.5 percent phosphorous. A year's worth of clippings nearly equals one application of commercial fertilizer.
Thatch is mostly dead grass roots and some tough, fibrous material created at the base of the grass plant. These plant materials contain large amounts of lignin (wood) and decompose slowly. When you mow, only the leaves of the plant are cut and they contain very little lignin.
Diseases of turfgrass occur when disease-causing spores contact susceptible grasses under ideal environmental conditions. If a desirable environment for turfgrass disease is present, infestation will occur whether clippings are returned or not.
"These are a handful of concerns we've heard that once cleared up, can act as an incentive to grasscycle," Peccorini said. "More important though are the enormous environmental and economic benefits of grasscycling."
"Lawn debris accounts for about 20 percent of all material deposited in landfills, and grass clippings make up half of that."
"Grasscycling is a simple and effective way to help conserve landfill capacity," according to Peccorini. "Plus, healthy turfgrasses cool and clean our environment."
"While an impetus for recycling grass clippings is saving the environment, communities adopting a grasscycling program are saving money," said Peccorini. "When you grasscycle, you avoid collecting, bagging, and disposing of clippings."
"There are times when grasscycling is difficult because of rapid grass growth or wet weather," Peccorini continues "Switching to a mulching mower allows you to mow under almost all conditions. You can hardly tell the diffference between mulching and bagging."
"Then there are times when you can't or shouldn't leave clippings on the groound. Clippings can be collected and either be used as mulch around trees, or as compost. The compost can be in an area of the client's property, at the contractor's site, or at a municipal composting facility."
"Grasscycling is for everyone. And it can be practiced on any healthy lawn as long as proper turf management guidleines are followed. It makes good common sense, is benficial to the environment and saves time and money."