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Physical Address: 215 N Mason St, Fort Collins, CO 80524
Mailing Address: PO Box 580, Ft. Collins, CO 80522-0580
Phone: (970) 221-6600
Fax: (970) 224-6177
Normal Business Hours: 8AM-5PM M-F

grasscycling logo Grasscycling Basics
It has been estimated that during the spring, summer, and fall, 75 tons of yard wastes go to the Larimer County Landfill each day. Of that, a sizeable portion is attributed to grass clippings. Every grass blade you leave behind will keep one grass blade out of the garbage truck. This helps conserve landfill space, reduce energy consumption, and assure the reuse of a valuable soil builder - your grass clippings! Significant quantities of water, fertilizer, and labor go into producing all those clippings, and it is a shame to see that all go to waste if the clippings are thrown away.
What is "grasscycling"?

Grasscycling is the natural practice of leaving clippings on the lawn when mowing. It is obvious how this practice can save resources like landfill space, but there are additional benefits as well. The clippings quickly decompose, returning nutrients to the soil. Grasscycling, in conjunction with the practice of reducing water and fertilizer inputs, can reduce mowing time in addition to disposal costs.

Many people treat their lawns like a "crop:" they (over) water and (over) fertilize their lawns to encourage excessive growth. The harvested "crop" (those grass clippings) is then bagged and transported to a landfill. What a waste! Proper mowing, watering, and fertilizing practices result in more moderate turf growth yet still produce a healthy, green lawn. Grasscycling can be practiced on any healthy lawn as long as responsible turf management guidelines are followed.

The nitrogen contained in grass clippings removed from a lawn almost equals the recommended application rate for healthy turf (about 5 pounds of nitrogen per year per 1000 square feet). While some of this nitrogen is lost through the decomposition of the clippings, leaving the clippings on the lawn by grasscycling can have the overall impact of reducing fertilization requirements by 15 to 25 percent or more. Similar savings on water use are possible.

Efficient lawn watering   watering lawn

What happens to water you put on your lawn? Water can be used by plants, evaporate from the soil or percolate down through the soil to the water table. The most efficient watering system for a lawn is to water it only when necessary. Two tests to check if it is time to water are the footprint method and the screwdriver test:

Footprint method: Walk across your lawn, if your footprints remain behind you it means that the blades of grass have low levels of water in their tissues. The longer your footprints remain the drier your lawn

Screwdriver test: Press a screwdriver into your lawn. If it is difficult to push in, the soil is dry.

If the soil is damp, there's no need to water - even if the surface soil looks dry. Over-watering not only is wasteful, it also causes lawns to grow faster and require more mowing. Lawns watered too frequently tend to develop shallow root systems which may make them more susceptible to stress and disease.

It is a good idea to regularly check irrigation systems for even coverage. To determine the rate at which your sprinkler system applies water to your lawn, place several small containers (empty tuna cans work great, and are just about two inches deep) in the area being watered. Run the system for 15 minutes, see if the containers fill evenly, then measure the depth of water in all of the containers and average them. Multiply the average by four to determine how much water is applied to the lawn per hour. Adjust sprinkler heads to avoid dry or soggy spots.

Typical lawns should receive at least one inch of water per week. When you do water, don't apply water too quickly. Heavy clay soil can only absorb about one-quarter inch of water an hour. That means that this type of soil should be watered more frequently with smaller amounts of moisture.

Finally, avoid watering during the heat of the day. Water early in the morning or in the evening. If you have an automatic sprinkler system, water during the night; our climate is so dry that night watering doesn't create problems unless you overdo it.

Fertilizing   fertilizer bags

Research has shown that most grasses only require a modest level of nitrogen for good color and controlled growth. As with water, too much fertilizer can be harmful and promotes faster growth. When you grasscycle you are returning nutrients to the soil. One season of grasscycling equals one application of fertilizer. A good schedule to follow is fertilize once in spring, again in fall and let the grass clippings fertilize through the summer. As with mowing, different grasses require different fertilizers so check with your local lawn and garden center to ensure the proper application. For a slower more unified growth consider using "slow-release" or "water insoluble" fertilizers. These are especially good for slopes, compact soil, and any other lawn where the potential for runoff is very high. Apply fertilizer when grass is dry. This prevents the foliage from being burned and allows the fertilizer to fall around the plants where it can be watered in.

Check with a local turf specialist to determine the fertilization rates for your grass type or check  information provided by Colorado State University Extension Office:

Fertilizing lawns in Spring and Summer
Fall lawn fertilization

Mowing guidelines mulching mower

Proper mowing is required for successful grasscycling. It is best to cut grass when the surface is dry (no drops of moisture on the grass), and keep mower blades sharp. Follow the "1/3 rule:" mow the lawn often enough so that no more than one-third of the grass blade is removed during a single mowing. Proper mowing will produce short clippings that will not cover up the grass surface. You may have to cut the lawn more frequently, or double cut, when the lawn is growing fast, such as in the spring, but much less when the turf is growing slowly.

You can grasscycle with most any mower. The mower collection bag can be removed to allow clippings to drop on the lawn. However, if your mower does not have a safety flap covering the opening where the bag fits into the chute, or a plug for the chute, contact your local retailer to purchase a retrofit kit. A bit of experimentation might be needed to keep clippings from clumping when using a conventional mower. Please be sure not to compromise your mower's safety systems. Mowing equipment should be well maintained. Sharpen blades after every third mowing, or, at the least, once a month.

Additionally, most lawnmower manufacturers have developed mulching or recycling mowers which cut grass blades into small pieces and force them into the turf. Mulching or recycling mowers make grasscycling easy. Studies have shown that seasonal mowing time can be reduced by 50 percent or more since the bagging and disposal of clippings is eliminated. Cost savings can even be realized in hidden ways. By not handling heavy bags of clippings, back injuries and other physical maladies can be avoided--a real savings on health care costs!

Clearly there are times when collecting the clippings is necessary, such as when there are excessive leaves on the turf, or when the grass is too wet. There are several brands of recycling mowers are available in Fort Collins to help you grasscycle. If you are thinking of replacing your mower soon, seriously consider purchasing a mower with grasscycling capabilities.

The preferred mowing height of Colorado turfgrass species is two and one-half to three inches. Grass plants undergo less stress when the amount of blade left on the plant can still function efficiently. The minimum height is two inches. Mowing grass to a height of less than two inches can reduce drought and heat tolerance, and cause a higher incidence of insect, disease and weed pest problems. Scalping is never recommended, nor is there any reason to change mowing heights during the year.

Clippings left on the lawn can be beneficial to the plants and save mowing time. Clippings break down quickly, which allows nitrogen and other nutrients to be recycled. Clippings can also encourage the growth of beneficial soil microorganisms. Studies show that it takes less time to mow more often and leave clippings on the lawn than to mow less often and catch and bag clippings for disposal.