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Grasscycling

Grasscycling means leaving grass clippings on your lawn as you mow instead of raking, bagging and leaving them at the curb. Mowing time can be reduced by 50 percent or more, saving you 25 to 30 minutes each time you mow, since the bagging and disposal of clippings is eliminated.  

A sizeable amount of waste sent to the landfill every spring and summer can be attributed to grass clippings. Grasscycling saves time, energy, money, and landfill space, plus you’re reusing a valuable soil builder - grass clippings! Grasscycling also saves money on your trash bill, since in Fort Collins, curbside trash bills are based on the volume of trash you throw away.

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! 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 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.

For tips on efficient lawn watering, as well as sprinkler rebates and audits, visit the City’s Water-Wise lawn care website.

The City also offers a Lawn Mower Rebate Program for “clean” lawn mowers, lawn mower recycling, and/or sustainable lawn care services.

Frequently Asked Questions

Research has shown that grass roots are the primary cause of thatch, not grass clippings. Thatch is composed mainly of roots, stems, rhizomes, crowns and stolon. These plant materials contain large amounts of lignin (wood) and decompose slowly. Grass clippings are approximately 80-85 percent water with only small amounts of lignin, and decay rapidly.

A small amount of thatch (approximately 1/2 inch) is beneficial to a lawn, providing insulation to roots and serving as a mulch to prevent excessive water evaporation and soil compaction. It may also create a cushioning effect for lawn play.

Diseases of turf grass occur when disease-causing spores contact susceptible grasses under ideal environmental conditions. Disease spores are present whether clippings are collected or not. Watering, fertilization, and sharpness of the mower blade have a much greater influence on the occurrence of disease than grasscycling.

Many golf courses and parks have practiced grasscycling for years. If a lawn is properly mowed, watered and fertilized, grasscycling produces a healthier-looking lawn. Frequent lawn mowing is important and produces small clippings that fall between the standing blades and decompose quickly. However, if a lawn is not cut frequently enough and long clippings are left, it may produce a "hay-like" look which can be unsightly.

All mowers can grasscycle -- no special equipment necessary. Simply remove your mower's collection bag. Mulching lawn mowers improve grasscycling and for the best results keep your mower sharp and mow when the grass is dry.

Grasscycling is not feasible for every situation. Prolonged wet weather, mechanical breakdown of mowers, or infrequent mowing are situations where an excessive amount of clippings may be generated. But don’t throw the clippings away! Grass clippings are an excellent addition to a backyard compost pile. Clippings can also be used as mulch to provide weed control and prevent moisture loss around flower beds, trees, and shrubs. Mulching with clippings should be avoided, however, if they are of an invasive variety, such as Bermuda grass, or if herbicides have been applied recently to the lawn.