It’s unimaginable to many Chicagoans today that only 25 years ago, we put our grass clippings into plastic garbage bags. Those bags went out to the curb on pick up days, to be dumped in the same place as all the other trash. Talk about being environmentally unfriendly!
Many people still bag their clippings, which now go into biodegradable paper bags to be picked up separately and composted. That’s a big step in the right direction towards reducing waste, but there’s always room for improvement. In this article, we’re going to discuss the benefits of letting your grass clippings fall right back into the lawn they came from. Call it mulching, call it grasscyling, or call it being too lazy to bag your yard waste… the end result is environmentally-friendly, and saves a lot of time and money too.
Grass clippings contain nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium – the very same nutrients we’re paying for when buying a bag of grass fertilizer. Studies have indicated that home owners can reduce their yearly fertilizer costs by 30 to 50 percent, simply by letting those clippings fall right back where they came from. But don’t take our word for it, even fertilizer manufacturers likes Scotts tout the money-saving benefits of grasscyling on their websites.
Since we’re on the topic of saving money: here in the Chicago suburbs, many of us pay extra for biodegradable bags or yard waste stickers. My township requires a $2 sticker on every bag, which would cost me between $6 to $10 per weekly mowing. That’s at least $100 per year to put grass in bags and have it hauled away.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THATCH?
If you’re concerned that grasscyling will result in thatch build up… don’t be. Thatch is not the result of grass clippings; it’s the result of build up of a tough, fibrous material called lignin that is present in roots and stems. The grass clippings themselves are 90% water and decompose very quickly. But problems arise when we wait too long to cut the lawn, especially when clippings are wet. Long, wet clippings have a nasty habit of clumping together, forming a matte that acts like mulch, blocking out sun and air circulation below, and slowing the decomposition process.
– Mow when the lawn is dry. As mentioned before, wet clipping clump together and cause problems.
– Take a little off the top. Mowing more frequently and cutting only the top 1/3 of the grass works best. If you’re waiting too long, and cutting off more than 1/3 of the grass with each mowing, you’re putting down too much grass too quickly for Mother Nature to process efficiently.
– Use sharp blades. Dull blades do more ripping than cutting, which is bad for grass.