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Recycling Grass Clippings
The best way to recycle grass clippings is to let them fall back to the turf. The average lawn generates about 1,500 pounds of clippings each year.
People bag clippings because they believe they will cause thatch. Grass clippings are beneficial to the turf and do not cause thatch. Thatch is made of decaying resistant roots, runners and stems found close to the soil surface.
There are advantages of the letting the clippings fall back to the turf. It takes a third less time to mow and up to 25% of the fertilizer nutrients are returned to the turf. The amount of trash can be reduced by as much as 10% which means less space is taken up in landfills and fewer plastic bags are used.
Clippings consist of 85 to 90% water and nutrients. When clippings are left to dry on the turf, they shrink and settle into the grass and quickly breakdown.
The key to letting clippings fall back to the turf is not allowing the grass to grow too tall between mowing. Do not remove more than one-third of the total leaf length at any one mowing. When following the one-third rule a lawn mowed at three inches should be mowed when the blades reach a height of 4 ½ inches. Keep the blade sharp, so mowing will be more efficient.
Clippings should only be caught when the lawn gets away from you for one reason or another. Avoid over watering and excessive fertilizing to reduce clipping production.
Clippings can be returned to the lawn with or without a mulching type mower. The advantage of mulching mowers is that they chop the blades into finer particles. Traditional mowers that do not have mulching blades may require a more frequent mowing schedule to reduce clipping build up on the turf.
If you must catch your clippings avoid sending them to the landfill. Options for clipping disposal include composting, mulching, or community recycling centers. Home use of compost materials or soil mulch is easiest and most beneficial to the home landscape.
Also see: University of Missouri XPLOR Guidesheet g6958 - Grass
Clippings, Compost and Mulch: Questions and Answers
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