Grasscycling: The Greener Way to the Perfect Lawn

Ewing Township encourages residents to "grasscycle" when mowing their lawns

LawnmowerSpring has arrived and already we have begun to hear the roar of lawn mowers across town.  The Township of Ewing encourages residents to “grasscycle” when mowing the lawn, rather than bagging grass clippings for pickup.

What is Grasscycling?  Grasscycling is the natural recycling of grass by leaving clippings on the lawn when mowing. Grass clippings decompose quickly, returning valuable nutrients back into the soil.

“Grasscycling is a great way to save time and money while also conserving resources,” said Mayor Bert Steinmann. “It’s easy and you’ll save 20% -25% of your time because you won’t have to stop and empty your lawnmower bag; and spend less money for yard waste bags and fertilizer.”

The practice is most successful if you mow your lawn when the grass is dry and keep your mower blades sharp.  Be sure to follow the “1/3 rule”—mow often enough so that no more than 1/3 the length of the grass blade is cut in any one mowing. 

The Township Department of Public Works recommends that most Ewing lawns should be mowed 2.5-3.5” high, especially in the summer, to shade the soil, cool the roots, and block weed growth. 

While mulching mowers aren’t required, they help by cutting the clippings into fine pieces that slip easily down to the soil. Most new mowers are mulching mowers, and you can attach mulching equipment to your existing mower.

If you miss a week, or heavy rain causes fast growth, you have some choices.  Double Mow.  Set the mower higher than usual and cut no more than the top third of the grass. In a day or two, set the mower height down and bring the lawn down another 1/3 of its height. Continue this process until you reach the desired height. 

Alternatively, you can mulch heavy clippings into the garden bag or rake the clippings and apply them to your garden as mulch. Spread them an inch deep, to cool the soil, retain water, prevent erosion and compactions, and smother weed seeds.  Or, you can mix them with the soil.  New Jersey soils can be improved by adding organic matter. Added organic materials make heavy clay soils become more productive, and sandy soils retain more water.  An additional option is composting them.  Grass speeds up your composting but can cause odors and deplete oxygen if not properly managed. If you compost large amounts of grass, turn the pile often with a pitchfork.

“Grass clippings are a major part of New Jersey’s municipal solid waste stream,” continued Mayor Steinmann.  “As a Ewing resident, you are already helping to avoid air pollution and wasted resources by recycling. You can do more by reducing waste at the source.”

Controlling watering rates will help your lawn grow at manageable levels and stay healthy.  Don’t water until the lawn is dry. If it turns blue-green or gray, or if footprints don’t spring back, it’s time to water.  Water in the early morning to prevent evaporation and conserve water.  Provide about an inch at a time for clay soil, and half an inch for sandy soil. Place a few cans around the lawn and note how long it takes for that much water to collect.  Water deeply and infrequently to produce a deeper, more extensive root system.  Lawns watered too frequently develop shallow root systems that make them more susceptible to stress and disease.

Helping the environment can begin at home. Grasscycling allows you to make your personal contribution by: reducing yard waste, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers that cause toxic runoff that enters storm drains and pollutes creeks and rivers, and feeding your yard the natural way.

Visit the Ewing Township website for our Grasscycling pamphlet and information about our recycling practices.