disposal costs have dramatically increased, and some landfills no
longer accept grass clippings, many individuals and governmental
agencies are seeking alternatives for disposal of clippings. During
the maximum grass growing period, the municipal refuse load in some
New Jersey suburban communities may contain nearly one-third grass
clippings. Collected clippings become anaerobic rather quickly because
of their high demand for oxygen. After becoming anaerobic they emit
very unpleasant odors. Therefore, grass clippings (in quantity)
are difficult to handle and to process.
From our own
experience with the handling and disposal of grass clippings and
discussions with others, such as lawn care professionals, we suggest
considering the following methods to reduce landfilling:
LAWN - if possible
It is desirable
to leave grass clippings uncollected on the lawn so that they are
recycled, contributing to soil organic matter and supplying part
of the fertilizer needs of the lawn. Adopt a mowing schedule to
keep clippings short enough to filter through growing grass and
not remain as a mat on top of the lawn.This usually requires mowing
two times per week during the heavier growing periods.
experience indicate that only 1/4 of the grass length should be
removed during mowing. Never allow the lawn grass to double its
height between mowings. This approach not only eliminates collection
and disposal problems, but also can contribute to improvement of
a cause of thatch in lawns. Rather, thatch is formed primarily from
a dense accumulation of grass roots and steamy material.
can be used as a garden mulch. To minimize any tendency to protect
slugs, clippings should be dried in the sun for a day prior to being
used in this way. Clippings can be spread on garden soil to check
weed growth, reduce soil spattering, moderate soil temperatures,
etc. As a precaution, do NOT use grass clippings from herbicide
treated lawns until after two grass cuttings have been made.
serve as a source of organic matter for soil improvement when incorporated
into the garden.
can be composted, particularly when incorporated into a backyard
leaf compost pile. However, grass has a high nitrogen content, a
much higher demand for oxygen than leaves, and a tendency to mat,
thereby greatly reducing the passage of oxygen. Composting piles
containing grass clippings thus readily become anaerobic. This,
in turn, can produce strong, unpleasant odors. These odors are particularly
noticeable when the pile is disturbed.
Because of these
problems, grass clippings should not be composted alone, but rather
mixed with composting leaves. The partially decayed leaves which
now (6-9 months after leaf fall) have a low demand for oxygen, will
serve as a bulking agent permitting more oxygen to reach the grass.
Grass, which is high in nitrogen, will provide a more rapid decomposition
of the remaining leaves as long as it remains under aerobic conditions.
Grass clippings will also contribute to a better end product (higher
nitrogen content) than that obtained from composting leaves alone.
One must be aware, however, that an excess of damp grass in the
pile will soon become anaerobic, produce very unpleasant odors,
and reduce the rate of decomposition. The objective is to keep the
compost can be used as a soil amendment, as a mulch for gardens,
flower or shrub beds, or as a potting medium.
Some grass clippings
can be incorporated into a municipal leaf composting operation.
However, problems that may be experienced with backyard grass composting
could be greatly magnified at a municipal facility. Even grass stored
by lawn maintenance workers for 1 day or less in the back of a pick-up
truck may emit very unpleasant odors when being unloaded. Research
is continuing on this practice.
The amount of
grass clippings can be reduced by avoiding excessive lawn fertilizing
and watering. Neither should be reduced to the point where the lawn
deteriorates. Using a fertilization program in which major emphasis
in fertilizing the lawn is in the fall season rather than in the
spring can be effective, not only in reducing the amount of clippings
produced, but also in contributing to a better lawn. Assistance
with these procedures may be obtained from the Rutgers Cooperative
Extension office in your county. The telephone number appears under
County Government in the directory.
and watering above the requirements of the grasses may be more detrimental
than beneficial to the lawn. One of the effects is increased production
of clippings. Judicious and proper use of fertilizer can provide
an attractive lawn with a reduction in the costs, effort, susceptibility
to disease, and amount of clippings produced.
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