Composting and Grass Cycling

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Composting…A Recipe for a Healthy Earth!

Organic materials make up between 25~30% of the waste stream.. Organics include items such as grass clippings, yard trimmings, leaves, food scraps, etc. Actually, most of these materials need not be considered waste at all. They can easily be transformed into a useful soil amendment through a process called composting.

What is composting? Composting is a biological process during which microorganisms, bacteria, and insects break down organic materials such as leaves, grass clippings, and certain kitchen scraps into a soil-like product called compost. It is a form of recycling, a natural way of returning needed nutrients to the soil.

Why compost? By composting kitchen scraps and yard trimmings on your own property, you can avoid the high cost of commercial collection and processing programs for these items. Composting is practical, convenient and is often easier: and cheaper than bagging these materials for shipment to a transfer station. Composting has many additional benefits. When you compost, you return organic
matter to the soil in a usable form. Organic matter improves plant growth by helping break heavy clay soils into a better texture, by adding water and nutrient-holding capacity to sandy soils and by adding essential nutrients to any soil. Improving your soil is the first step toward improving the health of your plants. If you have a garden, a lawn. shrubs or even planter boxes, you have use for compost.

How do I compost? Composting is easy. To compost successfully, you do not need any specialized equipment or a biology degree. You can compost in your own yard by saving yard trimmings and certain food scraps, preparing them properly and then placing them in a compost pile. Just follow these simple guidelines:

Step 1. Choose the right materials. Anything that was once alive will compost, BUT not everything belongs in a compost pile. In general, do not compost any foods containing animal fats or plants infected with disease.

vegetable scraps, citrus rinds
egg, peanut & nut shells
lettuce leaves, stalks, stems, vines
apple cores, fruit peels
wood ashes, leaves
horse & cow manure

meat, fish, fat, bones, poultry
vegetable oils
dog or cat manure, dairy products, plastic or synthetic fibers

Save Time and Money! Reduce Waste!
Did you know that a 1/2 acre lawn in New England produces over 3 tons or nearly 260 bags of grass clippings each year? Think of all the time, money and effort it would take to bag all those clippings. Why go through all that hassle when it’s really not necessary?

You can have a healthy green lawn by leaving grass clippings where they fall! It’s simple … grass clippings left on the lawn will decompose and act as a natural organic fertilizer. This allows you to reduce the amount of additional commercial fertilizer you need to apply. Your lawn will still be healthy and green because each time you mow, you will be returning valuable nutrients to the soil!

The key word is “less” ••• less fertilizer, less water, less work, and best of all, less waste! Recycling clippings back into the lawn requires less effort than disposing of them as waste. No one has to handle the clippings – not you, not your lawn care professional and not the waste management crew. You can reduce your mowing time by nearly 40% by not bagging, and spend less money on fertilizer and trash bags. And by not trashing grass, you’ll be doing your part for the environment by reducing waste!
If you follow these “Don’t Trash Grass” mowing, fertilizing and watering guidelines, not only will you have a heaithy lawn, but you’ll never have to bag grass clippings again!

Mowing Techniques & Tips

  • Any mower can recycle grass clippings. Simply remove the grass catcher! Ask your lawn mower dealer if a special safety plug or adaptor kit is needed to convert your mower into a “recycling” mower. You can also have a mulching blade installed.
  • Do not remove more than 1/3 of the grass blade in any single mowing. For example, if your lawn is kept at 2″ tall, it should not be allowed to grow higher than 3″ before it is mowed again.
  • Mow when the grass is dry.
  • Keep your mower blade sharp because dull mowers tear the grass blade, injuring the plant, and create a brownish cast to the turf.
  • If the grass gets just a bit too high, simply mow over the clippings a second time to further shred and scatter them.
  • If excessive growth occurs between mowings, raise the mower height, mow and then gradually lower it over a span of several mowings. This will help prevent shock to the plants.
  • When it’s time to replace your mower, consider buying a mulching, recycling, or a non-polluting reel mower. All of these do a good job of shredding and scattering grass clippings.

Fertilizer Application
Proper fertilizer application is important. And remember, when it comes to fertilizer, more is not better! Research shows that most grasses require only modest levels of nitrogen for good color and controlled growth. Too much fertilizer will make your lawn grow faster, resulting in more mowing and more clippings!
Apply fertilizer to your lawn in late April and again in September. If a third treatment is needed, apply in late May. Apply only 1/2 pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet of lawn at each application. To figure this out, simply divide 100 by twice the percentage of nitrogen (N) in the fertilizer. This will give you the application rate in pounds of fertilizer per 1000 square feet of lawn. For example:
For a given fertilizer N-P-K rating (%), Divide 100 by twice the % of Nitrogen(N) to determine the pounds of fertilizer to use per 1000 sq.ft.

  • 12-4-8 100 divided by 24 equals 4.11bs
  • 16-8-8 100 divided by 32 equals 3.11bs
  • 20-5-10 100 divided by 40 equals 2.51bs
  • 10-10-10 100 divided by 20 equals 5.01bs

For slower, more uniform growth, choose fertilizers containing sources of slow-release nitrogen such as methylene urea, ureaformaldehyde, sulfur coated urea, or IBDU. The bag may also read “water insoluble nitrogen” or “slow release nitrogen”. All are acceptable and will increase the amount of time the grass can use the nutrient.

Don’t worry about grass clippings contributing to thatch problems. Turf experts nationwide agree that clippings do not produce thatch because they are 80% water and decompose quickly. Rather, thatch is the accumulation of dead roots and stems and is most often caused by over fertilizing and over watering. A thatch layer of more than 1/2″ should be removed as a matter of healthy lawn maintenance.
Other uses for clippings

Compost clippings at home: Clippings are an excellent source of nitrogen for your compost pile. No more than 1/3 of the pile should be fresh clippings. Mix thoroughly with “brown” materials such as leaves or straw and turn the pile regularly to keep it well oxygenated and to prevent odors.

Use clippings as mulch: Apply dried grass clippings directly on the soil about 1 inch thick to reduce weeds, moderate soil temperature, and control soil spattering, erosion, run-off and evaporation. Avoid mulching with clippings which have been recently treated with herbicides. This can harm your plants. As a precaution, mulch with clippings from herbicide treated lawns only after two lawn mowings.

Incorporate clippings into garden soil
Mixing fresh grass clippings into the garden adds nutrients and organic matter which improves the texture and moisture retention properties of the soil. A two inch layer of grass can be turned into the soil to a depth of 6″ about once a month.

Alternative Landscapes
Consider planting ground covers such as English ivy, pachysandra, and periwinkle; increasing shrub beds; or growing a wildflower meadow as alternatives to turf grass. They look beautiful, don’t need mowing and will help reduce lawn maintenance and yard waste!

For More Information, Please Write to:
Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection Waste Management Bureau Recycling Program
165 Capitol Ave.
Hartford, CT 06106

Did you know - almost half of the food in the U.S. goes to waste - approximately 3,000 pounds per second!