Recycling and reusing your yard waste can really help reduce waste in our landfill and make your garden and lawn beautiful and healthy in the process. Composting and “grasscycling” may not come to mind when you think about waste reduction and recycling, but they should. Yard Waste is one of the largest categories of waste. It makes up more than 13% of the total trash generated nationally as well as Prince William County.
Grasscycling is a simple and natural approach to lawn care. Grass clippings are left on the lawn after mowing to decompose quickly, releasing valuable nutrients back into the soil. Grasscycling has many benefits: it saves time, money and the resources needed to pick up and handle the clippings for composting or landfilling. When practiced in conjunction with proper lawn management, grasscycling can reduce water and fertilizer requirements, mowing time, and disposal costs.
Grass clippings are 75% to 85% water. When you mow regularly, they quickly decompose and release nutrients to fertilize the lawn. The nitrogen contained in grass clippings almost equals the recommended application rate for healthy turf (5 pounds of nitrogen per 1000 square feet per year). While some of this nitrogen is lost through the decomposition process, grasscycling can have the overall impact of reducing fertilization requirements by 25% or more. This saves money and benefits the environment.
Any lawnmower can grasscycle! All you need to do is remove the bag! However, if your mower does not have a safety flap that covers the opening where the bag fits into the chute, or a plug for the chute, contact your local retailer to purchase a retrofit kit. Do not compromise your mower’s safety systems.
Don’t worry, grass clippings do not cause thatch. Thatch is a tightly intermingled layer of living and dead stems, leaves and roots of grass that develops between the green grass and the soil surface and is caused by short, frequent watering. So, water your lawn infrequently (weekly) and deeply (six to eight inches). Water your lawn during the cooler parts of the day, like in the early morning or late afternoon, to reduce water loss due to evaporation. However, avoid watering too late in the day, when the grass is unable to dry off because grass invites diseases.
To find out more about grasscycling, mowing height, watering, lawn management, etc., visit the Prince William library, internet sites like Virginia Cooperative Extension, or other information resources.
Another good recycling technique for your lawn and garden is composting. Composting recycles waste to create a valuable soil amendment. Instead of bagging up leaves and grass clippings to be discarded in the landfill, compost them. Compost is one of the most valuable resources for beautifying your landscape, and it is virtually free. The leaves you rake, the grass you mow, and the branches you trim are some of the ingredients you can use to make compost. Finished compost is dark and has a pleasant smell. It is produced when organic matter — such as garden, lawn, and kitchen waste — is broken down by bacteria and fungi. Use compost throughout your landscape: dig it into gardens and flower beds, add it to the soil when renovating your lawn, or put it through a sieve and use it in potting soil.
Special Composting Event and Paper Shred
To learn more about yard waste composting attend the Prince William County Compost Awareness Day event on Saturday, May 4 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Balls Ford Road Yard Waste Compost Facility, 13000 Balls Ford Road, Manassas. The compost event, hosted by the Prince William County Solid Waste Division is free to the public and a free paper shred service for area residents will also be held.
Get tips and techniques on composting from WTOP’s “Garden Guru” Mike McGrath, the local Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners and Prince William Soil and Water Conservation District. Keep Prince William Beautiful volunteers and Future Farmers of America from Brentsville High School will also have displays and materials to share. Plus, there will be an exhibit that shows compost in various stages and a composted grass display. However, attendees don’t have to wait to experience the benefits of using compost because $5 discount coupons good on a truckload of compost or mulch will be available. The coupon may be used from May 4 through June 30. Residents may also purchase an affordable backyard compost bin kit to get their own composting project going.
For more information on Compost Awareness Day and the free paper shred event visit www.pwcgov.org/trashandrecycling or call 703-792-4670.