Many people treat their lawns like a "crop:" they (over) water and
(over) fertilize their lawns to encourage excessive growth. The "harvested
crop" (grass clippings) is then bagged and disposed. Proper mowing,
watering, and fertilizing practices result in more moderate turf growth, yet
still produce a healthy, green lawn. Grasscycling can be practiced on any
healthy lawn as long as the following turf management guidelines are followed.
Proper mowing is required for successful grasscycling. It is best to cut grass when the
surface is dry, and keep mower blades sharp (dull blades can shred grass and
create a potential entryway for disease). Follow
the "1/3 rule:" mow the lawn often enough so that no more than 1/3 of the length
of the grass blade is removed in any one mowing. Proper mowing will produce short
clippings that will not cover up the grass surface. You may have to cut the lawn more
frequently, or double cut, when the lawn is growing fast, such as in the spring, but much
less when the turf is growing slowly. Additionally, in many areas of California, raising
the mowing height in the summer encourages deeper roots and protects grass from drought
and heat damage.
You can grasscycle with most any mower. Refer to your owner's manual or
contact a local lawnmower dealer to learn if you can safely grasscycle with your
existing mower. You may need to purchase a retrofit kit, and your mower dealer
can assist you in selecting the correct one. Mulching or recycling mowers make
grasscycling easy by cutting grass blades in to small pieces and forcing them
into the soil. You may also want to consider purchasing an electric mulching
mower to reduce air pollution.
Turfgrasses vary in their need for water. Most grasses in California need about 1 inch
of water every 5 to 7 days in the growing season and much less during slow growth months.
Lawns watered too frequently tend to develop shallow root systems which may make them more
susceptible to stress and disease. Deep, infrequent watering produces a deeper, extensive
root system which enables turf to resist disease and stress. Over-watering not only is
wasteful, it also causes lawns to grow faster and requires more mowing. The best
time to water is early in the morning, as less water is lost due to evaporation.
Try to avoid watering in the evening because prolonged damp conditions may
encourage disease development.
Check your irrigation systems regularly to avoid water runoff or over-spraying,
especially if the lawn is on a slope. Look for broken, tilted, or clogged
sprinkler heads, and adjust sprinkler heads to ensure even coverage. Remember to
change your irrigation timer seasonally to match the water needs of the turf.
Contact your local water agency for information and assistance on irrigation
Proper fertilization is essential in maintaining a healthy lawn. However, over-fertilization can weaken a lawn by causing excessive and succulent top growth. For
moderate, even growth, use a combination of fast acting fertilizers (ammonium nitrate,
ammonium sulfate, or urea) and slow release nitrogen sources such as sulfur-coated urea,
urea formaldehyde, IBDU or organic fertilizers. Avoid using large quantities of fast
acting fertilizers. These fertilizers produce very fast growth for short periods.
Check with your local University of California Extension Office to determine the fertilization rates for your grass
type. Regardless of the grass type and its fertility needs, as a general rule, it is
better for the lawn to apply smaller quantities of fertilizer more
frequently rather than larger amounts less frequently.