California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) 

Landscape Waste Prevention

Grasscycling: Frequently Asked Questions

Green highlighted words indicate definitions and links to the glossary section.

Does grasscycling cause thatch build-up?

No. Research has shown that grass roots are the primary cause of thatch, not grass clippings. Thatch is composed mainly of roots, stems, rhizomes, crowns, and stolons. These plant materials contain large amounts of lignin and decompose slowly. Grass clippings are approximately 80-85 percent water with only small amounts of lignin, and decompose rapidly. Some grasses such as Bermuda grass and kikuyugrass are more thatch-prone than others.

A small amount of thatch (approximately 1/2 inch) is actually beneficial to a lawn, providing insulation to roots and serving as a mulch to prevent excessive water evaporation and soil compaction. It may also create a cushioning effect for lawn play.

Does grasscycling spread lawn disease?

No. Improper watering and fertilizing are the primary cause of disease spread. If an accommodating environment for turfgrass disease is present, infestation will occur whether clippings are collected or not.

Will grasscycling make my lawn look bad?

No. If a lawn is properly mowed, watered, and fertilized, grasscycling can actually produce a healthier-looking lawn. It is important to cut the lawn frequently to produce small clippings that will fall between the standing blades and decompose quickly. However, if a lawn is not cut frequently enough and long clippings are left on the lawn, it may produce a "hay-like" look which can be unsightly.

Many golf courses and parks have practiced grasscycling for years. Ninety-eight percent of the residential participants in a grasscycling study conducted by Texas A&M reported that they will never bag their clippings again.

Are there alternatives to grasscycling?

Yes. Grasscycling is not feasible in every situation. Prolonged wet weather, mechanical breakdown of mowers, or infrequent mowing are situations where grass clippings should probably be bagged since an excessive volume of clippings may be generated. But do not throw the clippings away.

Grass clippings are an excellent addition to a backyard compost pile. Clippings can also be used as mulch to provide weed control and prevent moisture loss around flower beds, trees, and shrubs. Mulching with clippings should be avoided, however, if they are of an invasive variety, such as Bermuda grass, or if herbicides have been applied recently to the lawn.

Grasscycling Home Page

Last updated: May 10, 2011
Organic Materials Management http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/Organics/
Contacts: http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/Organics/Contacts.htm