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Recycle Your Lawn!Grass Clippings

Why Does It Matter?

Grass clippings and bits of leaves that are blown into the street after lawn maintenance can be just as bad as other forms of litter. They clog up gutters and storm drains, and what doesn’t get stuck ends up in the nearest waterway (stream, pond, lake, and/or river) causing further problems. Any material (litter, grass clippings, leaves, etc.) in the storm drains reduces the amount of stormwater that can move through the drain system. Stormwater that should move quickly through the system may begin to back up; causing high water on roads or other, more hazardous, flooding situations. 


Yard wastes contain an abundance of nutrients from fertilizer and natural sources; however, sometimes too much of a good thing may be harmful. When these wastes decompose, the nutrients fuel excessive and uncontrolled growth of aquatic weeds and algae, and offset water conditions which can lead to fish kills. Always have your soil tested and only apply organic, slow-release, or water insoluble fertilizers. 


Herbicides and insecticides remain on the grass for some time, and some make the clippings unsuitable for mulch, so it's important to cut it and leave it when you use weed killers. Too much herbicide can burn the lawn, kill nearby plants, and contaminate waterways. Instead of repeated whole­ lawn application of weed killers, try a one-time pre-emergent weed killer and spot application if your lawn has only a few weeds.


Maintaining your Lawn

Grass ClippingsTo maintain your lawn properly, mow high and mow often, so that you only take off about 1/3 of the length of the grass. This will result in an attractive, neatly trimmed lawn, and clippings will disappear when they filter down to the soil. To shade the soil, cool the roots, and block weed growth, most lawns should be mowed 2-3” high especially in summer.

Controlling watering rates will help your lawn grow at manageable levels and still stay healthy. Don't water until the lawn is dry. If it turns blue-green or gray, or if footprints don't spring back, it's time to water. Provide about an inch at a time for clay soils. If managed carefully, water will soak four to six inches down, just right for building healthy root systems and greener growth.  Early morning watering conserves water by preventing evaporation.
So what should be done with clippings?

Leave clippings on the lawn and sweep any that fall on paved surfaces back onto the lawn where they will naturally decompose and fertilize. You can also rake and blow clippings into a compost pile. If you use a lawn maintenance company, please be sure they do not blow or dump yard wastes down the storm drain inlets.

Remember – there’s no treatment or filtering of stormwater between the drain on your street to the nearest body of water. Even though grass clippings, leaves, and soil are natural forms of debris, when they are put into the storm drain they can destroy the balance of our waterways. Storm drains are not garbage disposals!

Links and Resources

Mow it High - Let it Lie (Brochure)

Recycle Your Lawn (Flyer) - download MS Word or Adobe .pdf

Door knot hanger template

Sample Postcard (Reidsville or Burlington)



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