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  • Writer's pictureKeep Yankton Beautiful

The Benefits of Lawn Recycling

With the spring growing season just around the corner, this is the beginning of home lawn care and property maintenance. In a time of uncertainty, one thing we know for sure is the grass will still grow! As a homeowner for 25 years and a property maintenance professional for almost as long, I’ve always had a competitive yardman mentality and have gone exclusively lawn recycle the past five years. Lawn recycling is the practice of mulching and allowing lawn clippings to naturally be put back into the soil as fertilizer. I would like to share my experiences with lawn recycling and address some common lawn care questions. We all know that getting outside to mow the lawn is great exercise, and getting some sun is healthy. By leaving the lawn clippings to naturally decompose, your lawn also benefits with one free fertilization a season. It also takes less time to mow your yard if you mulch the clippings as you go. Plus, mowing more frequently gives your yard, the “just mowed” look even when it’s been a few days. When you don’t recycle your grass back into your yard, you add additional time and requirements to the mowing process. When you collect and remove lawn clippings, you must continually stop to unload the mowing bag and fill cans or plastic bags with clippings; then you’ll need a truck or vehicle to haul the clippings for offsite disposal. You’ll be burning gas and time as you drive to and from the transfer station, plus the cost of materials, such as bags and extra cans for transportation and storage.

When it comes down to the details of ideal lawn care with the lawn recycling method, I wanted to address some frequently asked questions:

How often should I mow my yard? I recommend mowing every 3-4 days throughout the season. It’s still OK if you mow on a 5-7 day cycle, but you may have to rake or use a blower to disperse any grass clumps and to tidy up the sidewalks. Lawn clippings are primarily water, so within a few hours they begin to break down and disperse.

Does lawn recycling cause a thatch problem? No, it does not, since lawn clippings are primarily water. The main cause of excessive lawn thatch is the overuse of pesticides, which kills the insects and earthworms whose purpose is to naturally keep the soil aerated. A healthy layer of thatch (up to 1/2 inch) keeps weed seeds from germinating and the soil cooler during the summer months. If you have earthworms on your sidewalks after a soaking rain, that’s good news! Earthworms are natural aerators to your turf. Should I get my yard dethatched? I would not recommend this. Dethatching causes damage and stress to your turf, stirs up crabgrass, dandelion, and other weed seeds, which will require additional control throughout the growing season. Should I get my yard aerated? This is not necessary if you have an established earthworm population in your yard.

Is it important to sharpen the mower blade? Yes, it is important to keep the blade sharpened. A clean cut causes less stress on the plants. What height should I mow my yard? Pick what you personally like as a height and stick to that height the entire season. Do not raise or lower the height during the season. Adjusting the height lower will cause unnecessary stress to the plants. Should I fertilize? If you want an all-season green, then yes. Put down fertilizer 3-4 times and try to time it before a good rain. Remember, you are also getting a small amount of natural fertilizer throughout the season with the lawn clippings. If possible, give lawn recycling a try this year. But if you do choose to collect your lawn clippings, the city of Yankton has a drop off location at the Transfer station (Monday-Saturday 8:00 AM to 3:45 PM). Just South of the Transfer station is the evening and Sunday drop off location for grass clippings, tree branches, and single stream recycling. Keep in mind for the fall, if you have pumpkins, do not put them in your trash cans. Take pumpkins to the grass pile along with soft annuals and garden plant waste. Christmas trees can also be dropped off at the transfer station or at the tree branch section of the after-hours drop off location. If you have any questions about lawn recycling or any other community recycling programs, reach out to us at and we will help answer your questions. Wishing you a happy growing and mowing season from Keep Yankton Beautiful!

-Tom Nelson, Keep Yankton Beautiful

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