For Immediate Release
April 16, 2007

KDHE Office of Communications, 785-296-0461

Mulch Mowing and Composting Recommended by KDHE

Earth Day is April 22

How would you like to save time working in your yard and help the environment at the same time? Are you tired of lugging heavy bags of grass clippings or leaves to the curb? As Earth Day approaches on April 22, you might want to consider mulch mowing or composting, especially if you answered “yes” to any of these questions.

“If every Kansas homeowner mulch mowed or composted grass and leaves, we could stop hundreds of thousands of tons of waste from going into landfills each and every year,” said Bill Bider, director of the KDHE Bureau of Waste Management.

What is mulch mowing? It simply means mowing without a bag attached to your mower – almost all mowers can be used this way. The nutrients and water in the grass clippings will help fertilize and water your lawn. To allow grass and other plants to thrive, no more than about a fourth to a third of the leaves should be mowed at a time.

When the grass is too tall or wet for mulch mowing or there is a heavy covering of leaves, backyard composting is a good answer. Composting speeds up the natural break down of organic materials, and is a more natural approach to lawn care than fertilizing. Compost supplies lawns with organic matter, micronutrients, and active microbes that commercial fertilizers do not contain. Finished compost will have an earthy smell, and be dark brown to black in color.

If composting is not feasible, grass clippings and leaves can be used for mulch around plants and trees in your yard and garden. When used in the garden, grass should be placed in a layer 1-3 inches thick, to keep down weed growth and help retain moisture. Leaves used for mulch can be placed in slightly thicker layers, but they work better if they are ground first with a leaf shredder. At the end of the growing season, the mulch can be incorporated into the soil for next season.

Some communities have a central composting site for residents to drop off their yard materials, and most of these allow residents to pick up finished compost for very little or no charge. For more information on back yard composting, the Kansas State University publication “Making and Using Compost at Home” is available through your local county extension office. Or, ask your local county extension or horticultural agent.