Grass clippings make great fertilizer.
Believe it, said Tom Ford, a Carroll County Cooperative Extension Service agricultural and horticultural adviser.
Mr. Ford and county officials will begin spreading the word about grass clippings next month in a lawn care program called "Don't Bag It."
The program will encourage Carroll countians to leave grass clippings on their lawns instead of taking the clippings to landfills, and will offer residents a chance to win a mulching mower worth about $400.
Yesterday, the county commissioners voted unanimously to spend up to $5,900 to participate in the "Don't Bag It" program this summer.
Many people do not realize that grass clippings contain 4 percent nitrogen, 2 percent potassium and .5 percent phosphorus, Mr. Ford said.
By leaving the clippings on their lawn, residents can save money on fertilizer and save space in the landfill, he said.
The program's organizers will select one municipality and one housing development, in different parts of the county, to participate in the program this year, said Micki Smith, deputy director of administrative services. The organizers plan to expand into the entire county next year and hope to have four mulching mowers to give away, she said.
The commissioners banned yard waste from being buried at the landfills May 1. Residents may take yard waste to the landfills for composting and receive mulch free in return.
Carroll County must reduce the amount of waste dumped in landfills because landfill space is scarce and expensive. County Recycling Manager Vinnie Legge said national statistics show that 17 percent of municipal waste is yard waste, but statistics on yard waste in Carroll County landfills are unavailable.
Elise Clark, a horticulture assistant at the Cooperative Extension Service, will coordinate the "Don't Bag It" program, which was developed in Texas, Mr. Ford said. Ms. Clark will visit the two communities that are selected once a week from July to September to distribute information, visit homes to look at lawns and offer advice.
"I want her to convince them to leave the clippings on," he said.
If residents won't try that, then she'll talk to them about composting, he said.
Ms. Smith suggested asking mayors of the county's eight municipalities, at a scheduled meeting with the commissioners June 9, if they want to participate in the program. If more than one town wants to participate, the names will be put in a hat and one will be drawn, she said.
Then, a development in a different part of the county will be chosen by the officials, she said.
Mr. Ford said he will ask local businesses to contribute a mulching mower and about $200 worth of fertilizer for use in the program. The county will pay $3,500 for Ms. Clark's salary and $1,400 for promotional T-shirts.
The county's contribution will come from money that had been budgeted for recycling in the solid waste enterprise fund, said Comptroller Eugene C. Curfman.
The Cooperative Extension Service will donate $2,000 toward the project by providing 2,000 copies of its seven-page fact sheet, "Effective Lawn Care with Reduced Pesticide and Fertilizer Use."
A resident doesn't have to have a mulching mower, which cuts grass more finely than a regular mower, to leave the clippings on his lawn, Mr. Ford said.
Mr. Ford said many people let their grass get too tall and then cut it very short, which makes it susceptible to weeds and crab grass.