Residents asked to stop bagging grass Towson, Timonium homeowners given economic reason

March 31, 1998|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County officials are asking homeowners in Towson and Timonium to do the unthinkable: Mow their grass when it is several inches high and stop bagging.

For residents who take great pride in keeping their lawns emerald green and manicured, the request -- issued yesterday in the name of the economy and environment -- ranks as horticultural heresy.

"It won't have that fresh lawn look. It will look dried," worried Jean McGuire, 76, of Country Lane in Timonium who was watching Bill Baker cut her immaculate, quarter-acre parcel yesterday.

Ron Porterfield, who lives on an acre in Towson's upscale Hampton neighborhood, also isn't happy with the recommendation.

"First of all, I have a very expensive Honda mower that only has a bagger. It doesn't have a mulcher," he said. "I would cost me $150 to $175 for an attachment to keep from bagging."

But county officials say the practice of cutting grass when it is high and leaving the remains -- called grass cycling -- is better for the environment, the lawns and the county budget, cutting down on seasonal yard-waste pickups that start tomorrow.

"There's an awful lot of grass being set out," said Charles M. Reighart, the county's recycling coordinator. "The best way to deal with grass is to leave it on your own lawn. The grass itself provides nutrition to the lawn."

He said the Towson and Timonium ZIP codes of 21204, 21286 and 21093 were targeted because those areas "happen to have a lot of grass. It's not that the residents are necessarily into bagging grass."

Reighart said 20 percent of the grass clippings collected for county recycling come from eight collection routes in that central county sector of about 21,000 homes. But the routes comprise only a small portion of the single-family homes and town homes in the county.

"We're not doing anything to take away the collection," Reighart stressed. "We're just hoping they'll stop using bags for grass."

Experienced grass cyclers

Vivian and Kenneth Hare, of Longford North in Lutherville, are longtime grass cyclers, they say. Their plush green one-third of an acre is proof that the process works.

"We really haven't bagged in a while," said Vivian Hare, 76, who was sweeping scattered grass blades from the sidewalk yesterday while her husband, 80, pushed the mower back and forth. "We've been doing it for years for environmental reasons. It also means there's less plastic used for bagging."

Alternative to bagging

The Professional Lawn Care Association of America, based in Marietta, Ga., also supports leaving grass clippings on the lawn.

"Grass cycling is an alternative to dumping and bagging, and enriches the soil for a healthier lawn," said Michael Gaffney, a technical resource specialist for the group.

Good for environment

According to the lawn association, grass clippings, which are 85 percent water, decompose rapidly and return nutrients to the soil with no thatch build up.

"I'm for it," said Tom Moyer of Gorsuch Road in Timonium, whose lawn is the envy of the neighborhood. "It really makes your lawn look better."

Kathleen Beadell, president of the Greater Timonium Community Council, also is a mulcher, she said. But she acknowledges the county's initiative presents a dilemma to many homeowners.

"There's the pride of ownership in having a beautifully manicured lawn," Beadell said. "Some people are not comfortable with bits of grass around."

The county will be mailing postcards and other informational materials to residents to convince them of the benefits of grass cycling, Reighart said.

"It's a cultural thing," he said of residents' dedication to picture-perfect lawns. "We think we're doing something good by tidying up. But grass is just grass."

Pub Date: 3/31/98

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