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What to Do With Grass Clippings

Don't throw those grass clippings away! They're cheap and nourishing mulch for your lawn.

It's a question we all face when mowing the grass: Should I bag my clippings or leave them on the lawn? In most cases, the answer is easy. Recycle the grass clippings by leaving them on the lawn. Doing so will not only save you time and energy, but will also return valuable nutrients to the lawn.

Simple Guidelines

When recycling grass clippings by leaving them on your lawn, there are few things to keep in mind.

  • Keep your mower blade sharp.
  • Avoid mowing when the grass is wet.
  • Mow regularly at the recommended cutting height for your type of grass. If the grass gets too long and mowing at your normal cutting height will remove more than 1/3 the length of the grass blades, raise the height on your mower. Mow once at the raised cutting height, then again in a different direction at the normal height.

Benefits of Leaving Clippings in the Lawn

They provide free lawn food. The most important thing you can do for your lawn is to feed it regularly, and grass clippings contain the same beneficial nutrients (like nitrogen and potassium) as lawn food, though in smaller amounts. Overall, grass clippings can provide a portion of the annual nutrient requirement for your lawn.

Less work for you. In addition to recycling nutrients back into the soil, leaving the clippings will cut down on your mowing time by relieving you of the chore of emptying the grass catcher and hauling bags of clippings out to the curb. It may also help keeping your clippings out of the landfill, depending on how your town handles yard waste.

Things to Keep in Mind

Clippings don't cause thatch. Contrary to a popular lawn myth, leaving clippings on the lawn does not cause thatch, which is a layer of partially decomposed grass-plant parts between the soil and live grass. Grass clippings are mostly water, so as long as you mow regularly at the right height, they will break down and disappear rapidly.

When to bag grass clippings. There are some circumstances when collecting your grass clippings is warranted. If you see signs of lawn disease, pick up the clippings to avoid spreading the problem. Grass clippings can also be collected for use in a compost pile or as mulch, unless you recently applied a weed control product to the lawn. Some people choose to bag their grass clippings for aesthetic reasons or to keep the clippings from being tracked into the house. In most cases, though, regular mowing at the proper height will avoid clumps that detract from a lawn's appearance and will keep the clippings small enough to filter down into the lawn.