Lawn Care Tips: What to Do With Grass Clippings

Everybody knows that proper lawn maintenance and mowing gets you the type of grass that makes sitting outside in the summer irresistible. But what should you do with the grass clippings after mowing? Bag them up? Leave them on the lawn? Start a compost pile? These lawn mowing tips about grass clippings will help clear everything up so you can get back to enjoying your lawn.

What Are Grass Clippings?

Grass clippings are the cut grasses that are left behind—or captured in a grass catcher—by your mower when you cut your lawn. Grass clippings are short when you mow your lawn following the “one-third” rule (never mow more than one-third height off of your grass in a single mowing session). If you neglect your mowing responsibilities, grass clippings can be longer.

Should You Leave Grass Clippings on Your Lawn?

As long as you are following the “one-third” rule for mowing frequency, the short grass clippings left behind will easily filter through your lawn down to the soil, where they’ll rapidly decompose. Also called “grasscycling,” leaving clippings on your lawn will help your soil become more rich and fertile.

Problems with grasscycling typically arise when lawns are infrequently mowed, leaving clippings that are too long. This can smother the turf surface, meaning sunlight can’t get through to the grass below. In these instances where you can still see grass clippings on the lawn, you have a few options: Either mow the lawn again to cut the clippings down to size, rake and bag the clippings, or use a grass catcher on your mower.

The Benefits of Grasscycling 

Whenever possible, you should always return grass clippings to your lawn. This is an environmentally friendly and responsible practice that:

  • Provides lawns with nutrients and fertilizer
  • Adds organic matter to the soil
  • Reduces landfill waste
  • Saves energy on transportation costs
  • Adds water to your lawn (clippings are 75% to 85% water)
  • Keeps your lawn greener and healthier

The exception here would be to avoid using clippings that have been recently treated with herbicides for ornamental or vegetable mulch. Return clippings to the lawn for at least two mowing sessions following application.

Do Grass Clippings Add to Thatch?

Grasscycling doesn’t contribute to thatch buildup. Thatch is mainly made up of turf grass roots, crowns, rhizomes and stolons that haven’t decomposed. These plant parts decompose slowly, whereas grass clippings decompose quickly.

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