To Bag or Not To Bag… is that really a question?

Kalie Larkin Expert Advice, Landscaping Leave a Comment

What to Do With Lawn Clippings

Well, summer is hypothetically upon us. With it comes the million and one outdoor chores that both my husband and I find oddly soothing. One of the chores we both enjoy is mowing our lawn. It is one of the few things in life that gives you instant gratification without the risk of putting you in jail or damaging you for life.  The one major question it brings is whether or not to bag the clippings or to leave them. After researching this I can say that the overwhelming answer is to leave the clippings wherever and whenever possible.

Why to Leave Lawn Clippings

  • Returns the nutrients to the soil in a slow release form so that you get more benefit out of your fertilizer applications. If you spend money on treating your lawn, whether by yourself or a professional company, then bagging your clippings is like picking up some of that hard earned money and throwing it in the trash.
  • Reduces waste sent to landfills. Yard waste is taking up a large portion of landfill space and the sad part is that it is 100 % recyclable.
  • It will take less time to mow your lawn if you do not have to worry about stopping to empty a bagging attachment.

Best Practice Techniques for Leaving Lawn Clippings

  • Avoid mowing when the lawn is wet or damp. Wet or damp clippings will have a tendency to clump together. These clumps form into a small mat which will harm the grass underneath by blocking sun/ water/ nutrients from reaching it.
  • Mow more often. This one is key! You only want to mow off a maximum of 1/3 of the grass blade at any one time. You will have to mow more often but it makes a big difference. By doing this you will only cut off the fleshy tip of the grass which is 75% water. These tips will be able to filter down and decompose very rapidly, they do not add to your thatch layer. Side Note: Thatch is made up of dead and living grass roots, stems and shoots. It only starts to build up when the turf produces organic debris faster than it can break down. When you cut more than 1/3 of your grass height you cut into the stalks of the grass. Grass stalks contain much more fiber, which takes longer to decompose and is the part that has the potential to add to your thatch layer.
  • Maintain sharp mower blades. Dull mower blades cause the grass to rip more than cut. This ripping causes the tips to brown and become unsightly as well as stunting the remaining grasses growth.

When to Bag Your Clippings

  • If there are any signs or suspicions of disease in your lawn. Mowing has the potential to spread some diseases from one part of your lawn to another. It is best to bag clippings until you have cleared up any spreadable problems.
  • When your lawn has gotten too long for you to be able to only remove 1/3 of the blade. In an ideal world you would raise your mower height, mow the lawn and then lower the height and re-mow in a different direction. But I’ll be honest, I don’t even see me doing this, especially not on a hot summer day!
  • Let’s face it, having lawn clippings tracked over your clean floors is not a happy thought. My dog and kids are really good at this!
  • If you have a good alternative use for them. Grass clippings make a wonderful mulch for between garden beds, as an organic matter in the beds themselves, also as a green or brown composting addition (depending on whether you let it dry out or not first), even as animal feed. Lawn clippings can contain a higher nutritional value for animals than many traditional hays. It is important to note to never feed animals grass clippings that have been treated without first checking the label of the products used.

Hopefully this clears up the question of “to bag or not to bag” for you. The important thing is to get out there and enjoy your lawn this summer. If it will stop snowing on us that is…

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