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Should Grass Clippings Be Left On The Lawn?

should grass clippings be left on the lawn
Every time one mows their lawn, they end up with grass clippings all over the place. Whether to rake clippings or leave them on the lawn – is one of the frequently asked questions among gardening communities.

The grass clippings of less than 1 inch (2.5 cm) can be left on the lawn. The only time you should bag the lawn clippings is if the grass is wet, infested with a disease, and contain thick clumps. Clippings decompose rapidly and provide nutrients to the lawn, especially nitrogen, and help the soil retain moisture. 

The following article discusses the pros and cons of recycling grass clippings on the lawn. You will learn about the specific conditions when not to leave clippings on the lawn and more likewise topics.

What To Do With Grass Clippings?

Dead grass clippings can either go into a bag or back onto your lawn. There is no one right way, though. How you choose to deal with the grass clippings depends on your personal preference and certain lawn conditions.

Leaving clippings on the lawn is a popular choice among lawn owners due to the many benefits.

However, we suggest weighing the pros and cons of both options and then deciding for yourself. This way you can find what’s more ideal for you, instead of going with the choice ‘internet peoples’ believes is right.

The Benefits of Leaving Grass Clippings on The Lawn

Grass clippings hold nutritional value, so leaving them on the lawn to decompose is usually beneficial.

However, excessively long clippings in thick clumps may shade the grass underneath, causing it to turn yellow. Therefore, as a rule of thumb, grass clippings of an inch or less are best left on the lawn. If you see any larger clumps, make sure to disperse them.

If you are wondering in what ways leaving grass clippings may help your lawn:

Natural Fertilizer to the Lawn

Cut grass, as it decomposes, returns nutrients to the lawn, thereby reducing your dependence on chemical fertilizers. According to Bob Mann, an agronomist with the National Association of Landscape Professionals, clearing clippings removes as much as one-third of the fertilizer needed for healthy lawns.

Grass clippings primarily contain nitrogen, a micro-nutrient that gives grass its vibrant color and helps the blades to grow straight and strong. Dead grass also provides phosphorus and potassium to the soil, though in smaller amounts.

Organic Mulch

should grass clippings be left on the lawn
Grass clippings are a widely used mulch that provides cooling to the root system and helps retain moisture. To some extent, it reduces the irrigation needs of a lawn.

Avoid wet grass clippings as they mat together and reduce oxygen and moisture from getting down into the soil. Better to mow your garden when it’s dry.

Save Time and Money

Last but not least, when grass clippings are left on the lawn, you are essentially saving yourself time on raking and money on fertilizers.

The Downsides Of Leaving Grass Clippings on The Lawn

Below are the disadvantages of leaving grass clippings on the lawn:

  • Leaving grass clippings on the lawn may turn the property unsightly. If you prefer your lawn to be tidier, you may not like the idea of recycling dead grass over it.
  • Large piles of grass clippings on the lawn may smother the grass underneath, causing lawn damage.
  • Clippings are slippery.
  • Mow often to avoid long clippings.

When Not to Leave Clippings on the Lawn?

Although grass clippings are generally useful, you must avoid leaving them on the lawn when met with the following conditions:

  • Bag your clippings if your lawn is heavily infested with diseases, pests, or fungus. Leaving contaminated grass on the lawn will further spread the infestation, making the condition severe.
  • Mowing an excessively grown lawn will produce longer clippings. They take more time to decompose and block the sun from reaching the grass underneath. Therefore, piles of tall clippings are best be removed.
    If you have mowed your lawn in wet condition, do not leave clippings on the lawn. Wet grass clippings can clump together and smother your turf.
  • It’s wise to bag clippings if you have recently applied any herbicide to your lawn. To be on the safe side, many experts suggest removing grass clippings on the first mow after a heavy application.
  • Remove clippings that lands outside of your lawn. When left on your patio, deck, or walkway, they can cause a slippery surface.
  • Bag clippings from the gutter area to prevent them from getting inside storm drains. Too many grass clippings swept away to nearby water resources can pollute the water.

Bagging may seem extra work for you, but you can’t skip it if you want to keep your lawn neater. And if your yard falls under the above conditions, you have no option but to remove clippings.

Do Grass Clippings Cause Thatch?

When talking about recycling grass clippings, addressing thatch is a must. Contrary to popular belief, leaving clipping on the lawn does not contribute to increased thatch.

Thatch is a layer of decomposed organic material that builds between the soil surface and actively growing vegetation. Dead grass is composed of water and therefore decomposes easily. A thatch layer only accumulates when organic matter is produced faster than it is decomposed.

Tips On Mowing Your Lawn the Best Way

If you are adamant about leaving grass clippings on your lawn, consider the following:

  • It’s recommended to change your mower’s blade once a year. Keeping the blade sharp is of paramount importance.
  • Do not mow your lawn when it’s wet.
  • Regular mowing is crucial if you wish to keep clipping on your lawn. It is often recommended to not cut more than  1/3 of the grass height at a time. However, it’s not a rule. Depending on the variety of your grass, you might have a different recommended cutting height. Research suggests, most grass varieties across the nation thrive at 2.5 to 3 inches, except some in Florida.
  • Mowing in different directions keeps the grass from leaning or growing in one direction. For best results, change mowing patterns to 90 degrees every alternative week.

Related Questions

Q. How long does it take for grass clippings to decompose?

On average, it takes 3–4 weeks. Within two weeks, grass clippings start to break down and will no longer be visible to you.

Q. How often should a lawn be mowed?

Most lawn owners follow the rule of weekly mowing during the growing season, but depending on the grass variety, your lawn may need more or less cutting frequency. Seek help from a landscape expert to learn about the grass growing on your property.

Q. Can grass grow from clippings?

Clippings are dead grass and cannot regenerate unless you mix seeds with them.

Final Words

You can leave grass clippings on the lawn as long as your grass is disease-free and below 1 inch in length. Ultimately, there is no one right away to deal with lawn clippings. It’s a matter of personal preference and suitability.