One of the most basic and possibly mundane actions you have to perform on your lawn is to mow it. Every Saturday or Sunday you fire up the lawn mower, push it out into the yard, and begin the routine: push down, back, down, empty the bag, and repeat. Do you have to empty the bag, though? Do you have to bag the clippings at all? The topic is one that is debated on cul-de-sacs across America.
The truth is that there is a time to bag your clippings and a time not to bag them. You can avoid a lot of the time consuming work of bagging and emptying by educating yourself on the scientific reasoning behind mulching, while still keeping in mind that there are good times to bag your clippings.
You are already thinking that mulching or leaving clippings is bad for your lawn because it contributes to thatch. That is actually not true. Thatch, for the most part, is made up of dead or dying roots, leaves, and other slow-decomposing organic matter, but not grass. Your lawn clippings actually decompose at a fairly rapid rate, and will actually make your lawn more durable.
Clippings contain many of the same nutrients contained in the fertilizers you buy at the local gardening center. For every bag of clippings you haul away from your yard, you are taking with it a quarter pound of organic nitrogen.
Now, how much do you pay for organic nitrogen for your lawn? By simply mulching your clippings back into the lawn, you can save significantly on your fertilization costs. Imagine the money you would save if you just fertilized one less time per year.
Leaving your lawn clippings in the grass will also help to create a cushion under your lawn surface that is healthier than the thatch, but is enough to help maintain the lawns durability. The clippings will also help to keep your soil temperatures down and moisture in the soil where your grass can actually make use of it.
When to Bag
There are a lot of benefits to leaving your clippings in your lawn, or mulching them down, but there are actually reasons to bag your clippings from time to time as well. The most notable time is if you let the lawn get away from you.
Maybe you had to go out of town and let it go a week longer than you should have, got busy and didn’t get to it, or just were feeling lazy one week. No matter what the reason may be, if you are cutting more than an inch off of your lawn, you are creating fairly large clippings.
Large clippings of an inch or more may have trouble getting between the blades in your lawn and down to the soil where they can do any good. In that case, bag the clippings. You can still use them in a compost pile or for fertilizing other plants on your property, though. Just keep in mind that if your lawn has been recently treated with chemicals, that you should wait through two cuttings before using the clippings on any other plants.
The other reason to bag your clippings would be if you happen to have dandelions in your yard and they have gone to seed. In a perfect world, you would never have dandelions growing in your yard, but the truth is that not everyone has the time or desire to do what is necessary to keep them out completely. If you were to leave them in after going to seed and mowing them, you will, however, end up with many more dandelions than you had in the first place.
Traditionally, lawn clippings have been bagged and set out with the trash collection each week. However, the trend is certainly moving away from the bagging of lawn clippings. By leaving the clippings in the lawn, scientists have found that the clippings can reduce water evaporation, reduce lawn weary by adding a cushion, and create healthier grass by giving nutrients and maintaining cooler temperatures in the soil through hot summer days. By leaving your clippings in, except for in certain circumstances, you will be able to create a more self-maintaining lawn and save yourself money at the same time.