We all love healthy lawns in our compounds or places of work. Of course, a healthy lawn requires regular maintenance. And after each mowing session, you will be left with piles of grass clippings.
People who are new to lawn maintenance often ask me what to do with grass clippings after they are done mowing, which is why I decided to write this article.
If your lawn is free of insects and diseases, you should leave grass clippings on the lawn after mowing. The clippings can help you to minimize loss of water through evaporation, add nutrients to the soil and protect the grass blades from scorching sun rays. Moreover, they are rich in nitrogen and therefore will serve as natural fertilizer hence saving you money on commercial fertilizers.
Of course, every situation and lawn is different so the right course of action will change depending on the height of the grass, possible weed infestation, and prevailing weather conditions. Read on and find out what you should (or can) do in every situation.
Should You Pick Up Grass Clippings?
Generally, you should not pick up grass clippings because they are beneficial to your lawn in many ways. When they decompose, they supply organic fertilizer to the soil hence keeping your lawn nourished and green. The clippings are rich in nitrogen and will save you money and time as they decay and are absorbed naturally into the soil.
In dry conditions, clippings form a mulch on the lawn hence preventing excessive loss of water from the soil through evaporation and from the blades through transpiration. The mulch also regulates the amount of heat penetrating the grass blades hence keeping them succulent.
However, if your grass is overgrown, you should pick up grass clippings to reduce the pressure they exert on the healing grass.
Other reasons for picking up clippings include:
- Having many weeds in the grass. If the weeds mature, their seeds will fall off and germinate hence multiplying more.
- Curb the spread of diseases. If the trimmed grass is infested with disease, leaving the clippings on the grass blades may lead to the spread of the disease throughout the lawn.
- Prevent them from suffocating the grass beneath. Especially during the rainy season when they absorb a lot of water and become heavy.
What Happens if You Leave Grass Clippings?
When you leave grass cuttings on your lawn, they decompose and supply nutrients to the soil. Research has shown that decomposing grass cuttings supply up to 25% of the fertilizer requirements of the lawn. Moreover, they have high nitrogen levels and protein content hence keeping the grass healthy.
In addition, the grass cuttings insulate the grass and the soil underneath against extreme temperature variation. They prevent hot rays from the sun from reaching the soil and when it is cold, they trap warm air which regulates soil temperatures.
Microorganisms, worms, and insects play a crucial role in breaking down organic matter into nutrients before they are absorbed by the grass. Grass cuttings provide shelter to these organisms hence improving soil fertility. Clippings reduce thatch build-up which hinders the development of the roots in the grass.
Do Grass Clippings Cause Weeds?
Grass clippings do not cause weeds; on the contrary, they suppress the germination and growth of weeds. A layer of clippings on your lawn prevents sun rays from reaching the soil to keep it warm and ideal for germination.
As they decay, they “burn” the weeds beneath them causing them to decompose. This prevents further growth of the weeds and in turn increases soil fertility.
As the clippings supply nutrients to the grass, they boost the grass’s thickness through root development. This way, a thick layer of grass develops which prevents the sprouting of weeds from the seeds in the soil.
There are a few exceptional cases where grass clippings can trigger the sprouting and growth of weeds:
- Grass cuttings that contain a lot of already mature weeds which spread seeds on the lawn. If the weather conditions are favorable, the seeds will germinate and multiply.
- Cutting the grass too short exposes the soil and removes the grass cover hence allowing for weeds to thrive.
To prevent the spread of weeds after mowing, you should bag or remove the clippings and dispose of them if they are weed infested. Another great option is to pull out the weeds by hand before mowing.
Where to Dump Grass Clippings
There are many ways to get rid of grass clippings, some are economical while others are not. The method you choose to dump clippings should be beneficial to you or your lawn (preferably both). Here are some of the most popular options:
Do you love growing your vegetables and food? If you do, clippings are a good source of nutrients for your homegrown veggies. They contain essential minerals and micronutrients such as potassium, phosphorus, and amino acids which act as building blocks of healthy plants in your kitchen garden.
Use Them as Mulch
Grass cuttings offer a cheap alternative to commercial mulch. They not only conserve soil moisture in your garden but as I mentioned earlier, they also act as a natural fertilizer to the soil hence saving you the expenses of buying commercial fertilizers.
As the grass cuttings decay, the nutrients dissolve in water forming nutritious liquid food for your plants. This type of mulch is ideal for raised nursery beddings that only contain a limited amount of nutrients.
Grass clippings are a good feed for livestock. They provide essential nutrients to your animals such as potassium and phosphorus.
When I was a kid, my grandparents always had chickens in their backyard. After each mowing session, my grandpa would dump the clippings next to the chicken coop and the hens always made short work of it. So this is definitely something I can personally vouch for.
Can I Throw Grass Clippings in the Garbage?
You should avoid throwing grass clippings in the garbage for two reasons. First, many states do not allow that in the first place and secondly, grass decomposes fast and therefore you should utilize it. After reading this article, I’m sure you have learned at least a few options that you can use at home.
Furthermore, many garbage collecting companies prohibit throwing clippings in the garbage due to transportation costs, and if they find out they (or the local authorities) may even fine you.