Green Action Centre asked: If I leave grass clippings on my lawn, will they lead to thatch build-up?
The results are in, and Green Action Centre members have a variety of ways of maintaining their lawns. Many of you said, yes, you leave your grass clippings on your lawn most or all of the time. Terry and Adam confirm they have not had any problems with thatch build-up.
By leaving your grass clippings on your lawn, you are returning much needed moisture and nutrients to the soil in your yard. And contrary to popular belief, grass clippings do not contribute to excess thatch build-up.
Thatch is a layer of dead plant matter on top of your soil. When the microorganisms in your soil cannot keep up with rapid root and grass growth, thatch build-up can occur. More than 1/2 inch of thatch can lead to problems.
If you are having a lot of thatch build-up, this may be caused by:
- Excess watering
- Too much fertilizer
So, try grasscycling – leaving your grass clippings on your lawn. This simple trick with save you time and energy previously spent bagging your grass. It will also keep up to 20% of your household’s waste out of the landfill if you are currently tossing your clippings. Grass clippings are free and grasscycling can eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers. For a healthy lawn, try these tips:
- Mow high. Adjust the mower height to leave your lawn 3-3½ inches long. Never cut off more than 1/3 of the grass height.
- Mulch It. Use a mulching mower to reduce the size of the clippings. They will break down and release nutrients to your lawn more readily.
- Keep it sharp and dry. A dull blade can damage grass. Sharpen mower blades annually and mow when the grass is dry.
- Alternate mowing direction. This keeps the grass from being pushed over in just one direction and being damaged by the sun.
Find out more on grasscycling from Green Action Centre’s composting program.
Read tips and information on caring for your lawn organically with the Manitoba Eco-Network’s Organic Lawn Care Project.
If the sporadic weeds on my lawn were cut as well, Would the weeds be spread all over the lawn if I do this grasscycling?
While we are more composting experts than gardening experts here, weeds will generally spread through either seed or roots. Weeds that spread primarily by roots shouldn’t be affected by grasscycling. Weeds that spread via seeds will only spread on your lawn if the seeds are mature upon mowing – and these would likely be knocked around with mowing that collected the weeds in bags also. Odds are grasscycling will make your lawn healthier, and thus more resistant to weeds overall! Check out this excellent myth-busting page from the City of Edmonton’s “Go Bagless” program – myth 7 talks about grasscycling and dandelion spread. https://www.edmonton.ca/residential_neighbourhoods/gardens_lawns_trees/grasscycling-myths.aspx
Also, keeping the Grass healthier by keeping as much nitrogen in the lawn via clippings makes it harder for weeds to invade, in my opinion and experience.
This exactly. You cannot possibly keep weeds from your yard but your grass can outcompete the weeds. Killing weeds obviously helps with this but lush well fed grass will minimize weeds as well.
We planted sod and this was our first cut. We left cuttings on the grass which was mulched. It doesnt look as green as it did before
We live in Florida and is very hot. First two weeks that we planted it we watered every day. Now we water 4 times a week.
Hi. I understand that DRY short grass clippings are a healthy supplement for your lawn. My husband says that leaving piles of mucky dirt/grass that he scrapes from the underside (deck) of the mower on the lawn will help as well. Is he correct? Clumps of this stuff look awful, but I will abide by your professional response. Thanks.
Hi Nancy! We love that you’re grasscycling! Thick clumps of material have greater potential to cause problems than simply leaving cut grass where it falls. We would recommend taking the “scrapings” and composting them in a separate pile or setting it out for leaf & yard waste collection. The finished compost makes a great soil amendment for your lawn or garden. While grass has a low lignin content, letting it absorb quickly into the soil, heavy clumps can take longer to break down and potentially block air and light access to the plant life underneath. You may find it helpful to read this page on grasscycling, and follow the links included https://greenactioncentre.ca/reduce-your-waste/grasscycling/
If I am looking to bag and compost a lot of my grass clippings (for compost use in the garden) and I just want to leave enough clippings on the yard to satisfy it’s feeding requirements and nothing more, how often do you imagine I might want to leave clippings? Half a dozen times a year? I guess it’d depend on the type of grass?
Hi Drew, good question! This may be something you need to experiment with. Grass will happily be ‘grasscycled’ every single mow (as long as you don’t remove more than 1/3 of the grass blade each time), so removing the clippings to be composted in a pile is not necessary, but certainly a choice that you can make. I would suggest considering a schedule along the lines of grasscycle one mow, and compost the clippings the next one. Try something out that feels good to you, and see how you like the results! Remember that grass is high nitrogen and tends to clump up, so if you do find yourself adding a larger load of clippings to your compost pile, you may need to turn the pile a bit more often to keep things moving along nicely and without smell. Good luck with your compost and your lawn!
To prevent this from happening, spray under garage with a vegetable spray. It works wonders.
I always wondered if I could leave the clippings on the ground. Thanks for sharing this!
Grass clipping has an advantage when the grass is decomposed into fertilizer for nourishing plants.
This is music to my ears, thank you for the article
bit confused here. I always leave the clippings on the lawn? Was this ever a question?
That’s awesome! A lot of people do still have bags attached to their mowers or rake up grass clippings and either throw them out or send them to yard waste collection. Sounds like you’re part of the winning grasscycling team, keep it up!
SURE YOU CAN QUESTION IT! 🙂The bag that some lawn mowers come with, can be mounted in the rear. The rear opening allows the grass clippings to go inside from momentum of the blade spinning/cutting. I’ve been doing this for years and my grass is BEAUTIFUL!!!! Its also very old technology. Probably somewhere in the 1920’s area. Hopefully your not confused anymore.
I always left mine on the lawn. Never had a problem with my lawn.
Hmmm, I find it easier to just use my mulch mower. Saves time and does not make a mess.
Good to know. I always felt bad about leaving my cuttings in rows on the lawn.
It’s helpful, if you have rows of cuttings, to mow over them in the opposite direction to get them well mulched so they return to the soil quickly!
A good mulching mower should chop up most of the clippings into tiny particles that decompose and feed the lawn. If you’re getting rows of cuttings, maybe you need to mow more often.
Whether or not it attracts pests really depends on the size of your lawn. Whether or not it’s effective depends on the type of grass you have and the climate you live in. Small lawns in mildly humid areas should benefit from this the most.
I think it makes lawns look like crap until the clippings die. IMO this is something that came about to avoid the extra step -bagging. You also have to make sure you don’t get grass clippings all over mulched beds. Not for me.
When done properly, grasscycling is nearly invisible! It’s really important to remember that you only want to cut off 1/3 of the blade and keep the clippings short, and mulch them well into the lawn. Rows of clippings may be unsightly, and they do not efficiently return to the soil! When done properly, grass clippings left on the lawn should disappear within just a couple of days.
However, if leaving the clippings behind isn’t for you, there are other great options for what to do with them! If you live in Winnipeg or another location that offers leaf & yard waste pickup, you can put them out for large-scale composting. It’s also easy to compost in a compost pile or bin in your yard – check out some of our basic backyard composting information for more on how to do this.
Forget the debate. I use clipping for compost and its great to have, AND i leave clipping to sopport the health of the lawn.
Just use it where it is needed!
Yes!!! Grass clippings are a great source of fertilizer, I always recommend that customers leave their clippings when mowing, especially in the spring when grass is starting to grow again.
Will clippings help in bald patches
Clippings are more of a soil enhancement, so if the issue in the bald patches is poor soil, they may help. However, I would suggest to use them in conjunction with overseeding with new grass seeds so there are plants there ready to fill in the patch!
Leaving the grass clippings on top of your grass they turn brown. Leaving your grass a brown color vs being green it’s like greenish brown.
Hi there! As noted elsewhere, when you grasscycle, you need to make sure you’re not leaving long clippings on the lawn and are mulching them well. If clippings are turning brown and are on top of the grass, something has gone wrong in the process! We hope you consider grasscycling or composting your grass clippings this summer.
1. After three years of battling to get my lawn right, I have found that, although grass clippings may nourish the lawn, it attracts an avalanche of pests, e.g. termites, harvester ants, mole crickets and grub (worms). Grass clippings should, during mowing, ideally be removed and, if left on the lawn at all, only very sparingly, and also not with every mowing.
2. Gardeners may also experiment with (non-toxic & pet-safe) ‘diatomaceous earth’ powder] to combat lawn pests.
3. Birds also sometimes damage the lawn, especially where pests (as mentioned above) are easily and abundantly available as food in the lawn.
No. A healthy soil system will devour clippings rapidly. Perhaps you are giving the lawn too much nitrogen and causing flushes of rapid growth? If you overwhelm the soil system there can be problems.
In southern parts of the country warm season grasses are used. When the cool weather arrives a lot of these grasses turn brown and go dormant. Due to the soil and weather condition choosing the right grass is important.
I say always compost!! Thanks for sharing
this is awesome! hey man, thanks for sharing
Thanks for sharing this! Many people don’t realize leaving lawn clippings is okay. However over watering can cause a lot of problems.
If you leave your grass clippings, wont they inhibit the next mowing or weed-eating?
You’d be amazed actually! As long as you don’t leave your mowing for -too- long, and only mow about an inch or so off the top of your grass, the clippings will ‘disappear’ within about a day. You won’t even notice them as they absorb into the soil in a natural ‘compost’ process. Of course, if you’ve got large clumps of grass, you may want to dump those in the compost bin and mow a bit sooner next time. Your next mow should be even easier as your grass will be healthier and happier since grasscycling acts as a natural fertilizer. Got more questions about organic lawn care? Manitoba Eco-Network has an organic lawn care program, check it out here! http://mbeconetwork.org/programs/organic-lawn-care/