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Are Grass Clippings Good for My Lawn?

Posted on October 26, 2020 by Lawn Doctor

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Lawn care service experts are regularly asked if grass clippings are good for lawns and what to do with grass clippings. The short answer is yes: clippings can be healthy for your lawn. “Grasscycling” is a technical-sounding word that means leaving your grass clippings behind when you mow. It’s a common practice that helps build a healthy lawn.

The most common misperception homeowners have is that clippings lead to thatch buildup, which damages the grass. Fortunately, this isn’t true. In fact, grass clippings can effectively fertilize your lawn between routine fertilization treatments. Learn the uses of grass clippings and how you can start grasscycling the right way.

Why Grass Clippings are Good for Lawns

Simply put, grass clippings are good for lawns because they turn into natural fertilizer. Clippings contain the same things as the rest of your grass – including water and the nutrients (especially nitrogen) that your lawn needs to stay healthy.

When you leave your clippings on your lawn, you give them the chance to decompose, releasing water and nutrients back into your lawn’s soil. This helps grass grow greener, healthier, and thicker. That being said, make sure you don’t let your grass get too long, as the clippings will pile up and take longer to decompose, leaving piles of grass everywhere.

The Question of Thatch

Thatch is a layer of dead plant life that naturally builds up on the surface of your lawn’s soil. When thatch gets too thick, it prevents proper airflow and cuts your grass off from essential nutrients. This causes the grass to thin, yellow, and die, often requiring lawn aeration services.

Grass clippings are, by definition, dead plant life, so many people mistakenly believe that clippings contribute to heavy thatch buildup. But thatch is mostly made up of roots and stems, and grass clippings do not actually add to thatch buildup. That means you can leave your clippings behind in your yard without worry.

How to Grass Cycle Your Lawn

Grasscycling is an easy way to harness the natural fertilizing power of your grass clippings. To get the most out of grasscycling, follow these tips when you mow:

  1. Choose the Right Length.* You want clippings to be roughly 1/3 the height of your grass. For a 3-inch tall lawn, you want 1-inch long clippings, so mow when your grass is roughly 4 inches tall.
  2. Use the Right Equipment. Push mowers and mulching mowers both work well for grasscycling. If using an electric or gas mower, choose one powerful enough to cut your grass evenly.
  3. Keep Your Blade Sharp. Sharpening your mower’s blade will ensure even mowing and healthier clipping distribution.
  4. Rotate Directions. Mow back and forth instead of in a single direction, to distribute clippings more effectively.
  5. Leave Clippings on the Ground. There is no raking required with grasscycling. Instead, let your grass clippings fall naturally.

Uses for Grass Clippings

If you choose to bag your clippings instead of leaving them on the lawn, you might be wondering what to do with the grass clippings. Clippings can be used as compost for your garden. Don’t use grass clippings as mulch if you recently used a weed killer on the lawn. 

Note: Grass clippings are good for your lawn as they will offer healthy nutrients to your lawn’s soil, and it is still fine to leave them behind after mowing. Longer grass can invite lawn pests, which often hide in shady areas of your yard. If you prefer the look of a shorter lawn, or wish to keep your grass short for pest prevention purposes, it may not be advisable to grass cycle at the recommended height of 2 ½ to 3 inches. 

So consider keeping your grass clippings and using them to help your lawn’s overall health.


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