At Lawn Doctor, our local lawn care service experts are regularly asked if grass clippings are good for lawns. The short answer is yes: grass clippings can be healthy for your lawn. “Grass cycling” 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.
Many homeowners believe that grass clippings are somehow bad news. The most common misperception is that clippings lead to thatch buildup, which damages grass. Fortunately, this isn’t true. In fact, grass clippings can effectively fertilize your lawn between routine fertilization treatments. So unclip that grass catcher from the back of your mower and read on to learn how you can start grass cycling 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 that your lawn needs to stay healthy.
When you leave your clippings in 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.
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 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 without worry.
How to Grass Cycle Your Lawn
Grass cycling is an easy way to harness the natural fertilizing power of your grass clippings. To get the most out of grass cycling, follow these steps when you mow:
- 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.
- Use the Right Equipment. Push mowers and mulching mowers both work well for grass cycling. If using an electric or gas mower, choose one powerful enough to cut your grass evenly.
- Keep Your Blade Sharp. Sharpening your mower’s blade will ensure even mowing and healthier clipping distribution.
- Rotate Directions. Mow back and forth instead of in a single direction, to distribute clippings more effectively.
- Leave Clippings on the Ground. There is no raking required with grass cycling. Instead, let your grass clippings fall naturally.
*Note: Longer grass can invite pests, which often hide in shady areas. 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. Even so, your grass clippings will offer healthy nutrients to your lawn’s soil, and it is still fine to leave them behind after mowing.