Many homeowners treat grass clippings like it’s toxic waste, bagging and disposing each blade rather than allowing it to remain on the lawn. But there are several good reasons to leave the mower bag in the garage the next time you cut your lawn. Grass clippings are a valuable source of organic material, actually beneficial for your lawn. They ordinarily decompose quickly since they’re primarily water. They also are a rich source of nitrogen. Since many homeowners pay good money to fertilize lawns with commercial products that add nitrogen, doesn’t it make sense to take advantage of a free source of nitrogen that comes from lawn waste? In fact, your grass clippings can provide up to 25 percent of your lawn’s total fertilizer needs.
There are other benefits to chucking the bag. You’ll reduce your mowing time significantly by letting grass clippings fall to the lawn rather than taking time to stuff them into disposable bags to put out on the street with your recyclables. To those of you who bag your clippings religiously, try this: Next time you mow your lawn, try cutting the grass sans the collection bag on your mower. I’d be surprised if you didn’t cut your mowing time by at least 25 percent.
Grass clippings will normally decompose quickly, but there’s a caveat. They need air circulation. The one problem I see with yard waste buildup is when homeowners allow their grass to get out of control or they mow when the grass is wet. When this happens they’re left with clippings that forms dense clumps. Not only is it unslightly, it also prevents the kind of air circulation needed to allow the grass to decompose. Provided you cut your grass before it’s too high, your clippings should take only a few days to break down.
If you’ve waited too long to avoid these clumps of grass clippings, you can take some extra time and double mow your lawn, moving in opposite directions as in a checkerboard pattern, to break up the clumps that formed from the first cut. Or, for those who are more forward thinking, invest in a mulching mower, which cuts the grass clippings more finely than conventional mowers.
Whatever you do with your clippings, avoid putting them out with the garbage. I’ve seen studies that conclude yard waste accounts for 20-30 percent of everything buried in landfills. There’s absolutely no good reason to put this valuable source of nutrients for your yard in a landfill.
A note to (potential) clients: Like the vast majority of professional lawn care providers, I charge more to bag yard waste. Keep in mind bagging takes more time. While I’m more than happy to accept your money, there’s really no point to pay me (or anyone else) more money than necessary, to remove grass clippings, when, allowed to fall to the ground, the clippings help to nourish your lawn.