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Keep Grass Clippings Where They Are for a Healthy Lawn

by Marcia Passos Duffy, All About Lawns Columnist

True or False: You should always rake up your grass clippings after mowing.

Answer: False!

It is unclear how this suburban legend got started, but grass clippings are best left where they are after you mow the lawn. In fact, grass clippings are essential to creating a healthy lawn.

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Grass clippings are comprised of 10 percent nitrogen, which, incidentally, is the main chemical in lawn fertilizers you purchase with your hard-earned money. Grass clippings are not only free, but naturally decompose without any effort on your part--and return this nitrogen to the soil.

Grass Clippings = Healthy Lawn

According to an article in Organic Gardening, a season's worth of grass clippings puts in about two pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of soil, roughly half of what it needs for the season.

The article notes that a study done by William Dest, PhD., associate professor emeritus of turf grass studies at the University of Connecticut, found that lawns that had clippings left after mowing were quite healthy, with:

  • 45% less crabgrass
  • Up to 66% less disease
  • Up to 45% more earthworms
  • 60% more water reaching root plants
  • 25% more root mass
  • 50% reduced need for nitrogen fertilizer

If you are worried about grass clipping building up and suffocating your lawn, don't be. Earthworms and microorganisms feast on clippings between cuttings; thatch won't build up because thatch is the direct result of chemical fertilizers and pesticides (which kill the organisms in the soil that break down the grass clippings).

If you're still skeptical, get a mulching mower or mow higher and more often, as suggested by the Minneapolis Solid Waste & Recycling Department.

After you mow, leave those clippings where they lie. Let them decompose naturally and add much-needed chemical-free nutrients to your lawn.

About the Author

Marcia Passos Duffy is a freelance writer and a member of the Garden Writers Association. She is a frequent contributor to Turf Magazine and Growing Magazine. Visit her site at www.backporchpublishing.com

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