My lawn is personal to me. Not everyone might want to admit it, but I feel most homeowners identify (if only just a little) with their lawn. Especially if neighbours happen to have that beautiful manicured yard. Looking back, much of my life's journey has gone round and round my yard with a mower. For close to 50 years, there have been moments when nothing really mattered more than the question: do I have enough gas to finish this patch of lawn?
One question that gets asked often and receives a ton of information online: should I bag or not bag those clippings? Here are a few personal pros and cons that I've picked up in the last five decades when it comes to leaving the clippings lose, or bagging it all away.
The Pro's of leaving the clippings on the lawn.
Most lawn mowers give you the option to mulch 'em or bag 'em. If you are a mulcher, that means you leave the clippings. So let’s look at the pros.
Mulching returns natural organic nutrients back to your spoil, and thus to your lawn. The less you need to add chemicals to your lawn to keep it healthy, the better. Eventually those mulched clippings break down and help feed your lawn. Mulching also helps retain moisture in your soil by slowing evaporation, while keeping moisture underneath the clippings, close to the grassroots. All those clippings on your lawn become a good natural food source for the soil's ecosystem, while saving you some watering.
A major benefit of allowing plant material to break down naturally is that the organisms in the soil do the work of building a healthy rich turf, which can withstand a bit of drought, and grows a cover thick enough to crowd out the weeds.
Try and set a schedule so that you only cut a third of your grass blade, so that your clippings aren't actually longer than the lawn underneath. This is where adjusting your mower height comes in to play. Midsummer is usually a time when you want your lawn to be slightly higher. If your lawn has escaped your schedule and totally outgrown you, its best to go over your lawn twice with the first cut set high. Chances are at that stage it may be best to bag those first clippings (they're great compost material). Also, it can be tough on your lawn mower to recut that first clipping plus the lawn underneath — and tough on your lawn. Leave the second cut clippings as per normal.
Avoid cutting wet if possible. A nice sharp lawnmower blade going against a dry grass blade gives it a nice clean cut instead of a torn cut. A dry lawn being cut also avoids large left-over clumps laying around — and the clippings won’t break down where you want them to. If you want to be fussy about it, just spread these clumps out with your foot, and try not to leave little mountains throughout your lawn.
If you are concerned the grass is too wet to cut, but are nervous looking at the forecast wondering if you won’t get at your lawn soon enough to prevent a forest in your backyard, then it's OK to just cut it. I personally believe it's the lesser of the two evils to cut your grass slightly wet over letting it get out of control and dealing with a bigger mess later. Use your best judgment and watch the forecast.
The biggest Pro for most of us is that there's no bag of clippings to deal with. Gathering up waste that needs to be hauled away comes at a cost. Also, if there's no municipal yard waste collection where you live, there is a growing social pressure not to have grass clippings out front for the garbage man.
The Cons of leaving your clippings behind.
I’m not going to sugarcoat this, but for some people, lawn clippings slowly becoming compost on your yard does not always look as clean. Especially not at first, and especially if you have some leaves on your lawn you want to get rid of, too. There are other good reasons that I’ll explain at the end.
If you have a lot of foot traffic in and out of your house through the lawn with kids and pets, those grass clippings find their way into your house and you find yourself sweeping them up again, and brushing off the dogs that roll and play on your lawn.
It's not as easy to enjoy your lawn right after the cut when the clippings are still fresh. Putting aside the cosmetics, some people have allergies from grass clippings that may cause some reactions. A good reason to have professional lawn care. If that’s the case, don’t sacrifice yourself or a loved one. I have never visited someone else’s lawn and said: “Oh no, they don’t leave their clippings behind!” Just the same, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Some people aren't willing to sacrifice a messy house or an allergic reaction, so for them a good option is to bag it, but you can compost these clippings which will make good feed for your garden if handled properly.
Besides leaving your lawn clippings, there are other ways you can feed your lawn. Be your own judge with this, but properly using some store-bought foods and fertilizers is not a sin (yet). Lawn foods are now sold to be pet-friendly. Chances are if you have pets or kids you have to expect your lawn to suffer some abuse. This is an extra cost upfront, but can save you time and money if you do some some preventative maintenance.
Hiring a company to help you is a wise choice as well. You can explain your concerns about kids, pets or environmentally friendlier options and they will be glad to help.
Check out absnowremovalandlawncare.com They will be glad to help you.
Okay – here is my silly problem with leaving the clippings on the lawn. My oldest miniature Schnauzer gets different ideas in his head the older he gets. One annoying one is that he eats the grass clippings and gets sick, and would do it all over again the next day if you don’t watch him like a hawk. So, at my house I compromise: I bag up the back yard where there is constant traffic, and mulch the front. Both yards have different types of grass needing different methods of TLC — and I'm fine with it all. Once in awhile I do sneak in a mulch in the back, but then we have to put a muzzle on our dog to let him go outside.
Believe me, if you have another option please share it with me.
At the end of the day, it is best to leave them to compost. In my opinion, along with many other veteran experts, the Pros outweigh the Cons. That being said it's your lawn and there are compromises for every situation. Take good care of your lawn and it will last you a lifetime. It's your piece of heaven to enjoy in these short but beautiful Alberta summers.
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