Technically Speaking: To Bag or Not to Bag Lawn Clippings - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Technically Speaking: To Bag or Not to Bag Lawn Clippings

The question of what to do with a client’s lawn clippings after mowing is one that can arise, especially due to certain misconceptions.

Some customers may believe bagging is necessary because they’ve seen mowers with bagger attachments, they’re concerned leaving grass clippings will cause thatch buildup, or they just don’t like the appearance of the grass left behind.

When to Mulch Lawn Clippings

In the vast majority of cases, mulching lawn clippings and leaving them on the lawn is the encouraged and better option.

Leaving grass clippings behind has multiple benefits. They contain 80 to 85% water and break down quickly. Grass clippings also encourage earthworms and microorganisms that maintain healthy grass and soil.

According to the University of Missouri Extension, clippings left on a lawn can supply up to 25% of its total fertilizer needs.

Educate your clients on the fact that choosing to mulch lawn clippings does not cause thatch. It is vigorous grass varieties, excessive nitrogen fertilization, infrequent mowing and low soil oxygen levels that contribute to thatch.

Also, explain to clients that proper mowing techniques will not leave behind the large clumps they have in mind. Only mowing when the grass is wet or excessively tall will the clippings mat together and not be evenly distributed.

Additionally, you can offer clients savings by not having to charge for the additional labor of bagging grass clippings and dealing with dumping fees with the leftover waste.

When to Bag Lawn Clippings

The rare times it is suggested you bag grass clippings are if a lawn is considerably tall and you’re having to remove more than one-third of the grass at the time or if it is showing signs of disease, it’s best to collect the clippings to prevent the spread.

If you do have a client with an overgrown lawn, it’s advised to remove only one-third of the grass at a time and increase your mowing frequency until the grass is at its normal mowing height. Some customers may not have the patience for this strategy, requiring you to bag the excess clippings.

Another instance you might encounter is if your customers simply dislike the appearance of grass clippings and want a pristine look after your crew visits. If you have clients who prefer not to leave grass clippings on the lawn, one option that prevents them from going to waste is to compost your green waste.

Sun Valley Landscaping, based in Omaha, Nebraska, has been turning their green waste, like lawn clippings, into compost for over 10 years.

“Composting absolutely offers savings!” says Eric Walker, Sun Valley’s supply yard manager. “It saves tons of time and money for our landscape division since our crews do not have to take extra trips to a dumping facility, so it saves quite a bit on the bottom line.”

The composting process takes time and effort. Grass clippings shouldn’t be the only compost material you use. If left to themselves, a thick layer of grass clippings can lead to bad odors from anaerobic decomposition.

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.