Last week, while sat in my dentist’s infamously uncomfortable waiting room listening to the dull sound of drills go into teeth from behind the closed door next to me, I heard a nervous patient talking to the receptionist about his Saturday morning routine (presumably to shake off the nerves). Anyway, it went like this: Wake up. Walk downstairs. Slurp on a cup of strong coffee. Chomp on some toast spread thick with Bovril. Get dressed. Mow the lawn. And then, to finish it off, rake up the grass clippings.
Obviously, the first thought that sprung into my head was, “Bovril? Bovril? Bloody Bovril.” However, this was quickly replaced by another thought, “I wonder what people with large lawns do about their grass clippings – and those suffering from a nasty bout of laziness for that matter?”
Now, before you point it out, yes, I know this thought process is bizarre. However, there was a reason behind both of them.
– Everyone knows Bovril tastes like tar compared to Marmite.
– Homeowners all over the country must be wondering whether it’s okay to leave their grass clippings on the lawn, or whether that will bring about a sort of lawn-specific apocalypse.
Well, to answer this question, we’ve pulled together a foolproof guide to grass clippings and whether or not you should bother collecting them after each mowing session.
1. To Rake Or Not To Rake, That Is The Question.
As a general rule of (green) thumb, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being lazy and leaving your grass clippings to mill about on your lawn. However, you should only do this if your clippings aren’t wet or aren’t too thick. That doesn’t mean you need to get your tape measure out and start scrutinising every chopped blade, it just means you shouldn’t leave them if you mowed your lawn when the grass was pretty high).
If you’re wondering why wet or thick cuttings pose a problem, it’s because:
– Thick blades have a tendency to become matted.
– Wet grass clippings stick together (if you’re a connoisseur of snowballs, you’ll know that it’s easy to craft a good snowball out of wet snow than the fluffy variety – the same principle applies here).
The point is, clippings of this variety will stop the air from flowing to your lawn and that can see the dreaded lawn thatch start to build up.
Anyway, our advice would be to mow your lawn before it grows overly tall so that there aren’t as much grass clippings to worry about or, alternatively, add a bagging attachment to your mower. Of course, this advice is flawed because half of all people don’t care about the length of their grass when they mow it while the other half can’t be bothered to constantly empty out a mower bag. Luckily, there is a way around this. It’s called a mulching mower. The way these work is simple: they chop your grass clippings up so finely they’ll disappear into your lawn without causing any harm or problems whatsoever. That said, no matter what sort of mower you’ve got tucked in your shed, you should never mow wet grass. Never, ever.
So, to summarise: yeah, it’s absolutely fine to leave grass clippings in your lawn if the conditions are right and, most importantly, if your lawn is healthy. If it’s not and you have patches of disease-ridden grass, you need to be getting your rake on and bagging all the cuttings you can otherwise you might find this disease starts to spread to other parts of your lawn. There. That should cover it.
2. Airflow And The Risk It Poses
Somewhere above, we mentioned how wet and thick grass clippings can block the flow of air to your lawn. But what we didn’t delve into is why this is bad for your lawn. Well, the reason it’s unhealthy is because a lack of airflow increases the chance of disease. We’re talking about fungal diseases, brown patches, dollar spots, powdery mildew, Rhizoctonia and Pythium blight. There are probably others, but these are the mob bosses of lawn disease. These are the ones that sit around a long table in a smoky backroom of some desert casino just waiting for you to make a mistake with your grass clippings. So, like we said earlier, to play it safe, don’t mow when it’s wet and don’t leave let your grass grow too long
3. Grass Clippings Have Secret Superpowers
If you follow the above rules – or have a mulching mower at hand – then I say leave your grass clippings exactly where they are. This is because there are natural nutrients in grass clippings that will allow you to stop being so dependent on chemical lawn fertilisers, which isn’t just great for your wallet, but also good for Planet Earth too. The main nutrient we are referring to is nitrogen which, if you don’t already know, is basically a slow-release fertiliser in its own right; the difference is, this fertiliser will never ruin your lawn and won’t cause any harm to your beloved pets or little humans (#winning).
4. Giving Your Clippings A Second Chance
For those that can’t bear the idea of leaving grass clippings on your lawn because they make such a mess when traipsed through your lovely clean home, there is an alternative to bagging them up, putting them in your wheelie bin and leaving them on the curb for the local council to come and collect, and it’s called compost.
Yup. This wonderful organic matter can be given a second chance in your compost bin, especially if you get them to work with the brown leaves you collected last autumn. We don’t want to get too sciency here, but freshly-cut grass blades are pretty much just water. This doesn’t just mean they will break down faster when chucked in your compost bin; it also means they’ll help the rest of your compost components to decompose that much faster. Basically, don’t waste them; reuse them.