JeffCo H20: Less Effort, More Impact – It’s Mulch Better!


Summer turf growing season has arrived!  It’s time to tune up the lawnmower and get ready for that chore of cutting the grass. If you are like many homeowners, you are not looking forward to all that mowing, bagging, and other work involved in summer lawn care.   However, there is a way to skip the bagging step and actually improve your lawn while saving time, reducing cost, and making the most of a free resource.

For starters, bagged grass clippings account for 20 – 30 percent of residential waste hauled away to landfills during the summer months, even though clippings are 100 percent recyclable and contain valuable nutrients. According to research done by the Oregon State University Extension Service, you can reduce your fertilizer use by as much as one half by regularly mowing your lawn and allowing the grass clippings to remain on the lawn.  Grass clippings contain nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and other nutrients which are released into the soil as the clippings decompose, making clippings an excellent organic source of fertilizer for your lawn. The clippings also encourage earthworms and microorganisms to live in the soil, further enriching it.  Grass clippings bring another benefit – they help retain soil moisture, thereby reducing watering amount and frequency.

If you want to try keeping grass clippings on your yard this summer, there are a few things to keep in mind.  Using a mulching lawnmower is best because it is designed to chop mowed grass into very small particles and evenly distribute the clippings back onto the lawn.  Setting the lawnmower blade at the correct height for your type of turf and cutting the grass frequently enough so that no more than 1/3 of the total plant height is removed at any one time will provide the best results.  Mowing about once a week during the growing season is generally about right.  Plus, the job goes faster when the lawn only needs a light once-over.  Infrequent mowing can create its own issues, including big heavy clumps of clippings that can smother the lawn and cause thatch buildup.

With a little planning, keeping grass clippings on your lawn can be a win-win for both you and your turf.

Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203

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