Sustainability Tip: Grass Clippings Make Good Mulch
Jun 8, 2012
Here in the Coachella Valley, a frequent landscape maintenance practice is to catch grass clippings in lawn mower baskets known as grass-catchers. But did you know that it's not necessary and, in fact, often healthier for the grass if you allow them to become mulch?
One of the reasons clippings are not left on the grass is because lawn mower deck technology was not designed to mulch clippings so any left on the grass deposited unsightly clumps.
However, through advances in lawn mower technology, specially-designed mulching blades can now make the practice of turning your grass clippings into beneficial mulch that is not only more effective, but appealing. New deck designed blades finely cut the grass blades into smaller pieces, which then fall back into the turn and become nearly invisible.
These refined grass particles are like vitamins to your turf. Blades of grass contain nutrients that are returned to the soil. As the cut pieces of grass decompose, the nutrients are quickly released, absorbed, and reused. They insulate the soil in cool weather, keep it moist in hot weather and help conserve water. Among its sustainable advantages, clippings are a natural fertilizer and reduce the need for supplemental products.
Turf fertilizer products contain Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium (NPK) and other trace elements for plant growth such as iron, magnesium and sulfur. These elements, while nourishing to plants, can leach through the soil and get carried away into storm drains or build up in lakes and streams through run-off. Letting the clippings decay organically provide up to 25% of your lawn's total fertilizer needs, serve as an indirect food source for the bacteria in the soil, and is one of the best things you can do to maintain a healthy turf environment.
Another benefit to recycling grass clippings is in the reduction of green waste. Green waste must be taken to special dump sites and transporting them burns fuel. Not only is this costly, but it contributes to air pollution and is a waste of a potential food source for turf.
Critics complain that clippings get tracked into their homes and pools. Except for periods of flush growth in early spring, finely mulched clippings do not create much of a mess. If they are in excess they then can be caught, but maybe only in high traffic areas.
Conserve LandCare recommends grass recycling and uses well-designed mulching mowers that disperse clippings uniformly back into the lawn for decomposition. They help minimize overuse of chemical fertilizers and benefit your landscape in the most effective way possible. It will save you money and keep your garden healthier at the same time.