Lawn clippings, one-third rule, mower blades (08-07-2006)
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Occasionally someone will ask what is the best thing to do with grass clippings. The wisest use is to return them directly back onto the lawn, but not in amounts that will leave unsightly dead grass on top of the mown lawn.
As a turfgrass agronomist I suppose it is natural for me to notice, as I drive through a neighborhood, the lawns that have been improperly cut and excessive amounts of clippings are left behind.
When we maintain the desired mowing height with regularly scheduled mowing, taking no more than one-third of the total leaf area off at any single mowing, these small clippings fall back into the turf canopy and actually benefit the lawn. As these clippings decompose they return nutrients back to the turf and feed beneficial microorganisms. It is when we don’t or can’t mow regularly that clippings become too long to fall back into the turf canopy and become “hay” on top of our lawns.
When clippings begin to pile up and block sunlight from reaching the growing turf then they should be collected and composted. Pay attention to the word composted. When it is necessary to remove clippings from the lawn they should not be put in the trash as this will only fill our landfills much quicker and cost you money to haul them away. Lawn clippings after composting make excellent soil conditioners for flower and vegetable gardens.
A maintenance practice often overlooked in the mowing process is the proper care of the mower blade(s). If you haven’t sharpened the bade at least once or twice this summer, then you have neglected a simple but important step in keeping the mower performing at top efficiency and getting the best quality cut of the grass.
A dull mower blade essentially beats the top of the leaf blades off rather than making nice clean cuts. When this happens the leaf blade tips become shredded and split resulting in an overall ragged appearance to the lawn with brown, dried out tips on each leaf blade. It is not too late to get the blade sharpened and to make your last few mowings of the summer crisp and clean with nice sharp cuts on the leaf tips. It will help the mower engine run easier, also.
Published August 7, 2006
Dr. Wayne Wells is an Extension Professor and Turfgrass Specialist. His mailing address is Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, Mail Stop 9555, Mississippi State, MS 39762. firstname.lastname@example.org