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How does bagging lawn clippings affect soil?  RSS feed

 
Will Scoggins
Posts: 62
Location: Northeast Arkansas
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I have a bagging lawn mower. I just moved to a new home, with a healthy lawn (at least half "weeds"). I am wondering how much will bagging and composting my lawn clippings will drain the fertility from the lawn?

Will the lawn degrade if clippings aren't mulched back in place?
Will the lawn still look fine, just not have as deep of soil?
Will it eventually become dirt instead of soil?

Does anyone have experience with bagging all of their lawn clippings? I would like to concentrate my fertility in the first few years in areas that will receive new plantings and garden space. However, I don't want to set myself back so far that when I expand planting areas in years to come, I am remediating terrible dirt back into soil.

Soil profile is sandy loam I believe, then about 2-3' down it is grey clay.
 
Thomas Partridge
Posts: 130
Location: Zone 7a
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What else is going to be on the lawn? Our back yard we bag the clippings for mulch and compost but we also free range chickens on it which replace a lot of the nutrients we take with the clippings. You can always try the "take a little, leave a little" approach and mow some with the bag on and some without the bag on. You might even be able to get a pretty nifty pattern in your lawn if you do it that way (swirl perhaps?).
 
R Scott
Posts: 3358
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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I used to collect them about half the time, usually when I let it get too long to mulch nicely our when I had plenty of browns to mix in.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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My goal with the lawn is to have it grow as little as possible so that I can mow as infrequently as legally commanded. So for me that means giving it no fertilizer, little water, and always bagging the clippings. Much to my chagrin, it grows anyway.


 
Hester Winterbourne
Posts: 219
Location: West Midlands UK (zone 8b)
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If you remove nutrients from a grassland ecosystem, plants which are better able to adapt to a low nutrient situation will be favoured. Less competitive grasses, and wildflowers (aka weeds). This is the basis for restoration of species rich hay meadows (urging farmers to do this is my job). We prescribe only adding well rotted farmyard manure, and some nutrient return from aftermath grazing. There is still a cycle - the hay is fed to the cattle over winter, and the manure goes back on the meadow.

Domestically, I remove as many clippings as the mower can gather, and view my lawn as a source of material for composting. I never feed or water it, but I do root out dandelions now and then because of the way they seed everywhere. I don't mow as often as my neighbours, but there seems to be a lot less moss in my lawn despite it being shaded. Was passing a bloke yesterday raking bundles of moss out of his lawn with a rolling rake thingy - what a palaver!
 
David Livingston
steward
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Location: Anjou ,France
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Its just a guess you understand Hester but you dont work for the NFU* then ?

David
*National Farmers Union
 
Jd Gonzalez
Posts: 225
Location: Virginia,USA zone 6
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Bag, compost, spread,repeat. Or,mow, don't bag, let it decompose,mow, repeat. Or...plug zoizya grass, once establushed let it take over, mow every three weeks on the highest setting and dont bag.
 
Rose Pinder
Posts: 410
Location: Otago, New Zealand
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I also consider lawn clippings to be a fantastic resource of building composts or using as mulch. I've never considered the need to feed the lawn, as most lawns I've had have been in cool wet climates and they just keep growing. They were a mix of couch, clover and some weeds.

I now live in a dry climate with hot summers and cold winters and the only way you can have continuous green lawn here is either to have it in shade or to water it, so most people have varying degrees of drying off lawn over the summer (and some crazy people water with sprinklers). I've tended to mow less often and mow high, which helps the lawn, but it's still going to dry out and then it recovers when the dry season is over. Never seems to kill it or reduce how the amount of mowing over time though.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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Rose Pinder wrote: (and some crazy people water with sprinklers).


My imagination is working overtime trying to figure this out... Crazy for irrigating a lawn at all? Or crazy for the sprinkling? How else would one irrigate a lawn? Drip irrigation? Flood irrigation?
 
Hester Winterbourne
Posts: 219
Location: West Midlands UK (zone 8b)
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David Livingston wrote:Its just a guess you understand Hester but you dont work for the NFU* then ?

David
*National Farmers Union


Ha ha, no!
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 3021
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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There are lots of thoughts on grass clipping as mulch expressed in this thread and I've seen people do most of them.

If you put down your clippings as mulch, it will build over time and while it can help retain water in the soil it can also create a suffocating item called thatch which will kill the grass plants.

If you bag your clippings and add them to your compost heap, they will induce heating of the compost pile, always a good thing.

Mulch can be spread over grass and watered in, this replenishes the soil with the nutrients the grass plants need while not creating the thatch scenario (win - win situation).

Sprinkling has been shown to put about 1.4 of the water applied into the atmosphere, without ever getting down into the soil, leaky hose, buried 2" under the surface of the soil allows easy watering with no evaporation.
If you must use sprinklers, then early morning (just before sunrise) is the preferred time, this gets most of the water into the soil and does not create situations where the grass plants are wet long enough to have molds form. (dew normally doesn't make it down into the soil and is gone just a few hours after the sun comes up in most cases).
Lawns should be watered for at least one hour, once a week (twice a week in really hot weather) less just makes the roots grow so shallow that the lawn will not survive really hot weather without daily watering.

Grass plants do best when cut to a height of between 1.5 and 3 inches in length, shorter when colder, longer when the heat is on is a good rule of thumb for mowing. When the grass has grown above 5" in height, don't cut more than two inches off, better to cut twice a week to get it back down to proper height.
Grass shoots lengthen the stalk (part that the green blades come from), so if you cut so short that only these stalks are left, the grass plants can die off, then the grass becomes thinner in density allowing weed seed the light they need to sprout.

Over seeding is the best method for choking out weeds. When I worked at a Nursery putting in new lawns we would seed and when the plants were up two weeks we would mow and seed again, once those plants were up for two weeks we came back, mowed and seeded again, this builds a thick lawn that has so many grass plants that weeds have a very hard time getting established. (This is also the method used by the best sod farms for the grass they sell).

On Buzzard's Roost, we have an area of lawn for recreation time, it has been over seeded four times and is more like a carpet under bare feet.

Your soil profile is ok. Your grass will not be harmed by removing the clippings, deep watering and over seeding will in fact boost the breakup of the underlying clay. If you notice browning problems a shot of Ag Lime using a drop spreader on a small number setting will help things along.
The best method of using clippings as fertilizer is to mulch mow every five mowings this prevents your mulch getting to the thatch point. It does not hurt a lawn to have all clippings bagged and removed to the compost heap.
 
Rose Pinder
Posts: 410
Location: Otago, New Zealand
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
Rose Pinder wrote: (and some crazy people water with sprinklers).


My imagination is working overtime trying to figure this out... Crazy for irrigating a lawn at all? Or crazy for the sprinkling? How else would one irrigate a lawn? Drip irrigation? Flood irrigation?


What Bryan said abotu sprinklers, plus the climate here is hot, dry, often windy. Throwing small droplets of water on the lawn from the air is the least effective thing to do. Richer folk put in ground level irrigation, but some of that is crazy too (huge expanses of grass that don't get used for anything, and don't have any other vegetation). Having green lawn for a specific purpose makes sense, simply for visuals less so, esp as we're being asked to conserve water.

I haven't really thought about it before because I'm fairly ambivalent about lawn care, because the last place I had that had lawn, had a narrow strip running north south, a couple of metres wide, with the house/garden on one side and shrubs on the other and it stayed green enough on its own (no watering at all). Ditto the lawn at the back of the house in the shade.
 
Nick Kitchener
Posts: 478
Location: Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
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I also view the lawn as a source for organic matter for the garden. I don't touch it, I just mow it and it seems to not mind at all. The dandelions are there with some other weeds but they are simply nutrient accumulators for my clippings.

I use the clippings as a mulch in my garden beds, being careful not to mulch too thickly otherwise thatching occurs. Similarly with composting, it's very easy to end up with an anaerobic stink mess in the composter at the height of summer when there is very little carbon rich material available in my parts to bulk it out.

I'm experimenting with cycling the clipping through the garden first as mulch, then after a few weeks curing it place, moving it off the beds and into a covered storage pile for the fall when I can mix it with leaves.
 
Jim Gagnepain
Posts: 71
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I now own 11 acres, so my lawn is now prarie grass. I used to have a lawn of bluegrass, and I always used a composting mower. I live in the high dessert, Colorado front range. I don't know why everybody insists on growing water-intensive bluegrass here, but they do. As another person mentioned, leaving the clippings can lead to thatching. About once or twice a year, I would apply an organic fertilizer. I never used the herbicide-laden fertilizer. My grass was very lush and green, even with somewhat infrequent watering. There were always a few areas where the grass was brown, and the thatch was extra thick. Also, our dog had this habit of always urinating in the same places. Not sure if the brown areas were from the thatch or the dog.
 
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