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Leave the Clippings on the Lawn

A green summer lawn surrounded by trees
June 2, 2019

When you mow the lawn, make the most of it by leaving the grass clippings where they fall.

“That half-inch of grass leaves you snip off every week contains a lot of useful nutrients,” said Sharon Yiesla, plant knowledge specialist at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle. “Don’t just throw them away. Leave them where they fall.”

The clippings will quickly be consumed by earthworms, soil fungi, and other microorganisms, which pass along important chemical elements to the soil. Those elements nourish the roots of plants—not only your grass, but also trees, shrubs, and other plants that spread their roots under the lawn.

“Removing the clippings drains important nutrients out of your landscape,” Yiesla said. “That means more work for you, because you have to fertilize more to replace them.”

If you have a mulching mower, the chopped-up clippings it leaves behind will be nearly invisible. If your older mower leaves clumps of clippings that look untidy, rake the lawn to spread them out. They’ll quickly dry up and disappear.

Make sure any lawn care service you hire uses mulching mowers and leaves the clippings on the grass.

Like any other organic matter, grass clippings will improve the soil’s texture as they break down, making a better environment for roots. That means a healthier lawn, as well as improving conditions for trees and other plants.

The Arboretum is offering a class, Design a Lower-Maintenance Garden, on Thursday, June 20.