Should you use a grass catcher when mowing?

Answered by Douglas Hiatt

Should you use a grass catcher when mowing? This is a common question among homeowners who are trying to maintain a healthy and attractive lawn. While using a grass catcher may seem like a good idea to keep the lawn looking tidy, there are actually many benefits to leaving the clippings on the lawn, also known as grass-cycling.

First and foremost, leaving the clippings on the lawn can help to improve the overall health of your lawn. Grass clippings are made up of mostly water and nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. When you mow without a catcher, these clippings are returned to the soil, where they can decompose and release these nutrients back into the lawn. This natural fertilization process can help to promote healthy growth and reduce the need for additional fertilizer.

In addition to providing nutrients, grass clippings can also act as a natural mulch for your lawn. The clippings form a thin layer on the soil surface, which helps to retain moisture and regulate soil temperature. This can be particularly beneficial during hot and dry periods, as the clippings can help to prevent the soil from drying out too quickly. Mulching with grass clippings can also help to suppress weeds by blocking out sunlight and preventing weed seeds from germinating.

Another advantage of grass-cycling is that it can save you time and effort. Without a grass catcher, you don’t have to worry about emptying and disposing of the clippings, which can be a cumbersome task, especially for larger lawns. By simply mowing over the clippings and leaving them on the lawn, you can save yourself valuable time and energy.

Contrary to popular belief, leaving the clippings on the lawn does not contribute to thatch buildup. Thatch is a layer of dead grass stems and roots that accumulates between the soil and the actively growing grass blades. It is primarily caused by the slow decomposition of organic matter, such as dead roots and stems. Grass clippings, on the other hand, decompose relatively quickly and do not contribute significantly to thatch buildup. However, if you already have a thatch problem, it may be best to remove the clippings until the thatch issue is resolved.

Of course, there are some situations where using a grass catcher may be necessary or beneficial. For example, if you have recently applied herbicides or pesticides to your lawn, it is generally recommended to collect the clippings to prevent the chemicals from being spread further. Additionally, if the grass has grown excessively long and the clippings are clumping together, it may be necessary to use a grass catcher to prevent the clumps from smothering the grass.

Using a grass catcher when mowing is not always necessary and may actually be detrimental to the health of your lawn. Grass-cycling, or leaving the clippings on the lawn, can provide numerous benefits, including natural fertilization, moisture retention, weed suppression, and time savings. However, there are certain situations where using a grass catcher may be necessary, such as after applying chemicals or when dealing with excessively long grass. Ultimately, the decision to use a grass catcher should be based on the specific needs and conditions of your lawn.