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Sunday, April 27, 2014

You Don't Need to Pick Up Grass Clippings if you Manage Your Lawn Correctly

Q. The landscapers for our HOA are using mulching mowers on our grass. The cut grass often remains on top, browns and causes the grass under to brown out also. Should grass be mulched in our desert? The landscape foremen bagged the grass and took it away.

Years ago in Las Vegas mulching mowers were nonexistent. Landscape maintenance companies bagged clippings and they were dumped into our landfills.
A. Mulching mowers work good as long as not too much nitrogen fertilizer is applied, the mower blades are kept sharp, the mower is not operated at a speed that is too fast, and the mower is a true mulching mower and not a conventional mower modified with mulching blades.
            True mulching mowers have a deck designed to provide a longer lift time after the grass blades are cut. A longer lift time allows the leaf blades more time to be cut or mulched properly. This extra time, combined with a sharp blade and a correct mowing speed, results in finely mulched turfgrass clippings.
            This time of year fescue grass loves cool weather and grows very rapidly. If too much nitrogen is applied during cool weather, excessive growth results. Weekly mowing with a mulching mower cannot keep up with this rapid growth.
            Either the lawn has to be mowed more often or less fertilizer should be applied.
            Your landscapers need to cut back on fertilizer applications during cool weather and use about half the rate listed on the bag. Mulched grass clippings return a lot of fertilizer back to the lawn.
            They also need to mow slower and not try to rush through a landscape. This allows the mulching blade to cut the blades more often and the mulched clippings will fall between the grass blades and never seen on the surface.
            If they don’t balance mowing the their applications of fertilizers then they will need to pick up the clippings if they want to leave a landscape that you can walk through without tracking cut grass into residences.
            One of the major reasons for introducing mulching mowers was to reduce the green waste entering our landfills. The educational program responsible for this was the "Don't Bag It" program originating at Texas A and M University.

You can read more about how mulching mowers and fertilizers interact with each other in a fact sheet I wrote years ago while Extension Specialist for the University of Nevada.  See the Fact Sheet here

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