Do I need to bag the grass?

How does bagging grass clippings or leaving them on the lawn effect the lawn’s health? Do most lawn care customers want their grass clippings bagged or do they not care? These are some of the issues you have to take into consideration when you are running a lawn care business and are trying to determine if you should bag your grass clippings or not.

A lawn care business owner wrote on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum about a specific lawn care situation he found himself in and needed help. His question was “I have a new customer who is going to hydro seed his lawn this spring. Should I bag the first cutting of new grass or should I mulch the grass? I am of the opinion that most people mulch their clippings way too much.”

One lawn care business owner responded “We always mulch unless the customer complains the grass is growing too fast then we will bag. Do you know what kind of seed they are going to Hydroseed? I find around here they have a high mix of Rye grass which can be a problem as it dies off fast, this is another good reason to mulch.”

Another lawn care business owner said “we never bag clippings. It costs too much and seems like just a waste. The blades that we have on our lawn mowers are special “mulching” blades and they work good. When you take clipping off of the lawn, that is just fertilizer you will have to replace.

Initially, you should let the new grass grow higher then usual so it will properly establish. You want the new established grass to have a good root system. When it comes to cutting, only cut a maximum of 1/3  off of the grass. Any more than that and you will be hurting the grass. The grass will also start clumping up which takes more time to correct.

Some home owners understand letting the new grass grow higher to properly establish, and others will complain. Just keep this in mind to educate them.”

A third business owner said “Because of the hydroseeding I would clean up any clippings or debris before it is sprayed. Also, the turf should be mowed fairly short in order for the slurry to make contact with the ground and not be floating on the blades of grass. The slurry generally contains a fertilizer mixture so worrying that you’ll be removing ‘free’ fertilizer by taking the mulched grass away need not apply in this case.

If a lawn is mowed regularly (once per week) and you are not taking more than 1/3 of it’s total length you should have no problem mulching. Some clients like the grass to be bagged as they don’t want it tracked into the house by kids and pets, or commercial properties that want a crisp clean look.

If you are not mulching the turf I would recommend that you sell your clients on soil testing kits to make sure you are getting the right amounts of NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium) and adjust the fertilizing accordingly. This makes for a great selling feature for ‘bagged’ clients.”

If you mulch all the time how do you control how mulch thatch is on the lawn? Do you de-thatch in the summer?

“Grass clippings do not add much at all to the thatch layer. If your lawn already has a thick layer of thatch it needs to be dealt with because it will slow the breakdown of the mulched grass.

If your lawn has a healthy layer of thatch (and yes thatch is all part of a healthy lawn) it will help break down the mulched grass.”

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